Rebuilding culture, a new profession during the Covid

This story is part of the Behind the Desk series, where CNBC Make It gets personal with successful business leaders to learn everything from how they got where they are to what gets them out of bed in the morning. to their daily routines.

Evelyn Webster thought her friend’s question at dinner was silly: What gives you joy?

At the time, Webster was living in New York as CEO of international operations for Guardian News and Media. She was satisfied with the position, but felt ready to explore other options. “The role started to feel pretty familiar to me — and I like the challenges,” Webster, 52, told CNBC Make It.

Her friend suggested that she make a list of brands that gave her joy on a daily basis. At the top: SoulCycle, the New York-based fitness brand that runs 45-minute indoor cycling workouts at over 90 locations in the US, Canada and the UK

For six years, it had been his favorite form of exercise. “This is my sanctuary. This is my oasis,” she says.

SoulCycle instructor Lo Falkenberg (L) and SoulCycle CEO Evelyn Webster on September 21, 2021 in New York City.

Kevin Mazur | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

What happened next was either “a serendipity or a coincidence,” says Webster: She went home and read that SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan had abruptly resigned. Despite having no experience in the fitness industry, Webster identified opening as his dream job — and landed it a year later, thanks in part to his six years of experience as a media CEO.

She would take the helm of SoulCycle in December 2020, leading an in-person workout brand amid a global pandemic. Then, weeks before her start date, her dream job got tougher: Business Insider reported allegations from SoulCycle riders and staff that the company allowed toxic behavior, sexual harassment and discrimination. anti-gay and racial to fat-shaming.

Today, Webster is tasked with reversing that culture and seeking enough revenue to keep the brand afloat. SoulCycle declined to provide revenue figures, but in May its parent company Equinox Group considered going public through a SPAC that reportedly valued it at more than $7.5 billion. The deal reportedly fell through in July.

Here, Webster explains how she coped with these changes, the challenges of starting a new job during a pandemic, and why she never questions her ambition:

On starting new work in the depths of the pandemic: ‘I love being with people, I feed off the energy in the room’

I want to be very honest: I wouldn’t recommend starting a new job with a new team when you can’t meet them in person.

I like to be with people. I feed on energy in the room. That’s why I love the Soul community – the energy is part of the experience.

I learned, during the pandemic, how to create these relationships through a computer screen. It takes discipline to remember to stop and say, “Hey, where are you? That’s an incredible piece of art you have behind your left shoulder.

Some of the things we take for granted — like casual, accidental, and serendipitous interactions with each other in the office when you’re walking around — you have to practice when talking to people via Zoom.

On rebuilding SoulCycle’s culture: “There’s probably a challenge for me”

I knew these titles [about SoulCycle’s culture] refers to something. I thought, “There’s probably a challenge for me, and I’m not afraid of a challenge.

There have been missteps. [My first step was to] understand what those missteps were and define core values ​​to help us avoid them in the future. I saw it as a problem that needed to be solved, and I love solving problems.

Our corporate values ​​are almost like a contract that I have with all my colleagues, which we mutually respect. These are behaviors we support and advocate: Authenticity, Integrity, Accountability, Community, Empathy, Inclusiveness and Inspiration.

Integrating these values ​​into the organization and helping our colleagues understand what they mean and how we live up to them has been an important step. When we act with authenticity, make decisions with integrity, and hold ourselves accountable, we build a strong community rooted in empathy and inclusivity.

Cultures are not fixed or created overnight. It’s a journey, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far. This organization will continue to be better.

On the best career advice she’s ever received: ‘Just go for it and do it’

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