041: The Scribe Tribe Breaks Cultural Records with JeVon McCormick
JeVon McCormick shares his amazing story of rising from poverty to the C-Suite. At Scribe Media, he leads a company that has its own Culture Bible which shapes the values and principles that drive the company. He emphasizes the importance of having clear principles and values within a company, as well as, holding everyone accountable.
The Culture Bible includes an antithesis for people to acknowledge when they are not adhering to the principles and values. According to JeVon, there are no low-level tasks. He demonstrates through his actions that nothing is beneath anyone at any level of company. “There are only tasks, duties, and responsibilities.”
JeVon shares how he seeks to empower his staff and their authors by providing quality service and resources. They co-collaborate to meet their needs based on what success is to the individual author. JeVon and the Scribe Tribe do not view their authors as clients or customers. Jevon mentions how they aim to fulfill the authors’ goals beyond satisfaction by striving to create a phenomenal work experience from start to finish.
In this episode, JeVon McCormick and Steve Chaparro discuss what it takes to create a successful culture for the workplace, how building a successful business takes a great team, and tools and resources to overcome obstacles.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Choosing to focus on the positive of life
- How to be the best at what you do in life
- How you start is not how you have to end
- How it takes a team to build a great company
- Surrounding yourself with people smarter than yourself
- Putting people first
Resources Mentioned in this episode:
- Scribe Media
- JeVon McCormick’s website
- I Got There on Amazon
- JeVon McCormick on YouTube
- JeVon McCormick on LinkedIn
About the Guest:
JeVon McCormick was raised in Dayton, Ohio. He started his career by scrubbing toilets, but he hustled and worked his way into better opportunities. He became very successful in the banking and mortgage industry. Then lost his job and all of his money, but JeVon used this setback combined with what he learned to eventually become the President and CEO of Scribe Media. He formerly served as President of Head Spring systems, and is the author of the book I Got There: How a Mixed-Race Kid Overcame Racism, Poverty, and Abuse to Arrive at the American Dream.
Full Transcript: Powered by Otter.ai
Welcome to the Culture Design Show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.
This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio. This is where I help creative organizations transform their cultures, from being controlling to being collaborative. Now, here are some of the things that I’ve learned. Your creative talent demands a co-creative culture in order to produce their best work. But there’s a problem. So let’s see if we can recognize some of these signs.
There’s no framework to move your culture forward. You have high turnover and low morale. There’s increasing toxicity across all levels. There’s team engagement and satisfaction that are on the decline. There’s a misalignment between the employer brand and the employee experience. And there’s poor communication about expectations and values. So if you want to learn more about how I provide facilitation and coaching for your creative team, reach out to me at CultureDesignStudio.com.
My guest today is Jevon JT McCormick, President and CEO of Scribe Media, a company who helps experts, executives, and entrepreneurs, turn their ideas into books. He formerly served as President of Head Spring Systems, and is the author of the book, I Got There: How a Mixed Race Kid Overcame Racism, Poverty, and Abuse to Arrive at the American Dream. Jevon, welcome to the show.
Steve, how are you, sir? Thank you for having me.
I’m doing great. This is a great opportunity for me just like I love chatting with not only great people but great personalities like yourself. And so this is an exciting moment for me. So we really appreciate you coming on.
And man, God only knows what may come out of my mouth. So let’s make this happen.
Well, that’s awesome. I love the organic nature of these conversations, you know, having somewhat of an idea of what we want to talk to you actually this is going to be part one of a part two conversation for our audience. We’re going to go into one theme today. And then in our next episode, we’re going to go into another theme.
So what we wanted to focus on today is a little bit about Scribe Media. But before we go into Scribe Media and some of the beautiful things that I’m hearing about your company, I’d love to hear JeVon, a little bit about your professional journey. What does that look like?
Whoa, man, that’s a that’s an open question. Steve, give me a little more because when I’ve gone from everything from cleaning toilets to the mortgage industry, to payday loans.
I mean, you know, I feel like your book, you know, the title of your book actually says a lot in itself in the title. So how far back you want to go because I believe every part of our story is important. And so however far you want to go back, let’s get into it.
I tell you what, I won’t go too far into the backstory unless that’s where you want to go, but I’ll start there. Many people are intrigued by my background. So I came into the world. My father was a black pimp and drug dealer in the 1970s. And when I say pimp, not the positive word, where we’ve turned the word into here in our society,
We glamorize that term a little to much.
Waaaay too much, man, my father literally put women on the street corner, they sold their bodies, and my dad took every dollar. And so he also managed along the way to father 23 children. So I’m one of 23 and then my mother, she’s white, so my dad’s by for Mother’s white, and my mother was raised in 1950s institutional orphanage. When she turned 17 years old, they gave her 20 bucks a small suitcase, they said Good luck to you. There’s a world. She had never been on the outside of those four walls.
