S 2 E2

April 29th, 2020

EPISODE 2: Netflix and DTE Energy on Leading with Trust and Empathy

Amy Schultz, Director of Organizational Effectiveness & Learning at DTE Energy, and Rebecca Port, VP of Talent at Netflix, represent two essential services during a crisis—perhaps in their own way. In this episode, Amy and Rebecca touch on their approach to giving employees a sense of certainty, autonomy, and relatedness in the way leaders focus their teams.

Episode Transcript

Chris Weller (00:05):

In the span of just a couple of months, millions of us have had to cope with a brand new working life. At a time when so many people feel confused, helpless, alone, or some combination of all three, we’re asked to devote huge cognitive resources to tests that, in the grand scheme of things might seem less important. All hope is not lost. A wide body of research shows there are clear strategies people can use to reclaim their sense of certainty, autonomy, and that special mixture of connection and belonging, which we call relatedness. And an interesting thing happens when we meet those needs. We start thinking more creatively or rationally, and we can actually focus on the work we need to do. I’m Chris Weller, and you’re listening to Your Brain at Work from the NeuroLeadership Institute.

Chris Weller (00:47):

For this episode, and the ones that follow, we’ll be drawing from a weekly webinar series that NLI has been hosting every Friday, between our co-founder and CEO, Dr. David Rock, and one or two distinguished guests. Together they discuss what leading through crisis has meant to them and the science of staying focused. Today’s guests are Amy Schultz, Director of Organizational Effectiveness & Learning at DTE Energy, and Rebecca Port, VP of Talent at Netflix. Aside from being two essential services, perhaps in their own way, both leaders touch on the approach to giving employees certainty, autonomy and relatedness through forms of empathy and trust. Enjoy the discussion.

Dr. David Rock (01:28):

We’re going to hear from two different organizations, a more traditional organization, power company, literally keeping the power on up in Detroit and surrounding area. And then Netflix, less traditional, more creative work, and we’re going to hear from both of them what’s been really working to thrive through this crisis. Starting with Amy, tell us a little bit about the organization, just for a moment, I guess, and then tell us what you’ve been doing, what’s been working and let’s have a conversation about what’s happening at DTE. Thanks for joining us, Amy.

Amy Schultz (02:02):

All right. Thank you. First of all, thank you for having me today. I’m honored to be a part of this, it’s been great working with you David and the team. I think it’s really interesting that you asked DTE to participate with Netflix. Becks and I had a chance to talk yesterday and compare notes and knowing that what we all have in common is this deep level of empathy that is happening throughout our companies, as well as the world, so when we’re sitting alone in our own homes, having these conversations no matter where you are, it’s a level of empathy that’s connecting us across the globe in a different way. And I think everybody feels that. So trick thing, how do we really leverage that and use that to ensure our culture remains strong at DTE and within our own homes and families too?

Amy Schultz (02:51):

So just really briefly, DTE which is many of you on the line today might not know who we are, but we are a large, over 10,000 employees utility company. Really energy company in Michigan. But we operate in many different states as well. Well, primarily, we have about 2.2 as you can see, million electric customers, 1.3 million gas customers. We also have a power and industrial business development arm to our business and we do things like work with landfills throughout the company, the country, excuse me to really take the methane gas that, this is just an example, that is naturally created, it’s part of a landfill and turn it into renewable energy that we can use.

Amy Schultz (03:37):

So lots of different things. That’s who we are, located in Detroit, Michigan, and mostly there. Now David, you asked me a little while ago, what we have found as most surprising as the pandemic started. And shortly before that, we at DTE, were taking a pretty deep dive into our focus on creating a culture of service. A culture of service for our external customers that we support, of course, but as well as our internal customers and how we care for one another. How do we collaborate, how do we communicate and how do we recognize? And the senior leadership in the organization spent quite a bit of time identifying these four areas, how are we best safe? How do we show we are caring, dependable and efficient?

Amy Schultz (04:26):

And this really, we haven’t even rolled this out to the entire workforce yet. In fact, we are having to postpone a lot of that training. But this has taken pretty deep roots within our organization already and it’s served us very well during this time and has served as guideposts for the decisions we make, along with how we communicate, and the priority of ensuring our workforce and our customers are safe. The decisions we make around how they perceive we are caring for them and caring for one another, how are we dependable for our communities during this time, and then efficient, so we can continue to deliver what matters most, which is keeping their power.

Dr. David Rock (05:05):

Yeah, just a comment there Amy. So I mean, talking a lot about when there’s uncertainty and you can’t do much about uncertainty, you can raise clarity. And so it’s like instead of trying to create rules, a thousand rules, it’s like create principles. And principles create clarity. And these keys to unlocking service excellence, these are principles. And that they’re like guiding principles. Whatever you do, just make sure you stay safe, caring, dependable. These are the four things to keep coming back to. And so it’s really helpful, as you think about how can we create clarity as a company, one of the ways, for everyone else listening is like, go back to the values or the values that really matter right now and anchor on those. Like, “Hey, everyone, this is what we’ve got to anchor on.” And that sense of clarity is really helpful for people as guiding principles to focus on. Thanks Amy.

