🚀 Breathe.



Trust comes from employees seeing in their employer, that our values are aligned. If I'm going to give an organization a number of years of my life, I want to see that the values and actions of my employer align with my own and if not, or if I can't tell where my employer stands on important issues, trust doesn't grow.

In this episode

How can you show your team that there is room for improvement? 

Hold the mirror up, but don’t paint the picture.

David Hanrahan is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Eventbrite with over 20 years of experience building strong HR teams across organizations including Niantic, Zendesk, and Twitter.

On episode 97, David shares why you should hire as senior as possible for new positions and what it means to ‘hold the mirror, but don’t paint the picture’

We also talk about manager training, pre and post-pandemic operations at Eventbrite, and what he learned from participating in a company-wide async week. 

Tune in to hear all about David’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!

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


Hold the mirror, don’t paint the picture


Hiring as senior as possible


The best manager training


Pre and post-pandemic operations


Async week best practices


Company values evolving


Assume that there is no trust


Empowering your team to make decisions


Just ask for feedback



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:34

David, welcome to the show.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  02:31

Hey, thank you. Glad to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:32

Yeah, very excited to have you on. There’s a lot we’re going to dig into today. I mean, you’ve had a super extensive leadership career. I’m just looking at your background, all the brand name tech companies, Zendesk, Twitter, Electronic Arts, Universal Pictures today, you’re the Chief Human Resources Officer at Eventbrite. So lots of experience to draw on. But I did want to rewind and maybe let’s start in the early years of when you first started managing and leading a team, tell us about some of the mistakes you made early in those days.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  03:04

Yeah, so the the first one that comes to mind, like really leading a team for vivid experiences was was Twitter, leading the business partner team, they’re growing it from one to many. And so I’ll tell a story as it relates to mistakes. I’ve got a thing I wrote listing out a whole bunch of mistakes I’ve made in my career. So endless, endless stuff to go off of there in terms of mistakes I’ve made. But so the the fun story I’ll tell you about Twitter is Dick Costolo. It was the CEO at the time, almost as soon as I started with a very small HR team, but within a couple of weeks, he had this urge this urgency to create a management training course the company, I think at that time I joined it was about 600 700 employees, and they were still a couple years away from IPO. And he gathered a few people in a room and he just said I want to start whiteboarding, some concepts, I feel this need that like we need good managers at Twitter and like to keep me up at night. So let me let me you know, brainstorm a few things. And he actually gave us a book to buy Andy Grove, I think was high output management. But in any case, we’re sitting in a room, and a couple of my HR colleagues and the CEO, and then another person who I didn’t know, I didn’t immediately recognize the deck started drawing this X Y axis on a whiteboard. And he was telling a story of a person he managed once I think in Chicago, and how this person was not performing. And it fell on deck to explain that to them and explain that like, you know, hey, this is like, this is not looking good. You know, I might need to let you go because of this. But by the end of the conversation, the person felt like they were about to be promoted. They thought like, they were happy. And Dick was leaving the conversation like how like what just happened? Like what did I say to this person that like got them in the wrong impression. So we drew this whiteboard axis have clear and not clear and happy and unhappy and his point was that as managers sometimes we optimize for happiness at the expense of clarity, and so the other person in the room, got up and started You know, kind of riffing on this, this axis. That person was was Kim Scott, who later wrote the book, radical candor. So for me back to the question on mistakes, I fell in this very same trap at Twitter, I had a relatively junior HR business partner team. And they had what I call like an orientation towards fun and levity. And I optimize for maintaining the fun and levity at the expense of, of I think helping people truly improve through like really direct conversations, I could see the team was gradually getting more frustrated. And optimizing for fun wasn’t helping. They wanted clarity, they wanted clarity on how they can improve. And another mistake was feeling I had to give them all the answers versus coaching them along like Socratic ly, to finding the answers. And so I you know, eventually I kind of saw my job is more hold the mirror up, but not paint their picture. And I recall a moment where I wrote for one of the business partners a description, like a be like, here’s, here’s how you’re operating today, then here’s how you could be operating at tomorrow. And there was a light bulb moment for them in like in terms of what to strive for, and it was I was trying to hold a mirror up for the day so they could see. But even that same rule, another big mistake was just not balancing out experience in the team. As a relatively junior manager myself, I felt like I should be bringing in people who could learn from me, meaning I was hiring people with less experience than me, rather than hiring people with more experience, I felt as if I would hire, like with more experience, I wouldn’t have anything to offer someone who’s experienced, which is a big mistake. And getting a mix of experience in a team is so key. And particularly when you’re in scaling mode, where the next stage is so different from where you’re currently at. You want people who’ve been there before, you know, not a bunch of people who never seen the next stage.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:41