And unfortunately, one of the first people she met was my fast-talking, well-dressed quite a bit older father. So though that’s how I came into the world. To this day, I don’t know where my last name comes from. My mother got the last name McCormick when she was in the orphanage, no clue why she has the last name where it comes from. And when my mother went into labor with me, my father was nowhere to be found. So she had to walk herself to the hospital. And when she gave birth to me, she decided to give me her last name, but I don’t know where the last name comes from.
Fast forward a pip and I spent three different stints in juvenile detention, juvenile prison is what it is kid prison and I don’t care what anybody says there’s nothing juvenile about it. And so, you know, I was sexually molested as a child, by one of my father’s prostitutes from the ages of six, seven and eight. Man I never graduated to high school. I got a GED. I don’t have a college degree. And as I said, My first job was cleaning toilets at a restaurant. And that’s how that’s the cliff notes version of my childhood.
Yeah, I mean, what can one, how can one respond to that? That’s a, you know, a tremendously open and vulnerable way to describe your childhood and your upbringing. And I’ve got imagine that there was a lot of pain that came from that. But also, there was probably some great lessons learned and some resilience that was built within you during that time. And because of that, I mean, look, look where you’re at now. So I can only imagine that that’s the case.
Totally. And I appreciate you bringing that up. Because Yeah, you know, as a child, you know, you lead with, there was great pain. Yeah, there was a lot of painful moment, but I choose to focus on the positive, and not the negatives of life. And so I choose to dip back into my childhood. And, you know, what did I learn from those moments? What did I learn from that chaos? And that’s what I focus on, you know, when we got on the, the call right now, for me, every day is an excellent day.
If you wake up in the morning, and your feet hit the ground, it’s an excellent day. And because you know what, someone’s not getting out of bed this morning. And so I choose to focus on the positives and not the negatives. Yes, I had a chaotic background. Yes, it was a struggle. But, you know, I cannot change the past. But I can definitely change the next hour, day, week, month and year.
Yeah. And I think I think what I’m hearing in your, in your story that I think resonates with me in terms of my story. I mean, there’s there’s no comparing any one story, right, everyone’s story is what it is. And so we can’t compare the hardships or anything like that our own journey, our own stories, and whatever was hard for each of us as individuals. We own that, right?
And I think for me, my childhood was I, my dad was a pastor and moved from place to place I stopped counting houses, at 35 houses that we lived in. And we were in nine different schools by the time I graduated high school and I could really focus on sort of the unstable nature of that growing up.
But what I choose, as you said, what I choose to focus on is the resilience and adaptability and, even a love for change, almost like stability, in some cases, is it causes me to be restless. So again, I choose to take the good from my past. And I think that has definitely influenced a lot of how I approach everything in life right now.
I was about to say you nailed it. Everyone has a story. And I steal this from my mother. When I was a kid, she always told me she said, never judge anyone because everyone has a story and you don’t know their story. Yep.
Yeah, I mean, I think that probably resonates so much with a lot of your authors as well. They’re going through this process of writing, whether it’s nonfiction or even biographical or not, it’s there’s a as I understand, and we’ll go into it, maybe in the next episode a little bit about what that process was for you, and what the impact was for you. But yeah, everyone has a story for sure.
I’d love to hear now, about your professional journey, like as you, you know, started getting to leading or leadership in general, what led you to start moving in the direction of, of business, business leadership and love to hear how that arc brought you to Scribe Media.
I’ll start when I was cleaning toilets at the restaurant. And I remember I came in, I would come in each morning, and I had to clean the toilets from the night before. And so they were always filthy. And so I had to clean the toilets. And about a month into this. I remember I just stopped dropped my stuff. And I looked down at the toilets. And I said, Okay if this is my job right now, I am going to have the cleanest toilets in the state of Texas.
And so from that point forward, I dip back again to something my dad told me, he said, whatever you do in life, be the best at it, if you’re going to sweep streets be the best street sweeper that he could have given me a little more to aspire to, but that was he said be the best at it.
So Martin Luther King used that as an example. That’s a pretty good example as a street sweeper.
Yep, be that be the best at it. And so from everything I did at that point, I was the best at it. And really what a pivotal moment for me, at least financially. My next job was working at an insurance company. I was the mail boy, I was a filer and I just you know file papers all day.
So I’m walking by a conference room and there’s a sign outside that says, free Lunch & Learn 401k. And all I saw was free lunch. And so I say, Hey, I’ll go for a free lunch. And in fact, I tell people, I thought 401k was the number of the conference room, I had no clue before 401k stood for. So I go in. And I heard two of the greatest words in the history of mankind, in my opinion, and they were compound interest. And I was hooked. I was hooked on how someone could take $100 and turn it into $1,000 in the stock market.
