People Are Rooting For You – Steve Van Valin

Summary

In another episode of Simply Feedback, Steve Van Valin, Founder and CEO of Culturology, discusses his upcoming book, Amplify! The Power of Meaning at Work and ways for leaders to reengage their people and build a feedback-rich environment.

Steve Van Valin

Culturology

Steve Van Valin is the founder and CEO of Culturology. He is an innovation expert and employee engagement strategist. Steve works with leaders who believe a high-performance culture is the key to unlocking a competitive advantage. He has spent his 30-year career developing winning culture and brand strategies for companies such as QVC, Sportschannel Philadelphia, NASA, Goodwill Industries, The Philadelphia Phillies, and Boeing.

As the leader of QVC’s culture and brand development strategy for over 14 years, Steve specialized in shaping a highly engaged workforce and innovation processes that helped propel the company’s double-digit growth. Steve led the effort to align the development of teams and employees at all levels to QVC’s Values, known collectively as The QVC Difference.

Steve is a talented designer of experiences that facilitate learning and personal insights. He possesses deep grounding on many key facets that influence leadership talent and team dynamics. The experiences he creates are facilitated with passion, curiosity and a sense of empathy that spark a dynamic, open rapport among participants.

Steve lives in Downingtown, PA, with his wife Kara and two children.

Troy Blaser (00:05):
On today's episode of Simply Feedback, we have the privilege to speak with Steve Van Valin, Founder and CEO of Culturology. He is an innovation expert and employee engagement strategist. Steve works with leaders who believe a high performance culture is the key to unlocking a competitive advantage. Steve is a talented keynote speaker who sparks insights and inspires action. He has spent his 30 year career developing winning culture and brand strategies for companies such as QVC, Sports Channel Philadelphia, NASA, Goodwill Industries, the Philadelphia Phillies, and Boeing. Steve, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's great to have you with us today.
Steve Van Valin (00:45):
Hey, thank you, Troy. Great to be on with you. So thanks so much for having me.
Troy Blaser (00:49):
You bet. Steve, the podcast is Simply Feedback and one of the things I'm always most interested to hear about is if you would tell us about a time that somebody has given you feedback that had a significant impact on your life.
Steve Van Valin (01:04):
Well, I was very fortunate when I started into leadership development and culture shaping and change, one of the things that I had to go through was a certification process to speak publicly to a group. And I had this amazing coach from Senn Delaney Leadership out in California, a guy named Barry. And I was about to go on for my very first session to be certified in front of a group of about 45 people. And I don't know if you've ever seen the statistics, but the number one fear for people is death by fire, followed by number 2 public speaking.
Troy Blaser (01:43):
I've seen something like that, yeah.
Steve Van Valin (01:44):
And I was really, it wasn't that I was scared. I was just really nervous and worried that it was going to come off in any kind of way at all. And before I walked up on the stage there, Barry grabbed me and he said, "Look, I just want you to know that people are rooting for you." And what he meant by that was that they are not going to judge you like who is this guy? And does he have any credibility? And he just slurred a word there or said something that I don't agree with. They're actually want you to be good. And they want you to be entertaining. They want you to be fun. They want you to poke them in their cerebral cortex a little bit and they're rooting for you to do so. And so when I really got ahold of that idea, it sort of let me unleash my comfort level. I'm an introvert, but I found that even in front of a group, I could just sort of be myself realizing in having conference that people rooting for me. And I think just having that coaching right from the start in my whole process of getting in front of people and working with leaders, that was an enormous advice. I'm forever indebted to a wonderful man, Barry, who gave me that, that tip, that people are rooting for you.
Troy Blaser (03:01):
People are rooting for you. That is great advice. And it's awesome to see how a mentor, a coach like that can really have an impact. And here you are all these years later, and you still remember that.
Steve Van Valin (03:14):
I've shared that with every person I've ever coached in public speaking or leadership development because they're nervous too. I just wanted to share that gift and pass it along. And so if anyone's listening that is maybe a little bit gun shy about getting in front of a room to think about it that way. And it can maybe be a paradigm shift for them.
Troy Blaser (03:39):
I like that. Tell us a little bit more about your background. How did you get started besides the certification course, but how did this field become your passion for you?
