Why Behavioral Science Is The Key To Building Your Operations Team (With Predictive Index's Maribel Olvera)
Maribel Olvera: It all comes down to the people. So we do these to make people's lives better, both your customers and your employees. And as far as technology goes, you always need humans to execute on it. So you want to make sure you have the right people.
Sean Lee: The voice you've just heard was the voice of our guest Maribel Olvera. And the podcast you're hearing right now is operations. The show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lee. A lot of entrepreneurs or folks working in hyper- growth companies will tell you that the most important decisions they make in growing their companies are all people related decisions. It's all about the talent. I saw a tweet recently that said running a startup is 99% hiring the right people and 1% everything else. But be honest, whether you're in a leadership role or an individual contributor, how much time are you spending thinking strategically about the talent on your team? Not just interviewing or recruiting. Everyone has to do that, but really thinking about how different types of people profiles and talent are going to help drive your company forward towards its goals, or even just how different people and profiles are going to work together with one another. That's exactly what Maribel, who is the Senior Vice President Client of Operations at the Predictive Index does every single day. Her company specializes in how you can tie your talent strategy to your corporate strategy and these 17 unique reference profiles that they've created to help the rest of us do it too. The company the Predictive Index or PI is a really interesting one for us to look at because it's not the typical high growth company we've profiled on the show before. And the main reason for that is that the company was founded in 1955. Yes, 1955 and 60 years into the company's existence, or about four years ago, the company's trajectory was altered because they were acquired. And fast forward to this January, they've now raised$ 50 million in funding from general catalyst. So this company with more than now, 7, 000 customers across 142 countries has changed its corporate strategy and gone into hypergrowth. And as you'll hear that change meant that they also needed to change their talent strategy as well. And Maribel, she's going to take us through all of that. She's going to talk about the difference between something called an analyzer, that's her profile and a collaborator that's mine. And she's going to talk about how these profiles can help you determine whether folks are going to succeed in, let's say a remote role, and she's going to teach us what the hell behavioral science means. But first we need to get the context of what the Predictive Index is and what they do as a company.
Maribel Olvera: PI is a talent optimization company. Our goal is to help companies align their talent strategy with their corporate strategy. And if you think of it, many companies know where they want to be five years from now. In terms of revenue, number of clients growth, those metrics are very clear as to where they want to go. And along those lines, they have strict financial goals that they have to hit, but very rarely do companies know what is the talent strategy to get there. So what we do is we use behavioral science to help companies align the talent to those goals and make sure they are able to deliver on those specific tracks that they have assigned for themselves. PI has been on the market for many decades. It's a very senior company. It received an investment. It was acquired by a new group of people about four years ago. And then we got a new round of funding recently, and it functions not as a traditional company anymore. It's really sort of a startup and moving into this hyper growth model nowadays. So the historical PI is very different from where we are today and it's just really attractive right there, what we have to offer to other companies in the market.
Sean Lee: And I want to get into a bunch of that stuff about how the company has changed after 50 years in the market. But for people like me, who coming into Drift had never heard of Predictive Index or heard of behavioral science before you mentioned using behavioral science, how do you define that? How can people who haven't been exposed to that term before, think about what behavioral science means?
Maribel Olvera: Definitely. And there are different approaches to it in the market. And you have other companies that look at behavioral in different ways. The way we think of it is, what are the natural drivers for people. Everyone can do everything. It's how much is that going to energize you or de- energize you? So, for example, in my case, I am a very proactive person. I like growth, I like things that move really fast. I'm very focused on improvements. I could probably be successful at a company who's more stable that has a little bit of a greater inertia, but that means that's going to cause me pain because my natural behavior is to move really fast so I can do it. But at the end of the day, I'm going to go home and I'm going to feel de- energized. The same will happen if I am somebody who is more on the introvert side, it doesn't mean that I can not socialize with others. Right. I can do a really good job selling my ideas, selling a vision to others, getting people engaged. But if I have to be at a conference for four days in a row, I need to be careful about how do I replenish my energy. How do I go back to my natural needs, where I am more successful. So you can all shift. It's really that investment that is going to take be there. So we talk a little bit about the dominance factor. Then they introversion, it's another factor that we pay attention to. Patience are you a person who likes to move fast or in a sequential order? And then also the last factor is your need for structure. If you're a person who needs a lot of structure, a lot of information to make your decisions, you're going to thrive when you have that knowledge to make educated decisions. And when you're forced to make decisions without the data, you're just going to suffer a little bit. It takes more of that repetition and developing that muscle to be able to make decisions without the data, if that is your natural need. So behavioral is really what your natural drivers are. What motivates you, what energizes you and how do you align those to your work environment. And of course it applies to relationships and your day to day, Predictive Index focuses on is making sure you hire the right person for that job. And when you think about Jim Collins, concept of hiring the right person on your bus but having them on the right side, it's someone who's really successful at sales might not necessarily be the best person at customer service. It takes very different drivers to be successful in those areas. So if you're building a team, how do you bring the right person on board, so it doesn't take you six months to figure out that that's not the right role for that person.