And so I became obsessed and consumed with learning everything about the stock market, and taught myself how to invest. So when the insurance company went into payday loans. And I was in Portland, Oregon, I was Regional VP. And I was 23 years old, you talk about opportunity. It was so great. I had to learn every aspect of what it was like to manage a business.
And we, I had three offices when I got there. When I left, I had eight. And so I had to open these new offices. So I got to learn everything about business, you know, reconciliations and income statements, balance sheets, deposits, hiring and firing. It was a great opportunity. But I wasn’t happy with the industry itself of payday loans. It’s a tough business because it keeps people stuck. And so got out of that. And I got into something not maybe a step up from shady I got into mortgages.
We could probably go back to a certain period in history. Oh, yeah.
So got into all things mortgages, from learning how to be a loan processor to a loan officer to selling mortgage-backed securities, CDOs everything in between. And then when 2007 came and the market crashed. I literally went broke, I was able to save a little over a million dollars, lost it all. I was completely broken. I tell people negative broke because I had to borrow money from my stepdad and my friend to pay my rent.
And from there, I got into software, I got a job at a software company. I was the lowest paid person at the software company and I was doing sales, I sat on a foldout metal chair in the storage closet. And I made my sales calls. And there were 13 of us in this company, I was the lowest-paid one. And I went from the “sales guy” to the EVP of Sales and Marketing. And within two and a half years, I became the President of a software company. And we went on to build an incredible company. We had over 100 people offices in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Monterrey, Mexico.
And how I got described. So when I met this software company, I thought to myself, wow, something happened to me, my kids wouldn’t know my background story of where I came from. So I set out on this mission to do my book, and I got introduced to the two co-founders of Scribe, Tucker and Zach. And Tucker comes over to my office at software company. And we’re sitting in this massive conference room with this huge table. And as we’re wrapping up, he’s like, oh, man, you definitely got a book in you. And so we agreed I’d worked with this company.
He said, hey, you’ve built a great company here. And I said, let me point something out to you know, one person builds a great company. It takes a team of people to build a great company. So I said, I didn’t build this. I said it was a team of people that built this. And he said, would you give me feedback on our process as you go through it? And they said, yeah, sure.
At the time, Scribe was only 13 months old. And so I was giving feedback to him. And he invited me to be on their advisory board. Then he invited me to an executive meeting. And then one day, Zack and Tucker, the two co-founders invited me to Starbucks, and they said, Hey, if we give you a ton of equity, and would you become our CEO of the company, and I laugh.
Because I remember thinking to myself on the drive home, I laughed, and I said to myself, wow. So I’ve been the President of a software company and I can’t write code. Now I’ve got the opportunity to be the CEO of a publishing company, and I can’t even tell you an adverb from an adjective and I damn sure can’t spell. And I thought to myself, God Bless America.
So here I am now we’re almost four and a half years later, and Scribe is now we’ve served 1700 authors. We’ve been named the #1 Company Culture in America by Entrepreneur Magazine. At #1 in Austin, #2 in Texas, and we had just an incredible honor to work with some of our authors and David Goggins was one of our big books. We’ve worked with Nassim Taleb who did Black Swan and Antifragile. We’ve worked with the Nobel Peace Prize committee. So it’s it’s been an incredible honor to be a part of our organization and build what we’ve built as a team and tribe.
Well, I want to go into what Scribe Media does in a moment, specifically, I know we covered it in an overarching statement. But I want to go back to this, there’s something about the companies that you join, because if I look at head spraying, if I mean to doing my research a little bit, I noticed that while you were there, it was voted on the best places to work in Texas. Best Places to Work in Austin, the best places to work in Houston and now at Scribe Media, as you said, #1 Top Company Culture by Entrepreneur, Best Places to Work Texas, Best Places to Work Austin, Great Workplace in Texas. Okay, so there’s something about you and culture, good workplaces, what is all that about?
So you want to hear the funny story to this. So when I was at the software company, man, I should have been fired 71 different times when I was there, when I was the “sales guy”, I had actually never heard the word culture before. And at the software companies where I first learned principles and values. Before that I was just, it was all about me. Clothes, make money, bring business. And I was not a culture fit. I was horrible. I was toxic for the culture, I should have been fired.
And the way it progressed for me to learn, to always put people first was when I was a “sales guy”, it was all about me. Then I became the EVP of sales marketing, so then I created a toxic Sales & Marketing team because it was all about us. I didn’t care about the rest of the company, hey, we are going to perform in our division, we’re gonna be number one. And then that became toxic. And then I remember when I got promoted to President, I walked into the office, I came in early, and I walked in, and it hit me. I mean, it smack the hell out of me.
