I had the amazing honor of working with Tony on Zappos Insights. The best part was the team we built and the fun we had, but that’s another story for another time. For today, I want to honor Tony by sharing some of his wisdom that I hope will add value to your own life and business.
He would often ask this when someone complained. It’s amazing to realize how much we can be attached to being right, even when it doesn’t serve us. One day I was complaining that someone cut me off in traffic. He said, “What’s the minimum you have to be paid each time that happens for you to be happy?” I thought about it and said $12. He said, “Any time that happens, you text me and I’ll give you $12.” I laughed. He would have done it! But I didn’t. I was never going to ask for $12 even once from him. Instead, I think about that conversation whenever I’m in traffic and I let it go. I’d rather be happy than right. I have used that insight countless times in other situations, both in business and in my personal life. It was priceless wisdom. I would have had to pay Tony $12 a day forever to properly compensate him for what he gave me for free.
Tony never said this. He simply lived it. In my 12 years of knowing him, he was never once late to a meeting (personal or professional). I know for Tony it had a lot to do with integrity, but since then I’ve seen how it’s even more important than that. First, there’s respect for the people you’re meeting. But more importantly, leaders who walk in late are unconsciously delivering the message that they are out of control. Something else is in control of them (the traffic, the board, the meeting before or after). And it’s hard to trust a leader who is not in control of their own schedule. A leader on time, all the time, creates a sense of safety, and models the behavior that makes a culture work. When Tony considers it just as important to be punctual with you as he does with Jeff Bezos, it speaks volumes about how he valued everyone.
Great cultures ,Hacks ,Vision
Alignment is the name of the game, but as you may know from my book, The Culture Blueprint, you can’t force anyone or it will not work. Alignment is about a) making the vision clear and b) removing the obstacles to create a true option.
Here is how you do it:
I thought of this on the spot when I met with a leadership team that was arguing. I was amazed that the acronym spells my name.
Do you have a request of someone else on the team, or the entire team? The more specific the better. This can be for resources, permissions, or anything else.
Someone may feel they are undervalued and want to participate more. In this case they can offer time, people or resources to anyone else.
Do you have a boundary that is being crossed? This can be a limit in spending, or use of your team, or a policy or a principle.
3. Go Around the Table
Ask if each person is all-in. If they are, go to the next. If not, ask them to consider one of the following:
Once they do this, and the element is agreed upon by the respective person they address, you then ask again: Are you all-in?
This may take several rounds because new things can come up, or someone may have a new offer once they hear another’s request.
Hacks ,Personal Exploration
Ever since Simon Sinek spoke on the Power of Why, it’s been a phenomenon for companies and individuals to find their purpose by understanding not what they do, but why they do it.
I found the concept interesting, but not revealing. Until… I took a workshop with Chris Smith, the brilliant storyteller and founder of The Campfire Effect. He can hear your story once (in all its meanderings and half-points) and turn it into Hollywood gold (with no notes).
Chris said, “The real way to find your why is to look back on your life and notice when you said the words, ‘That’s when I realized….’”
It was like being given a key. I noticed that after every big breakthrough I had in my career over the past decade could be summed up as “That’s when I realized content doesn’t change people, experiences do.”
That was my aha after I discovered that Open Space could change organizations more than any consultant report. It was my aha after experimenting with a red tic tac to create a scene from the Matrix (and then became The Xpill).
My why is to create transformational experiences where people change themselves.
There’s a reason we never had a Chief Culture Officer at Zappos. Tony Hsieh, CEO said it’s everyone’s responsibility. The moment we elect one person in charge of it, people can assume it’s being done without their efforts. That’s far different from a CFO. It’s good to have someone stress the money so that everyone else can do their jobs.
Now that everything is going virtual (including big companies like Twitter telling their people they don’t have to come back to the office), there is a new need emerging.
When we lose the office, we lose a real sense of place that connects us. Imagine if your family suddenly went virtual. Your spouse and kids all in separate buildings, only connecting on Zoom. Think it would feel different? It would change your whole sense of identity.
That means the glue that’s holding a company together is communication itself.
That’s why I believe enterprises will need a new C-Level position:
Chief Communications Officer
Many companies already have someone in this position at the director, or VP level, but there’s a problem in that. This person is usually stressed out because they don’t have a team and they have to deliver tough messages, all while being positive enough to keep their job. They also don’t have the level of authority they need to be properly respected, and thus end up playing politics far more than they need to.
At the C-level, this person would have the following responsibilities:
Advise CEO to C suite communications
Advise CEO to board communications
Facilitate C suite group discussions
Craft messages from C suite to upper/mid management
Work with mid management to craft message to supervisors and front line
Set company wide communication standards and protocols
Educate the company on virtual communication
Set the tone of appropriate humor
This is all the WHAT.
But what’s also important is the HOW, because the game has changed. This is no longer about long emails that people never read. We are now in the Instagram TikTok age. I saw this coming early on at Zappos – People realized that messages would not necessarily get read when they were sent out to the whole company. So they would include funny images that get people’s attention.
This Chief Communications Officers would direct the graphic designers, photographers, video producers and writers to create:
Short form video
Scoreboards / Dashboards
Short impactful emails
More that I haven’t even thought of.
When disruption is happening as quickly as it is, it’s time to make bets based on the intersection of our values and trends.