#35: Leading With Love with Claude Silver

#35: Leading With Love with Claude Silver

Lead with your heart, not just your head! This week on YAP, Hala speaks with Claude Silver, the world’s first “Chief Heart Officer” and Gary Vaynerchuk’s right-hand woman at VaynerMedia. Claude owns the onboarding, recruitment, retention, and graduation of all the employees at the digital media agency. She is known for leading with her heart and emotional optimism. In this episode, we’ll dive into how Claude is able to touch every heartbeat at Vaynermedia, and how her past experiences have shaped her leadership style. We’ll also uncover HR topics like how she sets employees up for success with a unique onboarding program and her method for letting employees go. Get marketing services like logos, whiteboard videos, animation and web development on Fivver: track.fiverr.com/visit/?bta=51570&brand=fiverrcpa Learn new marketing skills like graphic design and video editing on Fivver Learn: track.fiverr.com/visit/?bta=51570…rand=fiverrlearn

#35: Leading With Love with Claude Silver

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[00:01:20] You're listening to Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn and profit.

[00:01:26] I'm your host, Hala Taha. And today we're speaking with Claude Silver, the world's first Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia. Gary Vs digital media agency, plod owns the onboarding recruitment, retention and graduation of all the employees at the company. She has over 20 years of fortune 50 corporate experience and is known for leading with her heart and emotional optimism.

[00:01:48] She's a top voice in the HR space. And in this episode, we'll dive into how she's able to be in touch with every heartbeat at our company, as well as her take on creating a healthy company culture and how she deals

[00:02:00] with onboarding and letting employees go.

[00:02:04] Hi, Claude. Welcome to Young And Profiting Podcast.

[00:02:06] Claude Silver: Great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:02:09] Hala Taha: Yes. It's a lovely to have you on the show. We've been looking forward to this interview for quite some time. So welcome. You are an incredibly powerful woman for my listeners who might not be aware. You're the second in line at VaynerMedia, which is Gary V's Uber successful media agency.

[00:02:26] Could you start by telling me. As the first ever Chief Heart Officer, which is your title, what do you do? And what do you consider as your area of expertise?

[00:02:38] Claude Silver: Terrific. Yes. Chief Heart Officer here. My job is to take care of every single employee and I consider heart as the central operating system of a human being and human beings, the central operating system of a company or a culture.

[00:02:54] So I oversee everything that is normally called HR. We call it people in

[00:03:00] experience, because after all that is what we're doing here, people and experience. And I also oversee learning and development, DNI initiatives, culture initiatives, everything like that. So my job is all encompassing people, operations.

[00:03:14] I would call it I'm in the business of people, which I love. So that is the job. And I spend my day in and a lot of one-on-one meetings, getting to know people, re meeting people, whether or not they're reaching out to me proactively, or I reach out to them. I'm in leadership meetings. We're trying to move the needle here, there, and everywhere.

[00:03:34] Whether or not that's in process or that's in training or that's in refining, what it is we do. That's what I'm doing.

[00:03:41] Hala Taha: That's very cool. So how would you say that your chief heart officer role is really different than a traditional CHRO?

[00:03:49] Claude Silver: For one, I was never in a HR and so it would be really odd for me to say that I was actually a CHR having been a strategist my entire

[00:04:00] life.

[00:04:01] I want to honor all the CHR heroes out there, because I didn't grow up in that way. I didn't grow up with rules and regulations and being compliance experts and whatnot. I grew up in creative agencies working on Austin strategies on a global level. And so that's really like base right. The other way is that my job here, unlike a lot of CHRs.

[00:04:21] The people, it is the people. In fact, the only job description I have and that I ever received from Gary is the following, to touch every single employee and infuse the agency with heart. So that's the job description. And I figured out how to do that every single day, because every day is different, because I'm dealing with people in life.

[00:04:46] And what I'm looking at are patterns. I'm collecting a lot of information from people looking at patterns and then making changes or helping people connect the dots, remove roadblocks for themselves. So I would actually

[00:05:00] call myself or consider myself like an Uber coach or a Sherpa, if you will. And all I want to do is turn people into champions in turn people, the heroes, and ignite other leaders to do the same.

[00:05:13] Hala Taha: Yeah. So it seems like VaynerMedia was a first company to really have this concept of a chief heart officer. Have you seen this trend taking off elsewhere? Have you started a trend?

[00:05:26] Claude Silver: I see that there's a lot of interest for sure. And I see more chief people officers. Coming up in the arenas, whether or not that's in.

[00:05:36] London or whether or not that's here in America. So that's wonderful. And I'm not quite sure what chief people, officers do. I haven't really ever sat down with one yet, but I hope to soon and really figure out what our differences are, what our similarities are. So I really truly believe that we are not only in the age of information, but we're really moving into this age of heart of

[00:06:00] emotional intelligence intuition.

[00:06:02] And with that said, I believe that humanity and my hope is that we bring humanity back into our workplaces. Now you can ask me, Hey, Claude was humanity ever in our workplaces. I don't know. But my mission is to bring it back, to spread this idea that, it is not the brain and IQ, which connects us it's the heart and the EQ and connection.

[00:06:28] And below. Which keeps us not only on our toes, it keeps us in community and keeps us wanting to strive to be better individuals and better as team.

[00:06:39] Hala Taha: Totally. So let's talk about your career at Vaynermedia. From my understanding you started off as a senior VP for Gary, you ran account and strategy, and then you actually quit and you came back to the company later on.

[00:06:57] Could you just share that story with our listeners?

[00:07:00] Why did you initially leave the company and what made you go back.

[00:07:03] Claude Silver: It's a great story. So I had been doing strategy, as I mentioned for a very long time on a global level and a year into my career here at VaynerMedia. It just dawned on me, that I literally lost the passion to do the selling.

[00:07:19] I just lost it. It wasn't interesting anymore to me to discuss the copy on an ad or how we were going to reach a certain target. I only wanted to work and grow teams. So I went to Gary on my one year. The anniversary is what we call it. And I said, thank you so much. This has been fantastic. And I really think I'm done here.

[00:07:44] I really think I'm done and I'm not interested in this work and you're terrific. And this place is great. And, God's. And he said in his wonderful way, what is it that you want to do? What do you want to do? Because that's who he is. He's such a giver, and I said, I only

[00:08:00] care about the heartbeat of this place.

[00:08:01] I only care about the people. And he said, cool, I need you to do this for 18 more months. And I said, I don't have 18 more months. And we went our own ways. Over the next six months I found a backfill. Who's wonderful. She's here and still here. And she's amazing. And I went in and I resigned and it really got punched him because he didn't see it happening.

[00:08:24] He didn't see it coming. And, we had such a great relationship and I think in hindsight, I didn't give him enough of a heads up, which of course I would want to, and I would tell anyone to going forward, but I left and we had a wonderful, incredible conversation. And that conversation, even though it was very painful, he said, I don't want us to be like those friends in college that disappear from each other's lives.

[00:08:48] And you just remember 20, 30 years later God, I really loved hanging out with that person. And I'll never forget. He said that to me. Anyway, I went about my business and my life. And

[00:09:00] four months later we had breakfast together and we sat down and he said, that's it. You're coming back as Chief Heart Officer.

[00:09:07] And I was like, great. I'm in, count me in like, how do we know if I'm successful? And that's when he gave me the remit of touching every employee and infusing the agency with empathy.

[00:09:17] Hala Taha: That's incredible. What an nice story. And it just goes to show, how giving heart from the company really starts at the top at your company.

[00:09:25] Gary seems to be like such a giver, such a genuine person, and then he's given you this great mission. Probably very motivating to everybody who works at VaynerMedia. That's exceptional. How can others like replicate what you've done in terms of creating such a meaningful relationship with the top person at the company that you worked for?

[00:09:46] What is it that you do that helps you connect with somebody on level of Gary V? Who has everybody wants his attention all hours of the day. So like, how did you foster such a meaningful relationship?

[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] Claude Silver: First and foremost, when we met, which was in August of 2013, I was living in London at the time when we met, we had just a dynamic chemistry.

[00:10:09] It was almost as though we were meeting each other's brother or sister. And so we just happened to have that energy together. However, I really answered the question. My job has always been to make my boss's job easier. And how do I do that? How do I provide value is either by asking. Anticipating doing it, doing what I think is the right move.

[00:10:33] And then being told like, yes, that was the right move more or no, don't do that next time. And more importantly, giving that senior leader or that CEO information. And that is literally what helps our relationship continue to thrive because my role was set up to scale. Period to scale him because

[00:11:00] he is the CHR.

[00:11:01] Let's be honest. He's the CCO he's the CEO is the chief operating officer. He's all of those things. It's his company, but you can't be in all those places at once. And we're at such a magnitude of people now. And when he gave me this role, we were already at a magnitude that, what does he need? He needs information.

[00:11:19] He wants to know how are we doing? How is this culture doing? What is going on the floor? What are people saying? How are people thriving? Are people being too subjective these days when it comes to creative reviews, So giving your CEO or your C-suite or your leaders information. I think there's no best thing you can do aside from, taking things off of their plate.

[00:11:41] Hala Taha: That's very good advice. Previously, you were just saying that Gary gave you the mission to be in touch with the heartbeat of every single person at the company. Based on our research. Last we checked, you had about 800 employees. Is that about right?

[00:11:55] Claude Silver: That's correct.

[00:11:56] Hala Taha: So how are you able to connect with every person?

[00:11:59] That's [00:12:00] a lot of people.

[00:12:01] Claude Silver: A lot of people. I had to learn how to scale myself and in scaling myself, I have to trust people to, be their own culture champion, if you will. The thing about Gary and the thing about me is that we are not micromanagers. We trust first, we give trust first. And in doing that, I believe that allows people to spread their wings and take it upon themselves to inspire and take care of others.

[00:12:29] I truly believe that we've been around 10 years now. There are people employee one, two, and three are still with us. There's a bunch of us that have been here for five, six years. Those of us that have been around for so long, we get it. We understand, we don't drink the Kool-Aid. We drink the water.

[00:12:45] And in doing that, I can trust people to spread positivity, to spread the optimism, to spread collaboration and patience and gratitude and generosity just

[00:13:00] as I would. And I haven't been incredible team, that does that and that each person on my team oversees anywhere from 50 to 120 people. And what I mean overseas serves them takes care.

[00:13:11] Hala Taha: Yeah. You call those culture carriers. Is that what you're referring?

[00:13:14] Claude Silver: No, the people on my team. Who are actually on the people and experienced team, our HR business partners, that's what they would be called anywhere else. So I have them, but then the culture champions or the culture carriers, or these other people that have spent enormous amounts of time already with Gary or with me.

[00:13:33] And I can trust them. And in fact, today, perfect example, someone came in my office, he's been here 45 days. He's loving it. It's in the honeymoon period. And I asked him, has he met anyone else outside of his team? And he hadn't. So I wrote an email to 10 people. I know, I can trust. And I said, Hey, I want to introduce you to my new friend.

[00:13:54] This is what he does so forth and so on. Please take 15 minutes to go on a walk,

[00:14:00] get a coffee. And already the emails come on. Hey man, I'll set up some time. Hey, I'll set up some time with you. That's amazing. There is how I scale. So imagine me doing that and knowing, I can do that in any office. I traveled to the other offices.

[00:14:14] I'm on Skype. I'm on Google Hangouts. I do culture jam sessions when I'm in any other office, getting people together. So there are tons of different ways. I do that. Organic. And the role is very high touch and we at Vayner are still very high touch. We don't use a lot of tech, yet to reach out and touch people in terms of quantifying.

[00:14:37] Yeah, that's how I scale and I'm always. Reaching out and saying, Hey to someone.

[00:14:42] Hala Taha: Yeah. And I've listened to other interviews that you've had and other things that you've said. And from my understanding, you really try to understand everyone's motivations and problems and dreams. And in summary, I think that you try to just keep everybody happy and research proves that happy employees are more productive.

[00:14:59] You've

[00:15:00] also mentioned in past interviews, that speed is the main KPI at your company. Does keeping employees happy, all the connections that you make, how does that actually move the needle in terms of productivity and driving business benefits for VaynerMedia?

[00:15:16] That's

[00:15:16] Claude Silver: a great question. I think not only am I trying to keep everyone happy.

[00:15:21] I think the way I would say it is creating, a culture of belonging and bravery is really what I'm doing every day. And within that culture, You can find fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness, because I'm not able to keep everyone happy. That would be incredible if I could, but I can't, but I think I can make sure that people feel like they belong and they are recognized.

[00:15:45] And that goes a heck of a long way, I believe. And so when people, first company paying attention to what people are going through inside and outside of work. Giving them growth and development opportunities, giving them at bats.

[00:16:00] All of those things inspire them to be the best that they can possibly be.

[00:16:05] They're learning hard skills and they're learning life skills. And because we're an empathetic. Lot over here. What is our main priority as an agency is to reach consumers in an empathetic way. There's a real synergy that goes on there, but bottom line, if you are good to people, they will want to work hard for you and in working hard.

[00:16:28] That helps our bottom and top line.

[00:16:31] Hala Taha: Totally something related to this, as you've talked about the difference between time management and energy management. Could you explain that to our listeners?

[00:16:40] Claude Silver: I sure can. So time management is keeping yourself on schedule, knowing that you need to do five different, big tasks throughout the day, and you have an eight to nine hour day, and you're going to have to fit all that in, and it stresses you out because yes, more tasks.

[00:16:57] Some tasks take more time and we multitask and we get

[00:17:00] all out of sync. We all do it. Energy management is different. It is being aware, of what's going on inside of you, how you feel when you do what, when is your best time during the day to be most motivated? When should you have client calls? Because you feel alert and on top of the ball, when is it better to write emails and that's you checking in with yourself?

[00:17:23] No one else can do that for yourself. I can help someone manage their time and I can do, I can help someone with a task, but energy management is a wonderful way to become more self-aware. And that really is okay, I'm going to give myself two hours to do this next task. And then I know I'm going to be really drained.

[00:17:41] So I'm going to get up. I'm going to take a walk on the Highline. I'm going to get a coffee. I'm going to go to lunch. You're going to reward yourself. And what are those rewards? Do they ultimately give you more energy.

[00:17:52] Hala Taha: Oh, that's very interesting. I like the concept that you say, like there's certain tasks that you're better at for example, I've read in the [00:18:00] past that at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM.

[00:18:02] That's when you're most creative. So whenever I have something really creative to do, I always block out my 4:00 to 5:00 PM slot and email is something that a lot of people like to do. Like first thing, when they get in. Just knock it out. So they're not distracted all day by it.

[00:18:16] Very good advice. Cool.

[00:18:18] Claude Silver: Cool.

[00:18:18] Hala Taha: So there's a phrase that comes up a lot in relationship work and it's building the honey empire. What does that mean? Tell us about that.

[00:18:28] Claude Silver: Yeah, the honey empire is really the ethos that we have behind putting people first. So people not profit another way. I say it is kindness before KPI.

[00:18:39] So honey is what is normally called soft skills as the emotional intelligence and see what I call life skills. It's the collaboration, communication, understanding that you work for a logo, understanding that this isn't about making yourself the hero. It's about making everyone the hero or the champion.

[00:18:59] That's the

[00:19:00] honey part and that pays dividends to the empire. And the empire is the success. As the profitability is the happy clients is the fact that we've surprised, delighted and touched our consumers. That's the empire. So honey comes first though, and that is literally. The kindness, the sincerity, the radical candor, even the tough love, that all is honey because chief heart officer, it sounds awfully sticky and sweet.

[00:19:27] Doesn't it? It's not that's. My job is to be real with people. That's why I said it's not really to spread happiness. It's really, to help people through their roadblocks, identifying things about themselves, that they want to get clearer on, teaching self-awareness. And in turn that then creates a stronger human being and a stronger human being is going to help this company be more successful.

[00:19:53] Hala Taha: Yeah. So apart from your work across the marketing and media ecosystem, you also co-founded

[00:20:00] and served as managing director at Girls' Adventure Out, which is a woman's focused outdoor adventure enterprise. That's very different than, your day job. So how did you get involved with that and how does it help you in any capacity in your current role?

[00:20:15] Claude Silver: The funny thing is I was coaching surfing, 275 days a week. Days a year. I'm sorry. And so I was in the Pacific ocean, pushing people in cold water all day long. And I'm coaching people here. That's who I am internally is coach. I'm a cheerleader, roll your sleeves up type of person. And being in the outdoors is something that really makes me come alive.

[00:20:40] Whether or not it's rock climbing or snowboarding or wakeboarding or surfing. And those things inspire me. And so to take that energy of inspiration and come into a place like this, where there's 800 people, that it is my job to make sure I'm reaching out to I need that juice. I also need inspiration

[00:21:00] and that's how I get it by pushing myself in certain ways, by coaching other people outside of a four walls type of place.

[00:21:08] So it's a real nice relationship.

[00:21:11] Hala Taha: Yeah. And it probably gives you such like a full life, to have both your career and then something that's more like passion related because you love the wilderness.

[00:21:20] Claude Silver: I love being outside.

[00:21:23] Hala Taha: Let's talk about that a bed. So when you're young, you decided in your words, not mine, that you needed your butt kicked and you went on a 90 day journey in the wilderness.

[00:21:34] So tell us about that story. What made you want to do that? What were you like as a young kid that you felt like you needed to have this journey to find yourself?

[00:21:41] Claude Silver: Yeah, I was 19 and I had gone to university for two years. I wasn't doing well. I was going nowhere fast. I didn't have options for myself. I didn't have enough self-love quite frankly, and self-confidence in my own abilities.

[00:21:58] And I

[00:22:00] left after my sophomore year and I told my parents, I need to find the longest outward bound and I need to get my butt kicked. And I did. I found a 93 day course and it kicked my butt. It did, but it did so much more. It gave me confidence.

