seth’s blog

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.

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You were in Vietnam?

As usual, Seth Godin’s blog delivers succinct brilliance. Today’s is about the quickest way to bring about change, which he relays within three points. Spoilers: the answer is not electing someone to the Presidency.

Coming up in the Student Housing Industry in Gainesville (Go Gators), I worked as a Community Manager for an outfit that had 24 other such managers in the same market. We all managed similar assets (more or less) and were nearly exclusively in our early/mid-twenties. As such, we were eager to make names for ourselves and vault up the hierarchy. Competition was rampant and ruled the day – though it was nearly always friendly – akin to sibling rivalry. Read: A fun place to work.

As you’d expect; a few of us were terrible each year, most were average, and a few were incredible successes. I’m happy to report I was always in that last group – the ones who won every single year, in the country’s toughest Student Housing market.

To put it in perspective: if Student Housing is the Vietnam war – working in Gainesville is being in the shit.

When we’d get together after hours or at events, other Managers in the second group (average) would lament to me that I always got whatever I asked for – in regards to permission for certain types of promotions or money for improvements.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I learned after the first year to never ask for anything. When you ask permission you give people the chance to say no. After all, saying ‘no’ insures you don’t screw something up and waste time or money by doing something new – and by definition – unproven. Saying ‘yes’ means you could fall on your face and they’d be blamed for authorizing your blunder. Guess which response got chosen almost reflexively?

That’s when I let them know that I just did what I thought best for the company and for my asset.

If I knew a “Cooler-Scooter” was going to draw attention on campus and actually make my Leasing people want to flyer (thus increasing our success in leading traffic to the property) then what was the big deal? Spend the $500. But what if someone got hurt? Are you kidding me?!

That was the part that they couldn’t get comfortable with. They wanted the blessing and the political cover to do what they thought best without any possible blow back if it pulled a giant Hindenburg. No risk – all reward. Life doesn’t work that way.

Here’s my spin on Seth’s advice:

Don’t demand the power or ask permission – just do what needs doing and make sure it falls in line with your company’s culture and beliefs.
Take the Responsibility for what happens next – if you decide to spend money on a marketing venture and it doesn’t bear fruit, own that and state what you’d do differently.
If you succeed in your venture you won’t be alone. “Success has a thousand fathers, Failure is an orphan.” Share the parentage with anyone who helped or assisted and be gracious. People will let you get away with being the Maverick if they know you’re not going rouge and losing touch with the greater team.

Probably the biggest thing I’ve failed to mention is that you have to believe in what you’re doing, overpoweringly so. If you owned the company and this was your money at play, would you do the same? If you hesitate even an instant in answering that question, slow down. Stop. There’s always tomorrow.