1597 – Change Within the Company with Spoke and Wheel’s Alla Weinberg

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the CEO & Culture Designer of Spoke and Wheel, Alla Weinberg.


As we spend a significant amount of time in our workplaces, creating an environment that is safe, inclusive, and empowering is essential. Alla Weinberg, CEO, and culture designer of Spoke and Wheel, discussed the importance of designing cultures of safety that empower people in the workplace.

Alla highlighted that many business problems stem from a culture rather than a tactical or execution issue. She emphasized that between 50% and 70% of change, initiatives fail because executives must pay attention to the culture and bring their people along. Therefore, it is essential to create a culture where people feel safe to speak up, especially those from marginalized groups.

Alla believes that psychological safety is the foundation of any culture, whether it's equitable, inclusive, innovative, or feedback-oriented. She works with clients on a longer-term basis, typically in three-month sprints, to map out their current and target cultures and make operational changes to achieve their goals.


About Alla Weinberg:

Alla is a renowned culture designer and work relationship coach. Leveraging her design background and principles of neuroscience and positive psychology, she works with business leaders globally to create safe, trust-based workplace cultures. She incorporates 40 years of Gottman Institute relationship research in her unique approach.

Weinberg offers team training, work relationship coaching, and culture design solutions. In team training, she imparts vital interpersonal skills. Through coaching, she aids in actualizing ideal team dynamics by setting goals and building trust. Her culture design fosters healthy relationships that yield emotionally, physically, and psychologically safe workplaces, thus boosting employee satisfaction and corporate profitability.


About Spoke and Wheel:

​​Spoke and Wheel is a pioneering firm that fosters exceptional relationships within companies. They believe that robust relationships form the cornerstone of successful businesses. Their services include virtual team training, coaching, and facilitation, providing teams with the necessary tools to grow, communicate, connect, and innovate.

Key offerings include guidance during transition periods, fostering a safe work environment, facilitating courageous conversations, and nurturing the development of team leaders. They aim to instigate transformative changes in how teams relate to each other, driving increased effectiveness and productivity in the workplace. By enabling more meaningful connections, Spoke and Wheel is revolutionizing team dynamics.


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Want to learn more? Check out Spoke and Wheel website at

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Check out Spoke and Wheel on Twitter at

Check out Alla Weinberg on LinkedIn at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. It's Alla Weinberg, Alla. You are the CEO and culture designer of Spoke and wheel. You are found on the web at spoke and we'll co Alla. Thank you so much for joining us.

Alla (00:01:13) - Thank you for having me Josh so excited to be here.

Josh (00:01:16) - Yeah we'll share with me more. I love what I'm reading on your website about designing cultures of safety that empower people.

Josh (00:01:24) - I mean, isn't that the kind of work environment or a culture that we want? All of us.

Alla (00:01:29) - All of us want this? Yes. We don't want hear and loathing happen.

Josh (00:01:34) - Yeah.

Alla (00:01:35) - Exactly. Unfortunately, we don't all have that. A lot of folks are scared, especially nowadays. There's been, you know, with the economy the way it is currently, a lot of uncertainty. Folks sometimes feel miserable in their culture but are too scared to leave or too scared to speak up about it. And I, I help, you know, organization to create environments where people can feel that they can be honest and candid with each other without fear.

Josh (00:02:06) - And are you working with folks where they say, well, we think. I wonder like that that connection between seeing symptoms of the problem and being aware or not being aware that, you know, then in fact, you know, one of the biggest drivers of the fact that their turnover is so awful or, you know, the incidence of quiet quitting or just, you know, just productivity is through the roof or through the floor has to do with because we're just not providing the culture.

Josh (00:02:38) - And I'm curious how many leaders are aware that it's a leadership and culture problem as opposed to they're just, oh, it's just it's just these front line people, you know? Right.

Alla (00:02:49) - I actually find folks aren't as aware that it's a culture problem. A lot of times folks will say, Oh, it's a strategy problem or we're not executing well enough or something like that, where the root cause of it is a culture problem. And so folks usually come to me when they're already in the middle of some kind of change initiative. Maybe it's a digital transformation, maybe they're scaling really quickly or they're downsizing. You know, that's what's happening a lot in the market right now. And all the leaders, they're like, We know how to do the tactical stuff, but we don't know how to do that culture stuff. And there's a statistics where between 50 and 70% of change initiatives fail because executives are not paying attention to the culture. They're not bringing their people along. The people are the ones that are doing the work.

Josh (00:03:44) - Well, how many times? I think this is really common, right, where we have to enact change. There's something and we find that, well, that was easier said than done. People are really dragging their heels on this. And as a result, we're missing deadlines. It's impacting customer experience because internally, you know, we're just not getting that that shift or adoption that we'd hope it takes a lot to make big changes within an organization. But you're absolutely right. What so tell me more maybe about fundamentally about how we can create better environments that are a little bit more resilient to change, which is inevitable.

