Episode 87: Aligning and Defining Your Company’s Culture with HR Strategist Otisa Eads

Building a team seems like a pretty straightforward endeavor. Figure out what you want people to “do” then get someone on board to accomplish that task, right?

Turns out, there is a better way to approach the hiring process and it comes from “BEing” rather than “DOing”.

And it really comes down to seeking cultural fit before task fit.

It’s a bit of a scary mindset shift but when you can see that it’s WAY easier to train someone to expand upon their set of skills than to facilitate a cultural alignment, your ability to build a solid, happy, healthy team will be unparalleled.

Leading with culture has SO many benefits that go beyond efficiencies and output gained by having cultural alignment. A strong company culture influences everything around it. From vendor relationships, to marketing, to investment opportunities. When your culture is humming, everyone who has a relationship with your organization gets on board.

That’s why today’s conversation is so important. My guest is Otisa Eads and she’s a HR Consultant and Systems Strategist who is fully steeped in culture and team building. Yes, Otisa can help you with your HR needs, AND that starts with culture.

Otisa is also a big proponent of measuring. See, when you can identify ways to measure the effectiveness of the modifications you make – the experiments you run in your organization – you can then make more educated decisions about what to try next.

Running your organization is really just a series of experiments. Define a hypothesis. Establish tests to prove or disprove that hypothesis. Measure. Repeat.

Otisa is AMAZING at this stuff and our conversation was super valuable.

Have a listen to this episode and help get your culture game humming.

Otisa Eads

Gather feedback and data. Whether from the staff or stakeholders, spend time doing research on what is happening internally at your organization.

Listen to the podcast here:

Otisa: I will say one like little like PSA for folks to really kind of focus on the culture that they wanna create and build with their team. And that’s not just at the staff level that’s overall at the organization. I think the problem is, is when I come in, they can never answer those questions. It’s rare that someone can explain to me their culture.

They’re usually asking me to fix it. And so I try to remind folks that, you know, I’m not going to be here forever. Right. So it’s really important to. Really sit down and really Des design or dream about what this culture is going to look like after you are long and gone. And how does that look like at the board level and what does that look like at the staff volunteer and beyond, and how can we weave this all together?

Are you looking for ways to shorten your marketing, learning curve and help your organization survive and thrive? Welcome to relish. The purpose marketing podcast, a show for purpose focused leaders who want to use marketing techniques to fuel their organization’s growth. If you’re a returning listener and you haven’t subscribed already, we’d love to have you also please consider leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Now here’s your host, author and marketing specialist, Stu SW Fort.

Stu: Hey everybody Stu here. Welcome to relish this. There are three takeaways from today’s. They are the following. The first is that culture is super important in any business and making sure that you have your team aligned culturally is just an incredible way to start to build your business.

And if you haven’t done it already going back to that and making sure that you have culture defined and aligned is, is just paramount. The second is. Treating everything like an experiment and making sure that you track and document and have data on which you can actually iterate. So really looking at everything like it’s.

It’s a part of this bigger growth, this, this iteration, this evolution of your business, and making sure that you have the data available to make good decisions. And the third is that my guest Ossa Eids is just an amazing person. She is an HR consultant and an HR and system strategist. She’s just amazing.

So I think you’re gonna love this show OSA and I had a really fun conversation. Here we go. OSA, how are you?

Otisa: I’m doing well. I’m happy to be talking to you today.

Stu: Well, I am happy to have you on the show. I think this is dropping in the late may early June, 2022 zone. When we finally go live, we’re recording today on what’s a beautiful day up here in the mountains in kind of, kind of mid to late April.

Seeing some warmer weather and snow is melting and it’s springtime in the Rockies. Thanks for thanks so much for being on the show today. Thank you for

Otisa: having me. And you know, it’s doing the same thing here in, in the city. It’s definitely warm there’s, you know, bees and wasps trying to get into my place.

So it’s definitely springtime.

Stu: nice. Nice. It’s a good time to be here. I think you know, once we get through mud season, that that tends to be the, the, the kicker. So hopefully we’ll run through that as quickly as possible. So. Again, I I’m really excited to chat with you today. I know we connected several months ago.

In fact, I think our, my, our mutual friend, Jeff Kinzie, who was on the show late last year introduced us. And you are an HR specialist and consultant in the in, you do a lot of work in the, in the nonprofit sector. Is that right?

Otisa: That is absolutely correct.

Stu: So tell us a little bit about your organization and what you do for nonprofits.

Otisa: Yeah, so I started my business in 2019, but I didn’t get started with working with nonprofits until 2020. And my business is evolving and growing as I evolve and grow. And it’s been a pleasure like working with different sizes of nonprofits working with you know, Mostly when nonprofits come to me and I joke about this, but it’s true as they come to me when things are really hitting the fan and you know, people are leaving and all, all this, I would say all, all the problems are erupting at one time.

And so they usually come to me because, oh, look, they’re hiring an ed. What, you know, the board needs to figure out what to do or Hey, We wanna staff retreat because you know, our staff has changed and we’re worried about retention and our goal setting. And, oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do. And and so I come in and, you know, I create that and that’s actually happening like next week.

so it’s fresh in my mind. So a lot of the times, you know, folks are coming to me because there is a problem that they want solved and usually. Problem has been developed for a very long period of time. And usually folks are, they think that I can just come in and fix it and move on. And a lot of the times that’s not the case.

right. So, so yeah, it it’s, it’s been a, a great journey so far, and I’m starting to kind of see these themes that are kind of coming up. Again and again, with. Nonprofits that, that kind of come my way. And my goal is to really try, trying to share like, Hey, here’s some things that you can start considering now, before you hire more folks or before you grow your organization, like, here’s some things that you can be thinking of.

