Break the Rules and Upend Business As Usual

Upend Business As Usual

 

Should salaries be public?

Is it possible to eliminate the performance review process?

Should customers come second?

Do open offices work?

 

Most businesses have rules and practices that have developed over many years. Whether inherited from long ago practices or invented by the company, these rules often continue unquestioned.

My friend Dr. David Burkus is a business school professor and author who questions many common business practices. His research reveals that many of the rules are outdated, misguided, and possibly counterproductive. His research looks at the contrarian practices of companies such as Zappos and Netflix where the rules are being rewritten.

 

“Great leaders don’t settle for low levels of efficiency.” –David Burkus

 

From designing office space to eliminating annual performance reviews and unlimited vacation policies, David’s book ignites a debate and conversation.

Some of the “rules” may stand the test of time because they work while others may be held in place based solely on tradition. Regardless, his newest book, Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business As Usual, is a good reminder that it’s time to review all the rules and determine whether they still serve a valid purpose.

 

The Case for Change

David, in one book, you have assembled some of the most contrarian practices being used in business today. What led you to this approach?Under New Management

After I wrote my first book, The Myths of Creativity, in which I talked a bit about practices like hackathons and 20% time that spurred innovation, I started to get even more curious about the things innovative companies were doing that seemed unusual or opposite of best practices. As I travelled down that rabbit hole I found lots of people writing about why the ideas were unique and appealing, but no one was making the case for why these practices work so well. Since organizational psychology is my background, I started to look at these ideas through the lens of human behavior and found compelling reasons for why they might be better than best practices.

Do you believe many of our management practices and principles are outdated? Is this a global view?

Well that depends. As Daniel Pink rightly pointed out in Drive, the shift from industrial work to knowledge work left a lot that needed to change about how we motivate people. I think that shift has broader management implications, which I explore in Under New Management. So yes, if you’re organization does mostly knowledge work, it’s likely that your management practices are rooted in some outdated assumptions.

 

Ban Email and Increase Productivity

Let’s look at email. Does banning email really work? Do these techniques work in larger organizations? Doesn’t moving to other technology tools just move the problem and not address the fact that it is people, not the tool, that cause it?

Email is an amazing tool because it’s cheap and it’s asynchronous. But it’s a difficult tool for exactly that reason. It’s easy to send…so we send it far too much. And because it’s asynchronous, it moved us to a world where we’re always on. There are a lot of other tools that are also cheap and asynchronous, but it’s a matter of how the tool is used.

And yes, to some extent, it’s a people issue. The companies that banned email took a deep look at their communication needs and settled on another tool for internal communication. If you’ve looked at what your team’s communication needs are and email meets those needs….great. But odds are, there’s a better tool out there.

 

“Leaders are discovering that limiting email improves productivity.” –David Burkus

 

13 Counterintuitive Ideas to Upend Business As Usual

  1. Outlaw email.
  2. Put customers second.
  3. Lose the standard vacation policy.
  4. Pay people to quit.
  5. Make salaries transparent.
  6. Ban non-competes.
  7. Ditch performance appraisals.
  8. Hire as a team.
  9. Write the Org chart in pencil.
  10. Close open offices.
  11. Take sabbaticals.
  12. Fire the managers.
  13. Celebrate departures.

 

Eliminate the Performance Appraisal

How to Improve Your Communication by Leaps and Bounds

No Cape Needed

Do you know the most common communication mistakes leaders make?

What practical steps can you take right now to be a more effective communicator?

What is the most common mistake we make when using email?

 

“True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning.” -David Grossman

 

David Grossman is a communications expert. Both David and the firm he founded in 2000, The Grossman Group, have received numerous awards. Prior to founding the firm, he was director of communications for McDonald’s, and he teaches the only graduate course on internal communications in the U.S. at Columbia University.

What you notice when you pick up David’s latest book, No Cape Needed: The Simplest, Smartest, Fastest Steps to Improve How You Communicate by Leaps and Bounds, is that it’s stunning as a physical book. Full of colorful graphics, gorgeous photography, and digestible information, it is one of the reasons I still enjoy the physical book. Not only is it a gorgeous book, but it is full of immediately actionable, useful information. I recently asked David to share some of the wisdom from his book and his consulting practice.

 

“Communication really is a superpower.” -David Grossman

 

Communication is a Superpower

Question: As a kid, you wanted to have superpowers. As an adult you say, “Communication really is a superpower.” Explain why you elevate communication to that status.

I wholeheartedly believe that effective communication is really a way to make a difference.David Grossman

You can use communication to make others feel good about their jobs, to be engaged and excited, to help someone who’s having a hard time get through a rough patch, or to inspire a team. And in essence, you can use communication to make substantial changes that aren’t just about helping a company or team go from ‘good to great’ but instead create a lasting legacy through a new strategic direction.

A lot of people don’t think they can communicate well or don’t think they can develop the skill. But the truth is that it just takes practice. If leaders at all levels of their organizations come to realize that, then great things can happen for their companies. And they can become heroes of their own.

 

Cut-Through-Clutter-No-Cape-Needed-David-Grossman

3 Steps to Improve Your Communication

In your new book, No Cape Needed, what are the top three steps you recommend for improving communication?  

1. Understand your audience.

To truly move employees to action, we have to know what they care about and get into their mindset. As leaders we spend much of our time and effort setting business goals and developing plans to achieve them. Yet the most important element behind everything is your team. If they don’t understand where they fit in, all of our lofty goals will go nowhere.

2. Plan, and then communicate regularly.

Leaders often mistakenly assume that as long as they have ideas, a vision, and a sense of purpose, that will be enough to lead the way forward. If only it were that easy. In truth, good leaders know the importance of planning and clearly spelling out the path ahead. You can wing your communications and take a chance on the results or be planful and purposeful to increase your chances of success ten-fold.

3. Listen and create dialogue.

True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning. Ask open-ended questions. Listen. Listen some more. Check for understanding.

 

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” -John Maxwell

 

3 Common Communication Mistakes

What are some of the common mistakes leaders make when they communicate?

1. They don’t set the context. 

Avoid the Nightmare of the Email Blind Carbon Copy (BCC).

Beware the BCC

I’m not sure exactly when or why the blind carbon copy (BCC) was invented, but I have seen it misused, misunderstood, and misfired too many times to count.  The BCC allows you to write an email TO some people and BCC others.  The people you send it TO don’t know that others are secretly on the BCC line.

Most email problems with the BCC start when an email is written to a few people, but others are blind carbon copied.

“Trust is built with consistency.” -Lincoln Chafee

DANGER: REPLY ALL

The first and most visible problem with the blind carbon copy is when someone who was BCC’d hits reply all. Now the people who were on the email (in the TO or CC lines) are alerted to the fact that they were not the only recipients.  I’ve seen this backfire more times than I can tell you.

Unlike most email mistakes, this one is bigger than most people think. Why?

 

DANGER: REPUTATION RISK

It reduces trust.

It diminishes your brand.

It raises unnecessary questions.

It makes others question your motives.

Let me share a few examples.

  1. A few years ago, I received an email from a colleague. I was on the cc line with two other executives.  The email was addressed to a single person on the TO line.  Two hours after receiving the email, someone hit reply all and made a comment.  Now I wondered why this person was blind carbon copied on the note.  It made me question the motives of the sender.  If someone has to pause and question your motives, that enough is reason to not use the BCC.
  1. A lawyer is BCC’d on a contractual question with a supplier and mistakenly hits reply all with a question.  All of a sudden it escalates an issue to serious status when it may have been a minor disagreement.  The recipient now believes that there is a major legal issue at stake.  Instead of working through the issue, it was held up with that person’s legal counsel.  The entire matter became embroiled in a legal dispute that was unnecessary.  Yes, this happened.
  1. A salesperson sends an article out about an industry trend and BCC’s someone who works for a competitor.  The person was an old friend, and the sales representative meant nothing by it.  But now everyone wonders why you would send something to the competition.  Yes, this happened.

 

“Men trust their ears less than their eyes.” -Herodotus

 

DANGER: WASTED TIME

10 Email Productivity Myths

Like you, I receive my share of email.  I have multiple email accounts.  It is especially difficult to manage as I travel the globe, working across time zones.

Over the years, I have heard my share of advice about email.  I call them “email productivity myths” because they are widely shared in leadership and productivity classes.  The problem is that some are not true.  Others work for some but not all.

Here are a few:

1. Email is one of the biggest time wasters.

 

Why:  This is one I hear all the time.  It seems a given that everyone sees it as a nuisance, as a time waster, as taking too much time.

Why it’s a myth:  More often, email is saving time. It allows quick communication with people all over the world. What takes a few minutes to write and to read would have required scheduling a conference call, preparing, and having an unneeded long conversation.  How to use email properly is an important skill, but don’t fall into the false belief that all email is a waste of your day.

 

2. Never reply all because you are filling up everyone’s email box unnecessarily.

 

Why: Carelessly hitting reply all adds an email to everyone’s inbox.

Why to do it: There are times when replying all is important. You are sending a message where everyone needs to stay in the conversation.  The important reminder is to think about where it is going.

 

3. Don’t respond.

 

Why: Say you receive an email sent to a few people, and you have an opinion and decide not to respond.

Why you may need to respond:  Depending on the culture of your organization, silence may be read to equal agreement.  If you have a point of view, you may need to share it either via email or in-person.

 

4. Use the blind cc: feature to copy people.

 

Why:  You are using the blind carbon copy to let someone know you are handling a situation, but you don’t want the receiver to know.

Why you should rarely, if ever use it:  It feels slimy.  It’s like you are hearing a one-sided conversation, and don’t get to hear the response.  If you receive a blind cc, you have to keep track of what you are supposed to know, and what you aren’t. Worst of all, we have all seen someone who was blind carbon copied respond, embarrassing the sender.