This is so awesome. So much to dig into here. Fun fact on Kim Scott, we’ve also had her on the podcast, she’s legendary. And so on the on the things that you you mentioned, this concept of like holding the mirror up. So I can see how holding the mirror for someone can really like I mean, that’s what a coach would do, right? We would kind of like, tell you how we see you. And like how you’re acting just because as a sports coach would do. How does this help with the clarity concept? Like how did you get better at making things super clear?

anyway. So I might as well get someone who knows what they’re talking about. And then having a personal team not only to know, like what Irish HR sort of what you need to know, but also having like a leadership voice, who could lean in and solve you know, kind of more like macro problems with the team who was comfortable like leaning in and just sort of like offering up a leadership voice removes so much pressure for me and I’m like, This is great. You know, this is Oh my gosh, I want to her name was Miss Shall I want to want to want to give more to her. So that lightbulb moment was almost kind of by chance, I just I had to. And then from then from then on, you know, it’s been in the back of my mind the drag sometimes of having, you know, an overly junior team, really junior team who require a lot more of your time. So we require a lot more pulling you away from potentially like, if my job as director, or VP, maybe I’m supposed to be more on the strategy mode, as opposed to, you know, more in the weeds. You know, as a first time manager, you’re gonna be in the weeds. But eventually, as you get to director and VP, you start to kind of level up the clarity that your team is looking for from you. So what’s our strategy? How do all these pieces fit together? Other executives are looking for the strategy on the people team as well. And so you need to be operating at that level, an overly junior team, you know, is going to prevent you from doing that. And so, anyways, that’s been omnipresent for me.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:50

How do you make the decision of like, when you are hiring for a role, when you’re thinking about like, the level of seniority? Do you kind of have a rule of thumb or maybe some questions that you would ask in order to decide what level of seniority you would want in a role,

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  11:04

there’s a train of thought that if I, if I hire someone to senior, they will want to do the hard work, right, they they’re gonna want to be the person who pontificates or they’re going to do my job, they’re going to do strategy work. And so that also can hold people back from like, you know, making senior hires that like, you know, how am I going to hire someone who’s going to be up to do the work, and you can always solve that and the interview process of of articulating, this is the job like, you know, I think you’d be great for it. But this, I want to make sure you know what you’re getting into, in general, the rule of thumb, I think, is higher as a senior as senior as you possibly can. So a very famous CEO, and tech quote from from him is I only hire people that I would report to people who know their stuff, and no one better than me, that’s the kind of like, I would report to that person, because they actually know something, you know, something more than, than what I know, in a field or in a topic. So I think in general, hire as senior as you possibly can, every time you have a chance, particularly when you’re in scaling and growth mode, because it will only benefit from only benefit you, you’re not going to have a negative by getting into the quote unquote, in the next stage and having too much experience on Zoom.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:14

This is super, super interesting. And I love the just like the rule of thumb being the well, why not try and hire as senior as you can, as it makes sense, like in that particular role. So we also started talking about, you know, manager training and how important that is. I’m curious, like all the different companies that you’ve been at, or certain rules of thumb as it relates to hiring, like, would you have internal documentation and training that would kind of like instruct new managers in particular, on like, how did they make it because I’m just thinking, if you’re new manager, and this is going to be the first hire, you know, hopefully, there’s a committee of other people who can also weigh in. But how do you teach these lessons to, I guess, new managers so that they don’t end up, you know, hiring someone that maybe they could have hired differently? And it would have been a better fit for that role?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  13:03