Sean Lee: Okay. So here's how it works. Maribel mentioned these four key factors, dominance, extroversion, patients, and formality. When an individual takes the PI assessment, you're mapped somewhere on the spectrum of each of these four factors. Then based on your behavior map, you are assigned what PI calls, reference profiles, 17 different ones to be exact.
Maribel Olvera: So we have four families of reference profiles. We have those who are more dominantly social, those who are more stabilizing patterns, then we also have those who are very persistent and those who are more analytical. And within each one of those, you have four or three different specific reference profiles. So if you're thinking about you need to build a team who's very strong in analytical skills, then you're probably looking at patterns like an analyzer, adventure, a controller a strategist type of reference profile who are part of the analyzer family. They are really good at that skillset, but if you need something in the more social arena, then you're looking at more altruistic, collaborative patterns. So we make it easier for customers by creating those families that allow you to identify what is the ideal or the closest reference profile that will be best at a specific job.
Sean Lee: And it's not just finding the right profile for one specific job. Maribel taught me that you can use these profiles when you build out an entire team. So if you have a team that is filled with, let's say more dominant people, perhaps that next hire you should bring in, should bring something different to the table. And that really brings me to the heart of what I was so excited to talk to Maribel about. One of the reasons that I was drawn to working at Drift was that I knew I was going to use Drift at Drift to help grow Drift Mehta, right? But at the end of the day, we eat our own dog food. And that's exactly what Maribel is doing too. She's using PI to help build her team at PI. And now that she's gotten a taste, she can't imagine doing it any other way.
Maribel Olvera: My worst nightmare is having to build teams without Predictive Index. That's how much I value it. I'm three times more effective by having a tool like this. And I actually was a customer of PI for about seven years at my previous company, before I joined the Predictive Index. And one of the things that I saw there, and here's where we go back to that tying your talent strategy to your corporate strategy. The problem that we had at my previous company was customer retention, but we realized that customer retention was a problem tied to customer satisfaction, mainly because we have a hired employee turnover. We didn't have the right tool to identify who were the right customer success managers. So I saw first hand how PI will help me hire the right people, keep the right people in their jobs and then increase my customer satisfaction rates and increase my customer retention rates. So when the opportunity presented to become part of PI, I was so excited about it and we truly drink our own champagne. We use PI for our hiring process as well as for our team building process. And an example is when I think about my business operations team, I first think about what is my current team structure. And when you think about teams, you're really thinking about two areas here, what are your strategy insights, as well as your team styles, the existing team, as well as where you're going to go in the future. And in the case of team styles, you have four key areas. We think about innovation and agility. Is your company going to be doing a lot of innovation in the coming year. You want to have a team that can deliver on that. And maybe that's not the focus area, maybe that your companies is more targeting teamwork, or maybe it's about process and precision. Maybe you have to achieve certain compliance levels or you are healthcare. So maybe you need a lot of structure and process and precision, and a team that delivers on process and procedures is very different from a team that delivers on innovation and agility. And then you also have results and discipline. If getting specific goals is what is needed, not necessarily the teamwork, then you have to build a team that is tied to that. So when I look at my, and at PI, we have operations played in two key area, business systems and business intelligence. But we look at what is the company going to be doing next year? And we're really going to restructure how we are scaling. Our model for our growth between now and say 2023, it's a lot about having the humans do the high level activities. So we want our team to be doing that creative process with their powerful brains. So that means automating a lot of the activities, building the systems that allow for that automation. So we're going to be investing heavily on the product side, on the system side, on the intelligence side, so that so forth can pretty much sell and service itself. And the humans don't have to do that side. So for me, innovating in business systems and business intelligence and be very agile is going to be key for 2020. So the first thing I do by using PI, and we have the reference profiles for all the team. We know exactly what's the team that we have today. So I know where they fit and they fit somewhere between process and precision and a little bit more of results and disciplines.
