#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

How to Develop Your Organization’s “Why” with Shane Jackson

Integrate your core values into all of your business operations.

Shane Jackson is President of Jackson Healthcare, one of the largest providers of telemedicine in the country. Shane strives to improve patient care and positively impact the lives of everyone his organization touches. Tune in today as Shane discusses how he transformed his company culture by understanding its “why” and creating a positive and encouraging atmosphere.

Shane Jackson portrait

“Most lessons are caught, not taught.”

—Shane Jackson

37. How to Develop Your Organization’s “Why” with Shane Jackson

Key Takeaways

  • Culture can be integrated into your organization when everyone understands why you do what you do.
  • There must be a universal and fundamental understanding of your culture, your purpose and core values.
  • Leaders must exemplify the culture in all they do, from hiring to managing teams.

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Shane Jackson serves as president of Jackson Healthcare and is the primary guiding force for its mission of improving the delivery of patient care and the lives of everyone it touches. Since assuming this role in 2014, he has consistently led the organization of 16 healthcare staffing, search and technology companies to growth of more than double the industry average, crossing the billion-dollar annual revenue mark in 2018. Prior to his current position, he was president of LocumTenens.com, Patient Placement Systems and NextStart Capital.

Shane is an advocate for the power of business leaders as a positive force for people and the community. He is a speaker on the conference circuit and frequently writes on the topic of intentionally nurturing a values-based culture. In 2018, he published Fostering Culture: A Leader’s Guide to Purposely Shaping Culture, his first book chronicling his philosophy on workplace culture.

“Culture is the atmosphere that results from the decisions that a group makes in trying to accomplish its purpose.”

—Shane Jackson

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group, an award-winning California based facility management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

Welcome to the BeBetter podcast! Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learned as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to Be Better?

Michael Kurland (00:02):

Welcome to another episode of the Be Better podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Shane Jackson, President of Jackson Healthcare. Shane, welcome to the show. Tell the audience a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Shane Jackson (00:21):

Good to see you again. Thanks for having me here. My company, Jackson Healthcare, we are in the business of making sure that patients have access to healthcare wherever they are. We do that through a number of ways. We have doctors, nurses, therapists, clinicians of any kind who work for us in facilities. We’re in all 50 states, somewhat internationally. We have technology solutions that we offer- outsource management solutions. We’re one of the largest providers of telemedicine in the country. We do a lot of things. At the end of the day, we take care of people every day when they’re sick. It’s a pretty great business to be a part of.

Michael Kurland (01:13):

Thank you for coming on the show. I’m sure you guys have been really busy during this past year with the pandemic and COVID. Talk a little bit about that. Give a little insight on that and then we’ll dive into what we wanted to talk about here.

Shane Jackson (01:32):

Every single person and the last 15 months have been life changing and crazy in its own way for us in healthcare and in our business in particular. It’s had its own unique set of challenges and rewards. We have cared for COVID patients in all 50 states. There were times, especially during the biggest surges, where we were just sending people like crazy into places like New York City last spring and really evolved into places all over the country. It has been very, very busy for our internal team. It’s been a lot of nights and weekends and little vacation and little respite. Very stressful, but that is secondary compared to our great doctors and nurses and everyone who had been out taking care of these patients. If you think about what’s happened to all of us over the last 15 months in our uncertainty and sometimes fear of what is happening with COVID and if you think about all the great doctors and nurses that are putting themselves in harm’s way to take care of these patients, even at times when they really didn’t understand this disease. For our doctors and nurses, they’re traveling to other places to do this. They are going into a place where they’re separated from their family and their friends, staying in a hotel or an apartment or something by themselves, going into work every day with people that they don’t know because there were so many sick COVID patients there. We have heroic people that are part of our team. I’m very grateful to them. As challenging as the last year has been, it’s frankly been an honor to support them as they do the great work that they’ve done.

Michael Kurland 03:43):

I think you touched on a lot of great things there. Fifteen months of just uncertainty and fear, and it’s been such an up and down rollercoaster ride. We’re employing the people on the front lines that are running into like the old civil war days where the armies would just run at each other and to try to battle. They were doing it head on into COVID, and they have no idea what they’re really even battling. They did that to save other people’s lives, so that’s very selfless and amazing. Thank you for you and your company.

