In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner sits down with Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage, members of the Fool's People Team, to discuss one of the company's core values: Motley.
In this segment, Jen Elliott, a People Team member specializing in compensation, explains her simple Motley: "Tupperware." As she says, it's about finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place. Jen likes to take take big ideas and be able to compartmentalize them.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on April 4, 2018.
David Gardner: Kara, my question for you at this point is did you save the best for last?
Kara Chambers: Quite possibly.
Gardner: Quite possibly. Who have you brought into the room?
Chambers: Our fellow people team [member] is Jen Elliott. Your motley is a metaphor for a skill that you have and that we very much need on our team.
Gardner: Jen Elliott, first of all, what you do at The Motley Fool and then what is your motley?
Jen Elliott: I do a few things at The Fool. I work on our compensation program. I do a little bit of organizational development with Lee and Kara, and then I also warm the bench for Annie and Cheryl, who you got to meet, if they ever need any backup on recruiting.
Gardner: Awesome. What is your motley?
Elliott: My motley is "Tupperware."
Gardner: All right. Lee Burbage, what's the first thing you think of when you hear the word Tupperware?
Lee Burbage: Leftovers.
Burbage: Delicious. I'm going in there. I'm opening it up. It was so good last night. Even better today.
Gardner: Kara, what is your association with Tupperware?
Chambers: Cleaning out the fridge? Like, what is that that's in there?
Gardner: I'm in a different place, and I'm not even sure I'm right about this. I think of it like clubs or parties where you're helping sell it to others. I think that was how Tupperware started. But Jen Elliott, what does Tupperware mean to you and to The Motley Fool?
Elliott: Tupperware for me represents my mantra of a place for everything and everything in its place. Across The Fool I work with a lot of visionaries. A lot of folks who have big ideas, and I like to capture those big ideas and compartmentalize them. Put them into an actionable plan. Put some data behind them. Get a plan in place so that we can take those thought bubbles and have some follow-through and have an output at the end.
Gardner: What does a really effectively organized Tupperware-like organization look like?
Elliott: It depends on the scenario. I take a lot of notes, so every meeting I'm in, I'm documenting it. I'll send follow-throughs to say, "Here's what I've documented on my end. Here's what my to-do list is. Here's what I've got from you. Let me know if there's anything I missed."
It can be an annoying habit at times, but I'll be in a follow-up meeting and someone will say, "I think we covered this at one point," and I will pull up my computer and I'll say, "On August 31st at about 02:30 PM, we did note this, and here's what we decided at that time and here's what we've done to date." It's beneficial at times and sometimes maybe not, but...
Gardner: That is very Tupperware of you.
Elliott: It is. I keep track of everything. It's a blessing and a curse.
Gardner: Speaking of keeping track of things, you don't you look like the Jen Elliott that you looked like maybe six months ago? Why is that?
Elliott: I don't know. You tell me, David.
Gardner: I think that you're pregnant.
Elliott: I am very pregnant. I'm ready to go.
Gardner: So, is there a Tupperware approach to pregnancy? I know that there are certainly some mothers [probably some expectant mothers listening right now]. How can I be more awesome as an expectant parent?
Elliott: Let go of the Tupperware. There is nothing that you can compartmentalize about children. I've got a 15-month-old at home right now, and I've had to let that part of my life go. I don't try to fit my child in any Tupperware. She lives her own life, and I'm trying to keep up. But at work, it's a nice break from that. I find I'm able to control a little bit more than I can at home.
Gardner: I know a lot of people listening are being compensated by somebody. Sometimes it's themselves because there's certainly some business owners listening, but a lot of us are taking a check from somebody else.
Jan, we didn't preplan this, so I don't know if you have a good, ready answer. I hope you do. What is a tip or two you might give to a fellow compensation executive or somebody who might be disappointed by their own compensation?
Elliott: I think having a really open and honest conversation that starts with you doing some research about your own market value. There's a lot of free resources online and hopefully the company that you work for has bought into a few paid salary surveys so that they can have great data at their disposal. I know we do at The Fool, because it's something that we take very seriously.
It's never a light topic. These are people's livelihoods. So, having some data behind your request to understand how you're being compensated now and how you're being valued. Here's the research I've done. And just having an open and honest conversation that hopefully doesn't start from a defensive point or an ultimatum. "I have this other offer. Meet it or I walk. " Those generally don't go well.
