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Ryan’s Journal: Can You Right A Sinking Ship?

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bertknot/8210386029/I read an article today about Warren Buffet. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, recently sold over $900 Million in Wal-Mart stock. Why you may ask?

Buffet believes the retailer is a sinking ship and retail as a whole is being completely disrupted. Now by all accounts Wal-Mart is still hugely successful. They sell more than Amazon, are profitable and growing.

Looking at these factors alone it would seem that there is nothing to be worried about, however a man much smarter than myself thinks otherwise. How can that be changed?

Now, this post is not about Wal-Mart per say but more on the retail experience as a whole. I can look throughout my house right now and say that a large majority of what I have purchased in the past few years has been from online.

I have twin girls and my family may singlehandedly keep Amazon in business by all the items we need on a day to day basis.

Recently Wal-Mart began a service in my area where you can pick out all of your groceries online and pay, then you just drive to your location and they load your car with the groceries. You never go in the store and you have everything you need at a great price!

I can tell you that the service would be extremely helpful to my family but I have never once considered it.

Why? Culture.

I am not a snob, in fact I prefer a good burger over whatever hot dish is on trend right now, however I have a hard time considering Wal-Mart or other similar retailers for most of my purchases.

The main reason, for me, is the culture of those locations.

I feel that retail employees are paid too low and not given opportunities for advancement. Is this true? Sometimes, but also it’s a perception thing. The culture would appear to be one of hardship.

On the other hand Amazon has commercials for drone delivery and cutting edge technology. Is the apple I get from Amazon any different than the one from Wal-Mart? Not one bit, but my perception is. I feel pleased that my money is being well spent with one while depriving from the other. 

Is retail a sinking ship? Maybe, but quite frankly I do not have enough information to support such an argument. However I can tell you that my emotions are directly connected to my perception of the culture at each company and that is what determines where my dollars go.

Culture is deeds, words and actions. It is the sprit that inhabits a person and an organization. It must be jealously guarded as it could quite possibly be the most valuable thing owned.

My personality is my culture.

The company I work for is an aggregate of all combined to make up a unifying culture.

Do I have an answer on how to fix the ship? I would think it starts with the leaders and then moves down. Perhaps it can also start with the individual? 

What fuels that person? What helps them determine right from wrong? Is there a right or wrong?

These are all questions that will determine an individual’s identity and ultimately help them determine their course in life.

Maybe it is time to right our own ship?

Image credit: bertknot

Ryan’s Journal: Can Culture be Defined by One Person?

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidspinks/4211977680/

Have you ever been a member of a group or team that is flat out terrible? I have. I have been a member of that soccer team that never won a game, the work group that wasn’t succeeding.

Did I like it? Absolutely not. Did I learn from it? I think in some ways I did.

Have you ever seen that same team or group start to succeed with different leadership? In my case I have a very real world example of where this came to pass.

I had the pleasure of serving for five years in The United States Marine Corps. During this five year time the US was involved in several conflicts and I found myself deployed to Fallujah, Iraq.

During my deployment I served with a team of 12 other Marines, together we were known as a squad. Now this is the military, but a small group of people working together can be found within any type of organization. 

Our squad was led by a leader who, while a good guy, was not well equipped to lead a group of Marines into life or death situations.

This person had some leadership challenges that ultimately led to low morale, loss of confidence and an overall lack of guidance.

To be completely clear, the group sucked. We moped around, were not excited about our purpose and lacked vision.

After some time our higher leadership realized a change should be made and they moved our leader to a role better suited for his skill set.

I will tell you right now, that was a life changer.

We had a new leader come aboard that had the experience needed, was motivated and challenged us to be better then we were the day before.

Now overall the same 13 people were on the team, but the outcome was completely different.

We worked better as a group, shared responsibilities and were proud of our accomplishments.

I look back on this one example often when I think of how one person can shape a culture. 

Now, obviously the military has a top down culture when it comes to leadership, but it also embraces servant leadership.

