How a Fear-Based Work Environment Could be Holding your Organization Back

How a Fear-Based Work Environment Could be Holding your Organization Back

Fear can often be a helpful emotion – it keeps us from ending up in risky, potentially harmful situations. But when does fear hold us back from reaching our full potential either as individuals or organizations? Darrin Murriner, author of Corporate Bravery: Eliminate Fear-Based Decision Making, joins the podcast to discuss how mistrust and being overly cautious can set us back personally as well as how it can impact a company’s growth and success. Drawing on personal stories, the current political climate, and more, listen in on the discussion and find out how encouraging people to be comfortable with the potential for failure leads to ultimate success.

MP3 File | Run Time: 40:19

Brandon: Hey there, welcome to today’s episode. My name is Brandon Laws and I’m your host. If you haven’t gone back and listened to some of our old episodes, do that! We have over 100 episodes at this point and they’re all free. We’ve got a range of topics – HR, business, leadership, all that. So go back, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and be sure to give us a review. Five stars would be great and we appreciate the support!

Today’s episode is a conversation with Darrin Murriner, the author of Corporate Bravery. He has over a decade of experience with some of the largest corporations in America. Darrin has worked as an outside consultant, led operations and finance teams and worked in risk management. All these experiences have been compiled to really create the thesis for Corporate Bravery.

Our discussion is all about that book. I think you will really like this discussion, it’s all about how a lot of corporations’ politics are based on fear and what we can do to minimize fear and build a culture where it’s ok to fail and it’s ok to make mistakes. So without further ado, here is the episode!

Brandon: Hey Darrin! It’s great to have you on the podcast, welcome.

Darrin: Thanks, Brandon! Appreciate it.

Brandon: You wrote Corporate Bravery: Eliminate Fear-Based Decision Making and that’s going to be the center of our discussion today. You wrote this book, it seems to me, to free leaders from running their organization based on fear. But I want to back up just a little bit, to that overarching theme. Why has our culture become one of so much fear-mongering in the first place?

Darrin: I think a big part of it, and I address this in the book too, is the larger macro environment, specifically with media and politics. I think it’s easy for people to kind of divide off and decide or create labels. You are this person, you fall in this bucket. When that happens, what tends to occur is it’s easy to create an impression of what that other person is going to do or how they’re going to act or behave. I think because that occurs in the larger macro environment and our political environment over the last year, year and a half – you know, I wrote this book long before the 2016 election. I couldn’t have scripted some of the things that have gone on since that time period, but it just has really served and reinforced some of those larger macro factors that created that environment.

Brandon: Yeah, I think you wrote this book back in 2013, if I remember right, and I think this is more relevant than ever.

Darrin: It really is, absolutely. I absolutely agree.

I’ve mentioned the political environment, the other piece is the media environment and social media specifically –our ability to choose who we want to listen to and how much of that voice we want to amplify in our lives has really reinforced that choosing sides, labeling, and, inevitably, that bleeds over into our work environments.

We see it all the time, really harmless kind of comments that people can make about, Oh, the sales team. There they go again. Or, Here comes HR or compliance. Fill in the blank.

I think because we’re constantly choosing sides and labeling, it creates this environment where we are eroding trust and, at the end of the day, projecting behaviors or ways of operating onto other people inside of our organizations.

Brandon: I definitely want to keep talking about that in a little bit, but I want to back up even further. You talked about the macro level, I want to talk about a personal story you painted in your book early on. You talked about how you started a business based on a $2,500 investment to build a website. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you, I don’t know if you didn’t have a lot of capital at the time, but it was $2,500 of your own money. The risk of losing that money based on maybe a failing business. But you had a lot of success! In hindsight, what did you learn from that situation where you invested your own money and had success with it?

Darrin: I feel like we’re all on a fear or bravery journey, if you will. I think it was the first step and I think there will be many more, at least for me personally. For individuals that are on that journey where they can choose to either be emboldened in the decisions that they made and take those risks or be knocked off their balance a little bit and have to recover from those things.

