April 4, 2019
By Phil Laboon
As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Hayes, President and CEO of The Myers-Briggs Company and has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2005. Previously, Hayes served as Co-President, overseeing Finance and Accounting, Professional Consulting Services and more. Hayes has also served as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Vice President of Operations at The Myers-Briggs Company. He joined The Myers-Briggs Company in 1987 and throughout his tenure has led corporate-wide strategic planning, provided corporate visioning, and overseen business operations. Hayes’ Myers-Briggs® type is ENTP.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My first introduction into personality assessments came in 1985 when I got a temporary job with McBer and Co who was using assessments for leadership and managerial development. I was the person scoring the assessments, which would then get put together into programs for development training.
This early introduction made me go after a job opportunity as an assistant manager of customer service at Consulting Psychologists Press (CPP), after making an East to West-coast move. CPP would later become the Myers-Briggs Company and I would l became CEO after working in virtually every area of the business including operations, IT, and running sales and marketing. I think the only area I didn’t manage at some point was finance, and since I don’t have a background in finance that’s probably for the best!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There have been so many! One thing that stands out is the execution around my vision to rebrand the company as The Myers-Briggs Company. This included our recent acquisition of our European distribution partner and becoming a California Benefit Corporation (B-Corp Certified), both of which we were able to announce in October of 2018. It was really important to me that the company be unified with a focused mission of not only creating value for our customers, but making a positive impact in our communities and for our planet. Since we’re a global organization, I think we have a unique opportunity to do good all around the world. Being a B-Corp helps keep us focused on what’s important, not just short-term gains but long-term achievement of ambitious goals and initiatives.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Bringing two companies together to create The Myers-Briggs Company and working together to build the culture that we want for the company as a Certified B-Corp is definitely exciting. We’re involving employees in surveys and interviews so that together we create the culture that will allow us to best achieve our mission. Our mission is to inspire everyone to lead more successful and fulfilling lives. This is as important to me for our employees as it is for our customers, authors and all our stakeholders.
Another recent project that’s really exciting to me is the creation and release of our first Global Trends Report. We learn so much from working with top companies around their challenges and victories when it comes to talent development, but before now we didn’t have an outlet to share that information. We’ll be publishing an annual report every year (starting this year) which showcases our learnings, the data we collect, and information that can benefit organizations looking to gain insights into workforce and HR trends to enhance their organizations. Anyone who wants to can now access that report at www.themyersbriggs.com/trends.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
People want to be part of an organization that they can relate to and feel serves a greater purpose than just meeting a revenue and/or profit goal. People want to know that what they do matters. That their work is making a positive impact on the world. Organizations embracing the importance of their mission (such as the growing number of companies like us that have committed to additional standards of performance by becoming B-Corps.) are going to have a happier workforce. B-Corp’s missions are referred to as the “Triple Bottom Line”: People, Planet and Profits. My hope is that as more for-profit companies embrace this triple bottom line mentality. As they do, the people that work for them will feel more connected to their mission and engaged in their work.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and well-being?
If you aren’t engaged with your company and are only working for a paycheck, your productivity will be lower because you’re just not that into it! Over time this impacts company’s culture and profitability because you’re producing less at potentially poorer quality. When employees are unhappy, they tend to take more sick time. They aren’t satisfied with what they’re doing, which impacts their well being. The Myers-Briggs Company has just completed some very interesting research on well-being in the workplace and how people of different MBTI types experience wellbeing at work and in life.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
Start with your employees. Managers and executives looking to improve work culture can’t overlook the people impacted most, and who have the most insight! Ask employees what they think are the top things you could do to positively impact the culture. This is something we’ve been doing internally as we bring together multiple organizations under The Myers-Briggs Company.
We created cross-functional groups and interviewed them about existing company culture, the culture they wanted to see in the organization, and what sorts of visible behaviors in THEIR positions would demonstrate that we’d achieved that sort of company culture. It’s one thing to say what you want the company culture to be, the next step has to be engaging the workforce and having them visualize, verbalize and identify specific behaviors of that ideal culture.
Strategize around employee feedback in a productive way. Don’t let employee insights go to waste. Your organization should demonstrate, clearly, how their feedback is being used to impact change. Failing to do so makes employees less likely to provide feedback in the future. Also, if one employee voices their opinion, take it seriously, because if one person is saying something a lot more are probably thinking the same thing.
In working on our own culture, we’ve created committees to address common feedback items so that employees are working together to solve identified problems.
Create more opportunities for fun together as a team or the whole company. Not only are these important opportunities to engage with one another on topics outside of day-to-day work, but they act as a great way to gain insights into how your team works together and communicates. It’s easy to get caught with your nose to the grindstone too often, and allowing time for fun is as important at work as it is in the rest of your life.
Offer flexibility. Allowing people to work from home if possible or offer a flexible schedule for work hours in the office makes employees feel more trusted and respected. Respecting your employees’ time and being accommodating improves confidence all around.
