How to Hire For Culture Fit and Ensure It Sticks with Dr. Sabrina Starling

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with psychologist and author Dr. Sabrina Starling on how we can ensure we hire for culture fit and keep that alignment consistent.

A few reasons why she is awesome  —  she is a psychologist, keynote speaker and best-selling author of the How to Hire the Best book series and The 4-Week Vacation. She’s the founder of Tap the Potential, a consultancy helping organizations attract and keep talent. And she’s the host of the Profit by Design podcast, giving tips, tools and strategies to support us in making intentionally profitable and sustainable business decisions to live the lifestyle we desire.

Connect with, and learn more about Sabrina on her…



  • The importance of culture fit.
  • Addressing toxic leadership.
  • Defining core values.
  • Positive reinforcement and immutable laws.
  • Addressing misalignment.
  • Accommodating diversity and neurodiversity in hiring.

“Culture fit has a lot to do with, we need to define what our culture is and hiring the people who have similar values to the culture so that when you come into the culture, there’s this feeling of these are my people. I belong here. I am understood. I am appreciated. I am valued, here.”

Dr. Sabrina Starling


Russel Lolacher: And on the show today we have Dr. Sabrina Starling and here is why she is awesome. She’s a psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of the How To Hire The Best book series. And the Four Week Vacation. She’s the founder of Tap The Potential, a consultancy helping organizations attract and keep talent.

I’m not done. She’s also the host of the Profit By Design podcast, which I was very welcome to be a guest on not so long ago. They give tips, tools, strategies, supporting us in making intentionally profitable and sustainable business decisions to live the lifestyle we desire. Hello, Sabrina for being here.

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Hi, Russel. I’m so excited to be here with you today.

Russel Lolacher: Me too. I am super excited about our topic too, because when we talk about fit, when we talk about culture fit, we talk about we’re talking about generally onboarding or we talk about existing teams. We don’t talk about hiring. We don’t talk about recruitment.

And, and before we get into that, cause I have to, I have to get my passion, my excitement down just a bit. Cause we do have a question to get to, which is what’s your best Sabrina, or worst employee experience?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: So my worst employee experience was my last job that I had before I became an entrepreneur. And I worked in a community mental health organization and we had an executive director who was a bully.

And I’m, I won’t tell the whole story because he was awful and we don’t need to spread that toxicity. We’re here to be positive. But what it made me aware of is that was not the only bad workplace experience I’d had. I’d had, I had worked as I was in graduate school as a psychologist in training. I worked in different practicum settings, so hospital settings, community mental health centers, clinics, and all of these organizations were run by mental health professionals, typically psychologists or psychiatrists who have years of training in dealing with people and relationships. And I was baffled by… you know, if, if psychologists and psychiatrists cannot get this right, like, how do we create a great place to work?

What chance does the general population have?

And so when I was in that job with the bully boss, I actually was part of a group of us who went to the board of directors and we had to basically explain our experience and it was very scary because we could lose our jobs and we were, I was in a rural area and so it’s not like you lose that job and then you just go down the road and you get a job elsewhere, that would have meant a uprooting my whole family and moving to go find another place to live. And my husband’s job, he’d have to relocate. So there were a lot, lots of implications. It was very scary. And fortunately the board of directors took us seriously and they fired him. And I would have thought, hey, it’s going to get better now. Because he’s gone, but it didn’t get better. It got worse in many ways.

And so that made me aware. And this really got me to start researching this to understand what are the impacts on an organization when there has been bullying in the leadership and toxicity. And what I was discovering is that it can take years, five to seven years was cited in several different articles for a culture to recover with a, an intentional effort toward that recovery.

Where I was, there wasn’t an intentional effort. And so I came away from that when I went out on my own, I wanted to repurpose my skills as a psychologist and I wanted to work with healthy people and business owners. And the reason I liked working with business owners is because usually they want to create a great place to work and they’re lacking skills.

