EP: 179 The Secret To Building A Productive Workplace With Lori-Ann Duguay

Brave Women at Work | Lori-Ann Duguay | Productive Workplace


Are you ready for this statistic?


On average, we spend 90,000 hours at work throughout our lives. This represents over 1/3 of our lives.


If we spend that much time at work, I’m sure you would agree that we want to be happy while doing it. But many times, we stay in jobs because we are comfortable, we have golden handcuffs, and more. We may not factor our happiness into the equation. My guest today, Lori-Ann Duguay, believes we should. By focusing on creating happy work environments, we will be more productive as a result.


During my conversation with Lori-Ann, we discussed:

  1. How Lori’s book, The Happiness Factor: How to Create a Positive and Productive Workplace, came to be.
  2. What is the happiness factor culture check?
  3. Why 1 in 4 people are looking for another job at any given time?
  4. Positive vs. negative work environment signs and if they are overt or not always perceivable.
  5. The 10 needs of a happy worker.
  6. How much of this is the responsibility of management vs. the individual employee?
  7. What role do feedback and recognition factor in positive work environments?

Listen to the podcast here


The Secret To Building A Productive Workplace With Lori-Ann Duguay

Welcome to the show. I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? Let’s start this show with a statistic. On average, we spend 90,000 hours at work over the course of our lives. Let that one sink in for a minute. This represents over 1/3 of our lives, and if you do the math, that’s quite a long life. It’s been a long time. It’s a lot of time with coworkers, our bosses, and others more than our families, as the cliche goes.

If we spend that much time at work, I’m sure you would agree that we want to be happy while we’re doing it. Many times, we stay in jobs because we’re comfortable. We don’t want to go through the rigamarole of finding a new job. We have golden handcuffs. There are so many more reasons. We may not factor our happiness into that equation over time.

My guest, Lori-Ann Duguay, believes that we should. By focusing on creating happy work environments, we will be more productive and happy as a result. During my conversation with Lori-Ann, we discussed how Lori’s book is. Bonus, you can get it on her website. It takes a couple of minutes to complete. I’ve done it on my own.

We discussed why 1 in 4 people are looking for another job at any given time, which is another interesting statistic. If you are a leader of people, whether that’s a small, medium, or large-sized group, think about that. 1 in 4 people in your team are probably looking for another role. We discussed positive versus negative work environment signs and if they are overt or out there in your face, or if they’re not always perceivable, and the ten needs of a happy worker. That’s an interesting part of our conversation. How much is this responsibility for happiness? How much is that in the court of management or on the individual employee’s shoulders, or is it both? We also discussed what role feedback and recognition factors in positive work environments.

Here’s a little bit more about Lori-Ann. As a Founder and CEO of People Powered Solutions, Lori-Ann Duguay helps organizations with a growth mindset ignite workplace transformation by helping them assess and optimize their end-to-end employee journey. She helps companies create corporate cultures where positivity and productivity thrive. A People-Powered culture is how you attract and retain the talent that you need to thrive in the new world of work. She meets you where you are and helps you create the in-house capacity, infrastructure, and leadership required to engage, empower, and retain talent.

As your strategic and innovative HR partner, she helps you translate business vision into HR initiatives that improve performance, profitability, growth, and employee engagement By combining expertise accumulated with over twenty years of working in government as an HR strategist and with powerful Everything DiSC psychometric tools, which we do touch on and it’s a great part of our discussion, she provides organizations with the training tools and resources required to unleash and maintain their teams full potential.

Employees are looking to work for organizations that offer high-quality end-to-end employee experience. Creating a highly engaging employee journey assures a decrease in costly turnover, an increase in your retention of top talent, and optimizes your overall employee engagement. Lori-Ann is a certified dispute resolution practitioner with an Advanced Certification in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the Canadian Institute of Applied Negotiation. She is also a licensed partner of Wiley’s Everything DiSC suite of assessment products. Her educational background includes a post-graduate certification in Human Resources Management and Labor Relations and a BA in Humanities.

Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If the show has made any type of impact on you, please make sure to share this show or the entire show’s history with your family members, friends, or colleagues. Your ratings and reviews make a difference. They help the show continue to gain traction, grow, and get into the hands of women worldwide. If you can take a minute to leave a rating and review, I would appreciate it.

Also, if you haven’t yet downloaded one or all of my freebies from my website, check them out at BraveWomenAtWork.com. I have created 3 for you, 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations, 5 Steps to Managing Your Imposter Syndrome, and Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips. These are workbook-style guides so you can complete them at your own pace in your own time. Go and grab them at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Let’s welcome Lori-Ann to the show.


Brave Women at Work | Lori-Ann Duguay | Productive Workplace


Lori-Ann, welcome to the show. How are you?

I am fabulous. How are you?

Looking Back

I am so good. Let’s jump in. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your backstory, and you can start anywhere you want or even a snippet, and how you’ve gotten to where you are?

I’m going to go career-wise because I feel like if we were to start any earlier than that, this could be a very long-winded story. For 21 years, I worked for the same organization. It was a larger-scale organization with several layers of authority within that large-scale construct. Unfortunately, where I was located, in Northern Ontario, the opportunities for growth and development were quite limited. We’re talking about pre-COVID where telework and remote work was not a thing.

Within three years, I had ascended to the highest position I could get within that organization, which was conveniently at the same time as I was growing a family. I was okay with not being too challenged at work. As my children grew older and more independent, I started to crave that challenge. Initially, I would satisfy that need for a challenge by starting these side hustles. I sold Mary Kay cosmetics. I became a travel agent. Eventually, that still wasn’t enough all the while juggling the demands of being a parent to toddlers as well as working full-time for that organization. It was in 2014 when I had this bit of an a-ha moment. I realized it after my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away within the scope of four months of diagnosis.