Amy Schultz (05:54):

Yeah, thank you. It helps us to stop and pause and reflect on our decisions and communicate it that way. Basically what’s served us well now, most importantly, is a team that by the way, many are on this call and all the credit for all the work at DTE goes to them for building this. But we needed to create an opportunity everyday to collect the sentiment of our workforce. So we’ve got frontline folks that are already in dangerous positions serving our communities everyday. And so now the field folks that are out there keeping our power on, whether they are working in a plant or they are climbing the poles, there is always a sense of safety and what we call 200% accountable, how do you take care of yourself but also others.

Amy Schultz (06:41):

And now with this pandemic, it’s a different state, obviously, and we need to ensure we’re really in touch with what’s happening within our workforce. So we have a couple of different ways we’ve done that. One, we usually do an engagement survey twice a year and this year, we paused that for our spring survey, and we turned that into a survey called Care Connect. So that had many different questions, but we’re really targeted on understanding the emotional well being of our workforce and the connectivity to their own teams and their leaders and the belief in our leadership team around that we have their best interest in mind. Everyday, there’s a pulse survey we administer to a subset of our workforce, also checking the sentiment.

Amy Schultz (07:27):

And we have about 25, 30 different frontline leaders that represent all different parts of our organization that we call each morning. They are the listening ears, that third eye within their sites. And all of this, everyday is collected together and built into a sentiment analysis report that goes to our incident command. In addition to that, though, it’s important to mention, we have another team that is working on an external scan. So what’s happening with other companies? What are the key articles and the tools and the resources that are out there now? So we look at the intimate internal employee sentiment. We look at the external, what is happening? We mirror that, put that together and then we build our communication plan and that changes everything.

Dr. David Rock (08:09):

No, that’s great. I met with Jerry, your CEO a couple of weeks ago, I was really impressed with how committed he was to employee well being. It wasn’t a hesitation for him that everyone, it was super important to take care of everyone. And I was actually impressed with how much data he had about the different parts of the business and what the sentiment was and where it was. And now I can see where it comes from. He actually seemed to know, where the hotspots were. It’s interesting.

Amy Schultz (08:33):

Yeah, thank you. And David, you asked before too, what’s serving as well right now? We’ve been working on our culture for many, many years. Engagement being a key, just as important what our leadership has really talked about is the fountainhead to the rest of our outcomes as a company. And that has served us well. Our connection to purpose and Jerry’s conversation around people and culture and well being and our purpose, we serve those in the community, the lifeblood of the communities we serve, etc. Not words on the wall. So that’s helping us during this time.

Dr. David Rock (09:08):

Yeah. And I was really impressed with his thoughtfulness and just commitments in maintaining calm and everyone being okay, it was really nice to see.

Amy Schultz (09:18):

Yeah, thank you. So we take all that information and we work with our communications team, it’s really a wonderful partnership there. We take the information and we update this go-to site. This is our SharePoint Site that we’ve built for the company, and with communications team, all of us together. But the point of this is, we’ve never seen so many hits on an internal site before. Everyday, thousands of our workforce, this is the go-to spot. So anything you need from safety and field, of course, and just the policies, things that are changing each and every day. But I did want to highlight specifically on some of the people components that you were talking about, and we’re talking about today.

Amy Schultz (10:03):

So we, through the sentiment analysis, everyday hear about different concerns, of course, like everybody is in the workforce, about what our team member who’s need to feel supported from a well being perspective, what our leaders need to help their teams stay connected. And ultimately, work from home is new for us. We are more of a traditional company. So this is expediting our future from a technology perspective, for sure. But how do we do it differently? And how do we ensure we keep our culture alive during this process? And again, connect to our purpose.

Amy Schultz (10:42):

So one of the questions we asked in the sentiment analysis is, how connected you feel to your leaders? You see here, in leadership inspiration, all of our leaders are really active, whether it’s your direct leader or your more senior leaders, but they post videos weekly, daily to their teams, to stay connected. The beautiful part of this, is we’re all seeing each other in a different lens. And the work from home and the view into people’s personal lives and the vulnerabilities and the conversations, it does take the relationships to another level when you think about those positive, unintended consequences of being in the situation.

Amy Schultz (11:21):

The burnout, the addressing anxiety, stress, it’s obviously very real. And looking at well being from a very holistic perspective. So how do we address that for our work? I do want to mention, though, one of the biggest concerns, frankly, that came from our CEO, which one of the reasons why he is as good as he is, is the focus around how do we ensure our field and our workforce feels recognized during this time? And knowing that our field folks are out there, whether they’re dealing with the COVID situation and the concerns with customers, where we have a storm coming in, which is it’s snowing mid April in Michigan for those on the call that are interested in that sad fact. But they’re dealing with a lot. So how do we let them know, when they don’t have any access to our… They’re not checking their email every day.

