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If The Shoe Fits: Today’s CEO Cowboys

Friday, April 28th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mWay back in 2009 I wrote Leaders Should NOT Be Cowboys. While the advice was accurate at the time, it made the basic assumption that founders were adults.

I suppose it was naïve to assume that anybody starting a company, let alone being handed millions of dollars to do it, would have a certain level of mental and emotional maturity — or at least know when to shut up.

But the world has changed drastically.

It’s now a world where nothing is private and letting it all hang out has been take to extremes; where sharing all aspects of your life is expected and the resulting personally identifiable data packaged and sold; where sex/sexism in one form or another is prevalent; where anybody can freely and anonymously critique/shame/bully/insult whomever they please; where frat boy culture/attitude/thinking is the new norm, where etc., etc., etc.

Doubt me?

Take a look at Uber, Thinx, Tanium, or the US president; the list goes on even when the actions are well camouflaged, as they are at Google and Facebook.

These new CEOs aren’t necessarily cowboys in the previous sense.

They have moved past that and are more aligned with the back end of their horses.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: Culture Wars At Fox

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

http://www.politicususa.com/2015/12/28/fox-news-literally-dying-age-younger-viewers-refuse-watch-fox.html

I grew up watching Fox News. I am reformed now, but there was a time when I thought the stances that were represented on that network aligned with my own belief system.

I remember a segment that they would do called “Culture Wars.” In the piece they would discuss an instance where conservative values were being infringed upon by the liberal left.

An example might be a town that once had a community nativity scene that the courts ruled was unlawful. Fox News would hype this up and explain how there was a war on Christmas and on conservatives.

Fast forward 15 years and it has become apparent that there is a culture war within the ranks of Fox News. Just this week Fox fired one of their top on air personalities, Bill O’Reily. He has been a presence on the network for years and continued to bring in top ratings for his time slot.

It has come to light that O’Reily and Fox paid more than $13 Million to several women to settle alleged sexual harassment charges.

As of right now I am not sure if the allegations are true or not but I will say this, the appearance of impropriety looms large.

Fox has been in the spotlight recently for sexually harassing women that worked there and promoting a culture of sexism. Most networks place attractive people on air, but even the most casual observer can see there is a certain level of skin on Fox News that is not present on other networks.

Before any of the charges came out I was actually amazed that they were so blatant with the way they sexualized the women on the shows as it seemed to detract from the story the women were presenting.

When we look at the specific case of Bill O’Reily I try to look at it from the context of the network as a whole. As a pivotal member of the organization he had a hand in setting the tone for the culture.

As the charges of sexism came to light for the network I thought it only a matter of time until specific charges were leveled at some of the men on air.

I have never worked at a TV network, but I find it hard to imagine that people didn’t talk.

Women who were put in uncomfortable situations would have surly spoken to their coworkers.

Men would have overheard things in locker rooms and elsewhere. The on air talent had to be acutely aware of the sexually charged atmosphere that was prevalent.

Why did it take this long for it to all come out? I guess an easy answer could be money.

In O’Reily’s case he gave money to women so they wouldn’t talk. In the case of on air talent being sexually harassed it may have been money and credibility.

As a man I cannot completely relate, but I have had female coworkers tell me that it’s tough to tell someone you felt harassed for fear that you will be labeled in a negative way.

If we trace it back to adolescence I am sure we all have memories of girls and guys who were put in compromising positions, but didn’t speak out for fear of being ostracized from the group.

Perhaps that is at work at Fox News as well.

My point to all of this is simple. O’Reily benefited from the loose culture of the network. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, he benefited from the fact that he kept silent about the mistreatment around him.

If we take it all the way and he is guilty of misconduct, he benefited from the belief that he would be protected as all of the other aggressors had been.

As a society what must we do to change this error? One way I see it is we must enable people to speak out without fear. That is much easier said than done.

We must also attach shame to actions that take advantage of others. We have gotten to a place where we are uncomfortable confronting others, but in this case we must.

I no longer watch Fox News, but the few times I see it in passing I think about the culture wars within. Ideally they would become transparent and learn from this. I have been alive for longer than two days though and strongly doubt that will be the outcome.

My lesson I have learned is I must be the change, I cannot wait on others to lead it.

Image credit: Politics USA

Misogyny — Follow The Money

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Perhaps Susan Fowler’s post about the harassment she endured and Uber’s culture in general is more empowering than some thought it would be.

Especially regarding Silicon Valley’s “untouchables.”