Steve Van Valin (03:51):
Yeah. So my background is sales and marketing. I was always with other cable networks. I started out in radio and moved to cable television and was always in the sales and marketing end of things, worked for QVC, left, worked for a couple of other cable networks. And then I had a chance to come back to QVC for a second time around when they were going through this major culture Renaissance. And so I took a major leap of faith to say, I want to do this kind of work. And fortunately they recognize that, you know, I had had a great experience with the culture at QVC and could tell, you know, my own story about how it impacted me in my life. And so eventually I got the job at QVC the second time to help lead the culture. And so I found out through that process that this work that we're doing, that you're doing Troy, I mean, it's deeply fulfilling, right? We have a chance to change people's lives and make a huge impact. So I'm just very grateful. It's deeply meaningful. It gives me a purpose every day to try to do that. And so I'm very, very grateful. I had the opportunity to make that change and be in this profession with folks like you.
Troy Blaser (05:05):
I love that. You've talked about changing people's lives. That's actually something that we focus on here at LearningBridge as well. You know, our ambition is we actually set a goal to reach a specific number of lives changed because they have perhaps participated in a survey where they've received feedback or some interaction with us that has maybe given them some information that they can use to improve their life or change their lives to become more successful in what they're trying to do.
Steve Van Valin (05:34):
Yeah. And that keeps you engaged and creative in the work that we're doing. So it, it works synergistically.
Troy Blaser (05:41):
Yeah, absolutely. So, so as you interact with your different clients and you're focused maybe on their culture on the employee engagement there, what are some of the biggest difficulties that you encounter?
Steve Van Valin (05:55):
Yeah, I mean, well, I'll apply it right now to the challenge of going through the COVID change. I think the, the real challenge right now that I'm hearing from CEOs and other leaders is that they really desperately need to innovate and be flexible in order to adjust to the changes in even the way their customers are responding to them. And so they're leaning on their culture to do that. Now, if they had a really innovative creative culture before great, you know, they're, they were maybe well positioned to be in this new place, but then you lay on top of that, the fact that, Oh my gosh, like most of our team or all of our team is virtual now. We're not having those interactive conversations, those organic conversations where ideas are sort of shopped and generated with each other, piggy-backing, the synergy. And sometimes ideas are just coming from serendipity of having those conversations.
Steve Van Valin (06:53):
And so I think the big difficulty right now is a lot of organizations are struggling to flex. They have sort of a, what I'd call a drought of ideas. And so the way you can potentially overcome that is to be very purposeful in asking for ideas like, and then not just in general, like, hey, we want more ideas from you folks to help us through this change, but pick something very specific, you know, a great creative question is both flexible and very focused to what's the focused area that you want to get people honed in on, and then give them a multiple choice of what, how they could answer that to be creative on it. And so scheduling the time to do that, pre-loading with them, like why it would make a difference is a really big creative input that a lot of people forget about. And then turning them loose and to be able to get those ideas back on the table, because we have to force it because it's not happening naturally because we're not elbow to elbow with each other typically.
Troy Blaser (07:58):
As you go through those tips and suggestions, I'm reviewing in my own mind, a recent brainstorming or strategy session that we had here at LearningBridge. And I'm thinking to myself, did we do this? And did we do that? I actually think we did pretty well in our own case. But if somebody is listening to our discussion today and thinking about their own company, are there some warning signs if they see these things, maybe their culture isn't so great or could use some tweaks, what would you say to someone?
Steve Van Valin (08:27):
Yeah, I think you could, you could probably figure it out by whether or not you're seeing the drought of ideas. If you're, if you're just not seeing people pop up, maybe they're not feeling safe to share those kinds of things. Maybe it feels like, well, it's too much work. We got to focus on something else that was given to us. We're just kind of like going along and making the donuts here. So the lack of ideas would be one of the symptoms that you would see. And I also think that that a symptom of being super stressed from people is what a leader really needs to have empathy for, and really checking in with people on where they are with their life. You know, how are you guys doing, you know, just simply asking that question and having that, having your folks really understand that you are there for them, you know, that you're really advocating for them, you know, to, to ask those types of questions like what's working for you right now, in terms of the way this new structure is all set up in these meetings, endless Zoom meetings, et cetera, what's working, what's not working.