I’m so sorry.

It was a catalyst for me. I had always known and said I would not retire from that organization because I felt like I wanted more out of my career, but I was always putting myself on hold for later. I was always saying that later, I would make sure that I’d go back to school and finish and do whatever I needed to do in order to not have to retire from that place.

When mom passed away, I was like, “I need to figure out what I want to do with my life because clearly, tomorrow’s not guaranteed. I need to figure out what the biggest little step I can take right now towards that next chapter of my career.” I decided to go back to school. My post-grad was in HR Management and Labor Relations. I started doing consulting in addition to the Mary Kay and the travel agent side hustles.

You bolted on. You bolted one thing on top.

It was to get that satisfaction. Honestly, in the years that I was in school, I was highly challenged while I was finishing that and my kids were still growing up. They were at the age then that it was even this crazy schedule between hockey. As I was running all the crazy activities, I was still okay with not being challenged at work. I was in school as well. I was good. Once all of that ended and I’d started consulting, I didn’t realize the demand that would be out there.

I feel there are two HR buckets, and both are completely intertwined and interdependent at the end of the day. I find that HR folks fall under either the bucket of those who really love that more transactional-type HR, payroll, benefits, policies, procedures, and all that super crucial important stuff, and then there are those who are into the culture piece. They are into the systems that facilitate the management of our people. I fall under the latter.

In working with organizations and consulting on the side, I started taking all my time off to do projects. I then realized that from a work-life balance perspective, I couldn’t keep going at that pace. I had resolved to take a year off. I said, “I’ll take a year off and I’ll try this. If it’s not for me, then I’m going back to my job.” Within three months, I knew I’d never looked back. It took me a while to be able to take that year off. It took me two years because the pandemic hit.

What the pandemic did is it opened up geographical limitations by suddenly making the entire world half to work remotely. The sky was the limit in terms of who we could work with and who we could support from a distance because suddenly, it accelerated the integration of technology and communication tools. That allowed us to virtually consult with one another and virtually support, guide, and coach regardless of our geographical location. That generated enough business for me to say, “It makes sense for me to take that year now. Off I go.” I’ve never looked back.

The pandemic opened up geographical limitations. It suddenly made the entire world to be able to work remotely. Click To Tweet

Workplace Happiness

That’s so great. One thing I love about the work that you do is that you focus on workplace happiness. I’m curious. You said it’s because you focus on the people or the environmental factor of HR and not necessarily payroll. We all want to get paid, so all those functions are really important, but why happiness? Why did you go there?

Confession time. For 15 of those 21 years, I was what I refer to as a tenant of the workplace. I was there. I was occupying realty. I was performing to the expected standards, but mentally, I felt dead. I felt like there was nothing. I dreaded every Sunday night Scaries. You’ve heard about the concept. It was the reason they had to invent Motivation Monday. Every Sunday night, I’d get that anxiety and that knot in my stomach, knowing I had to go to work the next day.

Towards the tail end of my career with this organization, because I had always been in some of these strategic HR roles, I was able to dive deep into the employee engagement piece. I was not only doing it as an exercise but also developing the initiatives and the working groups required to support true transformation. That’s where I found my love. I then resolved to help organizations and companies create a workplace culture where nobody has to feel like I felt for fifteen years every Sunday night.

What you’re telling me is no more Sunday Scaries for you.

My issue is I’m excited on Sunday nights. It sounds so cheesy, I know, but I’m like, “Tomorrow, I get to work because people are going to be around and I’ll be able to get the answers I need to continue working.” It is honest to goodness a thing of the path. I spoke at a woman in business event, and it was super interesting. When speaking to other entrepreneurs at the table. I always start off with, “On a scale of 1 to 5 on Sunday night, how do you feel about going to work the following morning?”

We had a variety of groups there. We had employees, team members, and entrepreneurs who had brought their team members as well as entrepreneurs, consultants, and whatnot. Every single entrepreneur slash consultant was a five about going back to work. It was interesting because some of their team members were a 1 or a 2, which got their ears perked up. They were like, “I’m finding out about this right now.” It was interesting.

Happiness Factor

No more Sunday Scaries. Let’s jump in and talk about your book. It’s called The Happiness Factor: How to Create a Positive and Productive Workplace. How did that come to be? I ask all the authors. It’s like a book baby. It’s like a baby that you birth in the world. For all of you, I don’t want to scare you if you want to write a book, but it is a process and a labor of love. How did your book come to be?

Out of sheer necessity.

That’s honest. I love the honesty.

It was out of sheer necessity because there’s so much information out there in terms of what drives motivation at work. We can’t motivate a person directly. However, we can create a motivating work environment. There’s so much information out there on what it is that makes someone want to show up at work. What it doesn’t tell us is, “How do I operationalize this information? I’m finding out the what, but nobody’s telling me the how.”

I wrote the book to be able to provide a step-by-step guide by introducing our 3M model, which is all about taking the time to understand your current state, how is someone within your company currently experiencing employment from the moment you’re pitching them before the interview, how are you recruiting, what does that campaign look like, and how are you planning that seed of loyalty before they even start for you. It is through those five key touchpoints that you’re most likely to start losing people within that career journey.

We’ve got the recruitment, the onboarding, and the orientation. Once they’re fully trained, you’re not done. You have to keep doing stuff to be able to continue keeping them engaged, making them excited to come to work, and wanting to be productive for the greater mission and good of the organization. Once they’ve shifted into my tenant mode, or in the book, I refer to it as shopping mode because 1 in 4 of your current employee statistics have shown they are shopping around, they’re already eyeballing that exit door.

