It’s not the software

Tools ,Values ,Vision

workplace software

You’ve probably heard this one…

The story about the company that was so excited to bring in the new intranet software so they could finally get everyone on the same page, share knowledge, stay up to date and unify the company, and then… no one used it.

Something happened when we started using the word “Human Capital.” It used to be called “Personnel” – as in real people. But companies got so big that people became numbers. We then start to track them, count them and trade them like they’re any other resource. Just one of several cogs in the machine.

People are emotional, irrational, passionate and full of surprises.

Some will read that and be terrified by that statement.

Others will know that this is the source of innovation, fun and ingenuity that make work exciting and that enable us to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Now that more and more companies understand it’s all about the culture, along come all the people who think software can run the show. Graphs, numbers, input/output, dashboards….

“Ahh, I finally have the feeling that I’m in control of the people situation!”

Guess again.

To be fair, some visual tracking can be very helpful. Especially with simple elegant systems like NPS. But anything more than that comes with a few issues:

1. Survey fatigue

2. Nothing actually happening with the results of said surveys

3. The feeling that people are getting dehumanized

I saw a meme on Facebook that read, “Do you ever notice your successful friends are never posting inspirational quotes?”

In that spirit, have you ever noticed that the really successful cultures aren’t using complex systems to track how happy their people are?  When you’re clear on vision and values, and get the right people on board, people can create their own happiness.

Let’s get back to the basics.

In the spirit of the Mr. Rogers documentary that just came out:

“Life is simple and deep.

But we make it complex and shallow.”

-Fred Rogers

Move Slow to Gain Speed

Vision

google-glass

“The fastest way to move cattle is sloooooowww.”

Hearing this quote it hit me that maybe moving fast can actually be harmful.

A friend posted about how amazing it was that Google created a Google Glass prototype within a day of the idea.  Hmmm… That’s a good innovation story if it were not such a disaster. There are a lot of people out $1500 for a piece of plastic.  How is that a win?

I get that we should encourage failure, but what if the irony is that speed of innovation is actually at the root cause of failure?

I was speaking with a company that’s growing tremendously fast and they are hiring hundreds of people in months. That is incredibly risky for culture. Yes, we want to keep up with growth, but at what cost?

Think about Elon Musk and Tesla. They didn’t rush. In fact they said, you can pay us to be on our wait list, and we’ll get back to you when we’re ready.

They took their time, in the name of excellence and quality.

That said, I’m a huge fan of increasing capacity when it comes to customer service. Customers will be forgiving of a lot of errors if they feel they are being given a lot of attention. At Zappos we built up a bench of people because otherwise it’s impossible to answer a call in under a minute.

If you’re thinking about growth, here is the fundamental question to ask yourself…

What is more important? Momentum or Clarity?

Momentum can drive you 100mph into a brick wall. Clarity means no matter what the speed you’re going in the right direction.  That’s slow growth. That’s taking more time with innovation.

The Latest Culture Shiny Object

Great cultures ,Values ,Vision

going-teal
(graphic source)

The latest fascination on the edge of management is “Going Teal.” You can learn about it from the article and from the graphic. I’m only going to make one basic point I’ve seen everyone leave out:

You can’t go straight to Teal.

Notice that what is listed in every other level is still applicable! You can’t simply throw those things out. And if you’re not solid in those areas then that’s where you need to start.

Recipe for a “Hell Yeah!”

Hacks ,Personal Exploration ,Vision

robertrichman-hellyeah

“It’s either a Hell Yeah, or it’s a No.” – Derek Sivers.

I’ve found this quote to be a great decision making tool. We have so many choices of how to spend our time, money and energy. So why do anything less than a “Hell Yeah!”?

Not only can it be hard to say No to things. It’s not always easy to evaluate an opportunity and understand if it’s really a Hell Yeah.

So here is a decision-making framework I developed.

It starts with, is this my unique ability? (a concept pioneered by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach).  A unique ability is a talent that you have passion and skills for, there is a need for it, and most importantly, you feel it gives you energy.

Next, I’ve found that amorphous opportunities can lack a clear end goal and a first next step. This key to know what we’re committing to.

The last two are my favorites.  “If I know for certain this will fail, is it still worth it?” If the answer is yes, it means the journey and the learning make it worth it. If it’s no, then be careful of the ends justifying the means. Can you pick opportunities that are inherently worth it?

And then, “If I know this will be much more work than I thought, is it still worth it?” Projects look so easy when they start, and then all the details come in and we spend far more time than we expected. Do you look at that possibility and say, “Yes! I love working this on anyway, so bring on more of it!” Or do you say, “I’m doing this because it’s fast and quick”?

If your opportunity or idea passes all of these questions, then you’ve got a Hell Yeah!  If not, just remember that leaving space in your life or schedule will allow you to focus on what you already care about, or leave space for something new to come in.

Reducing stress, increasing revenue

Hacks ,Vision

“What?! There is absolutely NO way.”