Yeah, you know, I think as a company grows from like, let’s just say 10, to 100 to 1000, you’re gonna hit these stages, where it’s like, oh, my gosh, we have like 100 managers now, we have a whole slew of managers who are different philosophies, and like different backgrounds. And so this managers coming in with a more top down mentality that the managers we’ve had before, we’re more bottoms up, we need to put something together around our philosophy or management philosophy and us or, you know, quote, unquote, manager training. I’ve typically seen that happen after you pass, you know, say a few 100 employees. Now you have like, you’ve got maybe 20 managers, something like that. The individuals reading this or listening to this, rather, would say, well, that’s got to be difficult, you got to buy something, right, you got to pull something off the shelf. And the best management training I’ve seen at Twitter when I was at Zendesk Niantic more recently, it really starts with just getting those managers in a room together, hey, what what topic we all struggling with? Alright, we’re gonna have a we’re gonna have a sort of like Lunch and Learn, or a roundtable discussion around performance management, you know, next Thursday, and like an hour, and we’re just going to talk we’re going to talk shop about this, what happens is you have a mixture of managers with a lot of experience, and then like, not a lot of experience. And so the person who’s pulling that together doesn’t have to have all the answers, they need to get the managers talking. So when the managers have a space to actually talk about topics, how do we how do you make really great hires? What do you do if you got a performance issue? How do we handle it here? Do we just fire some or do we like, actually try and you know, coach them along and document the conversation kind of helps crystallize what our philosophy is. So you’ve got a couple of managers who are super experienced, other managers are listening to that person, the facilitator kind of helps trying to keep it on track. And that’s how we developed our manager training, which is bringing managers together to understand what our sensibilities are, does it align to our culture or values? Maybe there’s managers who have really different points of view on something and we kind of hash that out. And so that then takes the shape of training. And then you know, like you also at the same time, you got to do interview training and help managers who don’t have any understanding of how to interview and have a run hiring process. And that’s been my experience. So you pull that stuff together as well. But just getting people in the room together is definitely one.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:17

Yeah, that’s super interesting. Now, very tactically? Is it? So do all the managers say your 100 person company? Or a 200? person company? Do all the managers should they get together once a week, once a month? Like? How do you think about the cadence?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  15:32

That’s a good question. Once a week might be too much, you want to sort of understand the pulse of the managers, what are we struggling with? Right now? We’re struggling with hiring process, you know, like, what is? What’s your hiring process at the company? Sounds like the tech team has a much different hiring process, the rest is that okay? How are we assessing for behaviors? What look like is there a way to kind of line this up with values? You kind of pulse check with the with those 10 managers or 20 managers? What are you struggling with right now. And generally, there’s a few topics that then like kind of rise to the surface and say, we’ve got, we’ve got six topics, let’s take the next six months, we’re going to we’re going to take, you know, one day a month, we’re going to talk through these things, and they have a desire to do it more often, you can kind of accelerate it. But there’s no magic cadence, I think a little bit of it really depends on how much topics are people struggling with, if you’ve got a lot, maybe we like we do more and more often, if it’s, if it kind of takes a little while to tease things out of managers where they want to talk, it takes a while to get them comfortable talking, we’ll do this kind of a bit more gradually. So that’s kind of my, my sense.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:35

You do what’s really interesting about what you’re saying is, and I think this is super helpful, right? Which is the if you are going to train managers, do you do something off the shelf? But it sounds like you’re the companies that do it really well? Sure, there might be some learnings you can you can have from, you know, some off the shelf things, but at the end of the day, like it’s almost like, just like each company has a different culture, it sounds like the way that you approach management at different companies is also going to have different flavors. Yeah,

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  17:02

I think people who’ve grown up in the Amazon, you know, we’re gonna have a very different experience on how to manage, versus, you know, people who grew up in like a fortune 500 company with like, you know, Stephen Covey courses, you know, and, again, the dialogue getting us in a room together, and somewhat teasing out where do we have big disconnects, where we have different points of view, like, you could have a point of view on performance, like, we don’t do performance improvement plans at this company, we just fire people. And like, Whoa, that there, we got a couple of managers who believe that and like that we we quote, unquote, strive to be compassionate. And we got some managers who like, on the opposite end of the spectrum, like just avoiding performance issue, just like, let’s get us in a room together and talk about this stuff. And again, so from that, I think, you start to realize, you start to just craft, like, I could write this stuff down, you know, I could write down our principles, you know, on this stuff, and then share it. And then we can kind of share it with other managers and, and sort of evolve it over time.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:59