Employees who feel like they’re valued and understood, and are generally happier with their work/life balance, are going to be more engaged and more committed to the organization. Again within our own organization we’re looking into the best ways to offer flexibility (especially with the crazy Bay Area traffic!).
Managers and executives should work on their own development. When you become a manager or executive, your personal development shouldn’t stop, but for many that’s not the case. Conversely, when you become a manager your own development should actually kick into high-gear! You’re responsible for the development of those you manage, and the best way to do this successfully is through leading by example and encouraging everyone to continue growing and developing. I can tell you that within our own executive team, we recently did an MBTI and FIRO-B refresher training to get to know some of our global colleagues better. Even for those of us well-versed in personality psychology, we noticed behaviors as a group that weren’t as productive as they could be.
Our CFO and VP, General Counsel (for example) have preferences for Introversion while the rest of our executive team (five of us) have preferences for Extraversion. In our meetings, we realized that we weren’t giving time and space to those who preferred Introversion because the rest of us were so comfortable talking over each other and brainstorming out loud (very common for those preferring Extraversion).
Since that training, we’ve made a consistent effort to create the space and time for our Introverted colleagues to contribute. Now before we move on to another topic, we’ll ask for their input if they haven’t spoken up. When a question is posed, we all give it at least six seconds of silence before moving on so anyone thinking through alternatives can voice their opinion before we jump ahead.
Even at the executive level, we’re still working on our own personal development.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
One of the biggest challenges for companies looking to improve workplace culture is the constant pressure to focus on short-term gains as opposed to long-lasting initiatives. Some of this stems from pressure to produce results on a quarterly basis and some of it comes from human nature of wanting easy wins and quick solutions to problems. But thinking this way doesn’t exactly empower executives to take on risky or ambitious projects. Projects that may not produce short-term results to tout in a quarterly earnings call, but can do long-term good.
When organizations shift to think more long-term, it’s easier to make arguments for employee wellness initiatives, efforts to improve employee engagement, and to improve an organization’s relationship with their community. Even a shift to start thinking about gains over a 6 or 12-month period would have a significant impact in how organizations operate. I’m seeing more and more organizations realize that this focus on quarterly, short-term goals is counter-intuitive and potentially destructive.
It’s evidenced by the growing number of certified B-corporations: organizations committing themselves to goals of not just increasing profitability, but improving their impact on the environment, their accountability towards employees, customers and community.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I would describe my work as collaborative and respectful and I think this comes out a lot in the work we are doing on our culture. Essentially, we’re working on giving employees, at all different levels, the opportunity to take the lead on different B-Corp Initiatives. For example, one of our Sr. UX Designers is on the B-Corp. Committee and has contributed immensely to our efforts. Of course, this wasn’t in the job description, but it’s something she’s passionate about and now has an opportunity to invest her time in more than just her job responsibilities.
Another example is our food recycling program. All employee food waste is composted by the City of Sunnyvale to be used as pig food! Most people think, “Oh that’s facilities job” but this suggestion for helping our planet actually came from environmental team, which includes among others two members of our legal team, one person from customer service, and one person from facilities! They had the idea, they found the program and they presented & implemented it.
Our Sr. Apps Developer even supplied an inflatable pig to the kitchen to help people remember to recycle their food scraps. Not all the ideas have to come from the top down and I try to encourage that every chance I get. I respect and value the ability of all of our employees and appreciate all that they do to help the company thrive and fulfill its mission (including providing inflatable pigs).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
One person that immediately comes to mind is a former board chairman, Carl Thorenson. He’s a tremendous leader and I benefited greatly from working with him. During our regular meetings he wouldn’t jump right in with business updates, he wanted to hear how I was doing, personally. To me, that’s how you run a successful business, it’s always people first. I admired the way he handled challenges with grace, dignity, and respect for others.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I would like to think our success as a company has brought goodness into the world, and that my work with The Myers-Briggs Company is a small part of that. Through improving the way that we understand others, ourselves, and how we work together, we create positive change. At a time when it can seem like there’s no common-ground, and that there’s so much dividing us as people, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes comes from a very special coaster. It came from an employee who saw it while on vacation and thought of me. The quote is from Samuel Beckett and says “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
This coaster was given to me at a time when the message really resonated with me. I think we focus so much as leaders on succeeding and not making mistakes that we forget that our failures make us better, and that we should really spend more time thinking about those failures in order to do better next time. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t use the coaster though, I like seeing the quote so much that my coffee cup sits next to the coaster on my desk. See! Even the coaster failed as a coaster. But it’s succeeded in another way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d want to inspire a movement of authentic human-to-human connection. I would love to see us as people become better partners with each other and with this planet. We have so much more in common than we have in opposition. And we would all benefit from greater understanding of one another and have more regard for different viewpoints and different ideas.
I think in many ways, self-awareness of your personality does accomplish this — people understanding what they have in common and where differences lie (outside of politics, race, geography, gender, etc.). And while technology has also helped us bridge some gaps, we’re more connected through technology than ever but a lot of the time we’re not really connecting. If I could inspire a movement of authentic connection, the kind of connection where people feel more content, wise and seen, I’d consider my job well-done.