You have got to start thinking about creative ways to offer them the experience that makes them not want to leave. At the exit, which is also a key touchpoint for gathering continuous improvement data or gold, that will enable you to infuse into the different initiatives as you continue to transform your workplace culture.

Keeping Long-Standing Employees

I know you mentioned something very critical. Most employers are so focused on that new employee experience, the onboarding, and the training, and then they ride in the pasture. They go to their jobs and then we forget about them. I have long-standing team members. There are some newbies, but I have some folks who have worked with me, and I’m talking about my corporate work, for ten-plus years. How do we keep those people happy? That’s a whole different animal. Any thoughts there?

I’m not going to say a different animal. At the end of the day, there are ten needs. Even if you’re satisfying 7 of the 10 needs, you’re likely not going to see a lot of turnover. Those needs, although they’re prioritized differently by each individual team member, into that point, the first step is to take the time to understand their needs and preferences in terms of growth development. I’m more than happy to share a 1-pager that highlights all 10 of those needs really quickly.

One is clarity. They want to know what to expect and what’s expected of them. Even if they’re fully trained, I like that you are touching on that cohort that most people will tell me. During recruitment and onboarding, how do you provide that clarity, and how is it helpful? I like that we’re going with the fully trained. How are you checking in with them to make sure they’re still understanding the expectations? Make sure that they’re provided an opportunity to give you feedback in terms of whether or not they might want to grow a different skill or start to hone or think about that next career step for them within the organization. Make the time to check in with them and to provide that clarity.

The next need is communication. It’s the same thing. You need to make sure that they have the tools and information they need to make decisions to carry out the tasks, duties, and responsibilities that are assigned to them on a daily basis. How are you facilitating that communication, not only from the top-down, so yourself as a leader to the team member, but also, how are you facilitating the flow of communication peer-to-peer? How are you facilitating the flow of communication from the clients we serve all the way up to the top levels of the organization?

Taking the time to be very strategic in how you develop the systems to facilitate that flow and consistency of communication will be key in keeping people around. I say that because the number one complaint that we get when working with clients and doing an employee engagement exercise is we don’t know anything. People don’t give us our information. They’re keeping us in the dark. Communication is the number one complaint followed closely by lack of training and development, which is conveniently the next need.

The next need is training and development as well as growth. They need to know there’s room to grow within the organization, but growth looks very different from one person to the next. Maybe I only want to learn this new software program. For me, that’s a growth goal that’s pretty challenging. If you’ve got someone who is what I refer to as a high potential which represents only about 3% of your team members, that person has a very unique craving for growth and development. You need to make sure that you’re feeding that need even more and giving them some very curated opportunities to hone their skills and to start to prepare for that next step within the company.

We’ve got five down. The next is autonomy and empowerment. It is moving away from this notion of command and control to becoming more of a coach, accompanying people, and telling them that you trust them to do the job they were hired to do. You also provide them with the support they need and the empowerment to step into their true potential. A lot of team members out there will shortchange themselves in terms of identifying growth goals but also in terms of understanding what their true potential is. After autonomy and empowerment, we have relationships. When we go to work, how long do we spend time with these people every day?

A lot of time.

A third of your day is spent with your colleagues. If there’s any toxicity and if organizations aren’t taking the time to 1) Measure how they’re doing in terms of those relationships, but then 2) Also take the time to build the systems required to regularly monitor the health of those relationships, they’re going to start hemorrhaging people.

The next one is leadership. People don’t leave bad jobs. They leave bad bosses. It is taking the time to train and provide the skills required to your leadership team to truly embody a people-powered approach to leadership, one that is predicated on coaching and mentoring as opposed to directing, delegating, and controlling. Another one is work-life balance, which has become one of the most paramount ones post-COVID. People really want to know that there is flexibility, and they’re afforded that flexibility.

I ran through those ten needs really quickly. It’s about mapping out the current state of your journey and all of the different processes associated with each of those key touch points I referenced. You mentioned the one where they’re fully trained. Looking at all of the ways that you are providing for the systems that you’ve got in place to provide for those ten needs at that point will be game-changing. That’s because it will allow you to say, “We need to increase this. We need to increase that.”

Some of these initiatives might be bigger beasts while others are quick wins and low-hanging fruits. Take the time to map it out to assess how you’re providing and how the current practices are providing for those needs, and then figure out the action plan. Make that very lengthy to-do list and identify quick wins that you can get out the gate right away.

You’ll start to see some improvements to your employee engagement levels, some reductions in your turnover, and some increases in your retention. It is then the medium-term solutions and finally the longer-term initiatives that will help you improve that overall workplace culture and the feel of it. Move away from this notion of eternal recruitment where you’re constantly in survival.

Especially in this environment, it’s been interesting. This is dating me, going back a little bit, but the Quiet Quitting. It sounds similar to what you were saying that you’re a tenant, but you know you’re doing what you need to do.

It’s not similar. It’s the same thing. You should have seen us HR folks. When the Quiet Quitting term came out, we were like, “It’s a new term for disengagement or being a tenant.”

I thought so, but I’m glad as an HR professional you’re confirming. You’re saying your term of tenet is you are quiet-quitting. You might be engaged, but your soul isn’t in it. Your passion isn’t in it anymore. There is some sparkle or magic that’s missing from you, correct?

Correct. 100%. You are performing to the expected standards, but you’re not doing much else. You’re going to be refusing any extracurricular committees. You’re not going to want to go above and beyond. You likely will not be taking on any special projects or overtime. You’re probably going to start to pull back and distance yourself from your colleagues, which in and of itself can be toxic and create a lot of tension within a team.

