Bosses Beware! Part 2

Mar 7, 2014 | By Staff | Bosses Culture Leadership


Back in January we wrote about what happens when someone becomes a boss in a post called, Bosses Beware! The findings of a USC Marshall School of Business study revealed the changes in perception that often accompany the increase in power that comes with becoming a boss. (Hence our warning to all you bosses out there!)

An article in the latest issue of business magazine, Entrepreneur provides further evidence of how and why power can corrupt the mind. According to new studies, power makes people less able to feel empathy for others.

“Powerful people tend to ignore peripheral data and don’t process information about the less powerful folks around them. Their tunnel vision stays locked on the actions that will the praise, status, or glory they crave.”


“The powerful have decreased recognition of others’ concerns, allowing them to throw their weight around without qualm.”

But don’t fret. Just because this happens doesn’t make you a bad person – it’s your brain’s fault. Annette Simmons, author of Territorial Games, explains, “The person really believes they’re doing the right thing for the right reason.”

Ultimately, the onus is you to overcome the obstacle your brain may present you. Awareness is the first step; whether you’re a newly minted boss or a veteran manager of people. And now you’re armed with the knowledge necessary to keep from falling into the trap of being corrupted by power.

“Leaders have to find ways to break through the mind lock and the knee-jerk rationales.”

Entrepreneur March 2013

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NFL Receiver Brandon Marshall Speaks on Culture Change

Mar 6, 2014 | By Staff | Culture Sports Teams


Much of this young NFL offseason has been dominated by coverage of the bullying accusations made by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, Jonathan Martin.

As the story has developed, much has been reported about the Dolphins’ locker room culture, which, evidently not only allowed, but fostered, an atmosphere where veteran players felt comfortable crossing the line between teasing or hazing and into the realm of bullying and abuse. Martin allegedly suffered a mental breakdown as a result of repeated harassment led by fellow lineman, veteran Richie Incognito, which Martin was long reluctant to report to team officials.

As information about what really happened continues to surface weekly, we’ll stay away from editorializing or passing judgment in this space. However, from this scandal have emerged some revealing comments from NFL players past and present. Perhaps the most thoughtful big-picture analysis came from Chicago Bears wide receiver, Brandon Marshall – a man who is no stranger to scandal and bad behavior.

Of the reported bullying, Marshall said in a press conference, “I also know it’s not an isolated incident. It’s unfortunately the culture of the NFL.” Marshall continued with an explanation of how he believes the NFL’s culture of strength and stoicism is created:

Look at it from this standpoint. Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ A little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, to not show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. You can’t show that your hurt, can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. Thats what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that’s what we have to change.

Marshall closed by offering up a suggestion for how the league and its players could work on changing the culture:

So what’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking. Maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and maybe talk about what’s going on off the field or what’s going on in the building and not mask everything. Because the (longer) it goes untreated, the worse it gets.

Do you agree with Marshall’s take on NFL culture? What do you think of his suggestion for changing the culture?

Chicago Tribune & Deadspin

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Bringing New Employees Into Your Culture? Call RITA

Feb 26, 2014 | By Staff | Bosses Culture Hiring/Firing Leadership


Finding new employees to bring into an established organization is tough enough. But finding new employees to bring into an established culture…well, that’s even tougher. 

That’s why Will Dean, CEO of Tough Mudder, an adventure/endurance-race company founded in 2010, developed a process for onboarding new hires Dean has dubbed “RITA.” A Harvard Business School graduate, Dean knows a thing or two about how to build a successful company. But who’s RITA?

According to Dean, his method for finding the right employees to fit into Tough Mudder’s culture is divided into four parts:






Dean knows culture is key, which is why he identifies “Induction” as the most complex part of of his hiring process. “It’s easy to put your values on the wall. It means nothing. It’s about behavior. Culture is really just how people behave when they think you’re not looking.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Another way in which Dean communicates his desired culture at Tough Mudder is by actively making himself available to new hires, rather than simply declaring, “My door is always open.” Dean explains, “I also personally sit down with groups of new people for an hour and a half and let them ask me anything they want.” 

Between using RITA and employing active leadership, Dean is shaping the Tough Mudder culture — AND making sure its employees will fit right in.

Would you use RITA to find and hire new talent?

Inc. Magazine November 2013

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The Church of Fail

Feb 19, 2014 | By Staff | Culture Meetings


What kind of company not only celebrates its failures, but actively builds failure into its company culture?

Well, one you probably haven’t heard of, for starters. NixonMcInnes is a social-media consulting group located in Brighton, England. Despite its relative lack of size or notoriety, NixonMcInnes was recently profiled by writer Leigh Buchanan for Inc. Magazine thanks to its unusual, but effective, model for innovation and improvement.

Once a month for the last three years, the company has convened an all-hands meeting often led by operations manager Matt Matheson, affectionately called “The Church of Fail.” The gathering serves as an opportunity for employees to confess their mistakes in a safe zone, without judgment.

The officiant – often Matheson or someone else – invites people up to stand and confess their mistakes. Some blunders are small, such as a dispute with a colleague. Others are more significant: an error that cost the business money or annoyed a client. Employees must describe how they dealt with the situation and say what they will do differently next time.

