Taking the long view: building an enduring and trusting culture

Bob Lintz, one of the leaders featured in both our first book Trust is Everything and our forthcoming book Becoming a Trustworthy Leader, had the ability to take the long view.  Unlike many managers at GM, he didn’t skip around from plant to plant, promotion after promotion, but decided to stay in Parma, Ohio to build something that would endure, even after he retired.  Parma is still thriving today as one of the automotive industry’s highest quality stamping plants.

This new McKinsey study identifies three ways that leaders can help employees take the long view

1) root out unhealthy habits: Bob worked with the union to eliminate costly overtime and duplicative jobs.

2) prioritize values: Bob did this by eliminating the executive dining room, abolishing separate parking lots for hourly and salaried employees, and having managers no longer wear coats and ties.  He wanted the union and management to work together to bring in new business to the plant, and knew that they could not do it with old, traditional barriers in place.

3) keep it simple, but meaningful: Bob instituted an Open Door policy that he stood by.  Anyone could come to Bob at any time.

These are important principles to remember: easy to say, but challenging to implement.


Team-Building for High Performance

One of the most frequent requests we receive from prospects and clients is to help develop their teams so that they can be truly high-performing, whether they are teams at the top, or teams at the front line.  We believe that team-building exercises can be a useful complement to the more serious work of getting teams to build the ROCC of Trust with one another, which requires keeping commitments to one another (Reliability), communicate transparently and listen empathically (Openness), develop one another’s strengths and address their weaknesses (Competence), and most importantly, have each other’s and the organization’s best interests at heart.

Alina Dizik interviewed me about my take on team-building exercises for an article this week in Entrepreneur.com.  Here are some excerpts:

3 Teambuilding Exercises Tailored to Unique Business Challenges

SheFinds founder Michelle Michelle Madhok and her team after a playful paint-throwing exercise.   Photo credit:  Whoopee

Teambuilding exercises often get a bad rap as a waste of employees’ time, but some entrepreneurs are finding value in activities that are tailored to resolve specific challenges in their business. Designed correctly, team building programs can strengthen unraveling employee relationships, help sustain corporate culture during periods of fast growth, and build morale amid layoffs, human-resource experts say.
Exercise: To educate employees in an entertaining way, as well as bring them together as a team, Koch came up with Beer Jeopardy, an annual game where roughly half of the 850 employees compete against one another to test their beer IQ. All departments compete, but employees in the brewery play a tougher version of the quiz game separately. In addition to answering trivia questions, employees must do blind taste tests to identify different brews. Top prizes include hop-buying trips abroad and a visit to Oktoberfest in Munich. The game “has a way of knitting us together,” Koch says.
3 Teambuilding Exercises Tailored to Unique Business Challenges

Boston Beer founder Jim Koch at the podium hosting Beer Jeopardy, a company event that tests employees beer IQ.
Photo courtesy of the company

Expert advice: A creative approach works well when trying to teach company and industry knowledge, says Aneil Mishra, managing partner at Total Trust Coaching and Consulting, a Durham, N.C., firm that provides team development programs. “Games and creative exercises such as this are more likely to be retained by employees than rote memorization.”

The most important aspect of team-building exercises is whether they are truly applied to teams’ real work after the “experts” depart.  If the exercises not only surface important issues that the teams face, but also provide the tools to address those issues, and if the leaders make sure to apply those tools and reinforce desired team behaviors, then the money spent on the exercises will be well-spent.  Otherwise, the exercises will be viewed as “flavor of the month” or worse.

What kinds of team-building have you participated in, and how have you applied them in your organization?

Seven Habits that Will Change Your Life

Our latest article in PoliyMic addresses how changing your habits is necessary if you want to change your situation, either at work or in life.   I used this book with great success with my undergraduates when I was a management professor at Penn State, and Karen and I both to continue to recommend it to our students and our coaching clients.  Here is an accept of our article:

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the highly acclaimed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People died earlier this summer. My wife and I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Covey in action at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan when we were in graduate school. We were there to study business (MBA and Ph.D.), but had no idea that a chance encounter with Dr. Covey would also be so instructive and would influence not just us, but so many future students as well. We have learned so much from his book that we often give it as a graduation present to our students. If you have received this gift yourself and it is still sitting on your shelf, take it out and read it, as tribute to Dr. Covey.

To read more about each habit is critical to your effectiveness, our article continues here.


Farewell, Stephen Covey

If you have not read Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, run out and get a copy today.  We were sad to learn that Dr. Covey died Monday from complications following a bike accident at 79.

Since we read this book in graduate school, we have continually assigned it to our students and have given it to them as a graduation present.  Scores of Aneil’s undergraduate student at Penn State loved the book, saying that it helped them to better organize themselves and prepare for life after college.

We also had the privilege of hearing Dr. Covey in person twice at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  He was a down-to-earth yet dynamic speaker who kept us on the edge of our seats.  He was a tremendous story-teller who had an ability to help you “seek first to understand.”  The one story from the book that he brought to life was the one about seeing things from another’s perspective.  He took a pair of glasses and put them on an audience member and asked him why he couldn’t “see”.  It helped us all to realize that we can’t force people to understand our perspective just by making them see things our way.

There are so many of his sayings and stories from that book that we still use at home and in our teaching.  What a wonderful legacy to create something so enduring.


Photo from http://www.seancovey.com/books_leaderinme.html

Personal Leadership and Trust

We just finished a great interview with Ricky Young of WHCR 90.3 FM, on his show, “What in your hand?”  We were scheduled to talk with Ricky for 30 minutes and ended up spending an entirely delightful hour with him.

In addition to talking about our research on leaders and trust, Ricky asked us some interesting questions.  One questions he asked was “how can young people learn how to trust people when they don’t have any trustworthy adults in their life?”  What a great question and one that we adults don’t often think about.  We wonder why young people act suspicious or closed off or selfish.  It could be because their trust has been violated early in life and they have not had positive role models who have acted in a trustworthy way to them.  We have to ask ourselves what we can do as adults to teach them not only that there are trustworthy people in this world, but how to act in trustworthy ways with others.

One of the other themes we discussed was accountability, as an aspect of being trustworthy with another person.  We mentioned that we are accountable to each other (and have been for 27 years of marriage!).  Ricky asked how we continue to be accountable to each other, and I mentioned my quest to express my thanks this year and Aneil shared his new effort to be more reliable about exercise!

Ricky reminded us that everyone is a leader: at home, at work, in our communities.  He is demonstrating his own personal leadership by hosting a Cash Mob on the Sunday the 8th at Grandma’s Place a book store and toy store in Harlem.  His goal is for every person who comes to spend $20 to boost the economic development of that establishment.  If you live nearby, be sure to bring your $20!

Thanks, Ricky, for inviting us into your studio today to share our stories about trust.


RIM/Blackberry Still Struggling with Acquisitions and Employee Fears

I thought this article in today’s Wall Street Journal illustrates the challenges of integrating acquisitions as well as preserving employee morale during crises:

At the time of the acquisitions in 2010, Mr. Lazaridis insisted that both companies stay in their respective home cities of Ottawa and Malmo, Sweden, largely to allow them to continue developing their technology while avoiding the bureaucracy at RIM’s Waterloo campus, according to people familiar with the matter.

This all didn’t sit well with existing RIM employees working on other projects, according to these people. Executives would also often set staffers working on different projects to work against each other, a tactic from

RIM’s early days meant to drive creativity and productivity, but one that often led to resentment and less cooperation, according to people close to the company.

Mr. Heins has tried to remedy that internal strife since taking over by focusing on the BlackBerry 10. But it is still widely believed at the company that RIM employees who are not working on the new device are in jeopardy of losing their job, say current employees and those close to the company.

“Anyone working on [the new operating system] is safe,” said one current RIM employee. “Anyone working on legacy projects is preparing their resumes. I don’t know anyone that isn’t going to take a buyout if they offer one.”

We conducted peer-reviewed research on how leaders can preserve morale and foster innovation during crises, and let’s hope that the new leadership at RIM understands the importance of building the ROCC of Trust if it is to succeed in its goal of taking on the competition from Android and Apple smart phones.


Assessing Culture is Critical

We talk extensively in our next book about how leaders build a trusting culture.  This HBR article is also helpful in understanding what specific questions to ask today when you are interviewing for a job in order to assess an organization’s culture to determine if it is a good fit for you.

Aneil and I have both worked for leaders and companies where we thought we had found a good fit, only later to discover that the fit was not right for us.  We were blinded by either the job or the friend that hired us, only to find out that there were deeper issues at play that kept us from truly trusting that leader and that organization to not only have our best interests at heart, but our customers best interests at heart, too.

We all want to work at a place we can trust to be excellent, care for us and for its other stakeholders, but today, it is a complex proposition.  A recent MetLife survey shows employee loyalty at a seven-year low.  Employees are not loyal because they don’t feel that employers are loyal to them.  There is definitely a trust gap here.

How have you created a more trusting culture at your workplace?

Trust is Everything Now Available in Amazon Kindle Format

Our first book, Trust is Everything:  Become the Leader Others Will Follow is now available in Amazon Kindle format, and for only $6.99, a savings of 65% over the print version!

If you haven’t read our book yet, you’ll want to buy it before our sequel. Becoming a Trustworthy Leader:  Psychology and Practice, is published by Routledge Press this summer.  If you have read it already, you’ll want the ebook version for handing referencing and bookmarking.

In addition to the Kindle models, including the new Kindle Fire, uou can read it on any device with the Kindle app, including iPhones, as well as Android phones and e-readers.

Our book is also available on iTunes in iPad format, and for the Kindle Nook at Barnes and Noble.

Please share this with anyone among your networks you who think might benefit from reading our book.

We look forward to hearing from you as you read it!

Aneil and Karen

Eastman Kodak Files for Bankruptcy, Could Have Been the First Facebook

My blog post title may reflect my age, but for us Boomers, Kodak really was the first Facebook.  We trusted Kodak with our precious film, and it magically turned it into keepsakes we could share with anyone around the world, albeit at the speed of an aircraft and not light.  Karen’s family took (and still takes) thousands of photos each year.  Mine took fewer, but plenty enough.  Karen and I then did the same once our children were born, filling a score of photo albums with the years and sub-years stenciled or written on the spines.  Then our habits changed.  First we requested photos to be written onto a CD, then we trusted it to the Cloud via Shutterfly, before it was called the Cloud.  Then I took great (for me) pictures of my trips to Istanbul and Punta Del Este, Uruguay using my 5 MP camera on my Blackberry Bold in 2008, and posted them to our blog without ever getting any of the pictures printed.

Where was Kodak when all of our family photography behaviors were changing?  It’s too long and painful a story to write about here, although I discuss it in my leadership development programs.  One example of the firm’s inevitable demise should suffice.  When I was a newly minted Ph.D. back in 1992, Kodak’s Imaging Division flew me up to its headquarters in Rochester to consult with them about a downsizing effort they were contemplating.  They had read my research with my colleagues Kim Cameron and Sarah Freeman at the University of Michigan on how to do downsizing effectively, achieving both bottom-line improvements while actually enabling employees to redesign their jobs so that layoffs could be minimized or even avoided altogether.

I should have known something was wrong from the moment I arrived at the headquarters.  Instead of meeting with the division president as I had been led to believe I would be doing, I spent the entire day with two employees from the organizational development staff.  Rather than seeking my help in crafting an effective downsizing strategy, they had hired me to help them craft a communications plan for a strategy the top brass had already decided upon, one which involved a lot of layoffs.  I tried my best to get them to change their minds, but even though those two employees agreed with me, they had no influence to change the strategy.  So my first big consulting engagement was a failure.  Yes, I collected a nice check for my one day’s work, but as I flew back to State College, PA where I was an assistant professor at Penn State, I knew that Kodak was embarking on the road to failure.  The destruction of a brand trusted by tens of millions, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs lost, and billions in equity gone forever would be the result of a firm that downsized rather than innovated.

For information about the bankruptcy announcement, please go to the Dealbook article.

For a timeline of the company put together by the Wall Street Journal, go here.

For a discussion in the Wall Street Journal as to whether filing for bankruptcy will save Kodak, go here.


It’s Morning in America for George Feldstein and Crestron Electronics

Monday mornings after a long holiday weekend are always a challenge getting started, especially when most of the weekend Karen and I spent nursing our two kids who were sick.  So it was a real pleasure to read this article this morning in the latest issue of Forbes.  Given that our economy continues to sputter along with anemic GDP growth and 9% unemployment, the tonic that our country needs so desperately can come from entrepreneurial leaders such as George Feldstein and his terrific company, Crestron Electronics:

In a quiet corner of Crestron Electronics’ cavernous Rockleigh, N.J. research lab, an aged engineer hunches over a chaotic assembly of plastic tubes, spinning motors and wire. He flips a switch and an exhaust pipe spews a plume of white mist. “This is my Rube Goldberg machine,” says George Feldstein, with an impish grin. “I always have to keep my hands busy. Not bad for a CEO, huh?”

At 70 the founder of Crestron Electronics—maker of myriad home automation devices—is as fit and energetic as a man half his age. He’s also a tireless tinkerer, with 14 patents to his name. His latest project—a more efficient humidifier—has been in the works for over a year. Typical evaporative humidifiers require water tanks (breeding grounds for bacteria), while the steam-injection variety gobble electricity. So Feldstein invented a system that pressurizes a small amount of water and pushes it through tiny nozzles, atomizing it into vapor. When he tested it in his home last winter, the mist left a dusting of salt all over the furniture. (“My wife nearly threw me out,” he says.) With any luck the boss’ latest invention will hit the market next year.

Feldstein doesn’t just create gad­gets—he creates jobs. As protesters, pundits and politicians bemoan corporate America’s addiction to cheap overseas labor (the manufacturing sector now employs 11.8 million people, down nearly 40% in three decades), Crestron has added 500 people—20% of the company’s workforce—in the last five years.

Feldstein owns 100% of Crestron, which could very well make him a billionaire. (He won’t comment on his personal fortune.) Based on sales of similar companies over the last few years, Crestron, which carries no debt and pulls in $500 million in annual revenue (on its way to our list of largest private companies), could be worth at least $1 billion. Yet somehow Feldstein has attracted little attention outside of the trade press, even as he provides new jobs by the hundreds in a prolonged downturn.


“I have great belief in American enterprise,” he says. “When the economy went south we brought everything in-house and paid more for it, rather than lay people off. People don’t realize the importance of the continuity of labor.”

Translation: This isn’t about patriotism—it’s about strategy. By manufacturing 80% of his products—1,500 in all—in the U.S., Feldstein says he is able to build technologically complex devices in low quantities with few errors. Hiring at home also allows him to develop the kind of long-term, committed help he needs to keep expanding. Even with the company’s latest growth spurt, Feldstein estimates around 15% of his workforce has been on staff for at least a decade. “We bring in people, and we give them a profession,” he says. “It’s one of the most important things about a job: It should provide a career for people who want them.” And by keeping Crestron privately held, Feldstein doesn’t have to answer to pesky analysts and shareholders who might have him cut costs by shipping production overseas.

If we had 1000 more leaders like George Feldstein in the U.S., our economy would be well on its way to recovery.