[00:22:14] It gave me some physical strength, emotional strength. It taught me skills that I didn't know, I even had inside of me. And ultimately it created a servant leader out of me. And that is who I am today. So I'm so grateful that I knew and enough. I really did. I knew enough to say to my parents, I should not be going to school right now.

[00:22:36] This is not gonna work out well. And that was a pivotal turning point in my life.

[00:22:42] Hala Taha: Yeah, it's interesting. I also dropped out of college for a short period of time and went back. I did it to like work at a radio station, do all these fun things, but I think it's important for my listeners to know it's okay.

[00:22:54] To take a pause from school. Like you do not need to do college in four years. Like you can still be

[00:23:00] successful and not do college in four years and you might be more successful because you'll probably be more mature, when you return get better grades, whatever it is, and actually be ready for schooling. So definitely keep that in mind.

[00:23:12] If you're in college, you don't need to graduate in four years, everybody has their own path. Switching gears a bit, something that's pretty well known about you. Your sexual orientation. So you came out as a lesbian when you were 22 at first, you weren't open about it and your professional life at work, but now you're very open about it.

[00:23:30] You speak about it all the time. So how was that shift like and how has being more open and transparent helped you as an effective leader?

[00:23:41] Claude Silver: Yeah, so living authentically is super important to me and in my early twenties, When I was at work or even into my early thirties, that was a part of me that I kept back, even though I was in San Francisco.

[00:23:56] Hello, one of the most liberal cities in the world filled

[00:24:00] with all different types of people. I didn't get the signals at work, that it was okay to share that part of me. And so I didn't, but I would, after I left work. And I just recognize at some point, as I became older and I became more experienced in life and more experienced in the working world, like no one really cares, no one really cares.

[00:24:23] And if someone cares and that's not the person I want to hang out with. So I found that the more and more I started to share, my whole self people really found inspiration and appreciate. With that. And then of course, when I came to VaynerMedia, I was one of the oldest people here. That's the first thing.

[00:24:45] And I was already at a place where I was like I'm just me. So hello. And being chief heart officer. My whole mantra, is creating a culture of belonging and bravery and making sure that people feel like they can bring their

[00:25:00] whole self to work. So well, I sure have to show up like that, And it's just so wonderful to not have that monkey on your back, whatever the monkey is, like I oversee diversity and inclusivity and by overseeing, meaning like it's, my job is my responsibility at the end of the day and the beginning of the day to make sure that people feel physically and psychologically safe here and that there is a place for them.

[00:25:25] And that means whether or not it's race, ethnicity, religious sexuality. Seen an unseen handicaps diversity of thinking, like that is what I'm doing and what I'm looking at every day. And I have to walk that walk and I do it about, it's not a second thought. I don't think twice about it. And I haven't for years and years.

[00:25:45] So my recommendation is remember, no one really cares. People are very consumed with themselves. And so just. In being used, you're going to lighten your load by tenfold and

[00:26:00] just be a happier person.

[00:26:01] Hala Taha: Yeah. That's wonderful advice. I totally agree. Previously, you lightly mentioned these unseen disability is.

[00:26:09] I know that you struggled with dyslexia when you were growing up, you had to take the SATs three times, for example. And there's lots of famous people who have dyslexia too. Like Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, who's the founder of Virgin Atlantic, but they credit dyslexia for their success. How has having dyslexia, helped you in areas like grit or empathy and understanding people and their problems.

[00:26:36] Claude Silver: Yeah. I credit dyslexia for everything I do, because it forced me to learn the world in a different way. Absolutely. I couldn't rely on the same skills, that my brother cooked. I couldn't rely on the same way to learn as my friends could in school. I didn't retain information the way they did.

[00:26:55] And I certainly didn't take tests the way they did. So I had to learn

[00:27:00] how to find success in different ways. I had to learn confidence in different ways, and I found that. For example, being in the outdoors, I'm an experiential learner. So I have to get my hands dirty in order to learn something. I wouldn't be half as successful at this job.

[00:27:18] A had I not had dyslexia, but B had I not really done everything, I have done in my life to understand people in human behavior, whether or not that was my own human behavior. Whether or not that was working in a psych ward or whether or not that was volunteering at the hospital. Whether or not that was teaching ropes courses for C-suite in Silicon Valley, you name it.

[00:27:44] And my passion is people. I'm very curious about, our behavior and the stories that we tell ourselves and our limiting beliefs. So all of that stuff goes into my toolkit every single day.

[00:28:00] And again, had I not had to learn a different way of seeing the world I wouldn't be here. And my secret sauce is that, I'm able to identify patterns very quickly and that helps my intuition that much.

[00:28:15] Hala Taha: That's very interesting. The thing that really stands out for me in this conversation is that your weaknesses can very often become your greatest strengths. And I see that time and time again, when I have conversations with very successful people, it's often what you think might be a weakness.

[00:28:32] It turns out to be something, that really helps you along the way. So very cool. So I just want to. Pause and mentioned that I think it's really noble of you to talk about these invisible qualities. Nobody would know unless he made it public, both your sexual orientation and dyslexia. It's not something you can just tell about a person from the outside.

[00:28:51] So the fact that you're so open about it, I'm sure has motivated and helped so many people overcome similar challenges. So you are a true role model and you should be [00:29:00] very proud.

[00:29:01] Claude Silver: Thank you very much.

[00:29:02] Hala Taha: So let's switch topics a bit and talk about like company culture, onboarding, employee engagement, and things like that.

[00:29:09] How do you guys typically onboard your employees at VaynerMedia?

[00:29:14] Claude Silver: I'm really proud of what we do. We take every single employee, whether or not you are the CFO or you are a copywriter or community manager, through a four day orientation and you sit with everyone. We have new starters. We have new joiners every single week.

[00:29:32] And in New York, for example, we might have anything from 6 to 25 new people join and you are all of a sudden put into community. And in these four days you are getting our secret sauce. Subject matter, experts from every different discipline, come in and talk to you for half an hour to an hour and tell you what we're about.

[00:29:56] And so you start to hear how we think about things. How,

[00:30:00] why are we an entrepreneurial company? Where did we start? Why do we see. Media differently today. Why do we see marketing differently? Why do we have our own production studio? What do we do in that production studio? And so you're starting to learn a good smattering of things that we do here.

[00:30:19] You get to meet not only your new cohort, but you get to meet these people that are coming in and talking to you. So you all of a sudden, you're like, oh, when I pass that person in the hall. Great. I remember that person taught me about Facebook ads and you haven't associated. And you go to lunch with new buddies every single day.

[00:30:39] And then the late afternoon, you sit with your new team, whatever that is. If you're on the client service team, you go ahead and you sit with whatever account you're on, so forth and so on. And so it's really awesome. I believe what we do here. It's four days and I've been at many companies. Now, mind you, those companies were publicly owned.

[00:31:00]

[00:31:01] I've been at many companies where you just watch a video from the CEO and that's it. Goodbye. And you're like, I am okay.

[00:31:08] Hala Taha: Here's your computer? Good luck.

[00:31:09] Claude Silver: Yeah. It's I don't even know where the bathroom is and this is just so different. They get an office tour, they go to our other offices. And so this happens in every office, whether or not you're in the Chattanooga office, the London office, it's soon going to happen in our Singapore office.

[00:31:25] Very stoked on that. And my team oversees that because it is about people and experience. And then we bring in these subject matter experts and, I'll spend a half an hour with them on culture and what is a CHO. And what do we do and why is it different and how you're going to work with me and how you're going to work with the team.

[00:31:40] And what do you do if you have a me. So forth and so on.

[00:31:44] Hala Taha: Yeah. And then I'm assuming the people who are, presenting about their departments, their volunteers.

[00:31:50] Claude Silver: Oh yeah, absolutely. They're volunteers. And it's funny that you ask, I just sent a note out to the creative team today, looking for new volunteers.

[00:31:59] Hala Taha: Yeah, it just [00:32:00] goes to show the culture because at money companies, people would not I don't have time for that. I don't have time to speak to these new people.

[00:32:05] Claude Silver: Yeah. By the way, it's not utopia here. They definitely go through those groans when I send something out like that. But I just remind.

[00:32:12] You started once upon a time. What would it have been like if no one showed up in that room for you. You wouldn't have liked it. It's just, that's more and more empathy again, remember what it's like.

[00:32:21] Hala Taha: Yeah. So what other activities do you organize for your employees? Do you have special activities for employee engagement that you coordinate?

[00:32:29] Claude Silver: Yeah, so we have these community resource groups, or sometimes they're called affinity groups or ERG, and those have been started organically. And whether or not that is the Dungeons and dragons group, whether or not. The Amigos group that was set up by people that identify as Latinex and do Hispanic marketing.

[00:32:46] There's a group for people that identify as black for Asian. There's the pride group. Of course, there's the running club. There's the sneakerheads club. So there are probably 80 different [00:33:00] clubs. We call them squads, that you can join that are open to anyone and everyone, you don't have to just like Dungeons and dragons.

