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Pulling Teams Out Of Ruts with Amanda Todorovich

Andy Cook on February 13, 2018 · 35 minute read
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Ruts aren’t just bad for employee sentiment, they’re bad for business, too. If employees don’t feel inspired to do their best work, your business will suffer the slow death of mediocre outputs. The only way out? Taking a step back to recalibrate for vision.

When Amanda Todorovich took over the content marketing department at the Cleveland Clinic, operations were less than optimal. Her team of 26 operated essentially as a ticketing system for their organization of 50,000 staff.

The creativity of her team members had been snuffed out by a corporate process that didn’t suit them, and Amanda could see the signs of feeling stuck in a rut everywhere:

  • Stressed employees constantly knocking at her door, overwhelmed and discontent
  • Tensions rising among coworkers at every instance, especially when projects and deliverables were involved
  • Team members that preferred to isolate themselves in their grey cubicles rather than collaborate with others

Churning out content by random requests without a greater vision or purpose, the creatives on Amanda’s team were starting to burn out. Innovation, engagement, and experimentation—the things that make great content exciting—were nowhere to be found in the content creation department.

Until Amanda did something radical. Right in the middle of a deluge of work and unfulfilled requests, she took her team on a day-long retreat in the woods. Why? Because Amanda had realized something crucial amidst the burn-out:

“I knew I had to get them out the office. I knew I had to get them out their cubicles. And I needed to let them be the creative people that they are, and flex those muscles, and come back from some time away refreshed, and energized, and ready to tackle our crazy Q4.”

And the experiment worked. When the team members returned to the office the following day, they felt supported, excited, and creatively challenged again. And it showed in the amazing work they put out.

Amanda’s strategy behind the retreat wasn’t to give her team a break from the pressures of the office. Her intention was to give them something far greater than that. She wanted to give them a vision. She wanted to give them the ability and freedom to function from a sense of purpose.

“That time and that opportunity for us to come together as a team, to be inspired, […] the ability to have that mental space and to think about projects and to talk to each other and really come back empowered to be creative sparked so much more productivity and a lot of really cool ideas that we ultimately ended up implementing[…]. It’s such a valuable experience. ”

No longer tied to urgent and erratic requests, the content marketing department could begin to operate on the higher objective of creating useful content for the healthcare sector that impacted people’s lives in a real way.

The work your team does may be nothing like the work Amanda’s team does. But if you hit a rut of constant repetition, mindless following of the “guidelines,” and low morale, you need to put together a strategy that gives your team the same three things Amanda gave her team on that radical retreat:

  1. A message from you, the leader, on why the work you do matters. Leadership buy-in plays a crucial role in disseminating purpose and vision through the team. You should never underestimate the effect that your words and actions have on team members.
  2. Space and permission to vent frustrations so you can work out true solutions to your core issues. The second retreat Amanda designed for her team the following year had a very different structure from that first one. That’s because her team had a different set of challenges to solve that year, and the retreat’s structure had to respond to that.
  3. The opportunity for team members to connect both with you and among themselves. In moments of crisis and concerted effort (such as when pulling a team out of a rut), human connections play a paramount role in helping team members feel heard, understood, and valued.

In this episode of Org Uncharted, Amanda walks us through the tell-tale signs of teams in ruts and the crucial steps for getting out of that danger zone. Along the way, she shares her tips and strategies for getting your team back into a happy place of excitement, productivity, and innovation. She also explains why she designed her first team retreat the way she did and how you can create the right structure for a strategic retreat with your team.

Click play to hear Amanda’s experiences and advice, and don’t forget to subscribe to Org Uncharted on your favorite podcast player for more insightful conversations with innovative business leaders of all walks and stripes.


Transcript

Jay Acunzo 00:00

I feel like I’m stuck. Have you ever heard that from your team before? Have you ever thought that to yourself? Have you or somebody that you know ever experienced a rut in our work? Every episode on this show, we talk about empowering others at work and we fight against the old ways of treating people like simple cogs in a machine. It’s way easier to empower others when others feel excited. When a startup just started, and things are fresh and new and all about the mission, or when the company is on the rise and getting lots of great recognition and launching new products, or when you and your team are getting recognized around the business, or you’re digging into meaningful challenges, or you’re on the cusp of getting promoted or just did.