I think that story was the first step of my journey towards becoming brave, and I don’t by any means think that I’ve achieved some sort of nirvana because I’m still constantly going through that decision-making process. It’s not $2,500 now, maybe it’s Oh my gosh! We’ve got three months of cash left in the bank and I’ve got a team of people that are relying on us to either raise capital or increase sales over that three-month period so that we can make payroll.

But that $2,500 was such a small thing. My wife and I were fresh out of college, newly married. We actually should have, by all standards, had a pretty high risk tolerance at that point. But it was funny that just that psychological barrier of having to take $2,500 of our own money out of our savings to invest in this business was the thing that was holding us back. We didn’t even realize that until we applied for this grant, won the money, and it gave us the freedom at that point to say, ok, we can invest this money, because it’s no risk or no loss to us.

But it started us on a journey and if you look at the opportunity cost and the amount of our own personal sweat equity and even our own financial resources that we poured into that business over the last 12 years, the amount of investment we’ve made was well beyond $2,500. But it was a small step towards moving us in a direction.

Brandon: I think that’s a great example because I often think, How many other people are going through this exact same scenario where they’re just not willing to take a risk? Even a small risk, at that. $2,500 is a lot of money but it’s not a ton of money to where you’re going to go in financial ruin over it. Yet people still fear loss and failure. Why is that?

Darrin: A lot of times it’s because people have created an impression or an idea in their minds about worst case scenarios. The reality is the end result or the outcomes are generally never as bad as we build them up to be in our own minds. That’s the reason why I consider this a journey because you need some wins along the way to realize that like oh gosh, even if I do fall and stumble, I’m not going to be devastated at the end of this journey, right?

Yeah. I might have learned some hard lessons but the key thing in that is that I’ve actually learned some lessons. Lessons are really valuable. If you can learn those at a small cost, the amount of inertia that you generate from that is significant. I think that takes you to new places, both as an individual and inside of an organizational context.

Brandon: Taking this example and applying it to the workplace, do you think employees would be similarly hesitant about taking risks on their own jobs? I mean it’s obviously not going to be $2,500, but maybe like being creative or just going out on a limb and doing something that they normally wouldn’t do. They take a bold risk in their job, with the fear that they will lose their job. Do you think that happens a lot?

Darrin: All the time, every day. I think it’s the biggest impediment holding people back from unleashing their creativity to growing their business or their teams to new places. It is a fear of being wrong more than I think it truly is a fear of failing.

We’ve got a new business that we’ve started over the last 12 months called Cloverleaf and I’m sure we will talk more about it throughout this podcast. I am regularly multiple times a day talking with small business owners all the way up to managers or executives inside of larger organizations about how Cloverleaf could help their organization.

Time and time again, there is always a point of fear that holds people back from doing it. Either fear that the implementation could go wrong, fear about the amount of money that they’re spending on this, or fear that we’re asking people to think differently about teams or how people can behave on teams. I’ve got literally hundreds of examples, just specific to my products, where it is fear that ultimately holds people back. It’s not just for purchasing HR software, right? I mean it’s hiring. It is honestly even performance review conversations. I think that’s one of the biggest places that fear holds people back and it honestly keeps people from being able to develop and become the best contributor to a team that they can be.

Brandon: I find it so fascinating because we fear failure or loss, but at the same time, we learn from failure or loss and we can grow and develop from it. So why wouldn’t organizations, managers, executives, whoever is running these companies and working with employees, why wouldn’t we want to create a failure-allowing culture as you say in the book?

Darrin: One of the areas that we’ve targeted with our product is agile software development and why I love that segment of the market is it’s one of the few places that really promotes failing fast. Basically you’re taking a lean startup model and applying that to software development inside of larger organizations. It gives people a freedom to risk in that way where it’s two weeks at a time. You know, small code delivery, and at the end of that process, yes, there may be some failure. Maybe the outcomes weren’t as great as what you had expected. But the great thing is, is you’re building in a habit or a culture of giving opportunities for failure. But you’re also doing it in such a small way that when failure does occur, it doesn’t take you way off plan. You’re able to adjust quickly and that’s part of the concepts behind agile software development. And it doesn’t have to software development, just the agile methodology, because it’s expanding well beyond software development at this point.

