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Constructing Purposeful Culture

Updated: Mar 27

Today’s episode of The Stream of Conscience Podcast features CEO, co-founder, and Chief People Analyst, Kylie Ensrud, and CSO and co-founder, Kelly Schrad, of Culture Acceleration Group. Culture Acceleration Group helps organizations shape their culture in a way that’s purposeful and authentic. Their goal is to get back to the basics of human connection and rekindle what inspires those who work at an organization. With a belief that “at the end of the day, work should not suck,” Culture Acceleration Group is on a mission to build culture through authentic human connection through step-by-step project blueprints, tools, trainings and assessments. Listen in to hear how Culture Acceleration Group is making a difference in the health and sustainability of company culture.

Tune in to this episode here!



[Kyle] Hey there. It's your co-host Kyle Cartwright. I'm grateful as always to be here with you again, along with my partner in purpose Graham Pansing Brooks, we really appreciate you listening and sharing these thought provoking conversations with these inspirational leaders and purposeful companies. Graham and I are also co-founders of SEAchange a business impact consulting firm and the company that brings you The Stream of Conscience Podcast.

We're thrilled to share the mic with our friends at Culture Acceleration Group today. So we are joined by CEO co-founder and chief people analyst, Dr. Kylie Ensrud and CSO and co-founder Kelly Schrad. Culture Acceleration Group offers companies step-by-step project blueprints tools and training to understand and accelerate the health of team culture.

By discovering what triggers, behaviors and performance within a team culture acceleration group helps businesses to integrate sustainable culture initiatives into the inner workings of a company, Kylie and Kelly. Welcome to The Stream of Conscience Podcast. Thanks for being here.

[Kylie] Thank you.

[Kelly] Thank you.

[Graham] Thank you both so much for being here. And so to start us off, can you give our listeners a little bit of context? Tell us about the history of your company and Culture Acceleration Group's values as a business.

[Kylie] Yeah, absolutely. Kelly and I met about a year and a half ago now and through a mutual professional contact of ours and really had a lot of the same thoughts, vision, aspirations that workplaces should be better than they are, and people should be able to go to work and be better as a result of being part of an organization.

So we started brainstorming and got to the point where we wanted to do what we could to impact that directly. And that's sort of where Culture Acceleration took its first baby step. And over the last, well, since November have been connecting with organizations, really trying to help shape culture in a way that is purposeful, authentic, and really gets back to sort of the basics of human connection and, and inspiring people that, that work at an organization.

So. We're in that journey. Gosh, what is it? Six months now. And we both have a pretty diverse background from one another. I'll let Kelly share a little bit about himself, but I've worked in HR people sort of fields for 20, about 20 years. My education is all in cognitive neuroscience and team dynamics and behavior.

So really passionate about what people can do to, to help advance one another and support one another.

[Kelly] Yeah. So, thanks. What I would like to say is that, you know, part of the reason and the mission behind this company is at the end of the day work should not suck. I mean, it's what, 70, 80% of our lives.

So you know, it's, it's something that is, is a big part of our lives and people should be, you know, happy with the majority of their life. And so having led a company to give a little bit of background, I'm a chairman now of a company called Data Vision. I founded in 2001.

And so I've gone through the journey of you know, starting a company and working through the process of building a leadership team and and moving on to a point where I'm at, you know, through that journey, I realized that people are what generic drive business. And so you can go about that you know, one of, one of a few ways, and one is to make it suck for everyone and that'd be fine, or you can move towards making it an enjoyable, making it an empowering experience, making it seem like, you know, people want to come to work and, and work towards the goals of the company.

And so that's part of my mission has always been, is to try to put people in a position to elevate themselves, succeed and move forward as contributing member to this big experience we're all in.

[Kyle] Yeah, this crazy ride called life, right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, somewhere along the line, I heard this statistic and I'm going to probably butcher it, but the concept I think will be sound here is that, you know, business. Years ago, maybe 80% of their assets where these tangible things or processes or what have you.

