I was watching “The Last Samurai” the other night on AMC with the movie notes (love that) and a scene stood out to me. At one point, Tom Cruise is getting his butt handed to him by a hi…
Bureaucracy is a bitch.
What few people realize is that as an upper level exec, in
a lot of too many organizations, there’s virtually no natural incentive to approve… well, anything. If you don’t approve requests or initiatives, what can go wrong? You don’t get some (rare) praise for accomplishing something – big deal. But if you approve something and it goes wrong??
As a young Community Manager, if I had a broken hot tub that needed a $1.6k repair and it was over my $500 spending limit, I’d need express written approval. No biggie, right? I’ll just email my boss and get an answer.
After multiple follow ups, weeks later, there’s no answer beyond the yawning chasm of silence. Why wouldn’t they just tell me ‘no’ if that’s what they wanted? Because not answering the question meant they were the safest they could be.
See, there’s risk in saying yes to things. What if someone comes along later and says you screwed up by approving that thing which could have been done cheaper, better, differently, etc…? What if I get yelled at? What if… something something bad feeling?
I wasn’t alone. A LOT of my cohorts’ bosses did the same thing. Ignore, brush off, delay, deflect, slow roll, forget – anything to not have to take a stand on something that should be easy because the fear was always at their neck that they’d get ripped for it. They wanted express permission from the owner before they’d be ok saying yes. What point was there for their existence then? We could just get the permission from the owner if that’s all it was.
When the issue finally reached crisis level, the owner had the foresight to implement the system that Simon mentions at the 33 minute mark in this video: “I Intend To.”
The way it worked was, if we needed to do something and couldn’t get an answer, we’d fire off an email with “IIT:” in the subject line. If we weren’t told NO within 48 hours, we were free to do it. It changed the onus from getting approval to bosses having to say NO if they felt something shouldn’t be done.
As you can imagine, things improved immediately. Bosses who didn’t have good reasons to say no, besides their personal fear, could tacitly approve something without lifting a finger. Oh happy day!
And don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say there shouldn’t be checks and balances and proper vetting of capital requests. By all means, I’d include how many bids I’d received, what the nature of the issue was, what the repair proposed was, why that was a rational way to proceed and what the timeline would be. I’d proactively try to answer every question I could get to make sure it was in line with our company’s values and goals.
Bottom line or TL;DR: There’s all kinds of benefit in empowering your people as opposed to teaching them to subsist on compliance. Your people aren’t the problem, your environment, your culture are the problem.
Eliminate bureaucracy, breed commitment by increasing your team’s involvement.
I’m sure I’ve had to have mentioned Gary Vaynerchuk in this blog before, but if I haven’t, you’re welcome.
BTW, “you’re welcome” is my sister’s personal catchphrase – Hi, Michelle.
Anyway, watch a couple minutes of the highest energy dude doing it today. His point is obvious, but so desperately worth stating as it’s not being done as much as it should.
I’m an avid believer in the fact that I work for my people, before anything else. My existence is predicated on serving their needs and creating an environment where they can succeed and thrive. By doing so, and by caring for the team first, they’re able and willing to kill themselves in the pursuit of achieving the mission, and satisfying our customers.
Time and time again, with team after team, the built up loyalty has been what’s provided for our success when things got tough. And they’re never tougher than during “turn,” when you’re really asking everyone to dig deep. Cajoling, yelling, and ordering, won’t get it done.
Treat all people well, but first, treat your team like family. Give them the same care and consideration you’d give your blessed grandmother, and watch it come back tenfold.
My recipe for success:
- Get a great team, treat them well and earn their trust – always.
- With them, create amazing processes that prevent errors and allow for success.
- Care for your customers in so far as you don’t violate 1 & 2 in a negative way.
Note: this is a classic post from July 2012, hope you enjoy.
We’re all presented with a thousand decisions in a day – even the ones we don’t make are technically decisions – and I observed a few today and I thought I would share as I feel they are:
1. Completely random – so a good example of our lives.
2. Indicative of a theme I’d like to touch on – but let’s not spoil the fun just yet.
First, we have a Bistro at work which serves between 4 and 12 thousand meals a week. No biggie there, we’re getting quite good at it. One of our front line people is the best – totally awesome. She makes remarkable omelets with the deft precision of a Samurai, that happens to hold a personal grudge against unborn chickens.
On this particular morning we’re hosting a large sports camp which features 120 kids and assorted coaches. Towards the end of breakfast this omelet samurai asks me if she can make one of her famous omelets for the Head Coach (it’s his camp) as she wasn’t sure if he paid or not. This concern was voiced directly in front of said Coach whose business we’re eager to retain – omelets are never extra with breakfast.
Second: I’m told that we reportedly rebuffed a new Resident who relayed that their AC was not in working order on Saturday. As it didn’t constitute an “extreme emergency” we told them to wait for Monday. For those not familiar with Florida in late July, allow me to put down rumors about the unending cold front we experience during this time of year. In fact, we have Emergency Maintenance defined as “No AC when the temp outside is over 85 degrees.” I believe it was 99 on this particular day, though it could have been 93.
