Culture is the glue that binds an organization together. Build a strong culture, and your organization will be successful.
Navigating culture in the 21st century builds on the New Generation Leader framework – communication, generations, change. Analyzing our culture with data allows for stronger organizations.
Zoe Fragou is an organizational psychologist, researcher, and leadership coach.
- 1:00 – Favorite food and culture
- 5:42 – Pandemic’s impact on work and current work landscape
- 8:05 – Shift of generations in the workplace
- 12:12 – The power of asking good questions
- 17:07 – Strongest teams worked with
- 19:02 – Giving people tools earlier in their careers and lessons learned
- 23:11 – The Hot Seat question
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Connect with Zoe
Zoe is an Organisational Psychologist, a clinical psychologist license, and a PhD Candidate at Panteion University. Her research is focused on the psychometrics of corporate culture.
Alongside her academic interests, she engages in culture transformation, employee training and development, business coaching, personal branding, public speaking, and writing, for both private and corporate clients globally.
She is a mentor for Women on Top, a feministic organization trying to bring equality in the workspace, a senior member of the Hellenic Institute of Coaching, and was voted best career coach in the Global Coaching Conference of 2021.
Episode 25 – Full Transcript
Welcome to the New Generation Leader, Episode 25. Today, I’m excited to have Zoe Fragou. She’s an organizational psychologist, with Master of Science in Human Resources Management, a licensed clinical psychologist, a PhD candidate, and she works primarily in her research on psychometrics in corporate culture. So I’m excited to dive into our conversation with Zoey today on data in culture and the workplace. But she’s also a coach, a speaker, and has been a mentor for women on top of an organization trying to bring equality in the workspace, senior member of the Hellenic Institute of coaching, and was voted best career coach in the global coaching conference of 2021. Welcome, Zoe.
Zoe Fragou 1:00
Hello, Aaron, thank you very much for having me over.
Aaron Lee 1:03
So number one, first and foremost, before we dive in to talk about teams, you are a self-professed lover of food. And so given that you are halfway across the globe for me, I’m curious, what’s your top favorite food, a local flavor that may be different from where I am on the east coast of the US?
Zoe Fragou 1:26
Well, I think I’m going to disappoint you because my favorite food is actually Suzy. Well, I’m Greek. But the special thing that we have here is that you know, Greece has a lot of fish on our own face. Therefore, the issue that we’re having is amazing, because we use local seafood that we find in our ocean. And yeah, I don’t know what to tell you. I have a thing for Asian flavors.
Aaron Lee 1:47
That’s great. We do too. We love Asian both East Asian and South Asian food. What’s it go to Greek dish, a traditional Greek dish? Hmm,
Zoe Fragou 1:58
probably you’ve heard moussaka. It’s like the Greek version of lasagna, but instead of pasta is potato and aubergine with minced meat, and then beautiful summer cream on top. Oh my god, it’s amazing. But in general, I could be talking for food forever. I love it. I love searching for it. I love cooking. I love eating. It’s an entire, it’s a part of my life. I would say at this point.
Aaron Lee 2:21
That’s great. You know, there are a few Greek immigrants who have come to our city. And so we have a few really good Greek restaurants and my go-to has to be Lacava
Zoe Fragou 2:34
Oh, desserts. And fun fact, though baklava is actually Turkish. But yeah, because Greece was actually under 400 years of Turkish occupation. Therefore, there are a lot of elements that we’ve taken, and especially the desserts. Most of the desserts are actually turkeys in Greece, like baklava. ekmek, Gaddafi, all of this stuff are Turkish origins.
Aaron Lee 2:55
Wow. Well, that goes back to our study in I think I was in fifth or sixth grade, probably 11 or 12 years old. And we studied ancient Greek and Roman culture. And we had a festival. And so we had Greek food. And it was delicious, then, and I’m still a fan, though I don’t get to have it, too, too often, but always good to talk about food.
Zoe Fragou 3:20
Yeah. Next time you go to the Greek restaurant, I propose you to try spinach pie. This is very good.