And today it's less than 40% and it's become the intangibles, the people, the intellectual property. It's, it's, it's not things necessarily. And so I, I have to believe, you know, This new knowledge economy and the way that just the, the capitalistic structures are moving to really be leveraging our brains more than just our hands, that it requires a new focus and a renewed focus, maybe even as a better way to put it on people and the relationships between them and the relationship with their employer.

And so I wonder, can you talk a little bit about the, maybe the recency of, of what has what's the environment that has created a greater need for something like what you, you are creating right now?

[Kylie] Yeah. You brought up a really, a really foundational perspective on, on why we went down this venture in the first place. And you're absolutely right. There's there is a seismic shift in how people position themselves, I guess, in, in their, in their life.

And I don't know if it was COVID or what it was, but we hit a tipping point where folks said, okay, there's gotta be more than this and demanding that of their organizations and unfortunately, a lot of organizations and whether some leaders or the structure or the culture in general are not equipped to allow folks to be authentic and feel whole, I guess, in the workplace, if you will, there's a lot of rigidity still in cultures and there is you know, policies and rules that are very outdated, that were maybe put in place to serve a very different time.

Like you said, with a lot of tangible things. And, and now it's really shifting towards what's that human social, relational capital, and folks just don't don't know what to do with that, or they know it's important, but how do you translate that into creating an organization that can advance.

People that community in a meaningful way. And we saw the opportunity to be able to help others through our work, get them to a spot where we can enable them to take all of those human elements and ingrain them in their organization so that they can make a bigger impact. Like I said, when people should be able to go to work and leave better than they were when they entered.

And if we can help organizations make their teams better personally and professionally great things can happen you know, across the globe. And that is something that we feel is missing right now. People are getting, they're trying, you know, there there's help that we see a lot of organizations that are like, yep, we get it.

We need to do that. They just don't know how. And the challenge is, there's no one right answer, which is why we, humans are very customized in how we approach that. Right. You can't just pull it off the shelf and say, here, this is the silver bowl. Because there isn't one human dynamics are so complex and people are hard and people are frustrating and they're great.

And there are all these things at any given time and no one solution or no one assessment or no one development program is going to give you the perfect roadmap for how to do that. And sometimes that takes an outside perspective to be able to help these teams say, okay, People capital, what are we going to do with it, to leverage it and make us better as a community, as a society?

[Kelly] Yeah, I think one thing that resonates with, with what we've heard from SEAchange is, you know, you're working towards building us, building companies into a better place. And I think that kind of aligns with what Culture Acceleration Group is doing, because we're, we're seeing that shift from, like you mentioned the district agent workforce to a knowledge worker workforce.

Well, that's more dynamic. That's more, that's more of a thinking atmosphere instead of just this, you know, physical hands-on type of approach. And so companies, I think not only need to adjust their. They're thinking around how they lead and manage. People were asked to shift more towards leadership and, and giving people the avenue to move, move it towards a better towards bettering themselves.

And I think the attitude is slowly changing, but it takes time. And I think people have kind of moved from on a scale from. Maybe way far to the left in that, you know totalitarian kind of atmosphere towards, you know, where we want to see things going is that empowered, driven leader move, moved approach.

And I think it doesn't happen overnight people, you know, if we've got to shift their attitudes over time and learn. And so we're seeing that, but it's it's this interesting.

[Graham] Yeah, well, you know, to your point purpose just manifest itself in so many different ways and impact can be driven in so many different ways.

And so, as you're talking about your, how, you know, we, we recognize that Culture Acceleration Group's approach towards implementing successful culture is really split into four stages. And so can you help walk us through for our listeners, those, those four stages and explain how this approach differs from, from others.

[Kylie] Yeah, so the four stages aren't anything, you know, revolutionary, but they're very foundational to any, any service or support that we provide a company we're going to take the same sort of structured approach and it's rise, essentially reveal, implement, fail, and evolve.