It’s very interesting, it almost sounds like just like, you come up with your company values. Again, if this is a very early stage, it shouldn’t be like someone in a room coming up with a whiteboard, just coming up what they are, but obviously collaborative. And then over the course of time you use that to recruit and do performance, feedback and things like this, it sounds like even for management, or like management philosophies, you kind of need to come up with a similar approach of, you know, obviously get people together in a room, and then come up with some common viewpoints, and then put that down on paper. And that becomes like, the general philosophy of like, how you approach management at the company?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  18:39

Yeah, that’s right. You could have a an exercise where we say what is great was great management look like at our company. What are you doing, if you’re a great manager at company XYZ, and then that would start very vague, but then like, start to crystallize down to specific actions that people take, you know, across the full lifecycle, from hiring, to onboarding, to developing your staff, to dealing with retention issues to compensation. And you could describe it like this, the things that managers do. An interesting hack is, if you have like engagement data, you know, like survey data, and how with the morale company, as you can see, here, we’ve got some managers who are really green, who tend to always have really great high marks, low attrition, their teams are always performing. They’re widely, widely thought of as like, the high performing teams. And then we got some managers on the other end, who’s always struggling, there’s like, there’s always the team is the one that’s, you know, kind of the bottleneck, what are they doing? What are those managers doing? Because then you almost have you’re sort of like your two ends of the spectrum of behaviors. And like, maybe that’s the starting point, like Is this our culture, this is what we’re shooting for. This is what we’re shooting away from.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:46

I think this makes a lot of sense. And it certainly, it’s a thing that everybody should think about as you start to scale your companies. I just want to switch gears and talk about Eventbrite obviously is So for those that don’t know, help you organize events, amongst other things. And so I could imagine that when the pandemic happen, there’s probably like a big shift, not just for the business. And I’m, you know, obviously, like you also do online events, so, but also a change in the way that you operate it. I’m curious to hear like the story of how maybe things changed pre and post pandemic at Eventbrite in terms of how you will operate it.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  20:27

It’s great question. So, before the pandemic, Eventbrite is a live oriented company, won’t be a shock, but we were at 97%, in the office in 97%, of employees were like, nine to five, you know, kind of come in and out of an office, somewhere around the globe. And so like a lot of companies, the pandemic, you know, forced to shift on us, it was a forced shift, and then kind of staggered or planned along the way, I think we’re still struggling with it a bit to this day. What I mean by that is the shift to more asynchronous work. And I think that the reason why any company is struggling with this, I think, is the desire for human connection. And we’ve been trying to experiment with like, how to how to, if not replicate, how to actually learn new habits, new habits in the, you know, this new mode of working that we’re in so my my team’s ran, has been running some experiments, they ran experiments on this thing called async. Week. So basically, the the notion being in the pandemic, you know, we’re in about two and a half times more meetings. And we ran a survey internally to kind of back that up and particular managers are in a lot more meetings, you know, what would happen if we just decided to not meet for an entire week, what happened to productivity, you know, stress with this help teams would they want to continue to do something like this. So we ran this experiment, and we found that the sense of productivity increase, quite a bit increased 13 points, whereas burnout, and stress levels decreased by 28 points, just by not meeting and writing and working with each other over written communication. And then we found the majority of employees, you know, kind of found new ways to stay connected. And a little bit of it is like, I find my human connection in my community, I get what I need, they’re not through the people on on Zoom, but I get to go out and I get to go get to work from a coffee shop, I get to have my human connection. And I get to do deep thinking work, you know, without being disrupted by meetings. And then the kicker for me is like 80% of the company want to continue to work this way. in some fashion a sec, you know, whether it’s a week, a month, or week, a quarter or a day, just a day one. We’re I think a concept that hits on is empowerment and choice, which I can check and speak to. But so there’s a couple of class.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  22:49