And I had done all of this research into how to create great places to work and what goes into that. And I thought, how cool would it be to get to work with people who really want to create a great place to work? And that’s why I’m so honored to be here on your podcast because you have an audience full of leaders who genuinely want to create a great place to work, a great environment for team members.

Russel Lolacher: Thank you for that. And, and yeah, that’s, it’s, it hits a little close to home your origin story in that there’s this running joke in communications is if you want to see somebody that’s bad at communications, find people with communications degrees or that work in communications, right.

You literally do this for a living. And yet when it comes to the people around you, suddenly all that skill set goes out the window. Same thing with leader. You want a leader degree? Oh, those are the worst people that you want to don’t want to follow. I mean, it’s a generalization, but there is a kernel of truth in that when you’re like, but if they’re bad at this and they’re supposed to be the beacon of this, what do the rest of us know?

I love your story. And I also very much believe that there is this lack of resources, this lack of conversation when it comes to doing it right. We get so busy. We’re into the next meeting and the next meeting and make that next dollar and… which is all important! But. But. But, so I love that your interest and your drive is into getting it right.

And that starts in hiring. That starts in understanding what culture fit. And you know what, I’m going to shut up for a minute because I’m curious what culture fit even means. If we’re trying to define culture fit as something that is something we want, what are we trying to attain here, Sabrina? .

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Yeah. You know, I, to me, I think about culture fit and I, I think about previous experiences that I’ve had where I have shown up as a, an A player employee. And then there’s other places I’m the same human being, same drive, same determination, same interest where I look like a mediocre employee.

And, and so I think culture fit has a lot to do with, we need to define what our culture is and hiring the people who have similar values to the culture so that when you come into the culture, there’s this feeling of these are my people. I belong here. I am understood. I am appreciated. I am valued here.

And when we get that right, it creates this feeling of like, we’re all in this together. And, and it, you know, it’s, it’s that when you hit tough times together as a team, but we have these common values, we’re going to move forward together.

Russel Lolacher: So why, why is culture fit so important? I mean, we talked about the dangers of possibly bullying because you’re providing an access point for people that might not be a good culture fit.

So what is the intent of getting this right?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: So I can give an example on our team. A few years ago, we went through some very hard times during COVID. And we had had a long track record of, you know, the business growing every year and every year, it’s a little better. And then suddenly COVID, and it was like, we’re in a whole different landscape and we, we were losing revenue and we were having to re- just look at our organization and look at what our clients needed.

And there was a lot of change going on. And so week after week, we would have our leadership team meetings and we had one team member who just was very negative. You know, and, and would, we would have ideas or we would try to move something forward and there was always the yeah but. Yeah, but. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but. It was very hard for the rest of us to maintain our positivity. And as we went through that experience, we learned that one of our unspoken values that we had not yet identified in this business at tap, the potential is positivity. That we choose positivity when we are faced with difficult circumstances.

And once we clarify that, we could understand why we were having difficulty getting along with this one team member and what the source of the issue was that was making it difficult. And so I, I think when it comes to culture fit, when we don’t have our core values clearly articulated and identified, we will have these situations with team members where, you know, 80 percent of the interactions are great, but then there’s this little bit that it’s just off and we can’t put our fingers on it. Or we can’t pinpoint it. And another example I think of is when it comes to sales in an organization. If you are a company and it’s important to you to deliver value for your clients and customers, and you hire a salesperson who’s focused on Make The Money and they start just selling anything to any body.

Then you have all of a sudden the floodgates are opened and you have clients coming into the business that are not a good fit for the business. You have clients coming in that have been sold something that doesn’t match their needs and they get upset with the company and the leadership and the company around that.

You want to make sure that every team member that you hire has those values that line up with what I call the immutable laws of the business.

Russel Lolacher: Okay. You just, you led me to the water. Now you got to make me drink, Sabrina. So what are these laws? I mean, cause I’m in my mind, I’m thinking, how do we even know what our culture is?