Third: A Senior Associate informs me that a parent is on the phone and wishes to renew their kid’s lease under an old offer letter we sent out weeks ago. The current offer is a much better deal for the Resident/Parent and we always offer unsigned leases the current deal.
So, what do all these have in common? This question haunted my entire day.
At my old place of work, we had these portraits of all the employees on the wall and each had a quote that supposedly the person lived by. The majority said some fluff like “Seize the day” though one stood out to me for its simplicity and eloquence. It read simply “SHOW UP.”
I thought “Is this good?” and let it marinate. Then, after a half hour, I grilled it up with some delicious business acumen and served it with a glass of “OH YEAH.” The words were from a new friend named Dan O’Connor and I couldn’t help but roll around in their brilliance. SHOW UP! How deep did those words go?
The decisions I cited all shared a lack of “showing up” – not in the physical sense, but in the other, deeper sense. Of being mentally “there” where things really happen. I’ve come to appreciate that the big difference between getting it done and saying we gave it our best, is the belief that by simply standing our post, that we’ve managed to “show up.”
Not by a long shot.
It’s not stupidity or ignorance of lack of experience – these three individuals are all some of our best. Seriously, I tout their drive and desire constantly. This was a case of not being there mentally, in a moment, and that’s all there is.
Make the omelet! Paid or not, who cares!? I’ve never beaten or punished someone for giving away three eggs and some veggies! Take a chance! On the guy you KNOW is the “The GUY” we’re trying to impress. Don’t call him a cheapskate in front of his face!
What, exactly is “an extreme emergency” pray tell? As opposed to a regular emergency? Which we don’t care about? If Weather.com tells you it’s 83.5 degrees outside and they’re not happy, call it in!
They want to renew and you want to pick a fight? Over someone giving you their hard-earned money? TAKE IT! By any means! Make it EASY for them! Fall all over yourself to accommodate them and make them happy! That’s what we do!
I felt failure today. Failure in transmitting the message. I often state that “It’s the spirit of the law that matters, not the letter” though I recognize not everyone hears this message. That is my fault and it’s my charge to make sure it’s known, and known well. Not with bigger bull horns, but with a better plan – not more regulation, but with more discussion. Conversations build empires and right now? I have a fiefdom.
“The single biggest misconception about communication is the belief that it has occurred.”
Immanuel Kant is a boss. Like, the boss of bosses.
As far as philosophers go, he’s like the RZA of this here ethics game. He’s the one that really summed it up nicely, and gave everyone the central cornerstone of modern ethics: The Categorical Imperative!
Put simply: Act so that the maxim of your actions should be made universal and necessary.
Ok, put even simpler: In whatever you do, act in such a way that you’re advocating that all people, everywhere, should always act in the same way, in that same situation.
So, if you shoplift, you’re saying by your actions that it’s in the best interest of all people everywhere to do the same. If you disagree, and think all people shouldn’t shoplift, neither should you – so don’t do it. Duh.
If you hold the door for people walking 10 steps behind you and let them in first, you’re saying everyone else should do the same. Also a good idea.
Or, philosophized? Whatever.
Kant’s other central points were:
- People are an ends in and of themselves, not a means to an end – so treat them that way. Don’t intentionally harm them.
- A good act is a good thing in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. Even if you failed, a good act is its own reward.
Taken altogether, if practiced, you have the lion’s share of what it takes to be a good leader – or at least not a giant-garbage-person.
My take away?
- Love people. At the very least, respect their humanity. Every one of them. Treat them decently, even if you don’t like them.
- Do a good thing because it’s a good thing to do. That means being honest, keeping promises, give your best effort, learn from mistakes. Even if you fail, you did the right thing and that’s all it needs to be. Success received for doing the wrong thing isn’t any success at all.
- Be a model for what you think is right – make sure you agree with what your actions say you believe in.
I wish I had another Kant pun to throw in here to close this thing out with, but I Kant think of one.
Waitaminute… I see what I did there. I just Kant get enough of these puns.
You’re talented, you’re just not industry-famous. Yet.
You’re probably not even looking for your next opportunity. But wouldn’t it be nice if your next opportunity was looking for you?
That’s why we exist.
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We’re confidential, free to talented candidates, and focused solely on the student housing industry.
Hiring Managers: You have incredible turnover, and the process of finding talent is tedious, and often unfruitful. We seek to help you quickly identify talent where you are, that’s pre-qualified, and a great fit for the culture you’re trying to build.
We know all of this because we have around 40 plus years of experience at all levels of the industry. Creating a space for top talent to congregate just sounded like an amazing opportunity, so that’s what we did. We’re continuously refining our searchable criteria, and working on ways to best help your new career move find you.
Not a rock star yet? Are you a Leasing Agent, or CA, and thinking you want to make student housing a career? We want you too! Among the toughest gigs to fill are Leasing Manager and Marketing Manager positions. We’ll be looking at you if you’re interested in making that step up.
