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PMP Podcast: Introduction To People Managing People (With Ben Aston & Tim Reitsma)

In this episode, you will be introduced to some main characters behind People Managing People and dive into what we are all about. What is People Managing People? And what is the reason it came about in 2020? Keep listening (or reading) to find out.

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Audio Transcription:

Ben Aston:

You’re listening to the first-ever podcast of people managing people. Welcome to the show. 

We’re people managing people and we want to lead and manage them better. We’re founders, we’re owners, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re middle managers, we’re team leaders. We’re managing people and yes we do human resources, but we’re not HR. At least not in the traditional sense. We’re on a mission to help people lead and manage their teams and organizations more effectively. So, if you want to lead and manage better, and if you want to become a better organizational leader, a more effective people manager, then please join us. Keep listening to this podcast to find the tips, tricks, and tools you need to recruit, retain, manage and lead your people and organization more effectively. And while you’re listening to the show, please subscribe and join our mailing list on peoplemanagingpeople.com, to stay up-to-date with all that’s going on.

So allow me to introduce myself and what this podcast is all about. By way of introduction, I’m Ben Aston. I’m the founder of a company called Black & White Zebra. We’re a boutique media company and what we’re all about is making serious and boring things, understandable and a lot more fun. And our big mission, really, is to help people and organizations succeed. And this is a project that I’m interested in personally. I’m on a journey myself to manage my people better; to find the best of company culture, employee engagement, talent, and human resource management—and I don’t want to do it alone. 

You see, the way it is—is that I see myself as a kind of HR person not by choice but ore by default. So I’m on a mission myself to get more competent to get more confident and to connect with others, managing people and leading people. I want to lead and manage better and I hope you do too. So people managing people is a community for people-people. Whether you’re an owner, a founder, entrepreneur, middle-manager, team leader, or maybe you’re the real-deal; maybe you’re an HR professional developing your career: this is for you. This is a community to share, to learn, and to grow.

Next up, I want to introduce the real host of our podcast, and he’s a guy called Tim Reitsma. Tim is a culture creator with SPARK Creations and he’s also Co-founder of The Culture Assassins media company.

Ben Aston: 

Hello Tim.

Tim Reitsma:

 Hey Ben. It’s so good to be on the podcast. 

Ben Aston:

Well, thanks for coming—and thanks for hosting this. I’m just intro-ing it [laughter]. So Tim has got stacks of experience managing people. He’s passionate about helping and equipping others to become better organizational leaders and Tim is going to take on our first-ever residency on the People Managing People podcast, so a massive welcome Tim. Today we’re going to be talking about this new community that we’re starting; it’s called People Managing People and I’m going to talk to Tim about his current role as a workplace culture consultant. And then we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into covering some leading and managing basics. But let’s talk about People Managing People for a minute, shall we? Let’s talk about what we’re creating and why it matters. Let’s talk about People Managing People, what does that mean to you, Tim?

Tim Reitsma:

Well, People Managing People—that’s a great question: what does it mean? It means that you know, this is a community for anyone who is leading people. Maybe you’re currently leading people, or in the future, you will be leading a team. Maybe you’re thinking of starting a company; you’ll need to build it out and you don’t really know what to do or how to do it. And I think this is the community we’re creating, is a fun, interactive, supporting community on how to lead. It’s not just for HR people, or for that HR community, I think there’s a lot of good insights there and it’s a little bit more than that. We’re on a mission to help people lead and manage their teams and organizations more effectively. I think that’s what you said in the intro and it’s what we truly want to do. 

Ben Aston: 

Nice. And so I mean, you work in HR but would you call yourself an HR person? I mean, I’ve made an assumption: I said you work in HR—would you even call yourself an HR person or is that just me imposing that upon you?

Tim Reitsma:

[Laughter] You’re not the first one to impose that, so I kind of laugh at that because my career definitely hasn’t been traditional HR. I just have a passion for people and my background is operations, so by default, I love finding more effective ways to engage our people, so I landed in this “HR” specific role in consulting. 

Ben Aston:

Tell us about being a “culture creator”. What does that mean? 