Because I’m sure there’s tons of people that come to you going, I want a great culture. I’m like, you already have a culture. You just may not know what it is. But there’s also that vision board of, but this is the culture I want. Look, it’s magical and mystical. It’s amazing. So let’s start with your laws. What are we talking about there?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: So I work with small business owners and small business owners, you know, when you do something really well, you sell it and you get more people wanting it, and then you have to hire a team. And so a lot of times small business owners know nothing about hiring. Everything they do around hiring is based on what they experienced when they were an employee.

And so one of the big challenges is small business owners will often say, you know, I have this team of 8 people or 10 people. I don’t know if we have a culture. And just like you said, you know, we’ve got this poster over here, and it looks really nice. I’d like to, I’d like it to be that way, but I can’t, I somehow I can’t get it there.

And what I always start with is understanding that if you’re a small business owner, your immutable laws in your business come from your core values. Now, if you’re not a small business owner and you lead a team, for example, this still applies because you want to create a culture on your team. So our personal core values are the foundation for the immutable laws in the business.

So you don’t go to your team members and say, what do you guys think our core values are? Like, you know, let’s brainstorm this. That’s not going to get you the culture that you want. And when we, when we step back and we really look at what are our core values and there’s, there’s a simple way to identify these core values.

There’s two questions. One question is, what’s made you feel proud, lately? When have you been proud? And it’s those moments when we’re proud, what’s behind our pride is that something is going on that reflects our core values. So we want to identify what is the value that’s being honored. In that situation, so an example as my daughter, my youngest daughter, she’s just kind and loving and caring.

And like, there’s just this light about her. And we had a parent teacher conference the other day, and she’s not the best student. She struggles in some areas and that’s always hard to hear as a parent cause you always want your kid to do well. And the teacher said, and she is so kind and, you know, she always looks for the kids who are kind of out there and not being pulled into the play.

And she goes and interacts. And as a parent, like, that’s my, you know, it makes my heart proud because that’s a core value, that inclusivity and kindness and looking out and reaching out to others. And every one of us can identify these areas in our lives where we feel proud. And so if you’re in your business or on your team, look at when you felt proud recently.

What feedback did you receive from a client or a colleague about your team that made you say, Oh, yes, that’s how we want to show up in the world. Because that’s a value that’s being expressed. The second question is to look at what’s ticked you off recently? Because when we’re angry, It means that one of our core values has been violated.

Those are the things that make us angry that upset us, that hurt us. And so when we can identify what was the value that was violated and turn that value into a positive statement. You know, I, I’ve talked to some business centers and they want to say, oh, we want to have a value of no jerks allowed.

I’m like, Yeah, that’s halfway there because you’re saying what you don’t want, but you’re really focusing on what you don’t want. So you’re going to get more of that. So let’s turn that into the positive. You don’t want jerks. Who do you want? What are, what’s the opposite of a jerk? It’s somebody who wants to communicate and if you mess up, they want to give you feedback so you can correct the mistake versus hammer you over the head with your mistake and that you messed something up.

And so we want to use these two questions to just brainstorm a list of core values that we then turn into immutable laws. Now, I also want to say that I have a list of very beautiful immutable laws at Tap the Potential, but I have been honing and refining these for 10 to 12 years now. And so they don’t start out that way.

They start out as this messy brainstorm list. And that’s okay. You just want to have your initial list and then let it just kind of simmer in the back of your mind for a few weeks and go about business. And then as you’re doing business, pay attention to the words and phrases that you use to express these core values.

It’s common language. So it’s not what you’re going to see on a pretty poster but it’s your, your common phrases. And then identify those common phrases. So one of ours at Tap the Potential is ‘work supports life, not the other way around.’ Another one of ours is ‘be a gift from your gifts.’ And those are our phrases that we use over and over.

