Monthly Culture Inspiration: July 2018

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


Visual: What makes a great leader, explained in eight counterintuitive charts

Journalist Shane Snow is the author of the new book Dream Teams. While writing the book, he learned eight counterintuitive lessons, which he shares in chart form in this article in Quartz. Above are two charts I like. The first chart shows that the best leaders are those who not only "motivate their teams to work toward a grand shared vision, but who encourage their teams to adapt in order to get there." The second chart shows that the best leaders" are not just flexible. They’re opinionated, too; that’s how they convince us to follow them into the unknown, even when they change their minds." See all the charts here.


Book: Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work by Alison Green

Alison Green has been called “the Dear Abby of the work world.” She writes the popular Ask A Manager blog, which was recently published in book format. Green goes beyond surface level advice and provides specific and actionable insights and recommendations from her experience as chief of staff of an organization and as a consultant. It's worth a read by everyone, whether you're an employer or a manager. She covers crying at work, salary negotiations, and how to deal with someone who won't respond to your emails (or emails you too often), among many other topics. Here is a good example of what to do if an employee’s stress impacts the whole team:

"If someone vents about stress constantly or just doesn’t control it well, that can end up stressing out everyone around him. If this is happening on your team, start by talking with the person one-on-one and asking what’s going on: “You seem pretty stressed lately. What’s going on?” This might lead to a conversation where you can provide concrete help with things like prioritizing the person’s workload, adjusting deadlines, or suggesting shortcuts or more efficient ways to approach a project.

But if the person is stressed out by things that are just normal parts of the job—issues where there aren’t really solutions other than “just roll with it”—then you may need to explain that, name the fact that his stress is affecting other people, and ask about other ways it might be managed: “I hear you that it can be stressful to have to get input from so many people and to make last-minute changes sometimes. It’s really the nature of the role, though; those things are pretty unavoidable in this type of work. When you complain frequently to coworkers about it and start most meetings by talking about how frazzled you are, it can raise the stress level for everyone. Do you think you can find other ways to manage your stress so that it doesn’t spread to your coworkers as well?”

Depending on how the conversation goes, you might add: “I want to be clear that I’m not asking you never to feel stressed. I know this work can be stressful! Rather, this is about being aware of how your handling of stress might be affecting colleagues. You can of course come and talk to me when you’re feeling overwhelmed; I want to be a resource for you when that’s happening. It’s adding to other people’s stress levels that I want to avoid.”"


Article to Bookmark: What does a more agile HR look like? 

I love the Culture Amp blog. If you haven't already subscribed to their newsletter, The People Geekly, you should. In this article, Kate Le Gallez uncovers "how organizations can apply agile principles to the HR function, especially when it comes to employee feedback." The article explores how HR can learn from the agile processes and use them to redesign the employee feedback process to make it more helpful. Learn how you can take a real-time approach to feedback.

Monthly Culture Inspiration: June 2018

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

Visual: Four Quadrants to Understand an Organization


I've recommended and linked to Frederic Laloux's book Reinventing Organization's many times on my blog. But thanks to Itamar Goldminz, Director of People of ‎Grammarly and creator of the Org Hacking blog, I found a great new visual of one of Laloux's frameworks recently.

Laloux believes that in order to fully understand an organization, we must look at four things: people’s beliefs and mindsets (top left quadrant in the diagram); people’s behaviors (top right quadrant); the organizational culture and values (bottom left quadrant); and the organizational structures, processes and practices (bottom right quadrant). 

This organizational framework is based on Ken Wilber’s “four quadrants” model, which is a way to fully comprehend any phenomenon by looking at it from four different angles: objectively from the outside, subjectively as an individual; intersubjectively (subjectively from within the organization as a group), and interobjectively (within the broader context of a system or network).

Book: Dying For A Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer

In our forthcoming book, my co-author Liz and I devote a whole chapter to how our emotions at work effect our health. In his new book Dying For A Paycheck, Jeffrey Pfeffer writes, "61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick and 7 percent said they had actually been hospitalized. Job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually and may cause 120,000 excess deaths each year."

Pfeffer analyzed the research and found that many of the most common workplace stressors are as harmful to our health as secondhand smoke. One example stressor is forced competition between colleagues. He looks at companies that use stacked rankings (where managers across a company are required to rank all of their employees on a bell curve), like GE (where the practice was pioneered by Jack Welch), Microsoft, and Uber. These companies have less healthy and more destructive work environments, and less collaboration. On the other hand, companies like Google and Patagonia, who foster communication and collaboration create healthy cultures.

One of the most interesting arguments Pfeffer makes is that human sustainability should be as important as environmental stewardship. Borrowing language from environmental economics, he talks about capturing externalities: "Companies that do not provide health insurance benefits to their (often low-paid) employees leave these employees to fend for themselves... When they get sick, they turn to hospital emergency rooms for care... the cost of the health care are borne not by the employers... but by others." Walmart is a particularly big creator of these negative externalities, forcing state and federal programs to cover their employees health care costs (or raising premiums for those who are covered because of the costs of uncompensated care). 

Article to Bookmark: Getting Human Resources Right

Every morning I look forward to reading venture capitalist Fred Wilson's blog, AVC, which I get delivered to my inbox. Last year Fred wrote a great post in response to Uber's HR issues titled, "Getting Human Resources Right," about how to get human resources right in a fast growing tech company. Fred wrote, "Growing from 50 to 500 to 5,000 to tens of thousands of employees is hard. Operating systems and processes that work in a 500 person company don’t work in a 5,000 company. The same is true of every growth spurt. Systems break down and stuff gets messed up. A well designed and implemented human resources organization can help. A messed up human resources organization will hurt. As Uber has found out." He provides 7 helpful tips including, "Do make your HR organization about culture and leadership first and foremost," and "Build a great employee onboarding process."