Happiness Culture Check

You mentioned the ten. I know they’re in the book. I want folks to get the book because it will be really powerful. Do you also have a cheat sheet of the ten?

Yeah. I’ll share that with you. That’s what I was referencing earlier. I have a one-page infographic that highlights all the ten, and it tells you quickly which elements. For example, for communication, you need to make sure it flows in a 360, that you’re being transparent, and that you are providing consistent communication and regular communication. There are little tips in a one-page infographic that I am more than happy to share with your audience.

If they want to go even a step further, we have our Happiness Culture Check. The Happiness Factor Culture Check has twenty yes or no questions. You go to our website, www.BePeoplePowered.com. They take those twenty yes or no questions. I timed myself as a test. It took me two minutes, so it is really easy to use

 You get custom results based on those twenty questions about which needs seem to be requiring your attention, which you’re doing pretty good on, and there are specific strategies to start improving on them immediately, and then which needs that you’re doing great at. It’s highlighting that. We’ve got it in a, “You’re doing great, green. Here’s where there might be room for improvement, yellow,” and then, “Red for these needs that are costing you money by not tending to.”

Once they get their custom results, we have an entire portal, a free portal, in the backend of our website. All you have to do is register an account to become a member. It’s all three charges. For each of those needs, we have pages with a ton of resources to walk you through that 3M step-by-step guide and help you build your action plan. At the end, you have your actual action plan. You email it to yourself, and then you divide and conquer in terms of implementing it.

Managements Vs Employees

That’s awesome. I wanted to parse this out a little bit. You talked about the ten needs. My curiosity is how much of this is on management. You said they don’t leave the job. They leave their leader. How much of it is on management to support these needs versus the responsibility of the individual? I’ve had situations where the employee’s attitude is poor or they’re not willing to pull themselves out of the muck. You know what I mean. How much is on management versus how much is on the employee, would you say?

I don’t want to accord a percentage. At the end of the day, it should be a shared ownership. If the manager picks up that the individual has a toxic attitude, that’s your red flag number one. I talked about the red flags throughout the book to check in with that individual to see what might be going on or what might be at play.

We also know there are people who are so unhappy there’s nothing you can do in terms of restructuring the workday, everything that will make them happy. It’s also on the manager or the leader to have that harder conversation with them to say, “Not all jobs are a fit. Not all companies are a fit with all individuals. How are you feeling in terms of fit?” It is having that conversation.

That portion is 100% on the manager to own that conversation and have that more courageous conversation not only to support that individual but also to support whatever tension is building up. When you’re tolerating poor behavior and poor performance, you’re transmitting the message to the rest of the team, right?

Brave Women at Work | Lori-Ann Duguay | Productive Workplace
Productive Workplace: Managers have to own the courageous conversation not only to support their teams but avoid tolerating poor behavior and performance.



By addressing that, that part is on the leader. On the individual themselves, it’s up to them to figure out what’s missing in their work environment and to take the steps to improve. It’s interesting that you asked the question because book number two, which is still in my mind, is from the perspective of out of necessity. People have been asking me, “I wish you’d write this book from the perspective of the individual.”

I’ve been that individual, so I’m more than happy to develop the methodology to check in with you, figure out what might be missing, and have some strategies to work with your existing team and existing company. After having tried a few different things, you need to start planning your exit strategy. It will also contain some insights on how to get started in figuring out that next chapter and how to get yourself set up for success in the next part of your career.

That’s cool though that you’re going to have both halves of the whole. You’ve gone through the business perspective. You’re going to preview for everybody that you’re going to work on a book and resources for the employee’s perspective.

It’s about how to get unstuck when you’re feeling stuck or when you’re feeling like that’s it or the spark is gone. I used the analogy in the book of when you were a teenager and you had a little boyfriend or a girlfriend maybe. From one day to the next, they start annoying you. Suddenly, all you see are their flaws and everything that’s horrible.

The same process happens for individuals who were wronged for some reason or another or have their needs not met on a regular basis. They also start to move towards that more toxic mindset and only see everything that’s wrong in the company. They start to talk about everything that’s wrong. You can understand how that can spread like cancer within an organization. Understanding why you might be feeling that and then knowing and having a plan or a guide to support you in getting out of that funk is what that second book’s going to be about.

That’s really great. A couple of things are floating around my head. I have had that conversation with employees where I’ve had to say or I felt like the need because of toxicity. I asked one employee in particular, “Do you want to be here?” This person was like, “What do you mean?” This person did get pretty defensive. This person was like, “Are you telling me I need to leave?” I’m like, “No. I’m not telling you you need to leave, but I’m telling you what I’m perceiving. It is that you’re super unhappy and that you don’t want to be here.” It’s interesting because sometimes, having that conversation, the employee hasn’t even admitted it to him or herself. They show up at the doorstep caustic and angry. It was like I was announcing it to this person in that conversation, which is never a fun thing to do.

You were a steward of a TSN moment. The TSN turning point, I’ve had them. I had that same conversation. I was blessed to have a colleague who then became my boss. It was about a year after she became my manager. I was complaining again. They would put these restrictions. There was a policy that they could put 125 kilometers, which in miles, that’s 60 miles or 75 miles radius, that in order to apply to a posting, you had to live within that.

My office was located at almost 200 kilometers, so at least a 100-mile radius, which tells me that I could never apply for any posting. They had posted a position that I was really interested in. I was frustrated. I was telling her how frustrated I was and she said, “I feel like we’ve been having parallels of the same conversation for months. At which point are you going to make a decision to not settle or make a decision to make a plan and then get on that?”

