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Future of Work

People Over Perks podcast ep. 7 – Matt Bradburn, Co-Founder of The People Collective

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People Over Perks podcast ep. 7 – Matt Bradburn, Co-Founder of The People Collective
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On this People Over Perks podcast episode, we have Matt Bradburn. Matt is the Co-founder of The People Collective, a People, HR, and Talent Consultancy.  

In this episode, we cover many topics including frameworks for career progression, how to build processes for professional development, how to develop in the world of People Ops, and more. Enjoy. 


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Full episode transcript

Andy Parker (host)

- So Matt, thanks for joining us this morning on the people over Perks podcast. You are the co-founder of the People Collective; let’s kick off: what is the People Collective? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- So, thanks for having me, Andy. The People Collective is a small consultancy, we work with startups and scale-ups to help them really put in the foundations to help the businesses scale, both in terms of their people, in terms of recruitment, and in terms of kind of broader people operations to help them become more effective and help them reach their own growth plans and grocery.


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah. Interesting. Cool. And perhaps you could walk us through your career journey in terms of what led you to start the people experience. What were some of the things that you experienced when you were working in house that made you realize there was a need to be solved with a consultancy?

Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, I started very much in the classic scenario, the classic millennial scenario. Graduated in the middle of a financial crisis — terrible idea. Wanted to move into marketing, ended up in recruitment. So started my career as a recruitment consultant and got to work with so many tiny, fascinating businesses at the time, companies like Acardo, companies like Autonomy, companies who went on to obviously become great well-known names in terms of tech. And I was really amazed by the scale and the speed at which these companies could grow. So decided to move in-house worked as an in-house recruiter for a few years but found my real passion was actually not just hiring people into these businesses, but watching their development parts. And actually seeing the ways that these people were able to expand their careers, their capabilities, the possibilities for them within these businesses. But also at the same time, we saw the way the businesses can trip over their own feature and come across a bunch of pitfalls which kind of halted their development. And most of those pitfalls weren't related to product-market fit. They were related to their ability to turn a great product idea into a long-term viable business. 

My last job before I started the People Collective was as VP of People at Peakon, which is an employee engagement software company, which is very meta, this idea that you might think about how employee engagement is employed within an employee engagement business. But even there, there were certainly challenges within the business which had to be solved. And I wanted the opportunity to solve these across not just one business at a time, but be able to work with a broad range of companies and a broad range of problems and have much more impact on the wider world of startups and scale-ups. So that's how the career journey influenced what we set up. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Cool. Thanks for sharing that. And so then, very tangibly, what are some of the projects that you work on with your clients now with the People Collective? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, it was very fascinating. When we started the company, I was 99% sure that we were going to spend a lot of time on the recruitment process on the onboarding process, maybe a little bit of performance development. It turns out that wasn't the case. We were completely wrong. Couldn't have been further off. So actually the majority of our time is spent on projects focused on areas like leveling and progression. So, thinking about clear progression pathways for people within organizations. Compensation, and reward, so looking at broader compensation philosophies and helping startups really plan for their own futures. Then, manager development, so the majority of companies promote their best ICS to become managers. This is not the best way to go about it. So, helping put it in the support that gives people the competence and capability to improve. And then talking to the team at Leapsome, performance development, how does this all come together to help people develop and continuously grow within the business, which obviously then helps the businesses grow themselves. 


Andy Parker (host)

Super interesting. And there's a lot to unpack there that we'll dive into. But before we do that, perhaps you could explain this concept of People Debt. What does that mean? And how does it manifest itself in the business?


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah. For better or worse, we all have an experience with debt, whether it's a mortgage, a business loan, or, the kind of maxed-out credit cards that you cut up and hide in the freezer — no judgments from me there — but debt is what you borrow from the future for today. And personal and business finances aren't the only places we see this occurring. So engineering teams have adopted this term technical debt to describe the kind of compromises that you accept for temporary increases in velocity. And there's a decrease in long-term velocity as these compromises become bumps you have to work around in the future.

So, in tech, as in finance, we accrue this debt as a shortcut to the end result and the same applies to HR. So in startups, it's not unusual to take an easy, what my co-founder terms ‘quick and dirty’ approach. To expedite the delivery of what they see is they think will be a great culture, right?

So we've seen this in the past with ping pong tables or dogs in the office. Or “Let's put in a share option scheme,” or “Yay, unlimited holiday.” Despite whatever impact these small perks might have on employment, they do very little in terms of furthering the business.