And then when you have team members who do something that honors one of these core values, one of these immutable laws, you want to call them out in a positive way and say, Thank you so much. You guys did this or that. And I just I had a meeting with our team. We did an all team meeting and we were going over the vision and what our quarterly rocks are.

But before we started into all of that in the meeting, I shared an experience that I had with our entire team where everyone just showed up and supported one of our prospective clients in a huge way. And I said, you know, what really stands out to me about this is none of you ever said ‘but we’re just helping one person.’

You all showed up like there were 20 or 30 people there. And I said, I’m so proud of that. None of you ever questioned, why are we just serving one person in this situation? And I said, that’s, you know, every, every business owner counts and we’re here to make a difference. If it’s one or if it’s 20 or if it’s 500, we’re here to make a difference. And you all did that. And I called that out. And so that’s, as a psychologist I’m gonna tell you, that’s. Positive reinforcement. We’re speaking to what we want more of. And so as we start to create a culture in our business, these immutable laws become the seeds of that culture because you will see opportunity after opportunity to praise your team and call out that good behavior.

And the reverse of that will also start to happen. Is that your team members who are really excited about being a part of this team will protect it and when they see a team member violating the immutable laws. They’re likely to call it out and they’re likely to say, that’s not how we do it here. And that is so much more powerful than you as the leader having to have that conversation because it’s a fellow, it’s a peer calling it out.

Russel Lolacher: And it’s so vital. You tapped on something that I repeat quite a bit on the show, which is we need definitions and we don’t use them at all. So for us to talk about values… really looks good on a poster. We keep using that metaphor. It’s sadly a very real one, but also to demonstrate, no, no, that’s what a value looks like.

That is what a case study of a situation that we want in this organization to look like. And it is positive reinforcement, but it also shows the boundaries of good behavior. It also defines it. And a lot of people don’t see that in the job description. A lot of people don’t see that in their onboarding.

So for that to be reinforced and rewarded operationally is, is absolutely vital. It is, this gets me back to that job description though. So it’s great to reinforce culture fit while they’re part of your team, but you still got to get them in the door. Like, I’m trying to think of all the steps in a hiring process and an application process.

How do you take what you’re talking about for culture fit to make sure that you’re attracting and, and reinforcing the kind of applicants you want in things like job descriptions, job postings, job interviews?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: That is an excellent question and that is where it all starts. And so what I teach when it comes to writing a job ad is fairly unconventional.

Because most job ads focus on skills and what’s going to be expected of you. And here’s your compensation and the benefits that you’re going to get. And what I really want you to do as you write a job as is to create a story that you’re inviting the right fit. Employee into that a player who’s going to be a good fit for your team.

And, and you start off with, are you the kind of person who…? And then, you know, do you believe in being a gift from your gifts, looking for ways that you can add value in other people’s lives? Do you enjoy serving the heck out of your clients and customers? And, and so we’re just going through the list of immutable laws.

And the wrong people will read that and go, ‘what is this fluff?’ That’s not me. I’m moving on. And the right people will get drawn further and further in to that job ad. And there’s other other things that I teach about a job ad that really gets at making sure that you’re hiring the person who has the strengths to deliver consistently well on the results that are needed. So those are also key components of this job ad. But essentially it’s a very long job ad. And, and so the wrong people will get very bored. They’ll quit reading. They won’t do everything that they need to do to successfully apply for the position, which as an employer, that’s really good because you don’t have time to sort through all those applicants.

You want people to, you want to filter people out. And so the more we and filter the better. So then the next step is usually if they, if they look good as an applicant, then they’re going to get invited in for an interview. And this is another place where those immutable laws are critical. And I, one of the things I teach is that you should stop the interview at the point where you know this person is not a good fit.