Tim Reitsma:

Yeah it’s—I work with a company here locally in Vancouver British Columbia, called SPARK Creations and we’re a network of consultants. My title is Culture Creator. I just have an awesome opportunity to partner with companies—small, medium, large—in multiple sectors who really just want to elevate their workplace culture. More and more companies are now understanding that it’s really a strategic advantage to articulate what do they actually stand for and are they actually living what they stand for? So that’s, I guess, my title: a culture creator. I partner with organizations and leadership teams to help them and to guide them down a path of creating an effective workplace culture. 

Ben Aston: 

Let’s dive into that a little bit more. When you talk about an “effective” workplace culture, what are the hallmarks for you of an effective culture—a healthy culture? What does that look like? 

Tim Reitsma:

Whenever we go into a company, we love to ask a couple of questions. We typically sit down with the leadership team, and we ask them questions related to culture. So we ask questions around values and purpose, and employee engagement—and what’s top of mind for people. Whenever we ask a question about values, it’s an interesting reaction. We typically get a couple of different reactions. The leaders will stare at the floor, you know, not want to make eye contact because they don’t know, so they don’t want to get asked. Or they look around on the wall because they hope that they’re written on the wall somewhere, or not very often we actually get leaders who know what their values are: what they stand for. What this, to me, really tells me is, if leadership teams of people who are leading other people, don’t know what they stand for, how do their teams know what they stand for? How do they make the best decisions? It’s a fascinating little exercise to do. So if you’re listening to this and you want to put people on the spot, you may get some interesting reactions about this. 

Ben Aston:

Well, let me put you on the spot then. 

Tim Reitsma:

Sure. Love it, I’m looking at the wall [laughter]

Ben Aston: 

Look at the wall, tell me what’s written on the wall [laughter]. So, Let’s talk about—for SPARK, as a culture-creating company, have you guys got defined values of your own? 

Tim Reitsma:

Yeah, totally do. We have three values: love, connection, and fun. We love completely. We believe in bringing your whole self to work, not just separating work and life. We have life and that’s it. So we love completely. Connection. We’re about connecting with—not just internally with our network of consultants, but with our community and with our clients. So driving deep connection. And fun. If we’re not having fun, we need to re-evaluate what we’re doing. If it’s all serious, no one is laughing, we’re not sharing stories, we’re not actually wanting to get out of bed to do what we gotta do, we’re not having fun. So those are the three values that we strive for. So the co-founders of SPARK creations, Lorie and Aileen, developed these many years ago but we review them every quarter. And again, we’re a network of independent consultants, but we all have a say in: Are these the values that we’re living? Do they still make sense within this organization?

Ben Aston: 

That’s cool. I think my experience of developing values for a company is that, you know, when you shared your values just now, I was like, “Oh yeah those are good, I’ll take those.” [Laughter]. And then I read someone else’s values and I’m like, “Oh yeah they’re good, I’ll take some of those as well.” So how do you get to the point where you’re like, Hey these are ownable and meaningful. Because I think we can value—the reason that we define values is because they sound like a good thing. And they reflect what we want to be and how we want to act as an organization so that we’ve got some organizational integrity. But how do you decide or get to that point where you go “hey this is a meaningful value,” rather than me just saying, “Hey, well I like your ol’ value of fun so I’m going to pick that one too and add it to the pile”?

Tim Reitsma:

That’s a great question. There are multiple ways to define values for personal values or organizational values. One approach is to print off a list of values and circle off which ones mean something to someone. I would not recommend that approach so don’t do that. [Laughter]. But you know, we all have values, whether we’ve articulated them for our own self—but we all have personal values. So our approach at SPARK is, when we go into organizations, we actually ask everybody in an organization: what do they hold of value. And we run some exercises, we ask some questions to get to the heart of what those values are. But really, we sit down with the leadership team and it could take hours, it could take days, and we put together a list of questions—we ask some questions—and we pull out key words out of those questions. So one of those questions we ask is: Who inspires you and why? Another question we might ask the leadership team is: What fires you up? And we start pulling out value words. And we quickly start to see a theme from those statements with their answers even though they’re all individuals—different individuals, but we start to get a theme of, “What do they stand for?” I know we’re kind of going down this path of culture and values, but when you’re leading people, when you’re starting an organization, you’ve got to start on a foundation, not just: Cool, we’ve got a great product, now we’ve got to go sell it. But what is going to guide our decisions? How are we going to bring people on? What are we going to say “yes” to, what are we going to say “no” to? The famous story about values is Enron. I hope I can say Enron on the podcast, but you know back in their heyday, one of their values was integrity. And then they collapsed, and a bunch of top people went to jail. Not everyone was corrupt but, you know, if it’s just written on a wall or an employee handbook, it’s just a word. 