I say that, because another woman, AJ Vandermeyden, just went public, although the lawsuit was filed last fall.

Only this time it’s Tesla and she still works there; not only works, but loves her company.

“Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change,” she said in a recent interview, her first comments about a discrimination lawsuit she filed last year. “I’m an advocate of Tesla. I really do believe they are doing great things. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye if there’s something fundamentally wrong going on.”

Tesla’s response was hilarious, in as much as it parroted almost word-for-word the Valley mantra.

“As with any company with more than 30,000 employees, it is inevitable that there will be a small number of individuals who make claims against the company, but that does not mean those claims have merit”

Whoo hoo. Doesn’t that just give you a warm, fuzzy, confident feeling of trust?

Things were better for women 30-40 years ago. What happened?

For one thing, at least for tech, video games happened.

But that’s just one reinforcing piece.

The Atlantic took a more comprehensive look at the misogyny so prevalent in tech culture.

Investigators often say that the best way to trace anything is to “follow the money.”

Turns out that applies here, too.

When Silicon Valley was emerging, after World War II, software programming was considered rote and unglamorous, somewhat secretarial—and therefore suitable for women. The glittering future, it was thought, lay in hardware. But once software revealed its potential—and profitability—the guys flooded in and coding became a male realm.

Now look a bit further and think about the industries notorious for their bad treatment of women.

Wall Street/financial services. Law. Doctors. University-level teaching. Architecture. Chefs. Construction and journeyman crafts. I can keep going.

What do they have in common?

Follow the money.

White and blue collar = high pay.

Pink collar = low pay.

Money means freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to walk — from a job or from a relationship.

The more money you have the more control you have over your world — whether for good or for evil.

So maybe control is the real root cause.

Men (some, not all) need to control women, AKA, mom…

Poor, insecure, little guys.

Trying to change their past by taking revenge on the present and, in doing so, damaging the future.

Video credit: Business Insider

Golden Oldies: Ducks in a Row: Rich Waidmann’s No jerks Allowed

Monday, March 27th, 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.

Since tomorrow’s post takes yet another look at Silicon Valley culture, sources of the blatant misogyny, and how that relates to brilliant jerks and so-called stars, I thought I’d share Rich Waidmann’s take on the subject.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

I’m in love — with a man I never met, never spoke to, never followed or chatted with online.

His name is Rich Waidmann and he’s founder and CEO of Connectria Hosting.

I love him because when he started his company he consciously set out to make it a great place to work. (See the full Infographic at Business Insider)

That means it’s a job requirement at his company that every employee treat everyone else with courtesy and respect as well as “going the extra mile” to take care of people in the community who are less fortunate

Then his company did a survey and found that

More than half (55%) of 250 IT professionals in the US. surveyed said they had been bullied by a co-worker. And 65% have said they dreaded going to work because of bad behavior of a co-worker.

Waidmann believes it shouldn’t be that way so he’s starting a No Jerks Allowed movement in an effort to encourage better cultures.

Way back in 2007 Stanford’s Bob Sutton wrote The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, but looking at the stats I’m not sure how much good it actually did.

And considering the fact that companies are shoehorning more people into less space something needs to change.

The Talmud says, “We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” Moreover, it’s often as we are that particular day, or even minute, and even as we change, minute to minute, so do others.

Jerks are known to lower productivity and kill innovation, so a lot of good information on identifying and dealing with jerks has been developed since Sutton’s book came out.

Contributing to that effort, here are my four favorite MAP attitudes for dealing with jerks.

  • Life happens, people react and act out, but that doesn’t mean you have to let their act in.
  • Consider the source of the comment before considering the comment, then let its effect on you be in direct proportion to your respect for that source.
  • Use mental imagery to defuse someone’s effect on you. This is especially useful against bullying and intimidation. Do it by having your mental image of the person be one that strips power symbols and adds amusement. (Give me a call if you want my favorite, it’s a bit rude, but has worked well for many people.)

And, finally, the one I try to keep uppermost in my mind at all times

  • At least some of “them” some of the time consider me a jerk—and some of the time they are probably correct.

Image credit: Connectria

Ryan’s Journal: International Women’s Day

Friday, March 17th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ufv/33321834446/Folks. I am about a week behind on recognizing International Women’s Day, but wanted to speak about it today.

There is always an element of folks out there who cry that we are dividing each other more by recognizing every different group of people, but I disagree.

At this point we have roughly 7 billion people in the world and they are each unique. That’s pretty cool if you ask me and I find that recognizing the differences that make us unique can be a unifier.

