Creating Healthy, Inclusive Cultures that Scale: Mikaela Kiner Insights-Part 2

Last week we had an opportunity to sit down and speak with Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO of Seattle-based people operations consultancy Reverb. She gave us a preview of her upcoming book, Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace. Today, Mikaela shares more about how Reverb helps companies build healthy, inclusive cultures to engage and inspire employees.

Thanks again for your time, Mikaela. Let’s talk about your company, Reverb, for a moment. You’ve worked with some of our most iconic brands like Microsoft and Amazon, but what pushed you to start and build your own business?

I always say there was both a push and a pull. Part of the prompt was to be able to do what leaders need and when they need it. That’s much easier as a consultant. Where a big company might spend three months going through their performance review process, a startup can design it, launch it and be done with it in three weeks. That was a breath of fresh air!

But the other pull for me was that in 2014 I was certified as an executive coach. When I went into my last job at Redfin, they were fantastic. I had a coaching practice and they were completely accepting. But when I stepped back and realized that if coaching was what I saw myself doing for the next 15 or 20 years, then I should probably make a more significant change that allows me the time to invest in myself and grow as a coach. In addition to running and growing Reverb today, the only client-facing work I do is some executive coaching. And I’ve continued to do that this entire time.

How can our community tap into Reverb’s services to create healthy and inclusive cultures at their companies?

We’ve worked with companies as small as two: two founders wanting to start early in thinking how are we going to pay people, how are we going to make sure that we have a feedback culture, how are we going to set up our job descriptions, and things like that. So we can work with teams from super small to any size organization. There really no limit.

We often come into growing startups when they have little to no HR infrastructure. Maybe they don’t have policies or processes in place, they haven’t thought about professional development. Maybe they’re early stage and haven’t thought about those things yet. We can step in and run HR on a part-time basis until they’re ready for full-time help.

We do have free resources on our website, including a free employee handbook template. You can always download and customize that template, which is a good place to get started. We also do a series of manager training workshops that we host at Galvanize. If smaller organizations can’t bring training into their organizations, but if they want to get some practical hands-on training and build a network of peers from other Seattle startups, the workshops are a great way to do that. And we also do one-on-one coaching for individuals and leaders.


Speaking of community. You spend a lot of time giving back to our community? How to you juggle it all?

It is hard to make time. My team would probably tell you that I give away a lot of time. They may think that sometimes it’s too much time. But I’m a big believer in the five-minute favor. I just read Adam Grant’s book on this and I’m so glad someone put a name to this. If I can help someone through a quick meeting or a favor, I’m always happy to do it.

But I did just get smarter on how I do it. I stole this tip from Shannon Anderson at Madrona Venture Group where she said she allocates one day per month and that’s her networking day. So now if it’s something like that, where it’s a little more of a favor or advice, that’s where I schedule those meetings. I just did that earlier this week for the first time. For me that feels like a really good balance – I want to be helpful but also have to remind myself that I have a day job to do as well.

That’s really great advice. I may have to steal Shannon’s tip as well. Thank you so much for your time again today, Mikaela. We look forward to hearing from you at tonight’s Diversity & Women in Tech event! (Galvanize Seattle, 111 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104)

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