Steve Van Valin (09:38):
And then asking for that feedback and just being interested in curious about how they see it. Now, everyone's thinking about this, we're talking about it at dinner parties, or however, we're getting together with relatives safely, et cetera. You know, we're talking about the dynamics of how work has changed. And then so leaders should be asking those questions because people are already talking about it. Why not surface it? You can't act on what you don't know, right? So that awareness gives you a choice on how you may be able to modify things and really give people what they need to reduce their stress and help them feel re-engaged in the work that they're doing.
Troy Blaser (10:21):
Yeah. I think that, you know, this year 2020 with the pandemic going on, we all are experiencing so many unique kinds of stresses, things that we've never faced before, either at work or personally, just crazy unusual things that we haven't had to deal with before. So I really liked that idea of just asking the question, how are you doing digging into to understand better? What's the level of stress? How is it affecting your life can really make a difference for employees.
Steve Van Valin (10:58):
Yeah. And then, and then being ready to ask the next question, Troy, which is like, how might I help you with that? Or how might I change, help change things to make a difference in that? So, you know, that's the action that, that reveals the action steps that you can take. And sometimes people forget that it's one thing to know that people are stressed and burned out and really struggling with their family situation. But then the next is what do you do about it?
Troy Blaser (11:26):
Yeah. That makes sense. So, so that's a case where, you know, we're talking about some one-on-one feedback, individual conversations with employees, but I, I wanted to ask too, do you have a philosophy around feedback as you perhaps begin an engagement with a company, are there ways that you incorporate feedback into that engagement, whether on a one-on-one basis or on a, you know, on a larger basis, how do you use feedback in your work?
Steve Van Valin (11:56):
Yeah, absolutely. So when I started with QVC, the second time on our culture shaping mission there, we had two goals. One was to have an accountability centered culture. And number two was to have a feedback, rich environment. A feedback, rich coaching, rich environment. And I don't think that those elements would ever change no matter if it's COVID or 25 years from now, those are two sacrosanct elements of a great, healthy high performance culture. So we really went after the whole coaching rich idea in a big way. And what we did was probably the obvious thing. You go and train people on how to coach each other. You train them there's words that you can use, which are balanced both you know, let me, let me show you what you did well, you know, the appreciative piece that you're recognizing, and then the constructive piece, here's some ideas on things that you could potentially do better.
Steve Van Valin (12:56):
So that part of it was sort of every, you know, that's a no brainer, right? And so we went, we, we scaled this out against 10,000 employees. We literally taught everyone whether you're hourly or the, you know, executive vice president level or the president level, how to coach people using the right language and practicing it. But what I saw happen was depending upon the health of the culture in the level of trust that people had it either took place or didn't take place. And my observation was for people that really wanted to be in a coaching rich environment that felt a little bit out of their control, right? No, one's giving me any coaching, you know, what's happening here. Uh, you know, we, we train on this. This is a bunch of hypocrisy now that's extreme. So my conclusion was in a philosophy that I've put in place that QVC and every, with every client is teach people how to ask for coaching, because that is totally within my control.
Steve Van Valin (14:02):
I don't have to say, well, Troy and I have a good relationship, but Troy doesn't give me any coaching and feedback. You know, what's in my control that I have absolute the power to operate under, Hey, Troy, when we had this staff meeting and I, um, you know, asked the question about what ideas people had. Was that a good question? Or was it too general? How might I, Troy, help get people more included in the conversations that we're having around the table or on these Zoom calls? Now I've just asked you for coaching. And I got very specific to what I'm asking you for. So even though let's say you reported to me, it's like, Oh my gosh, I've got to tell the boss something really smart and, you know, blow them away with my, you know, genius level, uh, perspectives. No, it's just a brainstorming. It's like, gee, you know, Steve, I'm not sure. I think, I think that one time that you asked this question, it really worked well. And I noticed that people may have been intimidated cause you were hogging all the air time. Oh. So when you ask, so back to your question, on the philosophy I spend, it's like parade as principal now. I spend 80% of my time focusing on getting people to ask for coaching and 20% on how to give coaching. I know that sounds backwards, but that's within your control and it unlocks things.
Troy Blaser (15:25):
No, that makes a lot of sense. Do you find that people are reluctant to ask for that coaching because it's a scary experience for them because they don't know what they're going to get.
