Rob Ristagno shares a podcast with a transcript that illustrates the important role company culture plays in the growth of the company.
David Kinsley didn’t anticipate taking over the family business. In his teenage years, he dreamed about becoming a Wall Street power broker, vacationing in St. Barths, and living a life filled with the finer things.
But when a chronic illness upended his first two years of college, his life changed course. He finally found relief and recovery in Eastern traditions. That led to a spiritual awakening that guided him back to the organization his father had founded.
He joined The Kinsley Group full-time in 1994 and became President 12 years ago. He’s led the organization through 12 straight years of growth and continues to find new, synergistically linked ways to expand the energy solutions company.
However, when asked about the key to the company’s success, he doesn’t point to a business development initiative or specific product. Instead, he says it’s The Kinsley Group’s team of compassionate, emotionally intelligent individuals.
Every employee goes to work each day striving to fulfill the company’s vision statement: To solve the energy infrastructure and environmental issues of the country. This lofty goal, to improve sustainability and provide top-tier service, is what David identifies as their secret sauce.
David says that his vision statement for The Kinsley Group was inspired by Bill Gates’ mission for Microsoft. In the 1970s, the thought of having an at-home computer would have been completely alien, yet Bill Gates proclaimed that his goal was to make that very thing happen. He dreamed bigger than anyone would have thought possible, and today that dream is a reality.
Similarly, David aims to solve big climate problems with innovative energy solutions. The Kinsley Group does this by designing bespoke offerings to tackle major environmental issues. He offers the example of a partnership with a Vermont dairy farm, Cabot Creamery, and Middlebury College.
Key points include:
- Culture, discipline, and accountability
- Team leadership and transparency
- Customer relationships
Read the full article, How Company Culture Influences Organic Growth, on SterlingWoods.com.
Mark Ledden shares an article from his company blog on leadership and action in diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization.
This past year has caused tectonic cultural shifts. The same is certainly true within organizations. With the pandemic, many organizations have jumped feet first into remote working, flexible work schedules, and new ways of engaging their teams. At the same time, virtually every organization we’re aware of is seeking to respond to the calls for justice and equity across racial, gender, and sexual identity, both in the U.S. and globally.
This reckoning has profoundly impacted organizational thinking about culture – especially as it relates to how healthy organizational cultures can achieve optimal diversity, equity, and inclusion within the workplace.
Through our client collaborations, especially our work on culture diagnostics and development , we at Kenning have also been expanding our thinking. Below are some themes we’ve noted over the past year, and some related questions that have proved helpful for further consideration. Given our focus on development, we call out implications for how to approach DEI efforts as an opportunity to learn.
Strategy, accountability, and engagement
DEI strategy has a powerful connection to the broader organizational strategy. We have seen the value of connecting DEI into a fuller organizational strategy. Making connections between DEI and business strategy can unify an entire organization, even if there is not unanimous agreement about how to approach the specifics of DEI internally.
Questions to explore:
How can we evolve our organization’s thinking by explicitly designing with a diverse and inclusive client and customer base?
How can we create space for conversations about how to enhance that goal through internal alignment?
Momentum and empowerment go hand in hand with accountability across the entire team. As with any strategy, an organization’s approach to DEI needs engagement from top leadership. However, by definition DEI demands centering perspectives that have been previously marginalized. This means bringing an eye toward inclusivity of experiences and perspectives throughout the organization, well beyond those found in the C-suite or among leadership teams.
Key points include:
- Strategy, accountability, and engagement
- Momentum and empowerment
- Unfolding external and internal events
Read the full article, Taking a learning approach to DEI, on KenningAssociates.com.
In this article, Amanda Setili explains why conflicting opinions are a necessary part of growth.
Back when I was applying for admission to Harvard Business School, one of the essays I had to complete was “when did you confront an ethical dilemma and how did you handle it?”
I remember being stuck on this question for quite a while, because as a young engineer, it seemed to me that every question had a correct answer. There are no ethical dilemmas, because once you find the right answer, everything is clear… or so I mistakenly thought.
Fortunately, I somehow managed to answer that essay question and get admitted. HBS quickly corrected my lack of understanding. Day after day, I sat in a classroom with 90 people who were all smart, and yet had completely different solutions to any given problem. Time after time, I thought: Wow. I would never have thought of what s/he just said.
The world, I learned, has many shades of gray.
These days, I worry whether too many businesses—and professionals—close themselves off from this sort of valuable learning. How many times in recent years have you sat in a room with other talented folks who think utterly differently than you do? How many times have you been encouraged to disagree and debate with your peers? My guess: not often.
Key points include:
- Challenging consensus
- Challenging bias
- The value of different opinions
Read the full post, The Case for More Disagreements, on LinkedIn.
Dan Markovitz provides an article that explores what it means to be a healthy company.
What is a healthy person? We can argue over specific metrics, but we’d all agree that we have to account for physical as well as mental/emotional health. What is a healthy organization? As with
individuals, there will be disagreement over metrics, but clearly we have to consider financial performance, internal stakeholders (employees), and external stakeholders (community). Healthy organizations recognize the importance of all three areas, and while a specific decision might prioritize one over the others, in aggregate, healthy organizations make decisions that, on average, address all of those needs.
