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 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  Yes, that incredibly boring outline that always seems to be out of date (that’s half the problem).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 Secret to Your Why

Hacks ,Personal Exploration

Ever since Simon Sinek spoke on the Power of Why, it’s been a phenomenon for companies and individuals to find their purpose by understanding not what they do, but why they do it.

I found the concept interesting, but not revealing. Until… I took a workshop with Chris Smith, the brilliant storyteller and founder of The Campfire Effect.  He can hear your story once (in all its meanderings and half-points) and turn it into Hollywood gold (with no notes).

Chris said, “The real way to find your why is to look back on your life and notice when you said the words, ‘That’s when I realized….’”

It was like being given a key. I noticed that after every big breakthrough I had in my career over the past decade could be summed up as “That’s when I realized content doesn’t change people, experiences do.”

That was my aha after I discovered that Open Space could change organizations more than any consultant report. It was my aha after experimenting with a red tic tac to create a scene from the Matrix (and then became The Xpill).

My why is to create transformational experiences where people change themselves.

What’s yours?

How Lucky are you?

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Personal Exploration ,Tools

“How lucky are you on a scale from 0-10?”

Zappos recruiting would ask this question in interviews because people who feel lucky are generally grateful, joyful and optimistic. People who don’t feel lucky tend to believe that they haven’t been given many breaks and they can’t rely on anyone. In other words, they’re not the best team players.

I’ve thought a lot about luck over the years, because I’ve been very lucky. One of my business partners once called his “good luck charm.” He said he believed things went well when I’m around and that there’s this sense that anything is possible.

And it often triggers people when I say I’m lucky. They think luck means leaving everything to chance. They think it means taking no responsibility for what happens. And in some ways I think they’re right. I mean, how much control do we really have? And how many good things have happened that we just can’t explain? (PS – People who don’t like the word luck usually prefer the word “fortunate”).

So let me tell you what I think it is, and how I think you can get more of it.

Most people call luck the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

I call luck being at the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

If you ask very successful people what’s the one thing they would need besides money if they lost everything and had to start again – it’s their Contacts Book (also called a rolodex). The contacts I’ve met have been key to all of my success, and those moments we meet are the game changers.

I happened to be at Georgetown Leadership School at the same time as Dave Logan. And that got us into Zappos where I happened to meet Tony Hsieh with an author we both loved, which started our conversations that lead to me coming to Zappos. Before that moment I couldn’t get a job in organizational development for the life of me.

Tony would call it the power of serendipity. So he made sure all the fire exits were closed to regular traffic so that everyone went through one entrance and could meet people they would otherwise never see. Now he’s doing that with his downtown abode, where they’ve recreated a version of Burning Man.

I’ve met amazing people there, and I continue to meet amazing people wherever I go.

So here’s a few tips on how to engineer your own luck…

1. Show up early

To everything. By showing up early you create the space to meet people that you otherwise would never meet. If you’re only on time or showing up late, you close down that window of opportunity.

2. Follow the energy

When I lost everything in a venture, I didn’t want to do any kind of work… except being a Spinning instructor. And (at the time) there was no money in that. But it was the only thing I felt gave me energy.  By doing it, I increased my energy, and then brought that energy into my interactions that helped me get my next big break.  It made no sense, but I followed the energy. What

3. Assume you’re in it.

Rather than trying to find these moments (being in the right place at the right time with the right people), go into situations assuming you’re already there, and get curious about what you could learn, or contribute with them.

Have fun and tell me how it goes!

What Drives Us

Culture of Chaos ,Great cultures ,Hacks

Of course there are many things that drive us, but when we’re talking about culture, we’re talking about relationships. There is no culture without people and it’s what’s invisible, and what’s between us that matters.

So try this on for size…

We want both safety and danger.

Think about it. We all need safety. It’s basic within the Maslow hierarchy of needs. But imagine that everything was safe, and nothing ever changed. Nothing was at risk. In a word, we’d get bored. I talked to someone at a very prestigious company that everyone wants to work for and she said there’s no challenge and she wants to find something more exciting.

And of course, if everything was a big risk then our nervous systems would be shot.

So the answer is both.

It goes back to our primary relationship with our parents. The kids who grow up with healthy relationships are those who were given safety to feel at ease, but also given the chance to expand and test our boundaries. If we were overprotected then we get soft, and anxious when anything challenges our world. If we were given no safety and supervision then it feels like we can’t rely on anyone to have our backs.

The best cultures create a sense of safety to speak our minds, and be ourselves without needing to hide. And at the same time they give us big challenges that are outside of our comfort zone so that we can grow and the company can grow as a whole.

I remember when I rode the “Saints to Sinners” bike race with the Zappos cycling team. We had an SUV with 5 guys to ride for 24 hours from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. I remember riding through a thunderstorm and feeling safe because if anything went wrong my team was there. And I even rode in the pitch dark with only a small light in front of me. It felt scary, but I knew that my team was trailing me a few miles behind, so I was totally safe.

I had that experience at Burning Man as well. I was riding through the desert at midnight when a sand storm picked up. Very dangerous, but I felt totally safe because I had my mask, water and two friends by my side.

Remember, at its core, it’s all a feeling.

As a leader are you cultivating your own sense of balance? Do you have established systems and protocols to rely on (feel safe) while still working on the big hairy audacious goals? Both are important and maintaining both will create an engaged environment where people don’t want to leave.