What are you Screwing Up?

What are you Screwing Up?

After seeing Kristen Hadeed speak at the Wellness Council of Wisconsin’s annual conference last fall, I had to dig deeper and read her book Permission to Screw Up. Inspired by a pair of jeans that she couldn’t afford as a poor college student, Kristen, through ad an in the paper to clean houses for cash, came to run a successful student-based cleaning company called Student Maid. Let me clarify…she runs a company where college students are lining up to clean other people’s toilets.

As you can imagine, Kristen piqued my interest in a few ways…

First, she wore ripped jeans, a t-shirt and a ponytail on stage for her keynote. It’s not the ripped jeans that got me, but that she felt confident in being herself onstage. You might say ripped jeans are unprofessional. So I ask you: What’s your own version of ripped jeans? What do you wish you could wear more of, do more of, say more of to be yourself? Do it. Because Kristen will wear ripped jeans whether you like it or not, and that’s the whole point.

The second thing that piqued my interest about Kristen is that she fully embraced her knack for screwing up. Kristen screwed up big things like accidentally overpaying huge sums on payroll and doing keg stands at her house with her own employees. Through each screw-up, she’s learned great lessons about business, leadership and life through powering through decisions she’d made and actions she’d taken on her own.

But HOW?

In reading Kristen’s book, I noted major similarities between her approach and that of humanworks. Perhaps that means we’re cool and successful too. And/or perhaps that means we’ve also screwed up a lot…

Core Values

“[Core Values] are a written representation of our culture.”

Sometimes it can be REALLY HARD to work with humans. Enter core values. They aren’t the end-all, be-all and there’s a lot of work to do once you have them, but defining your organization’s core values is the first thing you should do when you start, when you re-brand or when you recognize that a refresh would do your people and your business some good. Kristen was inspired by companies like Zappos, so Student Maid created ten core values that are plastered around their office. And it’s more than posters. To bring core values to life, we’re talking an overhaul, or a revitalization at the least, of your people touchpoints, from attracting and hiring talent to leadership training to performance management processes. To bring core values to life, they must be…lived.


“Our goal is for you to leave the company better leaders than you were when you started.”

When you’re hiring college students to clean houses, you’ll take what you can get, right? Wrong! Student Maid filters candidates to find the right fit. It’s like the practice humanworks has adopted from Gino Wickman’s Traction: Right Person, Right Seat.

Student Maid prides itself on being open and honest with candidates, so much so that it creates a document with insight from current employees, featuring the good, the bad and the ugly about working at Student Maid. Isn’t it funny how you have a few short conversations and see a small conference room when you interview? Then BAM – there you are, making a decision on whether this is the right place for you to spend 40+ hours each week for the foreseeable future. Starting a job is a big deal, so the more vetting done on both ends up front, the better chance both the employer and the candidate have at finding the right fit. And it’s worth it to mention…not every company is for everyone, and it’s okay. It’s okay to find that you’re not the right fit. Find a company that aligns with you core values and a role that best fits your skills and instincts. That’s best for both parties.

People Practices

“Policies are for the people, not the company.”

In reading about Student Maid’s people practices, I liked that there were definable and unique notions this company not only put into place, but practices regularly among everyone without hesitation. The way in which Student Maid employees deliver feedback to each other is something to be celebrated. It’s covered in orientation. It’s practiced in reviews. It’s expected of everyone – from a rookie to an executive. It’s not the way that matters (you’ll have to read the book for all the details), it’s the fact that it’s the Student Maid Way. It’s part of their operations. The same goes for their in-person practice when it comes to important conversations. It’s the Student Maid Way to communicate live and in-person when it comes to delivering critical feedback or important news. There’s no tolerance for hiding behind screens.

What “ways” does your organization have? Is there a way you run meetings? A way you show appreciation? A way you interview? What I’m loving about being part of the humanworks team is our ability to work with different types of organizations to develop their way. I’m drawn to these conversations because every company is unique, and helping them define, create and celebrate “their way” …that’s how work should be.

How do we get there?

These practices were put into place after roadblocks, hiccups and screw-ups. Making mistakes isn’t a catchy angle that Kristen pursues to sell more books – It’s the way Student Maid operates, right down to its customer feedback surveys.

Take it straight from the Student Maid website: “And that’s what we’re all about: learning from our mistakes so that we can grow and become better together.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

What are YOU screwing up right now?

…Keep it up.