Aaron Lee 3:27
All right, very good. Let’s shift gears and dive into talking about teams. And you’ve been working with data looking at psychometrics and your PhD study is that intersection of data and culture? What kind of data are you looking at first and foremost, with teams?
Zoe Fragou 3:47
Well, culture is very important. I believe that culture is the glue that binds an organization together. Therefore, having specific measurements and specific KPIs to address an organization’s culture is key, not only in understanding them, but also proposing interventions and running actions running training. So culture is the first thing I usually look at, there are a lot of quantitative tools to do it like questionnaires, for example, but at the same time, my personal research has to do with developing a qualitative guide with which we can interview the people inside their organization. And when analyzing this data, we can extract information about their culture.
Aaron Lee 4:28
So in your research so far, what has surprised you as you’ve asked these questions,
Zoe Fragou 4:35
it depends because every corporation has a completely different culture. And that’s why I generally try to avoid words like toxic culture, or an unhealthy culture because it’s very rare that the culture is toxic. It can be toxic for you, in a sense that there is no culture fit, and what’s functional for someone might not be functional for someone else. But what usually tends to always surprise me is the fact that we When you first asked most of the management teams, they give you an idea of a culture. And then when you actually run the tests, everything that is actually important and creates this culture are also the things that they left out when they were describing this culture. So usually, they might sell me things like cell culture has to do a lot with creativity, or loyalty and tradition, for example. And then I ran the Midas, they might find that, for example, they’re very extroverted. And nobody mentioned that. But this is far more important than it scores much higher than the fact that they are very traditional oriented. So that’s always something surprising when we are inside system, it’s actually difficult to evaluate it,
Aaron Lee 5:42
I found that to be true on an individual level. And so I have to imagine that the same is true on a team and corporate level from a personality perspective, because with the depth of tradition, and experience, our own personal views, one of my favorite quotes that I hear from people so often is, this is how I am but every one is that way. And I think just like your definition of creativity, or tradition, or scale of extraversion, it seems so familiar, and that everybody else must think that way. Because that’s our way. But it’s truly when we start to understand that some people are not that way that we have some breakthroughs.
Zoe Fragou 6:28
It’s very unfortunate. But after all these years of being humans all together in the same work we serve, understand that everybody has basically their own contact lenses. And the easy thing to do, but it’s also the most problematic is when we try to assess the world based on our value system. And believe then that the same thing applies for everyone else. Because at the end of the day, everybody does the same thing on that everybody tries to assess the environment based on their own value system. And that’s why many times we can’t even agree on the definition of the same word,
Aaron Lee 7:00
right. And one of the conversations that I have often is working to bring an objective language. And I often recognize that at times that conflict can appear to be between you and me. But if we can take the issue and move it out to the side, so that we both have a view of that issue, then it helps us to separate my conversation with you is different from the issue. And then we can describe and discuss that issue objectively. And all sorts of leadership principles that I use with teams are grounded in that idea of let’s be clear on what we mean here. Because, you know, leaders can desire to be nice, but many times the nice leaders aren’t telling the truth to their people. They’re hinting at issues or suggesting but not being direct, because they want to be nice, or they believe they have to tell the truth. And they push and turn that environment into one that team members don’t feel like they can speak up or be heard or valued. And that’s a challenge,
Zoe Fragou 8:07
send you like data, I’m going to tell you something that you might find interesting, this is actually very easily portrayed in the data when a leader is acting like that, if a manager of a department is trying to always be nice, for example, hiding information from staff so that they find unpleasant, then what happens usually, is that these people, they score very low in their evaluation of the company and very high in their evaluation of the manager. So when you we usually see this kind of discrepancy there that the manager is very popular, but their organizational commitment, for example, is very low, then we understand what’s probably this manager is in a passive way harming the organization in order to protect their own agenda and their own image.
