Michael C. Bush is the CEO of Great Place to Work, the consulting and leadership training firm that produces the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. He’s only been on the job for a few weeks – his appointment was officially announced March 31 – but he sat down with EBN during this week’s Great Place to Work conference in Dallas to answer these rapid-fire questions.

The thing that most excites me about my job is … I get to influence [workplace] culture across the United States and also influence it outside of the United States. I think the time has come for leaders to be open-minded enough that some of the past practices aren’t working very well in terms of creating sustainable businesses.

I think a leader who, 10 years ago did not want to talk about culture, now will at least have a conversation about culture, and many have already gone through the door and they’re realizing it’s important. They’re just trying to figure out how much does it take in terms of money and in terms of their time and they’re having trouble finding ways to measure it and measure its impact.

Also see: 8 signs your workplace culture needs a reboot

 I’m really excited about the opportunity to influence this change. The timing is right. Five years ago the timing wasn’t right. While people did culture work five years ago, nobody was starting it five years ago because of the financial crisis. Now’s a good time.

The biggest challenge facing companies today is … Culture. It’s absolutely culture. People are no longer hired just to snap things together, to build things. They’re being hired to work with other people and to make other people better and to learn and to gain experience and to use their intuition – which is the only way to innovate. The only way you can innovate is to use your intuition as part of the creative process.

Workplace culture is a benefit because … A benefit is something that improves your life. Something that’s additive -- because of the benefit, I’m a better person. My health is better, my vision is better, my fitness is better. So a benefit adds things to your life. That’s what culture does too. You could have a workplace culture that actually makes your life miserable. You can be happy when you get to work and then, because of your experience, your life is miserable. That’s what culture can do. It can take away. It can also add. You can go to work and be having an average day and because of the fact that you’re respected and listened to and you feel a sense of pride and camaraderie that you belong and people want to know what you think, your experience at work can be the best part of your day. Even better than your personal life. That’s a benefit.

Also see: Workplace culture more important benefit than wellness

What distinguishes great companies from no-so-great companies is … Trust. If you look at the model and the methodology at a [company on the] Great Place to Work [list], it’s based on trust. There are many things that create a trusting environment, but when someone feels trusted – that they’re communicated with transparently, that they get information promptly, that things aren’t hidden from them, that people really care about what they think, that their opinions can affect the direction of the work – these are expressions of the conditions that create, inside a person, a feeling that ‘they trust me here.’ It’s the greatest compliment you can give someone, that you trust them. 

The best advice I ever got was … To always keep a mirror handy. Because when things weren’t going well in the business, if I looked in the mirror, I’d find the solution – and sometimes the reason. So it starts at the top. I think everybody ought to have a mirror, not just those at the top. But if people see the leader never look in the mirror, they’re not going to look at it either.

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