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.
Great cultures ,Hacks
One of the biggest challenges I hear from top performing cultures is how to keep their talent. In fact, some have speculated that the old adage, “People don’t quit companies, they quit their managers” is no longer true.
Top companies know that the key to keeping people is a strong progression plan, but they don’t know how to execute on it.
This is the conversation to be like Barbara Walters and figure out what they have loved in the past. It’s about connecting the dots in their story.
The interviewer listens for the skills being developed and ask about what the person sees in their future (from the present view).
Now they co-create a plan together to help that person achieve those goals (both personally and professionally). The interesting part about the plan is that it’s not just about developing their skills, it’s also about developing their network (because that’s how you really get things done). I would also advise building their communication skills.
NOTE: As with any culture hack, it has to be co-created, and you have to keep experimenting. There is no “right way.”
Great cultures ,Hacks
In the last blog post I talked about how drugs could impact corporate culture. Well, it turns out the best culture drug is very available and very legal. Most people actually use it, but I wouldn’t say they use it correctly. It’s called coffee.
Quick story: There was a company from Mexico that visited the Zappos Insights program. They saw the popcorn machine in the front and said that’s the culture hack they’re taking back home. I thought, “What?! You can’t think a popcorn machine will help culture.” Well, I was wrong. It became a central hub of conversation. A group of people took care of it, another group operated it, another group brought seasonings and flavors. Talk about co-creation around ritual!
To spice things up and quench a mad thirst for delicious coffee, we created a coffee corner in our office. Soon, we were brewing fresh coffee everyday with our coworkers. We knew more about who we were working with plus what they were working on.
The coffee culture we built not only made us more effective at our jobs, but made everyone’s days more enjoyable.
Now they have a service around providing quality coffees. And it’s not just the quality, it’s the ritual, it’s the process. And of course, coming together.
And then there’s the Bulletproof coffee phenomenon I’ve talked about before. I’ve introduced it to people and went from six cups of coffee a day, down to one of Bulletproof.
While great coffee won’t solve all culture problems, I’ve definitely seen how weak cultures almost always serve weak coffee. (I’ve even seen them charge for it!)
If you do get into coffee, I recommend checking out how to hack the coffee experience.
Let me know how it goes! Robert@CultureBlueprint.com
Culture of Chaos ,Hacks ,Productivity
When Lance Armstrong got to Europe for his first Tour de France, he quickly realized he had to either start doping or accept losing to those who did. It was a different game.
Could corporate America go the same direction? It’s possible.
Silicon Valley executives have long been known to take modafinil (brand name Provigil) to gain a cognitive edge, and it seems that Wall Street does as well. Still others create their own “custom stacks” of over the counter supplements.
These smart drugs seem to speed up the brain, and yet other workers use the effects of marijuana to focus and reduce stress.
And what about for insights and ideas? In this piece on CNN, Venture Capitalist Tim Ferriss shares that every billionaire he knows “takes psychedelics on a regular basis.”
And if we look at the offices of a smart drug supplement company, what do they do to get that extra edge? Fasting. Nootrobox‘s employees stop eating from Monday night to Wednesday morning every week. This article in Fortune explains the psychology of why fasting actually enhances our cognition.
Could performance-enhancement be the new reality of companies that outperform the others, the way doped riders took all the awards at the Tour de France?
Great cultures ,Hacks ,Popular Articles
NOTE: This blog is the #1 overall hack, for the #1 HIRING HACK, please click here.
“Don’t talk about how to hack culture! That will scare corporate clients!”
That’s what people told me.
They were so wrong! The bigger the company, the more they want the hacks. Why? Because hacking is all about empowering anyone to create a shift. Big companies know how hard it is to create massive change. Culture hacks allow change to happen FAST.
First, let’s briefly define what hacking is:
Hacking is finding a vulnerable point in a system, and exploiting that vulnerability to your advantage. The end result is very little investment with maximum gain.
If that made no sense, don’t worry. The hacks work without you needing to know how they work.
I knew about this #1 hack for a long time, but didn’t realize how important it was until I was working with a major company that wanted to implement its core values and they were running into a problem:
People put working hard and driving results over each of those core values. And because of that, they’re not core values. If they were core, they would never be sacrificed.
Changing to a Core values company is a big step. It can take over a year. So how can they change fast?
Well, to diagnose a culture all we have to do is look at their meetings. Meetings are a subset of culture. And the first data within meetings we look at is people’s relationship to time.
Cultures that are on time inherently respect each other. Cultures that start late and go late tolerate behavior that advances the individual over the culture as a whole.
When I was at Zappos, CEO Tony Hsieh was always on time or early. Never ever did I see him late.
This is a very small hack, but it has a massive impact. If you feel resistance from yourself or anyone else, simply run a 2 week experiment where people have to be on time. Then let the results speak for themselves.
When I was 60K in debt from a failed business, depressed and low on hope I invested my time in something that made no financial sense…
I became a spinning instructor.
I had always wanted to be one since high school. I loved the combination of DJ, coach and speaker. So much time was spent on training and making mixes that I lost money. And yet, I had so much fun that I was able to use all of the energy to launch my next career. Again, it did not make sense from a practical perspective, but I followed the energy.
For me, it’s often a distinction between what looks good versus what feels good…
It’s a date who looks amazing, but I don’t feel myself around her. It’s a house I’m looking at that has all the amenities, but doesn’t feel like home. It’s a speech that delivers on paper, but I don’t care about it.
It takes courage to follow the energy, but more importantly it takes curiosity and a sense of wonder.
All of this applies to culture as well, since culture is simply a bunch of people together. If the group is following what “should” matter (results, revenue, profit, new manager program du jour), and not what they’re passionate about (the customer, the values, the product, or even each other), then the culture eventually goes south.
Veteran pilots still use checklists. Yoyo Ma still plays scales. And the best athletes practice for hours.
I’m always amazed by how much it’s the basics that make the difference.
On the personal level it’s really about getting great food, sleep, exercise and meditation. I heard that neurosis is the result of denying our animal nature, and I can tell you if I don’t get exercise I anxious and neurotic. In fact, if I do boxing or martial arts I’m so peaceful I don’t even have thoughts in my head afterward.
On the corporate level it’s about meetings. Most companies are terrible at meetings. They’ll take on multi-million dollar change initiatives and yet everyday meetings are dysfunctional.
When I work with teams I start with the basics: Can you be on time? If you show up late and run over then you’re prioritizing your own personal agendas over the culture. But if you’re on time, you’re honoring commitments. There’s no point working on values if you can’t even be on time.
Flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” (1) It’s when athletes are “in the zone.”
I have a million things on my to do list, and trying to multi-task is a joke. It just adds stress. I continue to learn that lesson. But focus is heaven. It feels like a luxury.
Getting totally absorbed with a task (even if it’s one I don’t like) is a pure joy. A friend of mine who survived drug addiction started his life again by cleaning chandeliers. He said it was one of the most joyful times of his life because it was so simple.
Looking back on this list I see the lessons could also be re-written as temptations:
1. Follow the Energy
(Temptation: Choosing what “should” be done, or what looks good instead of what feels good)
2. Get back to the Basics
(Temptation: Going for the new shiny object)
3. Focus is Flow
(Temptation: Multi-tasking, letting texts, emails and facebook interrupt me)