But right now it’s just me as the head consultant. I do work with other contractors and other folks that I can bring in with bigger projects, or like I said, like retreats or workshops or trainings. I like to, I like to work with. So anyway, I can, I can collaborate. I, I do. So yeah, that’s kind of how it kind of how it began is in 2020, I was doing other types of work and a friend of mine was like, Hey, my friend works at this.

Non-profit. And they’re, they’re about to start this onboarding this heavy onboarding season and they’re not prepared. Can you help them? I was like, yeah, sure. That’s awesome. Yeah. And that’s kind of how I started and it grew from.

Stu: Oh great. That that’s it’s a, it is a really fun adventure when we kind of fall into these opportunities and, and, and it’s like, oh wow.

That I didn’t even, that didn’t even even occur to me six months ago. And here I am running my own show. That’s that’s amazing. Yeah. So you mentioned some themes that you typically hear from, from your, your clients. What are some of those, some of those big problem buckets that you tend to, to. People dig their way out of,

Otisa: yeah.

So before I go into that, I will say one like little like PSA for folks to really kind of focus on the culture that they wanna create and build with their team. And that’s not just at the staff level, that’s overall the organization. And I think the problem is, is when I come in, they can never answer those questions.

It’s rare. Someone can explain to me their culture. They’re usually asking me to fix it. Mm-hmm and so I try to remind folks that, you know, I’m not going to be here forever. Right. So it’s really important to. Really sit down and really Des design or dream about what this culture is going to look like after you are long and gone.

And how does that look like at the board level and what does that look like at the staff volunteer and beyond, and how can we weave this all together? So it’s one big PSA because nice, because it trickles down into everything, you know, from, from systems to governance models, to hiring and firing like it all.

It really all blends together, but folks, unfortunately they don’t think about culture in, in, in their systems. They think about culture as this like separate entity, kind of like a mission statement. People think that it’s a statement. This is what our culture is. And it’s like, not really. But yeah, a lot of the times folks that I’ve, I guess I’ve seen, or the challenges I’ve seen is, is handling growth and, and kind of having a growth plan for the org for the organization.

So meaning like, you know, maybe at the very beginning, it was this ed and now it’s five years and it’s the same ed. And they have maybe a few staff members. . But I know that that’s not gonna be the end all be all of the team mm-hmm so a lot of the times, no one really has sat down and decided like, okay, for the long term, do we see this being just an ed?

Okay. Does this ed need support at the staff level? What does that look like? Let’s create an org chart of our dreams. Because then that helps with the hiring process. No matter what stage you’re at. If you already can see how this org can develop, then it makes the little things easier to deal with, cuz you’re like, okay, well right now I need a grants, a grant writer, contractor.

It’s looking like we’re gonna have a whole team of development. So what does that look like? Maybe I start looking for a development director in the next six months that works with this grant writer contractor now. So that way I can offload this whole kind of area to someone else that has that expertise because.

I’m learning that EDS wear way too many hats. yeah. That’s pretty typical. You know, so that’s just one area that I’m noticing is, you know, the Ed’s wearing way too many hats and, you know, and then also they’re trying to be HR at the same time, which I find. Fascinating. Because how, I guess for me as an HR man, as HR manager, director, whatever my goal is to make sure that the staff have what they need.

They’re able to communicate those needs. We’re able to fix their problems or do any behavior correction or whatever we gotta do with the staff. But we also have to think about the employer and what they need and what their requests are and how can we kind of compromise, negotiate. Do we have to do to make sure.

This is a safe environment, but all these needs and requests are being communicated and followed through on. So how can an ed maintain that neutrality at all times? And how can they gather feedback from that staff when it’s about them? Right. So right. That’s that, that’s a huge one. That I, I, I, I find again and again, and again always comes up, even though they hired me to like help their board with something , I’ll get a call like, yo, our Ed’s having issues.

Can you talk to them? You know? Or, Hey, like we’re dealing with a lot of turnover what’s going on. So. And I really think it boils down to the fact that this executive director just has way too much pressure to, to, you know, for one person and way too many tasks. So I think that that’s something that folks really need to kind of look at from the board level and from the staff level, like how, how can this ed have the support and how can we help them when they need something.

But also what happens when the. Noticing things. It’s kind of inappropriate, right? For the staff member to email the board, you know, chair, Hey, I have this problem, right. That’s usually not a norm. Sure. So that’s kind of, I would say those are the big ones. And then the last one is hiring firing policies, procedures.

Usually folks either have been they’ve been lucky and so firing is very rare. And so when it does happen that can be a, a thing or just dealing with the nuances of being a manager and ha and having staff. So when conflict arises or, oh my gosh, this person is not showing up on time. Like, what do I do?

Or, Hey, we have a handbook, but it’s not really fleshed out. It’s kind of a template we use from so and so, right. Right. So there’s not a lot of internal systems put in place. And, and usually they’re trying to do that at the same time as something else that’s going on, whether it’s You know, it could, is that your cat?

Sorry. Yes.

Stu: Let me pause you there for a second. Kick her out. Hold on a sec.


so sorry. No, I’m so sorry

Otisa: about that. No, I was just like, am I crazy? Or don’t hear a cat

Stu: Nope. Nine. Let me, I’m just taking a note here. Nine 50 ish cat. All right. I forgot to kick her out before we got started. So I apologize for interrupting there. No problem. So. So essentially, if we were looking at the things that you hear, it’s either coming from the ed themselves or from perhaps the board.

