In my personal experience, this “why” is so important because it helps you rally people behind your mission. It gives you purpose and meaning. It helps you make the right decisions. And when things get hard, as they inevitably will as an entrepreneur, the “why” keeps you going – especially in those moments when you want to give up.
It’s amazing to me, but looking back over a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.
I wrote Verbal Avoidance in 2011, not because it was new, but because it was so prevalent — and since them it’s gotten more so in spite of all the talk about honesty and authenticity. Read other Golden Oldies here
There’s a bad habit I see sweeping through companies. It’s not really new, but it has gotten much worse in recent years.
This particular habit used to be more the province of arguing couples, relationship counselors and divorce courts.
Always more of a guy thing, I now find it on the rise among women.
I call it “verbal avoidance” and it is irritating to say the least.
It occurs when something happens, or is supposed to happen, and person A needs to communicate that to person B.
A doesn’t because
what happened is going to upset B and A either doesn’t want to be the messenger, since messengers are sometimes killed or deal with the fallout if/when B gets upset.
B is waiting for A to notify him of good news, but B doesn’t have the information yet, so rather than saying that, he doesn’t call.
Of course there are dozens of variations, but they all boil down to the same thing—A does not communicate with B as expected.
When B does reach A, A offers a variety of reasons why the contact didn’t happen, but reasons don’t excuse anything.
B feels frustrated/disappointed/disgusted/angry/betrayed.
Verbal avoidance for any reason breaks trust.
And trust is the basis for any kind of relationship, whether at work, at home or in the world at large.
Now a Carmine Gallo, a much bigger name than me, has written The Storyteller’s Secret, highlighting the importance of story from building a culture to building a brand or entire company.
Vinod Khosla, billionaire venture capitalist here in Silicon Valley, where I live, tells me that the biggest problem he sees is that people are fact-telling when they pitch him. They’re giving facts and information and he says, “that’s not enough, Carmine. They have to do storytelling.”
When Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, another big venture capital firm, tells me the most underrated skill is storytelling, or when Richard Branson, who I interviewed, said, “entrepreneurs who cannot tell a story will never be successful”
Of course, what can you expect from generations that don’t read much and think communication is an email or, worse yet, texting?
Every day at the Ritz-Carlton there is a brief morning meeting of housekeeping.
And they ask the question of the employees: “Is there a great customer experience that you’ve been a part of, that you can share with the rest of us? (…)They start sharing stories with one another, and then they start competing for who has better stories. They get recognized publicly.”
Southwest’s success is the result of a masterful storytelling culture.
So they created what’s called a storytelling culture, where every week the HR teams go out, and they take videos of real passengers who have had a struggle, or have maybe almost missed a funeral or a birth, or a life-changing event, and stuff like that. But they were able to do it because of Southwest.
Apple is a giant at storytelling, as is Microsoft and Zappos.
So is Whole Foods, KPMG, every farm-to-table restaurant and even ugly food.
Just don’t kid yourself about why the stories work.
The work because they are real, true, authentic or any other adjective you care to use.
The stories are based on/backed by employee actions, which is what makes them resonate.
That means the CEO and all the executive team not only believes in the importance of customer experience, but also knows that the experience is created and facilitated by their people at all levels — especially the front-line people.
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here
“I look back on my career and I didn’t change the world as an entrepreneur; I did as an educator. So I’m a little wistful. Now, my charge for twentysomething entrepreneurs is, do you want to be known as the guy who makes the next porn app or fart app or do you want to put men on Mars?” –Steve Blank
In light of Blank’s question above, you might want to take time to ask yourself ‘what am I doing’?
What value am I adding to my intrinsic worth as a human being?
Does my product/service make even a tiny portion of the world a better place in any way?
How will my kids describe/explain me to their kids?
What legacy will I leave behind?
How will I be remembered?
Will I be remembered?
Now write down your thoughts/answers.
Reread them over the next several days/weeks.
If you don’t like the profile that emerges it’s time to pivot your life.
Not randomly, but with the same consideration and planning you would use to pivot your company.
In that post were some stats that should make everyone, including those who think things are improving, wake up to reality and understand just how far we are from anything actually changing.
Today, U.S. corporate boards have more men named John, Robert, William, or James than women in total. Recent coverage by Claire Cain Miller has brought more chilling data to light:in math, when graded anonymously, girls outperform boys, but when teachers know their names, boys do better. [emphasis mine] And when students rate their favorite professors, they describe men as “geniuses” and women as “nice.” This is sad and unacceptable. We may be in the 21st century, but we’re still a very long way from gender parity.
In study after study, on everything from candidate resumes to professor’s evaluations to student preference, where the only difference in identical credentials is the sex, as disclosed by the name, young and old, male and female, rated the women inferior to the men.
Look at the above statement (in bold), what chance is there that anything will change when kids are already subject to the same attitudes?
The biggest thing in my life is really daring to be human, and that’s the approach I take to the working world. We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it. I think it’s because we’ve been brought up thinking that when you’re in a business role, if you show any emotion, then that’s the opposite of being tough.
The funny thing is that you’re actually a stronger leader and more trustworthy if you’re able to be vulnerable and you’re able to show your real personality. It’s a trust multiplier, and people really will want to work for you and be on a mission together with you.
Dalgaard’s approach is the opposite of so many of today’s bosses, who act as if every day is a tough mudder experience.
To them, being vulnerable is the same as being weak — and weak loses.
Worse, by acting on that belief they, in turn, force the attitude on their people.
The end result often turns a workplace into a warplace, with X% of your people trying to out-tough each other and the rest running for cover.
So give them, and yourself, a break by recognizing that you’ll go further, and have more fun getting there, by being, and showing, that you are human.