[00:33:06] You can go check it out. You know what I mean? We do wine Wednesday. So of course Gary started in the wine business to every office. Does it. Version of wine Wednesday, obviously in LA or Chattanooga you're driving. So we've modified that a bit. Have different offices have mindfulness, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, depending on again, what the ask has been, globally, we have a partnership with class pass.

[00:33:32] We use different meditation apps. So there's a lot, there's a lot of trainings. We have lunch and learns from all of the platforms. We are people come in and help people understand their student loans and all that stuff. So we look at the holistic human being quite frankly, and find ways in which we can aid and really reach out and touch those different parts of our human.

[00:33:56] Because it's not just when you come in here at nine. And when

[00:34:00] you leave here at six, life is more than. The working day.

[00:34:05] Hala Taha: Totally. I would definitely encourage all of our listeners. If you work at a company that has ERG, which are employee resource groups, or, whatever your company calls them to get involved.

[00:34:16] I actually was the president of the young employee network. When I worked at HP, I started my chapter and it was just so much fun and it gives you such great leadership skills. And it's definitely something that like, if you want to be a leader, you're on the younger side, it's a great way to get exposure with leaders at your company and also lead a group of people with similar interests.

[00:34:36] So I would definitely recommend getting involved. So how do you deal with an employee that is underperforming? How do you have those tough conversations?

[00:34:47] Claude Silver: The way we do it, here's a couple of different ways. What we are really encouraging our managers and leaders to have very candid feedback meetings in their

[00:35:00] one-on-ones.

[00:35:00] And we use the radical candor steps that Kim Scott book, I've just faint. Arrised it a bit, but I've taught. Radical candor feedback training now to every single employee here and now we're going through it again. And so what we're asking our managers and leaders to do is really find ways to give people professional kind, very specific feedback frequently, not waiting three months, not waiting until their annual review, certainly as immediate as you possibly can because people are looking, to develop.

[00:35:35] Now, if you've ever been in a scenario, where you are going and terminating someone and they all of a sudden look at you and say, I've never received this feedback. You'll know, that's pretty much the worst thing ever. And I've been in those meetings. And so we never want to get to that place.

[00:35:51] So we're going to put people on performance plans. When it's needed 30 day performance plans with action steps, you check in on those people.

[00:36:00] And there might come a day where it's time to say goodbye, Because that happens, it's a business. And so that could be for poor performance. That could be for other reasons and what we do on the back end. Which I'm so proud of is that because Gary's network is so vast and so far reaching is in those meetings.

[00:36:19] We know if we're letting go of someone named Sam and Sam happens to really love video or long form video, we may already say to Sam in that meeting, you know what. We can get you at least your first interview at Netflix, or we can get you into ABC for your first networking opportunity. So the point of the story is we want people to stay here forever, right?

[00:36:43] That's just not going to happen. And we do our best to give people feedback. We do our best to grow and develop them and to really get them to the level at which we need them to be playing at. Sometimes it happens sometimes, it doesn't.

[00:36:57] Hala Taha: Got it. Another topic that you're

[00:37:00] very passionate about is diversity and inclusion.

[00:37:02] I think that everybody has a slightly different take on that. So what is your perspective on diversity inclusion and what are you doing at VaynerMedia to be more inclusive?

[00:37:12] Claude Silver: So my perspective is, if you're not thinking about this, then I would shut your doors immediately. I want to get to a place, where we're not even using the word diversity.

[00:37:22] It's just the way it is, which is we live in a macrocosm, where there are all different types of people. We need to recreate that in the microcosm, which are organizations. And as I mentioned before, diversity, for me in creating a culture of belonging, The obvious diversity that we're talking about in terms of race, creed, ethnicity, so forth and so on, but that does bring in the seen and unseen handicaps.

[00:37:50] That means that we're looking for people that have values that are not exactly like ours. We want diverse thinking. ERG is, are very helpful. The way we recruit is

[00:38:00] essential, where we recruit is essential. So not always going to the same school, not always hiring interns that are coming from recommendations because a lot of times that might be skewed.

[00:38:14] And so doing job fairs, we had an incredible job for here where Gary kicked it off. What we did was he spoke for 15 minutes and we had the one club come in. We made three hires out of that immediately. And we had every single conference from a setup as a speed dating place. And then that actual hiring manager ended up spending a half an hour more with each and every candidate.

[00:38:35] So it was awesome. And we have to be doing that. We just must be doing it. If you are nebulous about what your diversity strategy is, then people will become agitated and think that it's just, you're just not paying attention to it. So the ERG, as I was mentioning are really a big part of this right now.

[00:38:57] And we're just about to kick off some [00:39:00] focus groups here in terms of looking at what we want to stand for from a global level. Now that we are in London for years, we're in Singapore. How do we speak to diversity. When you're talking about it on a global level, not just New York city or not just Chattanooga.

[00:39:16] And it just goes way beyond the color of a person's skin. It's just way beyond it's about the way people think. That's essential.

[00:39:24] Hala Taha: Yeah. Do you think that millennials or gen Z think differently about DNI?

[00:39:30] Claude Silver: I do. From the amount of time I spend with millennials and certainly my two nieces that are gen Z, it's absolutely expected.

[00:39:38] In today's day and age, I think that millennials are people that probably don't see color as for some of us see color or don't see differences as we see. Things are more fluid and that's incredible. These generations that we're talking about are changing the world. You look at a tragedy like Parkland, and you look at how

[00:40:00] those kids stood up to our government.

[00:40:03] That is incredible. And of course, yes, in the sixties and you had that generation speaking out. So every generation stands for something. And I believe that the generations that are here today, Are looking for purposeful work. They're looking for feedback and growth. They're looking for make me proud that I work here and all of these things encompass, making sure that we're bringing, as I said earlier, the macrocosm into the microcosm, there is such a work life meld now it's not separate.

[00:40:34] And so how do you look at that whole person. You have to acknowledge the fact that there is life before and after that eight, nine hours a day. And that people are getting engaged. Someone's mom was in the hospital. Someone's cat died. Someone got married, someone, just ran the marathon. All of those things come into every single person's day when they opened the door.

[00:40:56] Hala Taha: So a hot topic in HR is [00:41:00] cognitive bias. And everybody's having cognitive bias training and things like that. Do you have any thoughts around that topic? And is there anything you want to share about how we should be aware of cognitive bias and what we should watch out for?

[00:41:12] Claude Silver: The only thing I need to share is really the training is so essential.

[00:41:16] We all need to be educated and to think that none of us are immune to. To bias or that I'm immune or your immune, it's just really not true. So I think we need to bring more training in, I think it's something we need to do in our interview process. As we look at candidates and. Do our best to see each and every person as equal, because really there's no difference between me and you.

[00:41:41] Quite frankly, I'm just older. There's no difference between you and that person. He grew up in Connecticut and you grew up in Charlottesville. So that's that part of being empathetic and understanding that we really are the same. We all have the same aches and we all have the same pans and we all experienced very similar joys.

[00:41:58] So

[00:42:00] being real about that and then being real with the fact that. We need more training.

[00:42:05] Hala Taha: So what is one piece of advice that you would give to a millennial looking to succeed at work?

[00:42:10] Claude Silver: I have a few different pieces of advice. The first thing

[00:42:13] Hala Taha: I gave them.

[00:42:14] Claude Silver: The first thing is to what I usually say is take up space, which means don't be a wallflower.

[00:42:20] Do not just sit there and be the note taker, unless that is your job. Or someone has asked you to take the notes and do something with them. Don't be a wallflower. That's the first thing I think the second thing is. Ask as many questions and speak up because leaders today need to be listening a whole lot more and they'll listen, if you speak up, the other thing is don't be afraid and certainly don't think that you are dumb.

[00:42:46] Everyone is figuring things out. There is no one that is smarter than anyone else. There's this riddle, which is who's the smartest person in the world. And everyone looks around, what was it me? Is he going to say me or her? The fact

[00:43:00] is that the room is the smartest person in the room. So it's all about learning from one another and be open to that.

[00:43:06] Ask questions, make sure that you're being heard, add value, obviously. And if you don't know how to add value, ask.

[00:43:15] Hala Taha: That's very good advice. I love that. Be big, take up space. Don't be a fly on the wall. A lot of the times especially, if you're in a company where there's older workers, you might close off in certain situations, or if you're in a certain meeting that has like higher up executives while you're there for reason.

[00:43:31] So make sure that you bring your value to the table. Great advice. So Claude, this was a great conversation. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and everything that you do?

[00:43:42] Claude Silver: Yeah. Thank you so much. I post a lot on LinkedIn. I post a lot on Twitter and Instagram and I get back to everyone that writes me.

[00:43:51] It might take me a little bit of time, but I appreciate. People reaching out. So find me there.

[00:43:56] Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you so much.

[00:43:57] Claude Silver: Thank you.

[00:43:58] Thanks for listening to

[00:44:00] Young And Profiting Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to write us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to the show.

[00:44:07] Follow us on Instagram @youngandprofiting and check us out at youngandprofiting.com and I can chat live with us. Every single day on YAP Society on Slack, check out our show notes or youngandprofiting.com for the registration link, you can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name Hala Taha. Big, thanks to the YAP team for another successful episode.

