Kellogg professor J. Keith Murnighan, my colleague and charming friend, has just published a lovely book called "Do Nothing." I first read the manuscript some months back (and thus could provide the praise you see on the cover) and I just spent a couple hours revisiting this gem.
This crazy book will bombard you with ideas that challenge your assumptions. His argument for doing nothing, for example, kicks-off the book. I was ready to argue with him because, even though I believe the best management is sometimes no management at all, I thought he was being too extreme. But as I read the pros and cons (Keith makes extreme statements, but his arguments are always balanced and evidenced-based), I became convinced that if more managers took this advice their organizations would more smoothly, their people would perform better (and learn more), and they would enjoy better work-life balance.
He convinced me that it this is such a useful half-truth (or perhaps three-quarters-truth) that every boss ought to try his litmus test: Go on vacation, leave your smart phone at home, and don't check or send any messages. Frankly, many bosses I know can't accomplish this for three hours (and I mean even during the hours they are supposed to be asleep), let alone for the three weeks he suggests. As Keith says, an interesting question is what is a scarier outcome from this experiment for most bosses: Discovering how MUCH or how LITTLE their people actually need them.
You will argue with and then have a tough time resisting Keith's logic, evidence, and delightful stories when it comes to his other bits of strange advice as well. I was especially taken with "start at the end," "trust more," "ignore performance goals," and "de-emphasize profits." Keith shows how the usual managerial approach of starting out relationships by mistrusting people and then slowly letting trust develop is not usually as beneficial as starting by assuming that others can be fully trusted until they prove otherwise. He will also show you how to make more money by thinking about money less!
As these bits suggest, Keith didn't write this book with the aim of telling most bosses what they wanted to hear. Rather his goal was to make readers think, to challenge their assumptions, and to show the way to becoming better managers by thinking and acting differently. In a world where we have thousands of business books published every year that all seem to say the same thing, I found Do Nothing delightful and refreshing -- not just because it is quirky and fun, but because Keith also shows managers how to try these crazy ideas in low-risk and sensible ways.
This isn't an original idea, but it has been gnawing at me lately. As we all know, unemployment in the U.S. remains frighteningly high -- and is worse in many parts of Europe. We still haven't really dug our way out of the meltdown. At the same time, the hours worked by Americans remain incredibly high. See this 2011 infographic on The Overworked American. About a third of Americans feel chronically overworked. And some 39% of us work more than 44 hours a week.
I was thinking of this because I did an interview for BBC about Google -- you can see the piece here. I think it is done well and quite balanced. It shows all those lovely things they do at Google to try to make it so good that you never want to go home -- the classes, the great food, the laundry service, the massages and so on. And I do believe from many conversations with senior Google executives over the years that they care deeply about their people's happiness and well-being and seem -- somehow -- to have sustained a no asshole culture even at 32,000 people strong. That "don't be evil" motto isn't bullshit, they still mean it and still try to live it.
But as I said in the BBC piece, although they are more caring than many of their competitors, the result is that many great tech firms including Google border on what sociologist Erving Goffman called "total institutions." Examples of total institutions are prisons, mental institutions, the military (at least the boot camp part) -- places where members spend 100% of the time. The result is that, especially here in Silicon Valley, the notion of work-life balance is pure fiction most of the time (Sheryl Sandberg may go home at 530 every day, but the folks at Facebook did an all-night hack-a-thon right before the IPO. I love the folks at Facebook, especially their curious and deeply skilled engineers, but think of the message it sends about the definition of a good citizen in that culture).
To return to Google, about five years ago, one of the smartest and most charming students I ever worked with had job offers from two very demanding places: Google and McKinsey. Now, as most of you know, people work like dogs at McKinsey too. But this student decided to take the job at McKinsey because "My girlfriend doesn't work at Google, so if I take that job, I will never see her." He took the McKinsey job because at least that way he would see her on weekends. I am pleased to report that I recently learned that they are engaged, so I guess it was the right choice.
Note I am not blaming the leaders at Google, Facebook, or the other firms that expect very long hours out of their people. It is a sick norm that seems to keep getting stronger and seems to be shared by everyone around here -- indeed, my students tell me that they wouldn't want to work at a big tech firm or a start-up where people worked 40 hours a week because it would mean they were a bunch of lazy losers! I also know plenty of hardcore programmers who love nothing more than spending one long late night after another cranking out beautiful code.
Yet, I do wonder if, as a society, given the blend of the damage done by overwork to mental and physical health and to families, and given that so many people need work, if something can be done to cut back on the hours and to create more jobs. There are few companies that are trying programs (Check out the "lattice" approach at Deloitte). But it seems to me that we would all be better off if those of us with jobs cut back on our hours, took a bit less pay, and the slack could be used to provide the dignity and income that comes with work to all those people who need it so badly.
I know my dream is somewhat naive, and that adding more people creates a host of problems ranging from higher health care costs to the challenges of coordinating bigger groups. But in the coming decades, it strikes me as something we might work together to achieve. There are so many workplaces that have become just awful places because of such pressures to work longer and longer hours: large law firms are perfect example, they have become horrible places to work for lawyers at all levels. There is lots of talk of reform, but they seem to be getting worse and worse as the race for ever increasing billed hours and profits-per-partner gets worse every year. And frankly when I see what it takes to get tenure for an assistant professor at a place like Stanford, we are essentially expecting our junior faculty to work Google-like hours for at least seven years if they wish to be promoted, I realize I too am helping to perpetuate a similar system.
I would also note this is not just a "woman's issue." Or even a matter of structuring work so that both men and women can be around to raise their kids, as it sometimes is described. Sure, that is part of it. But I think that everyone could benefit from a change in such norms. Indeed, about five years ago, a managing partner of a large local law firm did a survey of attitudes toward part-time work and was surprised to learn that male associates who didn't have children were among the most enthusiastic supporters of part-time schedules. Interestingly, they were supportive partly because they couldn't use the "kid excuse" to cut back their hours and resented covering for colleagues who could and did leave work earlier and take days off to be with their children -- they resented having less socially acceptable reasons for cutting back days and hours.
What do you think? Is there any hope for change here? Or am I living in a fool's paradise?
