Culture is at its core behavior at scale. You want people who behave the same way whether the CEO is in the room or not.
Former NFL player, International speaker, author, and expert in leadership development, Matt Mayberry (@Matt Mayberry) utilizes his professional athletic experience to inform how culture change can impact organizational performance. His new book, Culture is The Way is a hands-on blueprint for leaders to elevate employee engagement and breed a culture for peak productivity.
After recovering from drug addiction and losing his lifelong dream of being a professional baseball player, Matt Mayberry (@Matt Mayberry) turned his life into gold. He found his way to the NFL with the help of loving parents, wonderful mentors, and a positive mindset. Only getting to play one game due to a permanent injury, Matt once again turned lemons into lemonade and has become a sought-after educator, speaker, and consultant on business culture and team productivity.
“In order to fully impact another life, you first have to impact your life and become a lifelong learner.” – Matt Mayberry
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Mark Divine 0:00
Welcome to the Mark Divine Show. This is your host, Mark Divine and the show I love to speak with leaders from all walks of life. All types of leaders really get down and deep and to find out what makes them courageous and so uncommon. And today I’m super stoked to be talking about culture and leadership from expert Matt Mayberry. Matt’s an internationally acclaimed speaker, global expert in leadership development, culture change in organizational performance. He’s been on Forbes, Fox News, Business Insider, Fortune, many other media outlets. And interestingly, Matt was an NFL football player with the Chicago Bears. We’ll learn about that in this show today. Matt, thanks so much for joining me. Appreciate your time today.
Mark Divine 0:42
Matt, nice to meet you. so stoked to have you on the Mark Divine Show. Thanks for joining me today.
Matt Mayberry 0:45
Thanks so much for having me, Mark. Look forward to it.
Mark Divine 0:47
So tell us a little bit about your background. I saw you know, I know. Just from my research, you were NFL with the Bears. I remember, we were talking before we started about my fond memories of Refrigerator Perry and Tabby Man. And what you know, Walter Payton, it was incredible team back in the 80s. But so you know, what’s your story and tell us a little bit about your you’re growing up and getting into football and your career and all that.
Matt Mayberry 1:07
So kind of the backstory the shortened version is, you know, I grew up in the suburb outside of Chicago, about 35 minutes from downtown Chicago, where I currently live now. Two wonderful parents, you know, but for me, life wasn’t always so easy growing up, even though I had two wonderful parents that kind of provided me and my younger brother with everything we needed to grow up and really be fine young men and make a difference in society. I went the opposite direction. You know, I always say you are who you hang out with, show me your five closest friends. I’ll show you where your future is headed. And for me, you know, I went down a very dark path Mark. You know, full blown out drug addict done every single drug you possibly think of besides heroin. I think a lot of people that don’t know that backstory about me are pretty shocked. I wrote about it extensively in my first book Winning Plays, which was published in 2016. But long story short, even though I excelled in football, baseball was actually my best sport growing up. So I was projected to get drafted straight out of high school, skip college, go straight to the major leagues, but I got kicked off my baseball team because I got caught one afternoon, I still remember it very vividly was 3:45pm, on a Tuesday, I stayed behind because I saw all this cash that was sitting in one of my friends, my teammates wallets, and thought about in the back of my head, you know how many drugs I can buy with that money. So stole that money got caught kicked off, the baseball team lost my dream right there. Obviously, I was able to turn around my life after a lot of trial and error and so much unconditional love from my parents and support system in the school almost to the point where they’re going to expel me if I didn’t go to a drug treatment facility to start that process to work on myself. And it was in that moment, Mark with nearly the first month within that drug treatment facility. You know, this is the longest I’ve been sober for this point in time. And I just came home one evening, I had a conversation with my father. And it was that epiphany, that moment in time, that drastically just changed my life.
Mark Divine 2:47
Do you remember what was it about that moment? Like, what was the conversation was like a heart opening? Was it a concept that, you know, finally landed? Like what was that pivotal moment?
Matt Mayberry 2:59
It’s so hard to kind of quantify and, you know, really look back in that moment. I think, first and foremost, to give you some context, my father is one of the strongest human beings I’ve ever met. You know, if I ask a group of people, let’s say like, who do you think the strongest person ever came, you know, encountered in the game of life, and they’ll instantly say a 350 pound offensive lineman, I want to rip my head off playing football. Right in college or in the NFL. I say wrong. It’s my father, blue collar work ethic. He was an ironworker for over 40 years in the city of Chicago, so built the Sears Tower, and now it’s the Willis Tower, I believe. So all the architecture in Chicago, just, you know, woke up at 3am in the morning, you know, went swimming did everything he could. Worked seven days a week provided for his family. So to see my father in that moment, just break down in tears and just say that, you know, hey, me and your mom can’t go on like this living anymore.
I think that had something to do with it. And then also me being sober. Right, I had a little bit more clarity about kind of, like, this isn’t the life that I want to live for my future. This isn’t the life that I want to live. You know, I didn’t want to hurt my mother and father anymore. I saw the tears that I put on my mother’s face.
Mark Divine 3:59
Matt Mayberry 4:00
So you know, I was able to use football after that moment. You know, realizing, okay, I don’t have baseball anymore, but I still do at football. I didn’t get kicked off the football team. So for me even though I liked the game of football, it wasn’t my true love. Like baseball was my true love. I loved that game since I was five years old. When even though I excelled at football, my dad played football at Auburn University. So I had it in my background and family history. You know, for me, I used it as an outlet. I used it as a way out. And for me, you know, it was that moment in time when I had that conversation with my father, where I was like, you know, I have to get a division one college scholarship of football. And that was the process for me Mark. One year later 19, division one college scholarships, went to Indiana great career there. Led me to my my short time with the hometown team in Chicago Bears get hurt my very first game playing with the Bears.
Mark Divine 4:45
You covered a little bit of history there really quickly so you went to you said Indiana?
Matt Mayberry 4:49
Indiana and I went to Indiana you know because that was a big I don’t know if you’re a college football fan? But…
Mark Divine 4:55
Not so much.