It’s giving people the environment to say that hey, it’s ok to fail. But I honestly haven’t encountered very many places inside of the organizational context where people have the right or the ability to fail without repercussions or consequences.

Brandon: An organization or leaders or managers could say, yeah, it’s ok to fail and they say it. But what could you do in terms of action to show people it’s ok to fail? Would it be not publicly shaming them for making a failure or firing them or putting them on some sort of performance improvement plan? What can employers do to make sure that this culture of failure-allowing methodology is ok?

Darrin: A great start is, as you mentioned, not reprimanding them publicly. You will hear managers or executives make those comments of hey, it’s ok to fail. But the problem is there are very few opportunities that we’re giving individuals an opportunity to fail.

It’s one thing to make those comments and it’s another to even provide opportunities for people to do that. I mean a lot of times either I personally have experienced this or I’ve seen other people experience this where a manager will task someone with a responsibility and the very first step along the process – maybe let’s say it’s sending an email – and there was something about the email that wasn’t crafted perfectly. The manager will go back to have a coaching conversation.

But a lot of times, if there wasn’t trust established long before that conversation happened, then all it sounds like is failure isn’t an option here. Because you’re micro managing this small detail about how I communicated something in an email. So if it’s not ok to fail with that, then it’s certainly not ok to fail with the outcome.

There are small ways that we communicate along the road to the outcome that actually communicates the opposite of hey, it’s ok to fail. It communicates that actually failure is not an option in this scenario and obviously if people are experiencing that in small ways, being able to risk at a bigger level is just not even an option for those people.

Brandon: You have a whole section on individuality, in a chapter of yours. I loved it. I want to read an excerpt from it and I want you to explain what you meant by it and why it seems like a big deal.

Too many coaching and mentoring conversations begin with superficial considerations. Besides being demoralizing for the people contributing at a high level, they sabotage culture. Especially in corporate America, there’s a desperate need for diversity rather than people who all fit a mold. Superficial considerations like fashion are quick to destroy unique contributions that individuals deliver.

Why is that such a big deal?

Darrin: I think especially as we think about generational changes in the workforce, the millennial generation obviously is much discussed. I think they crave authenticity and transparency and when you are focused or you make comments either about how someone dresses or maybe how they laugh or how they might approach conversations, instead of celebrating the differences and the diversity, oftentimes in organizations, pointing those things out attaches a negative connotation to it that hey, they’re different or they’re behaving in a way that isn’t accepted in this environment.

People pick up on those subtle cues, even if they’re not the person that’s on the receiving end of that. If someone is making a comment to me about someone else’s dress or their behavior in the workplace, I’m going to start to look at all the ways that I’m different. Then I’m going to project those comments onto those ways that I’m different and then now all of a sudden I’m hiding parts of myself.

One of the things we talked about in the book is the hidden self and a very high percentage according to a Deloitte survey are hiding some aspect of themselves in the workplace. I think that’s one of the worst things that we can do is create an environment where people aren’t able to bring their whole selves to the job.

Chances are that within their cultural backgrounds or experiences in another industry or in a previous work experience are the things there may be small details about those experiences that if brought to the specific task at hand could be the difference between an ok outcome and a wild success.

Brandon: You mentioned early on in the book that there are two types of managers and supervisors, one that creates trust and the one that creates fear. I wanted to get your perspective on the attributes of each type of manager, one that creates fear and the other that’s trustworthy and builds that culture of trust.