Yes. Expressing concerns about, about some of the challenges that they’re facing. Cuz my guess is that you don’t, well, you might have some EDS coming to you saying, Hey, I’m wearing too many hats, but that’s probably very rare. yeah, probably pretty rare. Cuz they don’t have that. Insight into themselves, I guess, probably.

Right, right.


Otisa: that you, if, if an ed is coming to me, it’s because they want systems in place and structure because they think that’s gonna help with whatever the problems are going on.

Stu: Gotcha. Gotcha. When the real problem is them, I’m detecting something here in, in stuff that I do here at relish myself.

So shining a light on, on on me here in your, in your conversation. That’s amazing. When you’re working with with nonprofits. I mean, I heard you say that a lot of times they, they think that you’re gonna swoop in with your, your Superman Cape and, and just fix things and then go away. And, and it sounded like that’s not the norm that normally it, it requires more investment.

What, what are the. What should, should an executive director or board seeking to bring someone like you on to help them look at, in terms of, of longevity of, of that project or that engagement?

Otisa: Yeah, I think so this is sounds, it’s gonna, I’m gonna answer your question, but I, I’m also a southerner, so I love stories and parables.

So anyway, I tell folks that a lot of my work is like going to the. Usually you go to the dentist for a checkup maybe once or twice a year, but some people never do that. They only go when there’s a big problem. So folks unfortunately treat me the same way they come to me and there’s a big, big problem because they didn’t do their checkups.

They didn’t do the maintenance. They waited and waited and waited until it got so bad that they think this can’ be solved. Quick solution but in reality, there’s so much more in depth and I, I, I usually do the root canal comparison mm-hmm but I’ll spare you that but, but that’s usually what happens is folks come to me like, oh my gosh, my tooth hurts.

And really it’s like, oh, we gotta get rid of the whole tooth. And we gotta look at the other ones. So that’s usually what’s happening. And I tell folks what really is important is how much clarity has, I guess, at the board level staff level, or even from an Ed’s perspective, like how much clarity do you have on the problems internally?

What are some things that are impacting you, but maybe there’s more to that story that you don’t even know. And a lot of the times is when I come in, I’m asking so many questions. That they’re like, they’re not prepared. so right. I think doing kind of like an audit and, and again, you could hire that out or you could just kind of take some time and really, you know, get feedback from staff.

That’s another thing I always tell folks to do. Like I’m curious in what, and I always say this in my, in my intro calls, like, what do, I’m curious about what your staff thinks about this does your staff express the same concerns that you have? Mm-hmm because your staff will tell you a whole lot about what’s really the priority.

And it may not just be like, oh my gosh, it’s leadership. It could be like, you know, I really just wish I understood where I send my, my reimbursement Infor information to right. Or, Hey, I really wish my onboarding was better. And sometimes what I’ve noticed is staff, they become very protective over new hires that come in after them.

So they start doing more than maybe their job description allows. And I know in the nonprofit world, that’s the norm. However, I wanna change that. I think that when you hire great folks, you, you also wanna make sure that they have what they need to succeed and they shouldn’t be doing more. So that way new hires don’t have that experience.

It should be like, Hey, how can we make onboarding better staff? And there comes a solution out of that. And even if that involves everyone on staff to participate, that’s awesome, but it shouldn’t be left to one person to do all those things. So I, I, I, I think that a lot of the times is just taking time for reflection and, and I, I encourage anyone I work with.

To sit down and do a self-reflection and then at the board level, maybe it’s doing a board reflection and maybe looking at engagement with staff. Like, I, I I’ve been doing listening tours for a client lately. I love doing them. And so I’ve been asking staff what, in your opinion is the relationship between board and staff and so far?

No one has, has been able to answer that question. It’s like, oh, I met them once or twice. They’re nice. you’re right. But that’s it. And then you have some staff where it’s, it’s different, they’re heavily involved. Right. So yeah, just taking some time and really kind of do an inventory on what’s happening with.

Relations from between board ed and staff. What feedback can you gather from the ed and from the staff? Does it correlate and then say, okay, you know what? We thought it was a leadership problem, but maybe it’s a culture problem, an employee engagement issue, or maybe it’s, you know what? We have zero systems in place at all for hiring policies and procedures.

You know what I mean? Like it, it gives you a better roadmap to where your focus needs to be. And then lastly, and I tell this to everyone, whether you’re a nonprofit, small business owner or entrepreneur really take time in developing where you see this place going. And I think I said this earlier, but like, and I would get to the details of okay.

In, in one year, in three years and five years, And if you can do 10 years awesome. But that usually freaks people out right. You know, and create a timeline of where you see this place evolving and growing, and that will help answer a lot of the questions of, okay. So our hiring efforts are gonna be focused here right now because here’s the immediate need, but you know what?

I think that we’re gonna need X. In a year or two. So it’d be great to get someone maybe at a mid-level. We can bump them up to a director later. And then we can get them more support as this department evolves. Like that’s just a silly example. So it’s

Stu: really about being proactive instead of reactive in terms of, of planning for, for future growth and expansion, as well as.

As well as just having systems in place before you, you end up with problems, is that yes, that’s one correct.

Otisa: Hundred percent. And then I tell folks like, it doesn’t have to be this perfect plan. It could literally just be an outline in a Google doc, you know, with bullet points, you know what I mean? It doesn’t have to be this beautiful imaculate I think one thing about nonprofits I’ve learned is they get.

Hung up on it, looking a certain way or it being extremely long and wordy and lengthy and, and eloquent. And that’s great. Yeah. But it doesn’t, to me, I’ve, I’ve read a lot of information from nonprofits I’ve worked with and it never really got to the point of right. Of the problem that needs to be solved or the future challenges that you might face once you do grow.