Amy Schultz (12:10):

So we really created several different recognition strategies to tie back to our service keys. We worked with communications, we have what’s called a wall of gratitude. We created some real easy ways to text and say thank you and built a long time campaign that went to over 80 sites just so that people, our field folks know when they show up, they are thought of and they are cared for. We were talking about this a few weeks back, our conversation was really around, you have your leaders who are serving, who are listening, from everything coming to them, about the things that they need to do for their workforce to support and then their own level of emotional well being within the middle. And how do we provide tools for our entire organization.

Amy Schultz (12:58):

So in partnership with you, with NLI, we are doing a few things for our organization. One, last week we had our first one hour webinar with our senior leaders. And it was a great partnership from our CEO and David taking us through this. And it goes over those essential habits and really a level of validation and understanding about what’s happening and then leaning into what you referred to earlier, certainty or threat buffers to help people best cope during this time. We are rolling the-

Dr. David Rock (13:35):

To answer that, we think the essential habits, take care of yourself, look after each other, deliver what matters. They sound obvious when you say them, but it took us a long time to work to get it simple like that. Take care of yourself, look after each other, deliver what matters. Those are really the essential habits. And then we’ve got the exact right ways of doing that within there, but sorry, go on.

Amy Schultz (13:53):

No, that’s great. And we wanted to get that to all of our leaders. So we have about 1600 folks that will join us, on an all-leader call next week. And then really, how do we bring this to our workforce? So knowing that people are in the field, knowing that our customer call center is, phones continue to ring 24/7, how do we really give people tools that they need, in bite-sized packages? We’re leaders, so it’s a series of videos and tools, as you can see here. And there’s the leader guide for leaders to use to take this opportunity to bring people together and how do you create a remote chat around this and learning opportunity together? And then there are a series of videos for our entire workforce focused on growth mindset. Those of you who already really understand that on this webinar, it’s really powerful during this time, how do we lean in [crosstalk 00:14:54].

Dr. David Rock (14:54):

We’ve been doing that work with you before. So we’ve been introducing growth mindset over the last year and I think it has been really helpful for people’s opinionation.

Amy Schultz (15:02):

Yeah, really have. And then SCARF, which is how you deal with threat and reward. And then the habits that David talked about, those videos and tools and actions to go with each of it. But we’ll roll that out to the rest of the workforce.

Dr. David Rock (15:09):

Yeah. And I think the way to think about this high level is, is we’re giving your people leaders, tools to coach their teams on how to move through this crisis. And rather than just content, it’s like, “Here’s how to coach your team. It’s one habit at a time, to move through this crisis.” And that’s the way that we’re thinking about it. I think people leaders are going to need tools to actually coach their teams through this not just tips, as we move out of the adrenaline’s phase and into just needing to really sustain performance over time. That’s interesting.

Dr. David Rock (15:41):

Amy, I want to address some of the questions. Can you tell us a little bit more about, have you found a survey fatigue? Is that been an issue or have you been surprised by that, or what have you found with that?

Amy Schultz (15:51):

Oh, that’s a great question. The pulse is just done for a subset of the population, representative cross functionally. But people are not being over surveyed. And the everyday sentiment gathering process from those frontline leaders, it’s very short, very quick and it-

Dr. David Rock (16:10):

That’s a policy [inaudible 00:16:11]. And what about, what have been some of the most useful questions that you found value in asking folks in those pulse questions?

Amy Schultz (16:18):

That’s great. One, do people feel that they can appropriately escalate issues? So we want to dive into both safety related questions as well as emotional well being. So escalate issues, if we find pockets where people feel like they can’t, then that’s an area we’re able to go in and address. Another great question is the extent to which you feel connected to your leader and team. So when we’re talking about culture and people, and people staying together through this process, it just gives us a different level of insight. And all of this we’re able to break down to levels where we can work problems.

Dr. David Rock (16:56):

Yeah, no, that’s great. And how are you getting this to people? Is it email? How are you actually getting information back from people?

Amy Schultz (17:05):

Well, the pulse survey, the daily pulse survey is through a Microsoft Forms process and we have the team. Really the ones that are making this happen. The daily calls, we identified within our teams, within the HR organization, we connected with relationships that we already knew we had within the field with those frontline leaders. Once we ensured that it was representative of our workforce, they every morning before 9:00 AM, pick up the phone and call and ask the same questions and submit it, it all goes together with that pulse form and goes forward.

Dr. David Rock (17:39):

What’s been the response percentage on the pulse survey? What response rates are you getting?