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 single spaced font, you know, lots of text. 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.app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones. 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. Yeah, so that’s interesting, too. How big was the team that experimented with this? And would you do it on a whole company basis?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  23:53

whole company?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:54

How do you think that this will impact going forward? Do you think that like on a team level, people will decide to operate that way? I mean, like you said, on, you know, maybe like it’s a week, a month, or week, a quarter, or whatever it is.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  24:07

So the thing that I found here is, if you do like no meeting Fridays, or if you do, you know, like a no meeting block, which we’ve done in the middle of the middle of the week, the challenge of doing it on a team basis, that Zendesk, I think the engineering team had worked from home Wednesdays, the problem is, if the whole company is not doing it, it’s really hard to honor it. So if like, Hey, we’re going to do this for Australia, we’re going to do you know, no meeting Mondays, or we’re going to do you know, we’re going to do this for the engineering team. You’re constantly getting a product team calling you into meetings they forget. So I think org wide traditions and I kind of I want to go so far as to say like a rule as opposed to a guideline are going to be more effective because if it’s like one team doing it or just a recommendation, you tend to not get anything. Pause. Sit about in it because people started to trample

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  25:02

that makes a lot of sense. And so during the the week where the main modes of communication just threw me, you said writing, so I assume just a lot of chat, I don’t know if you all use Slack or something similar, but that may be like video messages, voice messages, you know, that sort of thing.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  25:22

Yeah, I was doing video messages, quick recordings over slack, that QuickTime video, you know, uploading, that there’s new, there’s new tools that allow people to sort of like create podcasts and certainly for the company, or do do videos and various sort of light touch ways. Slack was was super popular. And I think an interesting thing there on Slack was my experience has been that, you know, in the pandemic, because I think people are so burnt on on Zoom. And in general, on local digital, sort of corporate productivity tools, I found we actually had like a ghost town affecting some more Slack channels equally, as much as like you might find the ghost town and offices that are reopening where you’re not required to come back, the async week really activated a lot more dialogue, and rapid fire dialogue back and forth in Slack and slack. And people were using Miro and jam boards and a whole bunch of other things to kind of like replicate some things, at least having the office,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:16

there’s one thing you know, it’s interesting, we ran an async here async weekend fellow here, one of the things that was interesting feedback was for things that required collaboration, you had to be a lot more purposeful around. So this is like a document or, or like if we’re doing this meeting completely asynchronously. Like, you have to, like have the material in by this time, or like complete the review, or everybody put in your comments by like this time. So there was there’s a little bit more coordination involved in those activities. And the other thing we found, which was interesting, and I’m curious if it was the same as well, sometimes when there’s a lot of like, just back and forth on Slack, like unless there’s like, a joint understanding of like, how quickly you should respond to various things, it can become confusing, so nothing that’s insurmountable. But like, if you just get thrown into it without everyone saying, okay, like, in general, you don’t need to respond to every message in Slack like, you know, within like, 10 seconds or something, because because then it becomes like super interrupt driven as well.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  27:25

Yeah, that’s right. And also, if you’re dealing with multiple time zones, uh, you know, you got to be intentional, if someone is, you know, in Australia or in India, and they’re getting a ping, you know, when they’re like having dinner, that’s been a big struggle for us. We’ve got development teams in different time zones, and we found in the pandemic, you know, like our Spanish engineers, so the team teams in Spain were having much longer days and they already work you know, their their kind of days are much different already than like teams on the West Coast culturally. You know, think you have to have some it that a little bit of principles on communication I do I ever expect something if I messaging to now, or on the weekend or at night? What am I expecting your your leader should or your manager should be clear, unlike what what I’m doing, if you see something from me, off hours, I’ve had new teammates who reporting to me, who I would notice would send messages on the weekend, I would just say, hey, just so you know, I’m like, I’m not gonna respond to stuff on the weekend, like, I’ve got family. And so if you if that’s good for you, you could do it. But I’m not, I’m not going to respond until Monday. And so you got to have that conversation and ideally, sort of like to document or share the principle with the whole team.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:39

