Have you ever wondered how you can build a company culture that thrives and helps your business and employees achieve massive success? In this episode, Camille welcomes Christine Wzorek, the creator of White Label Advisors which helps create a culture and inclusion of diversity within businesses to help them scale.
For me, it’s never been about being in the position of authority. It’s more about how am I helping grow the people around me and getting everyone in sync in a way that we trust each other, that we respect each other enough that we can be openly honest, and transparent with each other and not afraid to bring opinions, perspectives, and potentially debate at the table.
Christine shares her journey working in HR and the different scenarios that she encountered to now helping client businesses align their values within their company culture. She gives her advice on how businesses can raise awareness and identify areas of improvement and how they can start with the transformational change to improve their business culture and build trust and alignment within the company so that it becomes a business that people want to work at.
There are so many areas of opportunity and women ultimately having that voice being treated as equals and us understanding some of the factors leading to this paradox that we have right now will help move things forward for women in business.
If you’re interested in learning how to grow your business and build a company culture that helps you and your employees succeed, tune into this episode to hear Christine’s advice on business management and HR.
The sooner that you start enhancing your people program, that talent program, the sooner you’re going to see better results financially and with your customer base.
Connect with Christine:
Follow her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/christinewzorek
CHRISTINE WZOREK [0:00]
How I approach these situations is I let everyone know that we treat everyone with dignity and everyone at every kind of exchange should know their individual value.
CAMILLE WALKER [0:20]
So, you want to make an impact. You’re thinking about starting a business sharing your voice. How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We’ll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.
Hey, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to build a company that has a culture that thrives, you have got to listen to Shoe Dog, the story of Nike. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. And I’m really excited about today’s guest because she talks a lot about how to instill and create a culture that your employees are comfortable in and that people feel that they can really achieve their full potential. And in return, you get a full investment on the potential of your business when it comes to the bottom line.
So, today’s guest is Christine Wzorek, who is the creator of White Label Advisors. She’s been featured in many magazines, helped so many companies achieve massive, massive success in creating a culture that helps them to feel aligned with their values, helps employees want to stay, and create a company that thrives. So, let’s dive into this episode.
Welcome back everyone to Call Me CEO. This is your host, Camille Walker, and I am so thrilled today because we are speaking with Christine Wzorek, who is the creator of White Label Advisors and helps to create culture and inclusion of diversity of business as they grow and scale. But where do you start from the beginning if you want to create a culture that you really love in your business? Now, I’m so excited to talk to you, Christine. I hope I explained that in a simple way that really includes everything you do. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Camille, thank you so much for having me. As we’re just talking, I’ve listened to some of your episodes and I absolutely love them. So, it truly is an honor for me to be here with you today.
That means so much to me. I was just saying as we popped on just before we started recording, it’s so fun to interview a fellow Utahan and also a woman that is making waves. You’ve done a lot of things in the corporate world within Utah that have made such a big impact already and I want to hear about your journey. How did that start? How did you get to where you are now?
Yeah. Thanks for asking. I like to say with my profession, HR generally, I don’t know if it found me or I found it. I graduated from Utah Valley University with a business management degree and just thought that was a nice general degree that I could do a lot with. I was very passionate about anthropology and archaeology and I loved literature in school, but from a career perspective, I didn’t feel like those were the best ways to get started.
And so, it’s just interesting to see how things have evolved where now very much with my work, it has this anthropological emphasis and a study of human behavior and human interaction. But it’s been an amazing journey working with smaller type businesses, non-profits, to put myself through college, and then just being very lucky to be referred into a couple groups where I had some great opportunities to make a big impact with full-scale integrated HR program that really took care of the people and returned great business results and financial outcomes and thought it would be wonderful to take those principles and apply them to many organizations at one time, so we could have a greater impact for this transformational change that we will support.