Sean Lee: Is that typical for an ops team, do you think? That part of the quadrant?
Maribel Olvera: Yes, that is very typical because they focus on that repeatability, scalability is that process and precision there's operational teams. They take a lot of pride on being accurate, on releasing the right solution, on having the right processes in place. And that is all good. You need people who do that, but you also need people who are willing to innovate, people who are willing to lead testing initiatives, to people who can, who can test one thing this month without being burdened by all the metrics and all the process. Just a little bit quicker, more willingness to have that flexibility. And while I have a little bit of that in the team, I need more. To be able to support where we want to be in 2023, either the existing team needs to push themselves toward that innovation and agility phase or which as we talk, they can do it. If they know it's the right thing for them and the right thing for the company, they're going to flex those muscles and modify the behavior, but it's going to be painful. What I'm asking myself as I'm building the team is, if I'm going to have four new hire next year, can I just make sure that some of those hires bring more of that agility factor?
Sean Lee: Think about the order of operations for Maribel and the team at PI, they start with the high- level strategy, direction and goals of the organization. And instead of asking, okay, what are the tactics and processes and strategies that we need to get to our goals, they start by thinking about how the talent strategy can lend itself to accomplishing those company goals. For them, there's always a direct line between their talent strategy and their corporate strategy. But I was curious as Maribel talks about bringing this balance of different profiles to the team, isn't there a chance that that can actually disrupt the harmony or balance that might actually already be there? If she's got a team full of these process, precision and results folks and then all of a sudden, she just drops in some wild cards whose strengths are around innovation and agility, could that blow up the team dynamic?
Maribel Olvera: You have to be a very different manager for each one of your different direct reports. You can not manage everyone the same way. So when I provide you the coaching guide, you really have the tools that tells you this employee needs time to think. Don't put them on the spot, they are not going to give you the answer as soon as you need it. If you come and you ask," How should we be doing lead scoring," they are not going to tell it to you immediately. They may need time to process. So you need to manage that way." Hey, I would love for you to think about lead scoring. How do we revamp it, so that we can have better rates in the future." So that is a person that need time to think, but then you might have a different employee who's very quick on their feet and they like to talk as they think. And that is more of a brainstorming session. So you have to adjust your management style to that person. So that's one of the first thing is if the manager is doing a good job, managing each person based on their needs, overall team satisfaction increases, which translates to more tolerance across different team members. You learn to see the value that each one of the drivers brings to the team. And then as peer, you use the relationship guide. And I love here at PI, we have an integration with slack. So you'll see people going into slack before a meeting, and you're pulling up one of their peers reference profile via slack to easily see, okay what was this person's pattern? And just like you do, I think a Drift, you all have it hanging next to your desk. So if I'm working towards you, I'll see what your pattern is. And I can adjust my communication style, but if it's not hanging, if it's in a meeting somewhere else, having an integration like what we do with slack or where we're coming up with a new application that shows you how it's PI today, it's called that it integrates the profiles of different people who are in a meeting. So you can see what type of meeting that's going to be.
Sean Lee: Cool.
Maribel Olvera: And yeah, if it's a meeting with a lot of dominant people, how do you adjust your communication style for that? So the relationship guide helps the one- on- one interactions. So if you really care, if you want to be successful with your peers, you will adjust the style as well. And you will understand that it is not about you. It's not that the person is not talking a lot to you because they don't appreciate you. It really is because that's their communication style.
Sean Lee: Right.
Maribel Olvera: So once you in inaudible there's more tolerance across people. So bringing in that innovation and agility in the case of the operations team is not necessarily a challenge because we've all learned to respect each other reference profiles.
