How to Kill Your Culture

By Branding, LeadershipNo Comments

Call it a buzzword if you want,”culture” is still the hottest topic in organizations. Senior leaders of global companies talk about it. Small business owners talk about it. Start-up founders talk about it. Employees talk about it. Vendors talk about. And customers talk about it.

There is a plethora of writing on creating/growing/preserving a culture. I am going to take a different tact of reverse engineering cultural decay. In short, I am going to teach you how to kill your culture.

  1. Stop Telling the Truth. Make sure that you spin everything to be perfect and neat. Encourage feedback but don’t do anything about it. Punish or suppress those who point out problems. Manage the narrative. Make sure that truth is pushed into whispered hallway conversations, over beers afterwork or anonymously shared on social media. When you receive data that you don’t like, be sure to twist it to fit your world view.
  2. Pretend There’s No Hierarchy. Talk about creating a flatter, more nimble organization. Get rid of org charts, traditional reporting structures and performance reviews. But don’t change any of the managers who have their position because of hierarchy. Be sure to promote people into leadership positions who know how to talk about modern business practices but are immersed in 20th century thinking. Pretend that all opinions and views are equal. Most of all, talk about “servant leadership” without ever actually serving anyone.
  3. Practice False Enthusiasm. There are no problems. Everything is great! Sure, we have somethings to work on but all is wonderful. Gather your teams and lead them on cheer sessions with repetitious sayings. Bring in motivational speakers to motivate everyone because you don’t know how to do that. Be sure to label people who point out problems as “not team players.” When facing employees, the media, shareholders or customers, paste on a big smile and use folksy terminology.
  4. Preach Diversity; Practice Tyranny. Talk about how everyone should be free to be themselves. Heck, get rid of strict dress code policies. Even have a Hawaiian shirt day! Get everyone to start expressing their true selves and then … monitor cubicle displays for anything that might be consider offensive. Tell people to cover up their tattoos. Make sure everyone speaks the same language and uses the same lexicon.
  5. Properly Allocate Resources. Use HR as an internal affairs department to root out any problem employees. Use your Marketing team to create rosy narratives and snappy ad campaigns. Use your Dev/Research team to create products that hurt the planet and rob consumers of their identities. Use your Customer Service team to manage complaints. Use your Finance experts to keep the funding flowing for your self-made problems.

Oh, and one more thing …

Spend plenty of time for yourself in retreats, spa days, golf excursions. After all, managing the process of killing your culture can be draining.

Or …

Be an awake leader and do the opposite of all these and build something amazing that produces happiness, value and meaning for all involved.

5 Questions for Year-End Pondering

By Leadership, Self-WorthNo Comments

These are the 5 questions I’ve been asking myself and sharing with my various circles.

  1. What is something you learned about yourself in 2016? Use your beliefs and behaviors as a starting point.
  2. What is something you wished you would have learned about yourself in 2016? This might be something you’d like to work on in 2017.
  3. One year from today, what do you want to be celebrating? Think in terms of tangible success — i.e. holding up a Super Bowl trophy.
  4. What is the top success factor/measurable for reaching the above goal? Often referred to as the “number”; the one number that determines success.
  5. What current habit, behavior or bias could prevent you from reaching your celebration goal? We are our own biggest obstacle.

In the spirit of transparency, here are my answers.

  1. In 2016, I learned how to surrender. By “surrender”, I don’t mean surrendering my beliefs, sovereignty, or values. I mean surrendering to the things that I don’t have control over — especially related to other people’s behavior and decisions. It took me all year and I still feel like I have to re-learn it daily.
  2. I wished I would have learned active patience. 2016 has been a year of waiting in almost every aspect of life. During the waiting, I would frequently let the waiting turn in to obsession; which would turn in to anxiety. The good news is that I had previously learned to create space between emotions and actions — so I had the wisdom to not be brash. That said, I could have used way more of the waiting time for “active patience”: growth, productivity, creativity.
  3. One year from today, I want to be celebrating the publishing of three books. One will be a book of my #musings from Instagram. The other will be the last of the “Bacon” books (working title: “Soul Bacon: How to Have a Life that Sizzles”). And the third will be a book co-authored with my Root + River partner Emily Soccorsy. 
  4. The #musings book is essentially written and just needs layout and print. So the top success factor is the discipline to schedule writing time and actually write. Specifically this number is 10 hours per month.
  5. The top habit/behavior/bias that would prevent success would be getting overwhelmed and living in Covey’s Quadrant One of urgent-and-important. This is unsustainable and robs me of the energy, joy and discipline to create.

If inspired, take a run at answering these questions. And if feeling brave, share your answers in the comments or drop me a note a [email protected]


Build Trust, Build Your Brand

By Branding, LeadershipNo Comments

“Trust” is a term that is oft abused and diluted by advertising, sales people and political candidates – usually with some sort of phrase that begins with “Trust me …” or “Believe you me …”. Yet despite its over-use, “trust” is still a powerful word. Why?

Because people do inherently want to trust.

Herein lies a great branding opportunity: if you are truly trustworthy, your brand will grow faster than any other form of brand building or marketing. Trust is viral. Trust is an attractant. Trust is memorable. And trust never becomes obsolete.

Branding begins with leadership. Ergo, instilling trust begins with the leader(s) of an organization. Steven M.R. Covey says it best in his book “Speed of Trust”:

“The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility.”

The top indicator for a trustworthy leader is emotional intelligence (EQ). High EQ leaders are humble, self-and others-aware and open for feedback – all traits of trust building. This trust then begins to become part of the culture of a team or organization. It is self-policed – not through policies or procedures but by conversations and accountability.

Trust then begins to appear in the products and/or services produced by a brand. High standards, attention to detail and quality assurance are all factors in building trust into your offerings. Again, the “right way to do things” is a cultural standard not a manual. Trust also become an integral part of all human experiences. From new employee on-boarding to internal communications. To create creating consistent customer delight for current and new customers. It also extends out into the community with donations, service projects and more.  All of which reinforces and amplifies trust.

Finally we get to marketing. Let’s pause and consider this. Marketing used to be the main instrument for creating a perception of trust. It was the first thing you did as a brand.  Now marketing is the last thing you do if you are a trust-driven organization. So how does trust get translated into marketing? Here are few tips:

  1. Speak to the heart.  Everyone’s minds are full, so provide a message to their hearts. Plus, trust begins in the heart, not the mind.
  2. Use simple, declarative statements. People don’t have time for squishiness or messages of low nutritional value. Trust comes from speaking plainly and clearly.
  3. Tell stories. Not the stories of your organization, but stories of your employees, customers and influencers. These stories contain all of the ingredients to build trust.

Simply put, if you want to be a trustworthy brand, be a trustworthy person. Hire trustworthy people. Give your customers trustworthy value. And be a trustworthy neighbor in your community. The combination of these things – all built on trust – is like a perpetual motion machine for your brand. Producing value, innovation and relevance.

And trust me. I’m a branding guy. 🙂