The Counter Intuitive Way to Reward People

Great cultures

I was teaching a high-end mastermind of entrepreneurs and the subject of bonuses and raises came up.

After much discussion, we all came to one surprising solution…

Keep it random.

Certain things should be entitlements. People are entitled to a salary. People are entitled to benefits. But when I see companies give bonuses every year, or create a profit sharing model, then suddenly people feel very entitled to getting more and more.

The company’s financial success is not guaranteed every year. So why should bonuses be guaranteed? And not everyone is a partner in the company, so why should everyone be receiving profits?

What I have seen work is to vary the percentages, frequency and even format of rewards.

Why does it have to be money? What if it’s in the form of a group trip or vacation? What if you rewarded people with the growth and learning they’ve been wanting for themselves?

The best cultures learn what make people tick. They learn their dreams, and they learn about how each person wants to progress (in many ways beyond money). And they record and share the resulting stories.

As with all culture hacking, this takes experimentation. Let me know what you discover.

How to deal with conflict at your company

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The damage from conflict can be avoided...if you have the right culture protocol. Click To Tweet

Share what you want to keep (and grow)

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When I was a culture strategist at Zappos, I learned that culture becomes a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop when it’s shared. So the the tours and free culture books refresh the culture when people come in with appreciation, energy and new ideas.

Culture becomes a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop when it's shared. Click To Tweet

This concept of “Share what you want to keep” is going to keep expanding in my opinion. Most recently, AirBnB decided to share its discovery engine for others to use.

Aerosolve is what Airbnb came up with to process all that data. And Thursday it is made available under what we call “open source” — a free download so developers can build their own smart recommendation engines based on the work Airbnb has already done with machine learning.

Why would they do that? Beyond the good will, others could improve the platform.

How can you share more of your insights and innovations? It can sustain your culture and feed it by welcoming others into the conversation.

Highlights from the Best Places to Work

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Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work issue was recently published. It was fascinating to see that a recent global poll of by Deloitte showed that executives consider culture even more important than leadership.

I thought I would include a few highlights:

1. Ritualize what’s most important
Companies like Marriott have 15 minute daily stand ups. It’s so important to take anything that’s valued and create a ritual so that it’s never forgotten. What are your daily / weekly / monthly and quarterly rituals? (For quarterly I recommend Open Space).

2. Location matters (and not how you think)
Twitter decided to move its headquarters to a part of San Francisco with decrepit hotels, strip clubs and most of the city’s homeless population. The company’s execs say they are not only committed to staying in the area, but also encouraging their employees to help the local population – and claim the desire to do so is actually enticing workers.

I think the most innovative companies are going to come out of Detroit. It’s extremely cheap. Entrepreneurs won’t have to eat ramen and can even buy houses. And the city is very encouraging of new businesses. If you want to build a tight team that is involved with the community, this is going to be the place.

3. Small to medium sized companies are going to lead the way.
Accuity, a small Wisconsin insurance company debuted at number 3! They provide unlimited education reimbursement, compressed work weeks, 10% contribution to 401K, quarterly town hall meetings and “Lunch with an officer” – face to face meetings with execs for all employees. They also gave away $1 million dollars and involve all employees in strategic planning.

If you’re a big company, how can you empower a group the size of a small company? If you’re small, do you have a “wish list” for your culture?

Culture Hacking with the Mindset Model

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If you can hack your own beliefs, you can be a culture hacker. Click To Tweet

Are you paying attention to how it feels?

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Think of any conference you’ve been to. How much of the content can you tell me about?

For most of us, it’s hardly any. But we remember what we felt. We remember who we met. We remember who we liked.

It’s so easy to focus on content when we’re planning an event or even writing a book. But what do you want people to experience? What do you want them to feel?

Soon I’ll be hosting a panel of executives speaking to their leaders. It’s easy for executives to talk at a very high level about strategy. That kind of talk is so abstract that none of it is memorable.

Rather than telling us about the successful new program roll out strategy, tell us about those moments when you weren’t sure. Tell us when things went sideways. Tell us about what surprised you. And bring us into those moments with you. Describe what you saw, heard and felt.

If you simply stay at a high level and tell us what you learn, then we tune out. If you take us with you on your journey, we’ll hang on every word.