I think this is a good segue because I wanted to have you on the show because you’re known as someone who’s a culture guru. You wrote a book called Fostering Culture. Obviously, you’ve got to have people that are willing to go to war against the disease that they don’t even know. You have to have a good culture. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Let’s talk about your book. Let’s start there.

Shane Jackson (04:52):

I like that term culture guru. We were talking earlier about people that have really interesting titles. I need to change mine from President to Culture Guru.

Michael Kurland (05:02):

That’s what I thought you might go with [Laughter].

Shane Jackson (05:05):

Absolutely. I have to tell you, Michael, this is relatively new for me. This journey that I went on of really trying to understand culture was frankly not really purposeful. It was done a little bit out of fear. Our company was started in 2000. My father founded our company and invited me in to help him start it back in 2000. About 7 years ago in 2014, we were in the midst of tremendous growth. He asked me to come and step into the President role. He was ready to get out of the day-to-day operations of the business and asked me to step in, which I did. Our business for years has won lots of awards for Great Place to Work®, has tremendous levels of associate engagement and internal Net Promoter Scores. One of healthiest places to work. All these things. We would hear and talk about all the time about the great culture of our company. People would walk in to meet with me to do an interview, and they would say, “Man, I can feel the culture when I walked in your building.” It was something we thought about and talked about a lot. Then one day, this was probably mid-2014, I had been in this role for probably less than six months. I was somewhere giving a speech. After the speech, I took questions. I do not even remember what the speech was about, but I remember very clearly one question that I got. Someone said, “You guys have such a great business. Can you describe the culture of your company now?” Now, Michael, I’m a fairly well-spoken guy. I like to think I can talk about just any topic. I was stumped. There’s probably 250 people in this audience, and I had no idea how to answer that question. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I stammered through it somehow and talked about the good building we have and the game room. All that kind of stuff. I remember driving back to my office after that going, “How in the world can I sustain our culture through this growth that we’re going through this leadership transition with my father? Through all of this, how can I sustain our culture if I don’t even know what our culture is? I can’t even describe it.” Then it made me realize; it’s not just because I can’t describe our culture. It’s because I fundamentally don’t understand what culture is. What causes it? What drives it? How it’s created. If I’m going to lead us through this transition and all the growth we’re going through and sustain our culture, I need to fundamentally understand that. That’s what really started me on this journey of trying to understand this topic.

Michael Kurland (08:23):

This is the reason why I’m so happy you’re on the show is we have a lot of parallels. We’ve also won ‘Great Place to Work®’ and a bunch of awards. They’re great, and they’re all voted on by the people. One thing that stuck out to me was I was watching, pre-show, one of your clips on LinkedIn. They person said, “You can feel the culture when you walk in the room,” and you were like what does that even mean? You have to pause for a second. We’re known for our culture. We got the game room. We don’t have any offices anymore currently, [Laughter], but we do have the game room and the beanbag chairs and all that stuff and the awards. They’re all great, but what does that even mean? It made me pause for a second and really think. I thought that was such a great question.
Tell me more. You started really doing this deep dive, and where did that lead you? What was the next steps?

Shane Jackson (09:23):

For me, I just read a lot. That’s what I like to do. I’m don’t watch a lot of TV, and I’m probably not going to get into a good conversation about whatever the latest Netflix show is. I like to read. I thought, somebody has thought through this. Somebody has figured this out. I started going on Amazon, ordering books, and reading the executive summaries. What I’ve learned is that there’s a lot- at least back then- there was a lot that had been written about types of cultures. If you want to have a winning culture. If you want to have an innovative culture. If you want to have a culture of quality, safety. All of them presupposed that you fundamentally understand what culture is. The only book I found that explained what culture is and where it came from was literally a textbook. Man, it was thick. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I thought, “Look. If I’m going to be able to understand this myself, I’ve got to kind of dumb it down. If I’m going to be able to explain to others, then it has to be done in a way that people kind of get it.” That actually was the genesis of the book that I wrote a few years ago that you mentioned called Fostering Culture.I’ll talk more about that. Basically, what it led me on was kind of exploring, starting before you even get to a corporate culture, just cultures in general- communities, nations, peoples. Where does that come from? The net of it that got me to was this: My definition of culture is the atmosphere that results from the decisions that a group makes in trying to accomplish its purpose. Atmosphere: The results from the decisions that a group makes. The actions that it takes to accomplish its purpose. There’s a lot in that, and I’ll try to unpack it quickly.

