🚀 Breathe.



“I am not the CEO of Culture and not the CEO of happiness. I think that the responsibility of the culture and the behaviours that you want to see is defined by the entire management team. The entire leadership team decides how you are going to make decisions and how those decisions are communicated. That’s on everybody.”

In this episode

Taking responsibility and ownership is a crucial skill for leaders, but what is something leaders shouldn’t be fully responsible for? 

Today’s guest is Colleen McCreary, the Chief People, Places, & Publicity Officer at Credit Karma.

In this episode, Colleen talks about leading people through acquisition and how managers can lead their team through the turbulence of a big change

Colleen shares the different strategies she used, like weekly emails and an off-the-bus package, in order to retain a good company culture and navigate changes as smoothly as possible. 

Lastly, we talk about why Colleen is NOT the CEO of Culture but rather the product manager of systems and tools.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Looking back on leadership


Building credibility and trust


Credit Karma in 2020


Personal Sunday emails


Off the bus packages


Who is (really) responsible for culture?


Ownership as a value



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  01:30

Colleen, welcome to the show.

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  02:46

Thank you excited to be here, too.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:47

You’ve had a pretty extensive leadership career, you’ve been to companies like Vevo, Climate Corp, Zynga and today you are the Chief People, Places and Publicity Officer at Credit Karma. Before we dig into all the good things that we’re going to talk about, I wanted to kick off. And this is a funny thing that we do when, as the first question that we ask our guests is, let’s talk about some of the early mistakes. So if you can think back to the early days, when you started to lead teams people, do you remember some of the early mistakes that you would have made?

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  03:20

For certain, I think everybody remembers both ends of the spectrum, like your big mistakes, and then your and then your successes, right. So the stuff of the middle seems to get forgotten. But as the first sort of real professional leader, I took a job at a tiny college. So before I went into tech, I had this job for a year at a small college and I managed a team of four people. And I was significantly younger than all of those folks. Some of them had been in the organization for 1520 years. And here I was like fresh out of graduate school and I was at first tried to be like the super cool, buddy, buddy, I’m going to be everybody’s friend Manager, which I think is a constant mistake that you make, and ends up getting you into trouble. Because at that point, you just expect that people will do the right thing. They’ll just oh, they’re smart people, I liked them. We’re all friends, they’re going to do their thing. And then when you find out, I had two things happen to me. Number one, I found out that the person that I had become very close with actually, would disappear for hours of the day. And I just had no idea because of meetings and just sort of doing my job. And it turned out that she had like a second job that no one knew about but she went she would leave for like three hours a day and go do this other job instead of doing this sort of administrative work that you wanted to do. And everyone kept saying like, Oh, you know, I never see her. I never see her and I was like oh you know I’m sure it’s just because she’s in a meeting, or she’s just somewhere else in the building. And this went on for like six months before I ever knew. I mean, her work was fine. But she was in a job where if administrative jobs, so people needed something done, or I need to ship a package, or I need to go there, like, Where was she? And it was so embarrassing. Like, I was just horrified when I found out later, like, you know, here, we’re paying this woman by the hour, and I was the boss. And it turned out that on my watch, and I was like, friendly with her, I, you know, I thought she would have trusted me. I ended up having to fire her, for obvious reasons, which you also always remember. And then I had another, you know, I had another person on the team who I was very close to, but would always ask for a raise, like, you know, and I realized that I think I was just kind of being played at the time of like, she’s just being nice to me. So yeah, I had kind of a train wreck first example. And, after that job, I never wanted to manage people. Like I was like, oh, I’m horrible manager, I’m never going to manage people. I don’t want to have to deal with any of that. And, you know, like, seven years later, I finally stepped back into the world. And here we are.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:09

Yeah, no, that that makes a lot of sense. What is the like, kind of conclusion? So I guess as you decided, I’m maybe not going to do this managing thing. And, you know that didn’t last very long. So what you know, going into your second, you know, second time at this, what were some of them, like mental changes? Or like, did you come into it with a different series of thoughts?

