Taking the secret out of our secret sauce - with Danielle Paulson

Full transcript

Justin Swierk  00:04

Hey, this is Meet Mortenson. Conversations with team members building their careers with us. We're talking to the people who are innovating our industry, who are improving to the built world. And that's from the field to the office. These conversations are geared towards giving you an inside look into how the people Mortenson approach a problem, how they think about the type of work that they do the nitty gritty of their roles. We're talking about what motivates them and how we accomplish things. We want to give you as much detail into our culture, and what it's like to work here as we possibly can. It's also fun to showcase all these incredible people that we have working here at Mortenson. So let's get into it. Enjoy the conversation.



Today we're talking with Danielle Paulson, who is the manager of leadership development and LeadBLU here at Mortenson. As well as Ann Ayres, talent acquisition specialist. And we talked about the journey of why it was important to take the secret out of our secret sauce here at Mortenson. So, you'll hear Danielle talk about the journey, why it was important, and ultimately why everyone at Mortenson is a leader. I've always thought that, you know, our people are special here. But it's also what we're able to do with them and for them. Right in I think our ability to bring people on and then give them a clear path of how to become a better leader in all aspects of their of their work is hugely beneficial, because it's not a wondering, well, how are you going to develop me, right? Because everybody wants to be developed. Everyone wants to learn and grow. And to have clear language around development clear language around how we learn how we accomplish work is just as unifying.


Danielle Paulson  01:59

What we're doing is we're operationalizing culture through leadership development. And we're doing it in a way that makes it accessible and clear to everyone in the organization, what it looks like to belong at Mortenson and what it looks like to contribute to that culture, or that secret sauce. We took the secret out of the secret sauce.


Justin Swierk  02:25

One of the things that that we often talk about, is it being accessible to everybody. But we look at everybody as leaders. And so, when we talk about this leadership development, that means we're talking about everybody, right? And that was something that was really important for you to be able to touch on.


Danielle Paulson  02:41

That's right. And in fact when we reflect on the words of the Mortenson way, which was a product of the work and you know, really branding our culture. The words are in there. You know it we're all leaders that leadership isn't just a title, that it's something that is within us.


Justin Swierk  03:03

It's very hard to separate, like LeadBLU and our culture. Like when I have the conversations with people about it, I always think like we lose our differentiator, because like you said, it defines the culture. We didn't create something.


Danielle Paulson  03:17

No, I think part of the magic of it was not about defining for the organization, something that was super aspirational and felt like who we should be, you know, you've heard me talk about my favorite quote, related to the blue from our CEO, that it's a lot about who we are, and a little bit about who we want to be. And I think that that's been the magic behind it to date is because it feels true, right? A lot of the feedback that we've gotten over the last couple of years has been well, yeah, duh. Of course, of course, we do the right thing. And we put we before me inspire what's possible. Those words, and, you know, the principles and practices of LeadBLU have felt really true to most of our team members. And that's part of what we were trying to do is we set out to understand what is it that makes them so special? what is actually happening here? When we talk about the secret sauce, what are the ingredients of that secret sauce, and the intent was Yeah, to take the secret out of it. Because when something is, you know, ambiguous or below the surface, it's really hard to understand that I as the average Joe team member, I'm actually a part of bringing that to life. And not only am I a part of it, but I have a responsibility to it. And so by bringing that to life, defining it and creating some clear shared language to describe it, it helps everybody understand it, and it helps everybody connect to it. And what I love about that is in the process, we're connecting to each other.