Right. So yeah, I completely agree. It’s it’s all about being. Proactive and, and, and realizing that what you do today will not be the same in five years, right? So you have to have what you’re, you know, you have to figure out what to do now, what the, what those systems can look like now, but keep in mind that it may outgrow you.

So you’re gonna have to come back and review this on a periodic. At, at a different timeframe, you know, it could be once a year, twice a year or every two years mm-hmm , but you’re gonna have to sit down and update and review these, these pieces and not just look at the mission statement and right.

Stu: Absolutely. I think that. A lot of people forget that pretty much everything is a living document. And, and, you know, even if you go to print you know, it’s that struggle with perfection as well, where we’re always constantly trying to get things perfect. And it’s in, in, in reality, there is never. Perfect because you can always continue to, to tweak something until, until, you know, you’re, you’re unable to type anymore or whatever.

However, you’re, you’re creating that, that, that documentation or, or website or song or, or whatever. And so getting comfortable with, with the You know, the, the, the done is better than perfect idea and that everything can, can be revisited and sh and in fact, many things should be revisited. You know, if, if one can, can change one’s mindset, I think, to, to embrace that idea I think we’d be, be in a lot better shape because more things would just get done.

We’d be able to get them out into the, into the, the world and test them and see how they’re working and, and then make adjustments. And and so teeing that up for clients. I mean, we, we do the same thing with, with documents. It’s, it’s like, you know, this is, this is where we are today. And in three months we’ll come back and revisit it and see if we’re still in the same place.

And if, if so, Maybe that’s good. Maybe that’s bad, but but ultimately we’ll make adjustments accordingly. Yeah.

Otisa: You know, so you kind of said something that, that I, I tell folks is treating things like an experiment, right? It’s not like an onboarding process is never perfect. Okay. Like even sometimes you have this dream of what your onboarding process can look like.

And usually that dream is in the future. Right. And then you have that one person for onboarding and you’ve planned for. 15 people. Right? So, you know, it’s an experiment and, and gathering data and information is, is what I always say to my clients. You know, a lot of the times when you’re changing systems or you are, you know, changing up documents or whatever it’s an experiment you’re seeing it.

Can this really be executed accordingly. And if not, what changes do we make? And I, and I agree with you, I think. That’s how I try to look at a lot of systems now, then there’s the, the, the legal part, right. With HR, which is not fun. Mm-hmm and that’s different you can’t experiment with law right.

But you can also say, okay. You know, with how I do my hiring process, I it’s gonna be equitable, but here’s some different ways we can do it. We’re gonna try panel interviews. We’re gonna see how that works. And I did this with a client recently, and that’s why it’s on my mind. But. They were really nervous about doing panels.

And I had to do a whole training on here’s, how you can do an interview this way, or here’s different techniques. And here’s how we can prepare as a committee. And. And I had to explain to them, like, there is no perfect way to interview. It’s just doing it over and over. And again, again, to where it’s, it’s comfortable for you, but half of you all have never interviewed before mm-hmm so it’s gonna be Rocky.

It’s gonna be difficult. But this is an experiment. Well, what, what did you learn from this experience that you went through and how can we use this for the next round that we do later? So, yeah, I completely agree with you on.

Stu: Yeah, it’s just a, it’s an interesting mindset shift that I think, I think everybody would benefit from just, you know, recognizing that that.

Well, first of all, you’re not necessarily gonna hit a home run the first time. You’ve, you know, you you’ve step up to, to the plate, right? Mm-hmm to use a baseball analogy, which I don’t know why I use, because I don’t play baseball or watch it or anything, but there you go, I guess it’s cuz I’m from the United States and, and and here we are.

But but ultimately just knowing that, that. You’re gonna get better at this. You’re going to find things at work. You’re gonna find some things that don’t work and, and just be always flexible and, and attentive to to what’s going on so that you can identify what’s working and what’s not more, more quickly and, and, you know, fail fast and move on.

Otisa: Yes. Fail fast and move on. I like that. That’s a slogan. Yeah. And, and I. I think most people it’s natural to be nervous to fail or do something wrong. Right. Mm-hmm like for example, like terminations, there is a wrong way to do a termination. Sure. There is. And you know, and I’ve, I’ve been lucky to coach people, so they don’t have a bad experience, but I, I have to tell like, boards all the time, like, yeah, terminations are not fun for anyone.

They’re just not I, I try to prep folks in the fact that this employee, you have no idea how they’re gonna react. You think you’ve known them for 10 years. You have no idea what they’re gonna react to being terminated. Okay. So don’t take anything that they say personally. Cause right now they are processing with the fact that they are losing a job that they’ve had for X amount of time or for the reasons why they’re being terminated.

So they’re gonna come at you with some sassiness and be prepared, right? And so a lot of the times I, I, I, or, or I’ll hear, like, I try not to sit through certain things with my clients. Termination’s being one of them. right. Because I don’t want this employee thinking that I wanted them fired. Right.

Like I, it was my agenda. So I try to be mindful of what experiences to let the client handle on their own and coach them. So a lot of the times I’d L I like to do debrief. So if they’ve done a hiring process and I was not there for the interview, I wanna do a debrief to help them work through what happened, cuz sometimes things can go left field.

Okay. Well, let’s talk about that. So what can you do next time? What did you learn from this? What suggestions did I give you that you didn’t take that’s okay, too. Right? Like, you know what I mean? Like what do, okay, so this suggestion you didn’t take. All right. Well, you do it next time. Great. Or, okay. You did, you, you, you did this and I didn’t suggest that, but it worked well.

Awesome. It’s just gathering information and, and and keep applying what’s working and drop what doesn’t. And I think that’s usually where people they get so stuck in the perfection of something or they are doing it right, right, right. I wanna do it. Right. And I’m like, well, that’s great. We all wanna do things.