This was my answer to the question, “Do you have ADD?” I could not have Adult ADD. That’s a fake disease for people who can’t get things done. But the man asking the question was Dr. Norman Rosenthal, an icon in psychology. He was the man who wrote the book on S.A.D, St. John’s Wart, and Transcendental Meditation. So when he said, “Just humor me and take this test,” I did.

“You are off the charts, ADD,” he said after scoring my test.

I was in shock. I could not believe it.

“And it affirms my theory about you,” he continued. “I know you came here to treat depression, but I think there is a deeper root issue. You have a lot of ideas and projects and you don’t get them done because of ADD. That causes you to stress, so you get very anxious and you work even harder without focusing. Then when you run out of energy from being anxious, you get depressed.”

Then there was the medication test. Ironically, stimulants slow down the brain of someone with ADD. If you don’t have ADD, they feel like having too much coffee. But if you do have ADD, it’s very calming. When I took the medication, it felt like I was relaxed and breathing for the first time.

The long term effects of using stimulants were too risky for me to continue for long, but now I had a new lens – one that I need to remember from time to time as this cycle starts up again.

A simple idea to use ADD to one’s advantage

I have found a very surprising tool for how to deal with the stress of having a lot of ideas. I’m actually using it, right now as I type this. In fact, you’re reading the product of it. Let me explain.

I was listening to Kayne Mantyla of WeFloat.net who has a great definition of stress:

Stimuli > Resources to handle it.

Very simple: Stimulus come in (in the form of anything – conversations, phone calls, problems, challenges, ideas, tasks, requests, entertainment, news). If we have the resources to process them, there is no stress. But if they build up and we can’t process it all, then we get overwhelmed. Then the system is overloaded and we get stressed, sick, annoyed, angry, etc.

The opposite of stress is Integration. That’s what happens when we have strong resources in the form of balanced emotions, healthy bodies, systems to process information, methods of getting things done, etc.

Now I’m sure you can think of many resources such as yoga, meditation, healthy foods, exercise, systems of getting things done, etc. I have another to add. First, more on the problem.

So many ideas!

I have so many thoughts, theories, ideas, and projects that I can’t integrate them. In fact, for this year-end review I went through my idea notebook (below) and can’t believe how much I’ve come up with but never really did anything with all these ideas. And I have so many blog post ideas I wrote, but I never actually wrote them. And now my energy is not in them and some of my notes don’t even make sense now.

ADD-solution

It’s easy to see why…

We have so much input, especially with media consumption. Think about it this way: How many books, shows, articles, and movies did you consume this year? Now, how many did you create? This is the energetic equivalent of constipation –  eating a lot but not processing it all. No wonder so many people are so stressed out!

What we need is to balance the ratio. Less consumption, more creation.

And there is a fantastic manual on it:

Show Your Work

00-show-cover-500x333

This little $7 book is pure gold.

It’s a basic idea, explained beautifully with many examples: Show what you’re working on, show what you’re thinking about. It makes it real. It takes it out of your head, you get feedback and most importantly, you get what’s probably the most rewarding value of all: Contributing to someone else’s life. His other book Steal Like an Artist, is also great. Here’s what he found after writing it:

“Almost all of the people I look up and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine. These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties; they’re too busy for that. They’re cranking away in their studios, their laboratories, or their cubicles, but instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they’re open about what they’re working on.”

It’s just so easy to share. That’s what I’m doing with this blog. And it’s surprised me how my posts have lead to new business that I did not expect.

A friend of mine went to a conference and he said it changed his life. I said, you must share it now. Publicly, openly. It can be a blog post, a podcast, a video recording. Each of us literally hold a complete recording studio, editing facility and broadcast unit within our smart phones. There is no excuse not to share.

“Share what you want to keep.”

This is one of the principles in my new book, The Culture Blueprint.

When I was managing Zappos Insights people would ask, “How can you guys spend so much time giving tours of your company and still focus on your own success?” But that’s exactly it – sharing keeps you accountable and call it spiritual, but what you give comes back around and Zappos’ loyal customers are proof.

We would give away culture books (for free) and still make money. You can still get one here. And we monetized the interest by selling corporate training on culture and service.

That’s why I’m giving away the audio version of my book.

Integration is the opposite of stress.

Integration is having the resources to deal with stimuli. Integration is taking the parts of life that seem to run in different directions and connecting them so they fuel each other.  Integration is my theme for 2105.  More on that in future posts.

2014 Year in Review

Values ,Vision

2014-robertrichman

Rather than new year’s resolutions, I pick themes. They provide enough direction to keep me on track, but enough space for the year to evolve. Past themes included: Service, Community, and Culture. (Webster’s actually called culture the word of the year!)

The 2014 Theme: Relevant

This word comes up for me a lot, and I believe it may even replace the word Innovation. It’s all about going through a world of distractions and choices and focusing only on what’s of high value. What’s interesting is as I look back on the year, I would say it was a different theme. The theme was actually “Letting Go.”