First of all, I like this word atmosphere because it’s just like you talked about. You walk into our building and you feel it. We hear this when you’re watching a big sporting event, and the announcer says, “The atmosphere is electric in here.” What does it feel like to be a part of that group? All that comes from the collective actions of the group. The things that they do, that they don’t do in trying to accomplish its purpose. Every group has a purpose. You only join a group because that group has some purpose that you have as well. Something you want to accomplish that you can’t do alone, and so you do it as a part of that group. That’s the only reason you join a group. You wouldn’t otherwise. When you talk about culture in your company- and you don’t realize it- it’s when you hear things like this: Someone new comes in and you said, “Let me show you how we do that,” or you say, “We would never do that here,” or “This is how we do things.” It’s all the things that you do. You don’t do the choices you make, and you don’t make any. There is no decision, and there’s no action that’s exempt from this.

When we think about culture, we think often that it’s just about interpersonal. How we talk to each other. How we deal with each other. That’s part of it, but it’s everything. It’s strategy. It’s how you deal with your customers. The way that a business chooses to handle a problem with a customer says more about their culture than almost anything they do. That interaction creates this atmosphere of understanding, “This is the way we do things and the way that we don’t do things.” That’s true not just in companies but with any organization. That was my definition of culture.

Michael Kurland (13:31):

I think that that’s a great definition. I am not as well-versed in what actual culture is, and you’ve made me pause because I like to consider myself a culture guru. You’ve made me reflect and say, “What can I learn more about culture so that I can make sure our culture keeps going forward?” I feel like it’s the breath. If you can think of the office as a breathing, living thing. When you walk in, is it tight? Are people whispering in tight breath or are they breathing these big, deep heaping breaths because they want to breathe in that fresh air? I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone, but that’s kind of how I metaphorically think of it.

Shane Jackson (14:20):

I like that.

Michael Kurland (14:20):

I really liked what you said about the decisions you make because I just had this happen with one of our clients. One of our clients was calling, and they were berating one of our customer service people. It was a continuous thing. It finally got to me. I guess it was small, small, small, and then it continuously happened. It worked its way up the chain to me. I told the salesperson who runs the account, I said, “You call them, and you set up a meeting. You tell them if this person continues to berate… We’re the service provider. They’re the client. The customer’s always right, but not in this case. I said, “You call them, and you tell them if this continues, we will no longer accept the work from this person.” I think that now everyone hears that and sees that that’s kind of, “Look at what the boss just did. He had our back, and he made the right decision. He didn’t just make the money decisions. He made the right decision. Those thoughts came to mind. I don’t want to get you off topic. I want you to keep going.

Shane Jackson (15:27):

That’s great. Both of the points you just made. I liked that imagery of breathing. Are we kind of keeping quiet? Are we going here? I love that imagery. In the story you told, that has so many important aspects to it from a cultural perspective. What just happened that you as a leader demonstrating that. First of all, the next time something comes up like that and you’re not around, people go, “Hey, you know what? We stick up for each other here, and we respect each other, even if it’s going to hurt a customer relationship.” That’s what was taught to them, and they understand now this how we do things. This is how we act around here. It’s a perfect example of the kind of thing that establishes that atmosphere and how we do things.

Here’s what I would tell you, too, that I think it further exemplifies. When I got to this point of saying, “Now I understand this is what culture is.” It was still kind of dissatisfying, though. I get it. There was a bigger question that loomed in my mind, which was, “The culture is how we do things and how that makes us feel,” but why do we do the things we do? Why do we make the choices we make? Why do two groups, two companies, who are in the exact same business make different choices? You have competitors that do the same thing you do. I have competitors that do the same thing that I do. We’re faced with the same questions, such as how are we going to go to market? How are we going to structure our services? How are we going to price, and who are we going to hire? We all face the same questions, but we make different choices on that. What causes two companies in the same business to make different choices? What I came to is it is based on the collective values and beliefs of that group. It truly starts with the leaders. You have these values, these principles that hold such great worth to you that they motivate and drive actions. You also have these beliefs, these things that you just think work, that are true. You’ve just learned. The combination of those things drive your actions. What I love about that story you just told about defending your customer service person, even from a customer where you may lose money based on this decision, is it betrayed the value that you have in the worth of that person. They may just be a customer service person but that does not mean they’re not worthy of respect, even from a customer. That’s what drove it. For me, saying, “If I can figure out what those core values and beliefs are and I can make sure people in our organization understand them, then they’ll understand how to handle all these other situations to come, even when I’m not there.”