Okay. Those are some really big words. Basically, what you’re telling me is you make businesses that people want to work at. I love reading about business culture, which is funny because I didn’t study business in college. It wasn’t something that I ever thought I would be going into in regard of interest level, but one of the books that I just finished was Shoe Dog, the story of Nike. Are you familiar with that book?
Oh my gosh. I love it so much because so much about their integrated culture was uniquely their own and they didn’t realize how bizarre or different it was. It happened organically. And I think that that’s something that’s so rare that you create something organically that people want anyway where I would imagine more often, people like you need to get involved and say, “Okay, from the beginning, let’s start with some building tools of really creating an atmosphere where people feel heard and safe and also celebrating their ability to change the company for the better.”
Yeah. I love that you mentioned Shoe Dog because every culture is unique and there are these incredible organic elements to how they form, yet I believe it’s also very important for that to be intentional.
And I like to share with CEOs that they are the lifeblood of the company. Their personality, their proclivities, their communication styles really distill down through the organization and we’ll see entire groups of people emulate and model their leader’s behaviors. And so, there are these organic elements to it, yet how do we present it in a way to offer up intentionality with what we want to achieve as a group?
And as we were talking before we started recording is with White Label, we really help our clients unpack what their talent philosophy is. So, what level of transparency do they want to provide within the company? What standards do they want to set? What level of accountability are they going to require amongst the organization?
So, at each level, and through these level of intersections with our executive leadership and the employee base and the manager group and then HR, how accountable are we holding ourselves to each other and is that really bidirectional and reciprocal? And then, from there, how inclusive are we being and how are we actively supporting inclusion?
And I think that really comes first to set those characteristics, and then from there, we can say and determine what our mission, vision, values are and ultimately our purposes in org. And that is this foundational layer so then we can start to integrate that into our recruiting process and then translate that over to performance management and the standards that we’re setting to measure everyone by.
And measurement isn’t a bad thing. It just helps us know if we’re on par or not and do we need to adjust things so that we can continue to achieve the initiatives to support this overall vision? But we want all of that integrated so the employee experience making it better to come to work every day more engaging and my manager actually cares about me. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. It’s just this better work experience and connection with everyone involved in the org.
It’s interesting because my husband, he runs a law firm. He runs the business side of a law firm and he’s over the management of the firm. He’s over the HR piece of that and this is actually a topic that we talk about a lot because it’s something that the culture and the happiness of who’s there and how do you integrate that.
And what I appreciate about him is that he’s asking my opinion as a woman. And oftentimes, I will offer up something and say, “Have you thought about it this way?” Because I would see a discrepancy too as a woman in XYZ example and he’s like, “I don’t have that bias. That was already there before I came into the company. So, how do I change that?” This is literally a conversation we had this week.
So, I want to talk about two things. One specifically being how do we start or recreate a culture if there had been some missteps with prior leadership? And how do we create an atmosphere specifically for what women are wanting in the workforce because I think that our voices are now being heard, which is hallelujah, finally, we’re having these discussions and inclusivity and diversity?
And it’s a tall order. This isn’t an easy thing because we all have our own gender bias. We all have our lens that we’ve seen life through. No matter who we are, we have biases within us. So, please walk us through how do we create an environment that is inclusive and diverse and also includes everyone’s viewpoint so that we can recruit in a way that is effective?
Thanks for asking and I’m so happy to hear that your husband is thinking of things in that way and has the capacity for intellectual humility to reach out and seek other perspectives knowing that he has one perspective and he can see beyond that. So, props to him and props to you for helping him recognize that as well.
And that’s such a phenomenal question, Camille. I’m going to answer it in a few different parts. First is having that awareness that there is improvement to be made, the DE&I side, this social side of incorporating more people and recognizing that we still have some strides to make, yet the progress is great. And the conversation that we’re having now is phenomenal because it will help get us there.