Actually, there is some kind of really fundamental aspects of a building an organization, which needs to be put in place. So when we think about HR debt, it's really borrowing and compromising on your long-term future to solve in the short term, because you're running around chasing your tail, doing a million things.

But actually, what we try and do and help companies work through is like, how can you plan for the longer term, how can we actually put in the foundations to help the organization scale and grow? Because it's not just a debt that's for the HR team to pay, the whole business will be left, feeling the effects of a fairly hefty bill. And there's a quote from a chap called Steve Blank who turned it in organizational debt, which is just when things should be going great. HR debt can turn a growing company into a chaotic nightmare, which sums it up perfectly.


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, it does it sure does. In your experience, is this something that is almost inevitable that companies go through, or is it avoidable given the right set of infrastructures?


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- It's one of those things. It's avoidable if you target it early enough, the way it manifests itself is really through poor communication practices. Like a lack of expectations, no clarity on goals, no of clarity on how to progress in the business, and no understanding of what you're being assessed against in a performance review. No clear structures for recruitment or hiring, like everyone asking the same question, interview to interview to interview.

And all of these things are quite structured and formulaic, right? Like we've identified a lot of the key areas where they manifest. So it's all about really broaching these early enough so that you're able to solve for the longer term as opposed to leaving them and seeing what happens. We term it as growing an organization by design, as opposed to default. When it's left to grow by default, that's when it gets really problematic. When you grow the organization by design and you put time thinking about people operations as a product, as Jess Hayes, one of your former guests, talks about quite a lot.

 When you put that kind of product mentality, energy, you think, what am I building? Who is the user? How are they going to use it? What's the kind of fundamental commercial need for the business for this to be in place, then it can really help you. So as long as you tackle it early, like when you're somewhere between 10 and 50 people, you can put yourself in a good spot. But I would say at the same time, that it's pretty much inevitable, right? 


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah. Yeah, that's super interesting. And so we now have a clear picture as to what the problems are. Now let's dive into some of those solutions then, and the ways that businesses can solve this. Perhaps we should start with career progression frameworks as a starting point. Tell us about how a business should approach that if they're doing this for the first time.


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- It's a really interesting area of people operations, one that has almost gone through several waves. Often, when you think of career progression and leveling, the first thing that comes to my mind is a massive bank, or large consultancy. And you're like, okay, cool. I start off as an associate. I become a principal, then I moved to a VP or an EVP or GM, whatever.

You're like, okay, then I'm going to have this massive ream of like specific skills that I need to fulfill at every single level. It becomes like a really big checkbox exercise and that causes a lot of frustration itself. So it can definitely bring problems when it's not put together well. But the way that we tend to see this new way for career progression coming through, is like, how can we set stage-appropriate expectations for people in the business? What do we expect of people across the organization in a broader set of competency, so things like how you communicate or how you work together as a team, but then give some examples of what that means. As opposed to going into this ream of skills. 

So you move it from being this horrendous tech box exercise, where you're like, this person must fulfill every skill before they get a promotion to this point where it's like a founding document. And it forms the foundations for having great conversations between managers and their teams.

And that's what people are craving, right? Is that not getting really tangible, useful feedback from their managers, like that's the problematic piece.

So when we're thinking about what career progression looks like, it's really all about creating space for great conversations to happen and giving people an opportunity to close a perception gap, which is probably an area worth thinking about.


Andy Parker (host)

- Yep, absolutely. And then obviously the salary benchmarking must fit into it with all this somewhere. How does that tie in? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, it's an interesting one, that one, right? There's so many ways to build your broader compensation plans and approach philosophy. You're seeing this even more with everyone being remote right now. Do we tie this to a city? Do we tie this to levels? Do we tie this to skills? What kind of rates do we want to pay within a certain market? Do we want to pay some teams, the 50th percentile in some teams, the 90th percentile, because we know that machine learning engineers in Berlin are really hard to come by.

But I don't know, like customer success people, little bit easier to find. Therefore we can pay a little bit lower than the market, or against the average. When you're working through these problems, it can be really helpful to think about not just the benchmarks themselves but how you're actually going to apply this and what this means for your teams.

And I think that's the big thing, right? What's going to be the right approach for us as a business? What aspects and values do we have that could influence this in the first place and how should that play out and align with the progression framework? So it might be like, we have certain bandings for certain levels. It might be like, we completely decouple it, also fine. It might be like, we stick to out core market rates or it could be, I've seen some companies go, we want to have a fixed rate. And there is one salary the calculator spits out. And that's what we got.