Don’t keep going. There’s no point in it. And so then people say how do you know? But you know that quickly that someone’s not going to be a good fit. If they violate your immutable laws. You will know. They’re not going to be a good fit. And so one of the best questions to identify if someone is going to be a good fit with your immutable laws or not is to come up with a worst day scenario, and use something that really happened and tell the candidate, I know you know nothing about our policies and procedures at XYZ company, and I want you to tell me if you were in this situation and you couldn’t get a hold of any of the leadership team for whatever reason, and you had to figure it out on your own, what would you do? And you shut your mouth and you listen and you let them talk their way through it.

And what you’re listening for is alignment with core values. So are they making choices that reflect those immutable laws? Or are they making choices that are, are in a violation of those immutable laws? And you know, an example like we believe in serving the heck out of our clients and customers at Tap the Potential.

If we had a client who was very upset with something we had done and they reached out to one of our team members and none of the leadership team was available and that team member were to say, you know what, it’s Friday afternoon. I’m not going to be able to help you. Everyone is gone. This is going to have to wait till Monday.

That’s not serving the heck out of our clients and customers. That’s just, passing the buck. So that would be somebody we wouldn’t want to hire. If that was how they describe what they would do. If they would said, we’ll just wait till Monday when the leadership team is back. What I’m really looking for is someone to listen and take note of the problem and express to them, you know what? I can see why you’re upset about that. I know that Dr. Sabrina and the rest of the team, they’re going to find a way to help you through this. I’ve got this information. I’m going to pass it along. I’m going to make sure you’re not going to have to repeat this again. And you can expect to hear back from somebody by midday, Monday at the very latest.

Boom, that’s handled. That would be, uh, in alignment with our immutable laws. And this is the thing when we hire people who are a good fit with our immutable laws, there are always situations that come up in business that there are, there’s no policy or procedure written for, and people have to be able to go off the cuff.

And when we have someone who hold similar values as we do, they may handle the situation in a different way than we would have done, but we’re going to feel good about how they handled it at the end of the day. Versus when we hire somebody who is not a good fit, they will handle that situation and it’s going to make us cringe.

And that’s when there’s been a violation of the immutable law.

Russel Lolacher: So where are organizations getting it wrong? Because they’re allowing those bullies in, they’re allowing those people that say they’re leaders that are not leaders, but they’re still getting in there and they’re not culture fitting.. Culture fitting?

Sure. It’s a word. I communicate. Sure. I have a degree. But needless to say, we all, we obviously have a problem if we’re not going down the path of really speaking to our values in a job interview. So where is this system broken in your experience?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: There’s, there’s so many places where it can, it can be broken and slip off off the rails. But I think the first place is that when you have the meeting and everyone identifies aspirational values, like we want to be this kind of company. And now you have that poster that we just talked about. And those aren’t real values. And so they’re no good in the hiring process. They can’t be used to screen.

And taking this to the hiring process, in my experience, the traditional hiring practices set us up to mishire 75 percent of the time. And traditional hiring practices are you create a job ad, you interview people, you look at the people you interviewed and you pick the best of the 2 or 3 or 5 that you interviewed and you bring them in.

If you haven’t written a good job ad that clarifies exactly what you’re looking for and the culture fit that you’re looking for, you’ve picked random people essentially that you’re hiring into the organization. Then the other thing is that hiring is such a time consuming process that once you have trained somebody and they’ve been onboarded, every leader looks at that and says, Oh my gosh, if I had to fire them and then we have to go back and go through this whole process again, I just, I don’t have the time or the energy to do that. They’re sort of okay, so we’re going to let them stick around. And it’s that sort of okay, like they do a few things, but you know, 80 percent is okay. It’s that sort of okay. That becomes a cancer in the culture. And it’s that, when you do end up having to let them go, and I know this is from my own experience as a leader when I’ve had to let team members go and there were things that I saw and I was, I was really like on the fence, but then after they’re gone, other team members come to me and they’re like, I don’t know if you knew this, but this was going on too.