Stu: sure, sure. Yeah. So, and what’s yeah. And, and what’s right. Might not be the best, the absolute best of what it can be. So you know, again, it’s that getting. Getting that experience and that expertise and being able to apply that to the, the parts that works to a future engage or conversation or, or circumstance and, and throw away the stuff that didn’t work very well.

Otisa: Yes. 100%. I agree.

Stu: So when working with nonprofits, what are. Where do you, where do you typically think people should start? I know that, that you mentioned that a lot of times you suss that out through your, your processes. But is there, is there a, a size of nonprofit that people should really start to consider HR consulting?

Or is there, what are the, what are some of the sweet spots or places where people really should have. Have light bulbs go off that, that this might be the time that they need to start looking at, at streamlining their HR. Engagement.

Otisa: Yeah, that’s a great question. And, and also a difficult one, because I think I look at it as cycles and stages.

So if, if, if there’s a nonprofit and they have one person and it’s just the ed, maybe you’re not ready yet, but maybe you wanna have like little one on one on one conversations to prepare to hire. Right. Mm-hmm, awesome. Or maybe you have a staff of six to 10 and you see that this is going to double in the next six months to a year.

Okay, well, let’s get started, but I think, I think there is no perfect time to start. I just feel like the earlier the better. So if you are really realizing like, oh my gosh, I, we don’t have a handbook. We don’t have policies, policies, or procedures, staff. You know, they’re kind of doing onboarding it like sink or swim style.

Right. Which is very common. And we really wanna smooth things up before we continue to hire. That’s a great time. So, I guess there’s no perfect time. It’s more of, it’s more of again, looking at where you’re headed. When are you ready now to get things in place before things really kind of either take off or go off the rails.

Right. So kind of doing that quick checkin assessment with, with the organization, like, okay, look, Hey, we, we got a happy staff of six. But we could be better. Awesome. Maybe we’ll get her in here. Right, right. Call. Or maybe it’s like, you know what? We really wanna do some trainings and workshops around culture and you know, all kinds of different things.

Awesome. Like it just, it really just depends on what the goals are internally. Where do they see their growth headed? If, if they plan on growing, right? There’s some places where they, they wanna stay small. That’s great too. Maybe there’s areas of refinement that they, they just haven’t thought of. So it really just takes time in doing like a self-assessment of check in on where, where the, the org is at, where they headed and what are some things that are out of their expertise and skillset that they need.

an HR consultant to come in and do things. And it’s not, it doesn’t have to be just a handbook and policy y’all, but it’s just that these are easier examples to think of. It could be a culture assessment. They wanna look at the culture, they wanna do a listening tour. They wanna figure out are they practicing what they preach, right.

Mm-hmm are they actually providing their staff with a happy you know, healthy work environment? Yes or no. And what changes to be made? If not, So, yeah, it just depends on, on those different factors, I think. Gotcha.

Stu: Yeah, it sounds to me like the, there are a few things that you’ve mentioned a, a number of times one is this kind of this self-assessment piece, and I’d love to dive in a little bit more into what that, what that looks like.

So people could, could maybe have that as a tool that they. That they can at least start considering. If they, if they find themselves wondering if they need an HR consultant, maybe they can take, take that step. What does that self assessment kind of piece look like? When you take people

Otisa: through it?

Yeah. And you know, it’s changing. And it’s funny cuz I. I created it originally as part of a project to create an equitable performance management process. But now I send it out to people all the time. But yeah, so it could look like a lot of different things. I think that, I think the board might wanna get a head start though, before inviting the staff.

If that, that makes sense. because they need to get clear. On their goals and the things that they have to do. And I think here’s the thing. And I’m curious in your thoughts on this, and this might go a little left field, but I think, I think folks forget that the bored and staff, they co the it’s like they do a dance, you know what I mean?

Like mm-hmm, , it matters what’s happening at the board level. Even if the staff don’t know all the. but it matters. Right. And what’s happening at the staff level is extremely important to the board, even, even then, even though they may not know the day to day operations of things. It’s I guess what I’m saying is these groups matter to one another.

And I don’t think that’s always often talked about, I feel like they’re talked about as separate entities right. You know what I mean? But they actually you’ll be surprised when I, when something’s happening at the board level how that affects staff at some way, a shape layer. And vice versa.

Right. So anyway, I think that sitting down and kind of those questions I kind of mentioned earlier is really where I would start, you know? And it could maybe if, if each member is doing it themselves and coming back to a group that might be a little bit more detailed, right. Mm-hmm like a, a consultant buddy and I were talking about.

Kind of renewing your commitment to a board and what that could look like. Which sounds fun. So it could look like a lot of different things. And I think that someone would have to either curate a reflection self-assessment to fit the needs of the organization or really taking time to figure out, Hey, where’s my place here.

Where’s my role. Am I aligned with the mission? Still? Am I aligned with what we are doing in the world? What does the core values or. The culture mean for me as a person and as a board member, staff member ed. Right. Right. And how am I showing up in this space, given all the information just said, and where do I see myself headed from here?

It could be very simple. It doesn’t have to be a 20 page, you know, survey. It could literally be like six questions at the moment. Right?

Stu: Right. It’s interesting. I was on a call actually earlier today, and this was an opportunity for a founder CEO type person to really start to let go of the reins a little bit of, of their organization.

And, and you could tell that that this individual was having some challenges because of, you know, this had been this. System and, and you know, entity organization that, that, that they had you know, they’d come up with it. They had nurtured it over the, over the last 10 to 15 years. And. And they knew that they, that they were wearing too many hats and needed, needed experts on hand to help them.