The No Asshole Rule emphasizes that one of the best ways to avoid the negative effects of workplaces that will leave you feeling demeaned and de-energized is to carefully assess your boss and colleagues during the interview and recruitment process. Guy Kawasaki and I had fun with this challenge a few years back when we developed a list of 10 signs that your future boss is likely to be a bosshole. In this spirit, I got a remarkable note the other day from a fellow who used his job interview to determine that his future boss was likely to be an asshole. Note the often subtle signs he observed. This are his exact words, I just removed a couple key sentences (with his permission) to protect his identity:
Just wanted to thank you. I read your "no Asshole rule" book on the plane my way to an interview. I suspected from our initial phone interview that he could be a jerk. I decided to take a new approach to the interview...to see how he interacted with shop floor employees and people that worked directly for him, to see how he spoke to me, and his verbal and visual actions, to see if I wanted this position instead of trying to impress them so they want to hire me. I watched people that worked for him stand away from him when talking to him. I saw he never smiled, and no one smiled at him. He passed people on the line without so much as a nod to them. And to top it off, he cut me off TWICE when I was talking like I wasn't even speaking, and then once even rudely didn't even PRETEND to listen to me as I talked about my background. In fact, I believe he started looking around and saying "uh huh, uh huh, uh huh" rudely "rushing me along" about 15 seconds into my background discussion. To top it off, I remember you saying "assholes hire assholes", so I asked him if he had recommended the hiring of the people on his current team, and he boldly bragged "I hire EVERYONE on my team, it is all MY decision"...so I turned down the offer. I believe in my heart, I would have worked for an asshole. . And life is too short to do that again.
I find this guy to be very astute. What do you think of his analysis?
What are other signs that you look for that a future boss -- or colleague --is likely to be a certified asshole?
A pointer to this from Australian Chris Barry came in my email this morning. Here is what Ken Vail and his co-authors found:
Contemplating death doesn't necessarily lead to morose despondency, fear, aggression or other negative behaviors, as previous research has suggested. Following a review of dozens of studies, University of Missouri researchers found that thoughts of mortality can lead to decreased militaristic attitudes, better health decisions, increased altruism and helpfulness, and reduced divorce rates.
Some of the specific effects were quite interesting -- everything from being more peaceful and cooperative to exercising more and quitting smoking. I especially liked this study described in the summary in ScienceDaily:
Even subconscious awareness of death can more influenced behavior. In one experiment, passers-by who had recently overheard conversations mentioning the value of helping were more likely to help strangers if they were walking within sight of cemeteries.
The researchers suggest one reason for such effects (based on something called terror management theory) is that "people deal with their awareness of mortality by upholding cultural beliefs and seeking to become part of something larger and more enduring than themselves, such as nations or religions."
So that is my happy thought for the day: Think about your death, it is good for you and those around you!
P.S. Here is the source: "When Death is Good for Life: Considering the Positive Trajectories of Terror Management," published online on April 5, 2012, in Personality and Social Psychology Review.
I sent out a tweet the other day about a study showing that men who score high on a narcissism test appear to experience more stress than those who score low (but not narcissistic women). Stress was measured by "cortisol levels," a hormone that "signals the level of activation of the body’s key stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis."
You can see a report about study here. I thought the most interesting part was the link to the 40 item Narcissistic Personality Quiz, which is based on the measure in this paper: Raskin, R. & Terry, H. (1988). A Principal-Components Analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and Further Evidence of Its Construct Validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(5). Note that Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is one of the best and most rigorous psychology journals, so the source is excellent.
Try taking the quiz. I just did and scored an "8,' which suggests a low level of narcissism. I confess, however, that I am wondering if my low score was a reflection of my lack of narcissism or of my knowledge of the narcissism literature in concert with a bit of self-delusion. I also confess that I completed it a second time as if I were one especially narcissistic boss that I once worked with. That boss (in my opinion) earns a 32 -- a very high score as above 20 indicates narcissism. The quiz omits one thing this person did which indicates narcissism: It was amazing how, no matter what the topic, how within 3 minutes, every conversation with that boss always became conversation about what a successful and impressive person he was and all the people who admired him and his work.
If you really are the mood for self-assessment, you can take both this quiz and the (less scientific) Asshole Rating Self-Exam or ARSE. That way you can find out if you are a narcissist, a certified asshole, or both!
As I was reading research this morning for our scaling project, I came across a series of studies that has implications for both politicians and -- perhaps organizational leaders --- who wish to persuade others to like and support them. The question tackled by these studies in paper by Hakkyun Kim and his colleagues in the Journal of Consumer Research was when "influencers" are better of using vague, abstract high level messages -- ones that are more about "why" -- versus concrete, specific, implementation oriented messages -- ones that are "how" to get things done.
Their general hypothesis was that, given the way that people "represent" events in their minds, vague and abstract messages fit with their attention and expectations when the event is far in the future, but as the event draws closer, they become more concerned about concrete details as the practicalities begin to loom. Here is part of their argument:
For instance, a traveler preparing to leave for a vacation to Cancun the following morning is more likely to process information about speedy check-in for international flights – a low-level, concrete piece of information that is related to the feasibility of the vacation, as opposed to information about the quality of sunsets on the East Coast of Mexico – a high-level, abstract piece of information that is related to the desirability of the vacation. When processing information that does not match their mental representation, people are less likely to experience fluency, and thus may provide a less positive evaluation of the event.
They used this kind of logic to design a series of laboratory experiments where subjects were exposed to vague versus concrete messages from hypothetical U.S. Senate candidates and asked them to evaluate how positively or negatively they viewed the candidate. The key manipulation was whether the election was far off (six months away) or looming soon (one week). As predicted, abstract messages were more persuasive (and promoted more liking) when the election was six months away and concrete message were more persuasive when it was one week away.
This study has some fun implications for the upcoming elections. Let's watch Obama and Romney to see if they keep things vague and abstract until the final weeks of the campaign, but then turn specific in the final weeks. But I think it also has some interesting implications for how leaders can persuade people in their organizations to join organizational change efforts. The implication is that when the change is far off, it is not a good idea to talk about he nuts and bolts very much -- a focus on abstract "why" questions is in order. But as the change looms, specific details that help people predict and control what happens to them are crucial to keeping attitudes toward the change and leaders positive.
This is just a hypothesis based on this research. Laboratory subjects and the strangeness of political campaigns may not generalize to organizational settings, but it seems like a plausible hypothesis. Now I am going to start looking at some cases of organizational change to see if it actually seems to work.
Any reactions to the hypothesis or suggestions of cases to check out?