Aaron Lee 8:51
Yes, that’s fascinating. So what is your recommendation to companies and leaders within an organization to get started to use data,
Zoe Fragou 9:03
they can start to very easily, for example, incorporating some psychometric tools in their recruitment process, so that they’re more possible to make cultural fit choices and choose the people that are better for them. But if you want to take it a step further than in order to be sure that the people you’re hiring are the best for you, you need to make sure also that you know who you are. Therefore, if you have the possibility to take it from A to Zed, the first step would be a nice cultural mapping. And there are several tools are out there and scientists that have so many credentials to help corporations with that. And that’s the first step for me. You know who you are, you know, your culture. And then depending on this culture, you reassess your recruitment process, and then it’s much easier for you to find the perfect cultural fit. Then another good application of data in a corporation has to do with training. Many corporations where they do when it comes to training development is they choose what they believe that they should be giving to people. While it would be much more fruitful if they were actually running specific assessments, and then understand not only what kind of technical education is missing, but also how everybody’s learning so that they can have maximum impact to their learnings. Because some people, for example, they prefer storytelling and others, they are more of an acoustic type. And then there are others that like to see things. So by having this data, you can maximize the output of your training activities.
Aaron Lee 10:35
So let’s move over into training and coaching. What have you seen in coaching leaders in the last year that you feel like is an impact of the pandemic and work and what work is right now?
Zoe Fragou 10:53
It’s more than just the pandemic. There are many things that happened at the same time. One thing is the pandemic. The another thing that happened is, there are a lot of disruptive technologies that are emerging right now that are bringing a lot of change, like the evolution of AI or Metaverse, and how it’s going to change our workplaces, Blockchain decentralization. So these concepts also rose with change. And then finally, Gen Z joined the workforce. And that must have been the most disruptive of the changes, in my opinion, because Gen Z, they haven’t been liking the sense that their caretakers, they’re the least abused, I would say generation, and that’s why they’re very passionate, and they’re not the dreams and ambitions are not crushed, and they bring all these pores and all these intense power in the workplace right now. So they’re demanding active change, they’re demanding purples. And this has also brought a lot of change, I would say. And as a result, leaders nowadays they are more concerned about their soft skills like they used to be, or work life balance, or even a helping their teams and giving their best. So I would say that overall, there has been a shift on interest from productivity and performance management, towards soft skills, talent, orientation, and balance.
Aaron Lee 12:12
The shift of generations in the workplace has been very fascinating. And it’s been something I’ve spent some time at, written about research presented on one of the things they came up with was a worldview orientation word for each generation. And so for Generation Y, the millennials, it was the collective voice. And so a lot of times we see and hear, well, millennials had participation trophies, and they were celebrated for everyone. Everyone got a participation trophy participation ribbon. One of my favorite quotes is from Jason Pfeiffer at Entrepreneur Magazine, where he goes back to the 1910s 1920s, I believe, and says participation trophies were a thing then, and they still are. That’s not anything new for millennials. We’re just hearing about it. But one of the outputs that Sr. identified in Millennials was that because of that perspective, that everyone was valued in the generation, millennials generally are more willing to look at the greater good. And what is that collective voice? How are we in this for the best of our culture, our community, our society? So as you look at Gen Z, I haven’t heard the worldview orientation word for Gen Z. If you could sum up in a word or phrase, how Gen Z sees the world. What would you say?
Zoe Fragou 13:46
Protesters? I would say, they protest and they demand change, and they sew up, they fight actively for this change. Something that millennials wouldn’t necessarily do. They started bringing up subjects that are important, and they started the discussion. But it’s not like Millennials would stop going one day at work to go and protest a child or work about something they’re demanding, but Gen Z’s do that. And they’re very vocal on expressing their knees and demanding presents for their needs.
Aaron Lee 14:15
That’s really interesting. The other words for the previous generations were very much self focused. The traditionalists the older, oldest generation still living, they were loyalists because of their loyalty. And what’s interesting is protesters is almost the complete opposite from traditionalists, which probably plays into a lot of
Zoe Fragou 14:40
the same time. What just to play devil’s advocate, what do you call loyalty? I can call lack of assertiveness. Therefore, these generations that were directly out of war, or the parents were also under occupation in many countries, and we had the Soviet Union collapse. So these were generations of our parents and our grandparents that they were thought that survival is the only thing important. Therefore, when they would show up at a workplace, they would be just thankful to have a job and be bringing the bread in their house. While Gen Z’s is completely different, they didn’t have any of these issues, therefore, they can take it to the next level. If you see Maslow’s pyramid of needs, well, obviously, self consciousness and becoming a bigger person growth is the last. First of all, it’s all about having a roof and having food. Therefore, I’m not necessarily sure that previous generations were more about loyalty, I would say they were more about survival.