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  06:31

This is the second time, like when I finally said, Okay, I’m going to be a manager, like, that’s the next job. This is the job I want. I was much more. I think astute is the correct term too, we have work to get done like, this is my job, I’m going to be evaluated based on how these people do not just myself, which I do think is a, I always recommend the book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, because it’s such a great job of framing this for people that all of the things that may degrade as an individual contributor, sort of fly out of the window, when it comes to having to work with other people to help them get, you know, sort of achieve their great goals. And I was much more focused on what do we have to do as a business? What is this person’s role? What do I expect from them, I’m a super direct person by nature. So by that point, too, I had a lot of credibility in the work that I was doing. And I think I was much better at articulating that line of like, we could all work together, and we can have a great team environment. But I’m also your boss, which does mean in this way, I’m going to be asking you to do certain things and potentially asking you to do them in a certain way. And I need you to respond to that and perform. So the amount of clarity that I started to provide, and after that was, was much stronger, and I think just much healthier for everybody involved.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:03

Yeah, that makes sense. It seems like it was basically like just this, you know, this clarity moment of, I’m going to get judged on the, I guess, like the output of this team. So I kind of, exactly, I need to be on top of this. And so that makes a lot of sense. It is we’re all by nature, humans, we like to be liked. And so there’s always this, you know, I want to be liked, but we also need to perform, and you can there’s a happy middle, it’s just you need to be clear about how to how to approach it.


I think it gets much harder to like you, you know, sort of taking on bigger and bigger roles, to be able to distinguish the ability to have credibility and to be trusted. And then you know, ultimately, the things that sort of matter. Versus like, are people going to like this, and it becomes, as you know, someone who’s in the HR field, in particular, like, one of the biggest failures of a lot of leaders is that they end up making decisions that aren’t great for the person or the business because they want to be liked or they’re scared or even when it comes, you know, I think all of us know this when it comes to giving feedback, where people are like, well, I don’t want to hurt their feelings. We see this a lot where I’m working now at Credit Karma. We’re kind of known as a nice culture. And so people will say like, well, I don’t want to hurt their feelings, or Oh, that feels mean. And I was like, you know, it’s me. It’s not telling somebody when they’re not doing well, like, you know, what’s mean is when you’re not pointing out that somebody said something that hurt your feelings. And then if you store it up for six months, don’t say anything. That’s mean, like that’s, that that’s not nice. And I think it’s hard for leaders to get out of that. I make a joke now, especially in the role that I’m in where I have to make some hard decisions that not everybody likes all the time. I joke about the like, it’s okay, I have my friends. I have my friends. outside of life, I have a family that loves me, it’s all good. I do think it takes sort of learning that lesson, sometimes the hard way about the what happens when you are in that sort of manager and direct report relationship, and you’re not clear on what the boundaries are like, I just think it gets much, much harder. And if you don’t have the sense of self to know, hey, I can have, you know, I’m not going to define all of my success based on being liked.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:27

Yeah, this clarity is setting up expectations for yourself and the other parties. And this is really hard stuff to do. I don’t think anyone is perfect at it, there’s a lot that we can talk about, one of the things I wanted to make sure to ask you about is some of the events of 2020. I think, like, you know, 2020, a lot happened that year, especially with remote work and COVID. And, but at Credit Karma, there was a little bit more than that, as well. And on top of everything, you went through an acquisition. And so I’d love to maybe talk about that, and maybe just set the stage for people who weren’t following the news. What were some of the events of 2020?