Michael Kurland (18:46):

Exactly. When you’re not there. It’s we don’t stand for this or we don’t do things like that. That’s what you said in the beginning. I like it a lot.

When we were talking before, we talked a lot about how you started trying to figure out when you took over and what led you up to writing the book. Let’s talk about writing the book and what that book is. Let’s get that out there for the audience.

Shane Jackson (19:16):

The purpose of the book was to do exactly what I just said. It was written for the leaders in our organization to do two things: First of all, to help them understand what culture is. Where it comes from. All the things I just talked about, so that they understood their role as a leader in shaping and fostering the culture. The second part of the book is laying out those things. These are values, these are beliefs, and understanding how they apply those. The book was really written for an internal audience. After I wrote it and shared it with some other people who were outside of business, they said, “This has actually got some value to us.” We put it up for sale on Amazon, and one or two other people have read it outside of the company as well. [Both laugh] Hopefully it is valuable, and I would invite anyone listening, you’re welcome to go buy it. All the proceeds of it go to charity. I think you’ll find it valuable, but it wasn’t written for you. It was written for our leaders.

Michael Kurland (20:28):

That’s great, so you took almost a manifesto, if you will, and wrote it then it turned into a book because it had so much good information. Thank you for sharing that.

One thing we talked about earlier, and that you mentioned, how do you get from you taking over from your father, the company is growing exponentially. How do you keep the culture in line? When we talked pre-show, I was telling you my goal for this year. Audience, I’ll share that with you, too. We just hired 30 new people. We have employees in 13 states now. I haven’t met probably 90% of the people that don’t live in California. My goal this year is to travel to every state and have lunch or dinner with all the people. I’m hoping that I can gather them all in one place. I actually just got back from South Carolina this past week and did that with my South Carolina crew. You said you’re in 50 states and international. How do you maintain that culture? How does that culture stick with the company and get out of the four walls of your office and into the virtual world? Let’s talk about that.

Shane Jackson (21:49):

It’s a challenge, and this was the particular challenge that I was faced with. Think about how this happens when the group is smaller. If you think about your company when you were first starting, and it was probably a few of you, maybe working out of your basement or whatever. How does this happen then and how does it happen in any culture or any group, including maybe your family? There’s two primary ways that culture is spread. The first is observation. I have a whole chapter on this in the book. There’s a great quote from my dad that I’ve totally stolen where he says, “Most lessons are caught, not taught,” meaning we don’t learn nearly as much from someone lecturing or whatever as we do of just observing and being around other people. If you think about growing up, even as a kid, the way you learned to interact with people, the way all that is from watching your parents. It was from seeing how your friends played and all that sort of thing. It’s interacting, and that happens in companies, too. Back to the story that you told, those people hearing that interaction that you had and the dialogue around the customer. That imprinted on them. That’s how most culture is spread. It’s from observing. We don’t even realize. We’re not purposely trying to teach our kids or our friends culture. It just happens because that’s the way it works. The second way is through what I call lore, which is the power of storytelling. If you think about as a kid, you heard these stories, “Your grandfather when he came into this country” or “Your great uncle was a slave and that’s why even today, we still…” Those sorts of things. That is hugely, hugely important inside of a business. It’s those stories. The power of storytelling.

One time, I was meeting with a group of our new leaders. There were several of them in the room, and all of them had been there three to six months. They came to meet with me, and I was asking them this question, “How do you feel like you’ve been onboarded, integrated, into the culture?” There were varying levels of it. One person said, “I feel like I have such great contact. I feel like it’s been amazing.” I said, “Why? He said, “Because every day for my first several weeks, I would go to my boss’ office at the end of the day, and she would just tell me stories. She would tell me about this client that they had years ago, and now that’s why we have this policy. She would tell me about this time. She would just tell me stories.” He said,” I just feel like I have so much color now around why we do what we do.” That’s how it happens. Storytelling is so powerful. The question is: how do you do that at scale? How do you let someone observe behaviors when they can’t be around the CEO or they’re just not there all the time? That’s kind of the process we went through as part of the purpose behind the book but then it was the source of a lot of training and very purposeful time with our leaders to make sure they had that understanding and context. Then putting in structure, as weird as it sounds, putting in structure and purpose and discipline to make sure that we were giving people the time to be around others and observed behaviors and also to hear and be exposed all those great stories.

Michael Kurland (25:48):

You brought up a really great point. From what I just heard, the culture is ingrained in your training, at least for your upper levels.

Shane Jackson (25:59):


Michael Kurland (26:00):

How much time in their training do you spend on culture would you say? Just a rough guesstimate?

Shane Jackson (26:06):

For me, I don’t differentiate culture from the inherent running of the business. We have a lot of people that we bring in entry-level. They’re one to two years out of school, and we’re teaching them how to spell healthcare. All that sort of thing. We very quickly get into here’s how you do this; here’s how you interact with this customer; when you’re dealing with this doctor, here’s how this works. What I would say that we try to do, even in that time, is a cultural training because what we’re trying to do is help them understand the reasons behind why they do it that way. We’re not just telling them what to do. We’re saying, “Here’s why we do it.” We try to incorporate storytelling a lot into it so that they understand because we can’t train them for every single thing that’s going to happen. If we can train them on the why behind it then that gets there. I would say those concepts in culture are incorporated into everything we do, including from day one new-hire orientation.

Michael Kurland (27:14):

I think that was one of the biggest- I don’t want to call it a shift- but I think it was one of the biggest eye-opening things for us when we really focused in and put a lot of resources into our training program. The culture just became ingrained in that training program. To your point, I don’t think there’s a specific amount of time that’s spent. I think it’s the whole time is spent on the culture because it’s ingrained in everything that we do. I really agree with you. Great answer on that. This has been a great conversation.

I want to ask you: what’s one thing that you do as this culture guru that you feel has really been something different? That’s a differentiator for your culture? For your people? What’s something you do for the people out there listening, give them a little bird’s eye view into something that’s really cool that you do that’s culture driven.

Shane Jackson (28:10):

There’s one thing that comes to mind there. This was a few years ago. I was meeting with a group of our talent acquisition people that hire and bring new people in our company. It’s always hard to find great people, and we were talking about that. Specifically, they were asking me this question, they said, “How do we identify people that are going to be cultural fits?” They said, “Give us the questions to ask,” and so we talked about that. There are some. There are questions you can ask in interviews that help pull out these different values and that sort of thing. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to find people that identify at some core level with your values and beliefs. If they do that then they’re going be a cultural fit. Then I turn it back to him. I said, “You know what would make it way easier for us to identify people in the interview process are going to be cultural fits who identify with our values is if everyone who applied identified with our values.” If that were the case, our batting average would go way up because it would be all of them. They’re looking at me like, “What’s your point?” I said, “Here’s the deal: we want people before even they apply to our company to have such clarity about what our values and beliefs are and know that we’re deadly serious about them. If that sounds foreign to them, if that is not something that’s for them, they don’t even ever apply.” The reverse of that is if people find out about it and they say, “Whoa, that sounds like me.” They’re going to be pursuing this like crazy. One of the things that we started doing is changing the way we even present ourselves and the information that we give to even perspective applicants, to be like, “Hey, before you come work here, you got to know this is what we’re about because it’s not for everybody.” That has helped as well.

Michael Kurland (30:19):

I couldn’t agree more. We do a lot of volunteerism through Branded Group. You don’t have to, but it is highly, highly encouraged. When we do the interview process, we talk about it. We just make sure that they know it’s highly encouraged. I’m sure some people have said, “I don’t want to give up my weekends to volunteer.”  It’s not like we do that every weekend, but “I don’t want to give up my time to volunteer.”  I’m sure those people probably didn’t apply to round two or whatever the case would be.

Shane, this has been a great conversation about culture. I’ve really enjoyed having you on the show. If the audience wants to get ahold of you, how can they do so?

Shane Jackson (31:04):

The best way is on LinkedIn. You can follow me on LinkedIn or connect. About once a month or so, I put out something out on LinkedIn. Something I’m thinking about or considering or something that’s going on inside our company that I think may be helpful. I’d love to connect there.

Michael Kurland (31:24):

Great. Thank you again for coming on the show. Audience, until next time.

Thank you for tuning in! I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There is no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform.

To learn more Branded Group’s “Be Better” experience and national facility services, visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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