Oh, wow, I’m responsible for all of this, now. In that moment, I realized, okay, I am only as good as the great people I’m surrounded by. And so then my whole leadership philosophy in that moment became, okay, three rules. Rule number one, surround the company with people far smarter than myself. Rule number two, surround myself with an executive team far smarter than myself. And then rule number three repeat rules one and two. And that’s basically my leadership philosophy.
I never want to be the smartest person in the room. I always want people to challenge ask questions. I’ve built a career out of asking questions. So learning culture, for me, actually came by way of some hard lessons and being toxic myself and being able to realize that be open to it, admit it. And so then it became Yes, put people first. And I believe there’s three words I use here. People, process and profits.
If you have great people, you can build great process, and you can make great profits. And unfortunately, so many companies get those out of order. Some companies believe, oh, well, you know, you need a flawless process first. You can have a flawless process if you have bad people, they’re gonna wreck your process. So and then we all know this. So many companies put profit first and that’s just completely out of order. I truly believe if you put people first you can build great process, which will equal great profits.
I appreciate your candor about even the switch that you had to make, because I do think that many times as producers and then as leaders of producing teams, like sales teams, it is very easy to be territorial, and even egocentric and being mean, your team or your division. I mean, I definitely have been part of those meetings. We’re all fighting for our respective areas of the business.
But to hear that you say that you had to make the switch and understand that it was about the people, the whole collective group of folks and how that worked together. That’s pretty powerful, because I tend to think that there are a lot of leaders that have risen through the ranks and they have not been able to make that switch.
You know, maybe they’ve had success. And they’ve risen because they’ve had success. In fact, I interviewed somebody who lives there in your city of Austin. And he just turned 40. And he says, prior to 40, I learned from my successes, but now that I’m 40, I’m starting to be open to learn from my failures. And it looks like in some cases, that resonates maybe with you.
Totally, you know, I’ll take it a step further. I’m not a big fan of the word failure. I you know, we live in a culture right now where people say, you know, the phrase fail fast beat has become popular in it’s just garbage to me. I’ve spent my whole career in life trying to learn faster, God knows I don’t want to fail fast. And I get it. People say, well, it’s implied if you fail, you learn. No, the fact of the matter is, I find it hypocritical, that we as a society say, you learn the most from your mistakes, but no one shares their mistakes.
I mean, it’s the damnedest thing. I mean, think about it, we can go to any blog, any publication everyone’s got posted. Top 5 Things Elon Musk Does, Top 10 things Steve Jobs Did For Success Whoever Give me the Top 5 Mistake List, that’s the list that I’m at.
I’m totally with you because I feel like that’s how I learned. And even in some of the cases where I’ve shared some my learnings in the past, maybe it’s been about those hard lessons learned to put it a different way that people resonate with because people really don’t learn from other people’s successes. They learn the dips and the valleys, and how you kind of rose out of that value or trough of, of your experience.
And that’s why I literally, that’s the reason why I love what you said about learning from those things that, you know, maybe didn’t think or do, right? What were some of the things that you learned about culture specifically, in realizing people first, because I completely adopt the people first approach as well. What were some of the specific lessons that you learned about how to accomplish that?
If you serve, you know, here’s another popular term right now you hear servant leadership. And a lot of people say it, but excuse my language beat me out if you need to, they’re full of s**t. And so, to truly serve is to put others first, if you are in a CEO role, 99.9999% of the decisions you make should never be for you. And if you find yourself in the CEO role making decisions for yourself, you’re in the wrong role, you need to go ahead and step down.
And so you are truly in service of the organization, you’re in service of the people that you serve within the company. And I’ll give you a great example of this if you go to most companies’ About Us pages, and the first thing you see are all the C Suite Executives, Founders, Chairman’s blah, blah, blah, and you go to our About Us page and it’s completely flipped upside down.
Yeah, that’s true.
I’m at the bottom. And the reason for that is, I believe if you are in a leadership position, your role is to serve. So if you’re coming here looking for me on our About Us page, I want you to actually see all the people who are doing the work long before you make it down to me. So anyone in our company, if you are in a leadership role, you do not have direct reports. You have direct supports, who do you support? You don’t have direct reports, you have direct supports. And because your role in leadership is to support those individuals within your division or the department.
Another big one for me in the in the company, eliminate the word I and me unless you’re accepting blame for a mistake. Other than that, it’s not my department. It’s not my people. No, it’s our team, our organization. And in a big one for me. Last one I’ll give you is no one works for me, people work with me. I’m no more important in this organization and all the other people here. We’re all here to serve and do the best we can to accomplish our goals.