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  11:07

Right? Well, I I’ve been joking, then our story of 2020. And 2021 is going to be a great business school case. At some point, somebody should pick this up, because we were going through diligence to be acquired by Intuit which of course, most people if you’ve gone through an acquisition before, you know that it’s usually a very small set of people who are kind of in the know when all of these processes are going on. And especially given the buying the company that was buying us into it, as a public company seem to be very cautious about what goes out on the street and what people know. And it’s always really challenging to keep something like that under wraps. And part of the reason you do it is that you don’t want to miss everybody’s expectations. If it doesn’t happen, if it does happen, people get you to know, we all know as leaders, you end up trying to control someone of the narrative to get people certainty where you can, and not have all of this, like what’s going to what’s happening in my job and sort of getting people who are in this sort of panic state. So that’s one of the reasons why you keep these things sort of under wraps. So and late February, we did announce publicly that we were going to be acquired by Intuit, we also did announce that we knew it was going to have a little bit of a road ahead with the Department of Justice from an antitrust review. They have a very big tax product known as TurboTax, most people have heard of it, we had a little teeny tiny tax product that had only been in the market for a couple of years, there’s no reason why they would have necessarily bought us for that. But we knew the optics of that were going to be part of the discussion. So imagine you’re, it’s like February 24. And you’re announcing you’re being acquired to all of your employees. And we did a big information session, I hosted 13 different small information sessions. So people could ask all their questions and sort of put you know, we had all these talking points for managers, and making sure that people could understand what it meant for them. So they could just, you know, sort of know it was happening, understand where it might be going. We’re also structured to be independent, so very much like LinkedIn, and Microsoft was the model. So there were a lot of things like, Hey, your, your life really won’t change in this world. But how do you convince people of that, and then three weeks later, you’re sending everybody home to go work from home because there’s a global pandemic that people are finally responding to? I had sent the first email about COVID in January of that year. Oh, so we had started to hear about it. And we had slowly but surely in February, I’ve been saying like, hey, based on the news, if you’ve been travelling here, you shouldn’t come into the office, if you live in these counties, or these places, don’t come into the office if you take public transportation like we had had this sort of train, but certainly, you know, I think like everybody else, I think it was like March 10, or something or like, Okay, no more, we’re shutting the office. And we had been a very in office culture. So that was a big set of Hercules for us of turning everything into remote with that the economic markets tightened. And so for those folks who are unfamiliar with how Credit Karma makes money, we make money as a business when one of our members, we have about 120 million members takes a financial product from one of our partners and receives the product and uses it so then we get paid. That whole market tighten, no one was lending, no one was giving credit cards, people were very concerned about mortgages, and all of the things that we make money on. So our revenue cut by like 70% Over the next couple of months. So we’ve got this massive ambiguity of this deal that we may or may not happen, we now have lost 70% of our revenue. Of course, what do you think the next thing that people are looking at is, where’s my job? What’s gonna happen with my job? What’s gonna happen with the company? And so there’s a lot of speculation. One of the things I did in my role as I would send a Sunday email every Sunday to the whole company just sort of saying this is what’s going on. Here’s what we’re hearing This is what we’re seeing. So to try and give some clarity around the world of at large, where we could, and I, of course, I thought that this was going to be like six weeks like everybody else doesn’t go back to work, we’re not to worry about it. So we ended up not doing layoffs, which is what everybody expected was going to happen when your revenue cuts. And so by 70%, we decided to do two big things. One is we did pay cuts for everybody. And then the other thing we did is we moved people around. So recruiting, for example, turned off, we stopped backfilling jobs, we stopped hiring, we start doing that. So you have this hole, we have had 40 People in recruiting, we moved all those people around into other jobs. So we moved them into business development, we move them into marketing, we moved them into legal operation, we move some people into product management, we move people anywhere we could we looked at their backgrounds and their skill sets. And where could we go, we did that as well, for other groups where we had turned off, like all paid marketing, so all those people got moved around, which was a, you know, sort of a big swing of like, we don’t want to take away jobs, we want to keep people here, we want to give you some certainty around that. And then our revenue started to pick up again, about five months later. So by October, we were able to turn people’s payback on. And then we close the deal in December of 2020. So it went through oh, by the way, in the middle of that we had to divest our tax business. So we had to find a buyer for our tax business. And also, the same thing, like any acquisition, we didn’t tell those people for a long time until we were more confident that this was happening. So we lost one of our teams that we sold to another company. So talk about a lot of turmoil and a lot of uncertainty in people’s lives and 2020. And then in 2021, we’ve come back to have the biggest quarters in our 15-year history as a company. So our highest revenue, so highest revenue, highest growth, in terms of most of our businesses. Yeah, it was just like a total turnaround. And so everyone likes it when things are going well. So that’s a nice, nice perk that we’ve had, but, and it has continued. So we’ve continued to have sort of three quarters in a row where we’ve just really beat all expectations come back from, from everything in a huge new way. So it’s been pretty amazing. attrition is down, which is another thing that people get really worried about, I think when you’re we went through so much crazy in 2020, that I think by 2021 people were, you know, sort of, we were saying you’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus. And I think people would be committed to the sort of staying on the bus through that. And, and it’s been, you know, sort of great to be on the other side of a lot of those things. And the other thing we did as a business was we double down on some of these new emerging projects that we hadn’t, you know, weren’t well-funded teams, or they were just specks of ideas. And we just said, Yeah, let’s go after that. We did a voter registration project, we did a relief roadmap for people. So they could find aid during Corona for Coronavirus, if they were laid off, or if they had some sort of financial, you know, the trauma that had happened. And then also we doubled down on some businesses that hadn’t been big for us who are now really, you know, sort of bigger stakes in the ground for us. So we took a lot of new swings, which sometimes pay off, which they did in our case, but it was you know, it was a chance to try some new things. So it’s the idea of taking this sort of really negative crazy that could have been and said like, wow, how do we, you know, how do we make lemonade out of the lemons just been handed to us? And they paid off?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:44

Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing. I mean, what a story I have to ask. So what when, when, when this is happening, one of the things you just mentioned, is this, like you just had your Sunday emails, what would like to tell me about what goes in one of those?

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  19:00

Right? Well, I still send them. So it became a new ritual that we do so every Sunday for good or bad because sometimes it can be a little bit of a drain. But it depends on what’s going on in the business. And so some weeks, especially when there was all of this turmoil, it was hitting on some of the questions that people were asking, or I knew were on people’s minds, and they were afraid to ask and like, are you going to do layoffs? Hey, we haven’t decided yet. We’re going to do you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to announce it on this date. And you know, in starting to lay the seeds of the messaging that we’re going to want people to hear I’m really big on trying to, you know, be repetitive, but also sort of lay the things out for folks. So that they are not surprised. I think surprises are what freaks people the most out and so if you can at least hold their hand a bit down the road, here are the things we’re going to use to decide what We’re going to do here the things that matter, are the important things. Now I use it for the same thing we hired, you know, close to 400 new people this year. And you know, so for those folks, a lot of times it’s reiterating some messages that they haven’t heard if they’re going through. We we don’t do performance reviews. But we do this like karma Convo, which is this, like a manager-employee conversation a couple of times a year. To explain the history. How did we get here? What is this used for? How’s that? It’s great reinforcement for anybody. If there are questions about compensation, I answer those if there’s, you know, something that’s happened in the business, I talked about that I also talked about what’s going on with the pandemic, or what our strategy is around vaccines, or what’s going on with the office, those kinds of things. And then, historically, what I’m famous for is I have two kinds of P SS at the end that is usually very personal, something, I’m watching something, I’m reading something I found funny, something I found sad. Like, I know, I’ve learned through the grapevine now that sometimes people don’t read any of the stuff in the actual email, they just jumped to the bottom to be like, Oh, what’s, you know, what is she reading? What is she writing about, but I do try to make it very personal. And so people have gotten to know me potentially a little differently, or understand things about me. And even, you know, sometimes they’ve been political. And I haven’t stopped, you know, I don’t believe in steering away from hard conversations. So sometimes put things out there that not everybody’s gonna love. But it was a chance, it’s a chance for us to do some storytelling for folks. And what I have been told is that people look forward to that. I try to keep it upbeat, as most as I can, unless something happened in the world that you can’t. But it also, you know, I think that consistency of the message is really important. And that in the ritual of it is important.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:50

Yeah, that’s awesome. And so this is a very tactical question. But in the world of remote work like this is this is often, you know, a question that you can ask, which is sometimes, you know, you have a message that goes out, and you don’t know if it goes out into the void, and if anyone’s listening or, you know, now and then you might hear someone saying like, Oh, that’s great. We, you know, we love the PSAs you put in there, but do you do anything like track open rates or read rates? Or, or any of these sorts of things?