[00:44:28] This episode on YAP. I'd like to thank everyone who contributes to YAP Society on Slack to make it a buzzing community. Elliot, Ari, Michael Beam, mcKell, Jamie, Antoinetta Sebastian. And while I can't list all of you given the time. I do greatly appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you. And see you on Slack.

[00:44:47] This is Hala signing off.

#35: Leading With Love with Claude Silver

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[00:01:20] You're listening to Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn and profit.

[00:01:26] I'm your host, Hala Taha. And today we're speaking with Claude Silver, the world's first Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia. Gary Vs digital media agency, plod owns the onboarding recruitment, retention and graduation of all the employees at the company. She has over 20 years of fortune 50 corporate experience and is known for leading with her heart and emotional optimism.

[00:01:48] She's a top voice in the HR space. And in this episode, we'll dive into how she's able to be in touch with every heartbeat at our company, as well as her take on creating a healthy company culture and how she deals

[00:02:00] with onboarding and letting employees go.

[00:02:04] Hi, Claude. Welcome to Young And Profiting Podcast.

[00:02:06] Claude Silver: Great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:02:09] Hala Taha: Yes. It's a lovely to have you on the show. We've been looking forward to this interview for quite some time. So welcome. You are an incredibly powerful woman for my listeners who might not be aware. You're the second in line at VaynerMedia, which is Gary V's Uber successful media agency.

[00:02:26] Could you start by telling me. As the first ever Chief Heart Officer, which is your title, what do you do? And what do you consider as your area of expertise?

[00:02:38] Claude Silver: Terrific. Yes. Chief Heart Officer here. My job is to take care of every single employee and I consider heart as the central operating system of a human being and human beings, the central operating system of a company or a culture.

[00:02:54] So I oversee everything that is normally called HR. We call it people in

[00:03:00] experience, because after all that is what we're doing here, people and experience. And I also oversee learning and development, DNI initiatives, culture initiatives, everything like that. So my job is all encompassing people, operations.

[00:03:14] I would call it I'm in the business of people, which I love. So that is the job. And I spend my day in and a lot of one-on-one meetings, getting to know people, re meeting people, whether or not they're reaching out to me proactively, or I reach out to them. I'm in leadership meetings. We're trying to move the needle here, there, and everywhere.

[00:03:34] Whether or not that's in process or that's in training or that's in refining, what it is we do. That's what I'm doing.

[00:03:41] Hala Taha: That's very cool. So how would you say that your chief heart officer role is really different than a traditional CHRO?

[00:03:49] Claude Silver: For one, I was never in a HR and so it would be really odd for me to say that I was actually a CHR having been a strategist my entire

[00:04:00] life.

[00:04:01] I want to honor all the CHR heroes out there, because I didn't grow up in that way. I didn't grow up with rules and regulations and being compliance experts and whatnot. I grew up in creative agencies working on Austin strategies on a global level. And so that's really like base right. The other way is that my job here, unlike a lot of CHRs.

[00:04:21] The people, it is the people. In fact, the only job description I have and that I ever received from Gary is the following, to touch every single employee and infuse the agency with heart. So that's the job description. And I figured out how to do that every single day, because every day is different, because I'm dealing with people in life.

[00:04:46] And what I'm looking at are patterns. I'm collecting a lot of information from people looking at patterns and then making changes or helping people connect the dots, remove roadblocks for themselves. So I would actually

[00:05:00] call myself or consider myself like an Uber coach or a Sherpa, if you will. And all I want to do is turn people into champions in turn people, the heroes, and ignite other leaders to do the same.

[00:05:13] Hala Taha: Yeah. So it seems like VaynerMedia was a first company to really have this concept of a chief heart officer. Have you seen this trend taking off elsewhere? Have you started a trend?

[00:05:26] Claude Silver: I see that there's a lot of interest for sure. And I see more chief people officers. Coming up in the arenas, whether or not that's in.

[00:05:36] London or whether or not that's here in America. So that's wonderful. And I'm not quite sure what chief people, officers do. I haven't really ever sat down with one yet, but I hope to soon and really figure out what our differences are, what our similarities are. So I really truly believe that we are not only in the age of information, but we're really moving into this age of heart of

[00:06:00] emotional intelligence intuition.

[00:06:02] And with that said, I believe that humanity and my hope is that we bring humanity back into our workplaces. Now you can ask me, Hey, Claude was humanity ever in our workplaces. I don't know. But my mission is to bring it back, to spread this idea that, it is not the brain and IQ, which connects us it's the heart and the EQ and connection.

[00:06:28] And below. Which keeps us not only on our toes, it keeps us in community and keeps us wanting to strive to be better individuals and better as team.

[00:06:39] Hala Taha: Totally. So let's talk about your career at Vaynermedia. From my understanding you started off as a senior VP for Gary, you ran account and strategy, and then you actually quit and you came back to the company later on.

[00:06:57] Could you just share that story with our listeners?

[00:07:00] Why did you initially leave the company and what made you go back.

[00:07:03] Claude Silver: It's a great story. So I had been doing strategy, as I mentioned for a very long time on a global level and a year into my career here at VaynerMedia. It just dawned on me, that I literally lost the passion to do the selling.

[00:07:19] I just lost it. It wasn't interesting anymore to me to discuss the copy on an ad or how we were going to reach a certain target. I only wanted to work and grow teams. So I went to Gary on my one year. The anniversary is what we call it. And I said, thank you so much. This has been fantastic. And I really think I'm done here.

[00:07:44] I really think I'm done and I'm not interested in this work and you're terrific. And this place is great. And, God's. And he said in his wonderful way, what is it that you want to do? What do you want to do? Because that's who he is. He's such a giver, and I said, I only

[00:08:00] care about the heartbeat of this place.

[00:08:01] I only care about the people. And he said, cool, I need you to do this for 18 more months. And I said, I don't have 18 more months. And we went our own ways. Over the next six months I found a backfill. Who's wonderful. She's here and still here. And she's amazing. And I went in and I resigned and it really got punched him because he didn't see it happening.

[00:08:24] He didn't see it coming. And, we had such a great relationship and I think in hindsight, I didn't give him enough of a heads up, which of course I would want to, and I would tell anyone to going forward, but I left and we had a wonderful, incredible conversation. And that conversation, even though it was very painful, he said, I don't want us to be like those friends in college that disappear from each other's lives.

[00:08:48] And you just remember 20, 30 years later God, I really loved hanging out with that person. And I'll never forget. He said that to me. Anyway, I went about my business and my life. And

[00:09:00] four months later we had breakfast together and we sat down and he said, that's it. You're coming back as Chief Heart Officer.

[00:09:07] And I was like, great. I'm in, count me in like, how do we know if I'm successful? And that's when he gave me the remit of touching every employee and infusing the agency with empathy.

[00:09:17] Hala Taha: That's incredible. What an nice story. And it just goes to show, how giving heart from the company really starts at the top at your company.

[00:09:25] Gary seems to be like such a giver, such a genuine person, and then he's given you this great mission. Probably very motivating to everybody who works at VaynerMedia. That's exceptional. How can others like replicate what you've done in terms of creating such a meaningful relationship with the top person at the company that you worked for?

[00:09:46] What is it that you do that helps you connect with somebody on level of Gary V? Who has everybody wants his attention all hours of the day. So like, how did you foster such a meaningful relationship?

[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] Claude Silver: First and foremost, when we met, which was in August of 2013, I was living in London at the time when we met, we had just a dynamic chemistry.

[00:10:09] It was almost as though we were meeting each other's brother or sister. And so we just happened to have that energy together. However, I really answered the question. My job has always been to make my boss's job easier. And how do I do that? How do I provide value is either by asking. Anticipating doing it, doing what I think is the right move.

[00:10:33] And then being told like, yes, that was the right move more or no, don't do that next time. And more importantly, giving that senior leader or that CEO information. And that is literally what helps our relationship continue to thrive because my role was set up to scale. Period to scale him because

[00:11:00] he is the CHR.

[00:11:01] Let's be honest. He's the CCO he's the CEO is the chief operating officer. He's all of those things. It's his company, but you can't be in all those places at once. And we're at such a magnitude of people now. And when he gave me this role, we were already at a magnitude that, what does he need? He needs information.

[00:11:19] He wants to know how are we doing? How is this culture doing? What is going on the floor? What are people saying? How are people thriving? Are people being too subjective these days when it comes to creative reviews, So giving your CEO or your C-suite or your leaders information. I think there's no best thing you can do aside from, taking things off of their plate.

[00:11:41] Hala Taha: That's very good advice. Previously, you were just saying that Gary gave you the mission to be in touch with the heartbeat of every single person at the company. Based on our research. Last we checked, you had about 800 employees. Is that about right?

[00:11:55] Claude Silver: That's correct.

[00:11:56] Hala Taha: So how are you able to connect with every person?

[00:11:59] That's [00:12:00] a lot of people.