Yeah, I like that last one in particular, I like all of them. But I think the last one in particular, I think is a shift that is happening. Obviously, there’s a lot of talk about shifting from me to we, but also what you said is rather than doing something for you, it’s with you and I think that that applies to whether you are leading internal teams, or even leading engagements with your customers or clients because I think that’s a shift that I’m seeing with say professional services clients.
And that is they’re saying, I no longer want to hire you to do the work for me, I want you to do the work with me, like let me be a process, honor the expertise that I as a client, or that we, as the client company actually bring to the table because I think that’s much more sustainable. There’s much more engagement and ownership of the process when the user whether it’s an employee or a client is actually part of the process.
Let’s go into that what Scribe Media I’d love to hear a little bit more about how you folks work with authors and a little bit about just an overarching before we get into the culture part. Who is it that you work with? How do you work with them? And also give me a snapshot of who is part of the Scribe Tribe?
Wow, so who do we work with our authors, we do nonfiction only and, you know, CEOs, business leaders, consultants, founders are the great majority of who our authors consist of, we do a lot of legacy pieces. Like I said, we did David Goggins piece my book I’m most proud of is the fact that we did the Nobel Peace Prize committee because that speaks to our quality of work and I always make the joke now I say our quality is good enough for the Nobel Peace Prize committee nobody else has an excuse.
So you know that’s really what we’re comprised of a lot of people do the legacy pieces as well that’s how I got here wanted to do my book for my kids but that’s the overarching of our authors of who we work with.
And as far as the Scribe Tribe, as you like to call it, I see your company as a creative company it consists of many different folks that are knowledge workers, knowledge experts, and because what you’re taking is these manuscripts and these ideas and putting them into a book as a product, but it has to be well designed. So give me an idea of all the different types of folks that work at Scribe.
Man, we’ve got everyone from our author strategist at you know, we don’t, it was big for me, this is another people culture type thing to give you some insight into. When I first joined scribe, they used to refer to our authors as clients. And I said to them, I go “Look, do you know what happens when you refer to someone as an author?” I said, “How proud that makes them the feeling that has stepped we’re not in a law firm stop referring to people as clients.”
So you know, words have power words have meaning. I’ve always thought that you know, sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never bulls**t. Words have meaning and power. And so we started calling them authors. That’s what they are. We’re publishing them so and we don’t have a salesperson. We have an author strategist who helps build the strategy to your book, what are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? What does success look like?
So then you know that we have our publishing managers that help guide you through the process you’re hiring us to know what to do you want us to guide you, what’s best, so that’s what our publishing managers do. Then you work directly with your scribe who helps you write the book who takes your content, your ideas, your thought, your tone, your voice, turns it into a powerful manuscript, we work back and forth and do any edits and revisions to make sure we’ve got all of your content all of your words locked up. And then you work with our creative director then boy this is good when she’s done, 17 New York Times best-selling covers now. And so you worked right? Yeah, she worked directly with her.
That’s a big concern for a lot of authors because they know how important a cover is even though you shouldn’t judge a book but it’ll be a determining factor many times.
Yes, that throw that phrase out of the window. It’s so funny. I had heard that my whole life never judge a book by its cover. Like yeah, tell it try telling an author that so you know, we come up with the cover design and then really important a lot of people will kind of overlook this and just take it for granted but the interior layout, you know.
Ian is his head of our layout department and you know, you want a flawless looking book on the inside. You don’t want big page gaps and everything is kind of take it for granted. Oh, printed words on a piece of paper. Now it all comes down to quality of paper, how it’s laid out. Then from there, we register the book at the ISBN number, get it published up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iBooks so on and so forth, but yeah, that’s it is a machine. And it is, I hesitate at times to say it’s a process. It is. But it’s a very personal process because every book is different. Every book belongs to someone. So I never want us to get into the mindset of it’s it’s just a process. It’s just another person going through the motions of us doing a book. These books for many people are like ours, precious has their children.
Yeah, it reminds me of, and I may have mentioned it here on the podcast before but a firm that I worked at before Visioneering Studios, there was a term, a couple of terms that we would always use or phrases, and it was, the destination is our journey. And our product is our process. So it was really about process. But it was about leading people through a process, but it was all of them like they were journeying, they were making the journey themselves, we were just guiding them along, just like, you know, a mountain near is being guided by a Sherpa up the mountain.
The Sherpa isn’t climbing the mountain for them but is given a pathway and a roadmap to get there. And I just see this, you know, what I’m hearing is that this is very much a creative-led company. And I always been fascinated in my work with what does it look like to foster cultures that are creative? And what can you do to help people do their best work and do their best work together?