Ben Aston:

Yep. And I think what you recommended in terms of like, actionable advice, for people listening, this kind of gut-check—or actually, it’s not a gut-check, it’s a “values” check—of sitting down quarterly, or however frequently you decide to do it, looking at your values and then evaluating how in the last quarter—or whatever period it is—have we exhibited these values. Are there any examples, are there any stories of how we’ve had fun as a company. And if those values really are true, then there will be story after story of how that value has come to life. There will be, you know, times where you’ll be recounting the fun you had, and then you’re like, “Okay well yes, fun is definitely one of our values then, that’s true. We still want it to be a value and we’re living it out. There’s some integrity there. But I think that approach—of not just defining them and teasing them out but also checking whether or not they actually still hold true—is really valuable advice. 

Tim Reitsma:

Yeah and I think you hit the nail on the head there. As a leadership team, or even if you’re a leader of a team of one, that’s still something to reflect on, but also it’s a great way to dive into employee engagement. So if you’re doing one-on-one check-ins with your team, or you’ve got performance reviews or whatever process you’re following, is even just to have the person sitting across from you reflect on, you know, what values have shown up in the last month, in the last two weeks, in the last six months—whatever it is. What’s resonating with you? What’s not resonating with you? Do we need to change anything? It’s a great reflective exercise that we recommend—that I recommend—you do with your team. 

Ben Aston: 

Nice, that’s good advice. I mean you touched on employee engagement there, and it—that’s obviously a good buzzword to throw around—but what does employee engagement mean to you? 

Tim Reitsma:

Yeah, it means that our people are fired up, are excited to be doing what they’re doing, they know what the purpose of the organization is, they know the vision of the organization—I believe purpose and vision are two separate things—and they know how they can contribute to pursuing that purpose and vision. So if you’ve got a vision of—if you’re a tech company and you’ve got a vision to be the first in delivering, X, Y, Z, in your specific industry, then if your people are engaged, they know exactly how they can contribute to that vision. So if you stop what you’re doing, if you’re listening to this, press pause, get out of your desk or your cubicle or your office and go ask people, say,  “Hey, do you know how you’re contributing to this vision of the company?” If you get a resounding “No.” you may have some engagement issues on your hands.

Ben Aston: 

Yeah and what’s recently—or at least recently for me—that I’m hearing more about in terms of employee engagement is OKRs: these objectives and key results. What’s your take on that in terms of a tool for engagements? There are lots of software tools being developed like 7Geese, 15five,  Culture Amp, Perdoo. There are some tools out there that help us track or to find OKRs and to track against them with the idea being that employees are more engaged if they have clear objectives and key results. But then what you’re talking about is how that filters up to the overall vision of the company and if people are jazzed and fired up about coming to work every day and about the big vision. So let’s talk about OKRs and how that, for me, this gap between vision and OKRs when we’re trying to translate vision into objectives and key results. How well does that work for engagement and what other ingredients should people be throwing in there?

Tim Reitsma:

It’s a—I think this is a whole series of podcasts on its own. But let’s dive into that maybe a little bit high level. I mentioned how you’ve got a vision of an organization. So, typically that vision would translate into some sort of strategic plan, whether it’s a rolling strategic plan or it’s a one year or two year—whatever it is, that strategic plan likely has some areas of focus. So what is your company or organization going to do to achieve that plan, and then, how does that plan support the vision? So there are a couple of steps in that process—at least in what I’ve done with other clients. It’s really articulating: “How do people then contribute?” I love the idea of OKRs. The objectives and key results; it’s measurable. It’s a straightforward tool that you can use to measure progress. Now let’s say—let me use an example. If you’re listening and you get out of bed on a Monday morning and you don’t know what you’re going to do, you don’t know what you’re going to achieve, you don’t know why you need to go to work—Do you think you’re going to be engaged? Probably not. Is your performance going to suffer? Absolutely.  I was reading a study, and this is an older one, it’s from 2015 and it’s a US study, and I believe 68% of people are disengaged at work. So what does that mean? There’s an interesting calculator—we’ll post this out—that I found on LinkedIn of cost of disengagement. I believe it’s $10,000 per $60,000 of salary. I may be butchering that, but regardless, there are ways to measure that disengagement. So having your vision, strategic plan, focus areas and linking your objectives and key results—your OKRs—to that. It gives you a sense of purpose. So let’s say you get out of bed on a Monday and you know exactly how you can contribute to the growth and stability and community of your organization? When I say that, I already feel like I’m more engaged. I know that I’ve got a purpose. So there are great tools out there and you mentioned a number of them. I’ve seen Culture Amp in use; I know clients who use 7geese, so I pick out those two because I’m a little bit familiar with them, and it’s a great way to track it. Does it solve the problem of engagement? Absolutely not. Does it replace the need to actually have a conversation with your team and people? No. But it’s a great way to track progress. 

Ben Aston:

Nice. And so, I mean, what we’re talking about here in terms of employee engagement, in terms of culture—now these are things that typically are owned, I guess, by an HR team, or an HR department, and personally for my case and how I knew—in the introduction, I said, “Hey, this is me, I run a company, I’m an HR person, but that’s by default, not because I’ve chosen to be one.” And for many small companies, they’re not big enough to have an HR department. So I’m curious: as a culture creator that you are—I kind of cast that HR title or responsibility on you—but as an HR person, who’s not an HR person, I deal with recruitment, I deal with hiring and firing, I deal with employee management in terms of payroll and benefits, insurance—all those kinds of things. And I have these things because I have to do them. But for someone like me, a lay HR person, how would you describe Human Resource management? What does Human Resources mean to you? And maybe, as you’re describing that, you can add: What are the things that someone like me who does HR because I have to, rather than by choice—what are some of the things that we should be watching out for or be particularly conscious of because we’re not professionals? Have you got any insights on that? 

Tim Reitsma:

Yeah, I think if you define HR—Human Resources—really, I did the old Google search on, what does HR mean? In the traditional sense, it’s a department, maybe its own siloed department within an organization,  within a business, that really represents all things people, or worker-related. So you’re effectively wearing a department hat because you are responsible for all things people related. And when I say “all things”, you’ve mentioned a number of them. From recruitment to training to hiring, to running payroll, to benefits, to coaching. You probably have to once in a while put your coaching hat on because someone has an issue personally or professionally that they want to talk to you about. You’re responsible for engagement, you’re responsible for labour relations—for everything. It falls under you. Now I can’t see you, but I can probably imagine your face going, “Oh man, that’s a lot.” [Laughter].

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

Tim Reitsma:

But I think, what can be done is sharing out some of that responsibility. I worked with a client here in Vancouver. They’re a company of about 30 people and they don’t have an HR team. There’s no dedicated HR person. So I asked the CEO, “How do you manage it?” And he said they’ve actually spread out some of the tasks. So if someone is responsible for payroll, they’ve farmed that out to the finance side of the business. Or benefits, maybe that’s somebody else. Or another co-founder could take a look at or manage something else. For performance reviews, performance management, they’re raising up another leader within the organization and putting some of that responsibility to build up that framework on them. And you’d be surprised. I think people are eager to take things on and do something new. 

Ben Aston:

I think one of the things I have discovered that is useful, is that there are tools that integrate some best practice into them. And I’m not saying they’re the solution to all my HR woes, it’s not to simply just keep buying more tools, but there are tools that begin to integrate things like Bamboo HR is great for example. But human resource information systems, performance management systems, workforce planning systems: there are tools out there that actually integrate some best practices. I think when I begin to use some of these tools, I think, “Oh yeah, that’s a really interesting and useful step that I should be thinking about when screening applicants for a new role for example, or when I’m doing performance appraisals. You know, they guide you through some of the steps that a non-HR person, I might not think about or I might not consider doing, like, “Hey let’s have quarterly performance reviews and let’s set the goals for the performance reviews, and let’s have these check-ins.” And things begin to become a bit more automated. I don’t know if you’re familiar with any tools, or, are there any tools that you’ve seen that have been particularly effective?

