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

August 5, 2021

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

April 29, 2021

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

March 1, 2021

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.

The Culture Power Tool to Reduce Friction

February 2, 2021

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Tools

Now, at first this power tool may seem disappointing. Like if I told you I have the secret to weight loss and said, “Workouts.” But… there are workouts you dread and then there’s the Peloton experience with great music, instruction and a crowd. Same, but different. 

So the power tool is the org chart.  Yes, that incredibly boring outline that always seems to be out of date (that’s half the problem). 

Typical org charts look like this:

Notice how dull and uninspiring it is. Why even look at it?   

The reason we don’t is because it’s not actually useful. But the potential is huge. Why? Because the bigger the company gets, the more people get confused about who does what. Who has the authority? Who is the gatekeeper? Who has domain expertise?

Imagine you have a new idea, and you don’t even know whom to talk to about it.  

Take a look at this map I did for my team at Zappos (and beyond the words, notice the feeling you have about it as you look at it). When my team saw it, it felt like a breath of fresh air. 

The opportunity is to make it come alive in the following ways:

1. Use photos rather than names. 

Using just a name and a title reduces people to letters. Humanize it. 

2. Show actual roles and responsibilities

Titles are not only boring, they’re often not fully descriptive or they assume a lot of knowledge of the person reading it. Your people aren’t there to figure out the code of titles. They’re there to do the work. And this lack of information adds unnecessary friction. 

3. Keep it up to date

I just consulted for one the world’s largest social media companies. I said a caveat to my recommendation when I said, “This may sound really ridiculous…”  And I told them that for a company their size, having a full time org chart updater actually makes sense.  This role goes beyond word and graphic updates. It takes a curious mind, a great communicator and an ability to connect people in various roles (like playing the game Memory). 

For more on this see the chapter on “The Corporate Navigator” in my book, The Culture Blueprint: The Guide to the High Performance Workplace.