Steve Van Valin (15:38):
Yeah. First of all, they're maybe not used to it or maybe it puts them in a vulnerable position. Like, well, I'm the boss here. I'm the authority. I'm the one that with experience, I'm the one who should know these things anyway, why would I ask this person and leave myself vulnerable. That person really doesn't have a lot of EQ right there. They're not thinking empathetically for the other person and how much respect it actually gives that person. People are blown away when you ask them their opinion on something you can do better. Especially if you're the, you're the boss for crying out loud. Like they've been thinking about it all day long. What else do we have to complain about? He's the boss right? But I mean, that's the way it is.
Steve Van Valin (16:22):
And if when the boss asks you that, people have it top of mind, almost every time and you giving them permission to share it with you. Now, the way you receive it is really key. Because if you like go, who are you? Like, all right, I disagree with that. You've got it all wrong. You're never going to hear the truth ever again. Sorry, goodbye. And these are the things that we teach people about how to receive it. So how to ask it, but how to receive it too. That's all in that same sort of package. And so yeah, people are reticent until they get to trust you. And, and then they, when they see how much you care or appreciate hearing their perspective, then it's a game changer. Then the doors are open for future conversations. And, and here's the kind of magical thing that happens, Troy, is when people keep asking the other person for feedback, they go Hey, what about me? I want some feedback, what do you think about it? So, wow, we've just created this reciprocal relationship here. And then we start making it routine. You know, you should never have an important encounter with let's say another department or a department head together, or even a staff meeting without getting some kind of feedback from people on what, Hey, what worked? How could I do it better the next time? And I mean, these are just general questions, but that's kind of the mode that you want to be in. And that's what represents having a coaching rich environment, what it looks like.
Troy Blaser (17:56):
It's a real skill to be able to receive the feedback, to be able to act on it and especially act on it in a way that's visible to the person who gave the feedback so that they really know that their feedback was received and that their opinion matters.
Troy Blaser (19:16):
So 2020, we talked about it a little bit is a very unusual year. And obviously one of the things that we've seen this year is so many companies going to a virtual workplace. How has that change affected your work this year, as you work with company culture, as you work with team dynamics, how has this year affected that?
Steve Van Valin (19:38):
Yeah, I mean, for somebody who's had the better part of their practice based on being in front of people, live in a room, doing interactive exercises and group feedback and things like that. It's been a complete shift to go to a webinar-based or zoom-based training. And it's just using some of the basic skills that you'll learn to figure out, well, how do you keep this? How do you keep people engaged on zoom? It's so difficult. It, it, I don't have all the answers yet, but I figured out a few things in terms of, you know, asking people for their opinions and not doing endless amounts of polls, but, um, things like the annotate button where you can pull a stamp and click a thing that represents your own thinking just to get, get people, instead of them checking their emails or, you know, putting out the dog or whatever, they have to really kind of pay attention to that.
Steve Van Valin (20:34):
So that's been an enormous, enormous shift. I did a video recently it's called a, you know, how to avoid zoom gloom, which I mean, zoom was fantastic when, uh, when we first jumped into it, it was like, wow, this may be the panacea for everything that we got going on here. And it's been amazing, but people are starting to burn out on it. Of course, you know, we're just, you know, eight hours of zoom in an eight hour day, it's just not working for people. So one of the things that we're building into the agenda is making sure that you connect on a relationship basis with people and not just dive into business. So, I mean, I think this applies really, it could apply to in-person meetings too, of course, but you have to be extra intentional when you do it on zoom, because you're probably not going to go there.
Steve Van Valin (21:26):
It doesn't feel so natural. Hey, you know, how was your weekend? Like we're not sharing that kind of stuff, you know, as, as people filter into the mood the, the meeting room. So the idea is, can you ask people questions to get to know them a little bit and have them share their opinion? So, like for example, one of the questions that we're building into this agenda to reestablish relationships is let's have everyone share. I'm going to go first as a leader. The question is, so what's one value that I acquired from as a result of growing up in my hometown that I probably still carry forward in my work that I do. Now, everybody has a story about that. Yeah. I don't know where my team members hometown is necessarily, but just knowing that it's kind of interesting. There's a connection there.