I think organizations, if they are trying to create some change or transform the leadership group so it is more inclusive and more intellectually humble and seeking other perspectives is the transparency that, hey, maybe we didn’t get it right initially and certainly not placing blame, but just being open to the fact that I think we have improvements to make and we are consciously working to make things better and we are open to everyone’s input. And it might not be a very fast change, but know we care about it and we’re looking forward to this end state that we are seeking to achieve and it’s going to take everyone to get us there.
And that acknowledgement of the awareness and the intent to change and improve builds a lot of trust and it helps align everyone to this new vision of this new end state. And then, from there, what do women want in business? Ultimately, we want equitability. We want to see equality within our leadership tiers. We want to see equal representation.
Statically, we have steep drop-offs in diversity and female leadership representation once we move above first line managers. And we have to be very intentional as a business community in Salt Lake regionally and nationally about providing and enhancing our network channels so that we’re not adhering to this just like me bias where we’re networking with our friends.
If we’re looking at a predominantly male leadership team, they’re reaching out to other males that were their friends. Maybe very well-qualified, but because of that narrow network channel, we’re not really providing opportunity across the board and reaching out. It’s not reaching down, but it’s reaching out and bringing more people into that.
And women essentially want to be able to contribute at the table and I think yes, there’s a level of leaning in and women statistically, we don’t go after opportunities as early as men do because we’re waiting to be perfect in it or being very close to perfect and near perfect instead of just saying, “Hey, I think I can figure this out and yeah, I’ve got the skills to do it and I’m confident and I’m just going to go for it.”
There are things that we can do that would help move us in that direction faster, yet there are many factors to this paradox that we’re in. And I believe a big piece of that is expanding the network channels and more people reaching out to people that are not like them and to help bring them in.
I think a good example of it is some of these CEO networking groups that are ongoing and they’re fantastic and are well-meaning. But when we look at the actual members of that group, it’s still very predominantly male and a lot of female CEOs are becoming CEOs or moving up into C-suite positions because they’re having to find a new path or flow to get there.
I’d like to use an example of a few years ago, I was talking to a headhunter ensuring that because of some of my work that I’ve done, I thought a COO role is really, really interesting and I was well-equipped to be successful in a COO role. And he laughed and said, “That’s never going to happen.” And Bloomberg, probably a couple of months ago now, they were talking about how statically women are not advancing to this C-suite level through those traditional paths. And oftentimes they’re now moving out, starting their own business, consulting and moving around some of those blockers to make it to a C-suite position and it’s taking more time.
What’s something interesting is our team was at UNLEASH Conference at Las Vegas at the end of May. It was a phenomenal conference, more of a global HR tech conference, and so they had really fantastic local representation. And just comparing the ages of the females on the stage to the males on the stage, the females were much older. It takes us longer to get to those C-suite positions and there’s dynamics, factors into that. The familial breaks that not all women take, but some women take. But there’s so many areas of opportunity and women ultimately having that voice being treated as equals and us understanding some of the factors leading to this paradox that we have right now will help move things forward for women in business.
Yeah. I can testify to that with people that I’ve interviewed at that level many times they are hearing, “No, no, no” and the only way that they’re able to reach that level of the C-suite title is by doing their own business and creating that role because they don’t have to jump through the hoops that they would have to to be taken seriously at a level that men typically get to sooner.
And so, that’s really fascinating to me and I’m in the 90s now of my interviews and very much I can attest to that that if it’s a scenario where the CEOs are involved, it’s most often a business that they’ve done on their own because they found it so difficult to do it in other ways. So, that’s really, really interesting.
I’m curious about your own experience of creating this success and the path that you had for yourself. What was a time where you felt like you were in a position of authority with what you do where you felt like people are starting to take me seriously and what do you feel like the steps were that you had to take to get there? I’m curious about your journey in that regard.
I appreciate that question and it’s quite reflective for me. Yeah, I had the lucky opportunity where I was working for an education group and it was such a great experience because I reported up to the COO and the CFO. And the three of us, we had this great triangulation of a professional interaction at that company because the COO’s really wise and he realized people and money are everything for us. And so, if I worked together with the CFO and head of HR, it’s integrating strategy and it really was. And we were able to integrate everything very quickly starting from nothing.
