caring

“I Intend To”

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.

 

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Business Culture, Prime Directives, and killing John Connor

I got sent this email yesterday, which was one I’d sent some three years ago while at CVI-Orlando. At the time we were six months into a $2 million renovation, and working concertedly to establish a new culture.

When you’re trying to build culture, it’s important to be honest and authentically one’s self. People loathe artifice and inherently move away from it. This email happens to be “me” in written form, and I think it was evident of something that’s worked for me over the years. People know it’s not just some corporate policy I’m being forced to endorse while a concealed derringer burrows into the small of my back, but something I full-throatily support.

I offer it here at as an unedited look, an example, of how I believe in communicating with my teams. Also, I just really crack myself up and I can’t get enough of my choice of analogy here. How great is that hipster John Connor meme?

Big thanks to Larry for 1. Having kept this all these years, and 2. For thinking of me enough to send it to me now. It was a nice laugh during a really busy time and a great glimpse of some of the most fun I’ve had during my career.

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School Shootings about Loneliness? Can We Help?

I recall hearing ages ago that rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power. At first it seems counter-intuitive, but then quickly makes sense. The horrible people committing these acts are attempting to gain something they lack – power.

Simon Sinek (Who I’ve written about often) says in the clip below that school shootings are a new endeavor (16 years since Columbine) that are based entirely on loneliness. And that necessarily, our new technologically connected society is helping to create that sense of loneliness.

The true irony of the connected age: It’s never been easier to connect with anyone in the world and yet it’s never been more difficult to connect with your neighbor. 

I don’t know if you’re old enough to recall Columbine, but in the immediate aftermath the media blamed just about anything not nailed down: Marilyn Manson, violent video games, violent movies, the list goes on. Given the fact nothing like that had happened before, SOMETHING had to be responsible. That same fall I’d started a psychology class in Gainesville and we must have debated the cause for a week and I don’t recall anyone ever blaming loneliness. To hear it now, it seems equal parts obvious and ground breaking – a paradox wrapped up in a centuries-old stone tablet.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fundamentals of why things work the way they do, and why organizations are the way they are. Inevitably, these thoughts take me back to the very heart of what motivates individual human beings: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

After we’ve covered the basics for survival (the first two tiers) we get immediately to belonging. Sinek’s supposition is that each of these shooters are missing this basic component in their lives, and that if we, as leaders, would make it our mission to help give people a sense of belonging, we could do a lot to limit the instances of these shootings.

Honestly, out of all of the years of speculation I’ve heard on the matter, it makes the most sense to me. The next question becomes, how do you do that? What’s that look like in practice? What’s that look like in the work place? In our communities? Is it even possible in modern communities? Do we, as Student Housing providers, have a responsibility to help connect our Residents to one another – to REALLY make that passionate aspect of our operations and not just say we’re covering that by throwing pool parties every other month?

I don’t know the answers to any of these but I have some thoughts.

Check out Sinek’s theory in the clip below and if you have any ideas about creating a sense of belonging in our schools or our communities, let me know in the comments.

Do you really care? Hoodie does.

Rapper, Hoodie Allen, has a rabid fan base and one he’s well earned. First, there’s the fact that the guy is just good at what he does: Creative lyrics, a fun, easy-going demeanor, and just a great overall entertainer. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

While coasting through twitter recently, I saw this:

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Hoodie has over 600,000 followers on twitter. Nearly as many subscribers on his YouTube channel. Suffice it to say, he’s a busy guy. Not only are there the regular replies to his fans in comment sections and tweets and Instagram, but then he goes and sets up a help email for anyone going through a tough time? Yes.

And people love it. There are probably a thousand replies all stating essentially the same things:

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Right? That’s love.

And as if that wasn’t enough on its own, he inspired others to do the same.

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It’s a hell of a moment when you see a celebrity use their fame and reach to positively affect the human condition. No personal gain in mind, just the awareness that people are hurting sometimes and he has the ability to be that outlet. It’s inspiring.

The takeaway? If you’re saying you “love” or “care about” your fans/customers/employees/stakeholders, etc… what are you doing to show it?

BTW, check out some Hoodie videos. The guy is ridiculous. In the good way, like you want.

Who’s in charge of the magic?

Who’s in charge of the magic?

This is a great Godin blog post where he essentially asks why don’t we designate someone to be in charge of the “Magic” in our organizations. Of pushing whatever it is to be the best it can be, to wow and, sorry – WOW! and to make things remarkable. It’s a great point, really. 

Perhaps we hope that each person will make things magical. Maybe we think the boss or CEO is doing it – but I think routine and day-to-day demands take their toll and the first thing to go is the magic – the special sauce. Just getting it done becomes the focus, regardless of how it gets done. There’s only so much caring one can do – but if it was your sole job to care about adding the magic? 

I often times think that’s what my job is about. I have a hard time with “good enough” when remarkable would be so cool, and doesn’t mean that much more effort -just more caring. 

What all Great Leaders Do…

Simon Sinek gives about the best description I’ve ever seen on the powerful effects of Trust.

I really don’t want to say too much here, best just to take a little while to listen to this while you’re typing and soak it in.