Steve Van Valin (22:18):
And then what value did they get from that? Was it hard work? Was it sort of a sense, like if you grew up in New York, for example, you're all about, you know, hustling in doing great things and go, you know, superseding, cause it's a very competitive place to be. I grew up in a little tiny town, but work ethic. It was a work a day kind of place. And these are things that carry forward into the way we operate in our life. And just knowing that about people is interesting. Fascinating. It just one example, one question that sort of unlocks that now we're ready to begin the meeting.
Troy Blaser (22:54):
That's that's a great question. Yeah, it's interesting too, even from almost a logistical point of view, if I have a zoom meeting and I know that it starts at two o'clock, I'm likely to join the meeting right straight up at two o'clock on the dot and there is that sense of, okay, well, the meeting starts at two, so we're all going to start talking about business right away. But, but you know, back in the days when it was, well, I'm going to wander down to the conference room for this meeting and I'm going to get there maybe five minutes early or whatever. There, there is that sort of, that much more natural segue where we're all slowly filtering in and there's the small talk happening and now the meeting's going to start, but it's after that segue has sort of naturally occurred where when the, the meeting is remote, uh, and we're all just arriving at the exact same moment, right on the dot, uh, I really liked that idea that you have to be purposeful about asking some of these kinds of segue questions to help us form as a group, even though it's remotely.
Steve Van Valin (23:55):
Oh, it's going to sound odd if you just launch into the question without explaining to people why, why you're doing it. So if I'm a leader who really has, um, sort of high level awareness, I'm going to say to people, look, I know one of the things we're missing, I'm missing, you're missing is those the relationships that we have with each other. And so I'm going to do, I'm going to invoke something here to help with that a little bit. And again, I want your feedback on what, on how we could do it, or what, what would be a next question that we could ask next week at our staff meeting, that type of thing. So you're not going to ask an irrelevant question necessarily like, well, what's your favorite color or your favorite food? I mean, that's maybe interesting to learn, but I want to ask relevant questions that now I understand working with Troy. Oh, you know, I've seen that value that he spoke of that relates to his hometown. Like I understand you better, you know.
Troy Blaser (24:54):
It lets people make connections outside of just what we're doing for work, but a different, much more personal connection because, Oh, you're from a small town I am too, and we're connected in this way or that's a great approach to keeping those personal relationships strong. Any other recommendations that you have as companies are moving to this remote or this virtual environment?
Steve Van Valin (25:24):
Troy, I think the word is resilience. Everyone is looking for it and I looked the word up because I kept seeing it over and over again. And basically it means coming out stronger as a result of having gone through something. So if you think about weight training, you know, you're breaking down your muscle fibers lifting weights so that you can be stronger, you know, the next time. So I think this whole COVID change that we've gone under is giving us a chance to do exactly that. So my recommendations for leaders is to go back to basics and not back in the future or back to the past, but more of a back to the future. And one of the ways they can do this is by doing an audit of their values. So if you just pulled out, I almost, every company has a list of values that they've created or fundamentals, or, you know, principles that they've articulated, looking at them one at a time and saying, how did this apply during COVID?
Steve Van Valin (26:23):
Did we do a good job with this? Or do we completely put that one in the back back shelf and get, get an a, you know, real open kimono conversation with people around the table around it and come to terms with how well the values applied to this time. Okay? So that's one thing, but then saying, okay, based on where we're headed, you know, in the future, like how we're trying to change our business, and we see things evolving here, which one of these values do we need to put extra emphasis on and hear that from your teammates? And you can do this at all levels. It doesn't have to be just a senior team conversation. And the opinions of what people will share is priceless gold, because that will give you the real game plan of what you need to communicate more of and how you may need to actually go deeper on training with people on that particular value to get back to it.
Steve Van Valin (27:21):
So that's really, that's a back to basic thing, go back to the thing that made you great in the first place, which is probably represented by your values, and then figure out like, wow, how can we actually get better at that? So, I mean, my sort of metaphor for this whole back to basics thing is a sports metaphor. If, if you're really struggling, if you're a golfer, for example, or a tennis player, and you're in a slump, you, you don't go trying crazy techniques to get yourself out of it. You know, what you end up doing in almost every sport ironically, is bending your knees, you know, or keeping your eye on the ball, like those basic simple things. And that can give people sort of a sense of relief too, that we're not looking for crazy stuff. We're actually going back to the basics of what, uh, what made us great. And then we're saying, how do we apply it now based on our challenge. So when we think about feedback, coaching, rich environment, that is a back to basic element. If there ever was one sacrosanct, as I said to every great high-performance culture. How are we doing with coaching and feedback? That could be one of the questions that you ask.