Amy Schultz (17:44):

That’s a great question. It’s pretty high. I don’t have the specific number, but our numbers are not… People are very responsive right now in giving us the feedback we need to help [crosstalk 00:17:57].

Dr. David Rock (17:56):

And I’m certain, if you were sending everyone a pulse everyday, that wouldn’t work, but I think, the design of pulses is you taking a cross section different people all the time. I think Microsoft have a great product for that. Fantastic, some great insights. I just want to address a bunch of questions coming up at once that I didn’t even… This might sound not true, it’s actually true, I didn’t even realize Amy was going into detail of the work that we’ve done with them. So I didn’t even think of how to position that, explain that.

Dr. David Rock (18:25):

But let me just give people some context, I think that as people move into the pain stage, that they’re going to need quite different resources. And the best way to scale those resources are probably giving people managers tools to coach their teams. But what they’re going to need is not content, so much as support to build habits. And so our hypothesis on this is, “Give people leaders a set of tools for how to just help people take care of themselves better.”

Dr. David Rock (18:54):

So there’s a set of insights around how do you take care of yourself and a lot of that’s about what we call buffers, putting in place personal buffers. And we’ve worked out the best ones. And then, next week or next few days, or whatever makes sense, how do you take care of each other better? How do we look after each other better? And we talked about SCARF signals. And it turns out there are critical signals for each SCARF domain. And then how do you really focus on what matters? So we’ve been thinking very odd, a whole company, what are the most critical habits in a crisis? How do we simplify those and give people just these little nuggets, so that entire bodies of people leaders can have tools to take to their teams and coach their teams through this crisis.

Dr. David Rock (19:36):

So that’s the way they’re seeing it. And this is one of the early rollouts of that concept, but it’s happening in a bunch of places. Thanks, Amy. Anything else you want to add before we go to Becks?

Amy Schultz (19:46):

No. I’m just happy to answer any other questions, if not today in the future.

Dr. David Rock (19:51):

Great. Thanks so much for being here Amy.

Amy Schultz (19:53):

Thank you.

Dr. David Rock (19:53):

And I appreciate you sharing what’s happening. It’s really nice to hear the care that is being taken to take care of employees. And it particularly warmed my heart when I realized you guys run nuclear power plants. And I saw just how much care that your CEO was taking with the threat level of people in those plants and that he was really taking seriously that they were not getting below level one and swinging into gear there. So it was great to see what you guys-

Amy Schultz (20:16):

All over, thank you.

Dr. David Rock (20:17):

… are doing and thanks for the work you’re doing keeping the power on.

Amy Schultz (20:19):

Thank you.

Dr. David Rock (20:19):

Thanks, Amy.

Chris Weller (20:23):

Are you or your employees feeling overwhelmed? Are you unable to think deeply? In moments of crisis, we have to take precious care of the limited cognitive resources at our disposal. For teams looking to reengage and work more effectively, NLI’s solution is FOCUS, the neuroscience of thriving through crisis, available in multiple learning formats to meet your needs. Focus is what will help you and your teams keep thriving. Use the discount code podcast 30 to receive 30% off when you register for one of our public workshops at neuroleadership.com/focuspublic. That’s podcast 30 at neuroleadership.com/focuspublic.

Dr. David Rock (21:01):

Next, let’s go to you. So tell us about the world of Netflix. And great to have you here with us.

Rebecca Port (21:09):

Great. Well, thank you for having me. And thanks, Amy, it’s really great to learn from your insights. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening to everybody. I hope wherever you are that you and your loved ones are safe and well. My name is Rebecca Port, I’m a VP of Talent at Netflix. Talent is the word we use for HR. Most people refer to me as Becks, so most people thought you will hear David calling me. I want to talk about our culture and the way that our culture has really helped us lead through this crisis.

Rebecca Port (21:48):

And so the Netflix culture is pretty well documented. And a key overriding part of our culture is really people over process. We’re used to operating with high degrees of freedom, where we give leaders lots of freedom and responsibility. And so one of the things that has helped us throughout this crisis is really our leaders being used to making decisions. One of our values is judgment. And we have a series of stunning colleagues that we expect to have great judgment. And so, again, our employees are used to exercising decision power and using good judgment.

Rebecca Port (22:34):

And so in environments where there’s not a playbook, our employees and our leaders have really stood up and responded quite well. Flexibility has helped us as well, as a tech company, and we’ve had the technology for, that’s just how we operate in terms of these kinds of sessions and doing most of our meetings through VC. So we are used to having our employees work wherever they want to work, in whatever way they want to work. And that’s really allowed us to be much more flexible. We haven’t, like some companies have to quickly invest in technology. We haven’t had challenges with our culture around presenteeism and people leaders thinking that people need to be in the office to be more effective. So-

Dr. David Rock (23:33):

Becks I’m seeing that collective sigh of relief as everyone hears that. Everything’s okay at Netflix. It’s still running, it’s like, “Thank goodness. Bless you.”