I think having an open and honest conversation about what you are looking to achieve and helping everyone understand the value that you're delivering, because sometimes your impression of what you're delivering is not the same as your manager's. It's a series of conversations that when you do it right, I think everyone wins. I think everyone has a better understanding of what you're contributing, and everyone wins in that scenario.
Gardner: So, one of the biggest problems would be just not enough communication or not enough information.
Elliott: Absolutely. Not enough communication. It's a taboo topic. Sometimes people think when they talk about their comp it is seen negatively. You're being greedy, or you want more from the company, or you're being treated unfairly. Like I said, I love talking to people about their comp. I want them to be as comfortable as possible.
There's no judgments made about it. Let's talk about you and what you've got going on in your life. If there's another recruiter reaching out to you on LinkedIn, let's talk about it. You're probably an awesome person. That's why we want to keep you here. What can we do to have that move forward in perpetuity? Let's keep this relationship going. It's just a series of conversations and the more we have, the better.
Burbage: I would just add that I love your motley Tupperware. It probably represents some of your work, too. When I'm going into the fridge and grabbing those tacos from last night that are so amazing, I'm excited about the tacos; but I'm probably underappreciating what a good job the Tupperware does to hold all that deliciousness together. I think that's oftentimes your role. You're behind the scenes making things perfect. People love their cash-shaped tacos, but your Tupperware holds it all together.
Elliott: There is Tupperware made for tacos. There is Tupperware made for almost every food. I have Tupperware strictly for asparagus.
Burbage: Maybe it's too long for the podcast, but quickly. There was a Tupperware incident in the office, recently, with cupcake frosting that you were involved with?
Gardner: I think this has to come out.
Elliott: [You may have been delighted by Cheryl, who you met]. It's all a façade. She likes to bake cupcakes frequently. Again, the façade that she's a friendly person. And she brought them in a few weeks ago and the cupcake-to-icing ratio was so skewed, it was a huge disappointment.
Gardner: It sounds like too much icing?
Elliott: Too little icing.
Gardner: Too little icing.
Elliott: It was a sliver. You could see the cupcake through the icing.
Gardner: I see.
Elliott: So, being the honest person that I am [a core value], I let her know that I was displeased with her icing-to-cupcake ratio. I may have given her that feedback in front of a large group of people who then were not pleased with me. But Cheryl and I have a great relationship and I think it's only stronger, now, that I've shared that. But thank you, Lee. It's one of my greatest moments.
Burbage: Well, they do come in an amazing cupcake Tupperware container.
Chambers: There are three tiers, yes. And the next time Cheryl did that, she brought in varying tiers of cupcakes, so each tier had a different amount of icing for those who like less or more.
Gardner: Wow! And she is a pretty friendly person, even though Jen's trying to suggest otherwise. And that's a pretty good example. She brought in three different tiers of cupcakes. Icing-to-cupcake ratio cupcakes?
Chambers: She took the feedback.
Chambers: And I was the one who yelled at Jen in the meeting. I said, "Who would say that to Cheryl?" Just poor Jen.
Gardner: Without ending on a cupcake note, I want to go to a slightly more serious place, Jen, before we say goodbye to you. There's a lot of talk, certainly these days, about compensation when it comes to for men vs. for women. I'm conscious. We've got a couple of women around the table. A couple of men. I know it's a topic out there in the world at large. How do you think about it here at The Motley Fool, and do we have any tips or insights for people listening?
Elliott: If you're breathing -- if you have a pulse -- you have some unconscious bias built into you, and so even day-to-day, as you're doing your absolute best work, it's so important to look back on the data with the help of someone like Laura who's digging into our compensation data as we speak now.
When you're doing your best work and you think you're rewarding the right people for the right behaviors, you can look back at your data over time and see some areas where you think the data is skewed. I've got a man and a woman in the same role. One may be making more than the other and in your head you're thinking, "Well, it's because they have seven years of experience vs. five, or it's because they switched from this team and we're pacing their comp up."
But it's always helpful for us to have another set of eyes on it. To have a third party, like Laura, to come in and ask those questions because while we all think we know the story and we understand why, our goal is, obviously, to always pay equitably for the value our Fools are delivering and having a third party come in and circle with a red pen and say, "What about this area, here?" so that if there's an error we can correct it.
We're always constantly looking at our data to make sure that we are valuing the same roles, regardless of male or female. If they're introverts or extroverts. There's a whole spectrum of ways that we can view people differently. But are they delivering value? That's all we want to reward at The Fool.
Gardner: I can imagine Laura has produced, or will be, some more data whoas about compensation here at The Motley Fool. Jen, thanks a lot!