Troy Blaser (28:33):
That's a great question. So we talked at the beginning of the conversation about a time when somebody gave you feedback, um, that sort of had an impact on you, changed your trajectory, has certainly been advice that you share all the way along throughout your career, but could you share with us a specific experience or a time when you've seen feedback or coaching cause a point of inflection in someone else's career or someone that maybe you've worked with as a client where it's made a difference for them?
Steve Van Valin (29:05):
There was a time that absolutely blew me away with this. And we were doing a follow-up session to what's called the QVC difference, which is a two day offsite. We covered leadership topics related to our values, and we're doing a follow-up session. And we had customer service representatives from San Antonio in the session. And one of the topics that we cover in the workshop is called Be Here Now, which is basic listening skills, like really listening at a deep level with empathy for others, right? And so we, the first question that we typically ask in the follow-up question is, so what was one thing from the QVC difference workshop that had an impact on you? And usually we go around the room and get volunteers to share some thoughts on it. And, you know, it's usually really good stuff and you're happy about it. And this one, a customer service representative, said, I just have to share with the group.
Steve Van Valin (30:04):
And this is kind of an emotional thing. It's hard for me to even to retell the story, but she said, I got a call from my daughter. She had, has, has been going through a very tough, challenging divorce, custody battle with her kids. She had an Oxycontin issue and she was calling me to say goodbye. And she was planning on ending her life at that time. And she said to me, and the rest of the group, she said, if it hadn't been for this idea of be here now, which was that those listening skills, I probably would have started yelling at her and doing, who knows what, you know, to tell, you know, instead she listened deeply and was able to connect with her daughter maybe for the first time in a long time. And we had a good end to that story which she did not proceed.
Steve Van Valin (31:07):
And when I sat there just speechless, you know, just thinking these things that you, so any of us in this field, whether you're in HR training development, you have no idea about the ramifications of the things that you talk about. We don't go in thinking, oh, we're going to save people's lives or anything like that. We hear a story like that come back to you. You go holy cow. Like it puts a whole new level of meaning in, in seriousness to what we do. And to really kind of think back into your own level of how you perform and not as an actor, but just to take it serious that this is the first time these people may be hearing what you have to say, and you have no idea what the ramifications can be. And that one really jumped out and surprised me. And, you know, I've never forgotten that one. And I think it's affected, affected me in the way I even look at the work that I do and, and realizing that every audience are hearing things for the first time. It may be the 100th time I'm saying it, I may be bored with it almost, but not for them.
Troy Blaser (32:20):
It has an emotional impact on them because it's the first time. That's fantastic. I mean, you're teaching a valuable skill in terms of the deep and empathetic listening. And then you came back and asked for feedback from the group and you were able to hear what you had taught, impacted somebody in a, in a truly life-changing and life-saving way.
Steve Van Valin (32:47):
Yeah, yeah. You don't expect that.
Troy Blaser (32:49):
No, but that's the kind of thing too, that is motivating to keep going, right? And to continue in the field and to continue what you're doing.
Steve Van Valin (32:58):
Yeah, no doubt, deeply meaningful.
Troy Blaser (33:01):
Thanks for sharing that. I appreciate that story. I wanted to ask about your upcoming book, the book is Amplify The Power of Meaning @ Work. Tell us about the book.
Steve Van Valin (33:12):
Yeah. So I just, I think it's pretty evident that everyone seems to be seeking more meaning in everything they do. And of course work, you know, especially when you look at the perspective of how short life is. And the millennials and Gen Z are sort of coming out wired for this idea of having meaning in the work that they're doing. They're seeking purpose. The Boomers and X'ers have come around to it too. And in an enormous way, all the research shows that they are really positioned on this, this idea of seeking meaning through their work. And yet managers really struggle with how to do that for people, how to really what I call amplify, the meaning of the work that they're doing. And I kept seeing this over and over again with the work I was doing at Harvard Business School with Teresa Amabile, who authored The Progress Principle.