P.S. Here is the reference: Kim, Hakkyun, Akshay R. Rao, and Angela Y. Lee (2009), "It's Time to Vote: The Effect of Matching Message Orientation and Temporal Frame on Political Persuasion," lead article, Journal of Consumer Research, 35 (April), 877-889.
The depths of societies ingrained sexism -- and the degree to which successful women understand it is a fact of life that requires constant vigalance and adjustment -- never ceases to amaze and trouble me. A new study in the Administrative Science Quarterly (Volume 56, pages 622-641) by Yale faculty member Victoria L. Brescoll presents a trio of studies that examine gender, power, and volubility (talking time). The headline above contains the upshot. Here are some details:
1. In a study of United States senators (using data from 2005 and 2007), more powerful male senators talked quite a bit more on the senate floor than less powerful male senators. But there were no significant differences between how much powerful female senators talked compared to less powerful female senators.
2. This finding was replicated in a controlled experiment -- again, more powerful men talked more, more powerful women didn't. Additional analyses suggested that powerful women hesitated to talk more because they were concerned about "potential backlash," that they would be seen as less likable, "out of line," domineering, too controlling, would lose power, and be less effective.
3. These fears of backlash were confirmed in a third study. The basic set-up was that research subjects were asked to assess hypothetical male and female CEO candidates --one who tends to express opinions in meetings and the other who tends to keep opinions to him/herself. The effects -- the ratings by both male and female subjects -- were troubling. The talkative male CEO candidate was rated as more suitable for leadership than the less talkative one on measures including whether or not the person should be hired, is entitled to power, and competence. BUT for the female CEO, the exact opposite pattern was seen. The female CEO candidate who withheld their opinions were rated more highly than the female candidate who tended to express their opinions.
Pretty disturbing, huh? But it does show that the paths to power for women and men are quite different. The blabber mouth approach works for guys, but backfires on women.
The question is -- what can be done about this problem? Certainly a bit of self-awareness is in order, but I do wonder if there are ways to dampen or reverse these effects by developing organizational cultures -- through employee selection, socialization, rewards, and punishments -- in the right way. There are some organizations I work with where more talkative and opinionated women do seem to get ahead, and others where the women who get ahead learn to talk less.
In any event, powerful women are often quite adept at finding ways to press their opinions without increasing their talking time. One trick I have seen is that they feed their opinions and evidence to talkative male colleagues "backstage" and convince these guys to present such opinions and evidence as their own in meetings.
Even though it has been five years since The No Asshole Rule was published in hardback, I still get 15 or 20 emails a week about issues pertinent to the book -- descriptions of workplace tyrants and creeps, on how to avoid breeding them, and on what to do about them when you work with one -- or a lot of them.
This blog would contain nothing but "asshole stories" and I would be posting a couple times a day if I reported them all. Clearly, that would be both boring and depressing. And I am interested in other things. But every now and and then, I get one that is so well-crafted that I feel compelled to post it. I got a great one yesterday.
I don't want to put the whole email here both because it is so detailed and because I don't want to reveal any names. But the fellow who wrote this had quite an experience and did a great job of describing how he fought back. Here are some key excerpts (with some deletions to obscure identities):
His note starts:
I just finished reading The No A$$hole rule for a second time (I use $ instead of "s" just in case your email filters emails with the word "A$$hole," though I'd bet it does not. I'm just airing on the side of caution). Here is my reaction. Feel free to use my full name and any contents of this email in any of your published works. Back in 2005, I began my second job out of college working as a project manager at a marketing company. It was, and still is, a family business consisting of about 100 total employees. Here is a snippet what I endured, for nearly 7 years, from the A$$hole Family.
This is a partial list of behaviors in the cesspool where he worked:
If I was eating something, a bag of potato chips for example, the President would walk into my cubicle, stick his hands in the bag, then look at me and say, "Can I have some?"
Someone would walk into my cubicle and have a conversation with the person in the cube across from me...while I was on the phone!
A coworker of mine made a mistake on a project, so the VP of Sales sent the client an email, copying my boss, which said something to the effect of, "I just fired ____. This mistake was completely unacceptable, and please accept my apology. We don't tolerate people like that here..." Ironically enough, it was a lie; ____ was never fired, but just moved off the account.
The family members would routinely yell across the entire office to one another
I was having a meeting with a vendor in a conference room. The door was shut. The Sales Consultant walked in, sans knocking, and proceeded to say, "I need this room" and set her things on the conference table. And no, she had not reserved the conference room; reserving a conference room in this company was far-too-advanced of an idea.
[A married couple] who also worked at the A$$hole company were going through a divorce. They routinely had shouting and yelling matches, followed by slamming drawers, desks, and just about anything else that could make a loud noise and disrupt everyone in the office.
[One family member] often spoke to me like I was a 5-year old child (she did the same to most underlings, especially the men), and always loudly enough so everyone in the surrounding area could hear that I was being thrown under the bus. She liked to make an example of her victims. Oddly enough, she apparently has a Psychology degree (No offense to you at all, Dr. Sutton).
[Another executive] was famous for bullying vendors, yelling at them on the phone, slamming desks and drawers, etc.. He would also do this by using his blue-tooth ear-piece and his cell phone as he walked around the office, yelling on the phone.
They hired another A$$hole (You wrote that A$$holes tend to hire other A$$holes). He was most lethal behind a computer, where he would send scathing emails to co-workers. However, he would not limit his exchanges to emails, as my colleague would often complain that he said things—NOT in private—like, "If you think you need a raise, then maybe you should quit and get another job."
I literally witnessed my manager turn into an A$$hole overtime due to over-exposure to the A$$hole Family. In the beginning, he was an optimistic, friendly, driven, trustworthy manager. 6+ years later, he scowled and glared at co-workers; he became two-faced; I lost trust in him.
I love this summary, it is sad but funny at the same time:
There is such an infestation of A$$holes at this company that someone should tent the building and spray it with A$$hole insecticide. I could go on for pages about these stories. I wish I had documented more of them, because some of them were really funny.
Then, he tells us how he too started catching the sickness -- as I have written here many times, bad behavior is contagious. Thank goodness, he and his colleagues hatched exit plans:
After working there for a year, I realized that I was turning into an A$$hole: I was losing my temper with vendors on the phone; my stress-level was getting too high to manage; and I started to send more scathing emails. It also started to affect my personal life, as I would come home from work and lose my temper with my partner for no reason. I then realized that I needed to get out. Nothing I could do would help me manage this job long-term. So, 3 of my colleagues and I all made a pact to get new jobs as quickly as possible.
