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Archive for August, 2009

Two Sides Of Cult Culture

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Did you do your homework from Saturday?

I asked you to read Heather Clancy’s take on great culture and said that I’d explain today why I disagree.

The problem I have is with the idea of culture as a cult.

The definition of cult is given as “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work,” and culture as “set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices;” Heather sees ‘devotion’ and ‘shared’ as interchangeable—and that makes me very uncomfortable.

Another definition for cult is “obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.”

The examples she uses, Apple, Google and Salesforce.com, are superb companies.

But when someone says ‘cult’ to me I think of Jim Jones, whose followers had great devotion, so much that they followed Jones to the death—literally.

Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street banking houses had/have strong cult cultures as does AIG. Their people had great devotion and passion to cultures that were focused on winning no matter what and we all know where that got us. Another enterprise that comes to mind is Enron.

The point I’m making is that cult culture, like most concepts, cuts both ways.

When culture becomes a cult it can lose its flexibility and willingness to grow and change—necessities in today’s fast-changing world.

It’s always tempting to choose examples that highlight the positive view of a business (or any) concept, but it is imperative to avoid assumptions and remember that there are two sides to everything.

Image credit: Gúnna on flickr

ALUC Your Way To Success

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Every manager loves the folks who come to work champing at the bit, raring to go and bust their butt all day long. They love to talk about the high level of engagement their team has and brag about their productivity and innovative ideas.

If you want a group like this then make no mistake, It’s your responsibility to engender that attitude, i.e., engage them.

It’s not going to happen by accident and you can’t order your people be engaged.

Engagement happens because you, and hopefully your company are engaging.

This isn’t doubletalk or smoke, think about it. Think about what engages you.

  • The guideline is the same thread that has run through every major philosophy and religion for thousands of years—treat your people s you want to be treated—whether your boss treats you that way or not.
  • Authenticity is the current buzz word, but it translates simply to be honest, open and do what you say; never fudge, let alone lie, intentionally or otherwise.
  • There are absolutely no circumstances that warrant or excuse the messenger being killed. None. Because if you do, there’s no going back—ever.
  • If your company doesn’t have an engaging culture then you must be an umbrella for your people, because you can create one below you, even if you can’t change it above.

While managers may not be able to control overall corporate culture there are many things they can do within their own group’s culture to foster engagement.

The number one approach is to show your appreciation of your people. Study after study confirms employees’ desire to feel valued; to make a difference and be credited for it. But how, with budgets cut below bone level?

Here are four simple actions that you can implement at no financial cost and that don’t require approval from anyone.

  • Ask everyone for input, ideas, suggestions and opinions—not just your so-called stars.
  • Listen and really hear what is said, discuss it, think about it.
  • Use what you get as often as possible, whether in whole or in part, or as the springboard that leads to something totally different.
  • Credit the source(s), both up and down, publicly and privately, thank them, compliment them, congratulate them.

If you’re sincere, you can’t lay it on too thick; if you’re faking it, they’ll know.

And if you’re stupid enough to steal the credit for yourself in the mistaken name of job security you’ll have the fun of explaining to your boss the plummeting productivity and soaring turnover that accompanies the thefts.

Think ALUC; pin a note on your wall that says ALUC.





ALUC will make you a winner.

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Image credit: Street Sign Generator

mY generation: Cool, Dawg!

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Ted Kennedy

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Whether you laud Ted Kennedy or despise him you can’t deny that there are things he said that resonate with any person, in any country and any circumstances.

Here are some of my favorites.

“I recognize my own shortcomings — the faults in the conduct of my private life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them. I believe that each of us as individuals must not only struggle to make a better world, but to make ourselves better, too.”

There is no safety in hiding.”

“Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.”

“I have seen throughout my life how we as a people can rise to a challenge, embrace change and renew our destiny.”

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”

“We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.”

Your comments—priceless


Tomorrow is the last day to share your favorite business OMG moments for the chance to win a copy of Jason Jenning’s Hit The Ground Running.

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Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Entrepreneurs And Culture

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

If there is one thing I have learned in more than two decades of working with entrepreneurs is that there is little that is “typical” about them, contrary to the media and even the scientific research.

How many times have you heard that entrepreneurs are risk takers? That may look true on the outside, but talk to them and you’ll find that most consider the risks minimal—based their own personal definition.

Let’s take a look at some proof of what I’m saying.

Most people think of entrepreneurs as loving a high profile as their success increases, but that isn’t always true. Take a look at this story about 24 year-old twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who, as movie stars, are constantly in the news, but as entrepreneurs don’t even associate their names with their businesses.

Entrepreneurs know their culture is a reflection of them and their people. The smart ones are transparent when it comes to sharing that with potential clients; they let it all hang out as opposed to putting on a show. It’s good business.

Next is an entrepreneur’s take on MBA. After all, who but a serial entrepreneur would think to combine networking with a serious adrenalin rush and call it Maverick Business Adventures?

Last, but certainly not least, are brief profiles of six Pacific Northwest entrepreneurs and the cultures they’ve created, good reading!

Before we close I have a homework assignment for you. Heather Clancy is a very smart lady, but I disagree with her take on great culture; come back Monday and find out why.

Have a terrific weekend!

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

Seize Your Leadership Day: Me And Mackey

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

I guess it’s pretty egotistical, but one of the links I’m giving you today is mine.

It’s is a quick read, but really useful; a guest post I did for Catch Your Limit Consulting, a strategic management and marketing firm, called Hate The Plan, Love The Planning. Let me know what you think.

The second one is an article you’ll probably be hearing a lot about. No matter what you think of the content, the question is whether John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, should have stepped into the political wasp nest of healthcare. After you read the article, be sure to click the comment tab at the top and scan through some of them. Interesting reading.

And please take a minute to share your favorite business OMG moments for the chance to win a copy of Jason Jenning’s Hit The Ground Running.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: nono farahshila on flickr

Miki’s Rules To Live By: Focus

Friday, August 28th, 2009

What do you talk about in your life?

What do you go to bed thinking about; what dominates your dreams; what do you ponder during the day?

Your aches and pains; the gray hair you found; the new outfit you bought, but aren’t sure is right? Do you dwell on the words or email that may be a slight—or maybe not? The colleague you’re not sure likes you; the boss who seems OK, but…?

It’s more than a matter of the glass being half full or half empty.

Like the dog that worries a bone, constantly thinking and talking about anything focuses you on it; prioritizes it and makes it paramount until it dominates all other thoughts.

Focus works in both directions—it can launch you to the heights or toss you into a dungeon of doom—taking your friends with you.

Most importantly…

Focus is a choice.

Choose wisely.

Image credit: LilGoldWmn on sxc.hu

Composting You

Friday, August 28th, 2009

After considering my recent views on compost as it applies to leadership and culture I want to add another for you to ponder this weekend.

It’s extremely short and I hope you will add your thoughts to my idea.

Life is compost.

You are the composting machine.

From birth to death a myriad of learning and experiences come your way.

The end result is a rich mixture of ideas, attitudes and actions and even a bit of wisdom if the worms and bacteria are especially effective.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: Bruce McAdam on Wikipedia Commons

Engaging Actions

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Terms come and terms go, but their meaning stays fairly constant.

Managers used to strive for employee buy-in, ownership, commitment, involvement; today it’s engagement.

Management has worked to develop that behavior for decades, whereas the way to achieve it is as old as humanity.

Disengagement is costly, “Gallup estimates it costs the US economy about $300bn a year and that 17 per cent of employees are “actively” disengaged. These employees each cost their employers $13,000 a year in lost productivity.” That was last year and I’d bet that 2009 will be worse.

Managers of organizations with a high level of engagement know that achieving that is as simple as 1, 2, 3—4.

The 4 acts of engagement are

  1. respect;
  2. encouragement;
  3. support; and
  4. rewards.

This isn’t exactly secret management knowledge. There are thousands of books, hundreds of classes, dozens of blogs and forums all teaching variations on this theme.

So if it’s that simple, why isn’t it put into practice more often?

MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) is the reason. MAP shapes a person’s actions.

If you don’t really believe in the value or numbers 1 or 2, you can talk all day and your people will hear what you say as hollow, i.e., no authenticity.

Number 3, support, includes skills training and career development, but how do you provide these when money is tight or, even in good times, when your company doesn’t believe in it?

Ingenuity—not just yours, but your group’s.

Your people aren’t dumb, they know when the company can’t/won’t fund training, but there are tons of ways to work around that, such as building up a broad departmental learning library and sharing their own expertise with each other during organized brown bag lunch sessions.

Number 4 also usually involves money, as it should. But when there’s an authentic, provable lack of funds to provide significant rewards, every company can find enough, monetary and otherwise, to prove that they value their people’s contributions.

Again, people aren’t dumb. If the CEO, execs or their boss fly first class or receive a bonus after telling people that the company can’t afford raises or rewards, it shouldn’t be a surprise when they disengage and eventually leave.

That’s it; not rocket science, but you must do it consistently, sincerely and with great enthusiasm—no matter what else is going on.

Image credit: arte_ram on sxc.hu

Leadership's Future: When A Lie Is Not A Lie

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Hypocrisy has had a high profile on my blog this summer, especially as it relates to the emerging attitudes of young people.

One of the current hypocrisy poster boys is Senator John Ensign, who really drove home what is acceptable and not acceptable in the prevailing attitudes of those who claim the moral high ground.

The Senator, who roundly condemned then-President Clinton’s sexual peccadillo and subsequent lying to a grand jury, said, “I haven’t done anything legally wrong.” (My emphasis.)

Which mean that if Clinton had admitted screwing around with Monica Lewinsky it would have made it a “distraction” (Ensign’s term for what he did.) as opposed to the felony created by lying.

Ensign is prominent member of the Promise Keepers leadership, which lists seven basic tenets, the third being, “A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity” and the fourth, “A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and Biblical values.”

Ensign violated both and compounded the violations by having his parents pay off his mistress.

These don’t count, since Promise Keepers isn’t a legal entity and, obviously, lying to your followers and constituency isn’t illegal—just unethical and immoral.

What kids will absorb is that there are no real repercussions; Ensign still holds his Congressional seat, will probably win reelection, hasn’t changed his role in Promise Keepers, and is still cheered when he gives a speech. And if reporters dare to raise additional questions, his response is “I’ve said everything I was going to say about that.”

We may ring our hands and lament the lack of accountability of society in general and the Millennials in particular, but we don’t have to look very far to find the cause.

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