In this scenario our new leader embraced servanthood. He made sure we were taken care of before his needs and that reflected in our outcome.

Have you been on a team that isn’t performing to its abilities? What is holding it back?

I had a conversation the other day with my CEO and he said something that stuck with me. He said, “leadership isn’t a title, its an action”.

Isn’t that true of culture too? You and I are the ones who will set the tone.

Do I always get it right? Absolutely not! I fail more times then I succeed. I tear down when I should build, allow emotions to dictate over data and more. At the end of the day my personal culture and that of my team is dictated by my thoughts and deeds, no one else.

Who determines yours?

Image credit: David Spinks

Ryan’s Journal: How Does Time Affect Culture?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/becosky/3304801086/

I had an interesting conversation today with a Director of IT Security from a large healthcare provider in Delaware who is a customer of mine.

The conversation was mostly to do with what his daily responsibilities were, how he balanced competing priorities and to gain a better understanding of his particular challenges.

I went into this meeting with my only desire to better understand him as a person and see how I could be of better value to him as my customer.

I did not expect to come away from the conversation with real world cases of how culture within an organization can change over time, but I have found when you keep your ears open it is surprising what people will say.

Some of you may have experience with healthcare providers, either as a patient or perhaps in a business relationship. I am sure that one thing we can all agree upon is that as a rule they can be slow to adopt, adapt and mature.

This may be hardwired into the DNA of the organization. I know that when I break my leg a doctor will put a cast in it because that has been proven to work through millions of previous experiences.

This can be the desired outcome versus the doctor that decides to try a different remedy for every broken leg. 

As I was speaking with my customer he said one thing that struck me. He said, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

He was saying this in reference to his desire to shape the culture to be more security conscience. However, he understood that if radical changes were made overnight he would lose the support of the organization. Instead he was implementing incremental changes over time to affect change.

Isn’t this the desired outcome?

As I think through this, there are times when radical change is needed, but typically it’s at the personal level that it is achieved.

Obvious examples being taking up exercise, limiting the amount of alcohol or taking up a new routine.

Try and push that on your friends or family overnight and good luck!

It takes time and buy-in from the group to effect lasting change.

That leaves us with a question that I do not yet have the answer to.

How do we achieve the change that is desired?

Image credit: becosky

Ryan’s Journal: Culture Wars

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

https://hikingartist.com/2012/06/17/teamwork-illustrations-new-gallery/circle-of-collaboration-2/

Culture can come from many sources, a CEO, fellow employees or perhaps a set of precepts that have been formalized for all to read. Regardless of the source culture acts as a zeitgeist to shape the actions of all who encounter it.

We can all recall companies or groups that have had great cultures, as well as some that make you want to run in the opposite direction.

Sometimes a culture change is all it takes to right a company or cause its demise. I think that is one reason you will see a sports team go from good to great. The players and staff may not have changed, but something did for them to pull out a win.

What happens though when a culture changes for the worst? Can we see it’s slow creep from the inside?

For me, whenever I have been in a period where I am actively job hunting I utilize glassdoor.com. It’s a great free resource to research companies based on posts from actual employees.

Do you want to know the salary range of a job? Go to Glassdoor. Is it fun to work there? Glassdoor. What type of questions will they ask when I interview? Glassdoor. I think you get the idea.

My favorite section has to do with reviews. You encounter the entire spectrum of feedback from those who say its the worst job ever to those singing its praises. What I have found is if there are enough reviews you can get a decent sample size to get an average.

Why do I bring this up? Because this website and others like it can help an employee determine the culture of a company before starting.

Once you’re in the role it can be tough to know if the culture has changed. I think it’s similar to the frog in hot water. It won’t leap out if you start with cold water. The same can be said of employees who have been around for a while. This site can give clarity.

Culture is a daily ritual that must be protected.

We all share in some part of the culture, so it’s up to the individual to be the best version of themselves daily.

I say all of this because I have seen from the inside the slow creep of culture decay and I realize it is something to be cherished and protected.