The reveal is immersion understanding. Really a discovery phase, so that anything that we do to help that organization is relevant, that it matters that it's addressing their needs and not our knees or, you know, serving our ego because we have a development program or whatever, but what do they need?

And then we implement in terms of implementing it is, is pretty self-explanatory. This is different with us as we try to be the disruptor for them disrupting your teams is uncomfortable. Even at, even with the strongest of relationships and trust and respect, we're just, our brains are wired to feel pain when you disrupt that. And so if we can keep them focused, keep them moving through that uncomfortable barrier to change.

They can implement. And then supporting through the scale, you know, culture, isn't one person, it's an organization, one leader, and one person can be toxic to a culture, but that slowly infiltrates throughout same thing with good, good happenings within an organization. And so how do we create solutions for, for folks and leaders that they are able to take that across the organization?

Scale it in ways that are effective for the different dynamics of teams and then evolve, partnering with them so that they understand how to adapt and evolve when the dynamics of their teams changed. It's, it's amazing to watch how you can have a leadership team or any team for that matter. It might be two people, five people, ten people, but just removing one piece of that puzzle and inserting another one.

Just how it shifts it's like water, right? You, put your finger in water and it's never the same water, it ripples and good or bad. And so how do we help support them through those dynamic changes is really that, that evolve evolve part of the fourth step, I guess, if you will.

[Kelly] Yeah. And another thing to add to that Kylie that was really great.

It was the thing I mentioned to her this morning in an email actually is. When we go into organizations, you know, everybody thinks they have their house in order. And even, even in organizations that have a real healthy culture, there's things that can be done to improve. And that was the case in my organization as well.

And I think the thing that, you know, we kind of look at is at the surface level things look you know, dysfunctional actually looks healthy and function. You know, actually it looks unhealthy, you know, when you look at it from a surface standpoint, because there's, you know, there's that creative conflict that comes into play in a very functional organization.

There's things that happen that maybe not don't look, you know, functional, but they're, but they are. And so, okay. It's kind of like in the reverse of what you would think it is. And, you know, and some of our work is very deep and going into the, to the weeds on a lot of things and open all that up. And I think it's a lot deeper than what most other leadership development or those type of companies do.

[Kylie] And I'm going to add onto Kelly, just cause you mentioned leadership development. I think we're one thing that we're, we're different on when we help. We just want the organization to have the tools that are the best for them. So that might be another leadership development company that might be, you know, an operational thing that might be an assessment.

We are always looking at ways to help organizations, so we will connect them with maybe it's SEAchange they need, you know, some purpose driven. We don't have to be the answer. We're not there to be the answer for all their needs. But we want to get them. What's going to make the biggest impact. And that involves us connecting and supporting others in the community and other organizations that can come together again as humans and move organizations forward.

And I think that's where we can help companies too, is they don't have to know what assessments are out there. What processes are out there development. We go need even research in that all day so that we can connect people with what is going to help them, but we're going to give them that roadmap, right?

[Graham] The rising tide lifts, all ships. You know, we talk, we talked so much about that and there there's so much good work that we can be doing out there. And there's probably more work than any one of us individually can do, or even collectively can do. And so, you know, that that type of, of sentiment certainly resonates deeply with, with us as well.

[Kyle] So, you know, we talked about this bespoke and kind of customized approach, and this is, this is something that SEAchange finds challenge with sometimes too, right? Is it can feel potentially inaccessible for businesses kind of on, you know, let's say the startup or the ground floor maybe less resourced than, you know, the middle and elite businesses, if you will.

So how do you, I mean, how do you anticipate, or how do you currently kind of think about a scalable solution or a scaled down solution, even that that can be more accessible because again, you know, you, you all share a similar mission to us to make the business a better place and, and the the world a better place through business.

How do we, how do we make it more accessible to businesses across the space?

[Kylie] Yeah, that idea of multipliers, right? So there are some of the things we're looking at in the future suit, keeping, keeping it in front of people. We pay attention to what's in front of us. So there's some technology solutions that can keep purpose and culture in front of the people and helping leaders shift their mindset.