Which, actually, we employed at Peacon and I was amazed, very few people were unhappy with the number and walked away from a role at Peacon just because of a singular number, which was great to see. So it shows, competition plays a role in why people choose the company, but it's not the be-all and end-all for sure.


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, absolutely. There are obviously many other components that come into consideration that aren't there? So then we've got the career progression framework and obviously then the compensation framework as well, but then you touched on the fact that obviously ultimately what people need is great feedback from their managers. How do you build those processes in order to create an environment where there is great professional development? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- It’s a topic I'm super passionate about at the moment. You must've seen this at Leapsome, watching people move from this annual performance review, this position where you're like, cool let's bring in all the recency bias in the world into this piece of feedback, right?

Andy, can you tell me what you ate last Friday? 


Andy Parker (host)

- No chance.


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Exactly right. If you can't tell me what you had for lunch, how on earth are you going to know what that person on your team was doing really well last January and managers are notoriously bad at keeping track of these things in the interim, right?

So you've got obviously a few emerging models, like this idea of continual performance, which I've got a bit of a love/hate relationship with, because it means everything and nothing all in one, like as a term. And it can mean to some people like, “yeah, I'm going to give really useful, tangible, regular feedback”. To others, it can be like I don't know what this means for me and I feel uncomfortable giving regular feedback, so I'm just going to revert and ignore it and not do anything with it, right? It depends on the capabilities of the managers and the team. And I think what we're seeing at the moment as a really solid foundational process, once you've got the career progression framework in place, that sets the expectations, and that's the key that is often missing.

We talk about this idea of a perception gap that often exists, “So I'm employee X and I think I'm this good, like I'm doing pretty well“. Then, “I'm manager of employee X, and I think they're doing this good.” And this is the bit that they don't talk about, right? No one wants to discuss that, but it's really uncomfortable, and managers hate having uncomfortable conversations. We've interviewed over 1,200 managers over the last two years, and the single biggest challenge that they always cite as the area they want to improve at and the area they recognize as being an issue is broaching what they term as difficult conversations, and most of those aligned to compensation and performance, right?

So if you've got the career progression as a founding document, it makes it much easier to talk about those expectations, to have open and candid feedback. But the really big thing is you've got to train the managers to be able to do this. I don't know if this is something that Leapsome notices as well, the quality of feedback is pretty much always aligned to the quality of the manager who's able to give it, their ability to have competence, to give it well. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, absolutely. You touched on the importance of the individual manager there. But what really is the role and responsibility of the people operations team in order to help facilitate that development of managers? How does that sort of balance play out? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- It's like a hub and spoke model, right? You want enough centralization that there is a clear process, that everyone understands what the clear process is, but there's organizational consistency.

We are consistent on what great feedback looks like. We're consistent on what the expectations are. We're consistent around our approach to pay rises, things like that. But then that's when you want to start bringing the manager's personality into it, when it comes to not just what great feedback looks like that, but how you play each peer person on the team.

We often talk with managers around this idea of chess versus checkers. So an average manager is playing a game of checkers, right? They're not thinking strategically about the longer term for the organization, they’re thinking much more transactionally, and they're playing each character as if they weren't the same. But the best managers, they understand those individual motivations and strengths of each person on their team.

They're playing a game of chess, right? And they can strategically build and develop their team by focusing on those strengths, like coaching those strengths, giving really good feedback around how to continuously develop those, weaknesses as well. But they focus much more on building a team to counter weaknesses as opposed to trying to force everyone to do exactly the same.

Again, I'm going to call on Jess too much, but she picked this up really well, right? Like when building a People Ops team, it's not about building a kind of set of Russian dolls who all fit on top of each other. It's about, ”We need some people who could do a bit of engineering, we've got this skill here that could make them super good at learning some data analysis.“ I think the role of the manager is really understanding that team's strengths and then being able to help with the feedback around that. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. And what does great manager development look like, then? And is that really the people operations team's responsibility to make sure that there are good components and processes in place for training the managers? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- I wouldn't say this is the responsibility, the people operations team, I'd say this is CEO-level responsibility, right? You'll often see these Twitter threads about “What should a CEO focus on? They must be great at hiring, they must be great at fundraising.“ But I often see either CEO or COO, depending on the size of the business, also has to be great at building a team who can develop those beneath them continuously, right? That team's constantly gotta be thinking in terms of “how do I give away my Legos? How can I constantly look to improve the way that I set expectations to delegate to people?“ So it's not really the responsibility of an HR team to make sure that it's in place. Yeah, they might facilitate it, but it's the responsibility of the founders and the leadership team to make sure that other managers or leaders who are coming into the business have all the tools they need to be successful. And that's what we see as common issue is they're like, “Yeah, you were so amazing at this job, please take this role as manager“. Or, even worse, they've designed the organization where the only route to progress is to become a manager, which is so common, this is how companies have been structuring things since the 1920s. So you've gotta be a people manager, but actually if you design your organization with dual tracks, let people be great ICs or let people be great managers, then I think you can remove that single bar to development.

