CV #13 Scribe Media Pt 2: The Power of Language, Defining Your Culture, & Bringing Your Whole Self to Work
SCRIBE MEDIA AT A GLANCE
Founded: In 2014 by Tucker Max and Zach Obrant. The company was born to solve the frustrating and time-consuming process of writing a book. In 2016, Tucker Max fired himself as CEO and brought on JT McCormick to do the job. To learn the whole story of how that happened, check out the blog here.
Employees: 37 | Location: Austin, TX; however, they are a majority remote team!
Mission: To unlock the world’s wisdom.
Values: 1) Results 2) People 3) Learning
LET THE TOUR BEGIN
I was fortunate enough to spend two hours with Scribe Media (formerly known as Book in a Box) CEO JT McCormick and have an incredible conversation with him about their company culture and leadership. From there, I chatted with tribe members, Kayla Sokol, Publishing Manager, and Jesse Sussman, Author Marketing Coordinator, about their experiences working with Scribe. Incase you didn’t have a chance to read part one of this blog on “CV#13 Scribe Media Pt 1: A Story of Radical Generosity”, I’d like to share a bit of important background on JT.
JT got to know the founders of Scribe Media, when he decided that he wanted to document his life story for his children. Then CEO and Co-Founder, Tucker Max, worked closely with JT to write his story: “I Got There: How I Overcame Racism, Poverty, and Abuse to Achieve the American Dream”. For those of you who haven’t read it, I highly encourage the read - it’s a tremendous, powerful, and true story.
Through working with JT to write his story, Tucker recognized JT’s leadership skills and invited him to attend and observe a board meeting. By the end of the meeting, JT was running it, which is when Tucker realized he needed to fire himself as CEO and hire JT as his replacement. You can read the full story here.
MAIN TAKEAWAYS (Besides Scribe Media Pt 1: A Story of Radical Generosity)
1. The Power of Defining Your Culture in a Living Document
PAUSE: You absolutely must read Scribe Media’s Culture Document.
It is an incredible google doc that explicitly outlines Scribe Media’s company culture. The Culture Doc outlines who they are (purpose), what they’re trying to achieve (mission), what they believe (their values), and their principles (how they apply their values to their actions) on a daily basis. For those of you who are thinking, “what’s so unique about writing your culture down?” The answer is that the culture is defined, intentional, and explicit. The Culture Document provides a clear outline of how they treat one another and make decisions. Furthermore, the document provides transparency and accountability. The best part of the Culture Doc - is that it’s lived out. I both witnessed this during my visit with Scribe Media and also heard it countless times from tribe members - it’s not just online, it’s reality.
The Culture Document is also special because it’s collaborative, a work in progress, and public. As a public document, anyone can read and leave feedback on the Culture Doc at anytime. According to JT, they’ve had comments from folks in Japan, New Zealand, and across the U.S. It is a “view only” document, so Scribe Media can review the comments before deciding whether to incorporate them. The purpose of it being public is to show people who Scribe Media is and how they treat one another internally and externally. It also serves as an excellent recruiting tool; JT shared with me that they routinely have over 1500 applications for one position.
2. Language Matters in Company Culture
JT is passionate about the way Scribe uses language to describe things because every word has a stigma and a notion. Here are a few examples of how Scribe uses language:
They are a tribe, not employees or co-workers
Tribe is about collective being, employees imply a separation of being
They say obstacles not weaknesses.
Obstacles can be overcome. Weaknesses are limiting.
They coach people, not train people.
As JT would say, “You train a dog, not a person!”
They use Career Description, not Job Description
As JT would say, “In no disrespect, if you want a job go to Subway, if you want a career, come to Scribe Media.”
3. Bringing Your Whole Self to Work: Uncovering Tribe Members Strengths & Obstacles
As a remote team, Scribe Media believes it’s important to get together in-person at least twice a year to strengthen relationships. Twice a year, they host Summits, which are four to five day gatherings in Austin, TX. During these Summits, they share meals, team-build, and go through a strengths and obstacles workshop.
The strengths and obstacles team-building session is a very intense and integral part of Scribe Media’s culture and is aligned with their philosophy of how to help employees bring their whole selves to work. This workshop has had profound impacts on employee’s self-awareness, discovery, and direction in life. Here’s how it works:
Each tribe member is asked to write down their strengths, their obstacles, and three things they want to commit to this year based on their own perceived strengths and obstacles. From there, either Tucker, JT, or Zach will serve as the facilitator and select a tribe member to share what they wrote down with everyone.
After the person shares their strengths, the facilitator asks the rest of the tribe to weigh in and add to the list – what other strengths does this person have? The tribe members give their input and the list grows longer. The same happens for obstacles. Throughout the exercise, there are opportunities to dig into feedback from tribe members, share stories, and get deep. After the end of the two-three hour session, the tribe member commits to the three things they want to work on.
From there, the tribe member selects a whole self partner who is responsible for holding the person accountable to the three things they committed to working on. In other words, this person is responsible for helping their tribe member bring their whole self to work, which they call the “Whole Self Perspective.”
4. A Powerful Question to End Every Meeting With
After generously giving me two hours of his time, at the end of our conversation, JT surprised me by asking: “How did I serve you and what could I have done better?”
Likely seeing the confusion on my face, JT shared with me that he asks this question at the end of every meeting as a way to hold himself accountable to his value of servant leadership.
I was deeply impressed and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on our conversation, review my notes, provide feedback, and have the chance to ask for what I needed.
I thanked JT letting him know that he served me very well and that I had more than enough information. Little did I know, I would need JT’s help later that day once I realized I lost my wallet and ID and was stranded in Austin. But you can read that story here…