culture

“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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Andy Warhol Has Advice For You…

sowhatDon’t sweat it. If something is bothering you for that long, do something about it. You don’t have to be a mess. Things happen. Roll with the punches. Glasses break. Milk spills. Pencils have erasers.
timechanges

People get used to new ideas. New ideas change things. Probably the only way time plays a part – but he’s right. Time by itself won’t change things. Unless we’re talking about a banana. Time will do just fine on that. realfakeThis one’s a problem I think all people should have. I think if you’re not constantly flirting with the idea of what’s real then you’re not pushing the membrane of reality to see how stretchy it is. There are a plethora of things people insist are real but are nothing more than constructs of habit and tradition that we do merely for lack of introspection and the willingness to look a bit weird. bizasart Being good in business requires a massive supply of self-awareness and self-honesty. I think art requires the same thing. The best comedians I’ve noticed are some of the most honest people I’ve ever seen. They see things the way they are, not as everyone would like you to see them – and they speak up. Makeart

Get the product out the door. No one cares about your book or your poem, or your picture if you never make it. I’ve worked with hundreds of good people who failed to produce even the most rudimentary of suggestion for a; flyer, form, website, sign, banner, you name it – out of fear. Crank out enough art to choke them. Something will stick.
cokesYou’re not better than anyone else. Yeah, you are. At a thing or things – but not intrinsically. Don’t fall in love with your own image or the sound of your voice so much you forget what a simple pleasure a coke can be. Stop and drink the sodas. gorevidalonandyThis is easily the greatest backhanded compliment I’ve ever seen or heard. There may be no greater source of heat in the universe than this burn. Go ahead. Put your hand to the screen. Feel that? You could cook bacon on that.

The Best Hip-Hop Album of the Past Year You Never Heard

Run The Jewels goes H.A.M. – check out this amazing album from Killer Mike and El-P, released for free!

Superior lyrics, satisfying flows, and devastating beats form the bouillabaisse of this bad-ass album. Enjoy the Hip & the Hop? This is a must listen to.

runthejewels

All your room are belong to us

Another year and another order of “Renew your lease now” banners and bandit signs. Ah, student housing – you have few predictable moments, but this is certainly one of them. Last year we wanted to mix it up and do something that would catch an eye because face it, no one is reading your plain text “Renew and save!” signs. They’re not, so stop lying to yourself.

So, we came up with these. I really enjoy them and was proud of the fact they had no contact info on them -they weren’t supposed to. You know where you live and you know where to go if you want to renew. The signs beg you to read them all as you’re not exactly sure what’s going on. Plus, everyone loves memes – that’s why they’re memes.

Aaannndd

This one still sits in my office.

This one still sits in my office.

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I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.

I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.

Deadlines are deadlines! Yeah....

Deadlines are deadlines! Yeah….

You know that feeling.

You know that feeling.

Which comes first? Talent or Belief?

This is the first of a series of posts dedicated to those who helped shape a major portion of who I’ve become at this point in my life. Melissa Lobozzo, this one’s for you. 

Which comes first? Talent or Belief? 

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In 2004 I became a Property Manager for Paradigm Properties, and my first Regional Manager was Melissa. Up to this point I’d been in the business for three years in a number of supporting roles, but this was my first ship and I had a lot to learn. As green as I was, Melissa saw talent in me and taught me one of the most important lessons I’d ever learn. 

With an upcoming company conference to be held in Savannah, the powers-that-be were looking for Leaders to conduct training sessions on areas important to company culture. Melissa nominated me to teach a segment on Team Building. At first, I was extremely honored, and then came the inevitable fear that I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Fake it? No thanks. I’d had tight teams, but I was at a loss at that moment to sum up exactly how I’d done it. Was it accidental?

I went to her some weeks later and told her I had nothing. I’d read a ton of books on the matter in that short window, and tried to couple them with what I already knew but so far I hadn’t been able to put together a cogent theory on Team Building. Maybe I should pass and let someone else have a crack it. Maybe I didn’t have it, maybe it wouldn’t be any good. What could I tell 80 of my colleagues, most of whom were my senior, that would get them to do more than yawn?

She looked me square in the eyes and told me that I was talented, that I did this stuff every day and that she was confident I could come up with something that would provide a benefit. She knew me and had every faith I would do well. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I still left scared, but a little less so, and with newfound determination that I didn’t want to let her down. She’d given me a good reputation to live up to – even if I hadn’t fully earned it yet. That’s a gift you have to earn after the fact, and the price for not doing so is steep. 

Leaving her office I knew what the essence of leadership was. It was the same stuff Michael Jordan was doing when he would tell Steve Kerr that he’d be the one to hit the game winning shot, not Jordan. Kerr would believe it, because he believed in him. She did this all the time that first year – providing the right amount of praise and positive reinforcement with an equally deserved amount of (well deserved) criticism. Trusting her wasn’t a question, she told me the truth all the time! 

I put together that presentation and it was incredibly well received. It focused on exactly that sort of stuff: Positivity! Energy! Bringing everyone together towards a common goal, and it was back stopped by the “Fish!” video about the Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle. You know, where they throw fish at each other and sing songs about all of their wonderful mongering. It was only a fifteen minute session, done six times over so it didn’t have to be Les Miserables, and everyone was appreciative for something other than dull recitation of bullet points. 

After that, I took all the lessons I learned from Melissa and tried to incorporate them into myself: Selflessness, determination, courage, being a servant-based leader who exists to make their people better, one who provides a shared goal and gets everyone involved in how to get there.

In the ten years hence these traits have proven invaluable beyond count, but the biggest was that one little thing. Did she really believe I wouldn’t screw it up? Did she really think I had the talent to do it? I think so, but the good reputation she gave me that day was the thing that made that presentation possible, and a whole host of other things I went on to do, possible as well. 

I know I was a tough student, and lord knows there were days when I’m sure Melissa wondered if I had the sense God gave an aardvark. Actually, that’s probably insulting to aardvarks, but it is a testament to her belief that she could get through and get me to believe the same things about myself that she had glimpsed. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. 

Get in where you fit in!

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Don’t fight to be where you don’t fit in. You can force the peg into the hole (hammer and all) but that’s a truly poor place to find oneself. 

Do you know who you are and what you like? What you’re good at? Passionate about? Where are you of most value to those around you? Do you know where you’d be the most comfortable? The most effective? Then why not try to go there and forget about all the holes you shouldn’t be trying to squeeze into. 

It’s not “keeping your options open.” It’s being scared of knowing yourself and your worth enough to actively partake in the crafting of your future. If you don’t do it – don’t actually make decisions about what you will and won’t do, others will and I can’t guarantee you’re going to like the outcome. 

Get in where you fit in. Don’t take an ill-fitting job just to have a job. Don’t wait around forever for the perfect one to come around either – get up and search for the environment you’d thrive in and do everything you can to steer your ship in that direction.