Sean Lee: Mm-hmm(affirmative). Yeah. I found the manager side of it to be super helpful because the profiles will then also tell you how does this person find their job satisfaction, how did they react in different types of environments, what does like repetition or praise or interactions inside of the office mean to that person? So I found those to be super helpful. Okay. We can't go deep on all these different reference profiles without talking about our own. So I asked Maribel and she's what's called an analyzer. What is an analyzer? I'll let Maribel break it down.
Maribel Olvera: It's defined as an intense reference profile. And a lot of it is because an analyzer has a high level of dominance. We want things done. We want them taken care of. We want to be really proactive. So they high A of an analyzer tie with the low C and the C is that patience, right? I have a very low tolerance for patience. So between that dominance and that patience the gap between the two is so large, that it adds to the intensity level that I can have. An analyzer is also more on the introvert side and more on the data structure side. So when we do our professional development plans, the personal development plans, we talk a lot about what are factor combinations that can cause pain across the organization. And I am very aware of my, what we call A over C, my dominance and my C having such a big gap, because what that means is that I can cause a lot of pain to my team. I'm really good at moving things forward, but I'll keep going, forever. It never ends. But that might not be the right thing for a team who's working on process and precision. So I need to tone down my A and I need to bring up my C a little bit to manage that team correctly, if that's what we're going today. But if we say, Hey, nope, it's all about agility. Then my A over C it's more fit for that. So it's part of that. Adapting your pattern to the team that you're managing.
Sean Lee: Think about the level of self- awareness that Maribel has about her approach to managing her team. She is hyper aware of not only her own profile, but also how her traits impact those around her. And clearly that's making her a better manager. For me. My profile is called the collaborator and I checked out PIs website and PI defines a collaborator as approachable, outgoing, and great at assisting colleagues. They won't impose their will on anyone. They are more likely to support decisions, initiatives, and projects that are already in motion. Collaborators are empathetic, patient, casual and cooperative. All right. That mostly sounds pretty nice, but it also teaches me the things that I need to be aware of. Things like it says that takes each day, as it comes with little planning for what might happen. It says shies away from tough conversations, casual with rules, slow to change. Okay. Bottom line here, even though Maribel and I both work in operations at technology companies, our profiles are very different and she told me there's actually not one single profile that she sees pop- up most frequently when she's reviewing operations candidates. But rather it depends on things like company need, company maturity and the level of seniority in the role you're looking for.
Maribel Olvera: If you're looking for an organization where you need to socialize ideas, then a collaborator, it's an awesome addition to the team. But by nature, a lot of the people in operations, you're going to see those analytical patterns. You're going to see the people who have a high need for structure or the people who enjoy the work in data, the people who can move things forward. And you're also going to see a lot of those stabilizing patterns. So the people who, the craftmens, the ones that they're really work on things in a sequential way that you're going to have at the execution level in operations. But once you're going to move up into middle management, now you need people who aren't necessarily process- focused, but people focused, because they have to manage teams. And once you're looking at a director or a BP level, even within operations, depending on the years of experience, you might actually need somebody who's more willing to have more dominance so that they can, they can project those ideas across the organization. So, yes, I want to say on the execution levels, you're probably looking at more stabilizing, analytical, but it changes as you grow in the organization.
Sean Lee: So the next time you're tempted to just put certain people or roles into their stereotypical boxes. Salespeople are super social and outgoing, engineers are introverts, finance folks are heads down analytical, think again. In fact, if you have a team with all the same types of people on it, chances are you don't have as high- performing of a team, as you could. Maribel told me that these profiles even extend to where teams fit structurally inside of an organization.
Maribel Olvera: When we think about telling optimization, you have not only your company goals, but your team goals and your natural team behaviors. So in the past, and many companies are still structured this way, where you will have sales and marketing operations, or the new revenue operations to live under sales and marketing teams. And that was our model up to last year. But what we realized is that sales and marketing and partner recruitment, the focus for that team is very grow, grow, grow, grow, grow really fast, a lot of speed. And back then what we needed here at PI was, we need to build the right systems. We need to build the right structure, right? We need to support that hyper growth and to do that, this team needs to be allowed to work in an environment where they are measured by the quality of their results. So what we did is we revamped where the data people, the intelligence people, as well as the operation people were living and decided to move them from the sales and marketing team into the operations. So we integrated business operations with revenue operations, and it's impressive, Sean, how the team it's almost like they found home. They found people who are aligned. People who think the same way as they think whose priorities are very similar. And we've done a little bit of that here across PI in other areas like digital learning and content creation. But the biggest change was in terms of operations. So we function as a matrix environment. We have product operations, we have partner operations, but they all live under the whole operations team. We service the whole organization in anything that is tied to systems or tied to intelligence.