Steve Van Valin (34:10):
And the progress principle really showed from the research that she did, that people had the greatest uptick and engagement when they simply made progress in meaningful work. And the idea of making progress seems a little bit more obvious to most people, but how do you make it meaningful? And so what I did was I set on a quest to really explore that notion hundreds of interviews with various people and, and research that goes way back, Viktor Frankl from World War II wrote Man's Search for Meaning was great influence on this. So what I've done essentially is it's a manager's guide for how to amplify meaning. I can't give you meaning Troy, if you work for me, but I can show you how, if I understand where you're coming from, I can show you how your work does matter.
Steve Van Valin (35:02):
Not just in the bigger sense of like changing the world. Okay. That's great. But some of it does, some of the work that we do is very granular. And some of the things that we're looking for in work is just to have it be a challenge, a creative, fun challenge, It's satisfying to us. And so that, that is a purpose that gives us meaning back. And once I identified that, I realized that we can, we can stimulate purpose in almost everything that we do by really showing the why behind the reason for doing it and being really good at telling that story and then recognizing it in people when they act on it. So that's the thing that I'm convinced that gives people this feeling of meaning and buoyancy that really engages them. And the other really fun, amazing part of this the research proves is when you can do that for somebody as a manager, you personally become incredibly engaged.
Steve Van Valin (36:04):
Let's face it, managing people kind of sucks in a way, it's tough, no one acts and behaves the same way you do. And usually individual performers are the ones that get promoted. And now all of a sudden they have a bunch of turkeys reporting to them, so to speak, and they don't know how to motivate them. And they're wondering why aren't they motivated like me? And some of it comes back to the idea of just really empathizing with the fact that they're looking for meaning themselves. And then here's some ways that you can do that, that are practical in the everyday work that you have to do. You don't have to be, you know, here's how your work is saving the world. That's really good, but it's not practical all the time. So that's what my book is about is unpacking that idea of how managers can do it.
Troy Blaser (36:48):
Is it available for pre-order right now? Is that where we're at?
Steve Van Valin (36:53):
Yeah. I'm working with my publisher on finalizing the manuscript and then it goes into the whole, you know, printing and in publishing stage. So it probably won't be out till maybe summer of next year, but you can preview some, some of the chapters that I have. And put your name in, if you're interested in, in getting some of the videos that I'll be shooting to unpack the ideas.
Troy Blaser (37:18):
Well, it sounds like very interesting concepts that you're talking about and really practical, useful advice to increase the meaning to exactly what it says to amplify the meaning that we derive from the work that we're doing. So I look forward to it when it comes. Along with that idea of learning more, Steve, tell us about a talent maybe that you have, that people would be surprised to learn about you in a personal way.
Steve Van Valin (37:48):
Well I'm a master level horticulturalist. I studied here outside of Philadelphia at a place called Longwood Gardens and my certificate's in ornamental horticulture. I love it because it's creative stimuli for me. I can kind of name every plant in the garden with the botanical name. And I guess sort of related to that is I'm an inventor. So I invented a gardening tool and I patented it. And ironically, I debuted it on QVC about three years ago. So there's two things that people probably don't know.
Troy Blaser (38:23):
That's really cool. That's an impressive thing to be able to say, I invented something and I have a patent on it, and that's fantastic. Well, Steve, if people want to know more, what should they do if they wanted to continue the conversation with you? Is that something you would be open to? How would they get in touch with you?
Steve Van Valin (38:39):
Yeah, absolutely. Love to continue the conversation. And if they're interested in the, um, the questions I call it, The Virtual Team Playbook, the questions that you can ask to insert relationship building back into your zoom meetings. All they would need to do is email me. And if they want to take a look at the book preview, it's amplifymeaning.com, amplifymeaning.com, and that'll give you a sense of what's going on with the book. So I'd love to hear from folks though.
Troy Blaser (39:19):
Yeah. Those questions sound very interesting. And like I say, I was checking out the book website earlier, and that looks fascinating too. So Steve, it's been a real fun time. It's been very interesting to talk to you today. I feel like I've learned a lot. It's caused me to kind of take a look at my own work environment and check in how am I doing? Are there ways that I can improve? And it sounds like I need to be asking for some feedback as well from some of the folks that I work with here to continue that improvement. But thank you so much for joining us for this conversation today on simply feedback. It's been great to get to know you a little bit, and I've enjoyed the time.
Steve Van Valin (39:57):
Pleasure, Troy. Thank you. Enjoyed getting to know you as well. So thanks so much for the opportunity.