And at the same time, you can start to remove this idea that men of middle managers are completely useless and a waste of time. I think we've simply been promoting the worst people or the people who aren't necessarily best suited to management roles. And therefore, if you can think about, how does org design fit with managing development, then you can put yourself in a really good.

Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, that makes sense. I'd love to shift gears and talk about employee engagement. What's your opinion on how a business should be measuring employee engagement? How should they be structuring their engagement surveys, if they should be doing those sorts of processes? And what's your view on how a business can really be capturing feedback from the employees in order to to make improvements. 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, it's a really good question. Obviously engagement has been one of those things that's a bit of a buzzword over the last say five to 10 years. And it's definitely got its place, but it's a really interesting one. Having worked for an employee engagement business, I've seen some pros and some cons. There are a lot of pros, like actually soliciting feedback from your team, listening to it, and really importantly, acting on it.  It's no point just having a dashboard, you really got to help managers act upon it and make changes in the business, that's the big reason it should exist. 

Gift and a curse, it can become a place where people become a little bit entitle from time to time. Maybe start moaning about “there are not enough avocados in the fridge”, that is a genuine response I've seen before. Or my personal favorite, when someone was complaining to me because we had Spotify set up in the office, and they were complaining to me that the recommendations on Spotify, because it was their account linked to the Sonos system, that their recommendations were being messed up. And this was incredibly unfair and that it was very important that we needed to buy a company Spotify account immediately. I was like, come on. 

It's a gift from the course, right? When it's done really well, and yeah, when you're structuring good questions, like understanding what people's workload looking like, having useful check-ins to understand, how can I further help you as a manager, guide and support and develop you and looking at like the broader themes and how they turns into turn interactions, it's really good. But a couple of areas it can become troublesome, using it as a replacement for having great managers and having those managers have conversations, or when you just get a situation where there's a whole bunch of entitlement, which isn't so fun. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think there's potentially a gap there, isn't there? In terms of what's important for the business and what's important to the employee in some cases. 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- It's right. And that gap, or flush point, is something that we see so much in, in our work. You gotta really finely balance the commercial needs of the business, what are the people’s needs of the business? And how can we make sure that we craft and build people and processes that support commercial outcomes, whilst also bearing in mind that we want to build a place that people have the opportunity to be really successful. And one where we're honest and true to what we say we're going to be okay. 

As per our brew dogs issue last week, when they said that they're the nicest company in the world and they're saving the world and their employees said that it's a horrendous hell hole of a business to work for.


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, that letter went quite viral, didn't it? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- It's can’t have been a fun week to be the BrewDog CEO, but then, you stick us up on a pedestal and you say these things then you're setting yourself up, right?


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, exactly. That letter was circulated in our Slack community and we'll make sure that we link to it in the show notes as well for the people who haven't yet seen it. It does make an interesting read. And you of course said about how you need to turn this feedback into action at the end of the day. Do you have a sort of tangible playbook as such for distilling this feedback and actually turning it into something that creates results and then the employees can see that you're taking action rather than just collecting the feedback and leaving it on a shelf?


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, it's a, it's an interesting one that, and again, like a super-fine balance between saying you're going to take action and then just actually just doing the darn thing. Ways that we've helped a few companies with this, is like splitting, like starting to split out, like some of the themes that you're seeing. And then either assigning small working groups. Say if you've got a thematic issue around goal setting within the business, like how the vision of the company connects to what I'm supposed to be doing on a day-to-day basis. So when you put together a small working group, not like an executive-level thing where you discuss it at the leadership team meeting week in, week out, a massive waste of time. But a small working group to analyze the feedback, start to put together plans that they can bring those goals to life, and then act on it super quickly and be like, “we've listened to your feedback, these are the plans that we've made, these are the changes that we're going to implement. If these changes work, great, but let us know if they're not working for you and if we need to do more, and we'll continue to work on this.“ So that's one way. 

The other way is obviously on an individual basis. So like specific targeting, you might see one manager who their entire team is like, “help, I'm drowning, this is horrendous.“ Whereby you're speaking to them very directly and be like, “look, we're getting super clear feedback here that your team is drowning in workload. Do you have enough people on your team? Are you giving them enough space? Are you encouraging them to actually take breaks and not just encourage them, but making space for them to take some breaks?“ We're seeing this one a lot with remote burnout, a lot of managers will say, “yeah, take next Monday off.“ And the employees don't need next Monday off because that's not going to do five days working four days instead, a great manager will be like, “I'm going to work with you. I can see you've got these three key priority things which need to come up, and delegating that one to so and so, I'm delegating this one to so and so. I got to make sure that you can take a break properly and you don't have to think about or worry about this stuff.“ So there's the individual basis. 

And then it's like the longer-term ones, right? So which of these actually feed into deep-rooted company issues and a much more symptomatic, at which point you're like, “as CEO, I need to look at these, and this is where we push it to the founder“. And you're like, these are things that you need to better embed within your organization to help the culture thrive. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, there are many good points in there. And then to add to that, have you seen any communication formats that work particularly well for them in communicating this back into the organization?

Obviously, some that come to mind are all company emails, email chains, all-hands meetings, these sorts of things. Have you seen any that work particularly well or others that you would potentially avoid? 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- The only one to avoid is Slack messages. It's like a fricking Bloomberg feed, right? Like you're going to lose sight of that in seconds. And it's its lack of permanence bleeds into how your employees will then take that on board or think about it.  

If it's something that's a permanent major business decision to shift, be super clear with the team about that. So it would probably need reiterating, not just in the email, but also at an all-hands. Or if it's a big change, do an AMA in your all-hands, get the founder up when we're talking about the founder making structural changes. Have the founder there, get people to ask them questions in advance, and be able to come and be vulnerable about what you're doing, what you're working on, and what these changes will mean in practice, and why you believe they're important, show that you actually care, I think that's an important one. 

But don't get me started on all-hands. We'll be here for another hour. 

Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, I can imagine that's a big topic. Yeah. And so I would love to pick your brain a little bit in terms of how you have thought about your own grid development along the way. Having progressed to the VP of People, have you come up with any frameworks or thought processes for yourself in terms of developing in the world of people ops. 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, it always changes in shifts. There are three areas that I like to bear in mind. And this kind of helps me change and adapt, because my role has completely changed and adapted over the years. I started off and was doing a combination of screening calls and sales calls, that's pretty much it. I moved into internal recruitment, where it's much more about stakeholder management process-driven aspects, and still the screening calls. But then you're moving it to people operations, like what are the commercial needs? How can we build a people-centric organization? And now I run a consultancy, so I'm the founder of this, so I've got to work on everything. And I'd start to hand off bits where possible. 

It’s like a diagram with three circles. What does the company need? What do I love doing? And what am I great at? And you've got to balance these three areas constantly. If I take screening calls, I never want to do a phone screen again. I'm probably quite good at it, but it's not a big thing for me, but sometimes it's useful for the company. So I don't want to spend all of my time doing this, but I know it's useful for the company. There are other areas, when I look at my development. Over the last few years, I had to get better at sales, and tested my approach there. And actually, I really enjoy that now. To make this useful for the business, I should spend more time on that, because my enjoyment around, like certain aspects of the process and delivery, my co-founder Al is much better, so maybe he should be spending time on that and I'll spend more time on sales or giving workshops or training managers, because that's where I can add more value. So I see it in those three areas and then balance it over time. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Thanks for sharing those tips. As a final topic to wrap up, I know it's a big one and lots of companies are now navigating through this change, but perhaps you could talk a little bit about what you're seeing with your clients broadly in the industry as to how companies are tackling the remote versus in-person challenge following the pandemic. Perhaps you could talk a bit about some of the trends in terms of how you're seeing your customers tackle this. And if there are any tips in terms of things that really need to be considered or big red flags that also need to be taken into account. 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- I'll keep it broad at the beginning, I don't think anyone has the answer. I think companies are struggling at the highest level because they don't have the answers and no one has the answers, the secondary struggling because there are two issues at play. One is how do we work well in a distributed sense, and how do we work in a distributed sense in a pandemic? And then in the third piece, is what comes next? And that's the really hard piece. Are we going to remain fully remote? Do we have an office? Do we have some offices? What's the function tof the offices going to be? Or do we want to bring everyone back together? 

