Culture Nervousness in the Boardroom

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

The Challenge: Boards of directors are responsible for the long term success of organizations. They are legally accountable to act reasonably and prudently to ensure the strategy is effective for the greater good of all stakeholders. Of course, this includes the performance of the CEO. Now, more than ever, they are asking CEOs to outline their culture strategy. There is much angst about the ability to address competitive adaptability and protect brand reputation. Most board meetings dip into serious culture questions. For example: How are we managing advancements in technology? Why did our engagement and/or Glassdoor score go down? Why did so and so leave? What is our ability to learn and unlearn fast? What’s all this hullabaloo about psychological safety? Do we need to refresh our purpose/values?

Management is no longer just being asked to report on the expected financial and customer metrics. Directors are asking a lot of questions about how to measure culture, too. Frankly it’s a squishy, messy word for many. How do you define it? How do you measure it? And most importantly, what kind of gameplan can you execute to improve it?

Story: I’m co-writing a book about culture. The following is the first draft of a McKinsey & Co. inspired paragraph, we might use on the jacket of the book: 

“Three books sit on more executives’ bookshelves than any others: ‘In Search of Excellence’ (1982), ‘Built to Last’ (1994), and ‘Good to Great’ (2001). They turned their authors into management gurus, especially Tom Peters (‘In Search of Excellence’) and Jim Collins (the other two titles). After all the hoopla, McKinsey found that over the long run, most companies touted in these books struggled to outperform the S&P 500. Many have disappeared altogether. The conclusion: respect the trend, do everything you can to get ahead of it. Do not be arrogant or numb to the fact that even the greatest companies of their time couldn’t hold back the tide. Many were victims of their belief in being invincible.” So here’s the deal: No company can wait, rest on its laurels and be satisfied with its culture. Improve and transform or get left in the dust.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Many of our readers are executives, C-suite members and board members. If you are in this group, you need a culture framework and gameplan. 
  2. Your culture strategy should embrace adaptation, innovation, disruption and transformation. If it doesn’t, it is incomplete at best. 
  3. Wherever you are in the company, your everyday behavior and thinking combines with every other employee to define the true culture. What’s your company culture?

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now.

Lorne

One Millennial View: Furthermore, if Millennials find themselves in an organization that lacks a company culture that they can be proud of, they should constantly be on the lookout for a position in an organization with purpose and values that fit their expectations. What better incentive for c-suite members to improve culture if all their employees decide to work elsewhere?  

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Will They Come and Wave When You Leave Your Organization?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

The Challenge: I think too many people slip away into the night from their places of work without fellow employees taking a meaningful moment to really see and thank each other. This disappearing act usually happens when people voluntarily quit or are asked to leave for one reason or another. Formal long-term retirements from work usually have some reasonable process of goodbye. However, we seem to collectively shrug our shoulders in most other circumstances. It’s not unusual to hear a conversation similar to this: “Oh, it’s your last day? Well good luck. Sorry, I have to run to my next meeting. Let’s have coffee some day, stay in touch.” Or another conversation: “What happened to so and so? Really? That’s too bad. Did you see ‘Game of Thrones’ on Sunday?”

Story: I was fascinated by a report about 88-year-old, Tinney Davidson, who was leaving her home to move into assisted living. For 12 years, she had waved and smiled out of her window or front porch to high school students on their way to school. So last week, after finding out about the planned move, nearly 400 hundred high school students carrying signs and flowers walked together to Davidson’s home, stood on her lawn and blew her a collective kiss as she tearfully looked on. According to the CBC story, the kids carried colorful signs adorned with hearts. “We love you Mrs. Davidson,” one sign read. “Thank you for being awesome.” It’s a very touching statement of human beings seeing and acknowledging each other. Why do you think the students responded that way? All Davidson did was smile and wave. Hmm.

What We Can Take Away:

  1. We need to continuously remind ourselves that it is deeply human to want to be “seen.” With that understanding, it is important to take the time to really see others too. If they are in your life for however long, you’re both “there.”
  2. If you are a formal leader, YOU are responsible for how people leave with dignity and kindness, and acknowledging their mark however small or quiet. Stupid and/outdated HR and IT policies of taking system access away, walking people out of the building for security reasons, etc. is NO EXCUSE for “ghosting” the person leaving. The same principle applies if YOU are a teammate. It’s a copout to think it’s not your “job”. Being a kind human is in your job description!
  3. If you are the person leaving, did you genuinely and regularly “smile and wave” while you participated. Did you really care about others? Could they tell? Why would they want to say goodbye? Will they carry a sign saying “you are awesome” and blow you a kiss?

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now

– Lorne

One Millennial View: To answer your question above, I think Tinney Davidson received the attention she did because she made a kind connection with so many students. It’s tough to leave somewhere, and often awkward. I’m as big of a fan of the Irish goodbye as anyone, but I think it’s important to share our exit with others as well. We can also extend the same to anyone leaving.

– Garrett

Blog 983

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Hot Topic Friday: May 3

Abundance Accountability Friday Newsletter Personal leadership Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

 

Happy Friday! Here are my May 3 Hot Topics relating to advancing leadership and culture.

