To find out how companies can improve, Mathilde talks to Dr. Ron Friedman, a social psychologist known for his books on building high-performing teams with excellent culture.
Mathilde Collin: Hi, everyone, I'm Mathilde Collin, the CEO and co-founder of Front. Over the years, I've shared my journey as a leader and as a founder, but everything I've learned has been by talking to people that either are more experienced or are wiser than me. And this is what I'm I'm going to do today.
Today, I'm here with Dr. Ron Friedman. Dr. Friedman is an award winning social psychologist, is the founder of ignite80, and he specializes in human motivation. So I'm super excited to hear his take on what the best teams do differently. Thank you, Ron,
Dr. Ron Friedman: No, thank you for the very kind introduction.
Mathilde Collin: Of course, I would love for you to tell me more about ignite80 and what is it and how are you helping leaders build extraordinary workplaces?
Dr. Ron Friedman: Yeah. So in order to tell that story, I need to tell you a little about me. So I am a social psychologist. My focus is on human motivation. And I started off by studying with two guys named Ed Deci and Richard Ryan. And those names might seem familiar to some of your listeners because they were the focus of Dan Pink's classic book Drive. And so I was studying with them when Dan Pink's book came out and the research that they did and that I helped them with had to do with the fact that all humans, regardless of what context they're in, thrive when they have three basic human psychological needs fulfilled.
So this is true for marriages. It's true for workplaces. It's true for any team that you're trying to build that is going to be successful. And those three needs are the need for competence. So feeling like you're good at what you do, but also having the ability to grow your competence on a regular basis and feel like you're actually mastering new things, the need for autonomy. So feeling like you have some say in how you go about doing your job and then critically, the need for relatedness. So the need for human connection, the need to feel appreciated, valued, respected, all the great things that come from working on a great team.
And after I did that work with them in academia, I left academics because I wanted to learn new things. That's the thing that drove me into academics. But one of the tragic realities of being in academics is if you're good at it, you just end up teaching the same thing over and over again. And so I was interested in learning new things. So I left academics to go and work within the marketing world. And my job was to be like the Don Draper, where I had to interview people and then identify psychological principles that organizations could use to shape their opinions. And I love that work.
But one of the things that was really striking to me when I entered the corporate world is the massive divide between the latest science and the modern workplace. All the great insights that we had about the factors that lead people to thrive at work and become more productive and more engaged and more creative were being lost at most organizations. And it's not because CEOs don't care, it's because they're busy. They don't have time to read academic journal articles.
And that's what led me to write "The Best Place to Work." That was my first book where I took over a thousand academic studies and I translated them into plain English so that regardless of whether you're a CEO or just someone starting out, you had access to the best science on how to elevate your performance at work, but also create a thriving workplaces. And that's what led me to found ignite80. And the reason it's called ignite80 is because over 80 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. They're they're languishing. They're not really feeling like they're doing their best work.
And so the mission of ignite80 is for us to teach people psychological principles that they can use to elevate their team's performance and create happier, healthier, more productive workplaces.
Mathilde Collin: Super clear. Is there anything that you can teach us right now about that?
Dr. Ron Friedman: Oh, man. Beyond the three psychological needs? Yeah. Here's here's one thing that I think you'll appreciate. I think a lot of the things in Silicon Valley that make some of the most famous organizations kind of stand out as the best workplaces have nothing to do with actually building great workplaces. They're like nice things you could put on your brochures, like having a rock climbing wall or having, you know, thirty dinner options that are completely free. That's great. But that's not going to lead you to be more engaged at work.
What is going to help you be more engaged at work is having, for example, a manager who gives you feedback that can help you improve, having the autonomy to go about doing your job in the way that you see fit and actually fueling people's performance by helping them take care of their bodies. Because, you know, we treat mental work like it's physical work and it's not. And so the factors that contribute actually when it comes to physical — comes to physical work, it's like, how many hours are you at the office? When it comes to knowledge work? Going for a swim or for a jog can actually help you be more productive.
So we need to, I think, really recalibrate the way we think about what it means to create a great workplace.
Mathilde Collin: Yeah, that makes sense. One of the things that I think you believe is that in order to have great workplaces, having meaningful relationships and strong relationships at work matter. I'm curious what leaders can do to foster these relationships.
Dr. Ron Friedman: There's a lot that organizations can do, and I'll give you just a few ideas. And it has to do with the way that organizations introduce new employees when they first enter the workplace. One of the things that we know leads to flourishing relationships between coworkers and this is also true for all kinds of people. Whether you want to get people to bond who are Democrats and Republicans, Israelis and Palestinians, whatever the case may be, if you want them to be friends, they need to know what they have in common.
And so one of the opportunities is when you hire someone and introduce them into your team, don't just introduce them by their professional accomplishment. Take the time to talk to them about how they like to spend their personal time out of work, off of work hours and introduce them by some of those interests, because when you give people the opportunity to connect on non-work matters, that's how you build genuine relationships.
It's not by having, you know, those those exercises where we have people run over a bed of burning coals or go on a scavenger hunt like those might be nice in the moment, but those aren't going to lead to long lasting relationships.
Mathilde Collin: And do you feel like the ability to build these long lasting relationships has been impacted by the work from home? Or do you feel like it's equally easy to build these relationships even if we're remote?
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