Leadership

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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Don’t be a Lumberg – The Sacred Duty of All Leaders

Yeah. I’m posting a commercial. It works.

It works, unfortunately, because we’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now.

“Ah! You see this bulk? This bulk is great. Mmmmm. Look at it go.”

If you’re responsible for other people you have a sacred duty to not waste their time. You have an obligation and a trust to make sure that anything you require from them, that pulls them away from their mission, has value.

If you’re thinking about having a meeting, please ask yourself the following questions:

1. What do we want the participants of this meeting to come away with?

2. What’s the most efficient manner in which to do that?

If you can’t answer the first, or the answer is convoluted, then wait to have a meeting until the answer is clear. If you’ve answered the second question, but that’s not what your plan is – change your plan.

The irony would be humorous if it weren't so disgusting.

The irony would be humorous if it weren’t so disgusting.

Lastly, if you know the answer to number one, and you don’t know the answer to number two, seek outside help and ask members of the team. Involvement breeds commitment – the bored members of your team that are eye-rolling their way through meeting hell will jump at the opportunity to become part of the solution.

If you’re a manager, by all means, keep doing as you did before. You’re not reading this anyway.

If you’re a leader, you understand and respect people and you want to protect them. There is no greater evil than wasted time – start by doing everything in your power to kill it.

Sift Media has the right culture

While checking out the best of Slideshare 2014, I came across this gem. For anyone reading my blog, or anyone that knows me, this perfectly encapsulates my thinking on Company Culture and what it should be. Give it a quick run through and I think you’ll fall in love with it.

There are no cats in America?

Our futures are like this – devoid of risk or threat, far sunnier than our ravaged pasts. We can place our hopes there, safely, for we know that in the future all will be right.

The sad fact is that there are cats in America, and in our futures. All the singing in the world won’t get rid of them or change the fact that tough challenges lay ahead, wherever we are going.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t go there because of the cats – we should. But probably with both eyes open, and a little wary of the streets actually being paved with cheese.

What are your cats? Where are you going? What’s the plan? What are you overlooking through overly optimistic eyes?

You Shouldn’t Get Through This…

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The beauty of zen sand gardens is inherent for a fundamental reason: zen gardens exist, so we can exist in them. There is no other purpose than to place ourselves back in ourselves.

No one tries to get through the process to the other side. There is no other side – only ourselves and the sand. Since there’s no “Right” way to rake the sand – no great sand artists to emulate, we can create in the most original and honest way possible. Because we’re truly present in the process, beauty emerges naturally as the chaos of the sand gives way to the serenity of our peaceful, purposeful, interactions with it.

It’s a deeply satisfying metaphor for our lives and our work. Shoddy things happen when we try to get through them, as if they’re not worthy of our attention, or our time. Cutting the onions, painting the fence, raking the lawn; all great opportunities for art – great opportunities to exist in ourselves and to create something beautiful. If only we could stop ourselves from thinking they’re obstacles, that there’s really something else we’d rather be doing.

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I don’t think it’s any surprise then that those doing the best work are those having the best time – that truly love their craft, and thus exist in every moment of it. Never rushing any one part of their job in favor of another, they know it’s all connected and it all comes with the package. There are parts more exciting, sure. But even the small parts are paid attention to, the true beauty in them is found. The goal isn’t to “get through the day” but to greet the day with a smile, and gratitude in their hearts for the opportunity to do something that so compliments their nature. These are the rare people, but they can be any of us, at any time.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

― Laozi, Lao TsuTao Te Ching

Like the “Tipping Point” but, you know, with Science.

Did you like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” or Dan & Chip Heath’s “Made to Stick?” You did? Both, are totally great works that opened our eyes to how ideas get spread. Of the two, “Made to Stick” was the better manual for attributing what is “sticky” vs. what is passably interesting.

Now, Professor Jonah Berger has codified why certain things go viral in a way that does much more to explain the phenomenon than these earlier works. I really can’t wait to try out this process and see how we can best apply it to our product.

I’ll be presenting this video and materials tomorrow in our Leadership Series (held bi-weekly) with all of our Managers and we’re going to try the workbook on making things contagious. It’s available when you subscribe to the Prof’s blog at http://www.JonahBerger.com – which is totally worth it.

If we’re successful applying the principles to our business, I’ll be sure to share the results and give you some step-by-step insight into what worked and how we got there. I think this is going to be one of the easiest to implement processes we’ve encountered yet.

Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation TED talk

This is an absolute classic and one that has helped me decide what kind of work I most enjoy doing. The three keys towards fulfilling, cognitive work, are (summarized briefly):
*Autonomy – Do you control a majority of your time at work and what you’re working on?
*Mastery – Are you doing something you can get better at?
*Purpose – Do you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself?

These have been guide posts for me for the last three years since I first saw Mr. Pink spell out what I’d long suspected. My quarterly bonus of thousands of dollars as a Regional Manager wasn’t nearly as motivating to me as was the joy of helping one of my Managers succeed, or creating some new metric/model/marketing platform that would help propel our success. Sure, I love money, but I love my team and the thrill of winning a lot more. Especially when I get to create and collaborate in order to get there.

Give this a view and really check your current motivations for why you do what you do. Are you propelled by your bonus potential, or possessed by your passion?

Simon Sinek – Your job is to take care of your team.

Great video of Simon Sinek talking about the Circle of Safety – why we should take care of one another and why it’s a leaders highest obligation to make sure that they take care of their team. It’s a shame I missed this as it was filmed in downtown Gainesville.

Busy doesn’t equal Effective…

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It’s a learned behavior. Odds are you had mentors or bosses who were forever putting out metaphorical fires. You learned something implicitly: Busy = productive. Scratch that. Busy = valued.

It’s not true and odds are when you started out in your career you sensed it in your heart, if not your head. But the allure! Running around all crazy you couldn’t help but feel… important! Needed! This whole thing relied on you to keep those balls in the air or else they would fall and everyone would be let down.

Stop that.

Busy is often times, bullshit. Sure, you’ve got deadlines and reports, and big things in the works. Who doesn’t. If you’re running a restaurant, the kitchen had better be busy or you’re not making jack. But you’re not the sous chef for Chez Awesome, now are you? Didn’t think so.

To be effective you need to delegate your time and spend some much valued time planning so others can faithfully execute. Like a good point guard, yours isn’t to score all the points – it’s to distribute. And to do so in a way that allows your team an easy dunk.

If you sense yourself saying any of these things as a leader – check yourself, lest you wreck  yourself:

  • OMG! I’ve got so much to do!
  • WTF! I’ve got 156 emails since lunch! 
  • IDK! Maybe I have 10 minutes next week, maybe!
  • AGGGHHHHHH!!!!
  • If I don’t send this TPS report by 3pm, I’m burning this whole thing down. 

Also, it’s a good tip that if you find yourself speaking in “text talk” then you’ve likely got some big issues.

Busy isn’t beautiful – and it sure isn’t effective. Yes, at times, you’ve got to put the head down and scramble, but that’s not the ideal situation. The glory goes to being prepared. Toward having effective systems. Toward making the most of opportunities and marshaling resources into a mighty force for good.

So next time you have the inkling to put off your work till 5pm so you can stay until midnight and claim your gallantly selfless act, don’t do it. Leaders don’t engage in such sophistry. You’re better than that. I know you are. 

Insert a bunch of quotes here on: not waiting till the last minute, being awesome, and having great commitment to rad internal systems in your winning organization.

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.