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I didn’t want to just talk about values as well. Do I have it correct that you at Eventbrite changed some of your values, like during the pandemic, or post pandemic? I’m curious, like, what you changed and why you changed it?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  28:56

Yeah, I can, I can speak to these. So we did, we did change our values, I guess, to tell a story. So Eventbrite has been public. Now about three and a half years, we went public, about three and a half years ago, a lot of really smart people like board members and shareholders said, Hey, we think you have something wrong with your business strategy. At the time, and before the pandemic, we had, you know, very sales and services oriented approach. So we would go out and like try and find event creators, bring them to the platform, handhold them through the RFP process, and then help them execute on their events. We only had about 30% of the company and technical roles and product design. And we also were vertical and we’re trying to be in 190 countries, all of this was like a not profitable way to run a business. So when the pandemic hit, you know, we had to make some pretty important choices like how do we want it? How do we emerge from this from this pandemic as a live events company? How do we emerge stronger? And so, you know, we restructured the company, you know, we have pre massive layoff and in the restore extra thing we moved more towards, we’ll call a self serve and self sign on business, which is like, hey, the power of our tech, it’s gonna be so intuitive and give the features at all creators want and be done in a horizontal basis and really focusing on like six core countries instead of 190. We’re going to like, live and breathe off of the power of our tech. And so we’re getting that means being 50%, engineering and product design going forward, bringing on a great new CTO. So I tell that story to backdrop because the culture was changing from that. So without even without even realizing it, like all of a sudden, the culture of the company is changing, the morale plummeted. I’ll tell you that to start morale plummeted, we had a lot of people who were staying, you said, I’m not sure if I’m up for this. But then we started to become much more intentional around the company culture used to be known for just compassionate, compassionate company, we want that we want that to continue to be the bones of the company, around those bones, we’re gonna build muscles of high performance and learning. Just this past September, we finally we finally got all that out, you know, with our employees in writing and documented it. So the new values are cultivate authenticity, continuously learn, take ownership, drive, impact, and empower customers. And so each of those, then we can kind of link leadership attributes to them, we can hire for them, we know how to promote, you know, and assess for them. And so those values now are giving us a new sort of, like cultural lexicon are like how we think of the how we think of the company culture. And it was a pretty, very pretty massive change with the one notion being though that we want to continue to remain a compassionate company. And I think what’s interesting there is, if you’re also want to be high performance, sometimes people think high performance and compassion are at odds with each other. Right? So how do I how do I be a compassionate manager, compassionate leader, when I know if that’s someone who’s struggling, or I need to have to have a tough message, and this is kind of Kim Scott type of stuff, but it’s compassionate, to be clear, it’s compassionate, to tell you the truth, you know, to help you see on your own terms, you know, where you’re struggling. So anyways, that’s a little description of the evolution.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:10

That’s super interesting. I assume this wasn’t a three week process. This was probably like, was it six months, three months? Or how fast did this happen?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  32:18

It was probably six to nine months. So um, the first inkling of our culture is changing, hey, the values that we have here on our, you know, on our orientation, are like coming from before the restructuring, should we have the same values now that we’re a completely different company. You know, we had an off site, I think it was May of last year, where we started talking about this, and we read and we all read an article together the executive team called the culture factor, which is a HBR article, which is great. And it speaks about these different axes of culture. And we kind of did a little bit of an assessment as executive teams for realize how far off we were in our own sensibilities of the culture. And then we got us to a general sort of like three attributes that we think are important. And now let’s go empower a team. Now let’s get out of this, you know, and not be the authors of it. But empower a team, we think are the culture champions who like totally know culture better than we do as execs. And then they ran with it for a few months, getting us to September with the values. And you could describe them as attributes, you can describe how they fit into leadership stuff. So yeah, about six to nine months.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:22

Yeah. And then my next question was going to be like, how did you figure out that this is something that needed to happen? But yeah, that’s super interesting to see, because you’ve got this large company, you know, large companies can also change, like values or change the way that they operate. So if it’s hard to do at a small scale, it must have been quite the adventure at the larger scale to make that happen. So that’s pretty awesome that you were able to do that. I did want to talk about trust. You’ve said that trust is no longer an inherent thing. So I think like maybe some people assume that there’s always trust. But I think we have it that you said that assume that trust is not there, you should assume that building a high trust workplace is very difficult. I would love to get your thoughts on on that. Why do you think that trust is, is not something we can just assume is there from the get go? And maybe give us some context on that?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  34:15