Justin Swierk  04:57

Yeah, because LeadBLUalso like is getting giving us the tools to have those types of conversations, right? It's not, it's not just principles that we have, from our culture or from our leadership development, which, you know, is one in the same. But it really gives us that, that the kind of guides that we need, yeah,


Danielle Paulson  05:16

I call it, I call it a language of leadership, right, or leadership language. Because I think that that term culture, too, gets a little sticky. And people feel not quite sure what that means. And historically, that's like something that could be interpreted in many different ways. But if we talk about it as this is how we talk about leadership, it's our leadership language. And our expectation is that everyone at Mortenson sees themselves as a leader, because one of the outcomes of the work that we've done with LeadBLU, is to come up with some clear sort of standards for how we approach development and our belief system around development. And the number one piece of that is, really, it starts with our own personal responsibility towards our development that we can we have to own our own development before we can expect anyone else to commit to our development. And I think that that says a lot about the kind of team member who is drawn to Mortenson and who tends to be successful at Mortenson, they're ambitious, they've likely almost wired to seek out their own development opportunities. And those, you know, tend to be driven by goals and stretch opportunities and ways to to better themselves. No, it's it, they seem to be kind of height hardwired for it. And so what we want to do is create an organization that then supports that and nurtures that sort of personal responsibility,


Justin Swierk  06:54

the mark of it being successful, and like, right on was that when people hear they go, Oh, yeah. Right. Like, they know that they don't think twice about it, but it's not they're not trying to figure out how does that ladder to how I behave and how I work? You know, we before me, they're like, Oh, yeah, definitely, like, we'll go the extra mile for our partners, for our customers, for our team members like. And I think that was also like a kudos to you and the team to be able to, to come up with that right, to be able to have to be approachable and accessible, top down and have every team member see themselves in it.


Danielle Paulson  07:33

That's right. It does, it takes work to be accurate, because we can name things that are aspirational, that, you know, like who could argue with wanting to be, you know, whatever, plugin language here. And that's, I think, where it's the difference between corporate speak, and actually choosing language that's true, and reflects what's actually going on, within an organization.


Ann Ayres  07:57

It's sticky for candidates too because I think they, they just really get inspired and encouraged that they'd be entrained into nor an organization that is really caring about them and their grow. So I love it. It's it's one of my favorite stories to tell.


Danielle Paulson  08:18

Well, I love that you're reflecting on that too. And because it isn't just like that clarity and taking the secret out of secret sauce, I think without it, or without that process. We can tell candidates, you know, till we're blue in the face that Well, there's just something special here. And we've really got something you know, people love to be a part of, and we bleed blue. And what does that really mean? It's hard when you're on the outside to understand like, oh, okay, sure, that sounds great. But by giving it language and saying, Yeah, we've got this, you know, we've defined a language of leadership and, and once we do the right thing, and we put we before me, and we inspire what's possible, that creates a sense of people, people want to be a part of that. And we have, you know, early, early stage feedback has been super positive just in our recruitment process and and giving some clarity to potential team members about what it means to be a part of the organization.


Ann Ayres  09:17

And you know, when I came on board, and I started learning more about Mortenson, that was one of the things that really spoke to me, because they spoke to who I am as a person already. So I knew that I belonged, you know, I think, yeah, so I think when you can identify with them already, before you even get into the organization that just like drives it home, that you're in the right place.


Danielle Paulson  09:42

Yeah, you know, it's funny, because even so our mission has remained the same throughout is, you know, to create an exceptional customer experience. And that language existed when I was interviewing and that's what what really drew me to Mortenson because the customer experience was so important to me and exceeding expectations and, you know, adding value to the experience. And so I always go back and I think, Wow, if we had had that language of leadership or the LeadBLU language. in addition to the mission, that would have told an even like, almost like a four-dimensional story, or really would have understood what I was getting into. And so if the mission was enough to get me excited and feel like this is a place that I could belong and that I could succeed, then having that language of LeadBLU, only would have reinforced that.


Justin Swierk  10:39

Okay. Ann. Danielle. I don't have anything else today. Thank you all.


Danielle Paulson  10:47

Yeah, thank you, guys.


Ann Ayres  10:50

Thank you.


Justin Swierk  10:55

That's it. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. please reach out to us if you have any questions, but we really hope you enjoyed this episode of Meet Mortenson. Have a great day.