Jay Acunzo 00:42

When all of that stuff happens, it’s pretty easy to get on board with this whole people empowerment thing, but when you’re stuck in a rut, or others feel that way, what then? How do you help people feel invested in their work and excited about each new challenge or project if they feel like they’re doing stuff on repeat? Today, we hear from the awesome Amanda [Tadoravich 00:01:04] of Cleveland Clinic. She’s a director who leads a big team at this older, slower-moving organization. In this episode, she’ll share details of a recent decision that she made to help her team break out of a rut and all the ups and downs that went into planning and executing it.

Jay Acunzo 01:21

How do you empower teams if they feel like they’re doing the same things over and over and over and … you get it. Command and control leadership is dead, dunzo, get it outta here. Today, the best companies build the best teams. How do they do it? They stop shoving people into an org chart and start empowering them to do their best work. This is the show for people who do that. This is Org Uncharted.

Jay Acunzo 01:49

Welcome to Org Uncharged, the podcast from Tettra. Tettra makes knowledge sharing something for modern, fast- growing teams. As always, I’m your host, and the founder of Unthinkable Media, Jay Acunzo. When I first spoke with Amanda, we decided let’s just dive right into how she leads this big team at an organization who has, well, lots of red tape and even more gray cubicles.

Amanda Todorovich02:17

We absolutely sit in cubicles and they are very gray, boring cubicles. I think for creative people it can be really hard, but what has worked really well for us is a handful of things really. One, we absolutely are a very collaborative team. There’s lots of interaction and discussion. Nobody’s sitting and their computer all day, every day. There’s lots of back and forth, and up and down, especially between the editors and our designers are interacting and talking to each other. We do standup meetings as groups too and kinda brainstorm. We do what we call design storms for projects. At least once a year, we go on an offsite big retreat with the whole team and do some real sort of inspiration programming around it. Every quarter, we’re also out and about doing something fun, just get out of the office and let loose a little bit, and hang out and have personal relationships, too, because I think it’s super important to the work that we’re doing.

Jay Acunzo 03:17

I suspect most people, when they picture an org chart they’re picturing like this top-down structure, right? Like the node at the top, the bubble at the top, will hand down some kind of project, especially when you’re in a production-oriented role like your team of writers and designers and marketers. It’s easy to view them like a ticket system. The node at the top hands down something to the nodes at the bottom, but in your case I know your team kinda acts more like an interconnected web. There’s lines just going all over, in between people, there’s tons of collaboration, so what is your role? It’s not the traditional top-down, hand it down filter. It’s certainly something more on the side of it all or maybe a purveyor of all that, right? Where do you spend your time?

Amanda Todorovich04:03

My time personally is really spent trying to ensure kinda along the lines of what you said, that things are out of their way, that they’re focused on the things that matter most, right? If they’re a content creator they’re creating. Sort of the crazy stuff that tends to get in the way, in terms of like project management, or paperwork, or logging things, that’s kind of off their plate, and we have people dedicated to do that and be project managers. My role is really around making sure that they know their purpose, that there’s a clear vision, and they understand where we’re headed as a team, and what the goals are and why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, so that when they come in and get a project assigned to them they understand how it fits into the big picture, they understand the purpose, they understand the metrics or the goals behind what we’re trying to do with it. That has been really crucial I think and what I’ve heard repeatedly from our creators that’s made such a big difference to them.

Amanda Todorovich04:57

We come together every week in a full staff meeting, every Thursday morning at 9:00. That time is really sacred and I take the planning of those meetings pretty seriously. Every single week there is something new to talk about, whether it’s a new tool or technology or something that I just want on their radar, not necessarily even things that we’re going to invest in or do, but just to kinda keep them forward thinking and to know what’s out there. We talk a lot about different formats or ideas people have or things we wanna test or iterate around every different sorta function within our team, reports out different things they’re working on. We start every meeting with kudos and thanks to each other for the hard work and acknowledging the different types of projects that are being done.

Amanda Todorovich05:41

Then there’s always a personal element to those meetings, too, where somebody on our staff is either telling us a personal story, we’ve done show and tell, literally like you did in kindergarten. Bring something in that inspires you or matters to you and tell the story. Right now, we’re kind of working through everybody kind of talking about what their day-to-day is like. For a designer, what are they doing, what are they thinking about when they’re approaching a project? For a social media person, who are they making decisions about what to post and when to post? Really helping them appreciate and understand the entire process, not just content creation, but also distribution and measurement, and really building that culture of understanding the impact the content has and why it’s worth the time and effort we’re putting into all of this creation and all the different channels that we’re supporting.