This is a very good question. We did pull it at one point in time, we’d looked at an open rate, for a couple of weeks, just out of curiosity, it turned out that we had like 85%, or something open now. I don’t know if they actually read it, or they just go to the PS or something like that. But we did. We did it for a while. I I also, you know, to be honest, I think it matters for the people it matters for and for those who don’t, it’s okay. But I do think you know, even if it was only 10% of the people who read it, I think it’s important that 10% get it. And then also, though, that there is this ritual of it. So this somebody changed Orion and it was there. We could do it. But I will say I still have a bit of paranoia and fear when I hit send every Sunday night like it is a little I don’t, I don’t have anybody else read it. A lot of times, it is like, you know, oh, I just got home from a weekend or whatever. And it’s Sunday night, I got to sit down and write and I do sometimes keep notes during the week of certain things that I want to talk about. But it’s scary to put your voice into the world, right? I think that that’s for anybody. And I’m generally not a problem saying it. But I do know that because when you’re a leader, what you say has a lot more weight, and especially in the role that I am in I know, it has a lot of weight. And so I I tell everybody, I’m like, do you think I you know, I’m super courageous, or I do these things? I am terrified when I hit send, like, did I say the wrong thing? Or did I you know, like, what is it gonna do? It’s gonna end up on Twitter or something like that. So I do think when you are when you are willing to write something down and send it out into the world that you are putting a little piece of yourself out there. So I have not forgotten that yet. Out of the 100 and things, something of them that I’ve sent.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:12

Yeah, that’s awesome. So in such times like this, you have to be this. Maybe I have this wrong, but I have this like a vision of you know, you have to be this, you know, strong leader communicating the plan, and everything else before I go like before I ask you about, like the strategies that you use, I’m just curious about like your own. Now now that it is in the past and now that you know, you just had your record quarter, what was your kind of like emotional mental state, like, because you had to be the person communicating with everybody else. So but where were you at?


Yeah, you know, it’s such a great question, because I don’t think people ever asked me that so much, but it was a tough, tough year. In a lot of ways, I had been through an acquisition before myself. And I had been in a very similar situation where they had said we would be independent. And then it turned out like six months later, they change their minds. And so during the beginning of this deal part, I was very active in the conversations of like, what had to get written down, what are we choosing? How are we going to make sure you know, sort of, to ensure the independence for our company, which I thought was so important, and protecting what we had built and how we’re going to build it. And at the moment, you’re just like in it, and then the same thing at the beginning of COVID. It was just very transactional, of like, okay, we got to do this, we got to do this, we got to do this, we can just check it off. And then when we hit like, do we have to do layoffs? Do we have to do pay cuts? Like what are we going to do and convince our board about all those things, too? I felt very responsible like I was kind of exhausted most days, at the end of the day, like I just, I felt like I was caring for the world. And a lot of ways for that like, and, and that was hard, you know, and that none of the folks on our management team had actually like made the call before for a layoff like they’d some of them had been managers or lay off, but they’d never made that decision. And I just knew that it’s such a culture wrecker, I didn’t want to have to do that. And, but, you know, convincing people of that and holding on to those jobs and how it was true to us. And then also navigating, like, I loved the team that we’d invested, they were some great, amazing people. And I was really sad about having to move them. So I spent a lot of that like sadness or turning it into making sure they had a great home. And making sure that the company that we were going to divest, too was going to value these people the way they should be valued. And I think some of the folks on that team saw it, they saw me in those meetings with those other companies. And I would like blatantly went our CEO when there was one company that was looking at buying ads like there’s no way in hell, I’m sending these people. They’re like, I will not do it. Like, they I will. And even to the point that we were like, over a weekend one-time swapping people out in certain jobs, like engineering jobs who were in the green card process, who would have to start all over if they went and so it was like, over the weekend trying to find out who else could we give them instead, so that these people don’t lose their green card. Like, that’s the amount of like emotional currency I sort of had invested. So but now it’s like, you know, oh my god, I can’t believe we came out on the other side. It’s just been amazing to go through that.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:41

It’s amazing to have gone through that and now like just be you know as you said on the other side, and like really winning I want to ask about the like, what you think this did for everybody else that was kind of like part of that process? Like I think that if you were a person that said yeah, I’m gonna take a pay cut. And I’m gonna, you know, go through this like, what did you notice in terms of you know, I think that just builds like more affinity more resilience more buying into the mission. Right? So it’s almost like you know, they say in when you’re servicing customers, you know, sometimes you’ll have an issue with a customer but and they may be angry but if you can fix it for them they will love you even more than you know before you had started I’m just wondering like, how that played out in terms of just the people on the team.