So I want to go into the Scribe Culture Bible, as I mentioned, that is something that is very prevalent on your website. And when you click on the link, it actually takes people to a Google Doc, where you folks have spent a lot of time this is probably one of the most robust and public explanations of a company’s culture describe for us how that came about, they will maybe get into some of the specifics of it.
So the big piece of you know, you mentioned it’s public-facing, it’s a Google Doc, people can put their comments on the side, whatever. And I’ll give you the insight of where that came about. Consider this for a second you go to work for most companies, and you don’t know what they stand for until you’re hired until you do your first week of onboarding did they share with you their principles and values. And I just think that’s so backwards. My thought is, if you have a in external-facing document that shows what you stand for, as a company, some people may read that document and say, I would hate to work there, great. You just saved us some time and we save you some time.
But we want you to know who we are before you join the company. And so it just made sense to me that it should be external facing. And so everyone can see what we stand for it before you get into the door and you apply. So that became the big public-facing movement. And so everyone can see the culture doc and our principles and values that that was a massive piece for us. And people love it. People come in on it every time they apply. I can’t believe you guys have this public-facing this was so great to know who you are before we got here. So it was just common sense to me.
Yeah, well, I know, in the document itself, as it says that a large part of this was written by the co-founder Tucker Max and there’s one there’s a couple of just like the opening quote, and then some words I want to read.
So this is a quote from Ben Horowitz it says, “Culture is the collective behavior of your organization. Culture is what people do when left to their own devices. Culture is the organization’s way of doing things.”
And then you folks, right, this is the operating system for our tribe. It lays out what we believe why we believe it, how we live it in our lives and how we measure it. Every member of Scribe is expected to know this inside and out and will be held accountable to the standards outlined here. What are some thoughts that come to mind, as I read out that those opening words?
It’s how we work, we hold each other to that standard. We hold each other to those principles and values. None of us are perfect. We call each other out. We all make mistakes. You know, you’re right, Tucker’s the writer of the organization, so he wrote it. But all of us collectively have contributed to that document.
I’ve added some of the principles and values some of our tribe members have added some of the principles and values and even now if we choose to add a new principle, we discuss it collectively as a tribe first and make sure that we’re adding a true principle to the culture and not just some sound good that oh, this would sound good on here.
And so we hold each other to those and we’ve moved around overtime number one value used to be results. And Noah said, No, we got to put people first. And so that’s why you see people is the first value on there.
Well, I’m glad that you said that, if there is a value to either the one that will be re-evaluated or that one will be, you know, kind of put in a different order that it is done collectively with the tribe itself with your entire team. And I think that’s so important. I think too many times. These values are, I will say contrived, I specifically use that word contrived by the executive leadership team as aspirational.
And as part of the employer brand, meaning this is what we say we are, but everyone else in the tribe, let’s say, knows whether or not that’s a reality or not. And so including them as part of this process is an amazing thing. What are some bits of feedback that you’ve gotten from members of the tribe that have, you know, just talked about being involved in that process?
Oh, they love it. Your voice feels heard you feel that you’re respected your opinion matters. And I’ll give you some examples to this as well. So we use slack as an internal communication tool, in one of our channels is the celebrations channel. So you, you know, if you receive feedback from an author, and they say you did a great job, or maybe internally, we’re celebrating one another, but you cannot put a celebration on the channel unless it’s tied to a principle or value.
So you keep on top of mine all the time of why is this a celebration, it would tell us in it’s got to be attached to a principle or value. And we hold each other accountable to those in sometimes, it can be a little harsh for some people, I’ll give you an example. Ask questions is my favorite one. That’s the principle that’s in there. And again, I said this earlier, I built a career on asking questions, I do not believe there’s a dumb or stupid question. And someone challenged me on this one time, they said, JT, that’s not true. There is such a thing as a dumb or stupid question as to give me an example.
And they said, what about the person who asked the same question over and over again, I said the same person, who asked the same question over and over again, is not the dumb or stupid person, it’s the person who answers the same question over and over again, because obviously, you’ve enabled thinking, you’ve not explained yourself correctly, or you’ve not identified the person who keeps asking the question doesn’t care.
And so it’s up to you to always be open to questions. And here’s the last piece that can be harsh about this. If you make a mistake, a mistake is okay. Mistakes happen. We all make mistakes. God knows, as a first time President, I made a ton of mistakes. So mistakes are fine. But if you made a mistake, because pride got in the way for you to ask a question, because you didn’t want to look dumb or stupid. You can’t work here.
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. That is sets the tone for me being able to ask questions, being able to make sure that you understand and having I’m sure there’s a lot of grace and compassion that comes with that sort of value of asking questions. And I do think I can think back to, you know, we as human beings going back to when we were kids in class, that we were afraid to ask questions. Because of this, I would reflect on us. And I think that carries over even to adulthood, especially as we start to scale the ladder professionally.