Matt Mayberry 4:56
You know, I had let’s just say like Georgia who just went back to back national championship And then Tennessee. So I had scholarship offers after I turned around my life and got sober and you know, dedicated myself to getting stronger, faster..
Mark Divine 5:06
Matt Mayberry 5:06
And hanging out with new friends that were going to help keep me sober and really keep me on the path. You know, when I had all these scholarship offers, everybody was like, Oh, he’s going to Georgia. He’s going to Tennessee, it’s for sure. But I went to Indiana, which, you know, a nice way of saying ,they suck at football. They haven’t been good for, for so long. Recently, they’ve started to turn the corner. But then just when you think they’re turning the corner, they kind of go back, but it’s a basketball state basketball school. But I went to Indiana, because I met a man by the name of Terry Hoeppner, who was the head coach at the time. And I wrote about him extensively. In my first book, I wrote about him a little bit in my new book, Culture is The Way which just came out February 1. And he just made a tremendous difference in my life Mark, I mean, that was my my front row view of what transformational leadership is. About how one human being can alter the course of your life for the rest of your life, by just the way that they lead and impact your life from how they live their life day to day.
Mark Divine 5:59
I love that. And so many people have that an interaction with a transformational leader like that as a mentor, or coach or just an inspiration. And at the same time, I think it’s still kind of rare. For me. I didn’t find that until after I graduated from college, and I was in New York, working toward my MBA and CPA and I started a martial arts program. And there was a grandmaster 10th degree, founder of this global style of martial art, you know, out of traditional Japanese Karate, and he was a Zen master, and suddenly boom, but there was, there was my mentor.
Matt Mayberry 6:32
Mark Divine 6:33
Who was so different than anyone else and taught me so much and, and had that that quality of transformational leadership, which is the ability to transform others.
Matt Mayberry 6:40
Mark Divine 6:41
You know, just through your presence and through your words, and through your care.
Matt Mayberry 6:43
And I think a lot of it too, and you probably experienced this throughout your course of your life at some point. I think part of it too, is being receptive to that.
Mark Divine 6:49
Matt Mayberry 6:50
Right. Like, I mean, because I feel like when even before I met Terry Hoeppner, you know, there was a lot of incredible people in my life that had unbelievable leadership qualities that really did everything they could to pour into my life. I just wasn’t in that place in my life where I was receptive to it, that are a big factor, I think, to play into that as well.
Mark Divine 7:07
Yeah, when the student is ready, the teacher appears it doesn’t mean there’s not other teachers waiting.
Matt Mayberry 7:11
Mark Divine 7:12
You weren’t ready, and I wasn’t ready for that matter. So what did you learn from him?
Matt Mayberry 7:15
You know, I learned I mean, literally everything I can. You know, I think from when you look at like, as far as what leadership consists of, how do you turn around a struggling organization in this case program, you know, in the football context, because when he did come over, you know, we won one game that year prior, right. And then, you know, two years later, we’re playing in an insight bowl in Tempe, Arizona, against Oklahoma State. Right, it had nothing to do with, you know, we weren’t getting five star four star recruits or some of the best high school athletes in the country. It was solely predicated on one man’s vision, hope and dream of rebuilding a program and really changing the foundational mechanism of how we behaved. And also our perception, you know, it wasn’t so much about the old Indiana, Indiana sucks at football, Indiana’s, you know, going to get annihilated by Ohio State and Michigan. Like he really believed and had us believing from the deepest levels of our heart that, you know, we can go out there and compete for a big 10 championship. And even if that never happened, you know, I think that him setting the foundational core and the mechanism and the process of what it takes to be great and compete at a very high level was really what he just did such a great job at. And he was able to do something as far as set very clear expectations and really bring out the best in others. But then on the flip side of that, he also knew how to love, serve, and coach every single day. Right, so he knew when to be hard on you. But he also knew the importance of situational leadership that how Matt receives my coaching and teaching is not how Jake, right, receives my coaching and teaching. I think that he just had so much self-awareness, and he’d live with so much empathy and vulnerability. I think that his ability to impact was extraordinary.
Mark Divine 8:47
That is cool. You already referenced a couple powerful leadership, three leadership principles. One is transformational, which we talked about the others transactional, Ken Blanchard, and some others were situational, which is really both combination transactional as well as leader member exchange, where the individual and the leader are shaping the leadership experience.
Matt Mayberry 9:07
Mark Divine 9:08
And then servant leadership, right, which is really about your team, your company or your staff. I mean, you’re there to serve them, not lead them.
Matt Mayberry 9:15
Right. And I think so much of leadership and I learned this really from Terry Hoeppner as well, I think, you know, so much of leadership is outwardly facing, you know, is how do you inspire others? How do you, you know, rally up others? How do you help others in the organization accelerate to achieve the strategy and, you know, it’s always outwardly facing is which I think at the end of the day, it is a big part of it. But I think, you know, what I learned from Terry Hoeppner is that in order to fully impact another life, you first have to impact your life and become a lifelong learner. And I think that he just, he really showed me the importance of that, you know, I talk a lot about, you know, this idea of transformational leadership. And I think, you know, a lot of people do, it’s been around, it’s been studied so much research, but I think at the end of the day, all transformational leaders that create some type of transformation in a team or organizational setting, they have this ability to really just have deep levels of not only vulnerability and empathy, but their humility. As far as they may be the smartest one in the room, they may make the most money in the room, they may have the most incredible experience in the room, you will never hear it out of their mouth. You know, I think how they carry themselves and they truly are lifelong learners. And because of that, they’re able to, you know, really understand the complexities of a situation that they’re in, which really helps their ability to enhance their level of impact,
Mark Divine 10:26
Right. Like Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world. Great leaders understand you want to be the change that you want to see in your team.
Matt Mayberry 10:32
Mark Divine 10:32
Right, and so once you can embody that, and own it, right, and then shape it with your vision, and your interactions, but mainly how you show up, leading by example.
Matt Mayberry 10:44
I know you talk about this too Mark, I mean that’s the one thing we all control.