And, and as we continue to grow and folks join us in our organization, really living, living that ourselves. So that we're role models for those people, that they can go be role models for other organizations. And it really does sort of snowball from there in some regards. But, but yeah, absolutely the scale there's, there's lots of things we're looking at technology wise again, it's, it's not, it's not the platform necessarily, but it's, it's that message and, and staying in front and again, relationships.

It's it's important to us that the organizations we work with trust us, believe in us and see the good, the bad, the ugly as well. And that is a model for them to do within the organizations. And we've worked with, with a couple of companies and it's really, it's really impactful and really fulfilling when we're, we're seeing that change in certain individuals that we didn't think were going to change.

Oh wow. They had a moment. We did nothing. All we did is facilitate their thoughts and sometimes that's all it takes. It's in them. It's just helping get it out. And there's times where like, oh, I don't know. I don't know. And then they have that aha moment was there all along, we just had to help you get there.

So any way that we can do that to have it clicked for leaders, you know, like I said, some technology, things, some messaging things, but it is, it's just building that dynamic team that can help do that.

[Kelly] Yeah. I think one thing that, you know, it's a great question, Kyle, because, I don't know that there really is an answer at the end of the day.

That's probably very appropriate for it because it's a challenge. We all say it's that balance of being more functional and directional. And maybe you have to be smaller to do that versus, you know, how far do you scale where it becomes a pretty impersonal and it's more platform based it's more systematized and that sort of thing.

So Kylie and I are always talking about like, how do we, where, where, how do we do this in a manner? Maybe we're in the middle to a degree. So I think that's kind of the space going to be. And what it takes you mentioned was community. So I think that's a big part of a lot of the solutions that I've seen in business out there where they've gone big, but there's like a community platform behind it that keeps it more personal and more in touch anymore in front of.

So great question. Yeah.

[Kyle] Thank you.

[Kylie] Let me know when you have the answer.

[Kyle] Yeah, right? Yeah. Same here. Yeah.

[Kylie] When you start doing that, like Kelly said, we're here for that authentic, personal, but you can't have one or two people, you know, when you're, when you're building and how far the last thing we want to do is put an off the shelf solution.

There is that it goes against everything we say we're doing. But it's hard. And so it is it's, it really is again, relationships and just building that community as much as we can so that maybe we're not at the center of it, but if we can facilitate a community that is supporting one another and dragging that authentic culture we've won, and then they can build a community and doing it that way is, seems to be, you know, a powerful way to move that message forward current.

[Kyle] Yeah, I want to take maybe just a quick step back and maybe talk about the role of motivation and behavioral psychology in crafting a healthy culture. And then maybe to pair on that a little bit, how does, how does purpose intersect? You've you've mentioned that word purpose and we love purpose, right?

Graham's my partner in purpose. And so, you know, how does purpose intersect with motivation and how can it help lead to a healthy culture as well?

[Kylie] Yeah. Anybody that is passionate about a topic or a cause or a hobby, whatever it is, you just have this feeling and you're naturally driven toward achieving the best that you can.

And that's different for everyone organizations. A lot of times we'll say, okay, well the leadership team, this is our purpose, and this is our vision, and this is where we're going. And they expect everybody to just sort of fall in line with that. And as humans, we have just this huge, huge need to make a difference, make an impact, to know that what we are doing day in and day out matters and that we, and then we belong from a, as you said, motivation, brain cognitive, the way that our brains process.

Belonging is so important. And often we find that belonging when we're connecting and doing things that matter, and there is no one right matters. What matters to me is going to be different than others and organizations need to embrace again, that diversity, that difference in thoughts and help tap into.

The multitude of ways that people can make a difference. And that's really where, again, that authenticity and relational leadership in organizations matter within a culture, finding ways for people to make a difference. And that can be little and that can be big. You know, whether it's volunteer programs or whether it's just articulating better.

The impact in an organization is having so that folks know the work I do matters. I may not be changing the world this minute, but I'm contributing to something powerful and something meaningful. And that in our brains, when we're doing that, we feel good. And then our, our brains feel good. And so that we want to do it more.