Rebecca Port (23:42):

Well, we’re really delighted to be bringing joy to people at such a difficult time. So, yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to keep all the surface on and great content coming to you. So in terms of some of the things that we’ve done, that have stood out really well, I mean, all of this is backed up by our strong culture. And we’ve really leaned into leading through our culture, as we always do. And I will talk about some specifics. But for me, three themes really stood out around compassion, communication and connection.

Rebecca Port (24:20):

Now, we’re not a traditional HR function, not surprisingly, probably, and we have a very low HRVP to employee ratio. So our HRVPs work with groups of around about 150 people. And we really expect them to be coaches. So throughout this time, as our HRVPs always do, they’ve really leaned into coaching our people leaders. And the three comps I want to talk about, I’ll start with compassion. One of the things that has surprised me and delighted me is just the rise of humanity that I’ve seen throughout the organization and throughout our leadership team. And just as Amy mentioned, the deep degree of empathy that the people have, and that leaders have. And there’s something about everybody experiencing a challenging situation, right the way across the globe, that has meant that compassion has been what we’ve lead with.

Dr. David Rock (25:23):

Can you me an example of something that jumped out, that really comes to mind?

Rebecca Port (25:26):

Yeah. And so I think just recognizing that it’s hard, so right from the CEO to his team, throughout people leaders, recognizing that this is really difficult. And recognizing that people have a whole series of additional stressors that they’re now dealing with, whether or not that’s having to homeschool and care for children that are home, dealing with social isolation, anxiety or depression or loneliness, caring for loved ones that may be sick, being anxious about what’s going on in the world. And so we have really leaned into saying, “It’s okay that we know that you can’t give as much in a COVID world as what you could in the pre COVID world.” And that’s okay. And we genuinely mean that. And again, repeating that to people and helping people set their own boundaries, and communicate those boundaries to their manager and say, “This is what I can give because during-

Dr. David Rock (26:20):


Rebecca Port (26:20):

… this time I’m schooling my children.” And really helping people think that that’s okay.

Dr. David Rock (26:27):

Yeah, that’s a big one, we’ve been looking at the signals that leaders need to send. There are these buffers that we need personally, and then signals we need to send as leaders. And one of the big ones is fairness. And that’s the F in SCARF. And it’s so important that you really acknowledge that the difference in capacity people have. Because some people are actually at 130% because they’re not traveling anymore, and if they don’t have kids and stuff, they’re actually able to do a whole lot more. And other people are literally at 30%. They can hardly do anything. And respecting that and addressing that, acknowledging that, and working with that, I think is such an important thing.

Rebecca Port (27:03):

Yeah, absolutely. And we found, just being really open within teams around that. And if you’re 130%, what can I give you? And if I’ve got 30%, what are the things that I should ruthlessly prioritize? That-

Dr. David Rock (27:14):

Have you managed to find anything great for the parents who happen to school? Have you managed to do anything with that?

Rebecca Port (27:21):

Look, I think that that’s a really challenging one. So we have an ERG or an employee resource group called the village. And they’ve been fantastic at pulling together resources and great books and websites and kid’s yoga classes and things like that. But I think having this empathy and understanding of, what can you give right now? And that’s okay. And allowing people the freedom to do what they need to do and take care of themselves and their family.

Dr. David Rock (27:48):

So it’s just more about giving people the autonomy to be able to manage it and… Fantastic, thanks.

Rebecca Port (27:56):

Yeah. And again, this ruthless prioritization. So asking people to scrub non essential meetings, really focus on what is the work that needs to be done and dropping other stuff, which allows people to create that more space. Because even if you are living by yourself, you don’t have a family to take care of, and you can give 130%, the risk of burnout is huge. And so we don’t want our employees to do that, obviously. So we’ve really leaned into mental health as well.

Rebecca Port (28:27):

And we’ve done that in a number of ways. We’ve had mental health practitioners do group sessions with the HRVPs. We’ve had mental health resources work with them, either one-on-one or within groups. We’ve changed our EAP program that used to have, there was a cap on the number of sessions you could have therapists, we’ve lifted that. We’ve run mindfulness sessions in local languages across the world. We’ve changed our health benefits so that their employees are now covered regardless of where they are in the world. Because we’ve had a number of employees who have either gone to a different state or a different country to be with loved ones.

Rebecca Port (29:06):

And really talking about, and getting leaders talking about mental health is something that we’ve really leaned into. And again, that compassion and trying to be understanding, that people are under significant pressure right now.

Dr. David Rock (29:18):

Right. Right.

Rebecca Port (29:20):

We’ve also looked at some of our HR processes, they’re very few, but we do have a formal 360 process that we normally run in March, and we’ve postponed that. And so we’ve put that on-

Dr. David Rock (29:35):

Oh, great.