While this practice may (understandably) seem strange to some, employees of NixonMcInnes feel that creating a company culture where failures are celebrated allows them to move on from past mistakes and even allows them the opportunity to pitch new and innovative ideas that might otherwise never have been surfaced.

Co-founder Will McInnnes believes “Making failure socially acceptable makes us more open and creative.”

Clearly this idea is not for everyone – especially the sensitive. However, creating a culture of openness and honesty (however you choose to do it) is always worth working towards.

This idea of formalizing the opportunity to share mistakes and learn from them would be especially beneficial for organizations whose employees work in dangerous or hazardous jobs. A company with a culture where it’s not only considered okay, but it’s expected, that employees regularly share near-misses and close-calls with one another – without fear of judgment or reprimand – is going to be decidedly safer than one that frowns upon the admission of mistakes.

Would you be willing to convene a Church of Fail at your organization?

Inc. Magazine, November 2013



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The Myth of the “Open Door” Policy

Feb 18, 2014 | By Staff | Bosses Culture Engagement Leadership

open door

“My door is always open.”

In the business world we often hear this phrase shouted out from bosses to their employees. It’s an attempt to connect – to convey a culture of equality and sharing where all employees can feel comfortable approaching The Boss.

Some bosses really mean it; others don’t. But regardless of the sincerity of intent, one of the problems with simply stating “My door is always open” is just how few employees actually take that sentiment to heart!

Jason Fried, co-founder of Chicago software company 37signals puts it this way:

It’s a cop-out. It makes the boss feel good but the onus entirely on the employees. You might as well say, “You find the problems and then take all the risk of interrupting my day and confronting me about them.” How many people have taken you up on that offer? 

Fried makes a great point. As an employee, how likely would you be to take your boss up on that offer? If most of you are saying “not very likely,” that gets us to the root of the issue: how can bosses build an Open Door Policy that actually works, and fosters a culture of learning and engagement that benefits everyone?

Most importantly, bosses can take the onus of gaining information, insights, and opinions off of their employees and place that responsibility on their own shoulders. “You need to make it safe to speak up,” says Fried, “People don’t volunteer information – they release it.” 

Rather than proudly announcing that your door is ajar, get out of your office and knock on your employees’ doors instead. And understand that a reluctance to speak up is totally reasonable. Who knows? Maybe you have staff members who were reprimanded at, or even fired from, a previous job for speaking up without being asked.

As a boss himself, Fried’s got the right idea. It’s easy to be a boss without also being a leader. Creating your desired culture takes active – not passive – leadership. It requires modeling that desired culture for your employees, rather than just expecting them to create it for you. You must walk the talk.

So get out there bosses, managers, supervisors, and foremen – lead from the front by seeking out those insights and opinions of your employees. If you don’t, who will?

Inc. Magazine, November 2013

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Creating a Culture of Excellence

Jan 20, 2014 | By Staff | Bosses Culture Hiring/Firing Leadership


The cover of Entrepreneur magazine’s February 2014 issue states, “Create a culture of excellence.”

Despite the fact that culture is about groups and entrepreneurs are individuals, this statement reminds us that cultures are born, built, and nurtured. They come from somewhere, from someone. From visions, values, and beliefs. This is especially true in newly-formed companies, which take their cultural cues from their founders and top leaders.

The author of Entrepreneur‘s February article, “Good Vibes,” writer and professor Christopher Hann, points out four “common lessons learned” from his interviews with entrepreneurs about creating and sustaining positive cultures:

- The CEO and senior management team must play an active role in defining the culture,  then reinforce it through their words and deeds.

- That reinforcement must take place on a regular, if not daily, basis. You can’t live the culture only when the mood strikes.

- All employees, from the boss to the newest hire, must embrace the culture.

- A company must hire people who will be a good cultural fit.

What do you think of these four common themes? Is your organization’s culture in alignment with these positive themes? If not, how can you, whether you’re the CEO or the newest hire, improve and reinforce the culture?


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Big A** Fans — Big Fans of Culture

Jan 15, 2014 | By Staff | Bosses Culture Hiring/Firing Uncategorized


While the company name my be controversial, its bottom line is something everyone can agree on. With annual sales of over $125 million, Big Ass Fans, a fifteen-year-old ceiling fan design and manufacturing business based in Lexington, KY, gets its culture straight from its founder, Carey Smith.

Inc. Magazine’s January issue features an article on BAF’s hiring practices, and points out the influence of culture on the hiring process. Smith encourages a “work hard, play hard” culture, and according to Inc., “He acts as both the company’s CEO and culture czar.” Even BAF’s own Director of Business Development told CNN, “The culture is a little bit off the wall.”

But with BAF revenues more than doubling over the past three years, it sounds like this culture is working! “Smith is particularly interested in employing people who possess two specific personality traits: curiosity and positivity,” writes Inc., which means that Smith actively seeks employees that are genuinely curious rather than simply qualified. Similarly, while it’s clear Smith likes to have a good time, he wants to get the message across that BAF is “a serious place to work and slackers will not be tolerated.” Work hard, play hard indeed.