Darrin: I think one of the biggest things is actually delivering on commitments. And a lot of times, it’s small commitments. I used an example in the book of an executive that I worked for at one point. Someone challenged the resources that I was bringing to a shared task. I laid out a very compelling reason for why I wouldn’t be able to provide some additional resources to this task. I’m traveling. I’m making a pretty significant commitment. I’d been working all day and I get back to the hotel room at 10:30 at night and there’s an email from this executive who was my manager at the time who basically said, Wow, this is actually going to impact your performance negatively and you’re indicating that you’re not a team player here.

It was almost like there was zero regard for the rationale, the argument that I laid out. I even offered counterpoints, how we could get the resources at little to no additional cost. But all that was communicated to me in that example was negative outcomes and it immediately eroded trust. I think it really comes back to that manager-subordinate relationship and a lot of times, it’s small details on a day-to-day basis, either commitments that go unfulfilled or situations where it appears that what you’re paying lip service to is truly just that, it’s lip service and you’re not actually planning to follow through on those commitments. That’s one of the biggest ways to erode trust and create an environment of disengagement.

Brandon: Let’s talk about eroding trust just a little bit more. You had a great segment on monitoring web activity and email. I just found it super fascinating because I know a lot of employers out there use technology to monitor the activity of their employees.

In one of your previous roles, you had a potential vendor come in. They monitored activity on employees for a couple of weeks and at the end of that, they presented you with a report that included, maybe to your surprise, discussions of violence, sex, resumes, and even competitor names. I think you suggested that the intent was to monitor and enforce the company policies, but really what you suggested was that there’s an underlying premise that there is a level of distrust between employer and employee. What’s your overall stance and kind of history lesson from that?

Darrin: I want to comment that I know especially in highly-regulated industries, some of those kinds of technologies are very important and potentially invaluable. I just think we have to be aware that when we implement some of the monitoring tools and some of the compliance-related software applications that are out there – and they’re getting more and more sophisticated and advanced – it sends a very clear cultural message to the workforce.

Back to the previous question about trust, it sends a very clear message that hey, we actually don’t trust you. We are there ready to just whack you at the first chance that we have. You have no idea how many times I was in that kind of organization. People would make comments about well, I’m not going to put that in the email because I’m sure they’re watching. I knew that they weren’t. We didn’t make the decision to actually go forward and monitor activity at that level. But people just kind of assume it these days I think because so many organizations have implemented those software packages that even in the most trustworthy or trusting environments or cultures, we’ve still created this environment where people just expect that they’re always being watched and they’re always ready to be whacked.

Brandon: And if employees know that they’re being monitored, do you think they suppress their normal behavior or the individuality as we talked about earlier?

Darrin: Yeah, I think it definitely comes into play because if you’re believing that that’s what’s happening and maybe you’ve even see the examples in either other departments or people even in your own department that have had some sort of consequence for something that they’ve said or done either through email or phone calls, then there’s always going to be this voice at the back of their mind when they’re communicating via email or they’re communicating in other ways that hey, is this something that’s going to create an impediment for my career?

And as long as that voice is talking to them it’s going to hold them back not only from being able to bring their whole self to the task but also from giving their best work because if they’re constantly thinking about the negative or the potential consequences, then they’re not freed up to think creatively and bring their best work to the task.

Brandon: Let’s shift over to politics a little bit. Politics exist obviously in the political environment, but in business as well. Years ago, I used to just read nothing but politics and economics books and a lot of this stuff tends to intertwine. You had a really nice quote and I thought it simplified what politicking really is. You said:

Politics in general is the fight for power over a control over a limited set of resources or influence. As more and more groups and interest fight for those resources, the more political maneuvering tends to occur.

Is it safe to assume that as an organization grows in size and in resources that politicking actually gets worse? What can organizations do to really minimize the negative effects of politicking?

Darrin: It’s a great question. One of the things that I mentioned there is that you just have to consider when you’re implementing budgeting processes or you’re implementing business strategies about how you’re allocating resources, there is an inherent cultural impact that occurs with how you’re actually implementing it. If you have misalignment in terms of how dollars are being budgeted and allocated to division and you have a different approach at a strategic level about where you’re making investments at a product level or at a divisional level, those things need to all be in alignment because if they’re not, people quickly understand how to game the system. And they quickly understand how to either access more of those resources or generate undue influence. That’s where politics start to go kind of haywire and that’s where it starts to influence or impact the culture.

