The Era Recap: Superpowered Employee Development from Anywhere

Your people have the most potential for helping your workplace succeed. But to realize that potential, employers need to focus on two practices: empowering employees to recognize hidden strengths they can develop, and connecting employees to the organization no matter where they do their work.

In this pair of episodes, Sandy Gould, Chief People Officer at Callisto Media, and LJ Brock, Chief People Officer at Coinbase, explore these keys to keeping employees engaged and helping your organization become stronger because of it.

Join us as we go over:

Sandy Gould: Empowering Employees to Find Their Superpower

Employee empowerment is a relatively new concept. The traditional leadership method involves a manager exerting control over employees and making sure they finish their work, whether it’s through in-person oversight at the office or intensive check-ins for remote workers. Unfortunately, this low-trust approach leads to low employee morale and “quiet quitting”—employees checking out mentally without physically leaving their jobs. If you want people to thrive at your company, then your leaders need to inspire employees instead of coercing them.

Sandy Gould shares his origin story, why he advocates for empowering employees to find and use their superpowers, and why leaders should co-design their company's culture with their employees.

While people may not be able to control the weather, save the day with super strength, or soar through the sky, every single person on this planet has unique abilities. Unfortunately, most aren’t aware of their own potential.

“I have to help people be human and unique, and be a champion for their individuality, and then show them how when they collaborate and create off of their diversity and their difference, they can really change the world together.” –Sandy Gould

According to Sandy, people often have experiences at a young age that spark their passion, and these experiences then start individuals on the path to investing in that passion and expanding their abilities.

While businesses can’t travel back in time to mentor employees during childhood, there are many actions leaders can take today to empower their employees in recognizing and developing their capabilities, which are essential for success in life and in business:

  1. Building superpower awareness
  2. Encouraging people to dig inward
  3. Discovering and tapping into personal missions
  4. Offering an outlet for people’s capabilities that drives creativity and success

Fostering each employee’s abilities is vital for organizational success, but you also must ensure that the right people have been chosen for employment.

Recognizing Superpowers in Your Search for Talent

The competitive landscape of modern employment no longer relies solely on a hierarchy of hard skills. According to Sandy, hard skills are perhaps one of the least important factors to consider during hiring decisions. As long as a less-practiced candidate meets the basic capabilities the job demands, someone with higher levels of passion and adaptability will provide more growth than someone with more on-paper experience.

When employees are enabled to recognize and grow their capabilities, their adaptability, perseverance, and passion will fuel organizational success. So even when organizations hire ideal employees, leaders must also work to offer this continuous enablement. The best way to do so is through co-developing, according to Sandy.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging and How They Differ

“If you're doing something on your own, you're missing out on the collaborative value that transforms the world and a company.” –Sandy Gould

According to Sandy, people’s diversity and differences are some of the most significant sources of purpose in ir their lives. Very little would matter without the value that diversity brings to life, business, and everyday thinking and processes.

Sandy offers a deep dive into each factor and establishes why they are so essential to incorporate into all levels of a business.


How each person is different, how they think and function, and their various superpowers lie at the heart of diversity. However, for a business to truly enable diversity, it must celebrate those differences and allow people to contribute and collaborate unhindered. The next three principles help make that goal a reality.


For equity to exist, all employees should be offered equal opportunities and the resources that allow them to take advantage of those opportunities. Some employees may need more support to better participate in the organization and to grow their own capabilities.

“In business, where we're trying to innovate every day, different thinking is the most important thing we will do to drive that outcome. We do it with diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging.” –Sandy Gould


Inclusion requires a conscious decision to appreciate, value, and respect each employee, their ideas, and their input throughout work processes. Inclusion in action happens when employees can safely reach out to stakeholders and other coworkers to co-design strategies and approaches, helping everyone find more growth and success in the process.


Contrary to popular belief, belonging is not the same as inclusion. While an employer can make efforts to include employees, it’s up to each employee to decide whether they belong. For individuals to feel they belong, their ideas must be heard, implemented, or transacted. People should feel that they are valued and that they matter in the functioning of the organization.

Catch the full conversation with Sandy Gould.

