The Surprising Key to Team Coherence

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Hiring

“Adversity creates cohesion.”

That’s what Rob Angel said. He created the game Pictionary.

At one point their team had to work around the clock together to collate half a million cards. But during that time they talked and found out a lot about each other.

“We experienced pain together. That really cemented us and gave us the belief that we can overcome anything.”

That’s the same thing we felt after 4 weeks of Zappos training – showing up at 7am every day. And of course if you look up the Navy Seal training, you can see how their “hell week” of  200 miles of running, within 20 hours of physical training per day. And only 4 hours of sleep… for the entire week.

What can you do as a team to bond you in shared struggle?

 

How to Use a Strategic Vacation Policy

Culture of Chaos ,Great cultures ,Hacks ,Productivity

In high performance companies, HR often has to remind people to take their time off because they spend so much time at work.

The problem is that these high performers see vacations as a luxury, as opposed to a productivity hack that helps the company.

Think about it this way – Do you usually get more or less done right before a vacation?  A lot, right?

So if HR (or managers) proactively address this before burnout, it will make the individuals more productive.

So pull each person aside and say, “I’d like you to plan your vacation that you’ll take 3 months from now.”  It will probably make them nervous, but explain to them that:

a) This will make them more productive so they will get things done before the vacation starts and

b) It helps the team because if anyone is so crucial they can’t even miss a week, then the team is not resilient. This forces the team to be resilient by making sure the operations are covered.

So go ahead, while it’s on your mind. Set up those meetings to ask people to proactively schedule their vacations.

The dark secret about employee loyalty

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?

The Culture Power Tool to Reduce Friction

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.

How to Get Everyone to ALL-IN.

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:

The R.O.B. Process

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.

  1. State the GoalThis can be a project, a goal, a vision, or even alignment to the team. In one case this worked to have everyone commit to the leadership team as their top priority rather than their respective teams each leader is managing.
  2. Go Around the TableAsk if each person is all-in. If they are, go to the next. If not, ask them to consider one of the following:

R: Request

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.

O: Offers

Someone may feel they are undervalued and want to participate more. In this case they can offer time, people or resources to anyone else.

B: Boundary

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.

The New Normal

Culture of Chaos ,Great cultures

Twitter just announced they may never go back to the office:

Wow. “Forever.”

Okay, let’s just forget for second what this means for the commercial real estate market.

What does this mean for culture?

I just gave a talk for Intel on how we can lead virtually and here are a few points to consider:

Leading by video is a different art form

You can’t get away with long, boring meetings anymore. You will lose everyone. You have to learn to get to the point quicker, get everyone on the same page, and keep people engaged.

The 8 Hour workday was never real

You really think your people were productive for 8 hours a day? Try three.  The good news, is we can do more in less time than we thought. But it’s going to take massive focus skills, which are dwindling away as everyone spends more and more time online with infinite distractions.  You no longer have the luxury of 10 different priorities. Focus your people.

Align people through time

I used to spend a week at a company to determine the health of its culture. Now I just ask one question – “Do you start and end meetings on time?” Cultures that value everyone’s time equally value integrity and the culture as a whole over any one individual. Cultures where leaders are late signal that some people can break rules while others can’t. And leaders convey that they’re actually out of control when they can’t even control their own calendars.  Be the example, be EARLY to everything, and notice how your respect levels go up and your stress levels go down.