Rebecca Port (29:36):

… hold, recognizing that right now… And plays have other things to deal with. So that was just a thing that we could take off of that play and we’ll bring it back when the appropriate time-

Dr. David Rock (29:45):

What about performance reviews? Have you stalled those or what are you doing with that?

Rebecca Port (29:50):

We don’t do performance reviews. So we don’t have a formal traditional performance management. We believe in giving feedback and dealing with performance challenges, be them positive or negative, as they arise.

Dr. David Rock (30:03):


Rebecca Port (30:03):

Communication, I think communication has been a really great thing for us. Like Amy, we set up a web page with a series of resources, we have a daily email that goes out that gives transparency to all information COVID-related. And some days, there’s no update and we say, “Not a lot to tell you today, have a great day.” And some days there’s lots of information. But our employees have been really receptive to us being open and honest. And if we can’t answer those questions, we again say, “We’ve heard you ask this question. We don’t know the answer yet. We’ll come back to you when we do.”

Dr. David Rock (30:38):

Yeah, sounds fantastic.

Rebecca Port (30:39):

And then another thing from a communication perspective, we are working with a doctor, a medical doctor who is an infectious disease specialist, both researcher and a practitioner, and he’s advising our task force on how to react to some of the things. And we’ve set up a series of sessions with him and employees. So similar to this, a web cast that people can dial into and ask questions in an open dock. And there are things like, “Should I be eating takeaway food? How do I wash the vegetables at the supermarket?” And that’s gone down really well, and hearing from an expert in this area has been useful. Because I think access to valid information is one of our challenges right now.

Dr. David Rock (31:32):

Right. Yeah, no, that’s important. Everyone’s really struggling with that. What do you think’s been the most useful resource you’ve provided? Out of all the great things you’ve been doing, what do you think or maybe the top three, what do you think has been most celebrated there?

Rebecca Port (31:47):

So I think the stuff around the communications and the doctor have been really great. I think also, just this notion of leaning into connection and having our HRVPs act as coaches. Because everyone’s at a different place. So I don’t think there’s one thing that’s helped all employees, but having HRVPS, coaching each of the leaders on how to connect with your team and meeting your team at where they’re at. And some of our teams are incredibly busy because it’s four to close. Some of our teams, like say our events team, are less stretched right now.

Rebecca Port (32:21):

So I think having HRVPs really lean into the coaching and providing ways for leaders to connect with their employees. And we’ve done that in a series of different ways, whether it’s building resources to help leaders lead more effectively, helping new employees on board virtually, but also, things like having a bit of fun. So having a pizza party with your team. So sending your team and their families pizzas. Or dressing up as your favorite Netflix character for your team meetings or trying to really… Our aim is to create a fun stimulating productive work environment. And that’s pre COVID and also post COVID. So how can we do that in this unique environment?

Dr. David Rock (33:09):

Right. It sounds like you have paused talent review. Is that right? So you’ve paused the talent review processes?

Rebecca Port (33:15):

Yeah. So like I said, we don’t really have a talent review process. And so the only formal process we do is we do do a formal 3600, where people can give written feedback to each other. And we’ve paused that, yes.

Dr. David Rock (33:27):

You’ve paused that, great. So there’s no formal process or talent review or performance management anywhere. Yeah.

Rebecca Port (33:32):


Dr. David Rock (33:32):

Fantastic. What have been the benefits that have people have found most? People have most appreciated? The benefits you’ve given people, the additional benefits in this time? What are people really celebrating?

Rebecca Port (33:41):

So I think people have really appreciated our flexibility. So helping people get back to wherever they want to get back to. So we’ve had employees abroad and they’ve wanted to come back to the US because they’re a US citizen. I think giving additional mental health resources is being really well received. And so I think that those things would be the main things.

Dr. David Rock (34:06):

Yeah. Okay. No, that’s good to know. And also the, VPs of HR, and the HR business partners as coaches, say a little more about that. Just say a little bit more about the HR business partners as coaches.

Rebecca Port (34:18):

Yeah. So our HR business partners, we select for people that want to be coaches. We don’t prescribe to any particular coaching model. We’re very flexible, and it’s all about freedom and responsibility. And we position them in the organization in a way that they show up as coaches. And the small number of employees that they are dealing with means that they can really lean into that.

Dr. David Rock (34:46):

Yeah, no, interesting. Are you finding any concerns from particular demographics of employees cycle countries, or are you seeing any hotspots like that?

Rebecca Port (34:57):

I think it’s really difficult to say that it’s particular. I mean, I think overall, there’s concern of those people that live by themselves, because I think where, especially in the US and Europe, which is largely on lockdown. In Asia, in Korea, we’re back in the office. Because some of the government restrictions have been lifted there. So I think it differs across the globe. And what we’re really trying to do is to meet employees where they’re at and understand them as individuals.