Jay Acunzo 06:27

Let’s get nice and idealistic here for a second, because that’s a lot of stuff, and I think any good leader worth their metal would say, “Yeah, but it’s worth it”, right? It’s worth it to enable your team to do their best possible work, to put in all the work that you just mentioned. I think it’s also in service of something. There’s some fire that’s been sparked inside of someone like you. You put in all of that work, and work tirelessly, so that the forces around your team don’t derail their work. Why? What is this all for in your mind?

Amanda Todorovich07:02

At the end of the day, it’s really about delivering amazing content to our users in every turn. No matter what the audience is or the channel is that we’re talking about, I do this because the content we create matters. In the healthcare space especially, the things that we do impact lives in such a meaningful way that I really want to empower my team to be able to create content that matters, that really helps people make healthcare decisions that is an amazing mobile experience. That really just engages users and delights, excites them, and is always keeping them coming back for more from our brand. We really try to create content that’s useful, helpful, and relevant to people all over the world. If my team was sort of stuck in this rut and I wasn’t doing the work that I’m doing to enable them to create this amazing content we would definitely not be having the impact we’re having all over the world with our content. I take a lot of personal responsibility for ensuring that we’re hitting the highest quality standards, providing amazing content experiences, pushing ourselves to the next level. I mean a lot of that’s just the way that I’m wired and I would always wanna be doing that, but it’s crucial in content marketing that we are really enabling our people to take it to the next level because there is so much noise in the market. There’s so much content out there.

Jay Acunzo 08:24

Yeah, yeah. I mean certainly in your space it has to be full of integrity, it has to be well researched and clear, but also … every job is like this, but when you create stuff, when it’s you bylining a piece or writing some copy, your team if they’re having a bad day that’s gonna come through, not only in the work that they do interpersonally internally, but externally people who are consuming that content, even if they don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, they’re gonna be able to pick up on that.

Amanda Todorovich08:57

Absolutely. Your emotions come through in your creation, always. Writers and designers are artists at their heart. I think it’s so important to keep them positive, and excited, and engaged. The environment around them, and my influence as a leader, I think is the most important part to making sure that’s there and stable, and that they feel comfortable and confident to try new things, and really continue to evolve what we’re doing.

Jay Acunzo 10:32

I wanna talk to you about getting teams out of ruts, specifically the situation that you found yourself in when we talked, I think, about a year and a half or more ago. When you first came to me and we spoke about this, something terrible was happening with your team and then you did something that I thought was absolutely brilliant to help fix that mentality and situation. Talk a little bit about that.

Amanda Todorovich10:52

Yeah, so I can tell you exactly when that timing was because it hits us just about every year in the 4th quarter. Our work load intensifies pretty heavily because of some things that happen in Q1, particularly around physician content, physician communications. My team hits a point where they’re burnt out and they’re frustrated about the volume of work. We do a ton of work. I mean we’re publishing, oh my God, thousands of pieces of content a year. I could sense the frustration. I could sense that people were just like, “Oh my gosh, there’s another thing on my plate. There’s more work coming.” Again, these are really creative and talented people, and I recognized that there was an issue. One of the things that we did, and I knew this was really the right route to take, I knew I had to get them out of this office, I knew I needed to get them out of their cubicles, and I needed to let them be the creative people that they are and flex those muscles and come back from some time away refreshed, and energized, and ready to tackle that crazy Q4.

Amanda Todorovich11:54

It was in August of 2016, because it was shortly before content marketing world, I remember, we did a big offsite retreat. We went to this place that’s actually kind of in the woods. You have to drive down this crazy road. People all thought we were getting lost and going to the wrong place, but there’s this little house that’s sort of tucked away in the woods in a park around our office, about 20 minutes from the office. It’s now become our place. We’ve gone back a couple of times. You drive down this crazy road and you end up in this really cool rustic, kind of log cabin feeling house. What we did was a little bit of formal discussion about creativity and why it matters, and why we need to not sacrifice it, no matter how much work we’re doing. I really wanted to support them in making sure they felt that they had the power to be creative.