And from there, I was referred into a restaurant development group and I hadn’t run a full-scale team yet. I had had one report up to that time and they were looking at me because they were ready to go through some significant M&A activity at a very deep interest in that for a few reasons. And they asked, “You haven’t run a large team before, so how do you know you can do it?” And I knew I could and, in that moment, I was very passionate about how I absolutely knew I could run a successful team. Just because I hadn’t had the opportunity yet, it was not predictive of me not being able to do it.
And then, I was able to share with them my plans for creating that team synergy and how to operationalize that team on behalf of the company and I appreciated one, that they trusted me that I was very authentic with that, but then two, for me, it’s never been about being in the position of authority. It’s more about how am I helping grow the people around me and getting everyone in sync in a way that we trust each other, that we respect each other enough that we can be open honest and transparent with each other and not afraid to bring opinions, perspectives, and potentially debate at the table? If we’re really trusting of each other and respect each other, we can share our opinions too.
And so, for me, it’s been how do I create that environment where people trust me and they trust each other and how am I growing the individuals along the way so that collectively we’re better together, we have greater impact together? And in that role, I was head of HR for a national group. We had 5,500 employees at one point and it was how are we taking care of each individual and how are we taking care of our families through this employment experience? And I was again lucky that I had the turst and that I was able to prove that out.
Yeah. I can tell you just from your response that that is why you have had so much success is because you’re looking for helping other people around you. It’s not about that authority or the power and that’s where people find the most success truly. So, that’s awesome.
And so, I’m curious now that we’re at this point of our conversation, I want to know what have been either the biggest hang-ups that companies have in creating that synergy or another way of putting it, what are the best steps for creating synergy within a company where people do have those levels of trust and the ability to share their opinion and to feel that value?
Yeah. Great question. I think the biggest hang-up is not realizing or understating that what happens with the people has a direct correlation to the bottom line and their successful outcomes. It is so intertwined. This is probably the best way that I can say it very simply.
And so, what do we do? How do we take that understanding and turn that into action? It’s realizing that our people are creating the product, they’re writing the code to eservice the customer. They’re interacting with the customer. They are designing the sales pipeline and the messaging for marketing. And through that, those products and services, we’re generating revenue.
And so, to ensure that the people can produce quality high output work, we need to take care of them, but beyond that, I think that’s a nice benefit from we understand that we’re connected as humans and COVID gave us so much insight into capabilities that we’ve had for a long time that we just haven’t harnessed, yet to how important it is to stay connected and what happens when we don’t have that.
And so, I think for companies that are looking at how can I return better results or again get the office manager running HR and I’m thinking about building a more robust HR team or I want to throw more of my budget allocation toward HR, is it worth it? Absolutely. And the sooner that you start enhancing your people program, that talent program, the sooner you’re going to see better results financially and with your customer base and understanding that it’s not just this DNA support expense that’s awash, it certainly is helping achieve those margins or those revenue goals that they have.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty a little bit. Are we talking about having company-held events? Are we talking about how we do the hiring? Are we talking about what we’re doing with interoffice interactions with emails? What is it that’s bringing us together when you get to that nitty gritty?
Sure. Yes, you’ve touched on very good points. I think what are we trying to achieve when we bring the team together and what is our system for doing that? Are we having all hands so our group can hear from the executive leadership team or the CEO whomever it is that’s really laying out this vision? Are we having team events directly with our team? What does it look like for division? Maybe a couple times a year.
So, yes, we have to get very specific on what company events are meaningful and then how do we design those in? And absolutely, with talent and acquisition you’re recruiting, what message are we sharing with the candidates to attract them? That’s a bidirectional relationship. They’re scoping us out as much as we’re analyzing their qualifications and we want to make sure it’s a good fit.