And one of the challenges that that was, was expressed was when, you know, they, they said, well, As we’re going out and selling, how do I make sure that the, that the message is, is consistent and aligned and that people are saying the right things. Mm-hmm and it was funny because, because when, when they said this, I thought to myself, well, that’s what, that’s what that values, vision and mission exercise is perfect for in that everybody should be aligned and everyone may have Maybe a slightly different way of getting to mm-hmm , you know, from point a to point B, but as long as everyone’s going toward point B and no, one’s, you know, completely off the rails in terms of how they’re getting there, doing something unethical or what have you.

It really. Shouldn’t matter that much, as long as we’re, as long as we’re getting there. And, and when you have that strong culture and you have those strong you know, values and, and, and that, that long term vision, as well as the kind of pull back day to day mission. Components of what you’re doing then then that’s where you, you can just let people, let people do their thing.

And, and hopefully, you know, not only have you, have you partnered with or hired great people who are gonna bring more to the table than you could have ever done, kind of yeah. You know yourself, but also You also have the ability to let them make mistakes because yes, because that’s where, that’s where they are able to grow and just become even stronger parts of that team.

So it was an, it was an interesting, like slight, I, I talked about a light bulb moment earlier. It was a slight little light bulb moment for me, where I was like, oh, that’s, this is where he. He’s coming from here and, and where he just needs to let go of, of that control and allow, allow the people that he’s, that he’s put his trust in, allow them to do their thing.

Otisa: Yeah. It’s Showtime. They gotta show what they’ve learned and, and, and that letting go is, so it’s funny, cuz I talk a lot about founder syndrome sometimes with. You know, summits and things. I, I bring it up because it’s funny when I tell nonprofits that like, oh, we don’t have that here. Cause we’re a nonprofit.

I said, no, no, no, no, you do. It just doesn’t look the same. It’s not one founder. Right. But if you’ve had a, a board of folks that’ve been there for a decade, well, they’re gonna, they’re gonna, they’re going to show symptoms of founders and we’re just gonna look a lot different. Right? Mm-hmm or if you, if you had a ed that’s been there for half of a decade, like five years, six years, they’re also going to.

You know, having those symptoms as well. It just, again, it’s gonna manifest itself a lot different than just a founder or CEO. And I think that letting go piece is really difficult for some and, and allowing someone to have the autonomy to make mistakes. Right, right. I think that folks that are micromanagers, they don’t understand that the more you micromanage, the less autonomy you’re giving someone to learn.

Yep. And so I think it’s really, really important that folks think of that, but yeah, it’s like, well, you can’t control how this is gonna. How it’s going to turn out, but you can at least give them enough resources, tools information to be able to get to where they’re supposed to get to. And that’s the most important piece and how to stay in that lane, right.

How to stay in your lane of, of, of prepping up the people and helping them get to where they need to get to, but let them let them figure that those things out for themselves. So, yeah, it’s a fun dance. Yeah, for sure. It’s a fun dance

Stu: yeah. So one of the things I’m really picking up on which is, is fantastic is I think when people think of HR, all they think about are kind of the hiring and, and, and firing and, and those types of things.

But what you’re telling me, or what I’m hearing from you rather is. That there’s just a lot more that goes into the HR consultancy that you can bring to the table to help organizations kind of take it to that next level. And it’s not just about building teams, but it’s about that culture piece. And, and how to how to get everybody on board.

Like what we were just talking about, what, what are some of the things that you see, or, or maybe, maybe places where people. Skip steps where an HR consultant, like you could help help keep them on track to, to really, you know, get, get very much leveled up in terms of, of their culture piece.

Otisa: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great que and I love talking about culture and, and before I dive into that, thank you Stu for picking that up.

cause I, I literally try to tell folks. You know, I, yes, HR, mm-hmm, shiny object syndrome come over here, but when they meet me and talk to me, I’m asking other questions. I’m not asking about your handbook or, you know, I don’t care about your worker’s compensation policy right now. What I care about is other pieces for this puzzle, that, that is people, right.

It’s really what it is. It’s people, operations is what I’m trying to get people to steer to. Right? HR is I think HRS got a bad rep. over the last. Few decades. So I think it’s, it’s managing people. And how do you handle that? And what does that look like? But with culture, I think there’s a lot of different things.

I think it also starts with the, in this case with nonprofits, how, how is the culture being. Embedded, right. Like what makes up this culture? And a lot of folks, when you ask them, they, they go straight to what’s on the website, you know what I mean? Mm-hmm, they quote their mission statement, their core values and what they’re doing with their their do you know, all the great things that they’re doing.

But that’s not answering the question. So I usually ask people like, how are, how are decisions being made? How is feedback given and received? How are folks engaging on a day to day basis? Is there, is there, like, for instance, I don’t like the open door policy cuz it, to me it’s what does that mean?

mm-hmm and then how does that translate in a virtual remote? How are staff meetings being conducted? And is it just a lecture of, or what I call status updates or is it like a conversation debrief over what has happened in the past week? Is it coming up with solutions together? Is it collaborative or is it not right.

So it’s kinda looking at the day to day and really figuring out how how is it aligned? With where they think their culture is. So I’ll give you an example where, and this is kind of ranty, so I’m sorry. But I don’t like when folks say that their workplace or their staff is like a family, right? No, it’s not like a family you don’t pay to go to barbecues.

You don’t right. Expect someone to pay you from your family for hanging out and working. Right. That is not what we do with our actual family. So therefore let’s not call our, our workplace, our coworkers. Family and it leaves room for toxicity resentment. And then you start feeling obligated to do things that you don’t have to do.