Mark Divine 10:47
Matt Mayberry 10:48
We don’t control the market. We don’t control, you know, a pandemic completely shutting down the world, we can’t control, you know, some of the trials and tribulations that we all face and encounter throughout the game of life. But you know, the one thing we all can control is how we decide to show up for that particular day. You know, one of the things because I have a lot of organizations and leaders in really every sector, they’ll reach out when they’re going through a digital transformation or a cultural transformation, or some type of big change at scale. And, you know, one of the very first things that it’s always how can we, you know, create a maybe shortcut? Or how can we look to maybe shorten the process to get to where we want to go the end destination. And I think at the end of the day, if you first, you know, can’t look in the mirror and say, is every single leader within your organization, living and breathing, your values, or whatever you’re trying to instill, and really bring out the rest of the organization, you’re not going to get wherever you want to go, right. And it starts right there, as goes the behavior of the leader. So goes the behavior, the rest of the organization. I’m a huge believer in that. And I just think that so many complications that we see in the business world is really predicated from that.
Mark Divine 11:49
Yeah, I would agree. And my last book wass called Staring Down the Wolf. And the whole premise was that leaders kind of need to really get out of their own way. Often, they’re the blocking energy or the blocking force in a team, right? And so they’ve got to do the shadow work and overcome their biases. And like, you use the term vulnerability, I use the term authenticity, I got to become incredibly authentic, instead of wearing all the masks of perfectionism and righteousness and judgment. And, you know, thinking that they’ve got all the models and tools and strategies, you know, and they’re bringing it to the team.
Matt Mayberry 12:18
Mark Divine 12:19
Get the teams these days, especially people becoming more and more aware, as information gets diffused, and now we have AI and everything is you can’t hide anymore. You can only hide from yourself, right.
Matt Mayberry 12:30
And even now, I feel like it’s hard to do that.
Mark Divine 12:33
I use the term background of obviousness, all of that stuff that you have a it’s in your background of obviously, in this meeting, it’s obvious to anybody else who’s around you but completely hidden from your own view. That’s why they call it the shadow, you know, in the therapy world. So tell us about your short career at the Chicago Bears.
Matt Mayberry 12:52
Yeah. So after, you know, I went to Indiana and to kind of finish that story of Terry Hoeppner, you know, he ended up actually passing away during my time in Indiana.
Mark Divine 13:01
Oh, no kidding.
Matt Mayberry 13:02
And you know, he had a brain tumor. And, you know, it was ironic because that was really, you know, really one of the main reasons why I went to Indiana, even though I fell in love with the campus and my teammates, and I don’t regret the decision one bit. That was not only my first experience with really death. But it was just, you know, so detrimental to my life in so many ways when he passed away. But you know, because of, you know, that in everything, it really, you know, did ignite a fire inside of me and had a great career there. So, to answer your question, specifically, which gets to this, this big moment of, you know, former drug addict turns around his life. His guidance counselor told his to parents that he’d be dead or imprisoned by his 18th Birthday. Finally gets an opportunity to play for the hometown team, the Chicago Bears and you know, actually mark like yourself. I grew up in 1985 diehard Chicago Bears fan.
Mark Divine 13:47
Matt Mayberry 13:48
You know, I used to run around with 34 Jersey thinking I’m Walter Payton, you know, breaking my mother’s glassware and just driving her absolutely crazy. So getting this moment with the Bears was truly unique and special, you know, just that very first time of walking in the locker room and being next to Brian Urlacher our first ballot Hall of Famer, and Lance Briggs. I mean, guys that I grew up watching and studying was just truly a remarkable experience. But, you know, for me as a rookie, right, you start as a fourth string, and you have to work your way up the depth chart, right. And if you’re lucky, you may have some type of role on special teams if you even make the team. So during training camp, I’m having a great camp. I work from fourth team,I’m working my way up the depth chart behind Lance Briggs, who I think will be in the Hall of Fame one of these years coming up here shortly. But my very first game playing the San Diego Chargers out in beautiful sunny San Diego, California. I get hurt right before halftime, a big 320-pound offensive lineman comes crashing down on my left ankle, and I heard a pop. So I didn’t know what was going on there. But as I mentioned, my father is one of the strongest human beings I’ve ever met my growing up, my father would always say, if bone is not sticking out, don’t you dare think about coming out of that game. So I listened to him, you know, so I kept playing. Obviously, during halftime got a short shot at toradol, you know, so I’m feeling good with some of the medication they gave me. And I finished that game with six tackles. So had a great first game. But the next morning I woke up and I actually fell when I went to go put pressure on my left foot. I just couldn’t support it. And that was really the end of my my football playing career long story short, and for a bone completely off my ankle. They told me I was going to be out for nine months on injured reserve, but that I wasn’t able to fully run and cut on a dime like a linebacker needs to until really three and a half years.
Mark Divine 15:32
Matt Mayberry 15:32
So that was really the end of my career, even though they said hey, you might come back, probably around month seven, month eight, I was like, just there’s no way with how my ankle is currently feeling. There’s no way it’s going to be ready in two months. So…
Mark Divine 15:43
Matt Mayberry 15:43
Unfortunately, that was the end of my career. And you know, it was it was that short, literally one game one dream, one opportunity was gone in the blink of an eye.
Mark Divine 15:50
Yeah, it just shows you how you know life can change on a dime with one move literally.
Matt Mayberry 15:54
Mark Divine 15:55
One wrong move.
Matt Mayberry 15:56
And you know, there’s there’s a saying going out there. I mean, the NFL stands for the National Football League. But you know, it’s really, you know, what it stands for is Not For Long. The average career three years.
Mark Divine 16:05
Is that right?
Matt Mayberry 16:06
You’ve probably seen the studies about brain health and, you know, traumatic brain injury and all this stuff that they’re kind of bringing to the table now about the risks of playing the game of football. So it’s a very violent sport, and you kind of know that going into it. But, you know, never in a million years did I think that, you know, I was going to just get one opportunity in a pre-season, you know, because before you think, Hey, I’m gonna have the seven, eight year NFL career, if I could just ride that out, I’ll be, I’ll be set, and s will my family. It was a very dark time for me. I deem that as one of my biggest failures Mark, even though you can’t control getting injured in a very violent sport, I truly viewed it as a failure in my life.