[00:12:01] Claude Silver: A lot of people. I had to learn how to scale myself and in scaling myself, I have to trust people to, be their own culture champion, if you will. The thing about Gary and the thing about me is that we are not micromanagers. We trust first, we give trust first. And in doing that, I believe that allows people to spread their wings and take it upon themselves to inspire and take care of others.

[00:12:29] I truly believe that we've been around 10 years now. There are people employee one, two, and three are still with us. There's a bunch of us that have been here for five, six years. Those of us that have been around for so long, we get it. We understand, we don't drink the Kool-Aid. We drink the water.

[00:12:45] And in doing that, I can trust people to spread positivity, to spread the optimism, to spread collaboration and patience and gratitude and generosity just

[00:13:00] as I would. And I haven't been incredible team, that does that and that each person on my team oversees anywhere from 50 to 120 people. And what I mean overseas serves them takes care.

[00:13:11] Hala Taha: Yeah. You call those culture carriers. Is that what you're referring?

[00:13:14] Claude Silver: No, the people on my team. Who are actually on the people and experienced team, our HR business partners, that's what they would be called anywhere else. So I have them, but then the culture champions or the culture carriers, or these other people that have spent enormous amounts of time already with Gary or with me.

[00:13:33] And I can trust them. And in fact, today, perfect example, someone came in my office, he's been here 45 days. He's loving it. It's in the honeymoon period. And I asked him, has he met anyone else outside of his team? And he hadn't. So I wrote an email to 10 people. I know, I can trust. And I said, Hey, I want to introduce you to my new friend.

[00:13:54] This is what he does so forth and so on. Please take 15 minutes to go on a walk,

[00:14:00] get a coffee. And already the emails come on. Hey man, I'll set up some time. Hey, I'll set up some time with you. That's amazing. There is how I scale. So imagine me doing that and knowing, I can do that in any office. I traveled to the other offices.

[00:14:14] I'm on Skype. I'm on Google Hangouts. I do culture jam sessions when I'm in any other office, getting people together. So there are tons of different ways. I do that. Organic. And the role is very high touch and we at Vayner are still very high touch. We don't use a lot of tech, yet to reach out and touch people in terms of quantifying.

[00:14:37] Yeah, that's how I scale and I'm always. Reaching out and saying, Hey to someone.

[00:14:42] Hala Taha: Yeah. And I've listened to other interviews that you've had and other things that you've said. And from my understanding, you really try to understand everyone's motivations and problems and dreams. And in summary, I think that you try to just keep everybody happy and research proves that happy employees are more productive.

[00:14:59] You've

[00:15:00] also mentioned in past interviews, that speed is the main KPI at your company. Does keeping employees happy, all the connections that you make, how does that actually move the needle in terms of productivity and driving business benefits for VaynerMedia?

[00:15:16] That's

[00:15:16] Claude Silver: a great question. I think not only am I trying to keep everyone happy.

[00:15:21] I think the way I would say it is creating, a culture of belonging and bravery is really what I'm doing every day. And within that culture, You can find fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness, because I'm not able to keep everyone happy. That would be incredible if I could, but I can't, but I think I can make sure that people feel like they belong and they are recognized.

[00:15:45] And that goes a heck of a long way, I believe. And so when people, first company paying attention to what people are going through inside and outside of work. Giving them growth and development opportunities, giving them at bats.

[00:16:00] All of those things inspire them to be the best that they can possibly be.

[00:16:05] They're learning hard skills and they're learning life skills. And because we're an empathetic. Lot over here. What is our main priority as an agency is to reach consumers in an empathetic way. There's a real synergy that goes on there, but bottom line, if you are good to people, they will want to work hard for you and in working hard.

[00:16:28] That helps our bottom and top line.

[00:16:31] Hala Taha: Totally something related to this, as you've talked about the difference between time management and energy management. Could you explain that to our listeners?

[00:16:40] Claude Silver: I sure can. So time management is keeping yourself on schedule, knowing that you need to do five different, big tasks throughout the day, and you have an eight to nine hour day, and you're going to have to fit all that in, and it stresses you out because yes, more tasks.

[00:16:57] Some tasks take more time and we multitask and we get

[00:17:00] all out of sync. We all do it. Energy management is different. It is being aware, of what's going on inside of you, how you feel when you do what, when is your best time during the day to be most motivated? When should you have client calls? Because you feel alert and on top of the ball, when is it better to write emails and that's you checking in with yourself?

[00:17:23] No one else can do that for yourself. I can help someone manage their time and I can do, I can help someone with a task, but energy management is a wonderful way to become more self-aware. And that really is okay, I'm going to give myself two hours to do this next task. And then I know I'm going to be really drained.

[00:17:41] So I'm going to get up. I'm going to take a walk on the Highline. I'm going to get a coffee. I'm going to go to lunch. You're going to reward yourself. And what are those rewards? Do they ultimately give you more energy.

[00:17:52] Hala Taha: Oh, that's very interesting. I like the concept that you say, like there's certain tasks that you're better at for example, I've read in the [00:18:00] past that at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM.

[00:18:02] That's when you're most creative. So whenever I have something really creative to do, I always block out my 4:00 to 5:00 PM slot and email is something that a lot of people like to do. Like first thing, when they get in. Just knock it out. So they're not distracted all day by it.

[00:18:16] Very good advice. Cool.

[00:18:18] Claude Silver: Cool.

[00:18:18] Hala Taha: So there's a phrase that comes up a lot in relationship work and it's building the honey empire. What does that mean? Tell us about that.

[00:18:28] Claude Silver: Yeah, the honey empire is really the ethos that we have behind putting people first. So people not profit another way. I say it is kindness before KPI.

[00:18:39] So honey is what is normally called soft skills as the emotional intelligence and see what I call life skills. It's the collaboration, communication, understanding that you work for a logo, understanding that this isn't about making yourself the hero. It's about making everyone the hero or the champion.

[00:18:59] That's the

[00:19:00] honey part and that pays dividends to the empire. And the empire is the success. As the profitability is the happy clients is the fact that we've surprised, delighted and touched our consumers. That's the empire. So honey comes first though, and that is literally. The kindness, the sincerity, the radical candor, even the tough love, that all is honey because chief heart officer, it sounds awfully sticky and sweet.

[00:19:27] Doesn't it? It's not that's. My job is to be real with people. That's why I said it's not really to spread happiness. It's really, to help people through their roadblocks, identifying things about themselves, that they want to get clearer on, teaching self-awareness. And in turn that then creates a stronger human being and a stronger human being is going to help this company be more successful.

[00:19:53] Hala Taha: Yeah. So apart from your work across the marketing and media ecosystem, you also co-founded

[00:20:00] and served as managing director at Girls' Adventure Out, which is a woman's focused outdoor adventure enterprise. That's very different than, your day job. So how did you get involved with that and how does it help you in any capacity in your current role?

[00:20:15] Claude Silver: The funny thing is I was coaching surfing, 275 days a week. Days a year. I'm sorry. And so I was in the Pacific ocean, pushing people in cold water all day long. And I'm coaching people here. That's who I am internally is coach. I'm a cheerleader, roll your sleeves up type of person. And being in the outdoors is something that really makes me come alive.

[00:20:40] Whether or not it's rock climbing or snowboarding or wakeboarding or surfing. And those things inspire me. And so to take that energy of inspiration and come into a place like this, where there's 800 people, that it is my job to make sure I'm reaching out to I need that juice. I also need inspiration

[00:21:00] and that's how I get it by pushing myself in certain ways, by coaching other people outside of a four walls type of place.

[00:21:08] So it's a real nice relationship.

[00:21:11] Hala Taha: Yeah. And it probably gives you such like a full life, to have both your career and then something that's more like passion related because you love the wilderness.

[00:21:20] Claude Silver: I love being outside.

[00:21:23] Hala Taha: Let's talk about that a bed. So when you're young, you decided in your words, not mine, that you needed your butt kicked and you went on a 90 day journey in the wilderness.

[00:21:34] So tell us about that story. What made you want to do that? What were you like as a young kid that you felt like you needed to have this journey to find yourself?

[00:21:41] Claude Silver: Yeah, I was 19 and I had gone to university for two years. I wasn't doing well. I was going nowhere fast. I didn't have options for myself. I didn't have enough self-love quite frankly, and self-confidence in my own abilities.

[00:21:58] And I

[00:22:00] left after my sophomore year and I told my parents, I need to find the longest outward bound and I need to get my butt kicked. And I did. I found a 93 day course and it kicked my butt. It did, but it did so much more. It gave me confidence.

[00:22:14] It gave me some physical strength, emotional strength. It taught me skills that I didn't know, I even had inside of me. And ultimately it created a servant leader out of me. And that is who I am today. So I'm so grateful that I knew and enough. I really did. I knew enough to say to my parents, I should not be going to school right now.

[00:22:36] This is not gonna work out well. And that was a pivotal turning point in my life.

[00:22:42] Hala Taha: Yeah, it's interesting. I also dropped out of college for a short period of time and went back. I did it to like work at a radio station, do all these fun things, but I think it's important for my listeners to know it's okay.