Because privacy is essential, we let you make the decisions. Don’t want to put it on blast that you’re open to a promotion to the next level? Great. Sign up with us and let us know to contact you first to gauge your interest. It’s that simple. Or, if you’re wide open to having us share you with the world, we’ll do so when we find a job that sounds perfect for you. The point is, we’ll only share what you want us to.
It’s a new age, with new rules. You deserve to be recruited.
Let us know about you in as little as sixty seconds and we’ll be in touch for more info. Know someone in student housing? Send this to them to share the love. TalentPath.com
There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, and You Won’t Like It.
That’s right. You’re not going to like it because it’s going to require you to do something personally, as opposed to shouting for the government, or anyone to “do something!”
You ready? Here it is:
“Notice those around you who seem isolated, and engage them.”
If every one of us did this we’d have a culture that was deeply committed to ensuring no one was left lonely. And make no mistake, as I’ve written before loneliness is what causes these shooters to lash out. People with solid connections to other people don’t indiscriminately fire guns at strangers.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s never going to work because no one is going to make the effort to connect with the strange kid sitting by himself at lunch each day. No one is going to reach out to the gawky, awkward guy at work and ask him about his weekend.
You’re probably right and that’s an absolute shame.
Because I can tell you the things that aren’t going to work in this country when it comes to stopping these heinous acts. But they seem to be all anyone says, when inevitably, another person comes forward to inflict their tortured pain on innocent people.View Post
- Ban All Guns! – Due to the reading of the 2nd amendment and the precedents established by recent Supreme Court cases, this isn’t going anywhere. You’d need an amendment to the Constitution and there will NEVER be 30+ states willing to overturn it. Never mind the multitude of good reasons for its existence, no amount of outrage will overturn it so let’s just stop.
- Ban All Guns! (pt. 2) – Assuming you actually could overturn the 2nd and outlaw every firearm in the country, then you’d have to go out and get them. Famously, there are more guns than people in the U.S. You couldn’t come close to collecting them all. Further, if Prohibition and the War on Drugs have taught us anything it’s that those intent on breaking the law are going to do just that. Laws be damned.
- Ban Scary Guns Like the AR-15! – Fully auto weapons are already banned*. Most of these shootings occur with a handgun, plain and simple, and these aren’t going anywhere. Murder is illegal, and that doesn’t seem to stop these individuals from performing these atrocious acts. Do you think if there was a ban on shotguns that would stop them?
- Keep Them Out of the Hands of Bad People! – Felons are prohibited from owing a firearm already. But let’s not forget, the overwhelming majority of these mass shootings aren’t done by criminals and their guns were obtained legally. How can you know who is going to do something like this? You can’t.
- Do Something About Mental Health! – Cool. Yeah. So, like, free psychologists visits for everyone? Even if you could, the people that have done this haven’t been mentally ill, by and large. And, let’s not forget that medical records are private. Would you endorse mandatory psych screening for everyone and those records being sent to the government? Maybe just those who wish to own a gun? Remember, not every person who has engaged in a mass shooting has owned the gun they performed the act with. This is a complete non-starter of an issue with an insane price tag that does nothing to actually keep a person committed to violence from putting their hands on a gun.
- Do… SOMETHING! – Gotcha. What do you want to do? “SOMETHING!” Ok, what do you have in mind? “I DON’T KNOW! BUT SOMEONE NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING!” Sure. Agreed. But what? Even Obama has had to say in his latest speech how routine it’s become.
If you can’t tell by this point in the list, there is NOTHING the government or any other organization can do to prevent these events.
You can’t effectively keep drugs out of the hands of those intent on doing drugs. You can’t keep beer out of the hands of high schoolers intent on getting beer. You have a HUGE supply of weapons everywhere and concrete federal law protecting those weapons. You’d have as much luck passing regulation against tornadoes. It would be equally as effective.
So there it is. The god’s honest truth. No entity can do anything meaningful (more than is presently being done) to thwart a disaffected person hell-bent on committing such an act.
But you can.
You can talk to your co-worker for a few minutes. You can talk to the kid in your Physics class that appears to be all alone. You can teach your children to do the same, to make sure no one is left to feel totally isolated. Because that’s the breeding ground. That’s where the seeds are planted.
Community is easy to take for granted. Most of us have strong family connections and healthy friendships. Most feel as though they’re part of a group, be it community, religious, or work related. But it’s increasingly easy for people on the edges to withdraw and it’s easy for us to forget them.
No, it’s comfortable to forget them. It’s preferred to forget them. It’s highly desired to forget them. And we have to change that.
Holding a sign isn’t going to do anything. And writing your congressman will do even less. But you can do something today, this week, this month. The people you engage may not become life-long friends, and they don’t need to be, but it could be enough to keep someone away from the darkness and isolation needed to eventually think lashing out is an effective strategy for dealing with their pain.
* Edit: Fully auto weapons are legal, but only under the strictest of conditions and at a price that makes them hardly affordable for the vast majority. For all intents and purposes, let’s just call them banned. The AR-15 is not a fully auto weapon, but is often confused for one based on appearance.