Don’t be on time… Be early

January 18, 2024

Great cultures ,Hacks

Almost everything about a culture is different. There are different positions, salaries, skills, genders, races, backgrounds. With all these different perspectives, how can we all agree on reality?  What can we call the “single source of truth”?

Some say it’s values but values can change, and people can interpret them differently. In a toxic culture, values can actually be weaponized.

When I present this in a class, I ask, “What can we all agree on that is real?”  And of course, everyone looks confused. So I hold up a blue pen, and ask, “Is this pen blue?” Everyone says yes, but if someone is color blind, they would say no.  So what reality can we all agree on?

I’ve only found one thing: Time.

We all might have different relationships to time, but when it’s 10:30am Pacific time, no one disagrees with that statement.

So why is this important, and what is the culture hack relating to time?

It’s important because it’s a single truth that we can all navigate around. The highest performance cultures (think: Navy Seals), put a high and precise value on time because it’s a critical coordination point.

For companies, the highest performers:

– Start meetings on time

– End meetings early

– Deliver on deadline

On time is very clear. You’re either on time or you’re not.

The most powerful leaders I’ve worked with are always on time. And people think it’s because of respect, but it’s much more than that. It’s because of agency and control.   At Zappos, Tony Hsieh was always on time (both personally and professionally). He never once said, “Sorry I’m late, Jeff Bezos held me back at the meeting.” No, he would have literally walked out before that happened.

What that does is convey confidence to a team that their leader is in charge and not being controlled by other forces or people. It gives people a sense of peace and confidence to know the leader is in fact in control.

Also, when we’re late, it’s like we’re trying to bend reality to our own needs and that never works out well.

As a leader, by setting a high standard of being on time, the rest of the company follows, meetings flow well, and projects get delivered on time.  And make sure to start the meetings on time, regardless of whether everyone is there. Delaying a meeting caters to the least conscientious people in the company. And starting it on time ensures everyone will show up the next time on time.

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself. Try not only being on time. Try being early. Why? Because if you go for on-time, you’re stressed about getting everywhere exactly on time. If you arrive early, it frees your mind to think about more productive thoughts. And it sets an example by leading by example. Everyone will start arriving early, meetings will start on time with everyone there. The purpose of the meeting will be achieved without stress or wasted time.

What to Look for in a Manager

August 28, 2023

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Hiring

In a recent WSJ profile of the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi was asked what he looks for when hiring a new team member. Here is his answer:

What I look for above all else is followership. I want to know who they’ve hired, who they’ve developed, because ultimately, you get exponential benefit, not just based on the individual, but everyone they’ve hired and developed.

This an amazing insight, because it goes beyond asking if they have management experience, and makes them tell stories about specific people.  In other words, it’s hard to fudge it.

File this one under “Interview Hacks.”

Everyone gets vacation policy wrong.

July 25, 2023

Great cultures ,Hacks

It’s very in fashion these days to have “unlimited vacation” at high performance companies – and yet it doesn’t matter because those people rarely take vacations.  In mediocre companies, employees will play games with their vacation days and even get compensated for the days they don’t take.

The problem is that everyone sees 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?

Try this out:

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 Opt-in Framework (How buy-in really works)

April 28, 2023

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Tools

Everyone says, “How do you get buy-in?” But that’s the soft equivalent of manipulation when we try to “get” people to do anything. What’s more powerful, respectful and lasting is invitations. And there’s a certain way to do them…

Should we bring our whole selves to work?

October 7, 2022

Great cultures ,Hacks

whole self

Pamela Paul certainly doesn’t think so.  This is a hilarious article on why it’s best if we just bring our work selves to work…

Do not “bring your whole self” to work.

That’s right! Defy the latest catchphrase of human resources and leave a good portion of you back home. Maybe it’s the part of you that’s grown overly attached to athleisure. The side that needs to talk about candy (guilty). It could be the getting-married part of you still agonizing over whether a destination wedding is morally defensible in These Times.

Leave those things behind and I promise: No one in your workplace will miss them. And remember, it works both ways. Anyone worth sharing a flex desk with is not someone you want to see every last ounce of either. They, too, can reserve their aches, grievances, flimsy excuses and noisy opinions for the roommate, the pandemic puppy and the houseplants.

As a culture speaker you might think I’d disagree. But I don’t. She makes a great argument for it.

And… there’s a missed opportunity.

Rather than bring your whole self, bring your future self.

Your future self is the person you want to become. And (most likely), your colleagues want to help you get there. That’s why we had an entire goals department at Zappos.

It’s a similar psychology to why NPS (Net Promoter Score) is better than CSAT (Customer Satisfaction).  CSAT surveys focus on all the grievances of the past – Meaning it’s a complaint-fest.  But NPS asks the consumer – How can this be better?  It engages our imaginations.

When I lead my team at Zappos, we had a “dream wall” with images of everything each person wanted to experience or accomplish.  And we would bring them up in our one-on-one meetings.

If we bring our future selves to work, we bond over what we actually want, rather than grievances and gossip.

The Surprising Key to Team Coherence

May 25, 2022

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?