Why Can’t Organizations Believe This?

Be Respectful Culture Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: The very first point in the eight “cultural ingredients” or “recipe” I follow to drive a great culture is: People First. Most organizations pretend to believe this, but do not really act that way. They genuinely don’t know what being “People First” really looks like. Too often, it’s about the quarterly share price first (and exec bonuses, of course). These days, customer obsession is competing a little more for first amongst equals. However, very few top leadership teams look at everything through the eyes of what’s best for People First. And I’m not talking about mush headed thinking where People First becomes interpreted as an absence of high performance and great results. It’s quite the opposite actually. One consistent example: Southwest Airlines. 

Note the following from Forbes: “Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines announced it would be sharing $586 million in profits with its 54,000 employees – which equates to about a 13.2% average bonus for each employee, or roughly the equivalent of six weeks’ pay. And that doesn’t even count the extra $351 million the company contributed to its employees’ 401(k) plans.

In an era marked by squabbles over the minimum wage and the gap in pay between executives and front-line employees, those numbers stand out. (The company paid out a record $620 million the year before). Is it any wonder that Southwest employees always seem so happy when you’re checking into your flight?

As Gary Kelly, Southwest’s CEO said: ‘Our people-first approach, which has guided our company since it was founded, means when our company does well, our people do really, really well. Our people work incredibly hard and deserve to share in Southwest’s success. Remarkably, it’s the 43rd year in a row that Southwest has shared profits with its people, who also reportedly own about 10% of the company’s shares as well. The airline has also never laid anyone off or cut pay.

The company has long been lauded for its strong workplace culture and engaged workforce – which might also have something to do with getting employees to think and act like owners by sharing the profits of their shared success. (It’s worth noting that Southwest also has a union workforce, which sometimes leads to conflict from time to time.)

Herb Kelleher, the airline’s founder, is quoted in the book, Nuts by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, about the fact that in 1973 Southwest became the first major airline to introduce profit-sharing to its employees, as saying: Profit-sharing is an expense we want to be as big as possible so our people get a greater reward.’

(If you’re a fan of Podcasts, I’d also recommend listening to Kelleher’s interview with NPR where he talks about the early days of starting his groundbreaking airline).

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, to hear stories about flight attendants picking up trash, gate agents tracking down borrowed staplers, or pilots cutting back on fuel usage precisely because they know that will impact their company’s profits.” 

In Canada, WestJet Airlines followed the Southwest cultural and business model to the letter and had similar results for most of its history. Some recent critics suggest that the current leadership has abandoned this People First ethos and the company has clearly become “shareholder first.” Those arguing that there has been a cultural deterioration point out that the pilots of WestJet recently unionized because they no longer trusted the executive team to look at the world through their eyes. Apparently, one example was the implementation of a pilot scheduling software system where pilot efficiency was optimized at the expense to pilots’ well being. I love flying WestJet, and time will tell. You can’t fake “People First” though.

Character Moves: 

  1. Do not pretend you can really create or live in a great culture without a People First strategy. Challenge yourself to learn what the attributes/behaviors of a People First organization looks like. How would you measure that? What companies fits these criteria? 
  2. To be People First, you have to personally lead yourself and others that way. What’s something you’ve done in the last week to prove it? 

It’s always People First in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Asking why all organizations don’t commit to a People First culture is a great question. Happier employees should equal better work, right? I too love flying Southwest, and you can definitely tell that they’re sitting at the “cool kids table” at the airport, and well, some other airlines are likely envious of their People First skies.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Dogfooding: The Company & You 

Accountability Be Accountable Management Organizational leadership

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Key Point: “Dogfooding” is a matter of integrity. You likely guessed that this refers to the adage many of us have heard: “Eat your own dog food.” The following outlines Facebook’s approach on the subject:

“Dogfooding” is a common practice of most IT companies for fixing the bugs in the application they create, but Facebook goes a step beyond by using the technique to retain employees, according to a report from The Economic Times. Facebook is using this technique to engage its young employees, with most of them being in their twenties and edgy and/or impatient… James Mitchell, head of the Hyderabad office (India) says, “Dogfooding is one of the best outlets that we can provide for young, enterprising intelligent minds. It binds them to the product and the company very strongly.” He says that Dogfooding is the standard through which voice of the employees can be heard. Facebook employees hack, test, and beat up all their products before (and after) they hit the market.

As per Facebook, Google and other leading companies, it’s strategically important for employees to “dogfood” its own products. And I believe this concept applies to us personally, too. One example is that I strongly believe we personally cannot stay in the high performance zone indefinitely. In full, high-performance, we eventually become fatigued and stressed so we need to intentionally REST. Leading firms like The Energy Group, who study this process deeply, understand and teach groups how to flow from high-performance to rest, and back again. They advise everything possible to avoid prolonged time in the fatigue/stress zone. If one stays too long in this stress zone, well, unintended bad things typically happen to us.

I’ve written about the importance of personal energy management a few times over the years. Most of my readers know my team and I have been leading an intense enterprise initiative since January. It’s been relentless; The thinking, planning and execution. It’s involved many 14-hour days, weekends, travel, and the excitement/anxiety associated with high risk/return movements. So… Dogfooding… Both my team and I need to internationally REST. Take some white space, and reenergize before we step on the gas again.

Character Moves:

  1. Dogfood your company products.
  2. Dogfood your beliefs and values. Both 1 and 2 are about integrity.

Dogfooding in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Millennials all want to move a million miles an hour towards our goals, and certainly don’t live with much patience. But, even NASCAR crews have to take a pit stop and “check their tires.” If you need kibbles and bits of advice, this is a good one to chow down on.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Evangelist Phenomena

Abundance Be Abundant Change Organizational leadership

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Key Point: We may need to reinvent the way we engage teams to create “movements” within organizations. The company I work for made a commitment to move our productivity and communication application platform to Google’s G Suite. In order to transform the institution, we knew we had to reimagine and work in profoundly better ways, with much better, more modern tools. This included applying a software tool set that facilitated the full democratization of networked ideas, imagination and contribution. While we already had a culture that honored collaboration, connectivity and engagement, we knew that we needed a platform to accelerate innovation and exponential results. This called for a “movement” to cause a work renaissance that we branded as “Work Reimagined!”

A dedicated team of leaders assigned to this movement created a mini transformative purpose (mTP) that included: “Freeing and unleashing the ideas and contribution of 5,000 plus people, with the outcome of creating a work revolution to drive an exponential transformation of the company in making our Story (purpose) true.” We then created three major phases to fully engage all 5,000 team members: “Ignite and Listen,” “Excite and Discover,” and “Adopt and Master.” Each phase was populated with numerous tactics that will be further elaborated on in another blog. Additionally, we knew we needed a network of team members that would evangelize and propel the movement. Hence the birth and rise of our now famous “G Evangelists.”

Over a five-day period, we invited all 5,000 team members to “audition” for the G Evangelist role, which essentially asked for their commitment to become a spark for the Work Reimagined movement. While we outlined a role description, it essentially asked potential candidates to be willing to participate in a 30 day boot camp (starting two weeks after selection), commit to fully learn G Suite, help the company journey through the three stages noted above, and then be open to support assignments after. We told them NOT to seek approval from their next up manager, and promised, with the CEOs support, that we would clear the forward passage for any successful candidates. The response from the team community was incredible, and the sub-team leading this recruitment and selection process was remarkable. My following description will underwhelm the profoundly powerful outcome of this initiative. However, these are the highlights:

  1. Thousands of team members expressed interest.
  2. Over 300 people auditioned with the most creative applications imaginable. 
  3. Over 200 interviewed, and a final 50 were selected (we could have hired 300 exceptional team members).
  4. The 50 represented the most inclusive slice of the company possible; what proved to be a perfect blend 
  5. They came together as an inseparable cohort through the boot camp, and created a fiercely connected community to lead our movement: True G Evangelists.
  6. They have become teachers, coaches, experts, and facilitators (both individually and collectively), filled with deep knowledge and empathy.
  7. We have just entered the “Adopt and Master” phase, and to some extent their work is just beginning. 