Dr. David Rock (35:32):

Right. But each each person has 100 or 150 people that they’re supporting, but they’re generally more acting as a coach, than as a formal HR business partner. Sounds like?

Rebecca Port (35:43):

Yeah, yeah.

Dr. David Rock (35:45):

Or something close to that.

Rebecca Port (35:45):

Yeah. And also leaning more into the leaders than they do the individual contributors, but still, again, making sure that HRVPs have office hours where anybody can knock on their door as it were, and have the relations with them.

Dr. David Rock (35:59):

Yeah, no, it’s fantastic. We’ve done a bit of work over the years in developing those kinds of teams. And I know we have an open conversation on that. One day, hopefully we’ll get back to that. There’s some fun skills to just make those folks even faster at coaching in terms of how to really bring people to insight as fast as possible. That’s the way we think about it, which is applicable to any model or any frame. It’s just how do you understand the mechanisms of coaching? So you can take someone from impasse to insight as fast as possible. That’s been our approach.

Dr. David Rock (36:30):

A lot of people are asking something contentious. I’m having mixed emotions about asking it because I have a contentious point of view on this. But are you starting to think about the post thing and coming back to work? Are you starting to think about that? And if so, in what ways?

Rebecca Port (36:46):

Yeah, great question. We certainly don’t have any great solutions. Our goal will be to provide a safe and productive workplace as we possibly can. And I suspect that that will look different across the world, depending on what government restrictions are in place, what the state of the infection is within each country. So yeah, we’ve got no farmhands just yet.

Dr. David Rock (37:13):

Right. I mean, the contentious part of that is I think, many of us, maybe not you Becks, and some others on the line. But I think many of us in the world, our psychological immune system is stopping us from processing the fact that this is going to be here for a very long time. And that we’re all living in this, like, “Ah, hopefully in May,” and the media is playing that a bit. And, hopefully in May things get back to normal, but there’s no way this is going to look anything like full normal for, I mean, a long time.

Rebecca Port (37:42):

I completely agree. And where the scenario planning that we’re doing is looking at, what does the work environment look like in a socially distanced world?

Dr. David Rock (37:49):

Yeah, it’s going to be social distance for a year, let’s face it, at least, if not two years, somewhere in that area. And so how do we settle into that, how do we grieve for that? Some people are just not willing to think that. But in a month we’ll all be realizing that how do we process that and go, “All right, so we’re going to be massively socially distanced for at least a year.” Some people will be out some not. But that’s going to be the norm. So how do we work with that?

Rebecca Port (38:15):

Yeah, I agree.

Dr. David Rock (38:17):

Yeah. And scenario planning, you mentioned that I mentioned it earlier. Scenario planning is what you do when you can’t predict the future, what you do is you basically develop no more than three scenarios of what the future might look like. And you really expand those and extrapolate those, think about all the implications, what you’d do and then continue to update your models as you go. And it was invented in the ’70s by the oil industry, by Shell at the time, Royal Dutch Shell, but it’s a whole school of thought for managing critical industries, like oil rigs, and power plants. And we’re all scenario planners now, for our families even. We should all be thinking, “Hey, if we’re out in three months, it looks like this. If we’re out in nine months it looks like this.” If we’re out in, whatever. So we need to be doing that a lot more.

Dr. David Rock (38:59):

But that takes some deep thinking to do that. And you can’t do that scenario planning if you’re at the left of that pendulum, if you’re just in denial. And you also can’t do it if your brain’s exploding, because you don’t have the resources if you’re level two or three threat to think about that. So you have to get calm and quiet and then think about your scenarios. So right back to that early slide that I shared. Becks, there’s a few comments from people on this, and I’d just love to hear your view on this, but number of people saying it sounds like you were already treating people like humans and already had great empathy and already had the right culture in place that this was just like another thing to come along. And that people were prepared for this in some way. Can you speak to that a bit?

Rebecca Port (39:44):

Yeah, I mean, our culture was, RNA is incredibly strong, and it’s really stood us in good stead. I don’t think anybody was prepared for this until it came. I don’t think anybody predicted or expected that this was going to be the way 2020 played out. But certainly having great leaders who are really focused on putting employees first and showing great empathy, who are compassionate people has really stood us in great stead.

Dr. David Rock (40:18):

It’s the central question, I think we’re all wondering in some ways, how might we adapt and encode this level of human commitment in organizational DNA post COVID? How do we do that? And that’s something for us to all think about.

Rebecca Port (40:32):

Yeah. I think whilst things are really difficult right now, I do think that as we come out of this, and I know we talk about the world is going to be different for a year or two years. In the relative short term, I do think it’s rare that we get a chance as a race to have the entire world go through something at the same time. And so I’m hoping that this deepened level of empathy and compassion will last. Not just in organizations but also in the way that we lead our personal lives as well.