It was for you. You were the one on the receiving end.

I was at the receiving end. That’s the point where I realized, “You’re right. I’m that person right now who’s complaining but not doing anything about it.” It was a reality check. It was one of my TSN turning points where I was like, “That’s it. You’re right.” We were colleagues who became direct reports, but she used her colleague lingo and was telling me like it is. I was like, “The delivery was a little harsh, but duly noted. Thank you.” That is when I decided to start exploring what that next chapter might look like.

Thanks for sharing that. You handle it with such grace. This person, on the other hand, not to go too deep into the rabbit hole, was really angry. They ended up leaving on their own accord, but they were really angry at me. It was so unfortunate. I was hoping that they would have learned the lesson and taken my feedback. My question is a sense of love and care. Care is a leader rather than being, “You need to leave the organization.” I didn’t want that. I wanted this person to engage, but this person would not. They were so toxic.

That’s really unfortunate. That’s not an uncommon personality within any team. If you’re able to respectfully be that person who holds up a mirror to them, that’s probably where the anger came from. I always say that your triggers are likely also veiled admiration or things that you’re not willing to admit about yourself that are brought to your attention. That becomes a trigger.

That’s really interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way.

It forces you to accept it. It sounds like if they were that upset, you made them admit something to themselves that they weren’t quite ready to admit perhaps. That whole situation probably came out as projecting anger, but there was a bit of digesting and crystallizing happening there.

Positive Culture Vs Negative Toxicity

Probably. Some of this may seem obvious, but maybe it’s not so obvious, so I wanted to revisit it. We talk about happiness in your book and all the work you do. Can you tell me subtle and maybe even not-so-subtle signs of positive culture versus negative toxicity? I want people reading this to be mindful of their own and do their gut check in their own culture. What are they contributing to their culture? Is it positive or is it toxic? Let’s go through that.

Let’s start with some of the toxic traits. Those could be rampant rumors, gossip, and conflict amongst teams, team members, and different departments. Odds are there’s something fueling that toxicity. I’ll tell you all the negative traits, but telling you the negative traits should enlighten you. The opposite would be portraying a positive culture.

When we talk about people being afraid to bring their ideas to the table and to speak their truth, that’s also a sign of toxicity where everybody becomes these yes-people who go through the flow and go with the motion. They’re going through a process day in and day out as opposed to questioning it, pausing it, and wanting to bring ideas and innovation to the team. Innovation is a sign of a healthy workplace culture where people trust each other and people feel confident enough to be able to put new ideas on the table.

Another example of toxicity, if you will, is this notion where people have said, “I’m just a number.” Someone who feels like a number means that there’s a failure on the company’s behalf in terms of transmitting purpose and impact. That is another one of the needs. Purpose and impact are about making them feel like they’re part of a bigger purpose and helping them feel invested. They’ll tend to weather the worst of storms if they feel like they’re not a number and they feel valued, seen, and heard.

Toxicity arises in the workplace when people see themselves as mere numbers. This is a sign that companies are failing to transmit purpose and impact. Click To Tweet

On that note, that’s the last one that I’d missed earlier, which is rewards and recognition. It is providing that feedback. An organization where they’re not asking for feedback and not providing the level of information and transparency to the team members will set themselves up for toxicity. People are going to have to make up their own stories to fill in any gaps in knowledge and any gaps of information.

If you’re seeing some of those rumors coming out, seeing some of the people generally having the same questions asked by more than one individual, having tasks being done repeatedly, there’s duplication of work or duplication of tasks, and then there are gaps in others, those are all signs that there are communication issues at play that people aren’t clear on their expectations. Those are all signs that some of these needs could be improved on.

That’s really helpful. The inverse is what would be on the positive side. Look and listen to your own culture. Keep your ear to the ground. Keep your eyes open. I’ve been in my organization for quite a while. Depending on how long you’ve been there, let’s say you’ve been there a long time, one thing I’ve learned is that organizations can change. They have a life of their own like people have a life of their own. That took me a long time to figure out that just because I joined at X period doesn’t mean that the company’s not going to have changes, fits and starts, and things like that.

Cultural Change

I wanted to get your thoughts. People are probably like, “Let’s stop talking about COVID,” but what do you think about how companies changed during and post-COVID? It was interesting. Some of their truer colors came out, like what is their perspective on the future of work, what is their perspective on remote work, what is their perspective on different benefits, and things like that. Any thoughts on how an organization’s personality style, tenure, and fabric can change over time?

My thoughts are that organizations need to be agile and fluid to adapt to the time and what worked yesterday might not work today. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. That’s what’s going to happen. In order to continue to thrive, organizations have to remain completely agile. They need to adapt their policies and their ways of offering flexibility, for example, post-COVID, to their workers all within operational requirements. I’m not saying to adopt one model of the next.

Through my own podcast, I’ve been speaking to organizations that have taken a variety of approaches to the new world of work from being completely hybrid and completely remote to being completely in office. I’ve spoken to organizations that have adopted all three of those different approaches. It’s really interesting because it’s all in how they frame it. It’s all in how they communicate these expectations and the rationale behind the decisions and policies to their team members that have made all 3 of those models in all 3 of the instances that I’m thinking about with the 3 different companies successful.

It’s taking the time to talk to your people. It’s taking the time to understand how they’re feeling and to gather that continuous improvement data through exercises like regular engagement surveys. It’s having your performance development process revamped and optimized to include questions that ask how someone, for example, prefers to be recognized to allow them and coach them in developing a growth goal. It’s having a map of what actions they’re going to take in the next 3, 6, 9, or 12 months to get them 1 step closer to that overarching growth goal as well.