Really?! If I had known that I would have taken action months ago. And so I, I always say to our clients, what you see is the business owner is the tip of the iceberg. Trust that that small bit that’s really bothering you is probably also bothering the team. And one tool that I found that really helps to surface those problem team members faster is to be sure you’re doing one-to-one meetings with your team members, your direct reports on a regular basis. So weekly or every other week, because when you’re doing that and there is a problem team member, that problem team members name will come up repeatedly in multiple meetings with multiple team members. And that’s when you know, and none of them are going to throw the other team member in the bus because nobody likes to do that.

But when you’re hearing that person as part of a situation or an issue that other team members are talking about, when you hear that name over and over, that’s what should pique your curiosity about, I need to get to the bottom of this, there’s something going on here. And this person’s probably not a good fit.

Russel Lolacher: I’m thinking there’s some organizations that are like, this all sounds good, but we already have a system in place. It’s, it’s working for us. Note the working for us, not necessarily the employee or the prospective employee. So they might have a rigid system that is involving a scoring system or competencies or, you know, that whole list.

But when you’re talking about immutable laws, it doesn’t fit into that process. How do you crack that nut for lack of a better metaphor phrase to go, you need to integrate it, but how?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Yeah. So it’s, it’s real simple with integrating it. So in a performance review, you list those immutable laws. And I always teach, make your performance review super simple.

You’ve got three ratings. 1, 2, 3. ONE is not meeting expectations. TWO is meeting expectations. And THREE is exceeding expectations. And so when you’re rating someone on immutable laws, they need to get at least a 2. Like, there’s no room for a 1 when it comes to immutable laws. And, you know, if, if there are not, if you have 5 immutable laws, and they’re exceeding expectations and only one that’s kind of a red flag, because that’s where people should be able to exceed expectations very easily is, is when it comes to the immutable laws.

But the other piece is put it in the job ad. When you on board, share stories about the immutable laws so that you give concrete examples of this is what these immutable laws look like in action, and then it’s integrated into the performance review. So it’s really those three key areas. That’s how you integrate it.

Russel Lolacher: So you’re speaking my language, you’re stocking storytelling, you’re talking all this, but diversity is popping into my brain right now. Neurodivergent people who might be looking at it from another angle that is not necessarily what’s being asked.

Because again, not everyone is trying to attract the same type of people. How do you change to to accommodate that?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: You know, it’s really about understanding each person’s learning style, and that needs to be sussed out in the hiring process. And so one of the things that we teach is when you’re hiring, you want to check references where you are, you’re asking the candidates to tell you all about past experiences and where they’ve succeeded, where they’ve struggled. And then you’re listening for people in, in their story that could verify what they are. What they’re sharing. And then you ask the candidate to put you in touch with them.

And then you basically interview them. You’re checking references. But this is different than the typical reference check. And one of the things that I found is that in talking with these references, this is the perfect opportunity to understand differences and where someone coming into your organization may have a different learning style or different needs that need to be accommodated in the onboarding process. And that’s where you can, you can look at that and look at, okay, there’s a different learning style here. So what are we going to do to convey these immutable laws in a way that matches that learning style or that way of operating in the world?

Russel Lolacher: And I think it’s important just to be aware that even though you’re looking for culture fit, you’re not looking for homogeny. No, and that, and a lot of people might think that we’re just want this type of person. I’m like, then don’t use innovation in the next sentence because you’re, because you’re just hiring the same type of person over and over again.

So I love the laws. I just having that awareness that ‘cookie cutter’ could also be a danger.

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Yeah. And this is where understanding that values does not necessarily mean perspectives and there’s a difference between perspective and values. So the best thing that you can do is hire people on your team with similar values and different perspectives.

Different life experiences, different life circumstances, because then you will innovate. You will have very rich perspectives at the table as decisions are being made in the business.

Russel Lolacher: So Sabrina, I know you work with small to medium businesses, businesses, but those are also organizations that are starting to get an HR department.