The company’s YouTube videos (humorously listed under the account name, “Fanny the Donkey”) indicate how far Smith and BAF are willing to go to show its employees AND its customers just what the “play hard” side of their culture is really like. This is best illustrated in the video titled “Big Ass Fans Fan Mail,” which features recordings of consumers who have received BAF advertising materials and called the company to complain about its controversial (and, admittedly not for everyone) name. Love the name or hate it, there is no question that Big Ass Fans and its founder Carey Smith are comfortable with, and confident in, their own corporate culture to the point where they are willing to alienate potential customers in order to live the culture of “work hard, play hard” they believe in. Take a look:

BAF Fan Mail Video

What do you think of the BAF culture? Are they crazy to limit their potential consumer base with an unconventional name and boundary-pushing YouTube videos? Or are they just espousing the culture they believe in? Would you want to work at company with a culture like Big Ass Fans?


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Bosses Beware!

Jan 9, 2014 | By Staff | Bosses Leadership

smitten kitchen

“It’s a black and white issue.”

“We’re working in the grey area.”

These phrases get thrown around a lot in business culture. And with good reason – some of us see the world in black and white, while others see the grey in between. One viewpoint isn’t better than the other, but it can be important to understand where you stand and how you see things. Especially since a new study shows how easy it is to switch from one point of view to the other, without even realizing it.

But how? Why?

Believe it or not, the answer is by becoming a boss.

A study at the USC Marshall School of Business attempted to find out what happens to someone’s viewpoint when he or she becomes a boss. In other words, anytime a person is given more power or authority. This could mean becoming the CEO, or it could mean becoming a Team Leader, Union representative, Supervisor, or Middle Manager.

The study revealed  two fascinating – and startling – findings:

1) “People given power suddenly feel much more certain about the difference between right and wrong. And they come down on wrong harder.”

2) “Newly-minted bosses are quicker to decide what’s moral and immoral…and they’re more likely to deliver punishment for the immoral than to reward do-gooders.”

Yikes! So those who might previously have found themselves in the grey area, suddenly become more black and white when they’re given increased power, AND they become quicker to punish than to reward!

Lord Acton’s famous 19th Century remark declared, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

But it doesn’t have to!

All you bosses out there — has your viewpoint shifted since becoming a boss? Have you become less grey, more black and white? Likewise, if you’re someone who’s apt to be given more boss-like responsibility soon, note your current viewpoint and be aware of any changes.

one comment — Where Culture Matters Most

Dec 27, 2013 | By Staff | Culture Hiring/Firing


Ask Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced SHAY) about the key to his company’s growth and success, and he’ll likely tell you it’s all about the culture. “If we get the culture right, then everything else, including customer service, will fall into place,” Hsieh says.

But just how does Zappos emphasize culture in their organization? Well, the answer can be found just about everywhere from recruiting to hiring and firing to training and even to office décor. One example of just how seriously Zappos takes culture into account is found is found in this short video of CEO Tony Hsieh:

“I fire those who don’t fit out company culture.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO,

(Watch: Tony Hsieh on Culture): tony-hsieh-zappos-i-fire-non-culture-fits-fast.html?nav=pop

Seem harsh? Well keep in mind that Hsieh literally puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to the importance of culture during the hiring process: according to Businessweek, “Zappos offers new employees who are struggling $4,000 to quit after one week’s work, rather than waste resources to train someone who doesn’t gel with the group.”

$4,000! To quit! After one week!

That’s the degree to which Zappos emphasizes culture: the company will pay an employee to leave rather than risk a negative impact on their organizational culture.

It’s hard to find any organization more dedicated to its culture than Zappos.

How does your organization demonstrate its commitment to culture?

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Motivation Mondays: Rethinking Rewards

Dec 23, 2013 | By Staff | Motivation Mondays Rewards Travel


All employees love to be rewarded for their hard work. But what’s the best way to reward those who deserve it the most?

For some employees it will always be cash. Or perhaps a promotion. For others, nothing matters more than an old-fashioned “Attaboy” from a respected boss.

And while cash may be king for some people, an article in Inc. Magazine by Adam Vaccaro explores an effective alternative reward: travel.

For instance, Vaccaro cites Texas-Based Effective Environmental:

“Every year, Effective Environmental doles out an all-inclusive family vacation to five employees. Managers in each of the company’s divisions submit nominees, and the senior leadership team chooses the winners based primarily on who is deemed to have given maximum effort day in and day out.”

Sounds great to us, but why travel over cash?

One reason could be that a travel reward is attractive to both the employee AND the company. Vaccaro cites a study that reveals, “96 percent of employees say they are motivated by travel incentives, and 72 percent who earn the reward say they feel increased loyalty to the company.”

This equals a win-win for employees and employers: employees are rewarded with all-inclusive family vacation, and employers are rewarded with the increased loyalty of the their most valued workers.

If your company offered you travel reward as an incentive, how would you feel about it? Would it motivate you?

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