Yes, I love that you brought that up, Steve, because I got to give love to my third-grade teacher, Mrs. D deck. That’s actually where I got that she said, in third grade, there are no dumb or stupid questions. And man, I’ve been asking questions ever since?
Well, that’s great. I want to cover a little bit about what is included in your Culture Bible saw, you know, you talk about in this document, your mission, and that is what it is, what is it that Scribe Media does, and I think that’s so important for people to understand. You also describe your purpose, which is why you are doing it. And then it describes your values, which we many times understand that this talks about what matters most and he lists the five things that matters most.
And you mentioned one of them. The first one we value people, next one service and a couple of others. What I find interesting is where the section of your principles, how our values become our actions, what are some thoughts that you have, and I’ll read them out in a moment, but what about principles in general, about translating values to actions or even behaviors?
He knew I personally believe you can’t have one without the other. What do you stand for? And I’m not gonna turn this into a big political front. But I feel that a big struggle that we have right now in our country is in many ways, what do we stand for we there’s so many of us that don’t have a value stream, right now, it’s a free for all. We’re a fragmented society in many ways, you know, it, there’s no respect for someone else’s opinion, someone else’s thoughts, someone else’s beliefs, it’s like, if you don’t side with the majority, you’re wrong.
And in with us with our principles and values, these are what we believe. And again, this is why we put it public-facing, we’re open to other people’s opinions, we want to hear your thoughts. That’s why the document is public so people can give comments. And we live by that internally. And I’m gonna give you a great example of this. We have what we call internally, it’s a Language Bible as well. But this will actually show you how these principles and values come together.
So last October, in the office, I kept hearing people say low-level tasks is a low-level task, or, you know, we need to hire someone to take care of that low-level task. And I couldn’t figure out my Why all of a sudden, am I hearing low-level tasks throughout the company? So it was a Friday that we have find a way food Fridays, where we provide lunch for the office, and usually, everyone’s here. So it’s a Friday, everyone’s in the office, and I hear someone say, low-level tasks. And I snap and I said, Okay, stop. Everybody come together.
So we got together around the conference room table, and I said, What the hell are these low-level tasks you speak of? And said before you answer, Has everyone in here most of you have seen me take out the trash before? Everybody says yes. I said some of you have even seen me clean the storage closet. Correct. And their like, Yes, I go in at conferences. There’s pictures of me ironing the cloth for the booth. Correct? And they’re like, Yes.
I said, so explain to me what a low-level task is. And I said that’s a rhetorical question. Because there is no low-level task. There are only tasks, duties, and responsibilities. And said so stop saying low-level tasks? But then I said this, go a step further? How in the hell can you ever expect someone to perform at the highest level of their abilities when you’re telling them their role consists of low-level tasks. I go, you’ll think about that for a second, I go, no more low-level tasks. We’re not saying, there’s only tasks duties and responsibilities.
Those are definitely an example of one of those powerful teaching moments that we have not only as leaders but sometimes parents as well. We see that opportunity to bring out some important lessons. That’s great. That’s a great example. For sure.
When you say that to the culture itself, and I’ll be quick on this one. You know, this you’ve seen in business, everyone, you know, companies will say customer satisfaction is number one, customer satisfaction is what we strive for. Now really break that down and think about this.
If my wife said in a girls night, or a you know, having dinner with her girl somewhere, and they’re sitting around talking about their husbands, and so it was Oh, hey, how’s JeVon has a husband? And she says he satisfactory? Im gonna be pretty pissed. I gonna say, wait a minute, I don’t ever want to be satisfactory. I don’t want my kids to feel that, Oh, I got a satisfactory dad. He’s alright. He’s pretty good. No, we’re not after customer satisfaction. We want you to be fulfilled, we want you to have a phenomenal author experience. If satisfaction is your bar. That’s horrible.
Yeah. No, that’s so great. You know, we’re in a world of Net Promoter scores and things like that. I know, it’s hard to achieve, you know, the 90 and 95. But I think to the idea of, you know, I remember with one company was it was all about would you recommend us to your friend, if not, we failed, like we just failed, we’d not did not do our part to you know, deliver a great experience, either one for our employees, or for our customers or clients or in your case authors. So great.
Well, I noticed in your document that you have, when you cover your principles, and you talked about how the values translate to actions, there’s a couple of parts to that. One is, principals must state an action. The second part is principals must have a valid antithesis. This was pretty mind-blowing for me.
And I’ll give you I guess, some examples that we can talk about like you talked about the principle of ask questions, but the antithesis inverse of that is don’t ask questions. And then another example is We before me, but the inverse is you’re out for yourself. No one else. Why is it important to have that antithesis in there as an antithesis to a principle that we’re trying to espouse?