Milton Friedman is the primary exponent of the belief that a company’s sole purpose is making a profit: “There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits,” he wrote in 1970. In the past decade there’s been a backlash to that one-dimensional view, most notably by the Business Roundtable. In 2019, the organization announced that corporations should be governed to benefit all stakeholders— customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.
But many companies have long subscribed to this more holistic—and I’d argue, healthier—mantra. As Jim Collins wrote about visionary firms such as Merck, 3M, General Electric, Boeing, and Disney in Built to Last.
Key points include:
- Profit maximization
- Internal Stakeholders—Employees
- External Stakeholders—Community
Read the full post, What Is a Healthy Company, on MarkovitzConsulting.com.
A crisis often kickstarts innovation in technology and shifts in culture. As working from home options become a more normal structure, how will this impact performance and growth? Kaihan Krippendorff takes a look at the company culture of Netflix to explore the impact of no rules rules.
When we think about culture and responsibility in the workplace, companies generally fall into one of two categories. Some seek to monitor their employees and keep them in a structured order by implementing rules and policies for every interaction. This is more common and tends to happen as companies scale and become more established. The result is a thick handbook and a set of employees who don’t need to think as much about what to do, because the thinking has been done for them.
The alternative seems more chaotic: companies that have very few procedures and regulations in place. This is most often seen in startups or businesses with few employees. Employees are given the freedom to make their own decisions, which often inspires creativity and innovation. This freedom usually lasts until the business begins to grow, and limitations are imposed. Controls seem necessary; a few wrong budgeting decisions might have a major impact on a growing business.
So as business scales, how do we give employees the freedom to make decisions while keeping chaos in check?
NETFLIX: CREATING A CULTURE OF FREEDOM AT SCALE
Lucky for us, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings experienced both scenarios, and he and Erin Meyer, a bestselling author and international culture expert, have written the book on innovative culture in the workplace. Last week, I was fortunate to attend Erin’s Thinkers50 and Insight to Impact webinar: No Rules Rules (replay available here).
In the webinar, Erin described Reed’s experience launching his first business, a software troubleshooting company. At first, there were no rules. But as the business began to grow, Reed started implementing more policies. He found that the new restrictions drove his most creative employees out of the company.
Key points include:
- Creating a culture of freedom at scale
- Culture is about reconciling dilemmas
- Three steps to employee freedom
Read the full article, No Rules Rules At Netflix: Rethinking Culture As We Return To Work, on Kaihan.net.
Robyn Bolton offers a post that illustrates a common issue in today’s workplaces.
Some conversations stick with you for a long time.
Some conversations take your breath away the moment they happen.
A few weeks ago, I had one that did both.
“Everyone is focused on ‘humanizing’ work,” my client said. “I wish people would de-humanize work. I would love nothing more than to be treated like a line of code or a piece of equipment. We treat our code and equipment better than we treat our people.
When a piece of equipment doesn’t work, we send in teams of people to fix it. We study what went wrong, we fix the error, and we take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We don’t expect a line of code to work in every operating system, to be able to do everything in every context. We know that we need to adapt it for iOS or Android.”
As I picked my jaw up off the floor and put my eyes back in my skull, she continued.
“But people…when a person is struggling, we don’t send anyone to help. We don’t ask why they’re struggling or study the situation or take action so that no one else experiences the same problem. We expect the person to either fix their own problem or to leave.
We expect everyone to be able to work in every situation and when there’s a mismatch, we expect the more junior person to ‘expand their toolkit’ and ‘learn to work with other styles’ or to leave.
“If we treated our people the way we treat our products, our people would be so much happier, and we’d be so much more successful as a company.
Key points include:
- People vs. products
- Malfunction and communication
- Corporate culture
Read the full article, The Case for De-Humanizing Work, on Medium.
Jesse Jacoby provides a post that explains why it is so difficult to communicate your vision of the corporate culture you would like to have, and what you can do to articulate the abstract.
Ask 100 managers how they define organizational culture, and you’ll probably get as many different definitions as possible. Even scholars cannot agree; and that means that your definition is as appropriate as anyone else’s. This makes the challenge, however, of creating the culture that you want particularly difficult, because it is almost impossible to hit a target that is ambiguous.
How can you describe something abstract in concrete terms?
How do you say, “This is what I want,” when there is no this to point to?
And how do you say, “I don’t want that,” when you cannot point to it either?
At best, you can only identify parts of instances or results that please or displease you.
Perhaps that is the wrong way, or at least the less helpful way, to look at it.
Before you can decide what culture, you want, you need to consider the elephant in the room. The elephant is that culture, no matter how you define it, is touchy-feely. It is all about the people in your organization and their collective attitudes, expectations, and behavior. And so, whatever you want must be thought of in terms of what they do; how they’ll act and react collectively.
The easiest way to decide what culture you want is to start with someone else’s definition, and then add to it according to your needs.
