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GoDaddy: How A Leopard Changed Its Spots

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/forthefunofit/4225932657/

I’ll bet you remember GoDaddy’s incredibly sexist commercials and bikinied conference models.

But did you notice that they totally stopped in 2013; they didn’t taper off, just stopped?

Obviously, something changed. It couldn’t have been public outrage; that had never bothered GoDaddy bosses before.

What happened was the installation of Blake Irving as CEO.

Irving not only stopped the ads, he set out to radically change a toxic culture that could easily have destroyed the company.

Culture starts at the top and its values and attitudes seep down throughout the organization.

That means change must also come from the top, but seepage won’t effect change.

Change requires structural and enforceable process change.

The answer is more complicated than just stamping out overt sexism. GoDaddy also focused on attacking the small, subtle biases that can influence everything from how executives evaluate employees to how they set salaries.

This was partly accomplished by changing the language, so that managers would evaluate impact as opposed to character.

You can’t change a place just by hiring more women,” said Ms. Weissman, the senior vice president, who oversees a technical staff. “You have to create a safe space to talk about the assumptions all of us have. You have to work against the biases.

Are the efforts paying off?

Today, almost a quarter of GoDaddy’s employees are women, including 21 percent of its technical staff. Half of new engineers hired last year were female, and women make up 26 percent of senior leadership. Female technologists, on average, earn slightly more than their male counterparts.

Who’d a’thunk it?

Go Daddy as one of the nation’s most inclusive tech companies and a top workplace for women and a lodestone of gender equity.

The company’s policies on equal pay, its methods for recruiting a diverse work force and its approach to promoting women and minorities had been lauded inside business schools and imitated at other firms.

Uber et al. take note.

With truly committed leadership a leopard can change its spots.

Image credit: jdog90

Ducks in a Row: It’s NOT The Pipeline

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/billjacobus1/467939137/

There’s a standard response to why there aren’t more women CEOs: a lack of talent in the pipeline.

This is the same excuse used to explain the lack of women/minorities in tech or any profession, for that matter.

Typically, the response comes from white guys — mostly those from middle, upper-middle, and privileged backgrounds.

It’s the pipeline.

For years I thought it was a pipeline question,” said Julie Daum, who has led efforts to recruit women for corporate boards at Spencer Stuart. “But it’s not — I’ve been watching the pipeline for 25 years. There is real bias, and without the ability to shine a light on it and really measure it, I don’t think anything’s going to change.

Conscious, intentional bias is bad enough, but girls also have to contend with an unconsciously biased society and a dearth of powerful role models.

Women rarely consider themselves experts, unlike men, who will claim expertise on any subject, no matter how ridiculous.

A presenter asked a group of men and women whether anyone had expertise in breast-feeding. A man raised his hand. He had watched his wife for three months. The women in the crowd, mothers among them, didn’t come forward as experts.

Ellen Kullman, the former chief executive of DuPont sums up a large piece of the problem.

“We are never taught to fight for ourselves.”

Back in 2015, the brand Always showed an ad during Super Bowl that focused on what a putdown the phrase “like a girl” actually is.

A young boy’s response when asked if “like a girl” insulted his sister is telling.

“No, I mean yeah… insulted girls, but not my sister.”

What does the phrase sound like to a young girl?

It sounds like you’re trying to humiliate someone.

Britain, for one, is fighting back.

The UK’s advertising industry regulator has announced that portrayals of little girls aspiring to be, say, a ballerina while boys hope to be, for instance, a scientist or doctor will be banned from the country’s ads. Many of these air during kids’ programs and target teens through social media.

And if you think this example is extreme it is actually drawn from this Aptamil baby formula ad.

Can bias actually be addressed beyond training and conversation?

Join me tomorrow for a look at how a corporate sexist poster child became a lodestar for gender equity.

Image credit: Bill Jacobus

Ducks in a Row: Personal Brand / Personal Culture

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/phploveme/4684039656/Everywhere you turn these days you’re told to use social media to create an easily recognized persona that becomes your “personal brand.”

It’s supposed to be the “real” you, i.e., authentic.

It’s also supposed to be the best you, which usually means inauthentic.

Inauthentic, because people typically share all their upside, but rarely the downside.

They post all the fabulous pictures (even helping them along via photoshop-type editing).

Non-fabulous pics are a rarity, unless they are meant to be funny, e.g., morning bedhead before coffee, and those are screened carefully.

We’re not talking spontaneous, rather faux spontaneous.

In fact, everything is carefully curated to enhance and extend one’s personal brand.

But what about personal culture?

As with company culture, your personal culture is based on your personal values.

Values are much harder to curate, since they underlie all actions.

Fred Destin is the latest VC to apologize for his actions, along with Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck, 500 Startups founder Dave McLure, and Lowercase Capital’s Chris Sacca.

Apparently it didn’t occur to any of them that their actions towards women were unacceptable, which makes you wonder about their values.

There is no wondering about Donald Trump’s values, since he stated publicly that he could do as he pleased, because he is rich.

The take away here is that no matter how carefully you curate your brand your personal culture will eventually trip you up if your curation doesn’t accurately reflect your values.

Image credit: Jinho Jung

If The Shoe Fits: Power, Control And Insecure Male Egos

Friday, July 14th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAssuming you don’t live in a different galaxy, you’ve followed the aftermath at Uber, since Susan Fowler posted her experiences there.

You just saw the co-founder of Binary Capital resign after women founders claimed harassment and a woman who works at Tesla called the factory a “predator zone.”

So many women coming forward has led to headlines that the Silicon Valley old boy power elite is being toppled.

Ha! Not going to happen in my lifetime — and probably not in yours.

Especially when the bias is so ingrained that even the funding questions, including from women, carry that bias, as do professors of both sexes on college admission evaluations.

And consider this comment on a NYT article.

Laura Castaneda
WA July 1, 2017
These women do themselves a disservice by choosing to appear bare legged, in shorts and casual clothing for this article. Rather, all three ought to have posed in business professional clothing. Women say they want to be accepted as professionals and peers while simultaneously choosing to participate in age old ways of competing: showing some skin. They have even chosen to do it for this article which is about the very acts photos like these encourage. Women who want to be treated equally should hide their sexuality (skin) in the business setting. It’s always been accepted that women who stoop to short skirts and low cut blouses at work are not to be taken seriously. What has changed to make that untrue today, exactly? Magical thinking?

What skin? One woman has on cutoffs? Her partners are in jeans and a skirt (no stockings) and all have on T-shirts. Typical Silicon Valley startup garb.

The comment reminds me of the ageless rape defense: dressed like that she was asking for it.

An op-ed piece in Bloomberg makes a telling point.

But do the people with the least power have to shoulder responsibility for weeding out misconduct by people with the most?

Ryan Pew, who writes Ryan’s Journal here on Thursday, is a former Marine and a millennial father of three girls. I asked him what he thought.

As a father of girls, by my very nature I want them to succeed without their gender being an issue. I understand the differences between the sexes but do see us as equal. However I have also seen how, as a man, you see other men who believe otherwise and are not afraid of speaking to a woman a certain way. One of these posts talks about how one of the VC’s was pushing alcohol and then used that as leverage when he tried his moves. Sounds very frat boy to me. 

Hey, Ryan, it IS frat-boy, AKA, bro culture.

What I’ve never understood, and I’ve asked directly, is why these jerks think what they do is “NBD, business as usual,” but condemn anyone who treats their wife/mother/daughter/friend/etc. the same way.

One more thing. For some phenomenal satire on the subject out Sarah Cooper on Medium, especially Why Do All These Women Keep Accusing Me of Sexual Harassment?

Hi. My name is Brad. You may not have heard of me before, but don’t worry, I’m rich. (…)  Obviously I’m a smart guy, but one thing I can’t for the life of me understand is: why do all these women keep accusing me of sexual harassment? (…) And yeah, I use my position of power to get laid, but who wouldn’t?  (…)  Do I want them to fuck me? Sure I do. Will it affect whether or not I fund their company? Yes, it will. Does that mean I don’t respect them? No! Well yes. But it’s not personal, it’s business.

From ‘77 to ‘97 I was a tech recruiter and can’t count the times I was hit on by VCs and managers. I’m here to tell you that harassment isn’t about sex any more than rape is.

It’s about power, control, money, and insecure male egos that are terrified of women who dare.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: Perhaps We Could Bring More Love To The World

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/149902454@N08/34776732853/

This past week has been a whirlwind for me. My wife and I had our third beautiful baby girl and as a result I am sleeping less than the required 11-12 hours that I prefer.

My wife has handled this whole event with grace and I have been humbled by the respect I have for her.

Those of you may already know, but if you don’t, I have three girls now. It’s a true joy and I feel privileged and honored to have them in my life.

Being a parent can be tough today. There is a lot of pressure to be on top of the right trends, expand your baby’s horizons and ensure you’re not feeding them the wrong foods.

Of course all of this is captured on social media for the chance for the world to judge in realtime. What a time to be alive!

I say all of that a bit tongue I cheek as there are some things I have learned as well.

Mark Zuckerberg posted a stat today that towns that have a disproportionate amount of men to women have higher crime rates.

I say that to highlight something that comes from being the father of three girls, love. It is unfiltered and abundant.

If I am having a bad day I can walk in my door and be surrounded by girls that just want to hug me and spend time. Now this is more of a personal lesson but I believe it can be expanded to the business world.