I don’t know that I have one prescriptive way to think about that, I just think that as you’re setting up budgeting processes, as you’re setting up strategic planning processes and how those things are cascaded down to the rank and file people that are on the frontlines, those can have a cultural impact that influences risk and reward behavior and impacts culture potentially negatively in terms of fear and in terms of unleashing people to be their best self.

Brandon: I don’t know what you had to do to research and find all these beautiful nuggets to support all your ideas, but you found, for the politics section, a LinkedIn post from Jack and Suzy Welch entitled Schmooze or Lose: How the Lost Art of Negotiation Led to a Shutdown and it was talking about the government shutdown that happened a few years back. Can you summarize why they suggested schmoozing has a lot of great benefits as it relates to politics in the workplace?

Darrin: I think schmoozing itself, the term, generally has kind of a negative connotation. But I think the idea behind what they were saying was 100% right and it kind of comes back to that original politics conversation that we had early on in this podcast. It’s the idea that if we just shut ourselves off to people who are not like us or maybe they’re trying to push for an outcome that is either opposed or maybe not necessarily in agreement with what we’re doing, by just shutting those people off and not engaging in that conversation, you are guaranteed to have more conflict and more opportunities for negative outcomes.

One of the things that we talk about around that quote from Jack and Suzy Welch is – and I think a lot of it was related to this – labor negotiation and the recent examples with the NFL. If you look across the major sports, people would generally say the NFL has the most difficult labor relations with their players. A lot of that comes back to the approach of how the NFL, the commissioner, and the commissioner’s office, approach the players’ associations and the players in general. Some of the things that they’ve done is issued fines for excessive celebrations in the end zone.

Brandon: It’s what makes the game great, though.

Darrin: Absolutely. It’s the stuff that fans enjoy and there are pros and cons to all of these things. But the NFL has taken a really hard line approach on the way people wear their uniforms and how it has to be uniform coloring on the sleeves. They can’t, again, bring that individuality into the workforce and keep in mind, we’re not talking about a call center operation, right? I mean this is the NFL! It’s entertainment. Tens of millions of people are watching it on the weekends. But there’s a clear dichotomy between how the NFL is approaching labor relations and how, say, the NBA or maybe to a lesser extent Major League Baseball is approaching that.

You see that play out. There is way more friction between management and the players’ association in the NFL than exists in the other leagues. It really comes back to how much control do you want to exert over the workforce. If we’re bringing it back to a day to day organizational context, how much control do you exert? What kind of relationships are you building outside of those points where decisions have to be made or where things have to be negotiated? Have you built up a storehouse of goodwill? Do you know people at an individual level so that when it comes time to negotiate that really difficult topic, whether it’s a pay increase or it’s access to additional budget dollars, that people understand where you’re coming from? Do they know you as an individual as opposed to you as the label or the box that they’ve put you in?

Back to schmoozing, I’m not a huge fan of that word. But it really comes back to, Are you building a relationship with the people that are your partners, that your employees, that are your vendors? Is that going to pay off for you down the road? I believe that it will.

Brandon: Let’s talk about fear of competition. You have a lot of great points on this. This actually struck a chord with me a little bit. Being in marketing, I often look at my competitors and say, Oh my gosh! They’re doing some really cool things in marketing. Why can’t I do that? Maybe I should copy them. Oh my gosh. They’re going to catch up with us, or whatever.

But instead of doing that, shouldn’t I be focusing on what my strengths are and honing in on what my audience wants from me and those sorts of things, instead of kind of looking in the rearview mirror at the competitors and their strengths?