Jay Acunzo 12:46

What did the programming look like for this?

Amanda Todorovich12:48

We did some formal programming talking about why creativity matters and that I really wanted to make sure that they knew I was supporting them in that effort and that we were going to find ways to ensure everybody continued to feel inspired. I actually used one of your podcast episodes talking about eating ice cream versus sweeping the floor, and how I didn’t want them to ever feel like creating content was a chore because it shows in the product. We had a big ice cream sundae bar and it was a really fun morning. Then the rest of the afternoon was really theirs to do whatever they wanted to that let them be creative or inspired them.

Jay Acunzo 13:27

Let me just give some color to that, so the whole ice cream and sweeping your floor thing and what that means. It’s an analogy that I’ve used before to describe people’s motivation at work. If you eat ice cream the point isn’t to skip to the end and have it be done. You don’t just want a dirty bowl. You like the process, you enjoy the process and, therefore, you seek it out. You wanna do it more and you wanna improve it. Right? Like we put extra toppings and concoct all sorts of crazy things about eating ice cream to make the process more enjoyable. This is an intrinsically motivating task.

Jay Acunzo 14:01

Unfortunately, a lot of things at work are the opposite, which is something called telic. Telic is an extrinsically motivating task. It’s a word that means done to a definite end. Comes out of game theory. The idea is that it’s like sweeping your floor, you just wanna blink your eyes and be done. All you want is the results and the process doesn’t matter and you don’t even enjoy it. What happens there is you do worse work, you look for shortcuts or cheaper solutions. When something is telic at work it sort of incentivizes a lot of bad actors and a lot of unhappy employees and teammates. That’s what I meant by the difference between sweeping your floor and eating ice cream. It’s the difference between something telic and something intrinsically motivated.

Amanda Todorovich14:45

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s actually funny because a couple of years ago before I was really running this integrated team, our creative staff was called Creative Services, and they operated very much like a ticket system. People came in and ordered up stuff and they did it. We’ve evolved away from that over the last couple of years to truly be more of a content marketing department and to bring our expertise and data and strategy, and everything that we know, to the table. Shifting that mindset and making sure that they know we’re not Kinko’s. You don’t come in and you don’t just order stuff up and we churn it out. The challenge is, to your point, there’s no end to it for us. We’re publishing blog posts every day for the end of time at this point. We’re putting out publications forever, e-newsletters every day, all the time. Keeping people excited and motivated and trying different things is really hard when there isn’t an end, when there isn’t that part that just says “I’m done”.

Amanda Todorovich15:51

It is definitely a challenge. With a team the size of ours too … I mean our entire concept marketing department is 26 people.

Jay Acunzo 15:58

That’s for an organization how big?

Amanda Todorovich16:00

Well, we employ about 50,000.

Jay Acunzo 16:01

Wow.

Amanda Todorovich16:02

Yeah.

Jay Acunzo 16:04

I mean what causes this kind of rut? You can even picture what we talk about at work when we talk about a rut. It’s like you’re digging a hole in the same place deeper and deeper because you just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Then the telic mentality kicks in and you just want it to be done. If your team is treated like a ticket system from colleagues, they just want your team to be done already, they want a button they can press and out comes an article and your team just wants to be done because they no longer like the work. Right? Is it repetition?

Amanda Todorovich16:35

Yeah, I absolutely think that’s it. When it’s the same thing over and over again without room to be more creative or try something new, or to take it in a different direction, or to feel empowered to suggest something else, I think creative people in big corporate environments get restrained by a few things. One, it’s always like the brand standards and following the rules. Two, it’s “Oh, this is what needs to be done”, and it’s always a rush job, and it’s “This is how we’ve always done it”, so people just keep churning, churning, churning, and that’s the easiest way I think to get stuck in a rut and to have the position where it’s really hard to get out of that.

Jay Acunzo 17:15

You were clearly playing the doctor here. This is a total terrible analogy, given the fact that you work for Cleveland Clinic, but you were trying to diagnose what was happening here, so what were the symptoms that you noticed that caused you to think, “Oh, I have to do something, my team is in a rut”?

Amanda Todorovich17:32

It was tension. It was more people knocking on my door feeling stressed out. It was a little less collaboration, lots more people staying in their cubicles, and the content that was coming out was okay. It was getting done, but it wasn’t innovative, it wasn’t exciting. People were just sort of checking the box.