If you look at the latest company scandals you tend to see some common threads. Hyper masculinity, extreme competition and a zero sum attitude towards life.

These tend to be hallmarks of a male dominated organization that lacks balance.

This post is more about observations than solutions.

My observation in my personal life is that the unfiltered love helps me to try and be my best self. It also builds up self esteem which leads to more creativity, problem solving and so on.

Perhaps if we incorporate that trait, love, into our daily lives it will have a profound effect on those around us.

I may be saying things that have been said before, but all I can share is my experience and try to build upon it.

Image credit: Hamza Butt

Culture On Purpose

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/richardofengland/6788829651/

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about intentional culture quoting Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson.

“If you don’t create a culture at your company, a culture will create itself. And it won’t be good. I sometimes hear people say ‘We don’t have a culture at our company.’ They have one. But if it hasn’t been nurtured, if no one has spent on any time on it, you can assume it’s the wrong culture.”

It’s well recognized that good culture doesn’t just happen — it requires conscious intention from day one and never ending vigilance ever after.

Sustaining culture requires a tough stance on hiring and a willingness to walk away from candidates who aren’t aligned with and enthusiastic about your culture.

However, no amount of vigilance and effort assures that the resulting culture will be what is termed ‘good’.

Whether the intentioal from the top or is allowed to rise from the ranks, the culture will reflect the values of the source and will be propagated by attracting candidates with similar values.

Uber’s bro culture reflects Trvis Kalanick’s values.

Zappos reflects Tony Hsieh’s.

For a great read on intentional culture and how to do it, check out Making Culture a Tangible Metric by Eric Blondeel and Moufeed Kaddoura, co-founders of ExVivo Labs.

Hat tip to the CB Insights newsletter for sharing this article.

Image credit: Richard Matthews

Ducks in a Row: Jerks and “Culture Fit”

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/forsterfoto/168970168/Although both articles I refer to are aimed at startup founders, I believe they are applicable to bosses at any level and in any company.

First, no boss ever accomplished their goals by being a jerk.

As Bob Sutton explains in The Asshole Survival Guide, treating people like dirt hurts their focus and saps their motivation. (…)  In the podcast, Reid [Hoffman] describes his test of a great culture: Does every employee feel that they personally own the culture?

Most jerks point to Steve Jobs to justify their actions, but consider how much more he could have done if he had been a better leader/manager.

It’s hard to find any boss who doesn’t recognize that culture is the most critical element in a company’s success.

However, what “culture” is has been twisted and warped out of all recognition.

These days “cultural fit” is the excuse of choice to indulge whatever biases, prejudices, and bigotry moves the hiring boss.

So, what does cultural fit really mean?

To answer that you have to understand what culture really is.

Culture is a reflection of the values of the boss.

Values have nothing to do with perks, food, or office buildings and everything to do with attitudes such as fairness, merit, transparency, trust, etc.

The point of cultural fit is to hire people whose personal values are, at the least, synergistic with the cultural values of the company.

Period.

That means that if the boss is biased, bigoted or a jerk, they will hire people who have similar values.

Image credit: Matthias Forster

Ryan’s Journal: Veteran Culture

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Folks, I thought it fitting to have something veteran related as America just celebrated Independence Day. While the holiday itself is about the founding of the country, I think we can all agree that the actions of the men and women who fought helped secure the independence. 

My goal here is to not make this a political blog, but sometimes folks who I respect speak out and I like to highlight them. 

I had the privilege to read “Tribe” recently and found the book to share a perspective on PTSD and culture that I had not heard before.

I may have shared in the past, but when I was a younger man I served in The United States Marine Corps. In that capacity I lost several Marines while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq and it’s still something I keep with me.

With that said, I am fortunate not to suffer any serious effects, physical or mental, but I found the book to be a breath of fresh air.

I say all of this to say that Junger is well respected in the community and a voice of reason.

Below my post Junger is quoted as stating the current divisive political environment is causing moral injury on the troops. Moral injury could be very true. In the current conflicts young men and women are thrust into confusing situations that have no clear objective.

 For us, we had to contend with the so called enemy, but also the locals; all while trying to explain that we were there to provide peace (while holding them to the gun).

It was confusing and as an introspective guy I had a hard time rationalizing what I was doing. My response was to just not consider the socio-political ramifications and focus on the day at hand. 

What Junger says though is true in my opinion. As politics have become more divisive, it is tough for the folks in harm’s way to truly believe in the cause. The homeland is secure and we fight most wars now for no clear reason. 

One takeaway from Junger’s book about PTSD I found can be applied by anyone.

He says we should embrace veterans, but not in such a way that you isolate them. Most veterans do not want adulation and praise, they just want mutual respect and the ability to remember, but not dwell. 

I have included the full text of his interview below

An award-winning journalist says people who claim Trump isn’t their president hurt US troops

Sebastian Junger has a message for lawmakers: the partisan warring of politicians in Washington DC is hurting the American military more than they realize.

“Unity is all soldiers have when they face the enemy, and you must do everything in your power to make sure that it is not taken away from them,” the noted war journalist and author, who has written and directed extensively on war, told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on post-traumatic stress disorder on June 7.

Junger used the opportunity to rail against the toxic influence of partisan politics among the armed forces.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was not their president, they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he told lawmakers. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause. And that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity.”

The issue isn’t just about the unusual nature of the Trump presidency, or Democrats’ resistance to it. “When Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama [ …] was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” he said.

Junger, whose career as a war reporter began covering the Kosovo genocide in the 1990s, most recently penned a book called         “Tribe” in which he wrote about the fractionalized America that troops face when they return home.

“For the sake of our military personnel, if not for the sake of our democracy, such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party,” Junger said.

“If that is not realistic, at least this committee — which is charged with overseeing the welfare of our servicemen and women — should issue a bipartisan statement rejecting such rhetorical attacks on our national unity.”

The military, which serves the president as its commander-in-chief, has become increasingly politicized in recent years.

The Center for New American Security reported a trend of more politicization of the military’s ranks by observing speeches given by retired generals at both Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016.

What’s more, a study by the National Defense University found that more military personnel are sharing their political views on social media.

After surveying 500 West Point cadets and active duty officers, the report found that 75% of respondent said that they had seen their contemporaries shared political links on their personal social media accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In “Tribe,” Junger writes, “Soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon.”

Read the original article on Task & Purpose.

Image credit: Sebastian Junger

Uber Suicide?

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/9698637692/Have you noticed that Uber-frenzy has eased off? It’s a nice change to see other lead stories taking its place.

The most valuable private company in the world is definitely at a crossroads.

There is one thing that’s definite and that is that without new leadership that can staunch the blizzard resignation at all levels, galvanize the troops, lead the change to a radically new culture, and keep all the wheels turning in sync Uber easily could fall from its vaunted position.

In short, the new CEO needs to be someone with a sterling reputation, a string of high profile successes, and a believable visionary who people will trust.

Is that how you would describe Marissa Mayer?

The last thing that Uber needs is someone who defends Kalanick and seems to excuse what happened.

“I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he’s a phenomenal leader — Uber is ridiculously interesting.”

Mayer, who may be campaigning for the Uber CEO role, added: “I just don’t think he knew. When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard.”

Mayer went on to say that Uber was going through the same kind of thing Google went through when Eric Schmidt was brought on as CEO to help founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

But Mayer is not Eric Schmidt; in fact, her two main qualifications seem to be being female and buddies with Arianna Huffington.

Of course, there’s a long way to go and a number of other names being bandied about.

If she is hired I’m sure the investors will be excited to watch Uber take the same path as Yahoo.

Image credit: Mike Mozart

If The Shoe Fits: The Stupidity Of Always On

Friday, June 30th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mBack in the distant 1980s, when startups were valued for what they did, as opposed to the cash they raised, a founder made a casual comment that has stuck with me all these years.

He said, “There will be times when my team has to pull all-nighters, but if it happens often it is a failure of management to correctly schedule the work and set viable deadlines, as opposed to an unexpected emergency.”

Boy, has that changed. These days founders brag about their 80-120-always-on-hour-weeks and expect their team to do the same.

And they do.

It’s the new techie status symbol.

And not just in tech land.

The gig economy not only brags about it, they base their recruiting on it.

 “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the [Fiverr] ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

Doer? Or exploitee?

Or, more accurately, stupid, with a capital S.

“A culture of overwork is damaging because it turns brief binges of hard work into a long-term strategy, and, worse still, an expectation. When managers start measuring the worth of their employees according to how quickly they return emails at 3 a.m., that particular work culture is broken,” Adam Alter, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, told Business Insider in an email. (He wrote a book about how technology keeps us “always on.”)

Stupid because 80-100+ hour weeks lowers creativity and productivity, while increasing coding and other errors. Not to mention lost sales and misunderstandings.

Founders take note. Not of me, but of the research, crunch the numbers, and analyze the data.

Then think twice, send your team home and go yourself and get some sleep.

Even Uber is planning on that.

“Uber is a data-driven company, and the data shows unequivocally that when you work longer, you are not working smarter,” Uber board member Arianna Huffington told the company’s employees during an all-hands meeting last week, according to leaked audio obtained by Yahoo.
Huffington also added that employees won’t have to be “always on” and responsive to whatever is going on at the office, no matter where they are. Because “when you’re always on you’re depleted, you are distracted,” and “not as creative” as you are when you’re well-rested, Huffington also said, channeling the thesis of her new pro-sleep startup Thrive.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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