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17 Nov 2020

How do you create a workplace with no fear and no politics in a high-profile company with 1,000+ employees?

Natalie Green

“We’re on the precipice of something massive if we choose to step forward.”

– Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer, VaynerMedia

Gary Vaynerchuk may be the face of VaynerMedia, but Claude Silver is the heart (it’s right there in her title).

VaynerMedia is the creative digital communications agency founded by Gary V (as he is known) who has also found worldwide acclaim with his mastery of YouTube. He is considered to be one of the biggest social influencers on the planet.

Since its inception in 2009, VaynerMedia has enjoyed phenomenal growth and become a global force to be reckoned with thanks in no small part to 1,000+ thousand employees working (virtually) from offices in New York, LA, London and Singapore.

As Chief Heart Officer, Claude Silver is the company’s purveyor of Emotional Optimism, a tool she uses to bring out the greatness in each one of them. Ahead of her keynote speech at the HR Innovation & Tech Fest, she talks about working for Gary V, what it means to be ‘professional’ today, and creating a workplace with no fear or politics.

Claude SilverWho came up with your title?

Claude: Gary did. He’s just a phenomenally creative guy. After a year at Vayner, I told him that I was done with the business of advertising and when he asked me what I wanted to do, I told him ‘I only care about the heartbeat of this place’. We use the word ‘heart’ a quite a bit when we talk about humans in the organisation – and he said, ‘that’s it! You’re coming back as chief heart officer’. I knew it made sense because that’s who I am – I’ve always been that person – a coach, a team player and a cheerleader.

What does it mean to be the heart officer at a company so large?

It’s a lot of responsibility in terms of making sure I’m in contact with everyone. Obviously, I can’t be in contact with a thousand people a day, so I have to make sure people feel a psychological safety - like there’s a place here for them. The way I do that is by scaling myself. I’ve had 10 different one-on-ones today and I know that approximately half of them will take that conversation back to their teams and  suggest to new people or other team members ‘hey, why don’t you spend some time with Claude’. The other way I scale is there are people who have been in the agency longer than I have and they really understand the DNA. They understand the religion here; they understand kindness. They understand what we say when we tell them we want to create a place where there is no fear and no politics, and they put that in the water stream.


How do you address mental wellness at VaynerMedia?

Mental wellness and mental wellbeing are super important when looking at the whole human. While none of us here are psychologists or MDs, it’s important that we have the tools and resources that allow our humans to get help when they are in need. We offer meditation twice a week, as well as physical fitness training via Zoom, different programs for kids (for parents that are now at home with their kids) and every single person in the company has access to a coaching platform.


Many people, when they hear the name VaynerMedia, immediately think of Gary. How do you create a sense of ownership and pride in the work by people in the company not named Gary Vaynerchuk?

That is a really good question. Vayner will always be associated with Gary. However, so much of the work that we are doing for brands is out there in the world and people don’t know it’s Vayner. The work itself is starting to speak for itself and for the people that are creating the work. When you give people autonomy and the space to be their best and to brainstorm and to bring in their own curiosity, that has nothing to do with Gary, that has everything to do with them. It’s all about setting people up to succeed.


Your talk at the Tech Fest is about bringing humanity into the workplace. Why is now such a good time for that?

By the way, a good time for that is all the time. For instance, you and I are communicating right now over a screen and so it isn’t as easy to feel one another’s energy, so it means you lean in more. You lean in to vulnerability to being more real, to sharing how long it’s been since you’ve been out to conversing about how many different ways you’ve made chicken for dinner or whatever. You bring who you are to work. This is the time to put our egos aside and take care of the ‘we’.

I wonder if the notion of ‘professionalism’ changing ...

Yes. We’re getting people away from being machines. I see all these people on Zoom and we all take up the same size square. If you look at any business publication right now, they’re all talking about empathetic leadership and about leaders being more authentic. I feel like there is a massive change now where we’re turning towards what is human. We’re on the precipice of something massive if we choose to step forward.

What is the biggest lesson you will take from 2020?

The biggest lesson for me is around diversity, equality and inclusion and how incredibly serious that is. When you get it wrong, you really get it wrong and there’s all different ways to find right. So, the biggest learning for me is making sure that we are all on the same train looking for right together and we’re not participating in wrong.


Don’t miss the opportunity to see Claude Silver give her keynote - Bringing Humanity into the Workplace - at the HR Innovation & Tech Fest - DIGITAL.










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