Now, I'm conscious. This is something that I'm not unconscious of. I'm conscious that we have somebody really knowledgeable about comp, here, Jen Elliott. If somebody listening at home would like to, as a fellow comp executive, get in touch with you, how would he or she do that?
Elliott: By email. My email is [email protected]. I love to talk to folks about compensation. It is a sticky topic and it's one that at the corporate level there's a lot of reasons to not share or share data, but if anyone is interested in just a general conversation or meeting up for coffee here in the D.C. area, I love to talk to people. It's a topic where the more you talk to people, the more you learn, and the more you grow. Not a huge benefit from keeping a lot of secrets. So, if someone is willing to talk to me, I'd love to share the practices we have at The Fool and learn what makes them do compensation great at their company.
Gardner: Jen, thanks for joining us!
Elliott: Thanks for having me!
Gardner: Well, we don't ever want to overstay our welcome on this podcast, so I think it's time to shut it down. I want to thank Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage for their outstanding help this week. Thank you, Kara and Lee!
Burbage: Thanks for having us!
Chambers: Thank you!
Gardner: Let me ask you both. If I wanted to learn more about the Motley Fool culture or if I wanted to reach out to the team for an insight or a connection, how would I get to know you both better?
Chambers: The hub for all this information is our site Culture.Fool.com. You can find our blog and a link to sign up for our tours. The first Friday of every month we do a tour. If you're in the D.C. area, you can sign up for that, so there's sign-ups on there. My personal Twitter is TMFKara. That's usually where I post work things.
Gardner: TMFKara on Twitter.
Burbage: And on all kinds of social media out there, if you just look for Motley Fool Culture on Instagram or Facebook, we have a great Fool, here, Lloyd [...]. He's constantly posting photos, stories, and examples of things that we're doing.
Gardner: How about one insight from each of us reflecting on this time and what we're trying to say to the world. Who's going first? Lee?
Burbage: Kara and I often get asked the question, "Hey. I hear you're doing something cool or innovative or that sounds fun, but I'm not sure that will work at my company." Or, "Wow, that sounds expensive." I think adding in some way for the people that you work with to express themselves -- something a little deeper in a way that's interesting and that causes you to ask questions and learn a little bit more about them -- is something that everybody can do, whether you're a small company or a big company, and at little to no cost. I would just say, "Hey, this is a fun one, guys. Get in the game."
Gardner: Kara, you know our core values as well as anybody, and one of them is "top it." Are you able to better what Lee just did? Can you top what Lee just put out there?
Chambers: I don't think I can top it. I can just build on it.
Burbage: This is my life most days, which is why I love Kara.
Chambers: It's something that preserves the individual we always talk about. We're 300 people. You hear about Dunbar's Number of 150. That's a community of people. Once you get bigger than that, it's hard to remember who the other people are.
Gardner: Ah, so wait. Dunbar?
Chambers: Dunbar's Number.
Gardner: So, the magic number is 150.
Chambers: Yes. It's probably the maximum number of people you can have in your community.
Gardner: And know their names.
Chambers: And know their names.
Gardner: So, once you hit 175, stuff starts breaking?
Chambers: It gets a little harder. It doesn't feel like community anymore. And so, you have to be proactive and do things to create your community. Honestly, we work with these people for seven or 10 years. I learned something new about every one of them today. So, anything that's a great conversation starter can help.
Gardner: I agree. And just thinking about The Motley Fool, as we close, we started as two brothers who knew each other pretty well; but once you start hiring a third person, and a fourth and fifth person, you start to realize not only can you be more awesome by diversifying and adding to your enterprise, but it will be even better than that if each of the people that you hire sees something in themselves as an opportunity to contribute in the culture and to add and grow the culture. Not just looking for cultural fits, which is important, but also cultural contributions.
It's been a pleasure, now, 25 years later [since it is our 24th anniversary at The Motley Fool] to have added so much motley and some of the few special people that we got to share with you today. There's a lot more behind that at this company, and I hope, and I know, in your workplace that you're valued, and I know that you benefit from hearing and learning from others.
That catchphrase, "what's your motley," y ou could just drop on anybody here at The Motley Fool if you come visit, It's a good elevator quick chat if you need something like that. You can use that in your organization, too. So, if you want to steal motley... Is this fair, Lee and Kara?
Gardner: If you want to plagiarize...
Burbage: It would make us proud.
Gardner: ...motley as one of your organization's core values, or take some of this, please feel free to do just that.