It’s revisiting some of the ways that you’re doing things to make sure that you are, in fact, building into the very fabric of your organization the systems that will allow you to gather the information and the intel you need to truly be purposeful as well as be truly agile as you navigate. The only constant in the new world of work is change. We need to make sure that organizations are equipped and have the systems that will facilitate that resiliency and facilitate being able to on-the-fly adapt your business model to accommodate whatever happens.

It’s interesting. What if you have employees that you work with that maybe, at one point, agreed with the company’s philosophies, values, and where the culture was going at that time, and then somewhere along the line, they diverged? They became a different person. Their values changed. Is that also a signal that they may need to create a plan for exit because it is no longer aligned with where they started?

100%. At that same woman’s event, I had someone approach me afterward and say, “What happens when?” There had been a change in ownership. The new owner’s philosophy, ethics, and the way that they rolled no longer aligned with what she had signed up for. I said, “Three years down the road, do you foresee ever being able to find some parallels of your values within this existing company?” She was flat-out, “No, not at all.”

I said, “What I’m really hearing then is, “How do I plan my exit strategy?” She said, “Absolutely.” You’re not going to change your personal values. If there’s been a shift in ownership, a merger, or an acquisition, which is usually when I see a pivot in values, mission, and vision, if it no longer aligns with who you are and what you want to offer the world, then that’s another indication that it’s time to make a plan.

That’s interesting. It’s almost probably discombobulating and a grieving process because you were in 1 organization or with 1 leader and all of a sudden, you’re with another. It feels like maybe the rug was pulled underneath you slowly or very fast, but it’s probably got to feel weird to be in that situation.

There are different personalities, and that’s a whole other show we could do on Everything DiSC. Depending on the personalities, it can be a lot more overwhelming than for other personalities who crave change. They like it when things are mixed up. Certainly, it is frustrating. Especially if you’ve already made up your mind that you were going to retire from this company, and suddenly, you’re forced into this exit plan that you’d never thought was even an option. You’re forced to reflect on what you really love about the work you used to do or the way that you used to do it and what no longer resonates to make sure that you’re identifying that next chapter and making sure that that next chapter aligns with those elements again.

We’ll put a pin in DiSC. We’ll have you back for DiSC because we’ve never covered that one. We’ve hit the Enneagram really hard, but never DiSC. Since you specialize there, we can talk about it on another show.

It’s a tool that I use on a daily basis with my clients. I love to help them understand the value. When it comes to personality assessment tools, it’s only as powerful if you’re able to say, “We use DiSC,” not, “We’ve done DiSC.”

That’s different. It’s how you use it or how you integrate it and what you do.

It’s one thing to do it, but if you do it and you get that insight, and then you never integrate it or you never shift your systems to integrate that insight and facilitate this notion of understanding the preferences and needs of others. For example, conflict resolution. I’m also a mediator. I’m a licensed dispute resolution practitioner. When I’m mediating between two parties, 95% of the time, it’s a clash of personalities. It’s having our focus on different priorities.

There’s this whole platform I could show you on another call called Catalyst. When an organization has completed it, it then shows you a page of, “Here’s who Lori is. Here’s who Jen is. These are the differences in your personalities. This is where there are likely going to be clashes. This is what stresses Lori out. This is what stresses Jen out.” It provides a user manual to Jen for me as Lori to navigate our working relationship. It returns that autonomy, ownership, and accountability to the team members instead of it all falling on the managers.

It is to be able to integrate these kinds of tools so when Jen goes to her manager with a complaint about Lori, the first thing the manager says is, “Have you checked Catalyst to see if there are any further insights on what might be at play here? Do you want to sit down with me? Let’s look through that together.” It becomes a tool they can use for conflict resolution. It becomes a tool when we’re trying to plan projects and making sure we’ve got a nice variety of personalities at the table for every project to optimize the project’s success by having that blend of analytics with champions along with the relationship nurturers and those who are more action-oriented to move things along. It is game-changing.


That’s a preview. We’re coming back around to DiSC. No worries. We’re going to talk about it. Everybody can go take it. I know that you’re a practitioner. You can help them decipher their backgrounds and those assessments. Let’s then go back to communication because I hear that loud and clear from you. How we communicate really will have a huge impact on whether people are staying or whether they are happy, bottom line. If someone is a leader out there or they’re manager-supervisor, or if they want to be leader-supervisor or even coworker, how can we all take ownership responsibility to create better work environments through communication? I know we all have a factor here and we all have a role.

We all have a role. The first and most important piece is to understand the needs and preferences when it comes to communication of each of your team members. For the team member who’s in a meeting and asking a ton of questions, it’s maybe not because they’re questioning their colleagues’ competencies. Maybe it’s because they’re very analytical by nature and they prefer information to be presented to them in a fairly logical way.

Brave Women at Work | Lori-Ann Duguay | Productive Workplace
Productive Workplace: The team member who’s asking a ton of questions in a meeting doesn’t necessarily mean they are questioning their colleagues’ competencies. Perhaps they are analytical by nature and prefer the logical presentation of information.


If you’ve got the other personality style, and I know I’m bringing DiSC again despite saying we’re going to have another episode, but I do use these things on a daily basis, it’s helping your team members understand, “That person asking a ton of questions is not asking a ton of questions because they want to question your competency. Have you ever considered that it’s maybe the way that you present information to them?”

When you need buy-in from that colleague for a certain idea or a certain project, maybe if you tweak your approach a bit, you’re going to see a huge difference. You always see a huge difference. I love the a-ha moments that I’m able to help people get when I train them on DiSC. They get so excited like, “I never thought about this.”

