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Permission to Speak – Leadership Blog – Kelly Vandever Interviews Hollie Delaney & Christa Foley of Zappos about Holacracy


Permission to Speak

Leadership Video Blog & Podcast

Hosted by Leadership Communications Expert Kelly Vandever

Permission to Speak is the video blog and podcast that loiters at the intersections of leaders who want their people to speak up, technology that facilitates connections, and results that serve an organization’s higher purpose.

Our guests for this episode:   Hollie Delaney & Christa Foley of Zappos

About Hollie Delaney & Christa Foley:

Hollie Delaney heads up all things People and HR related at Zappos.

Christa Foley heads up Zappos Insights as well as work on People, Culture, and Brand.

Both ladies have worked at Zappos over 10 years and share insights on holacracy, employee engagement, and helping other organizations learn from Zappos.

About Zappos Insights:

Zappos Insights is a department within the Zappos Family of Companies created help share the Zappos Culture with the world. – See more at: https://www.zapposinsights.com/

Topics covered:

  • Zappos Insights helps other organizations implement employee engagement within their organization
  • Treat people like you want to be treated
  • Zappos’ core values
  • Hiring people who fit into your culture
  • Recruiting gets the final say when it comes to a core values alignment of candidates
  • 5 week on-boarding program, almost half of which is a deep dive into the core values of the organization
  • Also spend 40 hours learning how to do the frontline job talking with customers
  • Provide holacracy training as well during the on-boarding program
  • Values very much part of the day-to-day at Zappos, so much ingrained in what they do every day
  • Distributing authority and what that looks like in holacracy
  • Glass Frog, Zappos’ internal tool
  • Freedom to do what you want to do within your career and get the roles you want
  • Purpose focus
  • There is still a hierarchy in holacracy
  • Organized in circles
  • Are you upholding the purpose of your role and the organization’s purpose?
  • Focus on delivering “Wow” experiences
  • Process tensions
  • Bigger the company, the harder to be in touch with the front line and the customer
  • Holacracy provides a much faster path for issues at the front line or with customers to be processed, without having to go to formal chains of command but by going directly to the person with the accountability
  • Holacracy was a way to serve both internal and external clients and keep nimble with what really matters
  • Tactical meetings and governance meetings at Zappos
  • With the shift to holacracy, Hollie found it more fulfilling that people came to her because they wanted to and needed her help versus because they had to because she was “the HR director”
  • You don’t need holacracy to expect that people will be responsible for their jobs, they are now. Be there to provide help and guidance when they need it versus dictating how they need to do their jobs.
  • In manager role, it’s easy to get trapped in a “hero” save the day mentality. Get out of employees’ ways.  If expectations are clear, let people get their jobs done the way they want as long as they’re meeting their purpose.
  • Misperception the media has about holacracy
  • The purpose of Zappos Insights is inspire organizations to make work better and more fulfilling
  • Zappos Insights was formed in 2008 to field questions that came up from other organizations/executives related to the Zappos culture.
  • Zappos Insights website has testimonials of some organizations about their experiences with Zappos Insights
  • Small shifts can make a big difference in morale and impact productivity and customer experience
  • Wishes program
  • At Zappos they don’t have to have a program that work for every group, it’s OK to have multiple, smaller programs by department (instead of trying to have one size fit all)
  • $50 co-worker bonus program, each person can give any other employee $50 a month
  • Community charity program
  • Co-mingling of personal and business is part of the Zappos’ experience, the company’s more than just a job, where family brags about Zappos and wants to wear Zappos gears
  • Doesn’t need to be a divide between work and life, it’s just life
  • Pleasant surprise, lifelong friendship
  • Hollie’s pleasant support from work to being healthier, from not being able to walk to the end of the block to running marathons
  • Christa’s pleasant surprise the flexibility to shift fields entirely within the company, great for growth and learning (without the threat of not being able to go back if it didn’t work out)
  • Committing to your values, even when faced with tough decisions, really important

We discussed but didn’t articulate Zappos 10 core values.  Here they are…

  1. Deliver WOW through service
  2. Embrace and drive change
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness
  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded
  5. Pursue growth and learning
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit
  8. Do more with less
  9. Be passionate and determined
  10. Be humble

Questions answered:

What have been the misconceptions that the media has or perpetuated about holacracy?

Is there a way that I can learn more about Zappos culture so I can apply the same principles in my organization?

How does holacracy work at Zappos?

What are ways to engage employees?

How does Zappos engage employees?

How does Zappos infuse their culture during on-boarding?

How do you teach employees the core values of the company when they first start?

How can you match job candidates with your company’s values?

What is cultural fit?  Why is it important?

How much time does Zappos invest in training new employees when they come on board?

How do keep in touch with the front line and your customers as your organization grows?

What is Zappos Insights?

What are Zappos’ core values?


Book & Training Recommended:

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsiesh

Zappos Insights Training