Mark Divine 16:38
Well, there’s no such thing as failure, only failure to learn. And it sounds like you learned a lot from that.
Matt Mayberry 16:43
Mark Divine 16:44
You know, what was the journey from, from that kind of Nadir or that that dark belly of the soul moment, to coming out of that in your own hero’s journey?
Matt Mayberry 16:53
You know, I’d be lying if I said it was myself or that I took the initiative to learn from this particular dark lesson in my life. I just had so many great people just like when I was 16, and went down the wrong path. It was because of the people I associated with. And then when I got injured, it was because of the people I associated with that helped me, you know, really turn around my life and catapult me to a new level. You know, and my life changed when I got asked to speak at a leadership event by Stedman Graham, who’s been Oprah Winfrey’s boyfriend for well over a decade, I believe. And I met him at a charity event the month prior. So when he found out that I got injured, you know, his team asked of, hey, Stedman speaking at a leadership event, downtown Chicago, you only speak for 15 minutes, we’d love to have you. And my first reaction Mark was get the hell out of here. Like, you know, I’m terrified to speak in front of 10 people. Not only that, I got a D in public speaking in college. Not only that, I’m still depressed currently in a walking boot, and still thinking about am I ever going to be able to play the game of football again in my life, something that I wanted to do. So I hung up the phone, and I realized, and I remember very vividly walking around downtown Chicago and just thinking, you know, what the hell, what do I have to lose?
So long story short, I literally called his team back and did that one event. And that was that one event, taking that one opportunity that really changed the whole trajectory of the rest of my life by doing that one event, and word of mouth from that event got around, I think there was an executive in the audience from AT&T, or one of the big companies and that really started, you know, meet kind of traveling the world sharing. In the beginning, it was more of inspirational, sharing more of my story, overcoming adversity. And then, obviously, that translated into the lessons of business I learned from the game of football, and how do those apply to specifically leadership and culture.
Mark Divine 18:35
That’s fascinating. I mean, that’s very similar to my story. I was a, I transitioned off active duty and got into the business world. My first business was a microbrewery, Coronado Brewing Company, but I simultaneously started a website, NavySEALs.com, which is providing, you know, recruiting information and also training information and selling gear and stuff. And I had a company, you know, reach out to me through NavySEALs.com say, hey can you come talk to us about the Navy SEALs and some of the principles and make them who they are. And I was like, Oh, shit. Really? Uhh, you know, and I had one of that same probably cycle go through my head…
Matt Mayberry 19:08
Mark Divine 19:09
Like, I’m not a speaker. I don’t know.
Matt Mayberry 19:11
Mark Divine 19:11
Terrifying, right? Yeah, there I was standing up in front, like very first speech standing up in front of several 100 people, and it was horrible.
Matt Mayberry 19:18
It’s remarkable to think that like, you know, someone was in the audience, and found something that they wanted to share with their team, you know, because I mean, looking back at it, like now I would grade myself that was probably like an F minus, you know, like, it was just, I had no idea what I was doing.
Mark Divine 19:34
Audiences or and individual’s are very gracious, you know, you’re sitting up there thinking that they’ve got their knives out, and they’re just like, throwing mental darts at you.
Matt Mayberry 19:41
Mark Divine 19:42
Reality is they’re thinking, Well, what a fascinating human being and an interesting story.
Matt Mayberry 19:45
Right. I think what it was Mark, you hit on it, I think, you know, authenticity, right. Like I had no notes, no, no cards, no PowerPoint at that point. You know, so for me, it was just really speaking from the heart and I think that it connects with people. I think that you know, even if you were never a drug addict or You know, with your story, right? Like, even if you were never in a SEAL, right, like, I mean, there’s so many lessons that you’re probably able to share with your story that can impact people with given with where they are in their journey. And I think the authenticity, it really impacts people on a deeper level. I think.
Mark Divine 20:13
I 100% agree. Yeah. Authenticity is everything. You know, being able to really tell your story without sugarcoating and glossing over and recognizing that people are going to connect because you’re opening your heart to them.
Matt Mayberry 20:24
Mark Divine 20:24
But it’s not hard to do, especially for, you know, leaders, the way leadership is taught and the way our, our culture at large or writ large developed with that kind of staunch individualism, patriarchal and the Puritan ethic, right, which tries to project strength and weakness is not acceptable, you know, especially for the role models or the family leaders or for the corporate leaders. Leaders have difficulty with that.
Matt Mayberry 20:48
They do. And I did too. I mean, I would I would be lying if I said, Hey, right. From the get go, I, I was sharing the most vulnerable aspects of my life and my story I’d be, it’s a lie. You know, I think that really mean, I think I started in that that very first engagement back in 2010. You know, when that very first speech was, but I think as time went on, I think even a year from that very first speech, I remember very vividly a close friend of mine said, Matt, you know, you’re still kind of sugarcoating it, you’re still leaving bits and pieces out. I remember very vividly a very important point that really changed my ability to stand on stage and deliver a message, which was it’s not about you, it’s about the audience.
And I think that that perception and that mindset shift really just changed everything for me, you know, because now I was, you know, how am I looking onstage? What if I stutter here? What if I mess up here? What if I forget what I’m gonna say here? What if I mess up this story? It was all about how can I add value and impact this audience for this particular 30 or 60 minutes. It changed everything for me.
Mark Divine 21:48
Your recent book is on culture. Culture is The Way, it’s, um, I assume we’re talking about organizational culture, team culture. You know, how did you get interested in this? And where did that work kind of arise from?
Matt Mayberry 22:01
So I’ve always been fascinated by what makes great teams and great organizations better than everyone else. So I’ve always been fascinated by that. Even during my dark days, like I would always even study, you know, even when I was doing drugs, still, and almost throwing away my life completely. I was still fascinated by the 85 Bears, I was still fascinated by the Chicago Bulls the run they had, you know, the dynasty. You know, but really what what started with me, I think about from 2010 to 2012, I was strictly what you would call like an inspirational speaker, and I hate that term, I hate being labeled as a motivational speaker, because now there’s obviously so much more to it.