Aaron Lee 15:36
I can certainly see that and their survival came from for that generation, the traditionalists, they were coming out of the, in the US the Great Depression, and getting into the world wars, certainly lots of generational dynamics that play a significant part in how we show up at work, who we are at work, and how we bring our best, what do you recommend to leaders to start building bridges between generations that work and actually hear what Gen Z has to say in the workplace?
Zoe Fragou 16:10
Well, you can hear if you don’t ask. So the first thing I would recommend is start asking more questions. Everybody keeps saying about how they won’t understand the younger generations and bridge the gap. But then at the same time, I haven’t seen too many companies running active surveys or implementing any kind of vocal representation of these demands and his needs. Back in the day, they used to have a complaint boxes where you are able to just put your complaint, but have replaced is really in which hands, don’t tell me just the HR because of course, the HR has a more serious role. And many times in many corporations, they are too connected with rules and guidelines. Therefore, HR alone, this sense wouldn’t be enough. line managers should be more active in trying to collect information. And every time you’re not sure about what to do, and it has to do with people, you don’t always ask them. What guys, what do you need? What do you think we should do? What’s your opinion on that?
Aaron Lee 17:07
Questions are so powerful, and it seems a lot of times social media has pushed us into, we default to making statements rather than asking questions. But what’s interesting is, when people do ask questions, those are often the most lively comment threads. Because people are able to give their feedback, you’re giving people an opportunity to share their voice related to a subject or a conversation. And, and I think there’s great power in questions and an asking good questions. And certainly at work, the better we are at asking questions, the more we can discover. And as part of that rich world, more and more, one of the other components that for Generation Y certainly shifted, it’s a more diverse generation, globally, Gen Z is even more diverse. And so if we truly want to tap into the rich, unique stories and heritage that each person brings to work, because we’re all bringing our life experience with us, then we have to ask good questions.
Zoe Fragou 18:13
And then, of course, be enough active listeners to act on these questions. Because if you ask questions, but then at the same time or to prejudice or you believe that you already know the answer, so you start extracting your own conclusions before the other person has finished talking, then those questions won’t be of any use.
Aaron Lee 18:33
I’m certainly guilty of that, of coming in with my idea and, and knowing and that’s one of the greatest insights, I think, for me that I’ve discovered about my communication style and and tendencies is that I do come in with that idea. But if I can listen, then the ideas get even better. I’ve truly heard from everyone else around the table. So we’ve talked about listening and asking good questions actively engaging. What else would you say describes the strongest teams that you’ve worked with?
Zoe Fragou 19:08
Hmm, diversity, the strongest themes I have worked with are all diversified. You can see people from different age, different sex, different orientation, different backgrounds. And that’s what brings something extra, these extra perspective, this extra pair of fives or pair of fears that will add something new in something more fascinating to the product or service. And it also makes the workplace more colorful or more interesting. The more different people you have the bigger variety of opinions.
Aaron Lee 19:40
I certainly agree. And I think those those stories, those perspectives that we all bring to the table, allow us to create stronger teams because the more perspectives that we can be aware of and understand the more worldviews we can factor into our plans and the stronger our plans are in building an effective future for our organizations. What do you see as the greatest opportunity for leaders in the next five years?
Zoe Fragou 20:11
I will say Metaverse if I had to choose and the reason I would say Metaverse is because I believe that when of course the technology is ready, because it’s not still already in functional. Well, when that’s ready, I think that it’s going to transform the work life as we know it. And it gives so much opportunities for scaling culture, especially for remote teams, that anyone who any leader that doesn’t follow up on the strength, I’m sure they’re going to miss out on something that can bring amazing change.