Letting Go of being a “Know-it-all”

It started off in a very professional sense. In 2013 I was paid a lot to tell companies what to do. I would go in, evaluate their cultures, tell them what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it. And it was humbling to see that most of them would do nothing with the information. I was totally disheartened.

Then I started working with my long time friend and mentor, Dan Mezick. He helped me realize that no one likes being told what to do. And when it comes to culture change, people check out when they’re given mandates and directives. But they get really engaged when they feel like they’re co-creators of the larger story.

He showed me the way of Open Space Technology, a meeting format that allows a group to determine what they’re passionate and take action on what comes up. We teamed up and went to Intuit (below), using Open Agile Adoption – it combines open space with cultural rites of passage to help a group through a transition. The result was an extremely high level of engagement and participation.  And we didn’t have to be “gurus” or “experts.” We’re just the people who set up the game for the group’s true wisdom to emerge.

RobertRichman-OpenSpace-Intuit

After doing this for small companies to multi-nationals, I told my old boss and friend, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. First we held an open space for the Las Vegas Downtown project.  It was so effective that some called it the most productive three hours they ever spent at the company. Others were in tears as they bonded with people they never had a connection with before. It worked so well that Tony used the model at the Zappos all-hands meeting with 2000 people.

Zappos-Allhands-RobertRichman

It was an honor to watch this all happen in what felt like my final farewell to both Zappos and Las Vegas entirely…

Letting Go of my home

House-RobertRichman

I came to Vegas after having lost it all in a business. And in a few short years I went from being in debt to having a wonderful career and this beautiful home. But it was clear I was ready to leave. I can do my job from anywhere so I wanted to be close to friends and family. So I sold my home (thankfully the market was up 50% from when I bought it). And in only a couple months I went down from this full house to just a pile of things:

Stuff

Letting Go of Planning (and Seriousness)

Letting go of Vegas also included letting go of a relationship I wanted. I was dating a woman I was very into and I wanted to take it to the next level but she didn’t. While it was quite a disappointment, I was happy that she gave me feedback as to why. She said, “You’re always so serious. We never laugh and you don’t seem to have any fun.”  She was right. I only focused on business and everything else I seemed to treat as if it were a business.

That was early in the year, and (ironically) I took fun very seriously for the rest of the year, developing a plan for it. I talked to my friend Shane who seemed to have more fun than anyone else and I asked how he does it. His solution was simple:

“Look at who is having more fun than you, and do what they do.”

The answer for me was clear. The people I saw having the most fun were improv actors. It looked like non-stop fun and laughs!

The best classes were in LA so I drove down every weekend to take a class with my brother. When I moved back to LA I took an improv intensive:

Improv-RobertRichman

I started off so nervous! I was shaking every time I went up.  Public speaking to a thousand people? Piece of cake. Playing pretend with a few actors in a warehouse? Terrifying.

It was a struggle until I realized that the funniest people didn’t even seem to pay attention to the audience. They were just having fun! And they fully committed.  That’s when it got easier. When I let go of the need to look good and the need be funny. It would constantly amaze me how much just being real got more laughs than jokes.

I started to improvise more in speeches, so I could be more connected with the audience rather than with powerpoint slides.

And the principles of improv are so in alignment with the best teams I’ve ever worked with.

improv-robertrichman copy

Letting Go of control

Coming back to LA has been amazing.  I have so many friends and family here. I moved in with my brother so I can focus on my book launch (more on that in the next post). Being with him feels like being a kid back at camp. He taught me how to play golf, and I love it! I used to make fun of golfers. Now I find it incredibly fulfilling, peaceful and meditative. (I guess it takes a good coach, and a great course like the one we played in Newport…)

Golf-RobertRichman

And I wrapped up the year with what I feel has been the ultimate exercise in letting go. You see, I’ve done so many forms of self-development:  Programs, retreats, gurus, books, devices, supplements, you name it.

But what’s worked incredibly well is… just being.  And this has made it easy to do that:

floatpod-RobertRichman

It’s a sensory deprivation tank, or a floatation tank.

It’s totally dark, so you can’t see anything.
You have ear plugs in so you can’t hear anything.
The water is skin temperature and holds you up with epsom salts, so you don’t feel anything.

No senses. Just a one-on-one meeting with you.

Many people find it immediately relaxing. But my first several times I had panic attacks, and not because of claustrophobia (it’s very easy to get out). It felt like I had no control, not even over my own thoughts. Even worse, when I noticed my thoughts stop I wondered if I was dead and I would shoot up with my heart racing.

But I’m all about facing my fears. So I would do it, every other day, for the last 3 weeks this year.  I developed what felt like an intimate relationship with anxiety. I’ll be talking about it in future posts, and not just from a personal angle. One of the biggest blocks to culture change is the anxiety and worry of what it means and what will happen next.

In the tank I gradually went from terror down to mild fear, down to stillness and even to boredom. I realized that it was all about facing any uncomfortable feeling, not just fear.

I made myself stay, to see what’s beyond boredom. That’s when I started to relax, and after that came my vision for the greatest year yet.

Next post: 2015  The Year of…