Right. So mm-hmm, it just, I I’d never really like that. And I always tell folks that well, a workplace, if you call it a family, it’ll be a dysfunctional one. yeah. So, so really just taking the time and like, and looking at all these different pieces of this culture puzzle from the day to day operations, to like, again, feedback, especially, and also leadership because you know, if leadership is very top down, then that’s kind of the culture that you’re gonna have.

So staff may not really. Want to come to that leader with suggestions or ideas or coming up with some cool. I don’t know. So just some cool projects or I don’t know, who knows. They may not do that in a top down leadership type culture. Right? Mm-hmm but if you say that you’re collaborative, are you practicing what you say?

So do people come together and talk about things? How. How is that being done and shown and then also employee engagement. So how are you, how it, it doesn’t have to be cookouts potlucks. Like I know that when we think employee engagement, like that’s what we think mm-hmm , but it really could be staff retreats.

It could be how are you investing in their, their education and knowledge of something, you know, are they wanting to learn more about. I don’t know, I’m gonna say development cuz it’s something that I really wanna learn. right. I use so much about it in my work. I’m like, what is this? So, or maybe they wanted to learn more about fundraising and maybe you can, you know, you can hook them up with a mentor on the board or maybe you have to look outside look external for some resources.

So there’s a lot of different pieces I think to culture and really it’s kind of do again, going back to doing an inventory to really see. Are all these things aligning or what where’s the gaps what’s missing. Okay. We tell staff that we’re collaborative, but yet we really aren’t. Okay. Well, what does that really need to look like?

The, those kind of things, or how, how are we making decisions that impact a group of people? Do we invite. I don’t know volunteers to some of these meetings because this is gonna impact them and it would be great to get their input. Right. So really kind of looking things, looking at things and taking things apart a little bit and just kind of saying, Hey, are, are we really, are we really showing up the way we think we are?

mm-hmm and what are the things that we could do better improve, but also what are the things that we’re doing great at maybe. Billy’s barbecue. Every July is the hit of the year. Right. Right. Like, let’s keep that barbecue going. Awesome. Or, you know, our board retreats are kind of lackluster, so maybe we could definitely spend more time developing this out for the board and for the staff.

Okay. What does that look like? Do we have the resources? Do we need someone to come in and do do some, do, do something with us? So, yeah, I know it’s very long winded, but I hope I answered your

Stu: question. Oh, definitely. Yeah, it’s really interesting. One of the things that we see, and I think this is just, this is just pretty standard with people.

Is that what we think? We are great at or what we think we are known for or, or liked for. Oftentimes isn’t the, the thing that the people who are engaging with us actually believe is, is our best attribute or even worst attribute for example. And one of the things that we do here at relish is when we’re doing client interviews, we’re really looking for the language that clients are using.

When, when they talk about an organization and and what the clients are really saying that that, that that’s, you know, what they were looking for and the problems that they were actually looking to get solved. And it’s funny, we had a client that was in They were, they were in home services.

And when we asked them what made them special and different, they talked about all this great equipment that they would bring to job sites and how cool that was. And then when we interviewed the clients, not one client like mentioned how neat all of the equipment was. They, they talked about how punctual and, and friendly and easy to work with the, the, the company was.

And, and so. Those actual, you know, listening for problems that the company solved as well as those attributes that were being kinda lavished upon them. Really led to a change in, in the language that we recommended that they use on their site to describe, you know, why people should work with them. And so it very quickly adjusted from this discussion of, of you know, all this, all this great gear that they brought to, to help fix your, your house, to how.

To the experience that they were going to bring or that they were going to create when they, when they engaged with, when you engaged with them as a, as a vendor. So it’s, it’s really. It’s fascinating to me to, to be able to pay attention to those kinds of conversations and, and really see what people are saying.

And so I, I imagine that you do a lot of interviews with with kind of all those stakeholders to, to get to that. Is that, is that part of your process as well?

Otisa: I, I wish I had the time and I wish they had the budget, cuz I would love to do that. but with my listening to where I usually. Stick with the staff at first mm-hmm depending on where that leads me, then I’ll go to the board and then we’ll see where it goes.

But usually folks, you know, with nonprofits, you gotta work with what you can work with. Sure. But what I usually tell folks is I’ll ask them questions like with staff, I’ll ask ’em to describe what are the behaviors, what are these different actions that. Seen in the workplace that describe the culture.

Right? Because a lot of, again, like with culture, it’s so robust that it’s hard to kind of figure out, you know, What that looks like. So, or I’ll ask questions, like what behaviors other synonyms are rewarded, right? Mm-hmm at this place. And that question tells me a whole lot. So if they’re saying punk, you know, punctuality and.

Following the leader and saying or being the loudest in the room, right? Like that tells you a whole lot, versus someone saying collaborative, friendly you know, a servant leadership. I don’t know, I’m just making up things. Right. You know, being helpful, resourceful, right? This, this tells you a lot of things about an organization without having to.

360 listening tour or survey mm-hmm . But it does tell you a lot of, of where to start. So yeah, for me, it’s like the type of questions I’m asking staff and the types of questions I’m asking board. And here’s a fun fact. I don’t ask the board any questions. I usually deliver a whole presentation and then I ask them what shocked you like you what’s shocking for you or what’s new for you?

Because if I were to ask the board what the culture. It’s gonna look very, very differently from the folks that actually live and breathe in that. Right. Right, right. So I don’t wanna to skew my data. So I usually, it’s more of like a discussion about what they have experienced after me delivering the information I gathered.

And that’s fun. That’s my favorite part because they’re usually like, oh my gosh. I don’t know as much as I think that I know about what’s going on at the staff level. So it’s always fun. I love that part.