One reason I want to address this holiday is because I have been personally affected in a profound way by strong female leaders, both in life and work.

These women were mothers, wives, bosses, employees and, in some cases, warriors. I call that out because throughout history there was not always the option for women to follow their own path — it was chosen for them.

I am the father of two beautiful girls, they are identical twins and they light up my life. My wife and I are blessed (and challenged) by them daily. In June I get to experience it again with the addition of our third girl.

If I am being completely transparent, I was never a feminist. I didn’t think men were the superior sex, but I didn’t think the status quo was an issue either. While having girls has helped to change my thinking, the journey began many years ago.

I served five years as a United States Marine and enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of something greater. Now, the Marine Corps has around 200,000 active Marines and about 7% who are female. It’s a male dominated world where recent news has uncovered that misogyny is alive and well unfortunately. I don’t bring this up to shame the institution but to call out the opportunity for improvement.

Within this environment though I had the pleasure to serve under a female Marine officer by the name of Meredith Brown. At the time she was a Major and retired as a Lt. Col.

She was a no-nonsense person who expected results and demanded excellence. I recall how I used to write reports for her and she would pull out a red pen and begin striking things out. As she did that though, she took the time to show why the corrections needed to be made and expected that I wouldn’t repeat the errors.

Now you may be thinking, this lady sounds rough! I will tell you though, she knew what she was doing. I was a young man who needed guidance and she also saw something in me that perhaps I didn’t see myself. As a Marine she was tough but also fair to a fault. She was the first strong woman in my professional career and I valued our time greatly. We still speak to this day and she continues to give sound advice.

How does this fit into culture? Because as a society we have determined that sex, color, background, race or other factors that could be discriminated against are not how we should be judged.

We have deemed actions to be our judgment. Does this always happen? Absolutely not, but we strive for it.

If I had been an older man in a different Marine Corps, I would have never had the opportunity for a female Marine to lead me. I would have operated in a bubble and be unable to see another point of view without great difficulty.

So next time we have a day that celebrates a unique quality about a specific group of people I suggest we take the time to embrace it.

See something from a different perspective, walk in another person’s shoes, so to speak, and learn.

Culture is continuous.

Image credit: University of the Fraser Valley

The Source Of Tech Misogyny

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/allaboutchase/3210937988/

Anyone looking at the data can’t avoid seeing that tech culture has a strong misogynistic streak.

It wasn’t always that way.

What happened?

Marketing happened.

Specifically, the marketing of computer games in the 1980s.

A lot of early computers were used for game playing,” Elizabeth Ames says. “Those games tended to be more aimed more at boys and men, so it was easy for boys to get a leg up in that area through gaming.

Consider the stats.

… in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1984, 37% of computer science graduates were women, but those numbers began to drop dramatically in the middle of the decade. By 2016, that number had been whittled down to 18%.

Computers and games were not only marketed to males, they denigrated females (as did other toys, remember the Barbie “Math is tough” fiasco).

In the beginning Apple couldn’t crack the business market, so it went after the education market. When those kids grew up they were completely hooked on Apple and took that attitude into the workplace.

Jobs’ Apple was a master of brainwash marketing, so those kids also brought Apple attitudes with them, too.

The Apple personal computer that was released at the time was marketed specifically to boys (included teasing girls’ computer skills), as were a whole range of other consoles. This gave rise to male computing culture.

Those boys and young men grew up to start and run companies now.

And it’s those insidious attitudes instilled by all that male-centric marketing that became the cornerstones of today’s bro culture.

Knowing this, the current misogynistic streak isn’t all that hard to understand.

But that still doesn’t make it acceptable.

Image credit: Chase N.

If the Shoe Fits: A Continuing Train Wreck Called Uber

Friday, February 24th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mMost of the tech/business/news-consuming world has been hearing about Uber’s latest, but doubtfully its last, scandal.

Uber showcases a culture where anything goes: sexual harassment; managerial threats, including physical violence.

A culture based on the overweening arrogance and MAP of CEO Travis Kalanick and fully supported by his top management and a subservient/ineffective/actively resistant HR.

So Kalanick did what all CEOs (and politicians) do when someone shines a light in their rat hole — he announced an internal investigation led by external, high profile lawyers and made promises at an all-hands meeting.

“What I can promise you is that I will get better every day. I can tell you that I am authentically and fully dedicated to getting to the bottom of this.”

This from the guy who two short years ago called his company “Boob-er” in GQ, because it was a chick magnet.