Hot Topic 1: The Nike ‘Boys Club’ Lawsuits and What They Mean For All Organizations.

Source: Portland Business Journal.

What it’s About: Nike has faced various lawsuits since allegations of a toxic workplace first emerged more than a year ago. Nike has remained on the defensive, and continues taking numerous actions designed to improve the company’s culture.

[Note: While some lawsuits have since been dismissed, this uncomfortable distraction has caused increased attention to improving culture.]

Why it’s Important: Boards of directors are going to start really digging into the culture issue for risk management purposes, as much as for competitive leverage. CEOs who claim to be surprised or unaware of widespread inappropriate behavior are going to get fired.

Hot Topic 2: How ‘Free Solo’ is Inspiration for All Leaders.

Source: Inc.

What it’s About: A friend and thought-leader raved on about Free Solo over dinner. On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold completed the 3,000-foot climb of El Capitan in Yosemite Park, without safety ropes or harnesses, in three hours, 56 minutes. This almost superhuman feat is a study in what it takes to be 10x better.  The experience is captured in the Academy-Award winning documentary, Free Solo.

Why it’s Important: These outside-the-organization accomplishments can be such a learning framework for achieving extraordinary results. According to this Inc. article, Honnold attributes his success to lessons like: 1. Mind your mindset. 2. Extraordinary success requires focus and sacrifice. 3. Believe in your unlimited potential. 4. No luck – only preparation. 5. Shortcuts can prove fatal. 6. Overnight success takes years of hard work. Learn from Alex. Watch the movie. Become inspired!

My Weekly Wine Recommendation (Thanks to Vivino):

Treana Red Blend Paso Robles 2015.

Picture and ratings provided by Vivino.

And finally! Here’s Cecil’s Bleat of the Week!

“People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”Theodore Levitt

Bye for now!

– Lorne Rubis

Incase you missed it:

Monday’s Lead In podcast.

Tuesday’s blog.

Wednesday’s Culture Cast podcast.

Also don’t forget to subscribe to our site, and follow Lorne Rubis on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for the latest from our podcasts, blogs, and all things offered on LorneRubis.com.

Why Are We Experiencing a Crisis of Misunderstanding?

Abundance Accountability Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

The problem and opportunity: We seem to be experiencing a crisis of misunderstanding in too many workplaces and society overall. Today, it is too convenient and comfortable to stay in one’s “bunker,” looking at the world exclusively through our own perspective. Wonderful internet based tools like FaceTime, or other live streaming apps are helpful, yet we are limited by the chair we’re perched on. We see what the camera angle allows us to see. Our body and mind works as such a powerful observation machine, the more sensual context the better. If not, we can spend a lot of time communicating with a blow horn, hoping the other “gets it.” Sometimes the screen is just not enough of a connection.

Story: This past week I went to a board orientation where I visited people working in the “field,” and the control center where the network brains of the operation blink and flash. I listened in on a customer service call and I could not have fully appreciated this customer’s positive surprise unless I actually heard his voice exclaim, “you mean you can fix it today? Wow, that’s great!” I also attended Singularity Summit Canada, where 1,000 plus people gathered and then went over to our office where people watched the same event via live stream. The fact that people around the world can virtually participate is pretty cool, yet each experience is obviously quite different. We can’t (so far) transport 1,000 people’s collective energy, and that leaves a presence gap. This weekend I also read a wonderful journalist’s story about his learning adventure to really understand what the average American was feeling about the state of the country. He visited and talked to people in bars and other watering holes through the middle of the country. Having a beer and crawfish with a stranger miles from home builds a bridge that one can’t get from reading the New Yorker, and sipping a macchiato on high street. These collective experiences reinforced my need for more intentional personal grounding. Maybe you need a little more too?

What we can do about it:

  1. Whenever possible, we need to get out of our chairs and do what the Japanese refer to as going to Genba (現場, also known as Gemba), a term meaning “the actual place.” The idea is that to really understand someone’s situation, going to Gemba (where they actually are) and using all of one’s senses to observe and listen is usually an eye opening journey.
  2. Whenever we want to better understand each other, we need to see and visit each other’s “actual.” Invest in being WITH the other, whenever possible. Do not limit yourself to statistics, data, and other facts. Go to Gemba. Look and FEEL from the other’s perspective. It is a vital part of learning and understanding, not just about the other, but ourselves as well. Decide to do that with someone you are trying to better understand this week! Don’t put it off.

Think BIG. Start Small. Act Now!

Lorne

One Millennial View: You might be thinking, “well where am I going to find the time or resources to attempt to access any sort of Gemba?” Which I think is a fair question. I suppose the idea is that we don’t need to sleep outside in the streets to visualize the perspective of a homeless person, but at least the idea of THINKING about another person’s point of view is more valuable than staying in our own bubbles.

– Garrett

Blog 982

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

How Much Work is Too Much Work?  

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Problem: How much is too much work? What does work balance really mean? I was struck by what Jack Ma, the billionaire CEO behind Alibaba, had to say to Chinese workers about the merits of working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week (996). He essentially told them it was their good fortune and that they should be grateful. That has sparked quite a conversation because Alibaba’s work culture is considered by some outside observers as lousy, perhaps even abusive.