Jay Acunzo 17:56

Okay. When you get to the offsite, you’ve cleared the deck, so to speak. You’re not focused on checking more boxes. You’ve put aside that list of boxes for a time. Now, all the good intentions have to come to fruition. You’re in the room at the offsite, and you decided to lead with what we talked about before, this conversation around creativity, the episode from my other podcast Unthinkable and this idea of telic versus intrinsic. Why’d you feel like that was a place to begin this all-important day?

Amanda Todorovich18:27

It was an important message that they needed to hear from me. They needed to know they had permission to vent their frustrations that day and talk about how they were feeling, which we spent a lot of time doing. It was also a bit of, okay, I wanna show you some examples of where this is impacting our work, I want you to hear, because we actually listened to your podcast episode, what this is all about and what I’m seeing and how I fear that if we continue down this path that we’re gonna be in a much worse place, even in a month or two.

Jay Acunzo 19:02

In the afternoon, I feel like that part of your agenda was more open ended. I guess if you’re part of a corporate machine or you don’t get why this motivational creativity, all that stuff, matters, if I just view your team as a “ticket system”, I could kinda narrow my eyes and gaze to the side a little bit and wonder why you did this item on your agenda. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Amanda Todorovich19:29

I absolutely do because I definitely got grief for it. When we run around and talk about how insanely busy we are and the volume of work that we do, and then I uproot 26 people out of the office for an entire day and let them paint and draw and color for the afternoon, people were really confused. How is that creating value? How is that delivering results? I would defend it over and over and over again. That time and that opportunity for us to come together as a team, to be inspired, to walk away with the opportunity to really do something that they don’t necessarily have a lot of time to do that’s maybe their artistic passion, or even the people who just went for a hike in the woods, that ability to have that mental space and to think about projects, and talk to each other, and really come back with a fresh looked and empowered to be creative, sparked so much more productivity and a lot of really cool ideas for new things that we ultimately ended up implementing this year.

Amanda Todorovich20:31

It’s such a valuable experience for all of them. It came through over and over again in my engagement survey results and the feedback just casually from the team members when we were first back and just so appreciative of that time. It was just really an important moment for us.

Jay Acunzo 20:47

Tell me about this survey that went out, and tell me about the change you saw in your team after this happened.

Amanda Todorovich20:53

Yeah, so every year as an organization, as an enterprise, there’s employee engagement surveys, right? We do that. At that point, this was my second year sort of leading this group and so I could compare the data year over year, and there’s definitely an opportunity for them to just given open-ended comments as well. We were a much happier team. We were a much more engaged group and they commented a lot about feeling empowered, feeling creative, feeling like they were doing work that really mattered and made an impact and that they were excited about the future.

Jay Acunzo 23:25

Do you have any examples? I’m curious to know, are there specific things that you’ve seen change where you can point to it as a leader and say, “This is why we had a team offsite, this is why work needs to be intrinsically motivating for people to do their best work”?

Amanda Todorovich23:42

There’s a couple things that come immediately to mind. The work and the type of work that our team does has shifted dramatically over the last couple of years. This creative team used to be almost exclusively print driven and we were doing a lot of print publications every year. We’ve had to make a big shift and actually the majority of the work that we do now is really digital. I had to get designers and editors to think digital first and to use some new tools, and to work on projects that we typically used to outsource because we didn’t have the capability internally. One of the most important things that we’ve done as a marketing division is implement marketing automation.

Amanda Todorovich24:24

We are a Marketo shop and nobody had used Marketo before. I had one designer on my team who was working on our e-newsletter prior to the Marketo implementation. She was awesome. Our templates were great. We were testing all kinds of things all the time. The reality is we were starting to send an increasing number of emails as a division. We were just doing tons of different service line work and now every single designer is doing email design. They’re in there and they’re using new tools. We also implemented an interactive content tool called Ceros.

Amanda Todorovich24:58

I think if I hadn’t done some of this work and done this offsite, and some of the other things that we’re doing, they would’ve just groaned about one more thing to learn, one more tool to add to the box, and not necessarily embraced it and utilized these tools in the ways that they have. Our engagement rates and the content that we’ve created in some of these tools have been some of the best things that we’ve done. Again, I think they could’ve really been viewed as a chore and as something else on their plate and been really negative. It’s been actually completely the opposite. They’re really empowered. They’re excited about learning new things and embracing these tools and technologies and really trying to up their game, and teaching each other, and collaborating in ways that I could’ve never even imagined.

