The Blog Revelations and Observations

The culture of a great podcast

“The Medium is the Message.” – Marshall McLuhan.

Rogan has guests from the cultural zeitgeist, and he discusses current issues so the audience feels like they’re being educated (much the way people would get their news from the Daily show).

But I find his use of the medium the most compelling reason. Here are the factors:

1. LONG SHOWS
In the first episode I ever listened to, I heard Joe say, “This is it people, there’s no editing.” And I was pissed! I thought – Do me the favor. Edit this to the best parts so I can listen in 20 minutes. But now if it’s a good episode I’ll listen to the whole 3 hours. It feels like eavesdropping on a great conversation, as opposed to a lot of sound bites.

2. IN-PERSON
In comparison, Skype/phone podcasts feel really distant, especially if people have bad mics (or no mics).

3. STRONG ENVIRONMENT
Guests don’t go to a room, they got to Joe’s Disneyland – They see the archery range, the float tank, pool table, gym. You’re entering his world, and the guests have a great sense of wonder and respect going into it.

3. PREP TIME WITH GUESTS
While it’s not actual preparation, Joe spends time with them beforehand, talking or playing. So there’s a warm up (which all great athletes do). By the time they’re talking, they’re in the groove, unlike most podcasts, which start cold.

4. COMEDY AND IMPROV
He’s a great comedian, so he can make fun of anything. And he’s also conversing with the principles of improv – he listens really well and can riff on what anyone is saying. So there’s a flow to it. I feel ruined for other podcasts because they feel so rough in comparison. (Here is my own foray into standup comedy)

5. HAVING A LISTENER
This is a bit strange, but in the personal development space, programs like Landmark actually have people whose role it is just to listen. They’re holding space for a larger conversation. The producer “Young Jamie” on Joe’s show listens and brings in relevant information. It gives the show a 3D feeling whereas a two-person show feels flatter (think about it from a sheer physics stand point – It takes 3 points to create a stable plane whereas two points are inherently unstable).

I would recommend checking out the episodes with Jesse Itzler, and Steven Tyler.

One other show that does it well is “Anna Fariss is Unqualified” for many of the same reasons. Check out the episodes with Bert Kreisher and Mayim Bialik.

What are you leaving on the table?

I walked away from what I thought was the best meeting ever…

“Yes, we got everything we asked for!” I said.

We had just walked out of a meeting with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and he gave us all the resources we asked for to launch a new project.

My colleague said, “That’s not good.”

“What?! Why?”

“He didn’t say no to anything. What other support could we have asked for that we didn’t think of?”

Ohhh….

Such an interesting concept.

You don’t know that you’ve asked for too much until someone says “No.”

Many friends and colleagues have offered to help me. I rarely ask for it, but when I do, I get a Yes.

So now I’m wondering: What else is possible?  What am I leaving on the table?

What could you be asking for?
It’s amazing how often the response will be a simple, “Yes.”

Have you hired a ghost?

Dave Logan, author of Tribal Leadership, helped me see the power of a good listener, who has the ability to influence conversation without even saying anything. He said, “You can tell who has that kind of power because if they look at their watch then the whole room.”  Their presence holds the space of the conversation.

Sometimes that’s a real person… The worldwide training company, Landmark Education, has someone listening to the leader just to hold space for the conversation.  I myself was the listener in the room when Dave recorded his audiobook. And I have noticed that the best podcasts seem to have a producer there in the room.

The eerie part, is you don’t even need a real person. Think that’s weird?

At Amazon.com they keep a chair open at meetings to represent the customer’s voice. How cool and weird is that?!  It’s like a ghost is there.

It seems like Walt Disney is still there when you hear the stories behind the scenes in Disney management and training. And if you can wrap your mind around this: Steve Jobs’ biographer said those close to him still speak of him in the present tense… What?!

And it hit me… Without getting into the beliefs, the world’s most well-known person may be the ghost of Jesus.

Let’s stick with the living ones, at least for now…

Do you notice who are the powerful listeners at your company?
What are they listening for?
What space are they holding?

The Secret of the Family Business

When I’m with a group of leaders and managers, there’s often one from a family business.

They are the ones who throw me a curveball. Their culture questions are very different from the rest of the group. The conversation ends pretty quickly once I give them the answer they are not expecting. I say:

“Family businesses are less like corporations and more like the mafia.”

It gets a ton of laughs but I’m serious.

The mafia plays by different rules, or perhaps different values. While corporations tend to be based in performance, results, and service. Family business usually means the values are loyalty and trust, before anything else.

So while that leader in the company (usually a son, brother or cousin) is trying to shift the culture, they have to play the game. They want to do things differently but what they really have to do is build up so much trust and loyalty by staying in-line.