While the jury regarding the long term effectiveness of the G Evangelist cohort is still out, so far the learning involves the extraordinary superhero powers of a self-nominated/carefully selected group of inclusive team members from all levels, positions, geography, generation, background, tenure, etc. to fully connect, collaborate and contribute. The learning content and boot camp facilitation was genius, even magical. And the groups’ road trip to Google HQ and Singularity was highly impactful. Further study and research on the effectiveness of these troops will likely reveal other insights. In the meantime, it is absolutely clear the G Evangelist 50 are leading the Work Reimagined movement with almost super human energy. Their momentum has created peer-to-peer flow, and the conditions for the work renaissance we are “star shooting” for. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you’re a leader, experiment with the idea of selecting a cohort of self-nominated, passionately committed people to sprint (outside of their day-to-day job) for a short period of time on a focused challenge. They will likely amaze you with their ability to get results; probably in highly inventive, even 10x ways. Give them the support and air cover to fully connect, collaborate and contribute without interference from upper management or other distractions. Expect greatness not sameness from participants, and they will deliver.
  2. As a team member, look to raise your hand and get involved in addressing gnarly problems and/or initiatives you have deep passion for. If your leadership is timid, find like-minded “Evangelists” and get s#!* done anyways! What are you waiting for? What have you really got to lose?  

Evangelists in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Wow, what an impressive project! My favorite part is the “if your leadership is timid, find like-minded ‘Evangelists,’ and get s#!* done anyways.” That is just plain always an option, no matter what you’re doing, and it’s applicable to more things in life than just work. An extra “to-do?” You bet. But, c’mon, if you’re a regular reader of this blog then you know what you should/can do. Let’s make it happen.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Power of a Little WOW!

Be Respectful Culture Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: I’m a huge fan of the little “WOW” and the positive impact it can have on people every day. I think it does require somewhat of a self-nudge to execute on the idea. Ideally, we wake up thinking about what contributions we want to make and then confirm the results by recording them in our continuous contribution journal before we call it a night. (I know many of you do this virtually rather than on paper). I wonder what the exponential impact might be if we made a point of looking to add just one little “WOW” to that list? 

Our company has 10 stated values we call the “ATBs.” One of them is about constantly seeking ways to bring “WOW” to customers and each other. When we get together with new hires during what we call “Culture Day,” we talk about what it means to accomplish this. Sometimes the “WOW” stories are the “BIG WOW;” people literally doing something that is over the top, jaw dropping, remarkable. As an example, we had one of our team members put on a hazmat suit and enter a court room to help a customer get vital banking documentation signed. After a disasterous flood, we had busloads of our team members volunteer for days, digging peoples’ houses out the residual mud. The “BIG WOW” stories are plentiful and legendary in our company. We’re very proud of them and they help define the essence of who we are.

What we may not fully appreciate, however, is the additional power of becoming a culture defined by daily “little WOWS.” A movement of “little WOWs” would build upon the belief that everyone really matters and reinforce our commitment to really SEE each other. And it confirms the notion that people remember us most for how we make them feel. 

During Culture Day we play a video that demonstrates how one of our bankers practiced all of our 10 ATBs to make a couple of our customers’ lives much richer and happier. We see how our teammate’s actions had an unbelievable, life altering impact on these people. It almost always chokes me (and the rest of the audience) up when I watch it. After the video, 130 of the new hires decided to do a little “WOW” for that teammate, by sending her flowers at work that very day. Yes, delivering this little “WOW” involved a modest amount of money, but in most cases small “WOWs” can be free. It is usually an act of appreciation and acknowledgement. Think what might happen if we all did just one little “WOW” each day? It might cause a “WOW” revolution? 

Character Moves:

  1. Every day between now and the rest of the year, I’m going to look to add at least one intentional act of “WOW” to my daily contribution list. I just think it will be personally gratifying. I’ll just take that little extra step to really SEE someone and “WOW” them in a small way. 
  2. Would you care to join me? Why not start a little “WOW” revolution out there? How great would that be for all of us?

