Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Ray Rice: Defective NFL Product?

Janay Palmer & Ray Rice

Now wife, Janay Palmer and Raven’s suspended footlball player, Ray Rice

I’m on my home from the latest workshop by my coach Steve Harrison. Had a chance to meet Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Wow, what an amazing experience.

It was an interesting experience learning how better to serve people through writing and coaching against the backdrop of the Ray Rice story. My understanding is that abusive people were themselves abused. It is my hope that this incident can help Mr. Rice break the cycle of abuse, both for himself and for others.

I watched the video. It was very disturbing. If you haven’t seen it, I think you should watch it Ray Rice Knocked Out Fiancee – FULL VIDEO. It will change your understanding of domestic violence forever. It won’t be theoretical, and it won’t be Hollywood. It is brutal. Watching the video could help you change someone’s life some day. You might hear a whisper, or notice something in someone you know, and instead of brushing it off, you’ll remember that image of Jinay getting knocked unconscious.

As for why the NFL and the Ravens gave Rice a slap on the wrist before the video came to light? I am befuddled by the handwringing. The NFL is a business. Ray Rice is the product. The domestic violence wasn’t seen as a human issue, it was a business issue.  Rice was a product with some characteristics that would make some customers mad.

I’ve been in those discussions. The product isn’t working quite right. Should we ship?

“No product is ever done.”

“There is a work around.”

“We need the revenue now, and will pick up the pieces later.”

Right or wrong does not come into play when it comes to these product shipment decisions. They are business decisions. In the case of the NFL, the products are people. We need to remember to put people first, always.

As I write this post on the plane, I watched an inspirational speech from James Brown, football host on CBS. Brown explained that domestic violence is not a football issue, and is not a woman’s issue. He pointed out that 3 women die every day from domestic violence, and called on men to step up and take responsibility. “You need to either get help [for yourself] or give help [to end domestic violence.]

Bravo James Brown. Real men do not hurt women, and we’ll take your challenge to become part of the solution.

Three Options If Your Personal Values Conflict With Company Culture

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 2

Your company has a value system, more commonly called a corporate culture.  And as I wrote in Chapter 6,  unless you are the CEO and have carte blanch from the board to clean house, your chances of significantly changing company culture are close to zero. It can be dispiriting to feel that one has no control over the environment, which is why the illusion of control is so prevalent in the workplace.  There is a solution.

Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl wrote that “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”  Thankfully, the worst job imaginable is better than a concentration camp.  The lesson I take from Frankl is this: Having no control is not the same as having no choices. If your personal values are in conflict with the overriding corporate culture, you have three options:

  1. Change your values to match the corporate values. Remember, values are defined by how we act, not by what we aspire to.  Going along to get along equates to accepting the values of the organization.  I did plenty of this in my career, and wrapped it in rationalizations so that I didn’t feel guilty.  I don’t recommend this option, because eventually it will catch up with you.
  2. Leave the company.  Few people entertain this as a short-term solution, and often stay in unhappy situations longer than one would expect. I am lucky that I had the economic freedom to change careers.  The bills need to be paid, and leaving is not always feasible, and for many people is not the right solution.
  3. Use organizational savvy to force the organization to act in accordance with your values.  In other words, use the methods of power politics, financial forecasting, and alliance building to minimize or prevent actions that go against your values.

In the next post I’ll explain The Business Case For Good, which demonstrated how to use a forecast to make the company do the right thing.

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A New Model For Cooperation, Values, and Employee Motivation

Today we’ll take a break from Busting Your Corporate Idol for this timely guest post from Omer Soker, Founder of The Ethics Of Success. 

In 1943 Abraham Maslow clearly explained our hierarchy of needs includes being respected, accepted or valued by others. In 1968 Frederick Herzberg reminded us of this in his now-classic Harvard Business Review article entitled “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” Chip Conley’s recent best-selling book Peak re-affirms recognition and meaning as success and transformation drivers for employees.

And yet, too many distressed managers believe employees are out for themselves and motivated primarily by money. They overlook the power of collaboration with their employees.

A model for collaboration and shared values

People need purpose, especially at work. When an individual’s personal values are aligned with the core values of the company, that’s when passion is ignited – and that creates the collaboration that drives innovation, productivity, growth and competitive advantage. One example is Tony Hsieh who founded Zappos.com and sold it to Amazon for over US$1 billion. Zappos aligned its entire organisation around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. It supported it with 10 values that resonate with everyone who works there including delivering WOW through service, embracing change, creating fun, pursuing learning, open communication, building a family spirit, doing more with less, being passionate and being humble. The flow-on benefits are high morale, lower turnover rates, and an environment and culture that attracts the best talent and an authentic connection with customers that drives sales to growth rates any company would envy.

This mutual goal achievement is represented in the red collaborative overlap of the twin circles: here representing the company and the individual (although they can also represent any two parties coming together).

At the extreme end of the company circle (in blue) are the managers who indulge in what I call “harmful self-interest” when they focus exclusively on short-term sales, at the expense of their people and their values. When values are compromised and when people are disrespected, both the health and the performance of companies suffer. These managers purport to self-interest, but they are harming everyone including the company itself by operating outside of shared values. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the employee engaging in a different form of harmful self-interest; be it avoidance of responsibility, politicking or sabotage of colleagues.

The white spaces in between are every day realities of compromise and accommodation that exist because we don’t live in a perfect world. Whether it’s the employee accommodating a request from the company to work late on a critical project, the company compromising to cater to a unique individual need or vice-versa, these everyday interactions and negotiations can be healthy, so long as they are not repetitive and within limits. It’s only when compromise or accommodation become chronic that values are jeopardized.

The next step is plotting where you are on the chart, where your company is on the chart – and taking some steps towards the middle. The chart can serve as an aid to self-awareness, and an understanding of the behaviors of others.

Collaboration is a way of aligning everyone’s interest so more of the workforce’s energies go into the company’s interest than into playing games. It’s more complex because there are many stakeholders with differing needs, but once a commitment is made to bringing these interests together and not seeing them as mutually exclusives, it’s amazing what companies can achieve.

Omer Soker has worked in senior corporate general management roles including Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier, as well as two company turnaround transformations in Australia. In August 2012 he established The Ethics of Success Corporation to help companies and individuals create and sustain positive change. He is a corporate speaker, workshop facilitator and business consultant.  Follow Omer on Twitter: @ethicsofsuccess or LinkedIn

What Happens When High Integrity CEO Meets Toxic Culture?

Chapter 6:  Corporate Culture -The Invisible Hand of the Company Part 4

If you take a high integrity  person and put them in a toxic and/or unethical culture, which would win?  In other words, to what degree can an individual influence and change corporate culture?  It’s a question we’ll come back to multiple times in this chapter.

Lets start with an extreme example: What if Harry T Lobo, a highly respected and effective CEO we met in Chapter 4, were made the CEO of Goldman Sachs, a company thought by many to have an unethical culture. (Greg Smith’s very public resignation made public the callus and thoughtless way Goldman treated their clients. See this post on the subject for more.)  Harry, who is not known for his modesty, didn’t think he could change the company value system.  Harry told me “[It would] depend on the company, and how long the value system existed.  Goldman Sachs [is very big and is] proud of the way it operates.”  Harry explained to me that everyone working there shared those values, and the organization is too big to change by the CEO alone.

It took Harry five years to change the culture of the mid-sized organization he is currently running.  When he arrived, the company was full of “empire builders,”  with a “negative, finger pointing, aggressive culture.”  People who were resistant to the values he was instilling are “no longer around.”  Harry said that he let this happen over time, as people realized they no longer fit in they left, and people who espoused the values he was looking for were promoted.  (And see this post to see a case where Harry dismissed someone for being manipulative.)

This is a common theme I heard throughout the interviews I conducted, and is well described in the literature: People who fit best with the company values, whatever they may be, will tend to be promoted more quickly.

So how did Harry respond when he was working as a Senior VP in a toxic culture?  Did he change the culture, or was he changed by it?

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Discover Why You Can Never Let the Company Down

Chapter 6:  Corporate Culture -The Invisible Hand of the Company Part 1

The good news: I got the product out on time after leading the team through twelve months of crisis product development.  The bad news:  it did not perform well in customer hands.  The only surprise for me was how surprised senior management seemed to be. Prior to launch, the executives would stop me in the hall to ask if we were on schedule, and remind me how much revenue was on the line.  I loved the attention, and I was going to make sure we delivered what they were asking for.  They did not say ‘We will support any decision you make,’ or ‘protect the long term relationship with customers.’

After launch, I was too depressed to effectively defend myself from the storm of criticism because I felt that I let the company down.  What a ridiculous thought.  The company isn’t alive, and can’t be let down.

What I understand now, that I didn’t understand then, was that the company had a culture of making the date, and if I hadn’t been leading the team, someone else would have been.  It was expected that vacations would be canceled if need be, and they were.  I even led a conference call for several hours on the Fourth of July to help make the date.  I was at a family reunion at a resort in New Mexico, standing outside in the one patch of ground that had two bars of cell coverage – just enough to be heard.  If I walked more than ten feet in any direction, it dropped off.  It kind of symbolizes the impact of corporate culture on workplace behavior.  In theory I could walk anywhere I wanted to, but if I wanted to be heard, I had limited room to maneuver.

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