Alla (00:04:29) - Yes. So the way that I approach any kind of changes to make sure that the change is happening in a psychologically safe way, the change itself is increasing psychological safety within the organization rather than decreasing it, which is usually what happens because folks are starting to feel scared. Oh no. After this change, am I still going to have a job left? Am I going to work with the people I love to work with? Am I going to report to the manager that really looks out for me? You know, there's all this fear that starts to come up for folks, but there's a way to to be thoughtful and bring people along on the change so that they have input into how it's done, what they're actually have space for people to share their concerns about it, encourage people to speak up about their worries and their fears so that we're actually building, again, psychological safety as the change is happening and we're going to come out actually stronger on the other side of it, rather than people feeling, you know, more fearful and even burnt out because of the change a lot of times.

Josh (00:05:42) - Yeah, I would imagine you deal with leaders of all personality types, you know, and I'm thinking that I think most leaders are probably going to hear this and go, great, because this is important to me to make sure that we do get buy in and like like we want people to feel safe. But, you know, I wonder how often you run into the other personality type that's just like, oh, people just need to buck up or, you know, just kind of like that, you know, the kind of the tough guy, you know, mentality or which I wouldn't say is not necessarily, you know, just being tough, but it might be even traditional, I think of workplaces in the 80s and 90s, you know, they weren't as sensitive and and and you just using the 80s 90 because that's what my reference is you know but you know heaven forbid we go back even further in time it gets a lot worse you know. Yeah. But yeah. What do you see in terms of like leader personalities and how it impacts this goal?

Alla (00:06:42) - I mean, I do see leaders that know that everything in their business hinges on their people.

Alla (00:06:50) - Those are the people that know that the the folks that are working for them are the ones serving their customers. They're the ones building their products. They're the ones, you know, innovating, pushing the business forward. So without your people, you wouldn't have your business, period, Right? If all your people left tomorrow, your business would end. That's what would happen. But what I do and what I offer, especially folks that are maybe or leaders that are a bit more resistant to it, is to say, let me, as the expert in culture, hold the culture piece for you. You think about the tactics, you think about the numbers, you think about the business side of things. Let me figure like let me hold that culture piece for you and help your people get aligned and come along with whatever change that you're trying to implement in your business. And folks find that relieving. A lot of times they're like, Oh, I don't I don't know because a lot of because when folks have resistance, especially leaders have resistance, it's because they don't know what they're doing, because they're not experts in this specific arena.

Alla (00:07:50) - They're experts in their business. And so they find relief to be like, oh, somebody's got this that knows what they're doing. In a lot of ways.

Josh (00:07:59) - Yeah. And I would imagine, I mean, you're kind of on the front lines of seeing the latest trends in, you know, kind of, I want to say like worker psychology, but workplace psychology and just where I'd say people's minds are in their relation to work, certainly we've seen a lot of trends of, you know, Covid exasperated some issues. And I think really when we think about, you know, even just proximity, you know, do I have to come into the office? Can I work virtually? Well, that is a major disruptor. If, you know, the company was built on everybody being together all the time. And now, you know, over the past few years, it's just, you know, maybe there were some hopes and we put that toothpaste back in the tube and it ain't getting back in the team.

Alla (00:08:50) - It's not going back. And yeah, so the current the trend that we're folks are going for is they want flexibility, right? And also realizing that like in the 80s and 90s, the workplace hasn't been designed for our human bodies, for human beings. They were mechanized, industrialized, right. And so folks want a more humane workplace that has flexibility that that has understanding where they can work, the hours that works for them, where they can, you know, go to the doctor if they need to go to the doctor where they're not constantly tied to their computer, their computer screen and working, making sure that, you know, they're always online and that that's visible, but that they can have a life and work is part of their life, but work is not their life. And so that's been the big change that I'm seeing. And and so there's a lot of resistance, especially to like, you know, coming back to the office because it might work for some people, but it could not work at all depending on on caretaking responsibilities for other people as well.

Alla (00:10:03) - And so having that flexibility and taking into account that, you know, we're actually frail human bodies, we can't go forever without break. We can't always sustain, you know, a high level of productivity, non stop. That is not possible from a biological perspective to have that understanding and to provide that flexibility and also that safety for people to be able to say, hey, this isn't working for me. Can we work out a different arrangement? Can we make accommodations? You know, being able to speak up about that? All of those are really important, especially now.

Josh (00:10:42) - Yeah. I mean, we we, I think all of us as leaders want an environment where people do feel safe to speak up, you know, when they feel uncomfortable. Um, and I think a lot of us maybe as leaders feel like we've made efforts in that direction, but maybe that is still not the reality. You know, one sensitivity, all I have is to, you know, maybe, um, you know, a female in a more masculine oriented workplace, Certainly anyone that's part of a marginalized or historically marginalized group might feel an increased level of sensitivity or fear maybe about speaking up.