Darrin: Absolutely! I mean I think the most recent high profile example, and I totally would have included this in the book and if there’s another edition somewhere down the road, I will include it, but the summer Olympics this past summer, the swimming example. So Michael Phelps coming back out of retirement. There was the swimmer from a European nation and time after time after time when they would show the two of them in the pool or getting ready for the pool, the other swimmer was just constantly focused on Michael Phelps and Michael Phelps was completely oblivious to this guy’s presence even being on the deck of the swimming pool. He was focused on what he needed to do to win the race. He was focused on his pacing, his timing, the normal preparation that he would go through.

And time after time, the camera would pan over and he would see this guy. It was clear that he was so distracted by his competition that he didn’t end up swimming the race that he could have swum. Time after time since that race, I’ve seen it referred to. That’s kind of the tunnel vision that we get focused on by being so afraid of what the competition is going to do. It takes us out of focusing on our strengths and how we can leverage those towards successful outcomes and we end up chasing things that we have no business chasing or making decisions that end up just being shortsighted and taking us off of our path.

Brandon: You mentioned in the book that when you’re protecting yourself against competition, you’re building that competitive mode and you talked about how Elon Musk did the exact opposite. He opened up Tesla’s entire patent library versus building the wall of protection around the ideas that Tesla and SpaceX may have. Instead he’s just giving it away, as long as it’s used in good faith. Talk about that, because I thought it was a beautiful example.

Darrin: Yeah. I’m sure it was somewhat selfish motivations from Elon Musk and is very strategic on this part, but one of the things that he just came to is he said, hey, ultimately our vision is to create this place where we’re having zero emission transportation in the United States. There’s so much opportunity that even if Tesla was successful beyond their wildest ambitions, they still wouldn’t be able to accomplish that goal over a 30, 50, maybe even a 100 year period. He said because of that, we need to bring this technology. We need more people using this technology to achieve those outcomes. When you think about that generational workforce issue again, back to what millennials need and what they crave, it’s authenticity. It’s a really incredible why, and that engendered a lot of commitment from the Tesla workforce.

Now ultimately at the end of the day, there’s a really strategic reason why he would want to do that, right? Because if other people are using those technologies, they can get charging stations out faster and with a higher density.

So I mean there was a strategic reason why he did that. But at the end of the day, it’s like we need to think a little bit more about embracing the competition or at least thinking about, Hey, how do we both compete in this market in a way that we can both be successful and stop running afraid from the competition or even worse, towards what the competition is doing, instead of staying in our own lane?

Brandon: Let’s provide an example in your book that’s the exact opposite of that. You talked about how Apple’s combined spending on patent litigation exceeded $20 billion, and you mentioned that that’s larger than the money they spent on research and development. I don’t know what the timeframe is for that, but you don’t have to be an economist to figure out that that’s a giant misallocation of resources and if they were able to put that towards research and development they may be able to focus on their strengths, which is innovating amazing products instead of litigating against competitors for the products that they have already created.

Darrin: Yeah, absolutely. I think if you look at the lack of innovation coming out of that all over the last year to two, I mean I think that cultural shift is starting to play out in the marketplace. The innovations like an emoji keyboard is not kind of what the market is demanding and it’s not living up to the promise of what Apple has been known for for the last 20 to 30 years. I think it’s a direct result of kind of that culture. If you’re focused on controlling what you have instead of growing to a new place, that will always keep you from being less innovative. That, in my opinion, is what is happening to Apple today.

Brandon: Your section on media and relations I found pretty fascinating. I think as organizations get larger, they feel like they have more to lose from bad publicity, and you provide a lot of examples. How can they turn any crisis in their favor instead of being fearful over what media is going to say about them?

Darrin: To bring it back to the political realm again, this current Trump administration is rewriting the rule book on some of that stuff as well because early on, after a couple of tweets about auto makers, manufacturing in the United States, there would be an initial negative backlash and the stock would drop 10, 15 percent the next morning. There were just seriously repercussions to these tweets that were going out in the early morning hours.