They’re starting to get a bit of staff going. So whose responsibility is this? Not only in integrating it but also making a consistent part of the practice because you’re not going to be very successful at culture fit if you’re like we tried it for six months and we gave up. So who’s responsible for this?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: The leadership, the business owner is where it starts and that needs, it doesn’t mean the business owner has to do it, but the business owner has to be the one driving the initiative and supporting the initiative. And then as the business grows and you have an HR department and a leadership team and multiple team members.

It’s still the business owner, and then it’s the leadership team. And this needs to be baked into the systems in the business. And then as an HR department is brought in, the director of HR will be the one who drives the initiatives and making sure that this is an ongoing part of the hiring, the onboarding, ongoing team development that the business owner and the leadership team have to support it.

And when that falls apart. When, you know, the leadership team gets too busy focused on making sales or profit, that that’s where the culture is really going to suffer. And I think what’s so fascinating is that there’s research that shows that in companies that have strong cultures outperform their peers when it comes to profit over, you know, a 10 year period, they significantly outperform their peers.

It may feel like, Oh, we’re slowing things down by taking time to get to know people and building these relationships. No, you’re, you’re speeding things up and you’re making your company much more resilient because of it.

Russel Lolacher: Now, if an organization is trying to redesign how it hires to do more culture fit, I’m sure they’re not going to hit it out of the park.

Non sports guy using a sports metaphor. Right away. So what have you seen from organizations that are trying to implement this, that are trying to hire properly, but keep running into roadblocks? What is stopping them from making this a quick win?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Okay, so this is it’s like any skill in business.

It’s a skill that we have to learn and we’re going to get better at it. And so if we come into hiring, understanding that, you know, when we follow traditional hiring practices, we’re going to miss higher 75 percent of the time. Okay, so our goal is to if that means we’re only hiring right 25 percent of the time.

So now our goal is to get to the point of hiring right 30 percent of the time and then 40 percent of the time and then 50 percent.. So every hire you should be building your hiring muscle and pick one or two things that you’re going to improve on in your hiring process. So if you hired somebody and they weren’t a great fit, well at what point in the hiring process or onboarding did you start to sense they weren’t a great fit? And what could you do to go back and strengthen that portion of your hiring or onboarding process to prevent that from happening in the future? And so the goal isn’t perfection. The goal is just to get progressively better.

I have a saying small steps forward taken in a consistent direction lead to relatively big change in a fairly short period of time. An example of this is I did a leadership strategy session with one of our clients a couple of weeks ago. He’s been with us nine months and we had surveyed his key team members to get their feedback on his leadership and the culture.

And we did the employee net promoter score he had. Employee net net promoter score of 100, which is just phenomenal. And and he was, he was just blown away. He said, I cannot believe I am at this point. He said, because nine months ago I had these awful team members. I didn’t know what to do with them.

I knew I was going to have to replace them. I was so scared cause I didn’t know anything about hiring than what I had been doing that clearly wasn’t working. And he said, and I went through that whole process of letting them go on boarding, new people, training, new people. And now here I am nine months later and yeah, it’s a small team.

He’s got to grow. He’s got to add more people. But he said, this is so amazing. It’s like night and day. I said, yes, nine months. You did it in nine months. It didn’t happen overnight, but nine months and now you’re off to a really good start in your, your hiring percentage. Probably you’re at 40 or 50 percent now, whereas before you were at 25.

Russel Lolacher: So I’m looking at this as a, it’s not going to stay in the same place forever. Organizations grow small organizations become big, become large. That owner who was the epitome of the brand, the values gets further and further away from the front line, from the processes. How do you keep culture fit consistently, like, what are the warning signs that maybe you’re going off the rails? Maybe bureaucracy is getting in there to ruin this thing you started and was working for you.

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s really sharing the legends. The legend of that founder. So I’m a part of an organization. I just joined. I’m a new member. And I went to their national conference and they were giving out awards and this one name kept coming up over and over. And there were some awards named after this person. I’d never heard of him cause I’m brand new. But at one point they told his story. And he was one, he was the founder of the organization and they had found ways to give out awards and honor people who reflected those values.