[00:22:54] To take a pause from school. Like you do not need to do college in four years. Like you can still be

[00:23:00] successful and not do college in four years and you might be more successful because you'll probably be more mature, when you return get better grades, whatever it is, and actually be ready for schooling. So definitely keep that in mind.

[00:23:12] If you're in college, you don't need to graduate in four years, everybody has their own path. Switching gears a bit, something that's pretty well known about you. Your sexual orientation. So you came out as a lesbian when you were 22 at first, you weren't open about it and your professional life at work, but now you're very open about it.

[00:23:30] You speak about it all the time. So how was that shift like and how has being more open and transparent helped you as an effective leader?

[00:23:41] Claude Silver: Yeah, so living authentically is super important to me and in my early twenties, When I was at work or even into my early thirties, that was a part of me that I kept back, even though I was in San Francisco.

[00:23:56] Hello, one of the most liberal cities in the world filled

[00:24:00] with all different types of people. I didn't get the signals at work, that it was okay to share that part of me. And so I didn't, but I would, after I left work. And I just recognize at some point, as I became older and I became more experienced in life and more experienced in the working world, like no one really cares, no one really cares.

[00:24:23] And if someone cares and that's not the person I want to hang out with. So I found that the more and more I started to share, my whole self people really found inspiration and appreciate. With that. And then of course, when I came to VaynerMedia, I was one of the oldest people here. That's the first thing.

[00:24:45] And I was already at a place where I was like I'm just me. So hello. And being chief heart officer. My whole mantra, is creating a culture of belonging and bravery and making sure that people feel like they can bring their

[00:25:00] whole self to work. So well, I sure have to show up like that, And it's just so wonderful to not have that monkey on your back, whatever the monkey is, like I oversee diversity and inclusivity and by overseeing, meaning like it's, my job is my responsibility at the end of the day and the beginning of the day to make sure that people feel physically and psychologically safe here and that there is a place for them.

[00:25:25] And that means whether or not it's race, ethnicity, religious sexuality. Seen an unseen handicaps diversity of thinking, like that is what I'm doing and what I'm looking at every day. And I have to walk that walk and I do it about, it's not a second thought. I don't think twice about it. And I haven't for years and years.

[00:25:45] So my recommendation is remember, no one really cares. People are very consumed with themselves. And so just. In being used, you're going to lighten your load by tenfold and

[00:26:00] just be a happier person.

[00:26:01] Hala Taha: Yeah. That's wonderful advice. I totally agree. Previously, you lightly mentioned these unseen disability is.

[00:26:09] I know that you struggled with dyslexia when you were growing up, you had to take the SATs three times, for example. And there's lots of famous people who have dyslexia too. Like Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, who's the founder of Virgin Atlantic, but they credit dyslexia for their success. How has having dyslexia, helped you in areas like grit or empathy and understanding people and their problems.

[00:26:36] Claude Silver: Yeah. I credit dyslexia for everything I do, because it forced me to learn the world in a different way. Absolutely. I couldn't rely on the same skills, that my brother cooked. I couldn't rely on the same way to learn as my friends could in school. I didn't retain information the way they did.

[00:26:55] And I certainly didn't take tests the way they did. So I had to learn

[00:27:00] how to find success in different ways. I had to learn confidence in different ways, and I found that. For example, being in the outdoors, I'm an experiential learner. So I have to get my hands dirty in order to learn something. I wouldn't be half as successful at this job.

[00:27:18] A had I not had dyslexia, but B had I not really done everything, I have done in my life to understand people in human behavior, whether or not that was my own human behavior. Whether or not that was working in a psych ward or whether or not that was volunteering at the hospital. Whether or not that was teaching ropes courses for C-suite in Silicon Valley, you name it.

[00:27:44] And my passion is people. I'm very curious about, our behavior and the stories that we tell ourselves and our limiting beliefs. So all of that stuff goes into my toolkit every single day.

[00:28:00] And again, had I not had to learn a different way of seeing the world I wouldn't be here. And my secret sauce is that, I'm able to identify patterns very quickly and that helps my intuition that much.

[00:28:15] Hala Taha: That's very interesting. The thing that really stands out for me in this conversation is that your weaknesses can very often become your greatest strengths. And I see that time and time again, when I have conversations with very successful people, it's often what you think might be a weakness.

[00:28:32] It turns out to be something, that really helps you along the way. So very cool. So I just want to. Pause and mentioned that I think it's really noble of you to talk about these invisible qualities. Nobody would know unless he made it public, both your sexual orientation and dyslexia. It's not something you can just tell about a person from the outside.

[00:28:51] So the fact that you're so open about it, I'm sure has motivated and helped so many people overcome similar challenges. So you are a true role model and you should be [00:29:00] very proud.

[00:29:01] Claude Silver: Thank you very much.

[00:29:02] Hala Taha: So let's switch topics a bit and talk about like company culture, onboarding, employee engagement, and things like that.

[00:29:09] How do you guys typically onboard your employees at VaynerMedia?

[00:29:14] Claude Silver: I'm really proud of what we do. We take every single employee, whether or not you are the CFO or you are a copywriter or community manager, through a four day orientation and you sit with everyone. We have new starters. We have new joiners every single week.

[00:29:32] And in New York, for example, we might have anything from 6 to 25 new people join and you are all of a sudden put into community. And in these four days you are getting our secret sauce. Subject matter, experts from every different discipline, come in and talk to you for half an hour to an hour and tell you what we're about.

[00:29:56] And so you start to hear how we think about things. How,

[00:30:00] why are we an entrepreneurial company? Where did we start? Why do we see. Media differently today. Why do we see marketing differently? Why do we have our own production studio? What do we do in that production studio? And so you're starting to learn a good smattering of things that we do here.

[00:30:19] You get to meet not only your new cohort, but you get to meet these people that are coming in and talking to you. So you all of a sudden, you're like, oh, when I pass that person in the hall. Great. I remember that person taught me about Facebook ads and you haven't associated. And you go to lunch with new buddies every single day.

[00:30:39] And then the late afternoon, you sit with your new team, whatever that is. If you're on the client service team, you go ahead and you sit with whatever account you're on, so forth and so on. And so it's really awesome. I believe what we do here. It's four days and I've been at many companies. Now, mind you, those companies were publicly owned.

[00:31:00]

[00:31:01] I've been at many companies where you just watch a video from the CEO and that's it. Goodbye. And you're like, I am okay.

[00:31:08] Hala Taha: Here's your computer? Good luck.

[00:31:09] Claude Silver: Yeah. It's I don't even know where the bathroom is and this is just so different. They get an office tour, they go to our other offices. And so this happens in every office, whether or not you're in the Chattanooga office, the London office, it's soon going to happen in our Singapore office.

[00:31:25] Very stoked on that. And my team oversees that because it is about people and experience. And then we bring in these subject matter experts and, I'll spend a half an hour with them on culture and what is a CHO. And what do we do and why is it different and how you're going to work with me and how you're going to work with the team.

[00:31:40] And what do you do if you have a me. So forth and so on.

[00:31:44] Hala Taha: Yeah. And then I'm assuming the people who are, presenting about their departments, their volunteers.

[00:31:50] Claude Silver: Oh yeah, absolutely. They're volunteers. And it's funny that you ask, I just sent a note out to the creative team today, looking for new volunteers.

[00:31:59] Hala Taha: Yeah, it just [00:32:00] goes to show the culture because at money companies, people would not I don't have time for that. I don't have time to speak to these new people.

[00:32:05] Claude Silver: Yeah. By the way, it's not utopia here. They definitely go through those groans when I send something out like that. But I just remind.

[00:32:12] You started once upon a time. What would it have been like if no one showed up in that room for you. You wouldn't have liked it. It's just, that's more and more empathy again, remember what it's like.

[00:32:21] Hala Taha: Yeah. So what other activities do you organize for your employees? Do you have special activities for employee engagement that you coordinate?

[00:32:29] Claude Silver: Yeah, so we have these community resource groups, or sometimes they're called affinity groups or ERG, and those have been started organically. And whether or not that is the Dungeons and dragons group, whether or not. The Amigos group that was set up by people that identify as Latinex and do Hispanic marketing.

[00:32:46] There's a group for people that identify as black for Asian. There's the pride group. Of course, there's the running club. There's the sneakerheads club. So there are probably 80 different [00:33:00] clubs. We call them squads, that you can join that are open to anyone and everyone, you don't have to just like Dungeons and dragons.

[00:33:06] You can go check it out. You know what I mean? We do wine Wednesday. So of course Gary started in the wine business to every office. Does it. Version of wine Wednesday, obviously in LA or Chattanooga you're driving. So we've modified that a bit. Have different offices have mindfulness, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, depending on again, what the ask has been, globally, we have a partnership with class pass.

[00:33:32] We use different meditation apps. So there's a lot, there's a lot of trainings. We have lunch and learns from all of the platforms. We are people come in and help people understand their student loans and all that stuff. So we look at the holistic human being quite frankly, and find ways in which we can aid and really reach out and touch those different parts of our human.

