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Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Wave Deafness

Monday, June 19th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

When I wrote this originally it was aimed directly at entrepreneurs, especially the ones who don’t seem to hear their people very often — if at all.

Coming across it five years later I decided it’s so apropos across the board that it definitely qualified as a golden oldie.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast year I wrote about Tony Hsieh’s approach to employee empowerment, featuring some great quotes from him.

As I said then, the thing that sets Hsieh apart is security.

Hsieh is comfortable in his own skin; secure in his own competency and limitations, so he doesn’t need to be the font from which all else flows.

Entrepreneurs can learn from this.

Startup hiring usually comes in waves as the company progresses.

While most founders will listen to their initial team and first few hires, those hired later often find it difficult to get their ideas heard.

Unfortunately, this behavior often sets a pattern, with the ideas and comments of each successive wave becoming fainter and fainter and those employees less and less engaged—and that translates to them caring less and less about your company’s success—call it wave deafness.

Wave deafness is costly.

Costly in productivity and passion, but even more costly in lost opportunities.

As Hsieh points out, there is no way he can think of as many good ideas as are produced if each employee has just one good idea in a year.

And not just from certain positions. I never heard of a manager, let alone a founder, admit to hiring dummies for any position, no matter the level.

So if you hire smart people and don’t listen to them, who is the dummy?

Image credit: HikingArtist

John Chen and Blackberry

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

10679597884_0faee4d327_mRemember Blackberry, better known as the crackberry?

Remember the almost universal predictions of its imminent demise last year?

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of its death were greatly exaggerated,” and it’s moving towards turning around.

What changed?

The boss and the culture.

When John Chen took over as CEO his workforce was demoralized—no positive news and a constant focus on the problems the company was facing.

And that’s what Chen set out to change.

Instead of a culture focused on challenges, AKA, also known as problems, he crafted a culture of innovation by doing the following (read his post for the details).

  • Create a Problem-Solving Culture
  • Maintain the Sense of Urgency (As discussed last week.)
  • Take Care of your Company like it’s your Home
  • Know Thyself
  • Empower Employees to Take Risks
  • Everyone has a Role

Although Chen is focused on turnarounds, his approach and execution is applicable to any boss who wants a culture that attracts good people, motivates them to become great and retains them because they believe in the vision, as well as enhancing innovation and juicing initiative.

As Chen says at the end of his post,

All in all, a turnaround culture is one that enables everyone to pitch in to get things done. That requires focusing on a goal, and empowering employees to take risks and go the extra mile.

That’s how you win.

Actually, that’s how you win—period.

Anywhere.

Flickr image credit: San Churchill

Ducks in a Row: Empowerment Made Easy

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/memestate/3577193781/

Want to empower your team (spouse, kids, friends, others)?

Try channeling billionaire Marc Benioff, cofounder and CEO of Salesforce.com.

When someone shares a problem, skip the advice.

Ask leading questions instead.

The kinds that help the person think through the effects, reactions and repercussions of proposed actions/solutions.

Questions that don’t include what/why/when/how you would do whatever.

The secret isn’t the questions, it’s the fact that Benioff isn’t directing the answers, isn’t even interested in having an opinion and getting his way. He’s also not interested in solving the problem for his employee.

Leading questions sans ego help clarify both the question and the answer.

Amazing how empowering interaction with an authority figure can be when that person gets off their dignity and doesn’t need to vest their own ego in the solution.

Flickr image credit: Rich Anderson

Ducks in a Row: Nucor’s Sustained Culture

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Nucor has always played a prominent role when I cite companies where culture has been the major driver of its success and CEO Dan DiMicco is the poster boy for what a CEO should be/do.

Since 2000 DiMicco increased sales fivefold and gave shareholders a 464% return, but keeping and developing the culture put in place by Ken Iverson is his greatest claim to fame as well as the basis for Nucor’s phenomenal success.

Nucor is living proof of a mantra in which I totally believe, i.e., people are intelligent, motivated and honestly want their company to succeed, and that, given the opportunity, all employees, no matter their level or education, will use their brains and skills to make success happen whether they are told to or not.

Read this short overview to really understand the difference between Nucor’s approach to things like pay for performance, empowerment and ‘ownership’ vs. the emptiness of those words at most companies.

DiMicco is moving up to Executive Chairman and President John Ferriola is being promoted to CEO, but don’t expect the culture to change any time soon.

The CEO-in-waiting, Ferriola, has said “I consider myself an apostle” for the gospel of Ken Iverson.

Flickr image credit: Nucor

If the Shoe Fits: Wave Deafness

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast year I wrote about Tony Hsieh’s approach to employee empowerment, featuring some great quotes from him.

As I said then, the thing that sets Hsieh apart is security.

Hsieh is comfortable in his own skin; secure in his own competency and limitations, so he doesn’t need to be the font from which all else flows.

Entrepreneurs can learn from this.

Startup hiring usually comes in waves as the company progresses.

While most founders will listen to their initial team and first few hires, those hired later often find it difficult to get their ideas heard.

Unfortunately, this behavior often sets a pattern, with the ideas and comments of each successive wave becoming fainter and fainter and those employees less and less engaged—and that translates to them caring less and less about your company’s success—call it wave deafness.

Wave deafness is costly.

Costly in productivity and passion, but even more costly in lost opportunities.

As Hsieh points out, there is no way he can think of as many good ideas as are produced if each employee has just one good idea in a year.

And not just from certain positions. I never heard of a manager, let alone a founder, admit to hiring dummies for any position, no matter the level.

So if you hire smart people and don’t listen to them, who is the dummy?

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: Employee Empowerment

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

According to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, his number one job is empowering his people.

“Thinking about how I can empower my employees to be a part of the growth and innovation of the company.”

While employee empowerment is acknowledged as of key importance, it is an elusive goal for many CEOs, executives and managers. What makes Hsieh different?

Security.

Hsieh is comfortable in his own skin; secure in his own competency and limitations, so he doesn’t need to be the font from which all else flows.

As he points out, one good idea a day from him won’t come close to matching one good idea a year from each employee and not just the highly visible ones.

Some of the best ideas come from places a CEO would never have thought of.”

But employee empowerment often hits a positional brick wall that starts with the CEO and filters down through the ranks of the company’s positional leaders.

There are thousands of executives and managers who are insecure and the level of their insecurity defines to whom they will listen.

Most CEO’s who look at their corporate culture from the top-down are really preventing their company to grow faster, better, and more profitably.

And Just as true for other positional leaders as it is for the CEO.

What is most ironic is that by empowering employees, listening to everyone, adopting the good ideas without prejudice and publicly acknowledging their source does as much to enhance you as it does to push your group/company to greater success.

Flickr image credit: ZedBee | Zoë Power

Seize Your Leadership Day: You And Your Team

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowSome of the articles I’m sharing today refer to CEOs, but the advice in them can be tweaked to apply to any level in both professional and personal arenas.

First, Steve Tobek, who writes The Corner Office for BNet offers some great thoughts entitlement, which he says has been around for decades. The cure is empowerment backed by accountability. Bull’s-eye, Steve!

Next is a great offering from McKinsey on re-energizing your team. It talks about how to overcome fear, denial and the need to learn and change—emotions that teams at all levels are facing.

By now, everybody knows that President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, But Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership saw the award from a different perspective.

Finally, an article in Success caught my eye when it made a case for using volunteering to connect with stakeholders. “Several experts actually claim that incorporating volunteering into the corporate culture is the management tool of the 21st century.”

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