So, if we’re sharing that, if they come on board and there’s career opportunities and professional development opportunities, we actually have to have it integrated on the back-end and we have to be partnering with our management group and our leadership group so that they can execute on that. If we’re saying things here, but we’re not informing and not providing the tools to do it, then it’s just hot air. And those are the ways that we actually incorporate it in and we design it together.
I like that. So, it’s creating systems of accountability within groups for events on the very close knit as well as company-wide events.
So, I’m curious in your experience and I want to know if there’s one example that you could share with us and, of course, you don’t have to say the company exactly or who they are by name, but can you think of a company culture that you were able to change and what was the positive outcome from that? What was something that they had a vision for something and you were able to change it and what did that look like as far as I know that you said it can be measured both in the happiness of the employees but also the bottom line when it comes to the revenue of the company as a whole?
Yeah. That’s a great question. I’ve actually run into this specific cultural transformation scenario a couple times. And so I’ll share it, but coming into a culture where I would say it’s very introverted so that the general feel is what is the company doing for me? And I’m trying to choose my words carefully because I don’t want some of this to be negative, but it’s where it’s more introverted. Everyone’s more focused on themselves and not being mindful of the people around them.
And so, the opportunity there is helping these cultures understand that if we start to be mindful of each other and have a higher degree of intellectual humility and emotional intelligence, then what that does is it moves it from me and I start caring about Camille who’s sitting next to me and another person who’s sitting next to me more than I’m worried about myself. So, more than I’m worried about what people are saying about me or how they thought my presentation went, I feel like I messed up or whatever it was, and I’m starting to look out for Camille’s best interests.
And in that way, with our firm, we have something called social cohesion. And it’s this training where we really dive deep into that, but ultimately what it does is it create higher trust among the group and it starts and it reframes the mindset from very fixed to growth-oriented so that we understand that our individual contributions are well-received, well-recognized, and appreciated and with that comes success of our group. And if we continue to stay fixed mindset of having this fixed mindset of introverted, we’re really adverting our ability to achieve these goals and diminishing our collective impact. And so, that’s been a really fun transformation experience that I’ve been able to work on.
I love that. That reminds me so much of Brene Brown, I was just trying to look up the title of it, but it’s Leading Greatly. I have the book, okay, Daring Greatly. And she has another book, The Power of Vulnerability and it’s very much along those lines of we show up and she goes to the nth degree with this where she’s like, “Okay, everyone, we’re going to be very vulnerable. Tell me what’s going on.” It’s very much ingrained in her culture, but there’s pieces of it where I’m like, “Man.”
And she also one Dare to Lead. So, she has those three and it’s very much where it’s opening up yourself in that way where it’s not just a me mentality but an us and a we and there’s so much strength in that and I appreciate you sharing that because I think that’s really interesting.
So, I’m going to ask you a couple fire quick answer questions before we wrap up and I didn’t prepare her with this. So, I’m just going to rapid fire these and I’m curious what you say. Okay. So, number one, what do you think is best to do if an employee comes and says that they are upset with their current position and they want more pay? Is it best to give them the pay and assuming that will fix the problem? That’s option one. Move them to a new department because you appreciate their work and you think that that will solve the problem but keep the money the same or three, do both, giving them more money and putting them in a new department? What would you say to that question?
I’ll ask them clarifying questions first.
You can ask me too.
Okay. I would be interested to know if they felt like in their current role the expectations set at the beginning or when they accepted the position have been met.
Let’s say that their execution has been well done, but the leadership, they don’t love the leadership of that group.
I would suggest a transfer to another group without having the pay conversation because it’s more of a fulfillment and connection gap than it is a pay gap.