But in the beginning, that that’s really all I was doing, just traveling around, you know, just really inspiring and sharing more of my story. And what happened was, there was one particular engagement where they wanted me to talk about leadership, and culture and how to build a great team because the audience was 450 leaders in the Fortune 100 space. And they wanted me to talk about what are the lessons I accumulated from the game of football, because there’s so many about teamwork and perseverance and culture and leadership. And how does that apply to their particular industry. And that connection, not only fascinated me, but I realized that with how they received that message that was telling me then right there that this is something that I think a lot of business leaders in the business world are really going to cling to and connect to, because mostly everybody is a sports fan, to some degree, even if it’s not football. Right, you have some sport that you grew up watching, probably and if you’re not a sports fan, you can more than likely still connect the dots. So kind of like when I started in 2010, I, you know, word of mouth, I just started to gain some traction and momentum. And next thing, you know, I wasn’t just delivering my story or sharing an inspiring message. I was going around primarily with leadership teams C-level executives in the business world talking about leadership and culture. And then obviously, as time went on the need for, hey, culture is important, all this talk about culture, but how do you build culture? Right, because I think there’s a big not only misconception of what culture is. But I think there’s also a you know, false connotation of how do you build culture, right? I think a lot of people think that it’s putting down on paper like, Hey, here’s our strategy, right? Where there’s so many more moving pieces to it. And I truly believe like I put in the book, that football coaches are some of the best culture builders out there. You know, think of Bill Belichick, think of Nick Saban. You know, in the book I talked about Tom Allen, who’s the current Indiana head coach Mel Tucker at Michigan State, you know, PJ Fleck at Minnesota, you meet…I could just go on and on and on, about you know, why football coaches are some of the best culture builders out there. So in the book, I really make this correlation of not only are football coaches, some of the best culture builders, but
in the business world, here’s what you can take away from them and some mindset and perception shifts that can really make a difference.
Mark Divine 24:43
It’s interesting while you were talking about that, I was thinking about the SEALs and like the New Zealand All Blacks and and other organizations where the culture gets so deeply embedded into the organization and all all levels of leadership that it goes well beyond the leader, right. And so you don’t have to have a ballat check or a powerful, forceful leader to come in and transform culture. Because the organization is the culture or becomes the culture, regardless of the leader and you can have, you’re gonna have good leaders and bad leaders, but they’re not going to radically disrupt the nature of the culture, because it’s so baked into the system. How does that happen? Is that just a matter of time and consistency? You know like with the All Blacks in the SEALs? What’s your perspective on that?
Matt Mayberry 25:24
I think it is time and consistency. But I think that, you know, I know you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it too. I agree with the sentiment that, you know, as far as if a foundational core has been built, right, a new leader can come in and kind of they can just ride off into the sunset, if you will, because the the systematic foundational core of that organization, or that team has already been built and cultivated. But somewhere along the way, there was probably more than likely a leader, right, that was a Terry Hoeppner, or or was like your mentor that impacted your life that came along and really transformed the entire organization, the people within it.
Mark Divine 25:56
The SEALs were started with that..
Matt Mayberry 25:58
Mark Divine 25:58
With kind of energy, and they never lost it. I mean, they have they’ve had some rocky roads, but they’ve always been able to because of their history, and because of the strength of the of the leaders at all level idea.
Matt Mayberry 26:06
Mark Divine 26:07
They were able to kind of right the ship.
Matt Mayberry 26:08
The SEALs, I would say, I think that, you know, some NFL teams, I mean, you know, obviously they’re, you know, you can’t really say it, that’s the norm. Right? I think that that’s definitely not the norm. But I think that, you know, why, why don’t more companies aspire to that or actually do that. And in reality, I think it’s because of what you just said there about time, energy resources. You know, one of the things I talk about in the book is this huge misconception about what culture is. I mean, culture is not, you know, having a leadership retreat in Wyoming and picking out 10 core values and putting them on the website and telling the rest of your team and organization that, hey, we have our culture now. You know, culture is not, you know, you get off on Thursdays at 3:45pm. And you can wear whatever you want to work, and you come to the office on Tuesdays, and you work from home three days a week, and those are perks. You know, and I think along the way, a lot of leaders confuse workplace perks, with culture. Culture, in the SEALs know this better than anybody. Culture is, at its core behavior at scale. How are the people on this team or within this organization behaving when the leader when the coach, or when the CEO is not present in the room?
Mark Divine 27:11
Yeah, and most of what people would think of culture is actually what’s on the surface.
Matt Mayberry 27:17
Mark Divine 27:17
That’s like the iceberg, you know, kind of analogy. Most of culture is actually below the surface, it’s hidden from view.
Matt Mayberry 27:23
Mark Divine 27:24
It’s the biases. It’s the assumptions, it’s the expectations, it’s all the, it’s all the stuff that’s behind the, behind the skin of the individuals. And so because it’s hidden from view, often it doesn’t get attention.
Matt Mayberry 27:36
Right. I make, you know, rally cry in the book that I mean, it really is, even though it’s below the surface, it also connects the dots to everything above this surface, right? YIf your having trouble retaining your top talent, culture, right? If you’re having trouble attracting top talent, cultural related. If you’re having leadership issues and character flaws, right. There’s a cultural aspect there. If you’re having execution mishaps, right, and not competing in the market, like you were five years ago, there’s a cultural mishap somewhere, right? So I mean, everything some way, shape, or form is connected to culture, it’s not one thing, it’s everything, the best leaders understand that. And I think that they’re able to do it in a way where I think a lot of leaders when they talk about it, it’s more, you know, this is soft, I don’t want to do soft, like you said, it’s very hard for them to be authentic or vulnerable. And they think that is what culture is connected to that that is a part of it. But that is not culture to its core. You know, culture is, you know, not only behavior at scale, but it is the foundational mechanism and core, the route that is helped supposed to help that team in that organization, really execute in the marketplace.
Mark Divine 28:35
That’s right. And leaders, it’s very easy to see something and so you want to address the symptom, and think you’re gonna you know, you’re handling it.
