What to do (before) everything goes off the rails

Culture of Chaos ,Uncategorized ,Vision

This started out as a post about the Great Resignation.  We may see most people exit the workforce for one reason or another.

People have become used to government payments, staying at home, and they’re unwilling to tolerate poor working conditions. Others are opposed to medical policies. And some are simply re-thinking their life. If they put their new checks into investments at the beginning of this year, then they really have flexibility. 

So what does this mean? 

Your people may be leaving you. Fast. And in high numbers. 

And if you’re looking for a company engagement survey to save you, you’re about six months too late. 

Now… don’t panic. 

Why? Well for one, it never works. No one ever looked back and said, “I’m glad I completely freaked out and lost my shit over that.” If anything, it’s the actions they took as a result that made the difference. 

It reminds me of a story about big wave surfers. When they are under a 60 foot wave, and can’t get back to the surface, they may be pummeled by yet another wave.  And even though they can hold their breath for five minutes, it still might not be enough. So what’s the first thing they do? Relax.   

Yes, relax. Because it’s a simple equation. If they freak out, then their heart beats fast and uses up all of their oxygen then they’ll die. The only chance they have to survive, is to be calm.  So point 1…

1. Take Care of Yourself First

You secure your own mask before helping your baby. Why? So you don’t pass out in the process. Take a look at your own life. Are you taking care of the basics. That really comes down to eat, sleep and exercise.  Establish your baseline, so that you can get a clear emotional perspective. 

The second reason not to panic is because things are far worse than you think. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?).  Yes, we’re talking a sea of converging issues – A potential global debt collapse. Supply line issues that could leave people starving. Tense foreign. A President who isn’t “all there.”  I could go on…  In other words, we’re in a cesspool of struggle with no strong leadership. 

So why on Earth would I turn up the pain on you this way? 

Because a slow boiling frog dies. Turn up that burner and the frog jumps out. So let me say the second step, which you might find familiar. 

2. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST

What this means is a very personal choice. But make the choice. It can be as little as having a couple months of food and water, or it can mean all out prepper survival.  The big question is really, what would help you sleep at night?  For me, it’s a few things:

a) Three months of food and water
b) Back-up generator
c) Cash on hand
d) Taking money out of the market and into gold
e) Personal protection

Depending on who reads this, this will sound like too much or too little.  But the question is this:

Do you feel ready for anything? 

As a leader, you want to get there, so that everything coming out of your communications is from a place of confidence in your own safety so that you can give that safety to others. 

You may even consider sharing your plans or helping them do the same. We have a lot of loyalty to those who truly look out for us. 

3. Open Up the Conversation

Most of what your people are thinking is either happening between employees, or even worse, in their own heads. Much like the way you gain control of a car by turning in the direction of the skid, you want to actually want to authorize and create space for these conversations.  The best tool I know for this is open space, or on a small team, it’s called lean coffee.  

All it takes is a simple question and the freedom and safety to have any conversation. The question could be as focused as hitting a key crucial target, or as simple as

“What do we do now?”  or “How can we be ready for anything?”

The amount of relief alone from talking this freely will do wonders.

Beyond that, people make new connections, and have new ideas you wouldn’t have even imagined.  This is a far different experience than what they’re used to: Sitting in a conference hall in the dark while executives give an “inspiring” speech about the future. 

Luckily, most of the things people want are within your control. (See that upper left corner)

4. Take bold action

You’ll get to read the results of these sessions and see which ones you want to empower.  You’ll see what experiments you can run. You can consider new pivots in products or business lines. (Contact me about “How to Disrupt an Industry” if you’d like to know more). 

It’s time we realized that life is not going back to normal. Even once the chaos ends, we’re looking at a new world by the end of this chaos.

Does this scare you? Good.  Let’s turn that fear into excitement.

The Real Key to DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)

Hiring ,Values

DEI is a contentious, complex subject. But sometimes problems are complex while solutions can be simple (but not necessarily easy).

There are many books, programs, and teachers on the subject of DEI, but in my work I continually hear stories about how it divides people rather than brings them together.

I always remember my experiences at Zappos, and how we made it a very diverse and inclusive company. Even my team of just 20 people was a diverse group of men/women, black/white and various ethnicities — even though we never brought them on for those reasons!

So how did that just happen naturally?

My belief, formed from a career from a career helping others achieve this, is that companies that have very strong values produce a diverse workforce. When the hiring process looks for these qualities, the perfect candidates will naturally span all races/genders.  But think about what happens without hiring by values. What do people go by after experience?

Personal preferences and biases.

There used to be a maxim in Silicon Valley to hire people that you could “get a beer with.” But that means you only hire people you like or are like you.  And from a business perspective, we need a diversity of talent that can challenge us.  So the people we need may not be the people we necessarily like.

This is not to gloss over all the pain and injustices that the employees of a company may go through. I’ve found that having a crowdsourced conversation like Open Space helps to “empty the closet” and put everything on the table. And if tensions are really bad, the Obstacle Breakthrough process in my book, The Culture Blueprint, is a tested framework to work through it.

And once that is done, the company (through its leadership), must determine its core values that are unique, so that they attract the right people, and detract the wrong ones.  If a company’s values can easily be used at another company, then the leadership has not tapped into the true uniqueness of its own culture.

My book The Culture Blueprint has a process that I believe can work for any company that approaches it seriously.  You can download the entire audiobook here, at no charge. And if you want guidance through the process, I’m here to help.

The dark secret about employee loyalty

Great cultures ,Values

I’ve heard leaders say they want loyalty from their employees.  The question is – Loyalty to what?

They say loyalty to the company but they’re really saying loyalty to the leaders and their decisions.

And when it’s loyalty to people there are only two solid use cases I see for that:

  1. Family – They are always family, so even if there is a mess up, loyalty is warranted.
  2. Mafia – A culture of loyalty (to the point of going to prison to someone). And there is a big cost to not being loyal.

In a strong culture based company, the loyalty is to the values.

And in those companies, employees may even challenge the leaders, based on those values.

Do you want loyalty? Or do you want a great company with people smarter than you who challenge your decisions in service to the customer?

Post-Covid Office Culture

Culture of Chaos ,Vision

When Pinterest pays $90 million dollars to get out of a lease (and this somehow registered as good business), then you know things are changing.

Companies that don’t need to go back to the office won’t. They’ll invest in off-sites on a yearly or quarterly basis to align their teams. Some will have small offices with a lot of meeting rooms, kitchens and creative spaces. Other than that, it’s all about getting better at defining the remote work culture.

Calling it “remote work” actually hurts the company because it enforces the notion that we’re all alone. A better term to use would be distributed workforce, or the networked company.

Whatever you call it, the shift has actually exacerbated any problems a company had before the pandemic. Bad meetings are now intolerable. Unclear accountabilities are now pain points. Defining roles, responsibilities, expectations and boundaries are extremely important now.