Okay, awesome. Okay, my next question is let’s say you have an employee who has said something disrespectful to another person within your team or in the company and others have noticed and it has made people uncomfortable. And we are very much in an environment where flippant comments don’t work anymore even when people say they think they’re kidding. And this is coming from an example of a few different scenarios that I know as well as my teenage son where it was no discussion, he was gone. So, I’m curious what your reaction would be to something like that where something was said that someone else found offensive.
Yeah. How I approach these situations is I let everyone know that we treat everyone with dignity and everyone at every exchange should know their individual value. And if a flippant comment was made, that person was not dignified with that comment. And as I am approaching you, the person that made that comment, I’m treating you with dignity and I want you to still understand that you have individual value and these are your strengths that I see.
So, just by way of example, are you happy that I treated you in this way? How else could I have approached this conversation with you, but I didn’t? And then, I think that's a really good use case for them to recognize and it puts them in that seat of I could have felt different if Christine would have approached the conversation differently. She didn’t. And I now am self-aware to the point where I can prompt my own change because I personally felt what that could have been like.
Yeah. I appreciate that. It was my son’s first job as a 14-year-old and they didn’t even give him a chance to explain his side of it and it was pretty heartbreaking, but a really good lesson where it’s like something where there was really no discussion. So, I’m curious how much you think outside of teenagers and now speaking of adults, at what point is something to a point where you’re like, “They should be fired?” Case-by-case, right?
Yeah, and just egregious. There’s always perspective to be had. I will say in your son’s case though, for the audience, we need to be very mindful one of our workforce demographics, but two, financial strategy really influences the type of workforce that we’re hiring on.
So, our companies that are just going over pure topline revenue, they typically are paying lower wages and having a broader workforce or more people in the seat per capita because they’re trying to pay low and produce high amounts of output, and then they’ll eventually switch to margin efficiencies if they have investors come in and start looking to books and tightening things up that way.
But for your son’s experience, that group, whoever it was, should understand that they are hiring a workforce where this is most likely the employee’s first job or second job and they have a responsibility to teach and train and educate these employees coming in what it is like to work in a professional atmosphere.
And I think we bear that responsibility to do that for the type of people we have coming in to work for us. And so, we see that a lot in hospitality and restaurant and some rank-and-file physicians, those groups should be setting up their resources and their managers to help coach the people that are working for them so that they can succeed in that.
Yeah. Of course, as his mother, I’m like, this could have been such an amazing learning experience for them to discuss with you beyond goodbye. No discussion. And so, unfortunately, that was his experience and we have done our best as a parent to say, “This is how things go, but you can’t be talking like this because it’s not appropriate and what does propriety mean?” and all of those questions that he’s like, “Huh? I just said this and all my friends say that. It wasn’t a big deal.” So, that’s really interesting. All right. My last question is as a mother, we didn’t talk about your sweety at all and I apologize for that, and it’s a boy. Is that?
And how old is he?
14. Okay, so you know how that is. What do you hope that he would learn from watching you build the business that you’re building and setting the example that you are? What are you hoping he’s learning?
Yeah. Thanks for asking and we’ve had some great experiences this year that give me some insight into that. And I’ll say I’m a very lucky mom. I’m very lucky. He’s a fantastic person. He’s very aware, emotionally intelligent. But from conversations that we’ve had this year, I know he’s learning work ethic. I know he’s learning that we have to own everything and that through that very real accountability that we have, that’s how we can achieve anything we want to and we do not make excuses. We fix what we need to fix, and then we go after it. And I know he’s learning that.
I love that. What an awesome thing to be able to say as a mom. That’s so great.
He’s a good boy, yeah.
Love it. Please tell our audience where they can learn more about you. And if you’re listening and you’re like, “Man, I have this company I’m building. I would love to integrate more of this into my business,” please tell them where they can find you.
Cool, yeah. Thanks. I’m on LinkedIn. It’s Christine Wzorek. My last name is Wzorek, W is just a little fun fact in there. Also, www.whitelabeladvisors.com is our website and I can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awesome. Thank you so much.
Yeah, thank you. This is wonderful.
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