I spend a lot of time thinking about this. But there’s a whole slew of interesting data points. You know, Gallup, we see that trust in many different institutions has eroded in recent years. There’s this thing called the Edelman 2022 Trust Barometer. And from their their research was six out of 10 people now inherently distrust information they hear until they see evidence that it’s trustworthy. Now that the good news is that and that same study, trust in one’s employer is still high relative to other institutions, but employees want their employer to be playing a much more active role, particularly in things like public policies, public policy issues that you know, that might affect them or that they might relate to. That didn’t used to be the thing right? I think like generation entering the workforce now versus generations, you know, in prior years, we didn’t need that in our employer. Now that what we see as societal leadership is core to building trust with an employer. And there are people who will disagree with this. So this is this is my point of view, we have companies that have have gone on record and saying we don’t we are going to ban discussions of social issue discussions from the workplace because that that causes discord. But back to your question, I think trust comes from employees seeing in their employer, that our values are aligned, if I’m going to give an organization a number of years of my life, I want to see that the values and actions of my player align with my own and if not, or if I can’t tell where my employer stands on important issues, trust doesn’t grow. Some people might argue and say, well, that’s not really trust, you’re speaking of maybe that’s more like respect or something like that. But a quote I heard from a leader during the pandemic is that the job of a leader during tough times is to put more trust into the world and and leaders in business nowadays should think of that not only in regards to trust in the company, bottom line, but trust that we’re doing good in the world. And so it’s why is that important? From a recent HBR article, where you see teams and companies where trust is high, you see 50%, higher performance, you know, the team or the company. And another quote that I like, back on this trust thing is trust is the only legal performance enhancing drug.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:30

That’s awesome. I love that. So tactically speaking, what are things that so if I wanted to increase trust in the team in the company, what are some things that you might recommend, I try?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  36:42

Well, trust is, is one leg of a three legged stool of a relationship. So when I say when I say trust, you got trust, respect and communication? Those three things are your relationship with your employees, let’s just say a manager and their team, how strong is my relationship with them? Maybe I have lots of respect, and I have communication, but I don’t have trust. Why would I have trust? That’s what that saying is that my employees don’t trust what I’m saying. Or I don’t trust them. I inherently distrust. So where does that emanate from? I can just kind of, I can sort of speak from examples that I’ve seen, where you can hear a leader will talk about their team, and question question their work, you know, I’m going to redline this stuff. I’m going to need to get on a phone call talk about this stuff. Why are you doing this work? What’s you know, oftentimes trust is one of the first things that you build in a relationship, do I trust you, because if I trust you that maybe we can start talking about respect and communication. And so trust is usually missing from poor relationships. So if I’m building relationship with my team, it kind of comes naturally, it kind of like, hey, this person means what they say their actions. So they’re taking actions on things that they say and like, okay, trust them, they’re actually taking action on things that they say they, they held their word on something, they gave me a decision, and they actually they trusted me, quote, unquote, with information, they trusted me eventually, on a piece of work, hey, I trust you. And when the absence of that is there, when I distrust you, it feels like I gotta do a lot of work just to get this thing, you know, over the goal line with my boss, you know, I’m just, I’m just coming here to do this. You hired me as a product manager? Why do I have to like prove myself to you left and right. And so when this when this trigger mistrust is there, it just becomes hard to get good work done?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:32

Yeah. So this is super interesting. So if you were going to if you were going to diagnose for example, if there is trust in a team or not, what questions could you ask the leader of the team, so that like, if we were going to diagnose like the level of trust? Or there are some some questions that you could ask him that if you respond a certain way, then maybe that means that there isn’t as much trust,