Jay Acunzo 25:42

What changed about your team when you kinda reset them away from the tasks in the checklist and towards the fundamental reasons why they do their work and why they maybe decided that they like this line of work in the first place? What happens when you get people in touch with those fundamentals?

Amanda Todorovich26:00

Everything. It’s so hard to think about, but the reality is every piece of content we’ve done is better. The collaboration and chemistry between the team members, and the ability to think about different aspects of a story or different angles to take, or different things to try on any social platform, I mean the amount of possibilities has been pretty endless because we have become one really high performing unit that is really culturally focused on creating high-quality content. The mission and the just nature of the people that are on my team was always there. I think people always wanted to do good work, but what good work meant and where we were going with it has just been so exciting.

Amanda Todorovich26:53

I mean I hear it repeatedly from team members. What they appreciate most is a vision. One of my designers always says, “Amanda, you provided us a true north.” I think for so many years the team kinda struggled with that and they felt like they were just to serve other people, there to take those orders and take those tickets. I think if we wouldn’t have changed our structure, and if I wouldn’t have been put in this role I think a lot of that would still exist, and I don’t think a lot of the people that are here today would’ve stayed. There’s so much that has been super successful because they feel connected to a result. They know the goals. They know the tools. They have the tools and they have people clearing the way to enable them to flex those creative muscles and to be amazing at what they do every day.

Jay Acunzo 27:44

If I’m somebody who’s a leader in my organization, whether it’s the traditional idea of a manager of people or the way I operate is to exhibit leadership qualities, and I sense that my teammates, my team, my peers, whomever, the people that report to me, are doing work that feels like it comes from a place of disillusionment, the team is in a rut, and I’d like to start doing something maybe like the offsite that you went on, there’s clearly a lot of moving pieces. You have to plan the offsite, you have to get maybe permission or buy-in or at least help others understand maybe when they don’t think like you do why this kind of approach matters.

Jay Acunzo 28:23

It’s a lot of stuff to take in, but if I am somebody who’s hearing this now and think I wanna do something like this, where do you even begin?

Amanda Todorovich28:32

I think you have to really boil it down to what’s the core issue you’re trying to solve with the offsite. For me, it was really about inspiring creativity and getting them back to the roots of why they really like to do this kind of work. That’s why I structured the day the way that I did. It really depends on what are the core issues your team is faced with? What’s the challenge you’re trying to address with this offsite? Really thinking about a structure to that day that makes the most sense for that particular issue. We do this every year. We did it again this year, but it was completely different. We went back to the same place, but our structure was very different and it was more focused on content survivor skills and some of the things that were changing in our space.

Amanda Todorovich29:16

We painted rocks and we did some different things, but it was built, again, around what’s the issue facing your team right now and how can this offsite really help solve that, and what’s the right type of structure for your team. I know my people and I take a lot of pride in that as a leader. I know them personally. I know what makes most of them tick and what their strengths and weaknesses are and really take that into account to make sure that I’m doing something during that day that really resonates with them that’s gonna make them feel good and walk away excited and not like it was a chore or not like it took them out of the office and they could’ve been doing other things. That they come back and felt like the time was worth it. A lot of it was based on the conversations that I had with the people on my team and understanding how they were feeling and what they needed, and really structuring the day to make sure that those things were addressed.

Amanda Todorovich30:07

It can’t just be a free for all either. Our afternoon was a little bit loose, but it was structured and there was inspiration behind it and there was a message that came through even in that freedom. I also made sure that part of the day was really a message from me. It was an opportunity to talk to them in a personal way, in a really connected way. Coming together in a team outside of cubicles just has a major impact, but it absolutely has to have purpose.

Jay Acunzo 30:38

Right, right. The purpose here … the analogy I would use is think of yourself or your team as one of those little toy cars. You know the ones you can like pull backward and they rev themselves up and when you let go they go speeding ahead? I think a lot of people in business they wanna put the car down and be like “Go fast”, and they don’t take the time that you need to pull back, figure out where you wanna go … it’s that taking that step back, coming up with a strategy, resetting the team to motivate, plan, and be purposeful about the work and care about the work. All of that is the pulling back, so that you can let go and if you take that little moment of debt on, that little time, little pause, then you can go faster and farther than maybe just continuing onward, plodding along, feeling like a ticket system, continuing in the rut.