Dr. David Rock (41:07):

I think it will. I think there’s a lot of this and that’s a conversation for future weeks, I think. Actually, we’ve got Bob Johansen in the next few weeks joining us from the Institute for the Future, he’s the world’s leading futurist. He’s going to join me on one of these, starting to think about how this is going to affect the world, which should be really fun, join us again, if you can for that.

Dr. David Rock (41:25):

It’s interesting, we rethought our organization’s mission about a year ago and it’s now making organizations more human through science. And we’re like, “How did we get that right?” It’s bizarre, and that’s literally what we’re trying to do, is help organizations be more human through science and literally bring the human stuff back to the fore. So we’re busy, not as busy as you guys are, maybe, but we’re busy in a whole lot of ways. We’ve got Deb Bubb, who’s the chief learning officer at IBM, 400,000 people joining us in the next few weeks, we’ve got, as I mentioned Bob Johansen, we have a whole session on what the future is going to look like a bit. We have Gartner joining us for one of those. So we’re going to have lots of different sessions coming up.

Dr. David Rock (42:07):

Next, one quick question and maybe give us some tangible examples in a minute, what have been the most inspiring things if you can be tangible or specific that leaders have done that have really moved you? Any big ones to leave us with?

Rebecca Port (42:19):

Look, I think the communication that we’ve had right from the very top. I think the Netflix hardship fund that we’ve put in place across the world, to help the industry. We’ve looked at lots of our employees have said, “How can we help and be altruistic and help other people?” So Netflix, we have an employee matching scheme. So if you donate to a charity, we will match it and we’ve doubled the matching. And so really, just having this altruistic sign and messages and actions, has been really humbling.

Dr. David Rock (42:58):

Fantastic. Becks it’s so great to have you, thanks so much for making the time. I know you’ve inspired a ton of people. I really appreciate you being here. I just want to do some closing things. But Becks thanks very much for being here. And also, Amy, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

Dr. David Rock (43:10):

A couple of quick closing comments as we bring this to the end, we are helping organizations with a bunch of ways. I just want to say virtual can actually be fantastic. We’ve been doing it for years, but like Becks, we’ve got some ways for making virtual meetings actually way better, faster, more inclusive. And I’m telling you, absolutely based on data, we can do better than you’ve ever done in your leadership programs or training programs virtually. We can give you a better habit activation at far cheaper, at far faster, even intense leadership experiences. We can do it better for you online than you’ve ever had it virtually. And we have data on that.

Dr. David Rock (43:44):

So I won’t go into it, but just drop us a line. If you want to talk more about transitioning your programs to virtual things. We can take your existing program or we have some fantastic content ready to go as well, or custom. So just know that. If you’re interested in the virtual stuff, this is a great post, five ways science shows how to make a virtual work better, walking through. If you want to stay connected to me personally, davidrock101, on Twitter, I post everything that we’re writing. But also if you’re in our database every week or two, you’ll get what we’ve been writing, and key things coming out.

Dr. David Rock (44:17):

And then we’re helping organizations focus. We’re doing a lot of briefings, as we did with Amy. We’re doing some really creative stuff. Just as Becks said, remember the whole planet is sharing this with you. This is the toughest moment of people’s lives. If we can help you focus on the right habits, then fantastic. Think of us as a cognitive science consultancy who helps you activate just the right habits at scale. And we think we’ve got something on how to focus that helps people identify the level of threat and know just the right habits to focus on. So FOCUS is a solution like we have with Amy of just helping everyone focus, take care of yourself, look out for each other, deliver what matters.

Dr. David Rock (45:01):

Just in closing, thanks again Becks and Amy, really appreciate your being here and inspiring everyone. And I hope you and your family and loved ones and teams stay well and get through this as best we can. And it’s probably going to be a marathon with a whole series of sprints. So it’s a big marathon maybe, than we’re ready for. So take care of yourself, look after each other and keep delivering what matters, which in your case is internet and Netflix. Keep it up. We appreciate it a lot. Thanks everyone.

Speaker 6 (45:31):

Thank you.

Dr. David Rock (45:32):

… and everyone behind the scene. Thanks everyone for being here. And hopefully this was awesome for you. Thanks, everyone, bye-bye.

Speaker 6 (45:37):

Thanks so much. Bye-bye.

Speaker 7 (45:39):

Thanks, bye.

Chris Weller (45:41):

Your Brain at Work is produced by the NeuroLeadership Institute. You can help us in making organizations more human by rating, reviewing and subscribing wherever you get your podcasts. Our executive producer for Your Brain at Work is Noah Gelb, Danielle Kirshenblat is our editor, Gabriel Berezin, our associate producer and Cliff David, our production manager. Original music is by Grant Zubritsky and logo design is by Ketch Wehr. We’ll see you next time.


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