Aaron Lee 20:40
So I know this is one of those opportunities where different people have very different experiences or backgrounds with the metaverse Where have you seen even first attempts at working in the metaverse?
Zoe Fragou 20:56
Well, I’ll tell you something very interesting. Some time ago, I was in Dubai for GiTex and some other kinds of conferences and they participated in the word Metaverse show. And there is this French company that have actually created Metaverse trainings on soft skills. And they gave me an Oculus to actually try one. And it had to do with communication. So basically, our the Oculus, and I found myself I chose how big the crowds should be what the presentation should be about, you can even upload your own presentation. And then by being in these immersive mirrors, environment, you start practicing, and then the AI the application, they ask you even questions, and you can move around, and it helps you fight your states. Right? That was amazing for me. Imagine all the possibilities from now.
Aaron Lee 21:45
Absolutely. How those soft skills. Imagine stepping into, and I had somebody tried to sell me on about a year ago on using AI and a VR setup, proprietary to the kind of training I do, and setting that up in a virtual environment that people could participate. And that to create an environment where they can try out these things. I have sat in on a number of the 1.0 version of online learning recently, that is just downright horrible. I have figured out there all sorts of ways to work through they want you to answer questions to confirm that you actually learned the information. But there’s limitations in how we can
Zoe Fragou 22:33
assume it’s a little soon it’s too much emerging and just been introduced. But let’s say that we’ll have a completely different idea of how to operate in the next five years.
Aaron Lee 22:42
Yes, I think that the VR interactive learning, and having learning be just in time when you need it. And I know for many companies, it’s it’s challenging to align schedules to get people together. But for some of these most effective trainings, based on the data that we use, and find, it can be incredibly valuable to have that training, when we need it for people to get up to speed and develop those skills. Well, Zoe, one more question. As we wrap up for you the question we asked everyone, and really the foundation of the new generation leader is giving people the tools they need earlier in their careers. So as you look back in your career and your experience, what have you learned that you wish you had learned earlier? Pretty much
Zoe Fragou 23:31
everything I wish I had. This is why I’m preaching so much of mentorship right now, because I wish I had mentors, active mentors have showed me something and I didn’t have to find everything out on my own, and the hard way. And that’s why I’m also so much committed right now in mentoring others, although obviously still have a lot to learn myself. But even the smallest piece of information can make such a difference. However, if I had to just choose one lesson, I’d say that careers are built as much based on the No, we’ve said as muscles on the Yes, we’ve said, and that’s something important because when you start you’re too optimistic, and you want to do everything, and you have this endless force and you want to create, but maintaining your energy, also and focus on patients even until a greater opportunity arises that also makes sense now that retrospectively,
Aaron Lee 24:26
you know, there’s so many pieces that we’ve talked about today, and you hit on the power of No, the power of mentorship, the power of culture and diversity. And so many of these are hallmarks that I’ve said are pivotal and important to what it means to be a leader in the new generation, even touching on the generations at work. All of these are dynamics that we need to pay attention to. And I think it’s incredibly important for leaders to go find that data and the information to mine. There exists Seen team and culture and find a way to get the data to build a strong team, an effective team to build the company, the organization of the future. And I think organizations that do this will be successful in organizations that don’t will probably find someone taking their place before long.
Zoe Fragou 25:20
Yes, it makes sense. I also agree with that. I think that especially when it comes to technology, and all of these nutrients that we discussed today, they’re coming with it or not, they’re still gonna come. So be proactive and learn and search for information. It’s so important and crucial, otherwise, you’re just going to be left behind. It’s not like the world is going to stop and wait for us. We should be running and try to keep up with the world.
Aaron Lee 25:46
That’s great. Well, Zoe, thanks so much for coming on the show today. If you want to connect with Zoe, we’ll have links to her social media accounts so you can catch up with her in the shownotes at NewGenerationLeader.com/25. Zoe, thanks so much for coming on today.
Zoe Fragou 26:05
Thank you are on best of luck with everything you’re doing. It was great. Thank you today.