Stu: yeah. I love the, the sh the shocking reveal. I think , that’s my favorite. That’s a great, a great tactic to to really get, get some some engagement.

Do you with in your HR capacity, are you doing like big, big breakout type meetings with boards? That’s not the.

Otisa: I know what you mean? Like an all

Stu: board meeting, like yeah. Yeah. Are you I’ve done that. Are you hoping to facilitate those as well? Well, it just

Otisa: depends. I mean, I’ve done a variety of, I’ve been grateful that I’ve done a lot of cool stuff.

So I have, I have been to, those are terrifying, but I I’ll do ’em because it’s, it’s more, it’s more. Than you. Right? So it’s like 20 people in a room and then you’re the one delivering bad news and that’s always right. Hopefully it’s good news. But for the most part, it’s always like, so here’s the problem.

Stu: Or, yeah, I was on a board where we had a, an all day kind of intensive and, and, you know, it was really coming back down to, to what’s the, so the board’s there to, to really kind of guide, you know, point, point in the right direction. They’re not there to, to facilitate the. The movement toward that direction

Otisa: 100% usually.


Stu: But most folks, they can’t, they, they can’t see it that way. right, right. But but ideally you know, you have, you have a board that says we’re going, we’re going this way. And, and hopefully they give some you know, inspiring Inspiring speeches to to encourage people that that’s, that’s the right decision.

Maybe they’re not giving speeches really, but in any event you know, they’re, they’re giving them some, some guidance as opposed to telling them how to do it. It’s the, here’s where we’re going. And and so we’ve, you know, in the, in my experience on boards, we’ve had. You know, potentially all day sessions to review those, you know, that vision and then, you know, kind of pull back to the mission that that helps drive that helps the what’s the day to day that helps get us there.

But you know, those can be, you know, these very intense, all day types of, of engagements, which can be. Very rewarding. I was just curious if that was, if that was something that you and your, your that you do as your capacity of a, of, of an HR consultant.

Otisa: Yeah, I’ve done. I mean, it’s funny, cuz I just got someone asked me, Hey, can you, we’re gonna have a board retreat and we’re gonna talk about org structure.

Can you come? And. And do a little thing on it. I’m like, sure. So I, I have, I’ve had the pleasure. It just depends on exactly the topic. Like I I’m very detail oriented. What are we talking about? How much time do we have? Right. But yeah, I, I love, I love having those conversations because it does help having someone outside of the entity to kind of help guide the conversation.

And it’s nice being a third party to, to these kind of conversations, especially. If, if we’re, if the conversation is around planning for the future or mm-hmm, mapping that out. Right. And I’ve, and yeah, I, I, I love having those, those conversations with folks and and seeing where that goes and helping them brainstorm.

I love brainstorming. It’s so much fun. Nice. Yeah. So yeah, I have, it’s fun. I, I enjoy it when I get the opportu.

Stu: That’s great. I I’m I’m this hour flew by I’m I’m I had such a good time talking with you today about all of this stuff. If, if a, a board member or an ed or, or someone who has the capacity to to reach out to you to, to bring you on for help, if they.

If, if they are feeling that like they’re wearing too many hats or, or are experiencing any of the, any of the challenges that we talked about today, what, what should they do? How should they go about finding out more and, and reaching out to, to find you?

Otisa: Yeah, there’s a few ways. You can go to my website, WW dot Otis, eve.com.

You can leave me a message on there. That’s perfectly fine. Or you can directly email me. My email address is hello, Otis, Eeds dot. And you can also find me on LinkedIn, which is a great place. You can send me a, a message and I’d love to talk more and set up a time to figure out what the needs are.

So those are some ways that folks can get a hold of me for sure. That’s

Stu: great. I’ll put those in the show notes for sure. I love having these conversations of being able to talk with experts like you and help help bring a little bit more insight and, and engagement to the nonprofit space. I know that it’s a challenge out there for nonprofits and and so having someone like you.

Willing to come on the show and, and chat with me is just fantastic. And I, I very much appreciate you being on the show. If there was one thing that you would have people do. However, I, I, I like saying that that, that talk is great, but actions, actions even better, what would, what would that action be?

That you’d like people to take after listening to the show today?

Otisa: Ooh, man, that’s hard. Cause I got all alls the answers. I would say the biggest thing. The biggest action step. Gather feedback and data, whether that’s from the staff, from the ed or, you know, from the board to the board, however you wanna look at it, but spend time gathering information and doing your own inventory and research on what’s happening internally, just because it gives you, it you’re able to really communicate your needs when you’re working.

You know consultants or other experts, it just really helps to understand what’s going on. And that way you’re not dealing with too many surprises from that consultant having to deliver some information to you, you already know here’s my mess. Here’s where we’re at. How do we clean it up? You know what I mean?

Stu: Yeah, for sure. So do that, do that work up front to really get a good feel for for what you think the challenges are before you, before you maybe reach out?

Otisa: Yes. I

Stu: couldn’t agree more. awesome. Well, thank you so much again, for being on the show today, Otis, I had a really fantastic time talking with you and, and really appreciate you taking the time.

Otisa: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great and I just adore you and everything that you’re doing in the world. This is

Stu: great. Oh, thank you. That’s awesome. Have a great day. All right. You

Otisa: too.

Stu: Hi. Hi. And there you have it. Another great episode of relish this. Thanks again for listening, you can find past episodes of the show@relishthis.org.

And remember if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a review. Wherever you listen to podcasts. For more information on purpose marketing, grab your free copy of my book. Mission uncomfortable. How nonprofits can embrace purpose driven marketing to survive and thrive. Get your copy now@missionuncomfortablebook.com.

Thanks again for listening. Come back next week. Won’t.