In no other circumstance do I say this, but I say – Be a Yes Man, or a Yes Woman.  Do it to the point that they get sick of it.  Then they’ll either build up a ton of credit to use later, or the leaders will simply hand over more responsibility.

Whether you’re in a family business or not, it’s key to determine the real game that’s being played.

And the next question is – Do you want to play that game?

Because you always have a choice. You can leave and find a place that’s more in line with your values. Or if you stay, play the game and help improve it by working from within.

Adding Friction to Onboard Customers and Employees

I just signed up for a Virtual Assistant Service.

They made it easy on me, by making it challenging.

What?

Yes. Stay with me here…

They could have simply given me a button that said, “Sign up here.” Then they could have taken my money. Yes, that would have been an “easy” process. But how many people would do it, and just sign up cold like that.

Instead, they added friction to me buying their service, and it made it easier.

Let me show you.

First, they didn’t ask me to buy. They just invite me to try.

After clicking that, they entice me to try it for free, and take my info…

They don’t stop there, because you know how many of us sign up for something like this, let it hit our email and do nothing, right?

So instead, they get me into action, immediately. They ask me to pick a task area, and if I do it within the time limit, then I get a $25 credit.

And then step by step, I pick the kind of task I want done:

I then go on to give them exact information…

And we’re on our way.

Yes, it’s a lot of steps, but, I believe it drivers higher conversion rates because:

a) They’re very easy.
b) It screens out those who are not serious.
c) I get immediate value, and they are selling by doing.

So how does this relate to your company internally?

Add friction to the hiring process.

1) Rather than post your job opportunities, put up a form to take their email address and their interests, so that you have a way of contacting them if a relevant job comes up. If you just show them the jobs and one doesn’t apply, then you’ve lost them forever.

2) Have them contribute a video of why they are a good candidate.

3) Ask them to use a very specific subject in an email to you, just to see if they can really follow instructions and pay attention to detail. If they can’t do this simple thing, they’re out.

4) Interview people in a group, have them work together on something and have each person say a recommendation for the others to get a job. You can tell how well they play in teams, and how much they’re willing to support the bigger goal.

Add friction to a new program.

When I started up the Goals Coach program at Zappos, we had only one coach for 1500 people. Rather than just opening up for coaching, we had them:

1) Apply to be in it, making them think about what they want and why.

2) They had to take a class about coaching and how it works

3) Now that they have had all their prep, the sessions only took 15 minutes, rather than a full hour, thus quadrupling capacity.

Where might you add friction in your business or in your culture in order to serve the higher goal?

Do you have counter-balancing values?

In the Culture Blueprint I talk about how culture is related to systems theory.  There are feedback loops (culture feeds on itself).

Here are the two kinds and why you should know about them:

1. Reinforcing Loops

These are the values you want to be known for. You want reinforce behaviors that support these values.

2. Balancing Loops

I would actually call these counter-balancing loops. They make sure the intended value does not go out of control, because any system that is optimized for a value without a counterbalance will tip over.

Let me explain…

At Zappos, the first value is “Deliver WOW! through service.” There are many reinforcing behaviors that go into this, from the way calls are answered to how problems are handled.

But… if that was the only value, imagine how it would go out of control if followed to an extreme. People would spend a lot of money on making customers happy, even to the detriment of the company. Or, people would focus so much on helping the customer that they would lose focus on themselves and burn out.

So the counter balancing values are “Do more with less” to keep costs down, and “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness” to make sure everyone is taking care of themselves.

You can see this in many companies.

Google places a high priority on academics. So they balance the education intensity of college with all the amenities of college too.

Apple is known for pursuing excellence.  But if they only pursued excellence they would never ship because it would never be perfect. And because of that, they also have a high tolerance for failure.  Steve Jobs said he loved the products they never created as much as the ones that they did.

So take the highest value you have for your company. Now take it to an extreme.  Now what would be the counter balance?

Oh, and what do you think Steve Jobs said when asked what his all-time favorite invention was?

It was Apple itself – The company. Meaning the culture and people.  Culture is the key factor.

How to Get to Inbox Zero

When people see I have zero emails in my inbox they can’t believe it.  I usually teach this to individuals or at companies, but I wanted more people to have it, so here is a webinar I created with the principles, hacks and tools.

The Great Culture Equalizer

It used to take me weeks to figure out a culture. I would spend a lot of time with the company and then write a long report about what’s going on.

Now I can quickly diagnose a culture with this question:

“Are people on time for meetings and do they end on time?”

For culture to work properly, it’s all about agreements – our cultural norms. And our realities can be so different that there’s not a lot we can agree on. Even something as simple as honesty can break down when you ask if white lies are okay, or if you argue whether taking pens home from the office is dishonest.

But one thing we can agree on is that we all go by the same clock.

Time is the great equalizer.

So when one person puts their time agenda above others, then the culture system breaks down. That may sound extreme but think of it this way…

Let’s say Bob is leading a meeting that’s supposed to end by 9am and he decides he needs 10 extra minutes to get his point across. Because Bob is a manager people feel like they have to stay.  Meanwhile Susan is losing time for her 9am meeting because she needs those people there, who (now) will not be on time.

To put it simply – Being late is all about prioritizing your own individual needs above the group needs. And that is when things break down.

Will being on time solve all problems? No, but it sets the foundation because:

a) People respect the whole over the individual (as a practice)

b) People learn to work with constraints

c) People learn to put integrity above any goal

In all my years of knowing Tony (CEO of Zappos) I have never once seen him be late (both personally and professionally).  And he is a leader who achieves a lot, has a ton of fun, and delegates like a master.

Don’t believe me.

Try it (just for a week) and see what happens.

5 Most Engaging Ways to Use Social Media

Granted, this is coming from a guy who spends very little time on social media, but I think that’s actually an advantage.

It seems that people crushing it in social media are very clear on who they are and what they value (Once again, it’s all about values).

This all came to me in just a few moments. I just had a very fine cup of coffee, I got on Instagram and I suddenly realized what really works…

5 Most Engaging Ways to Use Social Media

(and by the way, that term Social Media is pretty much everything within public digital communications)

These trends make the following assumptions:

  1. We have a lot of choices, so what engages has to cut through a ton of crap (as well as a ton of value).
  2. We have extremely short attention spans and they are only getting shorter.
  3. Much of our behavior is driven by unconscious tendencies rather than conscious choice.

1.  Relevance + Expertise

With a million places to direct our attention, it’s not about what’s important or interesting or entertaining. It’s about what’s most relevant to us or our audience at any given moment.

The Joe Rogan Podcast gets more than 120 million downloads per month. That’s more people than watch the Superbowl.  I can listen to it for hours (except for the parts on MMA).

JRE963

I love how he mixes three vital elements:

1) Highly relevant topic matters
2) People highly qualified to talk about them
3) Improv comedy style humor and flow

The first segment of this episode with Michael Malice is incredible because I learned so much about what’s really going on in North Korea and how the people there are being held hostage. I feel like I’m being informed and having fun all at the same time.

  • What are the absolute most relevant topics you can talk about?
  • How can you bring your expertise or that of others?
  • How can you just have fun with it and be silly and playful?

2. Nostalgia + Remixing

Gary Vaynerchuck was at Mastermind Talks when I heard him say that nostalgia is going to be huge, I think because as things change faster and faster, the joys from the past become comforting and grounding.

In this video, comedian Bert Kreischer pretends to be in an episode of Magnum PI before his Hawaii shows.

bert-socialmedia

I noticed how this is far different from everything else in my feed, so it immediately drew my attention.

  • How can you do something that immediately catches visual attention?
  • What would be a pattern interrupt to someone browsing through a bunch of selfies and food shots?
  • What’s something from the past that you love that you can make fun of or pay homage to?

3. Gestalt image dynamics

This is a fancy way of saying it conveys everything you need to know, in one shot, without explanation.  I got a lot of compliments on this post for that reason.  This is me conveying my ideal productive day, without explanation…

gestalt-socialmedia

4. Funny Narratives

The value of humor cannot be underplayed. I remember seeing Seth Godin speak and half the content was funny images. As a pro speaker I thought it seemed like cheating, but hey, he’s winning and it’s working.  Funny cuts through, opens people up, lets us relax and take our guards down. I fully believe our next president will be very, very funny.

fredsavage-netflix

Fred Savage posted this clip from Netflix on Instagram. I love how I could understand the scene quickly, with our without audio.

  • How can you think and express in stories?
  • Add text to your pieces for people scrolling by fast
  • (Again) Don’t be too serious! Have fun with it!

5. Automated Conversations

This is brand new territory, so let me first say that a lot of people are getting this wrong.  Having automated conversations (such as facebook messenger bots) that are actually relevant and helpful are speeding up interactions and keeping people engaged.

For an example of this, check out the opt-in at Bot Academy

BotAcademy

  • To see how this can work with an app, check out the dating app Bubby Love and text the number there.
  • What is the ideal conversation you’d love to have with the people you love to serve the most?
  • What are the questions you can ask to really get to know your audience better?