Listen Now

LJ Brock: Strategic Trust Building for Virtual Work

HR professionals know that employee experience is a key driver to business success, but our work life has changed drastically over the last few years. As a result, building trust and connection—both key to the employee experience—takes overcoming major hurdles in this new virtual and hybrid work landscape.

Companies that are now remote-first have unlocked a seemingly unlimited talent pool — but if we, as HR professionals, can’t cultivate an optimal experience for our workforce, can we really hope to sustain this change?

LJ Brock joins guest host Anita Grantham, Head of HR at BambooHR, to discuss how freeing people to do good work remotely still requires working within a framework.

For LJ, being a remote-first company presents an excellent opportunity to craft an adaptable framework and use what he calls, “efficient execution.” In addition, he shares insight into Coinbase’s journey to finding success as one of the early adopters of flexible working strategies through the pandemic.

Building Innovative Employee Experience and People Programs

Without a central hub or a shared physical environment, building culture and connections across an organization can be challenging. Still, it’s well worth it: employee experience and workplace culture are crucial pieces of employee satisfaction, retention, business growth, and success.

Over the past few years, HR leaders in every industry have faced the challenge of building and maintaining the kind of culture that could be experienced across an entire organization, regardless of employees’ physical location. As one of the early adopters of remote-first, the HR team at Coinbase found the path to success through trial and error. According to LJ, defining your company goals is the first step in establishing successful employee experience and people programs.

“Don’t do things just because they are considered best practice,” LJ explains. “Figure out what you’re trying to achieve, then design programs that enable your people to meet those goals.”

But even with the best people programs, businesses still need one thing to ensure an optimal employee experience—trust.

“We've got to make sure that we continue to build trust between teams, between senior leaders and managers, and individual contributors, between cross-functional partners. If we don't build trust, we won't be as effective as a company. ” –LJ Brock

Trust is most easily built in person where face-to-face interactions are commonplace. Providing the same communication context is a challenge in remote and hybrid workplaces. However, you can help build trust in these non-traditional environments by
ensuring people are frequently connected through video conferencing and meetings.

Facilitating in-person interactions can also be powerful for building employee experience if you have the resources. For example, Coinbase created a program that acts as an in-house travel agency to ensure a certain percentage of employees were getting together for in-person interaction and collaboration regularly.

Problem-Solving Instead of People-Pleasing

According to LJ, one of the biggest mistakes that leaders and HR make is trying to do it all. “People-pleasing is like Mission Impossible,” he says. “We're not trying to be everything to everyone. We're trying to be our best selves, so when people do opt in, they can have really great careers.”

“I think often in our role, no matter what size our employee base is, from 100 to 1000 to 4000. We want to please everyone and make it 100% fit, and it's just not possible.”–Anita Grantham

So, rather than trying to build cultures and programs to serve everyone, businesses should assess the following:

This tailored approach should be adapted throughout the organization and employment lifecycle, LJ recommends, starting with leadership.

Management focus should extend beyond developing the business. A heavy focus should also be on enabling employees to hone their skills. “The holy grail of employee experience is development,” LJ says.

Balancing Remote-First Work Culture for Introverts and Extroverts

According to LJ, one of the most beneficial things Coinbase did before shifting to a remote-first strategy was to level the playing field for both introverts and extroverts.

“What we're really trying to focus on here is this idea of, can we make sure that we're connecting business needs with moments of individual development for people.” –LJ Brock

Coinbase uses tools and strategies such as purpose-proposed solutions, the RAPID decision model, and inclusive meeting practices to encourage employees to contribute equally and work asynchronously.

“It was tuned to level the playing field so that it wasn't just the loudest or most gregarious voice in the room when we were in-person,” LJ explains. Instead, “it was the person with the best ideas.”

Coinbase was able to transition smoothly from in-person to remote-first by enabling employees to contribute their skills and knowledge equally while working to develop each individual—whether they felt energized or drained by large in-person groups.

While many businesses have chosen to transition back to in-office settings, Coinbase has decided to remain remote-first after realizing they could still have top talent at the head of every team. “We want your progression here to be about your skill sets and your impact on the company, not your geography,” LJ says.

Catch to the full conversation with LJ Brock.

Listen Now

Join our journey to discover what happens when you put employees first by subscribing to The Era at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you get podcasts.