Josh (00:11:28) - Or maybe there's again, just some of those deeper systemic biases that are real. And I think we've made good headwinds or we've made good progress in Dei. There's still a lot to. Do. But how do you see kind of some of those those issues being improved by, again, more of a culture, you know, more of a culture where people feel safe overall?

Alla (00:11:55) - Well, honestly, this is why I started this my business, because I was in the tech industry for a long time, as usually the only woman in the room. And I faced a lot of sexism, a lot of inequality, and I didn't feel safe in those environments. And I didn't want that for a future generations of women. And so this is how I even got to the business where I am today. And so psychological safety to me is the foundation of any kind of culture you want to build. You want to build an equitable culture, an inclusive culture, an innovative culture, a culture of feedback, whatever it is that you're wanting.

Alla (00:12:34) - You have to have that foundation, kind of like a foundation of the house. If that's solid, if people can speak up and say, you know, I'm experiencing microaggressions, I need more protection and I need more policies that protect me from these kinds of things, then, you know, we can actually make a lot more progress on the front on the equity front there. And so that to me is the absolute baseline that has to be there. If it's cracked, you know, if that foundation is cracked, it's not really working or it doesn't even exist. Everything else is just going to tumble. People are going to be quiet in meetings. It's going to be like pulling teeth and you're wasting your money as a leader. You're paying these people and they're not giving you their ideas. They're not giving you their expertise, they're not giving you what you're paying them for because they're too scared. So that's why that foundation has to be there. And then upon that, we can build, you know, all the things that we need, such as.

Josh (00:13:39) - Wow, all thank you for the work that you're doing and thank you. And more connections we can make here the better, because your lips to God's ears here. What is engagement look like with you? Like, how are you working with your clients? What is like? Are you around for a long time? Short time? What does that look like? Are you just doing workshops or are you working more consultative in a longer term fashion? Tell me all the goods.

Alla (00:14:03) - Yes, I'm working more consistently on a longer term basis because culture takes some time, but it doesn't have to take a long time. People are scared, don't know what's going to take years. You can actually start to see change in as little as three months. So I do three month sprints with a culture, sprints with folks, and what we do is we make the invisible visible. We map out your current culture, we map out your target culture. We make a plan of how to get from here to there, and we start to execute and make operational structural organizational changes to get there.

Alla (00:14:40) - And part of that sprint is also some leadership development because leaders need to know how to maintain that culture of safety and know how to lead their people into this change as well. And so it is a bit of a longer term combination of consulting and leadership development.

Josh (00:15:00) - Yeah. And I wonder what assessment options might be available. So someone might say, well, I don't know. I mean, maybe I've, maybe we have a problem with safety. I don't know. All I know is it hurts here, here and here. What does that process for discovery like?

Alla (00:15:22) - So I do a qualitative, psychologically safe assessment of psychological safety. It's a little bit meta in that respect, and it's not a survey. I have not found anonymous surveys to be psychologically safe. So a little bit of a controversial topic there, but I don't believe that that's the case. What I have found is as a neutral third party that comes in and just talks to folks at the same level. Right. Like peers at the same level.

Alla (00:15:51) - And we have and I have a very specific guided conversation that I that I have with them. I can start to see very quickly what's happening from a psychological safety standpoint that leaders can't see because folks might be too scared to tell them.

Josh (00:16:09) - Yeah, your website spoke and we'll also say someone listening to our podcast, they're doing some research. They found you. Now they've been listening to our conversation and where do they go from here?

Alla (00:16:24) - Well, I recommend that they download my book off of the website. It's completely free. It's a digital version of my book called A Culture of Safety Creating building work environments where people can think, collaborate and innovate, and all you do is you, you know, you put in your email address and you get the book completely for free. So please download it and check it out. It's also, yeah, short, short, 30 minute read for busy people. Busy executives.

Josh (00:16:49) - Yeah. No, I love that. Well, there's wonderful. So I'm going to download that.

Josh (00:16:54) - I'm going to get it to my co co as well. And that's wonderful. So and what is the what do you expect would be the outcome of, of consuming the book? A Culture of safety.

Alla (00:17:11) - Well mean there's exercises in the book that leaders can start to use with their teams tomorrow. There's very practical. It's a very practical, no nonsense. Here are the tools book. And so folks will understand the components of psychological safety. And you can choose what activities you want to do with your team tomorrow to start increasing psychological safety.

Josh (00:17:36) - Great. Awesome. Love it. All right, Allan Weinberg, your website again spoke and we'll co hover or click on book and then you can download a culture of safety building a work environment where people can think, collaborate and innovate. Alla, thank you so much. Been a wonderful conversation.

Alla (00:17:55) - Thank you, Josh.

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