Monthly Culture Inspiration: April 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: SYPartners' Micro-choices, Micro-Actions, Micro-Behaviors


SYPartners’ Keith Yamashita developed thinking on how leaders can create positive change around diversity and inclusion. It happens through micro-choices, micro-actions, and micro-behaviors—and inspire change in others by example. Because while policy changes and training around diversity in the workplace are critical, it’s everyday behavior change that forwards progress and lasting change. You can download the document here.

Book: Powerful by Patty McCord

It's safe to say I have a big work crush on Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix. In Powerful, she shares lessons learned at Netflix and in her work consulting for other companies after she left Netflix. She advocates practicing radical honesty in the workplace and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans. My co-author Liz and I interviewed Patty for our forthcoming book on emotions at work, and she had so much wise advice (and was also a hoot to talk to). 

Here are some of my favorite passages from the book: 

  • “The first step in culture transformation is embracing a management mind-set that overturns conventional wisdom. The fundamental lesson we learned at Netflix about success in business today is this: the elaborate, cumbersome system for managing people that was developed over the course of the twentieth century is just not up to the challenges companies face in the twenty-first. Reed Hastings and I and the rest of the management team decided that, over time, we would explore a radical new way to manage people—a way that would allow them to exercise their full powers.”
  • "Culture is the strategy of how you work. And if people believe that it is a strategy and that it is important, they will help you think about it deeply and try things."
  • "I understood that part of the reason large teams are crippled in their ability to innovate and move fast is that because it's hard work to manage them, companies build infrastructure to make sure people are doing the right things. But the teams I saw that accomplished great stuff just knew what they most needed to accomplish; they didn't need elaborate procedures, and certainly not incentives... I wondered: what if people in marketing and finance and my own group, human resources, were allowed to unleash their full powers? They would operate like high-performance engineering teams."

Read the book to learn how Patty questioned all assumptions about polices, procedures, bonuses, performance reviews; why honesty creates a better culture, and why it's better to be transparent about salaries. She writes in an extremely accessible and conversational tone. It was a joy to read.

Article to Bookmark: How to Be a C.E.O., From a Decade’s Worth of Them

I read Adam Bryant's weekly New York Times Corner Office column every week for years. I was sad to hear he's moving on from the column, but not before he summarized his learnings from 525 columns into one massive guide

There are several good quotes on culture, but here's a good one from Tae Hea Nahm, managing director of Storm Ventures: “Basically, people seeing who succeeds and fails in the company defines culture. The people who succeed become role models for what’s valued in the organization, and that defines culture.”

Monthly Culture Inspiration: March 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: CultureIQ's 60+ Tips for Strengthening Company Culture

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CultureIQ pulled together this PDF guide based on tips they've heard from their network of culture experts, including from my friends at August, LifeLabs Learning (see below also!), and LiveGrey. The tips are grouped by theme (mission and values, collaboration, work environment, etc.). This is a great comprehensive guide for ideas any organization can experiment with.

Book: The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun

My friend Megan Wheeler recommended this book about remote work to me. She said it was equal parts educational and entertaining. Megan is a leadership trainer and coach with LifeLabs Learning, and she specializes in remote work-- so I knew if she recommended it, it would be worth a read. Scott Berkun is an author and designer who went to work remotely for a year as a manager at Automattic (creators of The Year Without Pants is his behind-the-scenes memoir. In addition to insights about remote work, Berkun shares great insights about culture in general:

  • "There are many theories about why teams of four to six work best, but the simplest is ego. With about five people, there's always enough oxygen in the room. It means on average that every person gets to speak once every five times, which is enough for everyone to feel they are at the center of things."
  • "The responsibility of people in power is to continually eliminate useless traditions and introduce valuable ones. An organization where nothing ever changes is not a workplace but a living museum."
  • "During my year at Automattic, no one ever yelled at me. I was never in a meeting that made me angry or want to storm out. The worst kinds of workplace moments simply weren't there. You can get only so angry at someone typing at you. People were polite, almost painfully so. But the best things about workplaces, like sharing an epiphany after working for hours at a whiteboard, were gone too."
  • "The most dangerous tradition we hold about work is that it must be serious and meaningless. We believe that we're paid money to compensate us for work not worthwhile on its own. People who are paid the most are often the most confused, for they know in their hearts how little meaning there is in what they do, for others and for themselves."

It's a quick and enjoyable read, but also reveals how Automattic is challenging our assumptions about how work has to be.

Article to Bookmark: How Warby Parker Makes Every Point In Its Employee Lifecycle Extraordinary

I love First Round Review. I've included articles by them here, here, and here. I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter. This article is about Warby Parker's founders, and why they believe "that creating an extraordinary employee life cycle is just as important as developing a killer product." For new employee onboarding, they "designed a custom helium balloon that features an illustration of a steak with a pair of glasses on. It says: “Nice to meat you!” These balloons are affixed to every newcomer’s desk for their first couple weeks. Other employees are conditioned to treat the balloons as beacons so they’ll introduce themselves and strike up conversations with newbies." The founders still have a weekly all-hands meeting, even though they have hundreds of employees now. "Monthly — and definitely quarterly — meetings are too spread out, in Gilboa’s opinion. When you’re building an ambitious company, things change much faster than that. It’s easy for divisions to lose visibility into each other’s work." There are many more great suggestions in the article.