Well,  funny enough I didn’t mention this earlier but we did do what I call it we called it off the bus right when we were announcing the pay cuts where I said hey, I have used the meant that metaphor quite a bit over my tenure at Credit Karma so it’s been mean to the point that one of the teams built like a picture of a bus and put my face on the front and it was a bus from like Burning Man or something that they made into a Credit Karma boss and put it outside my office so you know there was stuff and I this I use it quite a bit but we call it off the bus package where I just said look, this is a lot of uncertainty it this some of you might not be able to take the pay cut like if you you know we’re a tech company so we knew there were still a lot of other opportunities out there like it that’s free if this is not for you like we will pay you to leave right now. So we did we you know sort of said hey, we’ll pay you will vest you out a little bit like you should quit now versus like having this drip of people quitting so we I sort of thought of that part already which is like it’s way worse to have people who are not committed with you and just hanging on versus having people who want to be there and I still feel that way about anything like I am a big proponent and the reason the bus thing happened was like if you’re not on the bus, it’s okay like I have like sent people and current employees over to like headhunters and stuff like you should go work at this company. If that’s what you want to do. You should leave and go do the thing that makes you excited. That’s going We better for you, and it’s gonna be better for us. I’m very attached to that belief, I think it was hard for people. But I do agree with you that we built up a huge bank of trust through that entire experience, the people who were with us through 20, and you know, stayed with us through all of this, there is just an immense I get many more comments, we see it in like employee surveys, we, you know, we hear it from employees all the time of how grateful they are about how we took care of them through this and, and frankly, even the acquisition, like we, we, it is the most employee-friendly deal we had ever I’ve ever seen or ever heard. And I had done probably 40 acquisitions in my career. And we optimized for employees at every turn in terms of, you know, from a financial perspective, or a lifestyle perspective, or how things were going to work. And, and I think, especially as some of those folks are seeing it from their friends or other people or they had been through it before. We built up a lot of trust and respect and gratitude through that, which, you know, you could lose in two seconds. But I think we have a nice bank of it now where, you know, especially if you layer in the pandemic, and decisions we may we’ve made around vaccinations and returning to the office and those kinds of things that we’ve built up this bank of like, hey, we prioritize employees, you know, sort of health and safety in many ways. And we sort of earned that from them.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:27

[AD BREAK BEGINGS] Hey, there. Just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not a single-spaced font, you know, lots of tax, there’s a lot of pictures, it’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to fellow dot app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one, it’s there for you, we hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview.[AD BREAK ENDS]  I guess another tangential topic that I wanted to dig in on is a little bit more about culture. So one of the things that you have said in the past is that you define your role as the product manager of the systems and tools that run the company and that you are not the CEO of culture. And so that’s an interesting way to put it, because I think oftentimes when we think about, you know, the function of the people leader, you know, being the CEO of a culture, I can see why people would say that, but But you were saying you are not that I’m curious, like if you could maybe dive into that a bit more.


Sure, I usually say I’m not the CEO of culture and I’m not the CEO of happiness like I’m not the chief happiness officer, those kinds of things, they’re also sometimes get lumped into that. You know, I think that the responsibility of the culture that you want, and the behaviours that you want to see, which is sort of the culture is sort of the definition of a culture is defined by the entire management team, you know, plopping that into the HR lady, or, you know, or just one person or even just the CEO is, is a fallacy, because how the entire leadership team decides to operate in a sort of what they want to expect from people and, and how you’re going to make decisions and how those decisions are communicated. That’s on everybody. That’s not just on one person. And I think it’s wrong too, you know, say like, Hey, it’s just this one person’s job to do all those things, like we all own that, and frankly, anybody who is a leader, to some extent, you know, taken on the mantle, and pay usually, of managing people, they are here, you know, like, you sort of have forfeited sometimes your sort of freedom to just do whatever you want. Like that is part of the role and responsibility. And so you are also, you know, sort of an owner of the culture, how you behave, and how you treat people and what you do and how you get it done, is going to define what the culture is not me sitting in, you know, my office or my home office or wherever saying like, Oh, it should be this way. That’s not what people experience. And I think, you know, one of the things that get lumped into that too, is people spend a lot of time on like, oh, I want to make everybody happy or employee happiness. And I think happy is a really dangerous word in the workplace. There are a lot of people that going to work every day is not what makes them Heavy, you know, they go to work because they want to make a paycheck and do the other things that make them happy. And I worked at a company, where the CEO used to just used to, like, stand up in meetings and say, like, you’re gonna be the happiest you’ve ever been when you work here, and you’re gonna have the biggest career you’ve ever had when you work here. And both statements are really hard to ever prove and make true for any one person. And I learned a big lesson from that, like, I’m just like, I am never gonna say that to people again, like, because they might not be happy at work. And that’s okay, too, you know, they could still enjoy the work that they’re doing or enjoy the paycheck that they get. But I’m not, I don’t want to set up the expectation that that’s what the job is when you come into work is to make people happy. I mean, maybe certain jobs are sort of like that, that is an expectation of the role, potentially, if you’re the Santa Claus said at the mall, like, that’s probably your job. Pretty cool. But if you get lots of money away all the time, that’s probably a pretty good job. But, you know, I don’t think in general, it’s a very realistic expectation to set for people. And I think you end up kind of, you know, shooting yourself in the foot. So that’s why I’ve focused on like, my job what I do most days think of what are the systems and the tools that we’re using? Like we’re saying, you know, hey, we’re saying that ownership is an important, you know, value for us. It’s something that we drive on, what are the things that we do that sort of proof that people are owners, right? So you can start with the one that a lot of tech companies do, which is like, hey, we give equity to everybody. So everybody has a stake in the game? That’s good. I mean, that that the Great’s, hey, act like an owner, those kinds of things, but then the Hey, does somebody have the decision-making authority to do what they need to do to get their job done? And are they the person who then on the other side will say, like, Hey, I am responsible for this, and I am, I am both taking credit? And then I am taking any sort of criticism that happens with that, if the outcome doesn’t happen correctly, like, that, is defining ownership. So how do I, you know, set up the tools and the systems that we use to do help drive on that? And, and so that’s what I take pretty seriously in the work that I do.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:16

