The culture of a great podcast

Great cultures

“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?

Great cultures

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?

Great cultures

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?

Do you have counter-balancing values?

Great cultures ,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

Great cultures

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

Great cultures ,Hacks

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.