If I'm thinking about one challenge that I can clearly see that I think everyone's blindly walking into is that hybrid work is going to be the hardest one to implement. But, it's clear from all the surveys out there that it is absolutely the most popular choice, which is a really interesting piece, and I think a lot of companies are underweighting just how hard it's going to be to make a hybrid situation work from a learning perspective, from a management perspective, from a just configuration of your office perspective, from a development perspective, from a compensation perspective, from a communication perspective. All of these areas need thinking about. 

Whereas at least if you are fully distributed, you've got to go, async first you run all your meetings separately, and that's fine, there's a clear practice way of doing things. And actually, if you're co-located, again, it might not be perfect, but there's a pretty clear playbook for making it work quite well for your teams. But I think the hybrid model is going to be the really hard one. And, the company are kind of thinking about this, I can't think of any companies that are actually doing this really well off the top of the head. I think it's just going to be something that people figure out as they go, some things are gonna work, some things are gonna fail. And I think the key thing is the planning, the strength of your communication skills as a leadership team, the strength of your ability to work as a broader business, and being super intentional about everything, that will certainly give people a good starting foundation. So I've given you no answers. 


Andy Parker (host)

- I think as you say, it’s very challenging and it's very telling that no examples come to mind in terms of companies that are navigating this well just yet because if they were, then obviously would be pointing towards great examples and clearly it's something that everybody's facing right now.


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Yeah, absolutely. I can give you examples of distributed, Getlab are doing this pretty darn well, Automatic is doing this pretty darn well, I'd like to be doing it for years. Co-located, a family member of mine works at JP Morgan and, don't tell the government, but they have basically been co-located for the last six months, or at least his entire department has been, and he's like, suddenly we're just much more productive again. And I think this half in, half out, that's the really tough one because you're like, do we align with distributed, do we align the co-located? If not, there's no playbook. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, absolutely. And to wrap up with a final question, the audience, all people operation professionals, if you could recommend a book or two to the audience, what would your top recommendations be?


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- I should probably just pick them off the shelf behind me. Here we go, number one. It's backwards because of the video, but Richard Taylor's “Misbehaving”. It's about the making of behavioral economics, so I think one of the most fascinating things for me with working in people operation is this understanding that the people don't do what you tell them to do, just because you tell them to do it right. As daily terms that people aren't econs, right. So when you when governments come up with economic policy, they base it around this idea that people will blindly submit to the will of the economic policy. Whereas actually — and this is super obvious in a startup, right — people don't just blindly submit to what they're told by leadership, and we're seeing this more now than ever, and you've got to understand and rationalize and get to the psychological aspects of your approach as a business, if you're going to be super successful.

Other ones that I've found to be really good. Like this one is super obvious, Patty McCord's “Powerful”, some bits are good, some bits are bad, work out what works for your organization. Radical candor is all well and good, but the radical part can often mean just being a bit of an ass to someone. Be careful that you make sure it works the values. 

And then actually the one I really want to share, this now you won't find this on many bookshelves. But for those who have been through the British army, they'll know this. So this is handed out to officers when they pass out. And actually, I would say that if I'm thinking about a book on leadership, this is the single most fascinating book I've read on leadership to date. It pulls from journals, diaries, reports from military leaders across the years. When you think about a startup, you go to work and quite fundamentally, if you mess up, nobody dies. So imagine a situation where actually you're responsible for the lives of other humans, you'd say the lives of men, because predominantly in the British army back in the day, it has been the lives of men. To ground some of you, it gives a bit of grounding to it, it's not a life and death situation. Actually, there are far harder situations. And how did people deal with the feelings and the thoughts of men within those situations, in these days now, the feelings of everyone, and how can you work to be an empathetic and impactful leader in a situation where no one's gonna die.


Andy Parker (host)

- Super interesting. And I think the fact that you shared three books there on three very different topics speaks to the breadth of people operations and the skill sets required in order to to create a great company culture at the end of the day. 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- I'd say that's about right.


Andy Parker (host)

- Excellent. This has been a fascinating conversation, and thanks so much. 


Matt Bradburn (guest)

- Cheers for having me, Andy. It's been a pleasure as always. 


Andy Parker (host)

- Excellent. Thanks. Cheers. Bye.

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Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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