And then we make stronger connections with people because. We're wired to connect essentially. And it just sort of snowballs out of there. Unfortunately, it can be separate very quickly, too, right? You feel not like you're not belonging or that you aren't contributing and then your brain starts getting uncomfortable and then it, and then it feels wrong and then things spiral out of control that way.

And so it's a very delicate balance. It's not easy. It's, it's simple, not easy to manage, but that's why cultures that will sustain and will make a true difference are embracing that individual. Individual person and them as a whole, not just the nine to five and how do they create relationships within an organization so that we can empower each other.

And we can share that leadership and make it dynamics so that everyone is contributing to elevate. And that creates motivation in and of itself.

[Kelly] Yeah. And just maybe just add to that from an ownership standpoint, you know, it's really important that the organizations, you know, got that bulls-eye down the road that we're all shooting towards and we're not, you know, it's not this. Shotgun pattern of, you know, direction. So I would a tag on to the fact that, you know, this purpose-driven exercise, it has an economic factor to it too.

[Kyle] Yeah. Kind of give the north star it's can be the great unifier has kind of what we've seen.

[Kelly] Definitely.

[Graham] Yeah. And Kylie, you know, I really love the scientific approach that you're taking to this. And clearly the, the, the background and the research and the data is there. And I, I'm hoping, you know, we love quoting data. We love getting into kind of the weeds around that.

And I'm hoping that you can give us a little bit of a sense around you know, data about culture, performance, productivity, profitability, engagement, you know, what, what are some of those data points that really get you motivated and excited around some of these scientific learnings and psychology insights that you're bringing to the table?

And what do you see motivates the business leaders you're talking to?

[Kylie] Yeah, for, for me, I hope this motivates business leaders, you know, we always talk about engagement and what is that and why does it not? And for me, I think that's important, but it's larger than that. And I'll share some statistics that, that I geek out about if you will, or that I find disturbing, but that really drives me in our work.

Unhealthy workplace cultures or toxic cultures, and it doesn't even have to be toxic, just unhealthy 150%, 157% increase in moderate to severe burnout. What that translates into is 120,000 deaths and $190 billion in healthcare costs per year. That is attributed to employee burnout. Okay. Just because of unhealthy workplace culture.

So you talk about mental health and health care costs, you know, blood pressure. It's, it's amazing. One of the neatest things that ever happened is, you know, at the organization I worked at prior to this venture is a lady started there and ah, she was just fantastic. And she had been on blood pressure medicine for the past 10 years that our other job at the new organization, when she joined us, she, she quit all of her medications with.

Because her blood pressure had dropped her heart rate was, you know, back to her, just from that. She was so stressed over her workplace prior that her health was just declining and it, and it was, you know, just in spite again, she, it wasn't anything super dramatic, but over time, just that burnout. And that is what gets me.

We shouldn't, again, we shouldn't become worse because of where we go to work that should enable that. Profitable companies should enable us to do better for ourselves and for the organization. And so when I look at that mental health, healthcare costs, burnout, those are what really speaks to me. And again, Kelly mentioned, you know, you spend 60 to 80% of your life at work.

We have a responsibility to help each other. It's it's not any one person's job, like get on board because we got to help each other. It's, you know, mental health, everything is pervasive. And if, if your workplace culture is enabling that. So let's take steps to correct it.

[Graham] Yeah. You know, there's, there's a wonderful book called Everybody Matters written by Bob Chapman.

And, and one of the things that he says is that, that we're in the business of people. We just happen to make products. And I think that's so true because when you are able to. You know, not just checking in, checking out, but are able to be fulfilled in the workplace that allows us to be better.

Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, grandparents, friends, neighbors. When we go back home and interact with the people outside of our work environment, not to even mention the interactions that we have during that 80% of our life in work. And so it it's so critically you know, all of that absolutely resonates.