Finally, I was especially taken with his description of the things he did to cope with the infestation of assholes around him, many are consistent with my survival tips, others are new twists and turns. Here is most of his list:
I confronted [a boss] about him throwing me under the bus. I explained to him that after throwing me under the bus, I become anxious, nervous, embarrassed, and I cannot concentrate, which greater increases my chances for making mistakes. My solution was to instead speak to me in private about a way that we can work together to reduce any mistakes and increase productivity for our whole department. He never threw me under the bus again (to my face, anyway), but he never took me up on the offer to speak with me about how to help improve my job performance, as well as my co-workers.
Wrote in my daily journal (this was a tremendous small win; I could vent my frustrations and focus on my strategy to get out of the A$$hole Factory. I still write in my journal)
Using any downtime at work to apply for other jobs
Using the "I have a doctor's appointment" excuse to go on job interviews
The President/CEO ran for a political post. I voted for the other guy.
Working as hard as possible at my job, so that when I left, it would be difficult to replace me
Wear headphones to drown out the A$$holes yelling across the office at one another
Piled things like my briefcase and books near the entrance to my cubicle so A$$holes could not enter un-invited
Deleted scathing emails and never responding to them instead of responding and escalating into email World War III
Gave 2 weeks notice: No more, no less
Again, I don't usually provide so much detail, but this fellow did such a brilliant job of showing what an asshole infested workplace looks and feels like, the negative effects it has on everyone in its grips, and of listing the little and big things he did to cope with it. And, thank goodness, he realized he needed to escape and eventually got out -- while protecting himself along the way.
I won't name him (even though he said it was OK, I think a bit of discretion is in order). But I do want to thank this anonymous reader for taking the time to write me such a long note and for doing it so well.
For better and worse, one of the most well-established studies in the behavioral sciences is that we human-beings tend to have inflated and often wildly inaccurate evaluations of our skills and actions -- this is sometimes called self-enhancement bias. I have written about this here before, in discussing David Dunning's book Self-Insight, which shows that this tendency for self-delusion is especially pronounced in areas where we are most incompetent! As I wrote then (and dug into inGood Boss, Bad Boss to explain why self-awareness is so difficult for leaders -- especially bad leaders):
In a survey of thousands of high school seniors ,70% of respondents rated their leadership ability as above average while only 2% rated their leadership ability as below average, and -- turning to my own profession -- 94% of college professors say they do above average work.
The pile of evidence for self-enhancement bias grew a bit lately, with a new study on tailgating. As USA Today tells us:
Michelin is putting out a little research that shows that 74% of drivers say someone tailgated them in the past six months. But only 11% admit to having tailgated someone else.
The lesson from all this is if you think that problems are always caused by other people around you and are rarely if ever to blame, well, that might be good for protecting your tender ego, but it is a lousy mindset for identifying and repairing your flaws!
P.S. The picture of of a billboard in Colorado. Good fun.
That is the final exam question that I've been using for about a decade in my graduate class "Organizational Behavior:An Evidence-Based Approach" in our Department of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford. Students get 3000 words to answer the question. I put in on the course outline so they can see it the first day of class. I do so because I want propsective students to decide if they can deal with a class with so much ambiguity and pressure to write well and because I want students to start thinking about their paper from the first day of class. I encourage and reward them for being as creative as possible, while at the same time, weaving together concepts related to major themes in the class such as leadership, employee selection and socialization, motivation and rewards, interpersonal influence, group dynamics, organizational change, innovation, and organizational culture.
As I tell the students, this is a really hard question. In fact, so hard, it is difficult for me to answer even after studying the topic for over 30 years. I guess I did answer it in at least one of my books, The No Asshole Rule, although that was a lot longer than 3000 words. After a decade or so, I have read about 1000 answers to this question. Every year, I go through the same process with it. About a week before the papers are due, I start having second thoughts about it as I talk to the students about their struggles with answering such an open-ended question. After all, this is the Stanford Engineering School, and while some our students write beautifully, for many others, this is the first time they have faced such an open-ended writing assignment. Then, the same thing happens every year. The pile of papers come in, I start reading them, and I am delighted with the overall quality and dazzled by the best papers -- and pleased by the creativity and even joy the students so many students convey.
The range and quality of the papers was especially striking this year. I believe it was largely because my two course assistants, Belinda Chiang and Isaac Waisberg , did such a great job of giving students feedback during the five writing assignments that led up to the final. I won't list all the titles and themes of the 84 papers we received. Quite a few were variations of web-based start-ups, as there is a lot of that at Stanford, especially in the School of Engineering.
But here are some of the most intriguing ones:
A nationwide professional wrestling company that "empowers its wrestlers to create quality shows and programming."
"The Ministry of Love," a government agency on the imaginary planet of "Natan" that has a population of 3 million people and a declining fertility rate. The mission of the ministry to increase the birth rate via love. The key roles are "Venuses" who develop ideas and "Cupids" who implement those ideas.
An ideal organization for a high school "Queen Bee" who "rules the hallways with a fist full of Prada and enough hairspray to glue flies to the walls."
A non-profit hospice, that nurtures employees "while they deal with the emotions of death on a daily basis."
Heaven. Yes, that heaven -- where management has two goals 1. provide people with an afterlife fair to their conduct before death and 2. Encourage people to do good on earth.
"The Ideal NBA Franchise: Transforming the Golden State Warriors into Champions." This is a tough job as our local basketball team is a perennial loser.
Revamping the The National Kidney Foundation of Singapore
"Mystical Weddings," a wedding planning agency located in India.
The ideal organization for a family. This was written by a student who had been a dad for just two weeks. He was suffering sleep deprivation and other stresses and decided to imagine a better solution. It was touching and made lovely use of course concepts -- incentives, influence, and group norms, for example.
Finally, the most outrageous and one of the best papers in terms of writing and application of course concepts (written by a female student) was: "Living the dream -- would you like to to be the third wife of Tom Brady? A blueprint for the polygynous family." I never heard of the word "polygynous." It means polygamous -- one husband, multiple wives, the Big Love thing.
As I said, although I was tempted to abandon this assignment yet again this year, when I read the papers, I was -- as usual -- struck by how well the best students apply the theory, evidence, and cases from the course in brilliant ways that I could never possibly imagine. Also, the assignment reveals students who can define but not really apply concepts, as well as those rare students who haven't learned much course content.
I am wondering however, if I should open it up next year so that students can produce something other than a paper that uses course concepts to design the ideal organization. Perhaps they could do a film, a presentation, or design a game that answers the question in some compelling way. For the most ambitious students, given the entrepreneurial frenzy at Stanford, perhaps taking steps to start your own ideal organization (and telling me what you've learned) might satisfy the requirement as well. I am not sure if this is a good idea as it is hard to beat good old fashioned writing. But I am toying with it.
Last year, I wrote a post about how Justin Snider, who teaches education at Columbia, asserted that "the best principals are PRESENT, constantly interacting with teachers, students, and parents." I was especially interested in his comment about an intriguing if rough measure of how well a principal is doing the presence thing:
"[A] great back-of-the-envelope measure of whether a principal is generally doing a good job is how many students' names he or she knows. In my experience, there's a strong correlation between principals who know almost all students by name and those who are respected (and seen as effective) by students, parents and teachers."
I thought of Jason's assertions about the power of presence after getting this depressing email from a middle school teacher about her horrible principal. This boss defines lack of presence. I have reprinted most of the story below in this teacher's words, as I found it most compelling. But note the key point: "She never comes out of her office, and never spends time in the building, seeing how it functions. I can literally go weeks without catching sight of her." Scary, huh?
Please read the rest. If you are a boss, you might use this description as a bit of a self-test. Do you do this kind of stuff? Is this how the people you lead see you?
Also, this teacher is asking for advice about how to deal with this situation. What would you suggest?
Here is her story. Note she has taught at this school for over a decade:
I teach at a middle school. We have had a superintendent for five years. He’s no good, but largely did not touch the staff at my school because we had an excellent principal who did as you suggest – she insulated us from nonsense from above her. When she left for greener pastures, our super installed our current principal. (No interview process, no panel discussion. Hooray!) She’s probably a nice lady: shy, socially awkward, and apparently a “yes-man” for upper management. She reads books about “ideal” middle schools and then plans how to make ours match her vision. Alas, her vision after the first nine months was to transfer numerous successful people out of our building. She then changed the schedule, the teams, the grades we are teaching – essentially, she disassembled the school and rebuilt it from the ground up.
She never comes out of her office, and never spends time in the building, seeing how it functions. I can literally go weeks without catching sight of her – this in a smallish middle school of 540 kids and maybe 45 staff. She’s never taught above grade five, and we work with hormonal 7th and 8th graders. She is very uncomfortable talking to more than one person at a time, so doesn’t get “into it” at staff meetings with us. She has essentially disbanded team leaders, which was the democratic body in our school that used to hash out ideas and plan new strategies, with staff input. She has no one with feet on the ground feeding her information - consequently, her “ideal” visions and new structures are theoretical only – they are never held up to the light for discussion or dissection, to see if they’re workable or not.
One example: we no longer retain students who flunk more than two major classes in grades 7 or 8. Her rule. No staff input. Something about self-esteem? We’re not really sure – she’s never officially discussed or even informed us of this policy change. We have heard it through the grapevine. Meanwhile... A student of mine who flunked third quarter was informed by her that he can’t stay back no matter how little work he does for the rest of the year. Now, Bob, you’re not officially an educator – but imagine being a lazy 14-year-old boy and being told there will be no consequences for lack of effort in school. How much time are you going to spend studying or working on homework from April through June?
We, her staff, have seen the ebb and flow of parent concerns, scheduling glitches, social promotion, and poorly-constructed teams. We are long-term and short-term experts in our fields, with decades of experience among us. She doesn’t ask for our input in how to implement plans – and many of hers hit the ground like lead weights. People have tried to approach her in a variety of ways, but it’s clear from her reaction to us that any disagreement is seen as a dire threat to her. She has no confidence, and completely shuts down if she proposes an idea and the staff offers logistical questions or pushback. We literally do not know how to talk to her about what is not working, because she is so hypersensitive and easily flummoxed that we fear she can’t process it – and we fear more greatly that she will try to “get us” for expressing concerns.
We live in such a well of fear and distrust now, it’s hard for us to function. New superintendent is coming in July. We are crossing our fingers. In the meantime, I guess I’m hoping you’ll have some advice. What can underlings do to salvage things when the boss is fully incompetent to do the job – and is bringing the walls down around her as she pursues her incompetence?
What do you think? Any advice for this teacher other than to lay low and hope that her crummy boss gets canned by the new superintendent?
Tomorrow morning, Fortune's Adam Lashinsky and I are going to spend an hour at The Churchill Club talking about Apple and what other organizations and leaders can (and cannot) learn from the world's most (economically) valuable company. If you want to attend, I think you can tickets here still available and I understand they are filming our discussion (I will let you know how to see the video when I find out).
Part of me believes that Apple and Jobs have much to teach other companies and leaders. But, as I wrote in the new chapter in the Good Boss, Bad Boss paperback, part of me is starting to wonder if what each of us "learns" from Steve Jobs amazing life reveals more about our inner selves -- our personalities, preferences, and personal experiences -- than anything else. Below is the excerpt from Good Boss, Bad Boss where I toy with this argument (I edited it slightly because one sentence doesn't make sense unless you read the whole chapter).
I am writing this epilogue in December 2011, two months after the death of Steve Jobs, the most talked-about boss and innovator of our time. Like many others, I found Jobs’s great strengths, startling weaknesses, and bizarre quirks to be fascinating. For example, I wrote about him in The No Asshole Rule (in the chapter on “The Virtues of Assholes”). Even though Jobs’s nastiness was well documented before Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography was published, I was a bit shocked by tidbits in the book. As his death loomed, Jobs ran through sixty-seven nurses before finding three he liked. Still, there is no denying Jobs’s genius. Even though I would not have wanted to work for him, his design sensibilities, his ability to build great teams, and (in his later years) the way he structured a large organization that moved at the speed of a small one are admirable.
Recently, however, I had two experiences that led me to believe it is difficult for bosses who want to improve their craft to learn from Steve Jobs. The first came after I had taught a two-hour session on innovation to forty CEOs of midsized Chinese companies. None spoke English and I don’t speak Mandarin, so there was a translator to enable communication. I put up a few Steve Job quotes and had fun figuring out that thirty-eight of the forty CEOs had iPhones. During the question-and-answer period, they seemed obsessed with Jobs.
The most interesting thing happened, however, after I ended the session. As I left, one CEO grabbed the microphone and started hollering into it, and as I walked outside for another meeting, they were yelling at each other. The translator told me they were arguing over whether Jobs was an asshole and whether they should emulate such behavior to be better bosses. When I came back thirty minutes later, the translators ran up to me— laughing—because those CEOs were still arguing over the same thing.
As I was driving home, I started thinking that Steve Jobs (or at least the idea of Steve Jobs) was so vivid, so complicated, and so idolized that for those CEOs, he was like an inkblot test: they projected their inner beliefs, values, desires, and justifications for their behavior onto him. The conversation was sparked by Jobs, but the content had little or nothing to do with what Jobs was like in life or in the lessons he could teach those CEOs.
Then, a couple weeks later, I went to a party and talked with two people who worked closely with Jobs for years. They started pretty much the same argument that those Chinese executives had. Although one asserted the good deeds Jobs had done weren’t emphasized enough in media reports or the Isaacson biography, they nonetheless started arguing (and people who hadn’t worked for Jobs jumped in) about whether Jobs’s success meant it was wise or acceptable to be a jerk and when it was worth tolerating an asshole boss. As I listened, I believed once again that the idea of Steve Jobs was prompting people to make sense of and justify their behavior, personal values, and pet theories.
So I raised my hypothesis: that people couldn’t learn much from Jobs. That he was so hyped, so complex, and apparently inconsistent that the “lessons” they derived from him where really more about who they were and hoped to be than about Jobs himself. The two people who worked closely with him agreed. And one added another reason why Jobs was and is a bad role model for bosses: Steve had such a weird and rare brain that it simply isn’t possible for another human being to copy him anyway!
I am curious, what do you think? As I re-read this, part of me still believes the argument above and part of me still believes that, well, every boss and innovator can learn something from him (despite the biases we all bring to the table). I also find it easier to think about Apple and its organization and management in a detached way than about Jobs -- perhaps because an organization, even Apple, could never have a personality and presence as vivid and intriguing as Mr. Jobs had.
P.S. The event at the Churchill Club was really fun, in part, because Adam and I didn't fully agree with each other. I especially disagreed with his arguments that Apple was unique in terms of its structure (especially how centralized it is for its size). We agreed on most things. But we had more fun and learned more -- and I think the audience did too -- because we pushed each other to refine or logic and examples. He is a smart and charming guy.
I was thinking back to some of the experiences I had over the last few weeks teaching classes to both Stanford students and executives, and watching some of my fellow teachers and colleagues in action. I realized that one of the hallmarks, one of the little signs I have learned to look for, is whether people are standing-up or sitting down. We all learn in school that being a "good student" means that we ought to stay in our seats and be good listeners. But I kept seeing situations where standing-up was a sign of active learning and leadership. To give you a a few examples, I noticed that when my course assistants stood up and walked around the classroom, they were more likely to be engaged by students and to create enthusiasm and energy. I noticed that student teams in my classes that stood-up when brainstorming, prototyping, or arguing over ideas seemed more energetic and engaged.
And I noticed when watching master innovation teacher and coach Perry Klebahn in action at the Stanford d. School that he hardly ever sits down for long, he is always on the prowl, walking over to members of his team to ask how things are going, to give a bit of advice, and to find out what needs to be fixed -- and is constantly walking over to to watch teams of students or executives who are working on creative tasks to see if they need a bit advice, coaching, or a gentle kick in the ass to get unstuck. (In fact, that is Perry listening to David Kelley while they were coaching teams -- David is the d schools main founder).
Of course, there are times when sitting down is best: During long meetings, when you want to unwind, when relaxed contemplation is in order. But these thoughts inspired a couple questions that many of us -- including me -- need to ask ourselves about the groups we work in and lead: Would it help if I stood up? Would it help if we all stood up?
This all reminded me of this passage from Good Boss, Bad Boss (from the chapter on how the best bosses "Serve as a Human Shield"):
In Praise of Stand-Up Meetings
I’ve been fascinated by stand-up meetings for years. It started when Jeff Pfeffer and I were writing Hard Facts, our book on evidence-based management. We often met in Jeff’s lovely house, typically starting-out in his kitchen. But we usually ended-up in Jeff’s spacious study -- where we both stood, or more often, Jeff sat on the lone chair, and I stood. Meetings in his study were productive but rarely lasted long. There was no place for me sit and the discomfort soon drove me out the door (or at least back to the kitchen). We wondered if there was research on stand-up meetings, and to our delight, we found an experiment comparing decisions made by 56 groups where people stood-up during meetings to 55 groups where people sat down. These were short meetings, in the 10 to 20 minute range, but the researchers found big differences. Groups that stood-up took 34% less time to make the assigned decision, and there were no significant differences in decision quality between stand-up and sit-down groups.
Stand-up meetings aren’t just praised in cute academic studies. Robert Townsend advised in Up the Organization, “Some meetings should be mercifully brief. A good way to handle the latter is to hold the meeting with everyone standing-up. The meetees won’t believe you at first. Then they get very uncomfortable and can hardly wait to get the meeting over with.”
I keep finding good bosses who use stand-up meetings to speed things along. One is David Darragh, CEO of Reily, a New Orleans-based company that specializes in southern foods and drinks. They produce and market dozens of products such as Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili, CDM Coffee and Chicory, No Pudge Fat Free Brownie Mix, and Luzianne Tea. David and I were having a rollicking conversation about how he works with his team. I started interrogating closely after he mentioned the 15 minute stand-up meeting held in his office four mornings a week. We since exchanged a series of emails about these meetings. As David explains:
“The importance of the stand-up meeting is that it can be accomplished efficiently and, therefore, with greater frequency. Like many areas of discipline, repetition begets improved results. The same is true with meetings. The rhythm that frequency generates allows relationships to develop, personal ticks to be understood, stressors to be identified, personal strengths and weaknesses to be put out in the light of day, etc. The role of stand-up meetings is not to work on strategic issues or even to resolve an immediate issue. The role is to bubble up the issues of the day and to identify the ones that need to be worked outside the meeting and agree on a steward to be responsible for it. With frequent, crisp stand up meetings, there can never be the excuse that the opportunity to communicate was not there. We insist that bad news travels just as fast as good news”
The team also has a 90 minute sit-down meeting each week, where they dig into more strategic issues. But the quick daily meetings keep the team connected, allow them to spot small problems before they become big ones, and facilitate quick and effective action.
Stand-up meetings aren’t right for every meeting or boss. As we saw in the last chapter in the broken Timbuk2 all-hands meeting, part of the problem with that 45 or so minute gathering was there was no place for most people to sit, which fueled the group’s grumpiness and impatience. The key lesson is that the best bosses constantly look for little ways to use everyone’s time and energy more efficiently and respectfully. They keep unearthing traditions, procedures, or other things that needlessly slow people down. In many cases, these speed bumps have been around so long that people don’t even realize they exist or that they do more harm than good. Try to look at what you and your people do through fresh eyes. Bring in someone who “doesn’t know any better,” and ask them: What can I do to help my people travel through the day with fewer hassles?
What do you think? How does standing-up help in what you do? When is it a bad idea?
P.S. Check out this Wall Street Journal article on stand-up meetings as part of the "Agile" software development process, particularly the "daily scrum."
P.P.S. Don't miss Jason Yip's article on how to run a stand-up meeting and how to tell when it isn't going well.
This isn't the first time I have written a post like this, but the experience a No Asshole Rule fan had with Amazon today reminded me of how weird their policies are around the book's title. In short, if you write a review of the book, and you use the word "asshole, they not only reject it, they won't let you edit it or submit another review. Over the years, at least ten people who have written submitted positive reviews have written me to complain about this problem (I suspect people who have written negative reviews have the same problem, but they don't write me).
I got a new one today from Bill. There isn't much hope of changing the policy: I've tried and so has my publisher. Bill, we will try again but will probably fail. But I do appreciate all the effort you took to write such a nice and detailed review even if Amazon won't print it.
Also, to all readers, note Bill only used the word "Asshole" once, at the very end,when he mentioned the book's title. But that was enough for Amazon's automated screening to kill the review and freeze him out from repairing it or submitting another one!
This review is from: The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't (Paperback)
Through eight years of higher education, and 20-odd years in the work-force, this book is the most important, eye-opening, business self-help book I have ever read; it literally changed my way of thinking about myself as a professional, and my functioning as an employee. I have recommended it to hundreds of college students and dozens of colleagues and friends. I have lent it to and bought it for people who needed protection from JERKS in their own places of work, and I have given it as a gift to people whom I could see had the potential to become JERK bosses - as an inoculation, if you will.
In all my years of gainful employment, I had never spent more than 3 years at any one job, picking up and leaving each time because of the JERKS (or so I thought) to whom I had to answer and with whom I had to contend. Repeatedly, I found myself saying, "I will not be associated with him/her," and then I picked up my family and moved to a new city and a new job, where I kept finding the same problems - JERKS were everywhere!
I listened to this book on CD (a good recording by actor Kerin McCue) and then read the print version after having separated from my last place of work in the industry in which I had intended to make my entire career. Filled with anger and bitterness at having been treated poorly, bullied, and abruptly canned after seven months of my new three-year contract in my new city, Professor Sutton's book finally helped me to recognize my own role in all of this - I had never learned how to deal with JERKS, and I didn't recognize how much power I was letting them have over me (and therefore my family, as well).
Since experiencing the revelations this book offered, I have launched a new career in a different, but related, industry, and I am once again climbing the corporate ladder in a company for which I have now been working for five years and going strong. I am much happier and more relaxed as a professional than ever before. I still have to contend with JERKS, but they do not bother me anymore. I have come to realize that their being horrible human beings has nothing to do with me, and they would be horrible to anyone else, as well, which is where I am now able to step in and offer support and perspective to others.
I only wish this book had been written and published two years earlier! If it had, I would still be earning twice the money I am now. Nevertheless, The No Asshole Rule helped me to understand myself and my career, and laid the groundwork for my current and future success.
I was talking with a journalist from Men's Health today about how bosses can become more aware of how they act and are seen by the people they lead, and how so many bosses (like most human-beings) can be clueless of how they come across to others. This reminded of a method I used some years back with one boss that proved pretty effective for helping him come to grips with his overbearing and "all transmission, no reception" style; here is how it is described inGood Boss, Bad Boss:
A few years ago, I did a workshop with a management team that was suffering from “group dynamics problems.” In particular, team members felt their boss, a senior vice-president, was overbearing, listened poorly, and routinely “ran over” others. The VP denied all this and called his people “thin-skinned wimps.”
I asked the team – the boss and five direct reports -- to do a variation of an exercise I’ve used in the classroom for years. They spent about 20 minutes brainstorming ideas about products their business might bring to market; they then spent 10 minutes narrowing their choices to just three: The most feasible, wildest, and most likely to fail. But as the group brainstormed and made these decisions, I didn’t pay attention to the content of their ideas. Instead, I worked with a couple others from the company to make rough counts of the number of comments made by each member, the number of times each interrupted other members, and the number of times each was interrupted. During this short exercise, the VP made about 65% of the comments, interrupted others at least 20 times, and was never interrupted once. I then had the VP leave the room after the exercise and asked his five underlings to estimate the results; their recollections were quite accurate, especially about their boss’s stifling actions. When we brought the VP back in, he recalled making about 25% of the comments, interrupting others two or three times, and being interrupted three or four times. When we gave the boss the results, and told him that his direct reports made far more accurate estimates, he was flabbergasted and a bit pissed-off at everyone in the room.
As this VP discovered, being a boss is much like being a high status primate in any group: The creatures beneath you in the pecking order watch every move you make – and so they know a lot more about you than you know about them.
My colleague Huggy Rao has a related test he uses to determine if a boss is leading in ways that enables him or her to stay in tune with others. In addition to how much the boss talks, Huggy counts the proportion of statements the boss makes versus the number of questions asked. "Transmit only bosses" make lots of statements and assertions and ask few questions.
What do you think of these assessment methods? What other methods have you used to determine how self-aware and sensitive you are other bosses are -- and to makes things better?
Fast Company has been reprinting excerpts from the new chapter in the Good Boss, Bad Boss paperback. The fifth and current piece'Why "Big Picture Only" Bosses Are The Worst'deals with a theme I have raised both here and at HBRbefore: My argument is that, although the distinction between "management" and "leadership" is probably accurate, the implicit or explicit status differences attached to these terms are destructive.
One of the worst effects is that too many "leaders" fancy themselves as grand strategists and visionaries and who are above the "little people" that are charged with refining and implementing those big and bold ideas. These exalted captains of industry develop the grand vision for the product, the film, the merger, or whatever -- and leave the implementation to others. This was one of Carly Fiorina's fatal flaws at HP: she loved speeches and grand gestures like the Compaq merger, but didn't have much patience for doing what was required for making things work. By contrast, this is the strength of Pixar leaders like Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, and Brad Bird. Yes, they have grand visions about the story and market for every film, but they sweat every detail of every frame and worry constantly about linking their big ideas to every little detail of their films.
As Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer show in their masterpiece The Progress Principle, the best creative work depends on getting the little things right. James March, perhaps the most prestigious living organizational theorist, frames all this in an interesting way, arguing that the effectiveness of organizations depends at least as much on the competent performance of ordinary bureaucrats and technicians who do their jobs well (or badly) day in and day out as on the bold moves and grand rhetoric of people at the top of the pecking order. To paraphrase March, organizations need both poets and plumbers, and the plumbing is always crucial to organizational performance. (See this long interview for a nice summary of March's views).
To be clear, I am not rejecting the value of leadership, grand visions, and superstars. But just as our country and the rest of the world is suffering from the huge gaps between the haves and have nots, too many organizations are doing damage by giving excessive credit, stature, and dollars to people with the big ideas and giving insufficient kudos, prestige, and pay to people who put their heads down and make sure that all the little things get done right.
Our exaggerated faith in heroes and the instant cures they so often promise has done a lot of damage to our society too -- not just to organizations. In this vein, I wrote a piece in BusinessWeek a few years back after re-reading The Peter Principle. I argued that the emphasis on dramatic and bold moves and superstars, and our loss of respect for the crucial role of ordinary competence, was likely an underlying cause of the 2008-2009 financial meltdown:
If Dr. Peter were alive today, he'd find that a new lust for superhuman accomplishments has helped create an almost unprecedented level of incompetence. The message has been this: Perform extraordinary feats, or consider yourself a loser.
We are now struggling to stay afloat in a river of snake oil created by this way of thinking. Many of us didn't want to see the lies, exaggerations, and arrogance that pumped up our portfolios. Instead we showered huge rewards on the false financial heroes who fed our delusions. This is the Bernie Madoff story, too. People may have suspected that something wasn't quite right about the huge returns on their investments with Madoff. But few wanted to look closely enough to see the Ponzi scheme.
I am not saying that we don't need heroes and visionaries. Rather, we need leaders who help us link big ideas to the little day to day accomplishments that turn dreams into realities. To paraphrase my friend Peter Sims, author of Little Bets, we need leaders who can weave together the "birds eye view," the big picture, with "the worm's eye view," the nuances and tiny little actions required to make bold ideas come to life.
Last April, I had fun writing a guest column for Cnn.Com arguing that having an occasional drink with your colleagues while you are at work isn't all bad:
In addition to its objective physiological effects, anthropologists have long noted that its presence serves as a signal in many societies that a "time-out" has begun, that people are released, at least to a degree, from their usual responsibilities and roles. Its mere presence in our cups signals we have permission to be our "authentic selves" and we are allowed -- at least to a degree -- to reveal personal information about ourselves and gossip about others -- because, after all, the booze loosened our tongues. When used in moderate doses and with proper precautions, participating in a collective round of drinking or two has a professional upside that ought to be acknowledged.
Now there is a new study that adds to the symbolic (and I suppose objective) power of alcohol to bring about positive effects. The folks over at BPS Research Digest offer a lovely summary of an experiment called "Uncorking the Muse" that shows "mild intoxication aids creative problem solving." The researchers had male subjects between the ages of 21 and 30 consume enough vodka to get their blood alcohol concentration to .07, which is about equal to consuming two pints of beer for an average sized man. Then they gave them a standard creativity task 'the "Remote Associates Test", a popular test of insightful thinking in which three words are presented on each round (e.g. coin, quick, spoon) and the aim is to identify the one word that best fits these three (e.g. silver).'
The tipsy respondents performed better on the test than subjects in a sober control group:
1. "they solved 58 per cent of 15 items on average vs. 42 per cent average success achieved by controls"
2. "they tended to solve the items more quickly (11.54 seconds per item vs. 15.24 seconds)"
The reasons they did better and moved faster appear to be lack of inhibition ("intoxicated participants tended to rate their experience of problem solving as more insightful, like an Aha! moment, and less analytic") and, following past research, people with superior memories tend to do worse on this task -- because drinking dulls memory, it may help on the Remote Associates Test. The researchers also speculate that "being mildly drunk facilitates a divergent, diffuse mode of thought, which is useful for such tasks where the answer requires thinking on a tangent."
I am not arguing that people who do creative work ought to drink all day -- there are two many dangers. As I warned in the CNN piece, booze is best consumed in small doses and with proper precautions. And of course people who don't or should not drink for health, religious, or other reasons ought not to be pressured to join in the drinking.
Yet, this study, when combined when with other work suggesting that drinking can serve as a useful social lubricant, suggest that having a drink or two with your colleagues at the end of the day now and then, and kicking around a few crazy ideas, might both enhance social bonds and generate some great new ideas. The payoff might include innovative products, services, experiences and the like -- if you can remember those sparkling insights after you sober up!
P.S. The citation is Jarosz, A., Colflesh, G., and Wiley, J. (2012). Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition, 21 (1), 487-493
As long-time readers of this blog know, I am a big admirer (and long time friend) of Diego Rodriguez. Diego is a partner at IDEO and runs the flagship Palo Alto office, and he writes the always provocative blog Metacool. Diego's IDEO colleague, Tatyana Mamut, stopped by Stanford last week to serve as judge for the final project in our course on scaling-up excellence (they were wonderful, but that is another story).
Somehow, we got to talking about leadership and she told me about a video that Diego had shown people and told them "This is what leadership should look like at IDEO." Watch it here. You have to see it, I won't tell you anything else.
I will offer an opinion, however, after years of hanging around IDEO: This is how leadership usually looks there and has since the earliest days when founder David Kelley started a company (with Dean Hovey) in 1978 so he could have a place to hang out with his friends. But it is always good to remind people of what is sacred (and profane) in any culture, and this little video does it well.
P.S. As a bonus, if you click on the link for Tatyana, you get a great short talk on how tools, rules, and norms and how they explain the spread of deodorant use in Russia. It reminds of when my dissertation adviser -- Bob Kahn, half jokingly -- defined organizations as "rules, tools, and fools."