Sean Lee: Another wrinkle on top of all of this, is that a huge portion of Maribel's operations team, including her is remote. And she embraces the hell out of that.
Maribel Olvera: Having a remote workforce specialists in an area so specialized operations, it gives you access to the best talent out there, because you're not restricted by the location. It also Sean, it allows you to have a more diverse team because if your market has just a very specific cultural or of certain group of gender or race, then you're limited to what's in the market. But by having remote teams, you'll just hire wherever they are. It doesn't matter. You will have people with different backgrounds with different experience, which enriches your product in an operations team. It creates more of that empathy.
Sean Lee: Yeah. And I think the diversity of experience there is I think just as important and as valuable as all of the other different types of diversity that you mentioned. Even just thinking about it from geography, which is not a way that I had thought about it before you just said that, there are a ton of people in Drift. Our headquarters is in Boston. And so when we look around and we go to source talent for the operations team at Drift, there is an overwhelming amount of talent out there that has worked at HubSpot and LogMeIn. Like those are the two massive players when you think about tech companies in Boston, but then you bring those people in and you interview them or you talk to them and they are bringing you all of the HubSpot and LogMeIn ideas as opposed to this diverse workforce that you're able to tap into by being remote. And you're able to get those experiences and those ideas from a whole bunch of other different places.
Maribel Olvera: Exactly. And also if you think of operations as a team that solves problems, you want that diverse experience to solve problems because you get to it really quickly in more creative ways, more efficient and your performance is higher. So in operational teams, that diversity is so important. So you need to build your pipeline. And for us, that translates to enabling remote work, but you need to have the support of the organization for it. The rest of the team needs to understand how to work with us. In general, here at PI, everyone gets to work from home one or two days. So we all go through that remote experience. In the case of my team, I work about 70% of the time I work from home. I'm remote. I actually live in Florida. We're headquartered in the Boston area. So I have to be a good ambassador of remote work. And it allows me to think about what are the tools that we have to enable for the team. And remote work is not for everyone.
Sean Lee: Okay.
Maribel Olvera: So that is also one thing that you have to think about when hiring.
Sean Lee: We've talked about a bunch of the pros, the increased diversity, and I really liked the way you talked about other people who typically work in the office, working from home as a way of not just giving them flexibility, but showing them what working remote looks like. But there's also, if I were to just play devil's advocate, okay these are the things that I think of that make that challenging. The first would be just communication. There's so many things for companies that are in hyper- growth or going through a bunch of changes where I will just spin around in my chair and talk to the person on my team, who's there and go whiteboard a problem and try and solve it. And then come back to it with a solution. How do you work with your team especially from an operations perspective, to help them still be as nimble and creative in their problem solving and in their communication?
Maribel Olvera: There's two things that are important. One is the need for action and the strength of communication and the empathy. If you have those three in the behavioral side that helps. And we'll come back and talk about those. But the other piece that many companies ignore is the technology. If you want to have access to a remote workforce, you have to be willing to invest in all the technology. And I know that for your company and many companies in the area, having Zoom, having our ELLs, making sure that our meetings are enabling cameras, having tools like Jamboard, So you can do digital brainstorming. Those are the standard, but there are many companies out there that cannot do remote work because they are not willing to invest in that. But you need to use tools that allow you like a sticky note session, because you're brainstorming reprioritizing, building your roadmap in terms of operations. How do you do that remotely? So you have to have a team that is creative enough to adopt those technologies, to use them for this purpose. So for example, you can use the sun and not only for project management by to simulate a sticky note session, when you're doing brainstorming. So invest in embracing the technology and educating your users on how to use it, it's vital. And we do a lot of that. So we in operations and intelligence, we are using the technology to make sure remote works, but it also comes back to the behavioral drives. And if you are someone who's very introverted, you're not proactive with your communication and you don't have a strong drive to deliver things, remote work little experience can be a pain. If you have proven experience that you've worked remotely successful and you've been able to deliver the behavioral factors are not so important, but if you don't have that experience, I need something that helps me to believe that remote work is going to be good for you. And that is that dominance factor. You want to get things done. So you're going to reach out to people via slack, via phone calls, via email, whatever way, whatever it takes to make it happen. And if you're a strong communicator, you're very extroverted, you're going to be socializing beyond the digital tools that we offer for remote employees. So that's our recipe for success. When you mix experience with behavioral drives, as well as technology, then you can truly build the right remote workforce.