Because people like you, a lot of times, it’s much like you said with other company’s values and principle in the wall, or values and principles on the wall. So it says what it is, you know, people first, okay, well, what’s the inverse of that way? You know, and so with a lot of times, you understand the meaning more clearly, when you understand the reverse of something. So that’s, that’s why we put that in there. So you can see if you are not adhering to the principles and values, this is actually what you’re doing?
Yeah. Yeah. I love that example, that values not only describe what you do, but it also describes what you don’t do. And I think that’s a very clarifying part of value-based culture. Moving forward. The third part in your principles you talk about is this is really interesting. Principles must create the ability to overrule power. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, you know, and I believe one of the examples that we have in there is at you know, if I’m flying out to a conference, I can’t be in first class, but you know, five of our tribe members who are coming to the conference with me, are all back in 38 e. So, we are a culture that’s empowered to speak the truth. Speak up, challenge it, you know, respectfully, this is, you know, we’re No, no, no one’s getting fired for asking questions. No one’s getting fired for pushing back.
And so you’ve got to be empowered as a tribe as people to speak up challenge, ask questions. And you know, this, think of it on the outside. So many of our tribe members have come to work here. And they come from cultures where you get fired for asking too many questions. In is 100% of reverse here, you can get fired for not asking questions. And so, again, it’s it’s that example so people can see. Challenge authority, challenge the process. Don’t just do it, because oh, well, this is what we’ve always done.
Oh, my God, that is that is horrible for a culture. So it’s, it’s a culture doc that we live by. And we make sure that when things come up, and they do, someone can even reference it. Well, JT, hey, it says this in the Culture Bible. Can’t argue with that. That’s what we’re living by. That’s what we’re going by.
Yeah, I would imagine that that’s a posture of being willing to or to create the ability to overrule power, is probably accepted differently or embraced differently by different generations. You know, whether we’re part of the boomer generation or my, I’m smack dab in the middle of the Generation X generation, and then the millennial generation, there’s probably a different appetite to challenge power. But it seems to me like the younger generations have a big appetite. To do that. It’s up to leadership, to say one we allow for that. That is part of what we do. How do I respond to that? And I think that is a great thing across the board. So I appreciate it.
Is it in totally be open to it. And I’m all for challenge the hell out of power. But also have something to come with your challenge. Yeah, it’s easy to challenge something but you’ve got nothing to support it, nothing to stand by, nothing to bring to the party. You’re just throwing out challenges. Well, that’s nonsense. Not only do you have to challenge but what are you coming with?
Yeah, one of the biggest lessons that I learned in that area of leadership is actually a pastor that I served under as an associate pastor, I was a bible vocational ministry for a while. And one of the things he taught me, So Steve, if if I ever make a decision that you disagree with, you have all the ability to come to me and make an appeal and say, I know you made this decision, and I will respect that boat, can I make an appeal to a different perspective. Then you’ll be given the opportunity to state your case. And if it actually there is some credibility to it some credence to it, then they will consider and move forward.
But whatever decision we come up with, after the appeal, and after I’ve heard you out, then we’ll make a decision. And after the decision is made, let’s just all embrace the decision together, whether or not you fully agree with it’s a decision that we made together. And I just thought the ability to even make an appeal was an awesome lesson to learn for a leader. I appreciate that.
Yes, totally. And that’s again, that’s how we live our whole culture is to empower people to be able to speak your mind, speak your thoughts, have an opinion, challenge the opinions of others and it’s not in a disrespectful manner. It’s not in a hateful, you know, dictator fashion, it’s open conversation. I’ll get back to my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Fletcher.
Every day, if we said the pledge of allegiance, she had us recite the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And that’s really I feel like even as a society right now, it wouldn’t fix all of our problems. But if we just started there, we could actually make a lot of headway. And that’s what we look at internally as a company do do do right by people. It’s number two principle.
I think it’s a great way to end this part of our conversation, folks, we’ve been talking to JeVon McCormick. JeVon, if folks want to learn more about you and Scribe Media, where can they go?
Wow. So if you’re looking for the company, you can go to ScribeMedia.com. Everything you want to know about us is there. And we’ve got videos on how we produce the books, all of our content, we give away for free if you wanted to do the book yourself.
And then if you’re looking for me, personally, you can find me on LinkedIn. That’s the only social media platform I’m active on. I do my best every Tuesday to share mistakes that I’ve made throughout my career. Again, I feel that you learn the most from your mistakes. So I’m not a big, big success guy, but I do my best to share mistakes I’ve made over the last 25 years.
That’s great JeVon, thank you for being on the show. Appreciate you coming on,
Steve, thank you, sir.
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