Jay Acunzo 31:25

It does require this moment of pulling back to prepare to go faster and further to do better work. I’m curious to know how you convinced others, or if you had to convince others, that moment of pulling back was actually really important to see better results in the future? Is that something you had to convince other people to allow you to do? If so, how do you do that if you’re somebody else?

Amanda Todorovich31:50

I didn’t have to sell too, too hard to be honest with you. I think there was a little bit of hesitation from the team. Like I said, we were in a really busy period of time, so it was like why would I be away from my work for a whole day when I could actually be getting things done. A lot of the messaging around that was trusting me and making sure they understood that I wasn’t doing this for the sake of just going out and having fun. That there was purpose behind it.

Amanda Todorovich32:18

When I talked to my leadership about why I did it and why I really felt strongly about it, it was, “You know what, this is the team that is absolutely responsible for being the creative department in this enterprise and we sit in gray cubicles. And if I don’t do things to keep them engaged and inspired, and thinking differently, and flexing those creative muscles, you will see it in the content we put out. Everything will start to look the same and feel the same and be very much checking the box kind of content, cookie cutter things, and that is the last place that we wanna be as an organization.”

Amanda Todorovich32:56

My leadership is constantly challenging me to continue to push the envelope and how can we keep growing and doing more, and be better. I want my team to feel that, too. The selling of the idea of going offsite was less to my leadership, a little bit more to my team, and more so to sort of our internal “clients”. When you’re uprooting your entire team for an entire day, that means there’s nobody there to answer their questions or to deal with their emails. I also made sure that I communicated that upfront. Like, “Listen, our team is gonna be out. This is really important thing for us. If it’s an emergency call me.” I directed them all to deal directly with me and the reality is nobody called at all.

Jay Acunzo 33:43

Yeah, I mean look the people that you maybe write about are saving lives, but for the most part most of us in tech, and marketing, and product, and engineering, we’re not saving lives here people, so there’s not really an emergency. Just chill out a little bit.

Amanda Todorovich33:56

My boss used to tell me all the time there’s no such thing as a marketing emergency.

Jay Acunzo 34:01

No. No, there is not. Why does all this stuff matter to you? I can tell so clearly that you care deeply about your team and providing the right environment to do great work for that team. That’s a ton of work. It’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and I imagine a lot of thankless nights and weekends, and early mornings, just a lot of stress and struggle on your part. Clearly it matters to you on a deep, deep level. Why?

Amanda Todorovich34:36

The team is incredible and the people on the team are incredible. For me personally, I’m incredibly passionate about content and about content marketing, and really wanting to make sure that we’re being the best that we can be and that I, as a leader, am there for my team, that I’m providing the right resources and environment, and keeping things out of their way as well. It’s so hard to articulate something that’s so internal, but it’s just in me. This is just such a passion and so important to me personally. To continue to motivate, to drive, and engage with some of the best creators I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

Amanda Todorovich35:24

I take that responsibility really seriously. I’m blessed with a big, amazing team and I wanna make sure that they look at me as a leader and are excited that I’m there and that I’m providing a lot of value to them and that we, as a collective team, are really delivering value to the organization that we work for. I’m blessed with amazing leadership here, too. Paul [Mattson 00:35:47], our CMO, really understands what we’re doing and gets it. I feel like a personal responsibility to him, too, to make sure that I’m really doing the best things that I possibly can do in this really privileged position to be able to do what we do everyday.

Jay Acunzo 36:09

Big thanks to my guest today, Amanda Tadoravich. Give her a shout out on Twitter, her handle’s in the shown notes. You can also head over to our collection of company culture decks and employee handbooks. If you’re interested in culture or how people are running their businesses from a people empowerment standpoint check out Orguncharted.com. Some of my favorite decks to browse are Netflix, Spotify, Google, and NASA. That’s Orguncharted.com.

Jay Acunzo 36:34

Org Uncharted is the official podcast from Tettra, makers of knowledge management software for modern, fast-growing teams. This show is produced by my company, Unthinkable Media. I’m Jay Acunzo and, on behalf of my friends at Tettra, I wanted to say thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk to you next time on the next episode of Org Uncharted.

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