You then see them talking to their colleagues and saying, “When I said that and you got that deer-in-the-headlights look, it’s because I overwhelmed you with way too much information or way too many numbers, right?” The other person is like, “100%. I don’t do data to that extent. I need to get it in small manageable bites.” When you provide them with those tools, then they’re likely going to take ownership of their communication.

As a leader, you need to understand the communication preferences. Something as silly as calling someone out at a team meeting could be energizing and motivating for one of your team members. If it’s another personality style, it might be completely demotivating, and they might feel attacked. You need to understand those nuances to be a more effective leader. You need to understand and meet them where they’re at, each of those team members.

Finally, on that note, it is making sure that you’re talking to them regularly and that you are facilitating the flow of information without having to own it. You need to facilitate it. You need to give them the tools. Build the systems that enable it. Your role as a leader is simply to provide oversight and to manage that communication. That’s it. That’s all.

With communication, and some people probably have this more naturally, the EQ, you need to be warily watching people in front of you because there’s a lot that goes unsaid. When I have my employees in front of me and if there’s something that’s unsaid, I have no problem being like, “What’s up?” I’m calling it out right then. It’s then being quiet and letting it come or not come if they’re not ready, and being like, “If you’re not ready, I want to let you know I can tell there’s something up. Let’s address it when you’re ready.” That’s because then, they know that you’re paying attention to the nonverbals.

I was about to say the two really important points in what you shared. We do strategic communication in the workplace as well. One of the things is to actively listen. That notion of listening to understand instead of listening to respond, I do that with my daughter all the time. The nonverbal is telling me she’s waiting for me to take a breath so she can jump in and she’s not listening to what I’m saying.

It is helping your team members understand the value of listening to understand as opposed to listening to respond and giving them some key sentences when they do have some conflicting information. If the nonverbal is saying one thing but the verbal is saying something else, it is giving them some key sentences to help move that conversation forward, be it, “Help me understand your perspective. You’re clearly not seeing it from the same angle as me. Can you help me understand how you’re seeing it specifically? Maybe we can see where there’s some divergence between our two perspectives.” It is also helping them understand the value of silence. I’m an executive coach. You are as well, right?

Yes, I am.

One of the things you learned early on is to let the silence do the heavy lifting. When there are those long pauses and you’re tempted to clarify your question, sit and wait because in those moments of silence come wonderful a-ha moments for the person being coached.

Let silence in a conversation do the heavy lifting. When there are long pauses and you are tempted to clarify questions, just sit down and wait. Click To Tweet

They’re heavy lifting mentally or they’re wrestling with what you’re saying. It feels uncomfortable. You think it’s been a year between moments, but it’s probably only been a few seconds. It’s a real skill. Colleague to colleague, manager to subordinate, or leader of a large team, silence is a monstrous tool that we’re not taught to use.

We’re not taught at all, even in virtual meetings. When you ask a question during a virtual meeting, it’s okay if it’s silent. Normalize it. Say, “Do you guys need a moment to reflect on this? I’m good with that.”

Feedback And Recognition

Those are really good points in terms of the communication. Before we wrap up, I wanted to touch on the feedback and the recognition. If we’re not getting feedback or we’re not getting recognition, or both as an employee, and this is so key but I want your thoughts on it, this is where folks will disengage maybe because this could be a key need for them that’s not being met.

What advice would you give if someone’s starting to get disgruntled or feel like, “I’m working really hard, but I’m not getting any positive or constructive feedback. I’m not getting recognition. I feel like I’m becoming a number.” What can they do on their side before they disappear or the sparkle disappears? Is there anything that they can do?

Short of voicing it to their managers, if there is even a platform to do that depending on the organization, it’s about communicating your needs to one another. Model the behavior you seek. Start to provide more recognition of your colleagues’ efforts and their contributions. You’d be surprised how quickly they reciprocate. Model the behavior you seek.

Be specific. When it comes to feedback, the more specific, the better. Don’t say, “Good job,” because that doesn’t tell me which behavior to repeat. Tell me, “The way that you did that presentation and provided a visual for the clients, I’m pretty sure that’s what landed us the deal. Good job on that. They’re like, “Duly noted. I need to repeat that.” As a colleague, model that behavior to say, “When that client came in, they looked really irate. The way that you welcomed them seemed to diffuse them at the onset. I was able to have a much more comfortable conversation with them, so thank you for that.”

That’s great. On the employer or the leader side, there are so many ways that you can recognize people. Going back to communication, I used to have this form. I don’t know if you use this, but it was like, “How do I like to be recognized?” It would say, “What’s my favorite drink? What’s my favorite candy? What’s my favorite movie?” It was all these funny silly things where you’re like, “This is like third grade.”

I would put it on file for all of my people because you can’t remember. If you have a big team especially, you can’t remember they like Swedish fish and lattes and this is their favorite movie or whatever. That’s so fun because it doesn’t have to be just money. I do this every now and again. I’ll text my team. I’m like, “I’m going on a Starbucks run. It’s Friday morning, I love you all. What do you want for coffee?” If I can remember, even better. I show up at their doorstep with their favorite latte. Any thoughts on that?

Yes, and. When I said the first thing we do with clients is start to tweak their existing processes, it’s an easy question to add. Performance development needs to move away from being an appraisal or an evaluation. It’s a tool for you to have a conversation to guide your leader in having a conversation with the employee. It’s a tool the employee can use to say what he needs more of and less of. That question needs to be integrated in there, bar none. It’s like, “How do you prefer to be recognized?”