Story: Almost simultaneously, the following video by Mark Berg, a frustrated, millennial, Minnesota family dairy farmer, went viral on Facebook. It’s almost six minutes long, and very much worth a watch. Mark tearfully expresses how his parents have less now than when they started farming 40 years ago. The only reason their dairy farm hasn’t gone under is because the life savings of this frugal family have supplemented their mounting farm debt. The irony is that a dairy farmer’s work life is 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. This makes Alibaba workers look like slackers. When Mark’s mom, now in her 60’s, recently talked to the CEO of a milk producer about the Berg’s financial struggles, the suggestion was that perhaps Mrs. Berg get a part-time job to help makes ends meet. Hmm. There is something very wrong with this picture.

What We Can Do About It:

  1. We may need to open ourselves to other business and economic models that offer more equal wealth distribution. 
  2. I’d encourage you to read the following article by Nobel laureate  in economics, Joseph E. Stiglitz
  3. The saving grace in Berg’s situation is that they “love their frickin cows.” Having a deep purpose helps soften the relentless work. However, deep purpose alone will not overcome the dysfunction of fear related to not having enough to look after our basic human needs. Sharing more of the wealth will make us all richer. 

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now.

– Lorne

One Millennial View: What a complicated issue. It’s tough to see such hard working people not seeing an ROI, despite their enormous efforts. I wonder if viral videos like the one above will raise awareness to bring some more profit to local farmers.

– Garrett

Blog 981

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Hot Topic Friday: April 19

Abundance Accountability Friday Newsletter Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

 

Happy Friday everyone! Here are some Hot Topics that caught my attention this week.

Hot Topic 1: Phone Love!

Source: New York Times,  Samantha Irby, comedy writer.

What it’s About: Irby writes a brilliant, somewhat tongue-in-cheek article about how we love our phones in spite of everything we know to be harmful about our relationship with them. The following excerpt is a taste of her earthy perspective: “I have long understood that I am a tiny, powerless cog in the wheel of modern America, plus I’m not a hacker, so what do I even know about keeping things hidden? Is it even possible for me, a regular person who cannot figure out how to program the television remote, to circumvent the eyes of all of the faceless technology corporations analyzing my information? What am I going to do, cheat Amazon? Outsmart Google? No, I’m going to do what everyone else does: enter my credit card information when prompted and get that thing I need two days from when I decided I needed… Yes, your phone is potentially hazardous to whatever semblance of security you might have. Yes, there are many medical professionals who would attest to the deleterious effect modern technology has on the brains and interpersonal skills of adults. But hear me out: Maybe it’s worth it?…”

Why it’s Important: For those of us who design experiences in the world of work, I believe we need to pay very close attention to Irby’s honest self-reflection. In spite of all the hazardous issues to our security and physical/mental well being, we are likely to increase our love affair with our phones. 5G, Moore’s law, and a host of other exponential technology and content explosion will make us even more “one.” It’s our job to embrace and humanize for the greater good, rather than wish for a breakup.

Hot Topic 2: 996.ICU, Have We Lost Our Way Regarding “Success?”

Source: Reuters, ARYNEWS.tv.

What it’s About: Alibaba Group founder and billionaire, Jack Ma, defended the grueling overtime work culture at many of China’s tech companies, calling it a “huge blessing” for young workers. In a speech to Alibaba employees, Ma defended the industry’s “996” work schedule, which refers to the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday, six days a week. “I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing,” he said in remarks posted on the company’s WeChat account. ‘Many companies and many people don’t have the opportunity to work 996,’ Ma said. ‘If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?… Let me ask everyone, if you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?’”

Why it’s Important: This 996 perspective as an expectation and assumption for so-called “success,” may roll off the tongue of a billionaire a little too glibly. This month, activists on Microsoft’s GitHub, the online code repository site, launched a project titled “996.ICU” where tech workers listed Alibaba among the companies ranked as having some of the worst working conditions. 996 is even being questioned in China, where an opinion piece published in a state newspaper argued that 996 violated China’s Labor Law, which stipulates that average work hours cannot exceed 40 hours per week. I think thoughtful leaders have to challenge the narrow definition of “success,” and confront the assumptions underlying 996. At what cost? For whose benefit? Let’s have a rich and meaningful conversation on this. Jack Ma offers just one world view. Let’s hear others’.

My Weekly Wine Recommendation (Thanks to Vivino):

Montemajor ‘Quattronotti’ Appassimento Special Edition Puglia Italy 2017.  

Picture and ratings provided by Vivino.

And finally! Here’s Cecil’s Bleat of the Week!

 “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – 
Anais Nin

[Cecil is the mascot for LorneRubis.com] 

Bye for now!

– Lorne Rubis

Incase you missed it:

Monday’s Lead In podcast.

Tuesday’s blog.

Wednesday’s Culture Cast podcast.

Also don’t forget to subscribe to our site, and follow Lorne Rubis on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for the latest from our podcasts, blogs, and all things offered on LorneRubis.com.