There’s an old joke that you should never trust anyone who says “trust me.”

The same can be said about the person who proclaims their authenticity.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks In A Row: Are We Going Backwards?

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Whether you were alive in 1984 or not, you’ve probably seen Apple’s Super bowl ad. It’s reshown almost every year and has been consistently voted the top-rated Super Bowl ad ever made, which is saying a lot.

When the ad was made women were on an upward trend and were respected members of the tech community — unlike now.

Watching the ad again last week I got to wondering.

If that ad were made today would the person throwing the hammer be a woman?

Or would it be the proverbial “twenty-something guy in a hoodie?”

Video credit: antisubliminal

Entrepreneurs: Therese Tucker Builds a Unicorn

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

http://www.calfund.org/about-ccf/board-of-directors/therese-tucker/On October 28 one glass ceiling was shattered.

Therese Tucker just broke a glass ceiling as the first woman founder/CEO to lead a venture-capital-backed Los Angeles startup to an initial public offering, according to The Los Angeles Times’ Paresh Dave.

Not just a woman, but a woman of a certain age, 55, who built her company, BlackLine, over the last 15 years the hard way.

“I funded the company up until 2013, and there were some very difficult times,” she said. “I ended up putting in everything that I had into it. First the nest egg from my options from my previous company. But then I drained my bank accounts and my 401(k). I told my kids, had I been able to access their college savings funds, I probably would have taken that, too. I second-mortgaged my house. I maxed out my credit cards. I begged from friends to cover payroll.
It was difficult and humiliating and scary. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to be a woman in my 40s who’s bankrupt and starting over,'” she said of the years through about 2005.

That’s grit — the thing everyone is talking about.

BlackLine went public $2 above the target price and soared from there.

On Friday morning, the shares opened at $24.52, a 44% pop. The stock was trading at around $23.31 midday, giving the company a $1.15 billion market cap.

The result of that $2 increase meant raising $46 million more than than the $100 million planned.

Tucker didn’t build BlackLine by raising round after round of funding in an easy money environment—she bootstrapped it.

She did, however, jump on a still unproven new technology/business model.

The turning point happened in 2007, when the idea of cloud computing was very new. She and her team decided to quit making old-fashioned software and sell the service exclusively through the cloud.

And that was true grit.

Congratulations, Therese Tucker.

One Ceiling Down and a few more to go.

This post is dedicated to every woman of every age who has put herself at risk to follow her dreams — whether as an entrepreneur or something else.

Image credit: California Community Foundation

Ducks in a Row: Marc Benioff on How to Run a Company

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/techcrunch/15192444615/

By any measure Mark Benioff  runs a successful, highly profitable company.

Moreover, he runs one of the most socially responsible companies in the world.

This BI interview with Benioff captures in a short read how Salesforce is a perfect example of a founder who incorporated his values into his company.

His socially conscious approach began when he launched Salesforce as a startup;  long before it was profitable.

I view that as a critical part of my business. That’s why when I started Salesforce, on day 1, we put 1% of our equity, 1% of our product, and 1% of our time into Salesforce.org.

Where other CEOs talk, wring their hands and use media time to bemoan the problems, Benioff fixes them.

Gender pay disparity is a good example.

When he saw proof that women were being paid less he made changes to eliminate the disparity and did it without whining or handwringing.

Two women, one our head of HR and one who ran our women’s group said, “Hey, we’re paying women less than men at Salesforce.” I didn’t believe it at the time, when we actually looked at the information we were actually paying women $3 million less than we were paying men for the same amount of work, and so we made an adjustment to how we pay women.

When asked how other companies handle the issue he furnished not only the how, but also the why it doesn’t happen.

Every company has an HR system, every company knows their salaries, that’s obviously how they pay people, and all a CEO has to do is push a button and look at, “Do I pay women the same as men?” Most CEOs are afraid to push that button.

Furthermore, Benioff  sees an attitude from a few academics in the 1970s as responsible for much of today’s inequality, — in short, he doesn’t believe that that a company’s primary purpose is to maximize shareholder value.

I believe that for business, which is where I can speak, we have to shift from shareholder maximization to stakeholder maximization.

Salesforce has been ranked as one of the top innovative companies year after year for a very simple reason.

They can’t look to me for all the answers. I don’t have them, and that’s not our culture. They are coming to me with their ideas and their visions. It’s not my role to be the only visionary in town.

All in all, Marc Benioff is a superb role model, whether your company is large, small or just starting up.

Flickr image credit: TechCrunch

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