And so it’s again, they found ways to keep those values a part of that culture. And, and this organization has been in existence for 50 years now. And this person who founded it is long, long passed away. And so I think that’s a really good example of how you maintain the values throughout the culture. But it does require consistent effort.

And if you take your eye off that ball, because you just like. And, and I think one of the easiest places to take your eye off the ball is if you go through a period of rapid growth and you just need to hire, hire, hire really fast. You can find yourself suddenly where you had a team of 10 a year ago, now you have a team of 25 and you didn’t do a good job screening people and the cultures or the immutable laws have been watered down and the new people don’t really understand.

What the culture is and what we see quite a bit is those businesses that have grown that rapidly often have to take a little period of compression and go back down to, Oh, maybe 15 people for a while. And as painful as that is, but you get back to your core of who you are, what you’re good at and what you value.

And then you grow again from there. And usually it’s when that regrowth happens that is much more solid. Growth because you also want to be attracting clients who are a good fit with the immutable laws. And if you go through a period of rapid growth, sometimes you’re getting a mix of team members who aren’t a good fit and clients who aren’t a good fit.

So that little contraction period is actually a very healthy thing to happen

Russel Lolacher: As we’re wrapping this up. Sabrina, I’m kind of curious. What you think of this because culture fit is not just for the organization. The culture fit is also for the employee because nobody wants to work in a place that don’t feel valued where it works for them.

So what should they be looking for to make sure they’re a culture fit with the organization that they’re applying to? It’s basically just an example of… is the employer’s work working around culture fit that employees should be looking for.

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Yeah. Yeah. So I think, you know, if I were a prospective employee and I were out there going through interviews, one of the things that I would ask is, can I talk to some of your team members?

And I would go to the website and I would find the values that are on it. Cause they’re always on the website and they always look really pretty. And I would ask those team members to talk to me about how do you see these values in action? And what happens when these values are violated in the company?

How is that handled? And those are the answers that I’ll let you know. Number one, are these authentic values or are these aspirational values? A lot of times they’re aspirational values. If the team members go, Oh, those are our values. Hmm. Who knew? That’s a big sign. Like no one’s talking internally about those values.

Those aren’t real. And, and then you could just ask the team members about their experience and what is your life like here day to day? Tell me your highs and lows. That’s, that’s where the values are going to come out and you’ll see what values are actually lived and breathed in the company. So it’s not going to be the team members values.

It’s going to be, how is that team member experiencing the values of the company?

Russel Lolacher: Oh, Sabrina, that’s so good. Okay. We’re wrapping up here with the question I ask all of my guests, much like the first one, which is what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Dr. Sabrina Starling: I love this question.

So I teach a class called Leadership Bootcamp, and it’s for the A players in our clients’ businesses, and I give them a secret mission. When they come in and their secret mission is to every week in the business, look for a way that they can be a gift from their gifts. So they, I teach them about their strengths and they’re learning about what comes naturally to them.

And so they are looking for a way to use their strengths to show up and add value. Somewhere in the business for another team member, for the business owner, for clients or customers of the business. And so that’s what I would say to you is look for ways in the coming week to be a gift from your gifts because here’s what happens.

You think you’re looking to help other people. You’re actually the one who gets helped because when we show up and we serve, it fills us up and we get lit up when we get to work from our strengths. And when you’re looking out, when you’re on a team where multiple team members are on a secret mission every week to be a gift from their gifts, everyone’s looking out for each other.

And that is building. Strong relationships at work.

Russel Lolacher: Oh, and she buzzed it at the end with the name of the podcast. That’s Dr. Sabrina Starling. She’s a psychologist, keynote speaker, bestselling author, and the face behind Tap the Potential. Thanks so much for being here, Sabrina.

Dr. Sabrina Starling: Thank you, Russel.


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