Matt Mayberry 28:42
Mark Divine 28:42
But the underlying cause is that culture. And culture really is the DNA of an organization. And so you got to change the DNA, you don’t just lop off a hand and replace the hand you got to change the DNA. So what do you think is the the elements of the DNA of culture or are the elements?
Matt Mayberry 29:00
You know, so in the book, I lay out, you know, my five step process as far as how do you go in and cultivate, configure, transform, change, or even build culture, whether it’s weak, whether it’s, it’s good, but we have certain aspects that we need to transform and tweak? Or what if we have a great culture, but we want to accelerate even further. And we won’t have the time to go in through all five. But, you know, the very first part of the element is defining your culture. You know, what I mean by that is, you look at a lot of companies, regardless of what industry, they have mission statements, vision statements, but if let’s say you see 20 employees that work at the same company at a conference, and you approach those 20 employees, and you ask them, what is your culture at XYZ company? Nine out of 10 times, you’re gonna get 19 different responses. Right? And to me, that’s a huge gap because not only is that going to slow down the speed, and the urgency of which we have to move in the market and as a team, but also there’s lack of clarity about what makes us us. How are we unique, because we may be telling our customers, suppliers and clients how were you unique and why they should go with us. But do our people understand what makes us unique, and what makes this a really inspiring and captivating workplace. And I think for me, I mean, it really does come down to you have to define your culture. Not in the sense of where it has to be robotic, where all 20 employees simultaneously say, this is our culture, but they’re able to articulately lay out, you know, this is what it means to work at XYZ company, this is what we stand for, this is what we’re trying to do. And this is how we’re going to compete in the market. And most importantly, these are the values that we live every single day. You know, and I think that when you have that understanding and that clarity, that’s when you start to create momentum, you know, is what you were talking about, you know, under that core under the surface, which really kind of creates magic.
Mark Divine 30:42
Yeah. So vision mission are still important, but it really is that the values which lead to expectations and behavioral norms, that is really the soft underbelly, I would say, right?
Matt Mayberry 30:54
And even a lot of people now I think that they say, you know, well, okay, well, how do you define culture? Right, and I talked about in the book, like creating a cultural purpose statement, what that is, and, you know, some companies, you know, replace their mission statement with it, or, you know, that’s not really the intent of it, but it’s just that, hey, here’s something that’s worked for a lot of organizations, as far as how do you define your culture. And then also, on the flip side of that, you know, it’s really drilling down that, you know, this is, you know, your serving mechanism to really accelerate the behaviors at scale, because a lot of people will even say, to this day, now, Mark, and you probably hear this as well, you can’t just have core values, but you got to live those values, or you got to, you got to bring those values to life.True, but it also has to be routine, it has to be second nature, it has to be ingrained in the organization, like you said, I mean, it’s the DNA. Because a lot of times what we see is we see some of the time behaviors, we’re not going for some of the time behaviors, we’re going for all the time behaviors, automatic behaviors.
Mark Divine 31:50
Yeah, I love that. So a couple things here, because I think this is so important, you know, I, I have a saying that the team is the new leader. And ultimately, people, you know, are not human resources, they are the main thing in an organization. And yet, you know, we have toxic cultures, we have quiet quitting, we have mass resignation going on, we have all sorts of degradation of trust, and unity through remote work, right. Like there’s a crisis, a culture crisis going on in organizations, I think, at least in America and the West. What do you think about that? Am I right? And what did we what did we do about it?
Matt Mayberry 32:26
I think you are right, and I see it, I think, number one, and I think you’re starting to get a lot of leaders that are getting better and improving this area. But I think that, you know, understanding how significant and important is to highlight the employee voice. And what I mean by that is really letting them know that their opinion counts. You know, that, hey, we don’t want people to complain, and just, you know, make excuses or kind of, you know, have this be a complaint session, but we do want to hear people have, you know, what do you like about working at this organization? What can we improve in tweaking this organization to make this be a more fulfilling workplace, are we giving you the resources and tools to help you be a better father, a better mother, to go out into the world and, you know, really attract two causes that are special to your heart in your personal life. And I think with the leaders that understand the significance of that, that connected deeper purpose to what they do in the business world, in the in that sense in the market, but then also understanding that we’re not just in business, to use our people to build our business, we’re in business, to use our business, to build our people.
Mark Divine 33:24
I love that.
Matt Mayberry 33:25
And there’s a very, very clear distinction between the two. And I think that the leaders that understand the difference between that, right, they’re the ones that not only retain top talent, but they attract top talent, those are the leaders that when they do retire, there, retirement parties are some of the biggest parties that you’ve ever seen. And I think those are the companies that build the legacies and the dynasties that can continually dominate and build those foundations that you kind of talked about in the beginning.
Mark Divine 33:46
I love that that’s such a great statement, use our people to build a business or use the business to build our people. We use this model called the deliberately developmental organization with some of our client work, which is exactly the latter right where the organization becomes the petri dish for the growth of all the all the employees, right. You go to work to grow. And through your growth and your collaboration and the team’s growth, then the company is able to perform a better job serving its customers and being creative and spontaneous and adaptive and resilient. Right. So it’s all about the people.
Matt Mayberry 34:16
Mark Divine 34:16
Matt Mayberry 34:17
You know, I think a lot of leaders when they hear that, right, they think oh my gosh, that’s so much work. You know, we’re already you know, the three year you know, target market…
Mark Divine 34:23
We don’t have time for this.
Matt Mayberry 34:24
Yeah, we have no time for this, like, come on. And so at the beginning of COVID, in 2020, I was working with a you know, one CEO, you know, very beloved, very, very respected. You know, he was at the company for 25 years. He was getting ready to retire, which he just did last year, but in 2020 He had no no idea what was in store for his future, but I’ll never forget when his whole entire workforce, right all 5000 employees, started working at home and he completely freaked out. He lost his mind. He said, Matt, I have no idea how to do this. Like how do you connect? You know, we’re having these zoom calls every single week to fill in our people and they’re having personal issues their children read or are at home. And, you know, how does this happen? I will never ever forget him sitting in on one meeting and I told him I said, in this particular meeting, I want you to talk about the fire, that your family just had. A fire that basically tore down one of his houses. He looked at me and said, I’m not doing that. Like that’s too personal. And like that just happened. I’m not ready to talk about that. He ended up doing it on that particular moment, right. Everyone has no idea what’s going on with the world. Everyone’s working from home, they’re telling us the world’s ending. I will never forget, five minutes after that Zoom call ended, he called me almost, you know, shaken up a little bit and said, I wish I understood the importance of this 25 years ago.
