The Impact of Values, and 3 Things You HAVE to do with them

I have a client who sent me a late night text showing me a picture of the executive team dressed as superheros.  I am sharing the picture because I like to celebrate when business leaders show such passion for their work, and have fun in front of and with their people – They also told me I could.  The story behind this moment is almost 18 months of trying to capture what they value as an organization, before growth challenges them with diluting what matters because nobody has taken the time to put a stake in the ground and define it.  The journey to this point is a story that would need many more words than I like to commit to my daily postings to do it justice, so I will just share the outcome of their work.  Here are their values:Worksighted Team

  • I am most comfortable dressed as a Superhero
  • I am a unique piece to the puzzle
  • I focus on today, but dream of tomorrow
  • I scoop my dog’s poop

Any company, but especially my high growth partners/clients, need to write these down, but that is only the beginning of the journey.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins shares the three things about values that he found in great companies.  In great companies, they do three things with their values:

  1. Define Them/Know what they are
  2. Build them into the organization
  3. Preserve them over time

The truth around values is this picture is part of step 1.  There is work to be done, but great companies know that celebrations have to happen to name significant steps that they have taken.  Celebrations mean FUN and showing up as people who passionately believe in the words being shared, not just leaders reading the script they were given.  This group of leaders inspires me.

What are some of the unique and inspiring values that you have seen companies share and build into their culture?

Listening at growth companies . . . avoiding TrustBUSTER™ #5

Here is another perspective on TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little – for the growth oriented companies. (read the previous post on this topic to get the whole picture on the TrustBUSTER™ list

While I am not a fan of using employee surveys as replacement tool for solid management of people, I do believe in them.  For the company that has lots to do because of their growing business, growth company guru Verne Harnish offers and interesting perpsective in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  His perspective is covered in a chapter, and the subtitle to it is De-Hassle Your Organization

The basic message is that the #1 demotivator for people is problems/hassles not getting resolved.  His solution for listening, asking three questions to start:

  1. What should we start doing?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What should we continue doing?

The follow-up is key in any gathering feedback effort, and he covers it masterfully in his book so I will not recite it here.  Harnish markets to growing companies, but any organization could leverage his wisdom.  I love these questions. 

Any questions you would like to add to the list?

Startup – 4 Critical Things You Need From The Team You Build

Starting up a business is a crazy time, and a key part of this time is bringing people around you that will help you hit your goals.  Officially your goal might be a revenue number, but unofficially startup is also about getting lots of things done without hurting yourself or those around you.  It is hard, which is why so many new businesses fail to survive.  One researcher concluded that after three years 46% of startups are gone. (see numbers)

The good news is there are people around all of us that are willing to get involved.  As you identify your team it is crucial to define what you will need from them as you start your business.  Here are four needs I have found to be critical, and each one should have a name(s) next to them for you.

1. Help managing the fear: Don Rainey, a venture capitalist in Washington DC named getting used to constant fear as the #1 way starting a business will change you (read blog posting).  Find advisers and partners that understand fear and that you trust enough to be open with.  They should also be people who will push you to get unstuck when fear is holding you back from moving forward.  Managing fear is ultimately your job, but ongoing support from others is critical.

2. The knowledge/experience to help win: Every business needs a little bit of luck, but don’t depend on it.  If there is knowledge you need and don’t have –  find it.  If you are a single person company, find the network or get the experience before you start.  If you are going to market with an idea or product you created, get sales and marketing help. If you really understand your own strengths and weaknesses this part is easy because your business plan tells you the work you have to get done, you just have to get the help to fill in the key gaps.  Move your ego over and get help.

3.  Brave problem solvers: I like the word brave because it creates the picture of a hero who overcomes fear to get into action mode and wins.  Looking back at any startup, there are an abundance of stories where bumps were encountered and unforeseen problems had to be solved.  A great question for entrepreneurs is “Share a problem/challenge you encountered and what you did to overcome it?”  When hiring people in the beginning you will need to hire problem solvers – not problem identifiers or problem creators.  Whether it is through their commitment to learning, sheer will to win, or passion to fix things, they need to see problems as an opportunity to do something special.

4.  Someone to celebrate with: There will be victories.  In those victories are opportunities to high-five, eat some good food, or share a smile.  Having people close enough to your business to know the lows and recognize the work that went into the highs is important.  It might be an employee that likes to cook or a friend who likes to throw a party.  Jim Collins called this momentum gained by reaching and recognizing goals the flywheel effect.  Celebrating successes will allow you to feel the momentum.

So what kind of leadership do they need from you?  See the above list and ask yourself “What can I do as a leader to make sure that need is met?” It is probably worth some future blog space to explore this question a little bit more.  If you have any ideas to add to what I have shared feel free to comment.

Is it possible to hire all A players? Three Realities

It makes great headlines to talk about hiring “A” players.  Guy Kawasaki makes the statement that “People need to hire people smarter than they are”, but the reality is “A players hire A players; B players hire C players.”  In his book Topgrading, Brad Smart outlines an approach that is designed to ensure 90% of your hires will be A players in the role they are hired into.  Few would argue that having great people doing the right things is critical for a business to be successful.  To start this discussion, here are three realities for hiring A players.

1.  Organizations have a tendency to transform A’s into B’s and C’s: What keeps A’s acting like A’s?  The Gallup organization did extensive research that resulted in identifying 12 questions(Q12) to measure engagement, among other things.  The first three questions say a lot about what keeps A’s acting like A’s:  1)  I know what is expected of me at work  2)  I have the tools and resources I need to do my job  3) I have an opportunity to do what I do best everyday.  At the core of keeping A’s acting like A’s is communication.  This includes keeping them informed about changes in the business and listening to their questions/needs/opinions.

2.  Hiring people ‘smarter than they are’ is hard.  It takes a tremendous amount of self-confidence and cultural support: This starts with the CEO, and their willingness to allow their executive team to lead, which might result in them not have all the answers all of the time.  A key challenge to hiring smarter people is delegating the work (because they are better able to do it) and giving them space to make decisions.  This will put leaders in a position to not know all the decisions being made all the time.  So, the CEO needs to provide some space to bring information back and leaders need to be comfortable saying and allowing the comment “I don’t know, but let me look into that.”

3.  Hiring – Do people really have the time to be that rigorous? Hiring the best people for a job takes a clear understanding of the role (job description), a vision of how this role will impact the direction of the company (operational/strategic objectives), and time to really get to know the candidates.  In Topgrading, Brad Smart outlines a rigorous process that could easily take 6+ hours per candidate.  Teaching managers the reason for these three pieces and the importance of spending time to find great people is critical.

If you are a CEO trying to attract and keep the best talent, it is worth a 2-3 hour discussion with your team to explore this topic and find ways to fine tune your hiring and onboarding of  people so they are successful.   Some questions to consider in that process:

  • How do you define A players, B players, and C players?
  • What do you see as impediments in your own organization to hiring A players?
  • What are practical ways you have seen to make sure A’s do not get turned into B or C players? What are you doing?  What should you be doing?
Some other good reads: