Getting to Work Fulfillment in a Gradient Way: Breakfast with Brad Lande, CEO of Live in the Grey

Even before Live in the Grey, Brad Lande had always taken a keen interest in company culture.

“I cared deeply about the people I worked with, and I had a genuine interest,” said Brad. “Not everyone is built that way and it was just in my DNA. It was the thing that made me a better manager and better person.”

Brad’s awareness and perceptiveness of the things that motivated different people allowed him to build a library of tools throughout his career that led him to his role as CEO of Live in the Grey today.

Brad shared insights from his deep library in a SheWorx breakfast on how to help individuals and organizations become more holistically successful, part of Live in the Grey’s core mission.

Know your employees’ personal values, and your own values first, then understand how they interact with the company’s values.

“In end, an organization is nothing without the individuals who are working there, so it is first understanding what they value in their holistic life, not in their work self. Things like family can show up, even though family may not be a value driver for the organization,” said Brade. “But if the people in the organization value family, you need to know that.”

Live in the Grey has developed a process to help companies re-identify with their company’s values and culture. The team always starts with the personal values of the people working at the company. Live in the Grey has developed a process with 72 “value cards,” and all employees are asked to lay them out from personally most valued to least valued.

“It’s a fairly confronting process, because most of the values are things people would usually value,” said Brade. “Choosing to put family in “seldom valued” makes you feel like a bad person, but the point is, there are tradeoffs.”

After employees define their personal values, they meet with their team and write their shared values together. It is here patterns begin to emerge.

“You might notice an outlier and that’s okay. The truth is, it takes all kinds of people to make teams work. If you’re a bunch of bots that all look the same and value the same thing that may not be so good,” said Brad. “So the point is not to find everyone with same things, but then to have discussion as team and to know what you value as a team.”

The final exercise is taking the values of the organization and placing them on the wall so that people can think about how to more authentically live into each of the company’s values with their own personal values and regular behaviors in mind. It allows employees to actually connect with the company values, as opposed to them being something simply written on a wall or some words a CEO might say once in awhile.

Then, Live in the Grey takes the aggregate values and delivers data and analysis to the leaders of the organization to help them develop new programs that better align with each team or group’s values.

Retain employees by really listening to them about what is important to them.

When Brad found his own experience at Birchbox lacking, he was able to sit down with the co-founders of the company and have an authentic conversation with them. He explained what was important to him in his work: intimacy and actually knowing the people he worked with. The co-founders gave him more responsibility and involved him in developing more leadership programs and helping employees connect more. The genuine act of listening helped him to stay at Birchbox longer than he would have.

“They listened to me about what was important and came back with shifts in responsibility. What was becoming more important to me was social impact,” said Brad.

For example, at the time, Brad was concerned that Birchbox was producing millions of boxes a year and a massive amount of waste was happening with no sustainability plan, and no one was focusing on that. They asked Brad if he wanted to develop one.

“So they got me engaged in something, and it was a smart thing to do. I think it ended up continuing my career there for a long time.”

The new era of work is all about fulfillment.

“Fulfillment is not a word my parents would have used when they were talking about work, it was like you showed up, you got the job done and left. I think those are things that register higher in the ‘new workforce’ but quite frankly there are many people in all generations who have been longing for that for years and years.

For Brad at Live in the Grey, fulfillment is about bringing people deeper connection to their work roles and helping them to understand the impact they are having on the organization in their role.

“People are craving this, and ultimately what I’ve noticed is that the difference between having a fulfilled career and not is being able to show up fully.”

Fulfillment at work can be fostered even in ways that are not even directly related to the company’s values or explicitly mission.

“For example, Birchbox is not about mindfulness and meditation. It’s about selling products online, that’s why I showed up each day — to drive that forward,” said Brade. “But when mindfulness and meditation became important to me, I started a mindfulness and meditation group. It was only 20 minutes a day, but it made me feel more fulfilled in that role.”

Thus, Brad encourages companies and employees to think about how they can blend work and life values, even if the core business model is not driving the social impact.

“There are ways to get there in a gradient way.”

Your culture is your founder in the beginning, but eventually it will grow along with a growing company.

Brad noted that in the beginning of a company, the culture is the founder and the things they value.

“You’re the one showing up every day and setting the stage and motivating and keeping inspired with the vision.”

But as a company grows, these values will inevitably change, and it is important to be honest about such changes within the company, and to not let such values become outdated. A company should be continuously revisiting values and re-evaluating what is important.

This applies for personal values too, Brad noted. He re-evaluates his personal values every year and makes sure to keep them at hand.

“Different things in your life influence the things that are most important to you,” said Brad, who always keeps his current values at his fingertips on his phone, “I really use that both as a way to make decisions about my personal life and both as a methodology for my business.”

To draw out an individual’s values when interviewing and best determine fit, ask questions about failure.

“I would say probably 70% of people don’t give an honest answer and it’s really obvious, and to me that’s a really big sign that you don’t have someone who has humility. Either they don’t answer or they give you a fake answer.”

Brad also likes to ask interviewees questions that have nothing to do with work and starting out getting to know them instead, though it can sometimes be a little off putting.

“What are they passionate about? What are they doing on the weekends? What are the things really making them come alive?”

Ensuring diversity in your company means being aware of of your own bias.

“You rectify [the diversity problem] by holding that truth and just being really honest with yourself when you’re making hires,” said Brad. “I’ve seen organizations that breed difference and that embrace difference and I have no doubt from my personal experience how it creates a better outcome. I think it only comes from people really understanding that there is that bias and working hard at it. There’s a lot of talk about diversity, but walking the talk is a whole other deal and it’s challenging, but I think it does breed better teams.”


SheWorx is a global collective of ambitious female entrepreneurs and changemakers redefining the next wave of leadership.

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