Image credit: Hiking Artist

Ryan’s Journal: Why Does Culture Matter?

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

http://www.fairwarning.com/For those of you who may have read my introduction I stated that my main question I want to always ask is ‘why’.

I learned this mostly through trial and error as I entered the workplace. I had the opportunity to see this inside of companies and organizations and better understand what made them succeed, or fail. The simple answer was and continues to be culture.

Why have some companies with all the talent in the world failed? Why do some people address hardships with a will to succeed rather than sit back and wallow? Why do those who have made it to the top of their profession continue to push themselves? I think it boils down to the mindset of the individual, who then influences the greater group.

I work within the MedTech industry, specifically within the cybersecurity sector. My company, FairWarning, looks at user behavior to determine who the bad actors are, so that you can have confidence that when you seek treatment your records will remain confidential.

You would expect that due to the fact that our mission is to determine who is stealing data and identify it our leadership would treat most people with suspicion. It is only natural, we see bad actors everyday! However, that could not be further from the truth.

I had an opportunity to speak with our leadership about why that is. How is it that the organization which only exists to prevent abuse and misuse of confidential materials can not have a negative outlook on life and people?

The answer surprised me. My company is privately owned by our CEO who founded it. He has the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps through hard work” mentality. He told me that his outlook on life stems from the fact that as an individual you can always make a choice to do the right thing moving forward.

A person always has the opportunity to start today with a clean slate moving forward. The expectation is that every day should be better than the last. Now this doesn’t mean there are no consequences for actions, but it does mean that there are no lost individuals. That at the root of it is the culture of my company and it influences every action I and my teammates make everyday.

Why does that one mindset impact the rest of the group?

Part of it, of course, is the fact that he started and led the company successfully. The other part though, which, in my opinion, matters more, is that he has remained consistent and transparent.

If he only applied that mindset to people selectively or didn’t live it himself then it would not truly be culture. It would be some mission statement that sounds great but has no impact.

As I continue exploring this topic I will speak to others about what influences their decisions and how they came to those conclusions.

Until next week continue asking and seeking.

Image credit: Marko / Zak

Ryan’s Journal: Meet Ryan Pew

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

I e-met Ryan through business dealings that led to several long, intelligent, wide-ranging conversations. I found Ryan thoughtful, knowledgeable, and wonderfully verbal. I asked him if he would be interested in writing a weekly post and, happily, he said yes.

I think you will find his views interesting; he is a Millennial, relatively new dad, works in a MedTech cyber startup and has a good sense of humor (and probably needs it.)

Ryan just came back from a holiday vacation in Canada and sent this picture.

snow ryan

When I asked if he skied, he replied, “Hey, I live in Florida. I don’t ski, I just stood next to the mountain, but never went up. lol”

So enough of me, here’s Ryan.

When I was asked to write the first thing that came to mind was why?

By that I mean I wanted to understand the why behind both this blog and Miki’s request for me to participate. I will keep that question in mind throughout my writings and look forward to this as an opportunity to learn.

I am approaching this as a platform for me to learn and hopefully convey some of my findings to you. My posts will focus on culture and values both from a personal perspective but more broadly from an organizational perspective. Now this is a topic that is covered far and wide so why bother? Because at the bedrock of it all, culture will make or break an organization.

Have you ever seen a group of people who one day have a different outcome from previous ones? Maybe they have a different leader, new goals or something else. I can guarantee that culture is somewhere to be found in there. Good or bad culture will have an impact in the long term.

I did not always believe this, but went through personal experiences that taught me otherwise. I hope to share some of those experiences along our journey together, as well as learn from others who have built successful organizations.

What is my background? I have had a varied life up till now and hope to continue upon that trajectory moving forward. I served several years as a United States Marine, I have worked in sales management in a fortune 50 company, tried my hand at a startup in college and currently work for a successful SaaS startup in Florida. I have used all of these experiences and more to forge a foundation for what makes success and will continue upon that path moving forward.

I look forward to your joining me on that path and sharing your experiences when moved to do so.

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