And if you, if our listeners. Heard that book, you should definitely go check it out. Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman. And it's a, it's a powerful and inspiring story.

[Kyle] Yeah. I love that. I've always said never data without a story. And your story gave me goosebumps. So thanks for sharing that.

[Kylie] Yeah, absolutely.

[Kelly] Yeah. It's just amazing how the multiplying effect of that is, you know, how many people's lives it touches despite, you know, creating small changes in certain places. Yeah.

[Kylie] Hey, that's why we talk about too. I don't know. I don't believe in work-life balance. And when I say that, I don't mean that you work all the time, where you live, you know, your personal life all the time, but it's never a balance.

If you're striving for balance, one area is always going to suffer. It really isn't integration my jobs to make me better. And guess what? There's some times I need to be a mom, 99%. My kids need me 99% of my attention. If I have an organization that supports that and gets that, you know, they they're maybe going to have 1% of me right now, but next week when my kiddos don't need that 99%, I need to have a project at work.

And that gets my 90% giving where it's going to make the biggest impact is really crucial and it, and it makes you feel. It makes you feel whole you're, you're fulfilled in a way where you get to be yourself and organizations that can support that and understand that can really make a big difference

[Kyle] Yeah. And keep their people and attract people. Word of mouth. I mean, when you, when you develop these powerful and healthy cultures and you cultivate these spaces where people thrive it, it it's magnetic. Right. I think the most successful company. Of today, but certainly of the future are going to be those that really pay attention to this.

So, thanks. Thanks for the work that you're doing in the space. So want to kind of semi wrap up here to, and just by asking you what's next know what's, what are, what major accomplishments achievements do you anticipate in the next year, two years, three years, or what have you what's what's next for culture accelerator.

[Kylie] Kelly, want to answer that?

[Kelly] I think number one is to continue to stand behind our mission. Creating a fantastic or empowering fantastic workplaces with leaders and building those right types of cultures. Just that, that basic nature in itself, just to continue that and drive that into a situation where we can get into more companies and help them get into that mode is probably the biggest thing.

There are some areas that we will. You know, maybe hone in on more as we grow at this as a company and this purpose just in the last six months, you know, we've, we've, we've kind of come in and just like any startup is you kind of come in with big arms and you've got this big approach that you want to attack the marketplace with.

And you finally find yourself kind of honing in and on again and honing into something particular and we'll continue to do that. And Kylie's got great ideas around things that we could do from you know, integration with medical type devices and in the workplace.

You know, there's some wearable type technology where we can monitor people's health health more dynamically and see, you know, when they are reaching those overworked points and give that data back to the company, to be able to shift people's workload in an inappropriate manner so that some of that type of work is exciting for me. But and for Kylie obviously, and so we'll just, we'll continue to evolve and stay kind of right around our mission of making these workplaces more empowered and healthy

[Kylie] It's, you know, it's important for us to give back as much as we can and, you know, everybody, everybody has a story and you don't always know what that story is by looking at somebody and their story makes them who they are.

And you sometimes see people that are successful or that, you know, look like, wow, they're doing all these great things and you start peeling back the layers and you see maybe the challenges they've gone through or different experiences they've had that led them to that point, that they don't feel like they can embrace that or that's shut off when they go to work or they're worried about it.

You know, if we can create communities of excellence or support or groups where people feel empowered to share their stories and build those authentic cultures. We want to be a driver of that as much as we can. And so anytime that we can help, help organizations feel comfortable, comfortable embracing, you know, maybe the, the non-typical or the story behind the face.

We want to do that as well. And so hopefully we'll be able to. Drive some good in, in that regard as well.

[Graham] Well, Kylie and Kelly, thank you both so much for taking the time to join us on the podcast today for the listeners that are interested in learning more and following your story at Culture Acceleration Group where can they find you or where can they follow you?

[Kylie] Yeah, we are on Facebook, LinkedIn. Our website is

[Kyle] I love it. I love it. Well, thanks again to you both really appreciate the time.

[Kylie] Thank you. I appreciate it.

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