Mark Divine 35:38
Matt Mayberry 35:39
You know, the uncertainty of the future is very relevant right now. And everyone has no idea what’s going going going to happen. This is right, this start of COVID. And it was just such a powerful moment. And from that day forward, I saw a leader completely transform his leadership style, because he took a chance, he was more vulnerable in that specific situation. But the reason why I shared this with you is because after that situation of even him being more vulnerable, what he started to do more of was asking people, not just about how are you doing at work? But how was your family doing? How are your sons doing? How are your grandchildren doing? And him just highlighting the employee voice just created an exponential domino effect throughout the organization.
Mark Divine 36:16
DEI and kind of woke culture is a big hot potato button. I know from research that having a diverse and inclusive environment is really beneficial.
Matt Mayberry 36:27
Mark Divine 36:27
But it’s controversial in terms of how its deployed. And so we’re seeing that, you know, after George Floyd, you know, everyone was hiring DEI officers. And then I just read an article today that like, most of them have either been transitioned out or, or left the organizations.
Matt Mayberry 36:40
Mark Divine 36:41
Or left back with a bunch of a bunch of white dudes in DEI positions. So to me, I looked at that said, You know what, that’s because they’re like putting a bandaid or, or trying to move a lever at the top of the iceberg when it was really, something needs to be done at a much deeper, deeper level, at a heartfelt level as opposed to a hey, you know, let’s put a little wrapper on it and pretend that we’re, we’re an inclusive and diverse organization, what’s your kind of view on all that? The pros and cons of DEI initiatives and where we stand?
Matt Mayberry 37:08
I think that’s a problem, right there is, I think DE&I, it can’t be an initiative. It’s got to be the core of who you are connected to your culture, the foundational basis of your company. You know, I think that if you think that this is something that you have to do, because the shareholders are forcing you to or because you read an article in Harvard Business Review about how important DNI is, and you know how the board will be very upset with you, if you don’t hire XYZ amount of minorities, I think that you’ll never get off the ground running into where you want to go. I think the organizations that do a very good job of it understand the complexity of the situation, but they also connect it to their very core. And I think when it’s viewed as an initiative, just like when culture is viewed as an initiative, the results are not long-standing. And I think that at the end of the day, this isn’t something that’s a hot topic, this isn’t something that should I mean, it’s proven in the data, it’s proven in the research and even me, you know, like how my life has benefited by being an athlete with people who don’t look like me, they didn’t grow up like me, they don’t have the resources that I had, when I was younger growing up that my parents were able to provide for me. I mean, some of my teammates used to eat out of trash cans, you know, when they were six years old. And what that does in a team environment, being able to connect and kind of bring that all to the table as one connected team is just astronomical.
So I do think the athlete in me, has accelerated the understanding a little bit more, but I think to answer your question, specifically, Mark, it can’t be an initiative. It’s got to be the very core. And if you don’t believe in a fully now, you know, I think that it’s doing the research, it’s understanding about how it can impact business performance, but you also can’t just do it for business performance, you’ve got to do it because, you know, sure, it’s the right thing to do. But you know, it’s more about, that’s how you build a great team. It’s not about where people come from, or their skin color, or their resources or lack of it. It’s that we want to build the people, the organization of what we’re trying to do and carry out the mission. And at the end of the day, it has nothing to do about any of those factors.
Mark Divine 38:55
Yeah, no, I agree with that. It’s got to be part and parcel of the organization from the bottom up. There’s three basic types of organizations when it comes to diversity. One is homogeneous, right. And a lot of people think one of the SEALs must be really homogeneous, because they’re all, you know, hardcore, physical. And I’m like, well, in a sense, there’s like homogeneity of capability in a certain narrow range, right. Physical aptitude, you know, emotional resiliency, but there’s radical diversity in the terms of, you know, race, religion, everything, right? Ethnicity and socioeconomic status, right, radical diversity, just like you had, as you described, with the football teams.
And so that organization is actually radically diverse and extremely effective. Right. So then a more homogeneous organization would be like, you know, like a Boston Police Department, right, where everyone’s a white Catholic, right, from the neighborhood that’s very homogeneous.
Matt Mayberry 39:54
Mark Divine 39:54
And they can be very effective, but they’re going to be less effective than the radically diverse and inclusive organization like the SEALs. And then the one in between the least effective is one that is diverse but not inclusive. Like kind of like the corporation that is trying to staff based upon meeting certain numbers or quotas, or, you know, kind of expectation or even image. But there’s no real inclusion of everyone’s voice.
Matt Mayberry 40:19
Absolutely. I think, quite frankly, I mean, there’s a lot of companies that may not even be, let’s say, diverse from if you look at their employee sheet and look at all the contacts and the people that work within that company, but even if that they don’t have that in their core with their people, there’s still no sight of inclusiveness within the organization, right. So I think it’s understanding that DE&I is not just about hiring, you know, and giving the opportunities to minorities and having XYZ amount of percentage, you know, hired this month and next month. I mean, it’s also living and breathing and driving inclusiveness in the workplace, you know, truly building a inclusion effort day in and day out. I mean, that’s a day-to-day thing, that is not just an initiative, you know, that’s got to be, you know, almost fanatical about that.
Mark Divine 41:02
Back to the toxicity of like, woke ism. Inclusion means including everybody.
Matt Mayberry 41:08
Mark Divine 41:08
You know, not just the minorities are the ones who are considered non-included, right. So it means including everybody because you can, you can literally swing things the radically the other way, which has happened in our culture, and exclude the whites or the whoever, right, you know, who you whoever you think was the problem cause or, and that makes it worse.