Tim Reitsma:

That’s another great question. There are so many tools out there to manage your people. And I think it’s—you kind of said it throughout the podcast: as a business owner who is by default the HR person, what, really sitting down, what are your needs as a business owner? What do you need help with? Do you need help with the engagement side? Do you need help on reminders of performance reviews or check-ins, or whatever else it is; you could use something as simple as a Google Doc or OneNote to track it. Some tools that I know are quite popular: Ultimate Software, Bamboo HR. Those ones seem to come up in a lot of my research. I haven’t used them personally, but they’ve come up quite a bit as ways to really manage the workforce. These aren’t necessarily just tools for HR people: it’s like, “Oh I don’t have an HR person, so I don’t need it.” Well, you know, again, get out of your desk, ask your people if they’re engaged, ask them—maybe not directly ask them if they’re engaged, but start having those conversations because, you know, people need that communication; they need to know where they’re going, how they can contribute. There needs to be a deep level of trust and then start tracking it. The best thing from my experience is, you know, I came out of a tech company and managed a large workforce across the globe and I would sit down to do check-ins with my team or a performance review, and I would go to our system and all the notes were already tracked there. I didn’t have to think back a year or think back 6 months to all the projects that were completed on time or not, or things that worked and didn’t work. We just tracked all the notes in a system and it summarized it for our check-in and our performance review, so it really simplified the process. So definitely, we’ll have some tools for you, check out peoplemanagingpeople.com for a list of top tools and also in the future some breakdowns on which ones work best and for who. 

Ben Aston: 

Nice. Tools are one thing another thing that is obviously hugely important in our development as People Managing People, is the community aspect of it. And that’s really why we founded peoplemanagingpeople.com in the first place: we are trying to create and birth a new community for people who manage people. It’s HR for non-HR people. Obviously, we’re just starting out so I’m curious: where else do you go? What other blogs do you read in your work as a “culture creator” or what other resources do you find yourself dipping into that other people should add to their reading list? 

Tim Reitsma:

Yeah, I’ve attended a lot of HR conferences this past year. I’ve been with SPARK now for a year and from somebody who is a non-HR person, HR conferences are geared for HR people. There are a lot of great conferences out there. I know on the website we listed out the top 2020 conferences to check out—please do so. Some resources that I really find great are: Patrick Lencioni, he’s the founder of what’s called The Table Group. I really like what he writes. He really talks about healthy organizations and how to create healthy organizations. Not from, you know, everyone is physically fit and that type of thing, but again: Is your company thriving? Another resource I really like is Donald Miller. He’s the StoryBrand guy. He has a daily email that comes out as a videocast called Business Made Simple. A lot of great tools and tips and tricks in that. So that’s how I’m kind of rounding out my tool kit if you will; just garnering that. So again lots of great HR conferences. I would also say if you’re a non-HR person; if you consider yourself just by default you’ve landed in this position: go to an HR conference. Check it out, you will maybe even find your next hire. Somebody who you need to bring on your team to manage your people and give you support there. But you will see and hear from industry experts that will just give you so much insight. So definitely check out the conferences. 

Ben Aston: 

Cool. Well Tim, thanks so much for joining us and thank you for being our resident host of the People Managing People podcast. We’re looking forward to having you host various guests over the next little while. I know we’ve got a good lineup of guests who are booked to come on the show. So if you want to learn more about managing people, if you want to hear from other culture creators—people who are coaching people, leading organizations, and managing organizations, then subscribe to our podcast and leave us an honest review, if you will. Tell us why you love us or hate us. Either way, it’s greatly appreciated. And we’d love to invite you to come and join our gang. So comment on this post if you’re listening to this on the website, or if not, head to peoplemanagingpeople.com to join our soon-to-be-launched Slack team, and you’ll find all kinds of interesting conversations there going on about all things leading and managing people. But until next time, thanks so much for listening.

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