A little “WOW” in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I’d like to see how many people believe they work in companies that encourage “little WOWs,” let alone any real “WOWs” at all. It’s sad to think that too many “WOWs” out there just consist of, “wow!! I don’t loath my job!” But, now that we’re aware there are organizations that do care about their employees as well as cultures that “see” and “wow” workers, everyone can be inspired to contribute to that standard… And if it doesn’t exist where you work, maybe that little “wow revolution” can start with you.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Turn On the Radio

Be Respectful Culture Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: Organizations are currently working in parallel streams of reality and in almost different “centuries” at the same time. There is a work revolution going on; some say it’s the fourth industrial revolution. Emerging institutions like Singularity University and leading companies are helping to bring an exponential mindset to advanced organizations and their leaders. Companies like ours are flattening out, looking to drop decision making to the most appropriate levels, facilitating unprecedented forms of team work, moving at lightening “start-up” speed to get things done, helping people integrate work and life, and much more. This includes huge investments in people and feeding their insatiable curiosity and hungry growth mindset. We are getting rid of restrictive and backward thinking like seniority based holidays and sick time. People work from where the need to in order to achieve the best results. Everything in organization design and people/technology systems is about driving a high adaptability and results quotient, while we become obsessive about delivering relentless value so that customers FEEL we are indispensable. This is stimulating, hard, and even mind-bending work. It is necessary for survival and not some goofy egalitarian system gone wild. We are constantly looking to disrupt ourselves for a greater good! (And yes, of course, we are committed to being sustainably profitable). 

At the same time, I talked to someone recently who works for an organization where people could not get top leadership permission to turn on the radio in the “shop,” because workers might get distracted or pampered. Everyone knows working while listening to music results in a downward shift in productivity? Huh? People work in places just down the road from us where they still punch time cards. Or leaders genuinely still believe that people are out to screw them and have to be watched. I know employees who work for “bosses” that believe they ought to “kick ass” everyday and “recognition is for sissies.” Some organizations still require people to ask for permission to act like an adult. They believe people are replaceable and simply just a necessary component to running a business. If you ask the people managing those organizations what their purpose is, they will often describe what they transact at, rather than passionately outlining a deeply important reason to exist. Their “vision” is most often defined by EBITDA or revenue/net income (or the ever elusive “exit strategy”). Up-sell, cross sell, spin sell are part of their everyday vocabulary. And many of these companies are very financially successful, sometimes for decades. My question is, for how long? 

My hope and encouragement is for every entrepreneur out there to fiercely attack and put these backward organizations out of their fat, lazy, margin rich business. Look at companies that have high margin and yet have lots of friction and go after their market with a vengeance. Define a higher purpose, and be obsessively compulsive about real value for your customers. Measure how much you’ve helped and made a difference to them rather than squeezing them for every sales dollar. Your most important sales pipeline are crazy, happy customers that will publicly want to associate their brand with yours. Develop a people first system that attracts teammates who care about customers and the purpose of the business as much or even more than you!! And, right from the beginning, put in the latest technology and processes that make your customers literally say… “Wow.” Be relentlessly committed to having customers line up, metaphorically or actually for your product and service. Now here is the fun part: Create a business model that makes you 10x better than your competitors. This is not fantasy. It’s what the best entrepreneurial companies are doing! If you’re not willing or able to be an entrepreneur, then go work for someone who is. Stop working for people that treat you as a replaceable part because they will gladly oblige; it’s just a matter of time. Also, the “Christmas party” and mysterious annual bonus is NOT reflective of an advanced company. Here is a situation where size does NOT matter. A five person electrical contractor can apply all the modern leadership and reflect a great culture just as much as Google, Facebook, or ATB. Some might argue it’s even easier. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you haven’t already, join the revolution! You’re worth it! Become part of and fiercely contribute to something you deeply care about, and be sure that organization also deeply cares about the authentic, unique you! 
  1. Remember that you’re already an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. You likely are always looking to make things better (and not just a little better, but insanely better)!!  We are BIG VERBS! Be 10x big and think 10x BIG!

Tuned in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I’ve never worked directly in sales, but I know that if I was selling I’d have to completely, 100 percent believe in the product. I would have a tough time selling anything I didn’t fully understand, buy into, or hold dear. That said, an important question might be: Could you sell yourself your own job? Why is it worth 40 plus hours a week of investment to you? Or do you just own it because it’s better than nothing? First question: Do they even let you listen to the radio?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis