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?

Growth Through Greater Trust and Control

For decades, management scholars and consultants have debated whether building trust in an organization runs counter to exercising greater control over employees.  Certainly, using formal tools such as monitoring employees’ behavior and communications makes it harder to earn their trust, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all forms of control are inherently trust-inhibiting or trust-violating.

My colleagues Gavin Schwarz and Karen and I have just published a peer-reviewed book chapter on how an organization has grown to over $200 million per year in annual revenues by building greater trust and control at the same time.  If you’d like to read it, here it is.


This is How Starbucks Rewards My Loyalty?

Update 12-21-10:

The newest version of the Starbucks Rewards program still leaves a lot to be desired.  I’m rewarded for the number of transactions I make, not how much I actually spend.  If I had the time, and I may still try this sometime, I’d ask the barista to ring up each item separately each time I visit, in order to earn a free drink sooner.

While I’m commenting on Starbucks, it’s always irked me that the employees don’t wear name tags.  Starbucks wants me to think of it as my “third place” after work and home, but they also want me to have to ask for and remember their employees’ names?  I think not!


Update 10-22-09:

I’m still not impressed with the Starbucks Rewards program.  Karen received one of Starbucks’s key chain loyalty cards several weeks ago with few dollars loaded on it, but I still haven’t received one, and I spend a lot more at Starbucks than she does (because I’m the one who usually who goes out to get the coffee).  So much for recognizing my loyalty!


Update 3-15-09:

Starbucks clearly has its work cut out for it, as coffee drinkers continue to seek less expensive ways to imbibe at the expense of premium coffee providers, according to the Wall Street Journal:

As consumers gravitate toward cheaper beans, higher-quality coffee retailers have been affected to a greater degree by the economic downturn.

Caribou Coffee Co., of Minneapolis, earlier this month reported fourth-quarter 2008 earnings of seven cents a share on net sales of $68 million, a 3% decline from a year earlier. Net sales at its coffeehouses open more than a year fell 5.1%, as 230 stores have closed their doors since the 2007 fourth quarter.

Caribou is the third-largest company-owned gourmet coffeehouse operator in the U.S. As of Dec. 28, 2008, the chain had 414 company-owned coffeehouses and 97 franchised stores.

Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee chain, posted a fiscal first-quarter revenue decline of 5.5%. In February, the company began the process of cutting 6,700 employees, or 4% of its work force.

In an effort to offer more attractively priced fare, Starbucks has entered the instant-coffee market and is pairing breakfast items with a cup of coffee for $3.95.

High-end coffee retailers “have to convince the consumer that they can drink much better quality coffee for just a little bit more than what you can make at home for a lesser-quality coffee,” said James Cordier, coffee analyst and founder of “That window may have closed already, but there’s a chance they can keep their customers by offering quality coffee at a discounted price, because once people invest in that good coffee maker at home, you’re done,” he said.

Karen and I continue to cut back on our own Starbucks visits, both to save money and to cut down on our caffeine usage.  It doesn’t help Starbucks that they have done nothing to increase my loyalty over the last several months.


Original Post 10-31-08:

Karen and I spend too much at Starbucks, but it really is one our one indulgence (that and eating out or doing take-out dinners with the kids when we’re both too tired to cook).  Starbucks knows how much we spend there, because we both use its card which automatically reloads a set amount when ever the balance goes below $5 (or any predetermined amount).

Why then do I have to shell out even more money, or make the drive out to Costco (where we do have a membership), wasting gas in the process, to get rewarded for my loyalty:

One of the moves is a new loyalty card aimed at Starbucks’s most frequent users. In the next few weeks, the company plans to introduce a Starbucks Gold card. Customers will pay a $25 annual membership that will give them 10% off most purchases and other perks. The company also has started selling Starbucks cards at Costco Wholesale Corp. outlets for a 20% discount. Mr. Schultz said Wednesday he doesn’t anticipate the chain will make any changes in its price structure.

It wouldn’t be too hard to automatically integrate with my current Starbucks card, providing me with a 20% rebate or adding free drinks if I spend a certain amount of money at their coffee shops each month.  Starbucks may think it is getting more new customers by selling its 20% off card at Costo, but they are irritating me in the process.

Starbucks is giving me yet another reason to quit going there and put the money I’ll save into my heavily depleted pension account.


I’m Bullish on Istanbul!

Latest Post 2-7-08:

I should have updated my original post back in November, when I had just returned from my second trip to Istanbul, during  the week of  Thanksgiving (yes, Turkey for America’s “Turkey Day”).  I had another great trip, met more terrific people from Coca-Cola Icecek, and enjoyed seeing Cem Kozlu again, the former head of Turkish Airlines.

The weather wasn’t nearly as nice as it was in June, but I still had a clear day to enjoy walking around before my executive education program, and then enjoyed walking around one of the shopping districts after the conclusion of my program with a couple of the participants.  Once again, the wonderful people made this trip so worthwhile, no matter what the weather.  The food was wholesome if a bit boring, but that’s institutional food for you at an executive conference center.

Next time I will avoid both returning home on the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day, and JFK airport — the combination of travel date, rain, and airport location resulted in a canceled flight which I was lucky to get rescheduled the same evening.  Thousands of other passengers were not so lucky.  Next time, I’ll fly through Frankfurt, Paris, or Munich in order to avoid the JFK hub.

There are so many other places and activities for me to visit the next time I visit Istanbul and Turkey, and I can’t wait to go back!


Original Post 6-18-08

I just returned from a week in Istanbul, conducting an executive education program for Coca-Cola Icecek.  While the air trip was long, and Munich is an airport to avoid, the stay itself in Istanbul was wonderful.  I was able to make a new friend in fellow Princeton alum Mehmet Ali Neyzi, who was a wonderful host for my first evening in Istanbul, and took me to a fabulous restaurant, Mikla, with wonderful views of the city and the Bosporus Strait.

I was only able to do a little bit of sightseeing before my teaching work began, but I did get to visit the Sultanahmet Camii or Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar, all within walking distance or a short tram ride from one another.  I took the tram for one stop just to experience it (more crowded than the trams in Vienna, but easy to get on and off) and walked for the remainder of the day.

Throughout my stay, the people were very friendly and helpful, it was relatively easy to get around using English, and the food was fresh and delicious, although blander than I expected.  (Maybe that’s just the Indian in me.)  The climate in mid-June was terrific:  temperature was in the 70s (F) and low humidity near the water, a bit hotter inland.  I only was able to sample the many cultures and complex history represented in Istanbul and Turkey, and I can’t wait to go back!