Pizza parties and Starbucks are wonderful, but get as granular as, “Are you okay with public accolades or do you prefer a more private one-on-one email? Do you prefer it in writing or out loud?” You can be as specific as you want to really start to understand their preference. When it comes to recognition, if you are projecting the way that you crave, which is what we naturally do, that might demotivate certain individuals and they might be completely put off by it, so take the time.

The other thing that you mentioned about trying to remember, our podcast has been this culture secret sauce series. We are showcasing companies that are doing culture right. It may not be 100% right, but they are doing some very unique things. When I ask them what some of the ingredients they feel differentiate their culture from others, I have three CEOs so far who have said that the most impactful thing they’ve learned over their career is to get to know people’s pet names and people’s children names.

They challenge themselves to know these more personal intimate details so that they’re able to recall them and show that person, “I see you. I remember you.” That person then inevitably feels heard, seen, and valued. Remembering their Starbucks order is the same scenario. It’s about helping that person feel that they’re more than a number. You’re like, “I see you.” That is what’s going to nurture that seed of loyalty and commitment to the organization.

A quote I’m going to use is, “I see you,” as the foundation for this. If people feel seen, heard, respected, and loved, all of this, I’m sure, ties into all the ten needs.


Self-Limiting Narratives

This is so good. How can women be braver at work? What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?

They could learn to recognize some of the self-limiting narratives that are going on in their minds and to check some of their assumptions if they’re running under certain assumptions and they’ve got these narratives going a mile a minute in their minds at all times that are trying to save them from taking that risk, from putting themselves out there, or from applying for that next position, like, “Why am I not applying?” They need to question those narratives.

It is then talking to other people like, “I’m not applying for this because it seems like they’re looking for this type of an individual. I feel like I don’t have that. Are you aligned on that? What are your thoughts on this?” You’ve said it throughout the interview. That’s a key sentence, “What are your thoughts on this?” It’s a way of gathering the information you need to check some of those assumptions to confirm whether or not they are in fact true. If anything, they’ll provide you with that confidence to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to take that risk because if you’re able to figure out what’s the worst that can happen and you’re okay with that worst, then do it.

Don’t be afraid to take risks. If you can figure out what’s worst that can happen, learn to be okay with it. Click To Tweet

I love that. What’s the worst that can happen? If you’re not worried about it, then what’s the harm?

Sometimes, we get in our own way. We try to figure out, “This can transpire, and if that transpires, then I’m going to have to do this, that, and the other thing.” We get so far down that rabbit hole. It’s like, “How about we start, for example, applying for that next position? I’d have to make a decision if I still want this position.” How about you wait until you have an offer on the table?”

We’re putting roadblocks up before we even get to that next point.

Exactly. Apply for it. When you’ve got an offer on the table, then you’re able to go through that thought process. You’re going to find all the reasons not to apply for it if you try to go down that road. What’s the worst that can happen? Be honest with yourself. It’s like, “What if that does happen? It means I didn’t get it and I’m still in this job. If you don’t apply for it, are you still in this job? Are you okay with maybe not getting that job, but at least you’ve given yourself that peace of mind by applying for it? Go do that.”

Closing Words

That’s so good because you’re having conversations. You’re shadowboxing with fear. You’re helping dismantle all of the fear, which helps protect us, the whole fight or flight, the tiger, and all that stuff. Thank you for that. I really appreciate it. Let’s circle back. I wanted to mention the book’s name one more time. It’s The Happiness Factor: How to Create a Positive and Productive Workplace. I know that’s wherever books are sold, but how can women find you and all of your body of work online?

They’re welcome to check out our website www.BePeoplePowered.com because we want people to BePeoplePowered.com. From there, they can check out the book. It links directly to Amazon if they want to purchase it. Our audiobook should be out soon. They can also do The Happiness Factor Check. They can access and create that account for the portal. They’re welcome to also reach out on LinkedIn if they want to connect and start following some of the content that we do put out there.

It has been a pleasure getting to know you and having you on. I love your energy and the work you do. Keep on keeping on. Thank you.

Thanks so much for having me.

That’s a wrap of my discussion with Lori-Ann. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up, increase your happiness factor at work, and be brave.


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about Lori-Ann Duguay

Brave Women at Work | Lori-Ann Duguay | Productive WorkplaceAs founder, CEO of People-Powered Solutions, Lori-Ann Duguay helps organizations with a growth mindset ignite workplace transformation by helping them assess and optimize their end-to-end employee journey. She helps companies create corporate cultures where positivity and productivity thrive! A People-Powered culture is how you attract and retain the talent that you need to thrive in the new world of work. She meets you where you are at, and helps you create the in-house capacity, infrastructure and leadership required to engage, empower and retain talent.

As your strategic and innovative HR partner, she helps you translate business vision into HR initiatives that improve performance, profitability, growth, and employee engagement. By combining expertise accumulated over 20+ years of working in government as an HR strategist, with powerful Everything DiSC Psychometric tools she provides organizations with the training, tools, and resources required to unleash and maintain their team’s full potential.
Employees are looking to work for organizations that offer a high-quality end to end employee experience. Creating a highly engaging employee journey assures a decrease in costly turnover, an increase in your retention of top talent and optimizes your overall employee engagement.

Lori-Ann is a certified Dispute Resolution Practitioner, with an Advanced Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the Canadian Institute of Applied Negotiation (specializing in Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Analysis/System Design). She is also a licensed partner of Wiley’s Everything DiSC suite of assessment products. Her educational background includes a Post-Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management and Labour Relations from Athabasca University, and a B.A. in Humanities from Laurentian University.

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