Monthly Archives: February 2015

The other day, I stumbled across a Huffington Post list of 100 Tweetable Business Culture Quotes. As a self-proclaimed ‘workplace culture geek,’ I loved reading through the inspiring musings from leaders like Jim Collins, Hilary Clinton, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Here are five quotes that especially rang true for me:

  • Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” @simonsinek
  • Celebrate what you want to see more of.” @tom_peters
  • As a leader, you have to be authentic and constantly connecting with employees.” @JeffImmelt
  • Too many rules will stifle innovation.” Sergey Brinn
  • Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” @warrenbuffett

A big part of what inspired me to start Cadence Consulting was seeing first-hand how powerful a corporate culture can be – how much impact it can have on employee retention, workplace morale, and the bottom line.

I joined ExactTarget mainly because of the ‘Orange’ culture and the leadership at the heart of that culture. Employees at every level of the organization – from the people restocking the free snacks in the kitchens to the C-Suite – displayed a unique passion for serving customers and one another. The level of teamwork, excitement, and flexibility I saw in day-to-day work is almost unheard of in corporate America.

One of the first things I did after joining ExactTarget was to network with the culture geniuses at Zappos. In fact, it was after a particularly inspiring visit to Zappos’ corporate headquarters that I decided to create a dedicated HR role for employment branding, culture, and creative. I wanted every program, communication, and interaction with my team to be infused with Orange culture. I wanted to brand the employee experience at a level of quality that we would brand the customer experience.

From employee recognition kits (that made it easy for managers to give kudos) to programs like ExactTarget Cuties (that celebrate our new parents), from our Open Enrollment parody video campaign (read more here) to ten-year anniversary celebrations, we put employees first.

In return, our employees gave 110% every day. They treated each other – and our customers – like family. The company experienced meteoric growth around the world, and we did it in a very ‘Orange’ way. And, boy, did the culture resonate with employees.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, an employee decided to form a closed Facebook Group called Orange Crush. Though the employee was leaving for a new opportunity, he still loved the company and wanted a better way to stay connected with current and former employees.

That’s when things got crazy. Word about the group spread like wildfire – all through word of mouth, friends inviting friends. Former ExactTarget employee Kyle Lacy described the frenzy in a recent blog:

The group currently stands at 1,179 members with over 1,050 photos being uploaded since January 30th. Check that date. We are talking about a massive amount of activity in three days. That’s organic growth of nearly 1,200 current and former ExactTarget employees uploading memories and lessons learned on their own time because they love or loved working for the company. They LOVE the brand. They love the idea of orange. Something else to note — the group also includes customers of ExactTarget.”

It’s that last line that really gets me. If that’s not a testament to powerful culture, I don’t know what is.


As a rambunctious child, I was constantly being counseled, re-directed, and [insert any other word for “disciplined”]. My mother would always partner her discipline with the phrase, “Todd, kindness matters.” I did not have much context for this simple phrase at age four, so I filed it away in the mental folder titled “stuff my mom says.”

Fast forward two decades when I met my future wife in college. I immediately knew there was something special about her. She genuinely cared about everyone she came in contact with. Kindness mattered to Deb, and it was evident in how she treated others.

Fast forward another decade. You can imagine my surprise when I came home from work one day to find Deb had bought some new home furnishings, including a sign now hanging in our kitchen that reads: “Kindness Matters.”

People described as “kind” are often thought of as being generous, compassionate, gracious, tolerant, and helpful. These same descriptors are how I would like to be referred to as a business leader. Being kind in good times is easy. But, being a kind leader in challenging times is far more difficult.

Though I’ve worn wear many professional hats – from real estate to risk management to legal – building Human Resources teams that value kindness has always been top priority.

Wait, more than helping the company hit its quarterly sales goals? More than winning awards and getting good press? More than…making money? Yes. A lot more.

Unfortunately, business success and kindness are a lot more related than many leaders realize.

My time at ExactTarget really brought this realization home. CEO Scott Dorsey was well-known as a kind, compassionate, and genuinely-interested-in-you leader. Even when the company grew to more than 3,000 employees around the world, he retained an uncanny ability to remember employees’ names, personal interests and situations, and individual impact on the business. Talk about modeling kindness from the top down.

When I began building and developing my Human Resources organization, I made it a priority to show the same level of kindness and interest to my team and every employee we encountered. I’d learned that leaders must not only lead by example, but also foster an environment where kindness is expected.

But, showing kindness isn’t always easy. The stresses of running a business are many and varied. Well-intentioned people often lose sight of what is important when they are managing stressful situations. HR teams routinely deal with uncomfortable situations, performance and discipline issues, and complaints. In the face of adversity, conflict, hurt feelings, and unkindness, HR professionals must intentionally rise above.

Creating a team which values, expects, and models kindness to and from others was the best decision I ever made as a leader. It influenced who I hired (big time) and (almost always) who we fired.

A culture of kindness isn’t the ‘norm’ in the business world – especially not amongst leaders. But, it should be. It can be.

Simply put, being kind is the right thing to do. I challenge all leaders and employees to approach interactions with an attitude of kindness so that regardless of business outcomes, their legacy of kindness endures. Those ripples continue far beyond what the eye can see.

As a leader, you must show kindness — and expect it from others. Only then can you foster an engaged culture and forge a legacy you’ll be proud of for years to come. Remember, people do not always remember what you say but they do remember how you made them feel.

However you define “kindness,” it matters.

Note: See my original blog post “Kindness Matters” in Forefront Magazine.

A blank canvas is an equally exciting and unnerving thing.

When I began pondering a career change after seven years with ExactTarget (now Salesforce), I felt as though I was staring at a big white canvas. There I was with a bunch of brushes in one hand and a paint palette in the other. What would come next was entirely up to me.

I started asking myself some tough questions: What did I want to create in the next phase of my personal and professional life? What were my unique interests, skills, and ambitions? How could I use my time and resources to positively impact my family, friends, peers, other professionals, students, and community? What were my priorities?

Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the past year.

What I eventually realized was that there were no easy answers – no “lightbulb moments” – no one-size-fits-all solutions. While I love working in a corporate setting, I didn’t want to throw myself into an all-consuming job (neither did my wife Debbie…). While I love teaching grad students at Butler University, full-time academia isn’t my next step. Though I love volunteering and supporting great causes in my community, pursuing a full-time philanthropy role didn’t feel right either.

Then I realized something. I didn’t want to choose – and I didn’t have to.

That’s why I’m making 2015 all about exploration. I’m helping colleagues and friends start their businesses. I’m investing in some crazy-cool startups. I’m continuing to help my students learn and fulfill their career aspirations. I’m volunteering and engaging on nonprofit boards for organizations I’m passionate about. Most importantly, I’m spending quality time with my family and being present in my kids’ lives – while they still want to hang out with their dad…

Last, but not least, I’m doing something I’ve never done before – starting my own business!

Cadence Consulting is the result of many months of planning, networking, dreaming, and good old-fashioned hard work. I’ll be helping companies of all sizes and in all industries bring back office to the forefront (like my new tagline?). With more than 15 years of experience across human resources, legal/risk management, and corporate real estate, Cadence is the perfect vehicle for me to impact more people, more companies, and more communities.

And I can’t wait to get started.