So what ended up happening is PR firms started changing their hours and they actually had people on call at 6:00 AM Eastern Time, even if they were a Pacific Coast company, just monitoring the Trump administration’s tweets, and again it’s coming from a place of fear and worry about the ramifications. I mean what are the chances that any single company is going to be singled out and targeted by Donald Trump? It’s pretty low. But regardless, you had a lot of especially West Coast firms completely changing their staffing model and their hours of operation to account for this one specific potential outcome.

You could spend your time worried about that and changing your approach to hours of operation and monitoring and having prescriptive responses ready for that potential eventuality or you could be like – a recent example is Merriam Webster, which you don’t think of dictionaries or encyclopedias being kind of innovators. But one of the things they did is they’ve seized the opportunity that the Trump administration has given them. They’ve actually doubled their Twitter followers over the last three months and it’s largely because they’re using opportunities for either word choice or potentially a bad word choice by the Trump administration to leverage to their advantage. They’ve become influential or at least relevant to a larger audience and it’s giving them more influence, giving their brand influence, and that’s where they actually seized an opportunity as opposed to looking at that as a negative or potential fearful outcome.

Brandon: When you look at the entirety of this book, really helping business leaders make decisions that are not based on fear, what do you hope people do with this? At the end of the day, who’s the audience that you want reading this book? Where should they be taking this and applying this?

Darrin: I wanted to call fear out as something that’s ok to talk about in a corporate context. I feel like too often it’s easy to get wrapped up into this mindset that we need to have all the answers, I need to project confidence. All that serves to do is actually just reinforce a lot of the cultural behaviors that give fear an opportunity to take hold and impact our cultures.

At the end of the day, we want engaged workforces. We want people who are excited to come to work and are on mission with what we’re trying to do with our organization. If we don’t call that out and we don’t look at the individual behaviors that can contribute to that culture of fear, we’re not going to live up to the expectations that we have for being widely successful culture and wildly successful business.

At the end of the day, I really want managers and executives to look at those individualized behaviors that occur on a day to day basis and think differently about how to approach them, whether it’s people management or it is just how we operate in some of the structural components we put in place, to give our employees the permission to be brave. To fail from time to time, but fail in a safe and meaningful way that contributes to the organizational learning or wisdom. It not only makes individual organizations more innovative, but it makes our entire economy more innovative.

Brandon: I just love that point. Our listeners are a lot of HR people and I think they would probably resonate with this, they would probably say that most employees think of HR as the department of no, that they’re on the management side of things, they’re enforcing policies, all those things. But actually, we’re finding that’s the opposite nowadays. They’re very strategic. They’re forward thinking. They’re very creative people. They are very people-focused. They care about people. They want to build a great culture and I love that you’re calling out fear because if we can create a culture that’s not based on fear I think we could be way more productive and that’s why I loved your book.

Darrin: I agree. I hope HR leaders enjoy reading it and they can take key things away that they can use with their business partners. I haven’t found HR to be kind of a contributor. I mean every situation is not going to be the same. So I mean there clearly are places where that has happened. But I do generally find HR to be a champion of individuals and opportunities for individuals inside of organizations. If this gives them a vocabulary that they can use with business partners or executives inside the organization to create cultural change, that’s meaningful and I’m excited about that.

Brandon: Wonderful. Darrin, thank you for joining the podcast. Anything you want to mention in parting? Anything about Cloverleaf, your website, anything that you want to let listeners know about what you’re up to?

Darrin: Yeah. Well, I did allude to Cloverleaf earlier in the conversation and we have created a startup that is really taking the next step with this. I wouldn’t say it’s specifically focused on creating brave cultures, it’s really more about creating an awareness. I would say if there was one chapter in the book that really kind of inspired what we’re doing with Cloverleaf, it’s that chapter on individuality and with the platform what we’re trying to do is create a way to think about teams and people on teams and how they can contribute their most unique value to the team, how they can understand their role on the team and how they can contribute that every day in every situation. If you want to find out more about that, you can go to

Brandon: Our guest today has been Darrin Murriner. Thank you so much for joining the podcast! It has been a lot of fun.

Darrin: Thank you! You too.

Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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