PART I: Culture First Conference Recap


We were so fortunate to be invited to attend Culture Amp’s first ever Global Culture First Conference in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, and we were thoroughly impressed, educated, and entertained for the entirety of the two-day conference. As devoted users of Culture Amp’s platform and fellow “People Geeks” (an affectionate term used to describe their loyal community), we had some high expectations and let’s just say they did not disappoint! We covered all of the jam-packed sessions we attended on our Instagram stories, but so many of you requested we do a recap on the blog so here are our biggest takeaways from Day 1


“Power, Not Empowerment” Keynote by Patty McCord

If you’ve read Netflix’s culture deck or her best-seller, Powerful- Building Cultures of Freedom and Responsibility (our July Book of the Month!), you know how badass Patty McCord is. She really and truly is the most savage People + Culture professional on the planet. Here are some of our takeaways from her session, many of which we’ll expand upon in later blog posts…

  • You don’t have to empower your employees if you don’t take away their power (through senseless bureaucracy and archaic policies and procedures) to begin with.

  • Management’s only job is to put together amazing teams who do great work on time. To do so, they must deeply understand the business and executive leadership must trust them to make informed decisions.

  • Hire for the team/company you want to be 6 months from now.

    • Visualize what a “great” team looks like 6 months from now.

    • Ask yourself, “what’s occurring differently than it is now?”, “what do we need to know that we don’t know now?”, “what skills and experiences are we missing?”

  • Patty’s algorithm for employee success is= “Is what you love to do, that you’re extraordinarily good at doing, something we need someone to be great at?”

  • Strive to have a “Team” Environment, not a “Family” Environment (full blog post on this coming soon)

  • As HR leaders and business owners, we need to

    • Own compensation and pay equity. Pay people what they’re worth to you!

    • Stop investigating sexual harassment after it happens. Confront it when it happens and fire the harassers. Plain and simple.


“A Quiet Revolution” Keynote by Susan Cain

Many of the brightest and most successful CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk, are introverts, yet this perception of an ideal leader being bold, alpha, and gregarious still persists. Best selling author and TED Talk speaker with over 19 million views, Susan Cain, taught us about the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Here are our takeaways…

  • As leaders, we need to consider an employee’s temperament (introvert/extrovert). Introverts typically prefer to meet one-on-one, can be uncomfortable speaking up in meetings, and will have difficulty focusing in a high traffic or overly stimulating work environment.

  • We need introverts and extroverts in leadership positions! Introverts can tolerate the solitude creativity requires and extroverts can champion ideas and get buy-in from stakeholders.

  • Tips for introverts to succeed at work:

    • Speak up early in meetings

    • Plan out what you want to say or ask in meetings in advance

    • Make a concerted effort to express your enthusiasm, appreciation, and other emotions in a way your team can feel it

  • Tips for extroverts to support introverts at work:

    • Hold space for others to speak up and contribute

    • Engage with them one-on-one

    • Give them advanced notice to prep for meetings and presentations; don’t force them to do something on the spot

    • Don’t get offended if they don’t express outward enthusiasm in the same way you do


“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” Keynote by Adam Grant

If you aren’t already familiar with Adam Grant’s work, get ready to be amazed! He’s a best-selling author, Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven years straight, and has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 10 Most Influential Thinkers and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 (#goals). In his keynote, he shared his research and insights on how leaders can build creative cultures.

  • Take risks on novel ideas

    • As leaders, we tend to play it safe and gravitate toward what’s worked in the past, but if we want cultures of creativity and innovation, we must tolerate and reward originality and bet on some crazy ideas.

  • Create psychological safety

    • Let employees take risks without being punished. We’ve all heard the saying, “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”. Adam warns us that if we preach this to our employees we’ll never hear about the biggest problems in the organization, the ones that are too big for one person to solve.

  • Facilitate knowledge sharing

    • Build check-in points into your employee lifecycle. For example, after an employee’s first 90 days, conduct an interview with them where you ask how they’re acclimating, what their passionate about, and how the company can improve.

  • Make the unfamiliar familiar

    • New ideas can usually feel scary or weird. Instead of shooting ideas down right away, allow them to feel familiar in the organization. We know from psychological research that people need to hear or interact with a new idea 10-12 times before it can sink in. Encourage your employees, whenever possible, to liken new ideas to similar strategies the team has tried in the past.

  • Put your worst foot forward

    • When your employees are presenting novel ideas, have them lead with the objections or weaknesses. This strategy mentally transitions the listener from the defensive to the offensive, where they can participate in how to make the idea work.

  • Bury culture fit

    • Hire for culture contribution instead of culture fit. When we use “would I want to get drinks with this person” as a hiring criterion, we end up selecting employees who are similar to us and we weed out diversity. The goal is to enrich the culture and continuously add to it instead of trying to keep it the same.


Stay tuned for next week's post where we'll be sharing all of our takeaways from Day 2 of the conference!