Yeah, I’m glad you kind of brought in that example of, you know, for the what is the exact cultural value is it acts as an owner or?


It is owner, it’s just more defined as ownership. So are we have for Coca Cola, you know, sort of cultural values, company values, they happen to spell hope if you add the first letter of each of them, which is kind of a nice thing for a company whose, whose mission is to help people make financial progress. It works with who we are. But ownership is the value and we have a lot of different ways to define it. For folks, yeah, we do, we’ll hear the phrase, especially around spending or headcount, or some of those things, which is like act like an owner. Yeah, and when and when you’ve created that culture of I do believe that I am partially an owner, or I can tie something I’ve done to what you know, sort of might mean for my career, or you know, ownership of my career or financially in terms of an outcome that happens that way, those kinds of things. Which gets tested, you know, when companies are struggling financially, if you can empower people to look for ways to that you can do it better, because you’re an owner, and you want to make the business do better. Like I think that that’s people feel either trusted or not that hey, someone’s going to listen to me and take my advice or opinion and, and I think that’s important in a lot of cultures, which company cultures, which is this idea of somebody truly believing that what they do matters, I think that that’s at the heart of what people want to they want to be valued, but that their voice will be heard as an expert on something and it might be small or might be really big but I think those moments are impactful for people’s careers./

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  39:05

What I like about it is that you know it’s not just saying that you know your tech company you get equity in the company and but just diving in to see what kind of systems can we put into place so that people can make decisions and like do their job and feel like they own a piece of it and you know, they can be the subject matter expert on you know, the certain thing calling this has been super helpful. We’ve talked about so many different things leading through change and ambiguity, defining and being very clear on roles and responsibilities and also like systems that should be put into place. One of the questions we always like to end with is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any parting words of wisdom tips or tricks that you leave them with?

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  39:59

I usually like to tell people that being a manager is a bit like having a baby for the first time, if you’ve ever gone through that experience, which is you can read every book you want, you can go through all the classes you want, you can, you can feel like you’ve talked to every single person, but until you’ve done it until it happens to you, you, you really won’t know what it’s like, and you won’t get better until it’s happening for you. So it doesn’t mean you don’t read the books, and you don’t go to the classes and do all those things. But you, you know, take a little of the pressure off of yourself and know that all of us just go through the experiences we go through. I mean, no one comes out as a baby or as an adult with learning or a manual just for them. So you’re going to have to do a lot of trial and error. But the best thing is that you just learn from those experiences and learn to reapply them in you know, a better way the next time if it doesn’t go. Well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:50

That’s great advice and a great place to end it, Colleen, thanks so much for doing this.

Colleen McCreary (Credit Karma)  40:54

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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