For example, organizational culture has been described as a kind of personality. When you think about it like that, then you can delineate between the one in your organization and the one in someone else’s. You may not be able to identify all the differences exactly, but at least it will give you a starting point.
Key points include:
- How perceptions factor in
- Understanding the thoughts-feelings connection
- Working backwards
Read the full article, How to Create the Culture You Want, on the emergentconsultants.com.
While many companies pay lip service to company values, and many more don’t pay attention past the brand development and marketing stage, Xavier Lederer shares an evergreen post from his company blog that explains why establishing and maintaining core values are integral to a company’s direction, growth, and success.
‘Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.’
– David Cummings, Co-founder of Pardot
The #1 thing I wish I had done differently? I wish that I had developed clear core values and that I had used them in my recruiting process, to filter out candidates that didn’t fit our culture,” said the CEO of this consumer good company that went through a roller coaster over the past decade. Ten years ago his company had a lot of traction, their products were flying off the shelves, and they were in a hiring spree. Several years later they hit a number of roadblocks that put them in a tough financial position – and the impact of their toxic employees (these high-performing employees, whose values are not aligned with the company values, and therefore create a bad atmosphere within the team – and, when they are in sales, with clients) became extremely painful.
What are core values?
Core values are a handful of non-negotiable behaviors that everybody in your company lives by. Core values establish and protect the company culture: they are a set of beliefs that define the desirable and the unacceptable behaviors in the company. Core values are not aspirational – these are rules that you actually live by on an everyday basis. As such core values are timeless: they will still be the same in 100 years.
Core values in a company work just like parenting values. I learned this from my grandmother, who single-handedly managed to maintain a steady discipline in her house full of grand children during the summer months
Key points include:
- Why you should care about culture
- How to know you have the right core values
- Clashing values
Read the full article, Core Values, An Anchor To Your Company Culture, on ambrosegrowth.com.
Jennifer Hartz shares encouraging words on how the current COVID-19 situation provides the opportunity to learn, grow, and serve.
Obviously, #COVID19 creates a number of significant problems in the world, our country, businesses, nonprofits, governments, and schools. This temporary situation, current trend, or permanent transformation is challenging. So, let’s look at the opportunities for people working or learning remotely or not employed full time to improve their lives as well as others’.
REMOTE WORK IS EXPANDING
Twitter announced that most employees don’t ever have to go back to the office. “Continue working from home, or anywhere else that makes them happy and productive, forever.” Google and Facebook have extended work from home (WFH) through the end of 2020. California State University Campuses will not open for Fall Semester; on-line classes continue. Certainly, these organizations are not going to be alone in their shift from traditional offices and classrooms.
SADLY, UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLOYMENT IS EXPANDING TOO
Read the full article, No Commute? Time for Service!, on the CorporateHartz website.
Robyn M. Bolton shares sage thoughts and inspirational photographs that provide a moment of relief during stressful times.
I don’t know about you, but I’m rather tired of the non-stop hysteria that seems to be occurring these days. Between COVID-19, politics, the economy, and the state of Tom Brady’s contract (sorry, I live in Boston), it seems that the world is having a panic attack.
Namaste, people. Namaste.
In an effort to not contribute to the panic, instead of writing something topical and relating it to innovation, I’m simply going to share images of something that makes me extremely happy and peaceful and relate them to innovation.
Read the full article, 10 Moments of Innovation Zen, and view the photographs on Medium.
Martin Pergler begins a conversation on corporate culture to identify the pros and cons of working for the corporate world, small business or the public sector.
Putting considerations such as the work itself, employer values, career trajectory, benefits, job security, etc. (all covered by others) aside, there is the elephant in the room. Inhabitants of the corporate world, small business (including startups), and the public sector are all fond of rolling their eyes — with a bit of envy mixed in — at the other sectors’ working culture.
During my time at a major consulting firm, my employer and my clients were mainly in the corporate sector. These days, as an independent consultant, I work with institutions of all 3 kinds. I think there are characteristics, by which I mean frequent but not universal, strengths and weaknesses of each. But I think there’s no clear winner in terms of overall effectiveness (or personal warm-and-fuzziness), however one could define or measure it.
Read the full article, Who’s “better” to work for? Corporate world, small business, or public sector?”, on LinkedIn.
It takes more than talent to become a valued employee in today’s workplace. Sherif El Henaoui identifies the benefits of finding the right fit.
Top people are desired. Every company wants them: the intelligent, creative, endurable, high-performance worker. Since this desired workforce is rare, there is a “war” as suggested by the HR literature. I once heard a quote of a McKinsey partner commenting on the Internet bubble crisis saying, “We won the war for talent, but we ended up with too many prisoners.”
We want to suggest a more peaceful view on the matter. High-performance is also a result of the cultural fit. This applies to societies and corporations. An aggressive, forward-looking sales professional works well in one type of company but is perceived as too pushy and less collegial in another. Is that the fault of the employee?
Read the full article, Fight Your Own War for Talent, on LinkedIn.