[00:33:56] Because it's not just when you come in here at nine. And when

[00:34:00] you leave here at six, life is more than. The working day.

[00:34:05] Hala Taha: Totally. I would definitely encourage all of our listeners. If you work at a company that has ERG, which are employee resource groups, or, whatever your company calls them to get involved.

[00:34:16] I actually was the president of the young employee network. When I worked at HP, I started my chapter and it was just so much fun and it gives you such great leadership skills. And it's definitely something that like, if you want to be a leader, you're on the younger side, it's a great way to get exposure with leaders at your company and also lead a group of people with similar interests.

[00:34:36] So I would definitely recommend getting involved. So how do you deal with an employee that is underperforming? How do you have those tough conversations?

[00:34:47] Claude Silver: The way we do it, here's a couple of different ways. What we are really encouraging our managers and leaders to have very candid feedback meetings in their

[00:35:00] one-on-ones.

[00:35:00] And we use the radical candor steps that Kim Scott book, I've just faint. Arrised it a bit, but I've taught. Radical candor feedback training now to every single employee here and now we're going through it again. And so what we're asking our managers and leaders to do is really find ways to give people professional kind, very specific feedback frequently, not waiting three months, not waiting until their annual review, certainly as immediate as you possibly can because people are looking, to develop.

[00:35:35] Now, if you've ever been in a scenario, where you are going and terminating someone and they all of a sudden look at you and say, I've never received this feedback. You'll know, that's pretty much the worst thing ever. And I've been in those meetings. And so we never want to get to that place.

[00:35:51] So we're going to put people on performance plans. When it's needed 30 day performance plans with action steps, you check in on those people.

[00:36:00] And there might come a day where it's time to say goodbye, Because that happens, it's a business. And so that could be for poor performance. That could be for other reasons and what we do on the back end. Which I'm so proud of is that because Gary's network is so vast and so far reaching is in those meetings.

[00:36:19] We know if we're letting go of someone named Sam and Sam happens to really love video or long form video, we may already say to Sam in that meeting, you know what. We can get you at least your first interview at Netflix, or we can get you into ABC for your first networking opportunity. So the point of the story is we want people to stay here forever, right?

[00:36:43] That's just not going to happen. And we do our best to give people feedback. We do our best to grow and develop them and to really get them to the level at which we need them to be playing at. Sometimes it happens sometimes, it doesn't.

[00:36:57] Hala Taha: Got it. Another topic that you're

[00:37:00] very passionate about is diversity and inclusion.

[00:37:02] I think that everybody has a slightly different take on that. So what is your perspective on diversity inclusion and what are you doing at VaynerMedia to be more inclusive?

[00:37:12] Claude Silver: So my perspective is, if you're not thinking about this, then I would shut your doors immediately. I want to get to a place, where we're not even using the word diversity.

[00:37:22] It's just the way it is, which is we live in a macrocosm, where there are all different types of people. We need to recreate that in the microcosm, which are organizations. And as I mentioned before, diversity, for me in creating a culture of belonging, The obvious diversity that we're talking about in terms of race, creed, ethnicity, so forth and so on, but that does bring in the seen and unseen handicaps.

[00:37:50] That means that we're looking for people that have values that are not exactly like ours. We want diverse thinking. ERG is, are very helpful. The way we recruit is

[00:38:00] essential, where we recruit is essential. So not always going to the same school, not always hiring interns that are coming from recommendations because a lot of times that might be skewed.

[00:38:14] And so doing job fairs, we had an incredible job for here where Gary kicked it off. What we did was he spoke for 15 minutes and we had the one club come in. We made three hires out of that immediately. And we had every single conference from a setup as a speed dating place. And then that actual hiring manager ended up spending a half an hour more with each and every candidate.

[00:38:35] So it was awesome. And we have to be doing that. We just must be doing it. If you are nebulous about what your diversity strategy is, then people will become agitated and think that it's just, you're just not paying attention to it. So the ERG, as I was mentioning are really a big part of this right now.

[00:38:57] And we're just about to kick off some [00:39:00] focus groups here in terms of looking at what we want to stand for from a global level. Now that we are in London for years, we're in Singapore. How do we speak to diversity. When you're talking about it on a global level, not just New York city or not just Chattanooga.

[00:39:16] And it just goes way beyond the color of a person's skin. It's just way beyond it's about the way people think. That's essential.

[00:39:24] Hala Taha: Yeah. Do you think that millennials or gen Z think differently about DNI?

[00:39:30] Claude Silver: I do. From the amount of time I spend with millennials and certainly my two nieces that are gen Z, it's absolutely expected.

[00:39:38] In today's day and age, I think that millennials are people that probably don't see color as for some of us see color or don't see differences as we see. Things are more fluid and that's incredible. These generations that we're talking about are changing the world. You look at a tragedy like Parkland, and you look at how

[00:40:00] those kids stood up to our government.

[00:40:03] That is incredible. And of course, yes, in the sixties and you had that generation speaking out. So every generation stands for something. And I believe that the generations that are here today, Are looking for purposeful work. They're looking for feedback and growth. They're looking for make me proud that I work here and all of these things encompass, making sure that we're bringing, as I said earlier, the macrocosm into the microcosm, there is such a work life meld now it's not separate.

[00:40:34] And so how do you look at that whole person. You have to acknowledge the fact that there is life before and after that eight, nine hours a day. And that people are getting engaged. Someone's mom was in the hospital. Someone's cat died. Someone got married, someone, just ran the marathon. All of those things come into every single person's day when they opened the door.

[00:40:56] Hala Taha: So a hot topic in HR is [00:41:00] cognitive bias. And everybody's having cognitive bias training and things like that. Do you have any thoughts around that topic? And is there anything you want to share about how we should be aware of cognitive bias and what we should watch out for?

[00:41:12] Claude Silver: The only thing I need to share is really the training is so essential.

[00:41:16] We all need to be educated and to think that none of us are immune to. To bias or that I'm immune or your immune, it's just really not true. So I think we need to bring more training in, I think it's something we need to do in our interview process. As we look at candidates and. Do our best to see each and every person as equal, because really there's no difference between me and you.

[00:41:41] Quite frankly, I'm just older. There's no difference between you and that person. He grew up in Connecticut and you grew up in Charlottesville. So that's that part of being empathetic and understanding that we really are the same. We all have the same aches and we all have the same pans and we all experienced very similar joys.

[00:41:58] So

[00:42:00] being real about that and then being real with the fact that. We need more training.

[00:42:05] Hala Taha: So what is one piece of advice that you would give to a millennial looking to succeed at work?

[00:42:10] Claude Silver: I have a few different pieces of advice. The first thing

[00:42:13] Hala Taha: I gave them.

[00:42:14] Claude Silver: The first thing is to what I usually say is take up space, which means don't be a wallflower.

[00:42:20] Do not just sit there and be the note taker, unless that is your job. Or someone has asked you to take the notes and do something with them. Don't be a wallflower. That's the first thing I think the second thing is. Ask as many questions and speak up because leaders today need to be listening a whole lot more and they'll listen, if you speak up, the other thing is don't be afraid and certainly don't think that you are dumb.

[00:42:46] Everyone is figuring things out. There is no one that is smarter than anyone else. There's this riddle, which is who's the smartest person in the world. And everyone looks around, what was it me? Is he going to say me or her? The fact

[00:43:00] is that the room is the smartest person in the room. So it's all about learning from one another and be open to that.

[00:43:06] Ask questions, make sure that you're being heard, add value, obviously. And if you don't know how to add value, ask.

[00:43:15] Hala Taha: That's very good advice. I love that. Be big, take up space. Don't be a fly on the wall. A lot of the times especially, if you're in a company where there's older workers, you might close off in certain situations, or if you're in a certain meeting that has like higher up executives while you're there for reason.

[00:43:31] So make sure that you bring your value to the table. Great advice. So Claude, this was a great conversation. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and everything that you do?

[00:43:42] Claude Silver: Yeah. Thank you so much. I post a lot on LinkedIn. I post a lot on Twitter and Instagram and I get back to everyone that writes me.

[00:43:51] It might take me a little bit of time, but I appreciate. People reaching out. So find me there.

[00:43:56] Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you so much.

[00:43:57] Claude Silver: Thank you.

[00:43:58] Thanks for listening to

[00:44:00] Young And Profiting Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to write us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to the show.

[00:44:07] Follow us on Instagram @youngandprofiting and check us out at youngandprofiting.com and I can chat live with us. Every single day on YAP Society on Slack, check out our show notes or youngandprofiting.com for the registration link, you can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name Hala Taha. Big, thanks to the YAP team for another successful episode.

[00:44:28] This episode on YAP. I'd like to thank everyone who contributes to YAP Society on Slack to make it a buzzing community. Elliot, Ari, Michael Beam, mcKell, Jamie, Antoinetta Sebastian. And while I can't list all of you given the time. I do greatly appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you. And see you on Slack.

[00:44:47] This is Hala signing off.