Sean Lee: Before we go, at the end of each show, we're going to ask each guest the same lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go. Best book you've read in the last six months.
Maribel Olvera: Gosh, I'm an avid reader. Audible is my best friend. There's been really good ones. The one that has a heavy influence on me is Range. I've always struggled a little bit with the balance between being very specialized in something versus generating that generic knowledge of different areas. So it helped me rethink how I recruit people, how I promote people, how I build teams is a really strong read, I'll recommend that for you.
Sean Lee: Thank you. That one was already on my list. So you just moved it higher up on the list. Favorite part about working in operations.
Maribel Olvera: That you can really make a change. You can really make an infliction on the growth rate of your company. You have the power to transform the cost, the growth rate the lifetime value. It's the impact that operations has in a company.
Sean Lee: Least favorite part about working in operations.
Maribel Olvera: Everybody needs something from you. So the demands. I always said, I want people to make decisions. I want to empower the team. So I'm not really needed, but in a high tech company like Predictive Index, you have to have a strong team to deliver. There is that high, constant need. It can be exhausting at times.
Sean Lee: I hear you. Someone who impacted you getting the job you have today.
Maribel Olvera: I really think we all stand in the shoulders of people who are greater than us. And nobody's self- made. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger said that at some point, and I really believe we are the result of our work and the opportunities that people give to us. And I think somebody who's played a big role in my life is if our current president Daniel. He's given me great opportunities, really believe in me and really calling me out on my BS. Whenever I say," Well, that is not my natural behavior. It's like, I'm not an extrovert by nature." And he's like," Well, but this is what we need you to do." So he's really, he always forces me to get out of my comfort zone. And I think that's what growth is about. If you're not suffering a little bit, if you're not experiencing any pain, you're not growing. So he's good at causing me some of that pain that has gotten me where I am today.
Sean Lee: Gosh, there must be just like this whole undercurrent of just mental gymnastics, when you know that everyone else around you knows exactly how your brain works, how your profile works. That just must be this whole additional layer to working at PI.
Maribel Olvera: It is, it is. You cannot fool anyone.
Sean Lee: All right. Last one for you, one piece of advice for people who want to have your job someday.
Maribel Olvera: I think try different things. And I was having a good conversation with someone here at PI, who was taking on multiple projects and I can truly see they are going on that path to success. It's like the more experiences you have with different processes, with different technologies, the more that skill set you build to be operationally focused and be able to inflict change. So I'll say, take on the opportunities. Take on what you can manage so that you can still deliver, stay true to your word, deliver on what you commit to, but try it all, give everything a good chance.
Sean Lee: I have to say I'm officially converted. As I look back on my conversation with Maribel, and I start thinking about the business challenges that people are bringing to me at work every day, or we're starting to plan ahead to 2020 at Drift, instead of thinking about the systems and the processes that we need to put in place, my mind is immediately going to, what does the talent look like to help us put these things into place, not the processes, but the people who are going to create those processes. So I just want to say thank you to Maribel for helping me to rethink that. And also thank you so much for being the guest on this week's show. We really appreciate your time. We really appreciate all of you for listening in. Also, we're going to put a link to the Predictive Index assessment into the show notes. So if you want to check it out and figure out which profile you are, I would highly recommend it. Also have this conversation with your team, have it with your manager. We just had this entire conversation with the team at Drift about all of the profiles of every person on our team. If you liked what you heard, leave us a six star review on Apple Podcasts. Also, if you want to come visit us at HyperGrowth San Francisco, we've got a special code for you. The code is operations 99. That gets you a$ 99 ticket for something that's usually$ 599. That's hypergrowth. drift. com. And the code is operations 99. Thanks so much for listening. That's going to do it for me. We'll see you next time.