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  38:54

a kind of more recently been thinking of trust as a gateway to empowerment, which is the gateway to accountability. Like we want to be able to hold our teams accountable. Well, how do I do that? Like, I have to be able to empower them? If they’re not empowered? How can I hold someone accountable? If they’re, if it’s like, they’re not taking responsibility for their own work? And then how do I empower them? I have to trust them. So you can almost ask, you know, it’s kind of working your way backwards? Is there a high degree of accountability in the team? If not, why are they empowered to make decisions or not do empower your team to make decisions or not? Particularly key decisions, do key decisions on how the work gets done, who holds those who holds those those keys, you can inevitably ask, you know, like a trust index, like one through 10 scale, like, like, what’s the level of trust in the team? Back? I think there’s, is it the five dysfunctions assessment, you know, speaks to trust and I think there’s some, some trust skill there as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  39:49

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But it’s interesting. It’s almost like a it’s a proxy. If you ask about empowerment, and accountability. Those are almost like proxies. Have you know if those are not going well, then the root of it could be trust as an example.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  40:05

Yeah, I think you see unintentional mistrust when you have leaders at very senior levels from or operating in a tactical mode. So like, I’m going to wordsmith this thing, I’m going to, I’m going to get in here and kind of give you some tactical direction on this thing. Versus zooming out. When I have when I have trust, I can kind of zoom out as a leader, I can operate more strategically and trust that the work that you’re going to do is going to align with the strategy.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:30

This is really interesting. The, I wonder how much of this also relates back to hiring? Because it’s interesting, like, would you say that? I mean, if you hire the right people, if you’ve done a good job at hiring, then technically you should be able to trust them and zoom out and operate at a strategic level. But you know, maybe if you’re not trusting enough, like Could it be that you did the wrong thing and hired the wrong person, or maybe you just maybe you weren’t clear on what it was that you wanted. And now that’s not playing out. And maybe you don’t now trust but it’s because you made the mistake of hiring the wrong person in the first place.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  41:10

Totally. You hired someone without the skill that you need. And you’re having to I’m having to operate in what I would perceive as a sort of distrust, I’m doing all their work for them, because I don’t trust that they can do this, do this job. And oftentimes, yeah, there’s, there’s an alarm bells going off here of like, oh, my gosh, I’m not operating the way I want to be operating. I’m kind of doing this person’s job for them. And they probably are not happy about that. And it’s coming across as mistrust. And everyone else is seeing it too. And it’s not a good thing. It’s like it’s gonna affect the team. And so that leads you to a tough realization, potentially, of like, I can’t operate this way, like, Hey, you’re not performing the job.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:47

And this is why this stuff is really hard. It’s just the there are symptoms, and the diagnosis could be completely different, depending on the circumstances. And, and that’s why this stuff is part art, part science and difficult to figure out. David, this has been super enlightening. We talked about holding up the mirror hiring people with more experience in you changing values on the fly while running 100 miles an hour. And of course, talking about trust as well. One of the questions that we ask all of the guests on the show to wrap things up is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft of managing and leading teams. Are there any final tips, tricks, resources, or parting words of wisdom that you’d like to leave them with?

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  42:35

I think there’s a very simple thing that any manager at any level can do and it’s it’s always relevant, it’s always helpful, simple bank thing manager can do is ask their team for feedback from their directs. How am I doing based on what you expect of me? In our own surveys at Eventbrite, we’ve seen large improvement, we’ve seen a lot of improvement or engagement. So we are when our morale plummeted like we’ve now like rebounded it’s like 2025 points higher than the low point summer 2020. But one thing that we’ve seen is actually going the opposite direction is the question around, my manager asks for feedback about themselves. And so some research from a guy named Travis Bradbury suggests that as you ascend an organization from like manager, director, VPC level, your EQ actually goes down. So you become less self aware at how you’re showing up as your responsibility increases, but it’s nonetheless, those leaders with the highest EQs was those rare few that are the best performing. And so an important thing we can all do periodically doesn’t take money or fancy tools is give her team the safe zone to you know, give canopy back about ourselves. Ask them how they’re doing, and then applaud them for their directions.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:46

That’s great advice and great place. And David, thanks so much for doing this.

David Hanrahan (Eventbrite)  43:50

You bet. Thanks for having me.

Latest episodes