Matt Mayberry 41:25
I always say leadership is a tremendous responsibility.
Mark Divine 41:28
Matt Mayberry 41:29
I think that because of that notion, and idea and reality, there’s some level of intentionality, you have to have to dig a little bit deeper to understand and sympathize also with a certain demographic that may have experienced hardships that we haven’t. It’s very tough to do. I think that there’s so many complexities around that. Especially if you’re not from that. You didn’t grow up like them. You don’t you don’t understand that, like the whole George Floyd thing. I’ve seen leaders, you know, do a tremendous thing when that, you know, crisis happened, I seen leaders that maybe missed the mark there. You know, and I think that at the end of the day, it was the leaders that truly understood knowing the importance of driving inclusiveness, but it really was at their core foundational idea and belief of what they wanted to build for that organization.
Mark Divine 42:07
Yeah, you know, ultimately, it’s about perspective, right? To take the perspective of others, and then to take that diverse perspective of your team and to create an entirely new perspective, as well as a collective perspective, as well as understanding shared understanding and shared vision out of that, which is something that could never have happened without that diversity, right. And I think that’s what makes the power for really strong culture is multitude of perspectives coming together to create something radically new that couldn’t have existed prior to that.
Matt Mayberry 42:39
And that’s really how you unleash creativity, it’s how you unleash you know, innovation, is you want to get people that do not grow up like you, I think there’s this huge need to, you know, we want to get people like us, we want to get people, you know, when we go into a meeting, and if 25 people, they all look like us, sound like us, and have the same experiences. You know, I tell leaders all the time, like you should look in your meeting rooms and look to the right and left. And, you know, you want a drastic difference, and outlook on life. And I seen the companies that do that, right. Like they maybe have restricted, you know, some of their hiring policies in the past, but now they, they do look at former inmates. You know, they do look at opportunities for people, maybe backgrounds, and their ability to attract top talent, because maybe one simple move such as that, and give people a second chance or third chance at the game of life and give them an opportunity has not only paid off for those people in their life but it’s paid off tremendously for the organization. You know, because they’re getting people who think in a different way who are able to bring a certain level of new creativity and innovation, that maybe the 55-65 year old white male has never experienced or even thought of in their own life and journey, regardless of how successful they may be.
Mark Divine 43:39
I was just at a group meeting yesterday. You know, hiring is a big deal right now. Hiring people who have the the autonomy and the confidence to go get it. Right to get after it. As opposed to being you know, just an intermediary, you know, or, or having to be told what to do. It’s very, very difficult has nothing to do with skills, or intelligence, everything to do with integrity and character. The reason that so many people are quitting and saying there’s toxic culture is that because the organization’s we’re treating them like cogs in a wheel or intermediaries or you know, what I mean, like resources. You know, if you’re having trouble hiring, take a look at your culture first. Because obviously, you’re not attracting the A players.
Matt Mayberry 44:15
Absolutely. And, you know, I always like I say, in the book, I mean, who who drives the culture, for the most part, it is the team at its core, but it’s also the leaders, right? You can’t change culture, if the leaders first don’t go and lead the way forward. And I think at the end of the day, people don’t leave organizations, they leave bad managers. And, you know, I think that that is the leadership crisis that America has faced, and I think is continuing to face a little bit. I think you’re starting to see a shift there. But I do think there still is a managerial crisis, because of that. And I think that is why you’ve seen that. You know, I think people leaving and they’re looking for a new opportunity. And I think it’s part of it, you know, just like kind of like football, like a piece of meat like hey, we’re here to do a job and it’s almost robotic. There’s no part of like, hey, how’s your daughter doing or you just lost a parent, like, sure, take off the week and, you know, we’ll cover for you, you know, you’re a teammate. So we want you to be able to grieve and be with your family. You know, I’ve seen companies that said, no, you better get back here on Wednesday to go back to work, we got a big client meeting the next day, right. I mean, there’s just no empathy in that. And I think that attend to day Mark. I mean, what we’re talking about here is simply just be a good person.
Mark Divine 45:11
Yeah. Be a good company.
Matt Mayberry 45:13
Mark Divine 45:14
That’s awesome. Culture is The Way, I think that’s great work. I really applaud you for it. And Matt, thanks for, thanks for joining me today. Where can people learn more about the book and your work?
Matt Mayberry 45:24
Thanks so much for having me, Mark. It’s it’s really been a great pleasure. And I’ve really enjoyed this discussion. The best place to connect with me is probably my website, MattMayberryonline.com. And I’m on all the social media platforms, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, but yeah, all social media platforms, Matt underscore Mayberry you can find me there. And then my book is on available on Amazon.
Mark Divine 45:43
Awesome! Well, thanks again. Great work, and I appreciate your time and great conversation. Hooyah!
Matt Mayberry 45:47
Thanks so much, Mark. Really, really appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me.
Mark Divine 45:50
Yeah, you’re welcome.
Mark Divine 45:58
What a great and very important discussion with Matt Mayberry about the importance of developing culture, the DNA of an organization, making it about the people where you go to work, to grow instead of go to work, to grow the business. I love that. A really important discussion for organizational leaders. And thank you again, Matt. Shownotes are up at my website at MarkDivine.com. And the YouTube is up on my YouTube channel. You can find me on Twitter at Mark Divine and Instagram, Facebook at real Mark Divine or on LinkedIn. Divine inspiration, my newsletter comes out every Tuesday, where I disseminate my most top of mine, blog, inspirational people habit, even the book I’m reading that week and a practice. So check it out, go to MarkDivine.com to sign up and subscribe and to refer it to your friends. Thanks very much to my incredible team, Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell and Catherine Divine, who helped produce podcasts and newsletter and bring great guests like Matt to you every week. Ratings and reviews are very helpful. So if you haven’t done so, please consider doing that. Wherever you listen to this podcast. And thanks for being the change you want to see in the world. And we can do this one person at a time but show up with authenticity, do the work and watch your world change before your very eyes. Till next time. This is Mark Divine, Hooyah!
Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai