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Managers, Micro Cultures And Values

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Note: It’s imperative to recognize that culture has nothing to do with perks, such as free food, fancy offices, free services, etc.

Culture is about values and how they play out in both the internal and external functioning of the company.

But company culture isn’t the end game — micro cultures are.

Micro cultures are based on individual bosses’ values.

Both cultures are fundamental to that perennially popular subject, employee engagement.

HBS’ Jim Heskett recently asked his audience what’s needed to engender employee engagement given that engaged employees are 2.7% more productive.

Most of the responses talked about the need for managers to respect their people, listen to ideas from everyone, have better people skills, etc., and several mentioned the skills acquired with an MBA.

But, as I pointed out, and Heskett cited in his summary, “Respect and valuing employee input have little to do with education and much to do with personal values.”

Unfortunately, education is no guarantee of values.

Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. “56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating…  In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”

If scholastic success was based on cheating it’s likely that that lack of respect/get-ahead-at-all-costs mentality would carry over to their management style.

Yesterday’s post ended with this comment,

That [provide an environment in which people can learn, grow and excel] is what a good boss is supposed to do.

But it’s the great ones who actually do it.

In fact, they go beyond that and shelter their people from any kind of toxic culture coming down from above.

Image credit: thinkpublic

Ducks in a Row: Bulls**t Bingo at its Nerdy Best

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

KG sent this to me and I had to share it, in spite of the cease and desist letter I may get from the lawyers.

nerdy bingo

And for great information on how to avoid being a pointy-haired boss check out the January Leadership Development Carnival.

Image credit: Scott Adams

Commitment by the Numbers

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015


There’s a lot of talk out there about the best ways to engage your people, with the dual goals of juicing creativity and innovation and hiking productivity.

As founder and CEO of Quarrio, I spend a lot of energy and time building and sustaining a culture that fosters an environment in which our people flourish.

I believe that is what  produces the desired engagement results.

That is why we don’t give a damn about gender, age or alma mater; even skills and experience take a backseat to attitude when we hire.

My whole team, not just senior staff, talk about this frequently.

Recently one them shared this internet meme as a mathematical view of what we all believe.

And since it’s the time for gifts and sharing, I thought I would share it as my holiday gift to you.

This comes from 2 math teachers with a combined total of 70 yrs. experience.

What Makes 100%  ?

What does it mean to give MORE  than 100%?

Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have

all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%.

How about achieving 103%?

What makes up 100% in life?

Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:



Is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.



8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98% 



11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%



1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%



2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103% 

And look how far ass kissing  will take you.  


1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118% 

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that while Hard Work and  

Knowledge  will get you close, and   Attitude  will get you there.

It’s the  Bullshit  and  Ass Kissing  that will put you over the top. 

Now you know why some people are where they are!

I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled 100% with joy, family, friends, colleagues and great food.

Ducks in a Row: Culture Made Easy

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015


I hear a lot form bosses who want to build good culture, but are frustrated because of an excess of how-to information — much of it contradictory.

By popular request here are the only two things you  need to know to build an effective culture — everything else flows from them.

First, you have to believe the basic premise.

  1. People are intelligent, motivated and want to help their company/boss succeed.

Second, you need to back that belief up with appropriate action.

  1. Provide your people with all the information needed to understand how to perform their work as correctly, completely and efficiently as possible.

Culture frames workplace relationships and, like any relationship, it’s about open communications.

Sharing information is a sign of trust and encourages people to become more involved.

When people know about their job/company/industry and how they all interact, they will perform their own duties better and more productively — because they understand what’s going on they are encouraged to take more ownership and care.

Valuing people and open communications are the bedrock of a great culture and a boss people want to work for.

Bottom line, what to do is simple.

Doing it takes discipline.

Flickr image credit: Mike M

If the Shoe Fits: Conversation with a Founder

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mFounder: I can’t be a good leader without knowing my people. How I can contribute to their life?

Me: You are going to have a lot of people who have no interest in sharing their personal life with you or having you contribute to it other than providing a great place to work.

Founder: How? I am a leader who prefers 1 on 1

Me: It’s not about you, it’s about them and what interaction they prefer; and as the company grows you will not have time or access for 1/1, unless you plan to interfere with your managers’ organizations. What it is about is the culture you create.

Founder: You can’t lead if you can’t connect.

Me: Connection is not always 1/1; that’s why culture is so important.

Founder: You have to know your people.

Me: No, you need to know your direct reports and know that they are supporting your culture. Anyway, good leadership should be spread around your company and not just the province of certain positions.

Founder: You can’t convince me. I have had coffee with my subordinates to know them and that catapulted us. Culture is about having a tea, cappuccino with my subordinates and talking about stuff, then car-pooling.

Me: I’m not saying to stop, I’m saying it won’t work with everyone, plus, you won’t have time as the company grows. There are many people who have no interest in that kind of intimate, personal relationship with their boss, but are world-class hires. They care about the company’s culture because they know it reflects the founder’s values.

Me: Moreover, bosses who can only relate 1/1 are often seen as playing favorites, because they tend to favor those who respond to their approach.

Me: If you try to cram every hire into any one, narrow MAP it will cost you talent and engagement, because those who don’t like it will either walk or disengage.

Me: The important takeaway here is that when it comes to worker interaction one size does not fit all.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Employee Retention: Not Rocket Science

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015


Yesterday we looked at how a new IBM analytics tool that analyzes tweets found that customer loyalty was severely impacted by employee turnover.

A decade ago research by Frederick Reichheld found that a 5% improvement in employee retention translated to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

Deloitte recently released its annual survey, which seems to back up the need for improved retention.

2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, their annual comprehensive study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges, the top ten talent challenges reported for 2015 are: culture and engagement, leadership, learning and development, reinventing HR, workforce on demand, performance management, HR and people analytics, simplification of work, machines as talent, and people data everywhere.

The first three are nothing new; the terms have changed over the years, although not the meaning behind them or their ranking as top concerns.

In a major employee retention push, companies are turning to algorithms and analytics to mine a raft of data, identify which employees are most likely to leave and then try to change their minds.

But some things never seem to change and until they do companies won’t make much headway.

At Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences (emphasis added –ed.), with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers.

With decades of research saying the same thing, it makes one wonder why the finding was “surprising.”

In fact, nothing will change until companies, bosses and the media stop being surprised every time a survey shows that talent acquisition and retention is most influenced by

  • the culture in which they work;
  • the bosses for whom they work;
  • the work itself; and
  • the difference they can make.

Gee, maybe it really is rocket science.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

Ducks in a Row: Proof That Employee Turnover Hurts Customer Retention

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015


Back in October Twitter and IBM announced a new service to give enterprise a way to mine its 15 billion daily tweets.

Of the research done since the, one result surprised them.

The more a customer shops at a particular store or eats at a particular restaurant, the more likely they are to stop shopping there when employees leave. It stands to reason that you would get to know the people at a place you patronize often, but IBM found that really loyal customers get so attached to employees that they complain on Twitter about having to “start over” if a favorite employee leaves. If they don’t feel like employees know them, this can really impact revenue because the loyal customers are the ones who spend the most money.

Do you find that surprising? I don’t, having done the same thing myself. (I’ve also switched brands when a favorite was acquired by a company I didn’t trust.)

Cost of customer acquisition is the most critical, prime metric when valuing any business, from startup through Fortune 50.

For the last few decades the prime focus has been on investors, while customers came in a long second; IBM’s findings move customers much closer to investors.

Why employee turnover results in customer defections isn’t the least surprising.

It’s a well accepted dictum that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers — or leave because of management turnover, so customers leaving for a similar reason makes sense.

However, employees are still a long third behind investors and customers.

When I started writing this blog back in 2006 I cited research by Frederick Reichheld that proved a 5% improvement in employee retention translated to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

You would think that a 25% earnings increase, let alone higher, would be enough to get the attention of even the greediest Wall Street types, but obviously not, since low employee turnover is still cause for amazement.

Perhaps the new Twitter/IBM findings will help drive the needed change.

Image credit: BetterWorks Breakroom

Ducks in a Row: Don’t Do As Sephora

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014


As workloads have increased, companies are pushing people to move faster and faster—often to the company’s detriment.

At the same time employee engagement (AKA, giving a damn) has been plummeting like a rock.

This is especially true when it comes to written communications.

Whether errors are from lack of knowledge or carelessness doesn’t change their effect on readers.

Some errors just make a company’s workforce look ignorant and uneducated (here’s a list of 15 common errors), but some can make it a laughingstock and cost big-time.              

Consider the effect of a spelling error on Sephora.

In the lead up to its launch in Australia Sephora has made a doozy of a spelling mistake, leaving out the ‘o’ in its #countdowntobeauty hashtag on Facebook.

Social media is having a field day and it’s doubtful it will go away any time soon.

Obviously, the error wasn’t intentional; it’s more likely the result of not taking time to proof the copy, whether from being overloaded or just sloppy.

Either way, the damage is done.

Here are three simple things you can do to avoid finding your company in a similar situation.

  • Spell and grammar check should be the default on all company computers—executives and senior personnel aren’t immune to errors.
  • For critical content, writing and proofing should be done by different people; the second person is less likely to unconsciously correct an error.
  • Budget enough time to allow for proofing; reading a sentence backwards makes it easier to catch errors.

Flickr image credit: Jean-Daniel Echenard

Do You DIY?

Monday, November 11th, 2013


Oops; Wally Bock’s at it again; much to the detriment of a majority of the leadership industry who aren’t into DIY.

Wally once again put the ball firmly back in management’s court when it comes to engagement.

He did that with an irreverent (gently sarcastic?) take on the ills that engagement is supposed to cure and explaining five engaging actions that bosses at any/every level can and should take.

Wally is a gentleman and far more subtle than I, so he refrained from the blunt assessment I recently gave a client after recommending a similar program.

When “Richard” balked at the personal effort involved and excused his reluctance by saying he would rather “bring in professionals to formulate and implement a strong engagement program” I couldn’t stop laughing.

Richard was offended and we, as my 90 year-old maiden aunt used to say, had words.

The upshot was that I suggested Richard do two things,

  1. find a coach who wasn’t into DIY and had a comprehensive list of consultants to recommend; and
  2. update his resume now, since, based on his team’s productivity, creativity and turnover, he would be needing it sooner rather than later.

Flickr image credit: Wendy

Ducks in a Row: Some Things ARE About You

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Consider this a Valentine message from me.

Last summer I wrote that the solution to having employees who care about their work and company was to look in the mirror, since their caring was a direct result of your management and the culture it engendered.

A few days ago Jeff Haden wrote in Inc. magazine about eight things people want that are a function of your MAP as opposed to your budget.

  1. Freedom
  2. Target
  3. Mission
  4. Expectations
  5. Input
  6. Connection
  7. Consistency
  8. Future

The words and explanations vary slightly, but this is the same advice I and dozens of other culture mavens have been saying for years.

Culture matters; it matters more than strategy, planning and even compensation.

Culture is your responsibility.

Culture is how you show you care.

Culture is you.

Whereas it’s barely possible to effectively live a personal lie, it just isn’t possible to propagate a culture based on one.

Not in ten lifetimes could you implement a culture that deviates from your basic values, your MAP, your essence.

You can provide what people crave, because you can change at any time you choose.

That’s the key, the choice is yours; it can’t be made for you by someone else or made by you because another desires it.

You can change, but only if you want to change.

Valentine’s Day is a good day to choose to start changing.

It won’t be easy; it will take more than a day; but it will take longer if you don’t start now.

Flickr image credit: AForestFrolic

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