Tag Archives | Values

Values – espoused or desired in corporate culture

Do you want a “bruising” workplace?

red leather boxing gloves on white isolated backgroundLast week’s New York Times article, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” caused quite a stir. The article describes a corporate culture that apparently tolerates – and even encourages – mis-treatment, discounting, blaming, and worse. Empathy is hard to find.

Over 100 current and former Amazon corporate employees, including leadership team members, human resource directors, retail executives, marketers, and engineers from some of Amazon’s most audacious projects, were interviewed.

Those players provide a very consistent view of the fast-paced, incredibly demanding work culture at Amazon’s corporate offices. It’s not a work environment for everyone. The hours are long and the expectations are higher for individual performance than at any other company these players have worked at.

For an organization that was recently rated as one of the top ten most admired companies in the world by Fortune magazine, the story provided a very unflattering look “behind the curtain” for Amazon.

CEO Jeff Bezos responded quickly. In a memo to Amazon employees, Bezos said that anyone that worked in the kind of culture described in the New York Times story would be “crazy to stay.” He doesn’t believe the story describes the Amazon corporate culture he lives in daily.

A follow up post by the Times‘ public editor asked, “Was Portrayal of Amazon’s Brutal Workplace on Target?” with opinions on both sides of the issue.

I’ve studied organizational cultures – including Amazon’s – for over 40 years. I’ve not lived in the Amazon corporate culture, but I have been seen very consistent indicators that are aligned with the bruising culture the Times‘ article described. On Glassdoor.com, Amazon’s rating by employees is 3.4 out of five possible points. That’s not bad, but it’s not great when a 4.0 is seen as a great company to work for.

I’ve seen video interviews of former Amazon executives that described the culture as exhausting and exhilarating. I’ve read The Amazon Way. Articles like this 2014 post on Gawker describe Amazon’s “bizarre” corporate culture.

My exposure leads me to believe that Amazon’s corporate office has an incredibly demanding culture that pushes players far beyond what they even dreamed they could do. Some people thrive in that environment; some people wither.

There is no question that Amazon is pushing the limits on the retail experience – with delivery of your order within an hour in some cities and examining delivery by drone. They have a remarkable commitment to their customers (I’m a Prime customer, myself).

And, my 40 years of research on organizational culture leads me to many “truisms.” One that is relevant here: A culture that tolerates mis-treatment, discounting, blaming, and worse is not going to inspire engagement, service, or results over the long term. It might inspire results over the short term, but engagement and service will suffer.

If the only thing that gets measured, monitored, and rewarded in a culture is results, players who choose to stay in that culture will get those results in any way they can. Bending the rules, cheating, screwing your peers, etc. all are on the table. In fact, those behaviors may even be rewarded (!).

That’s not the kind of environment I’d like to work in.

What is your experience? Do you believe Amazon has a “bruising” corporate culture? Does your organization tolerate mis-treatment of employees, discounting, blaming, and/or back-stabbing? If so, what’s the impact on your engagement and on customer service? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © St22 – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Is Your Company a “Best Place to Work”?

Business team working together24/7 Wall Street just released their 2015 “America’s Best Companies to Work For” list.

They studied current and former employees’ company ratings and testimonials on Glassdoor.com to establish the top 54 best places to work.

Glassdoor’s ratings are very relevant. Employees rank a variety of factors beyond their personal satisfaction with the company, including pay, benefits, work-life balance, culture, leadership (including rating the CEO), and more.

On Glassdoor’s five-point scale, only nine of the 54 best places to work scored a 4.0 or better. Five of those are in technology, including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Adobe, and Apple. Rounding out the top ten are Insight Global, McKinsey & Company, Expedia, Nike, and Chick-Fil-A.

An interesting note: being a great place to work doesn’t guarantee financial success or consistent results! A number of the 54 companies on this list reported revenue losses, including T-Mobile.

I am much more impressed by companies that WOW their employees, WOW their customers, AND meet or exceed performance expectations. Those are my big three – engagement, customer service, and results. Hitting all three of those targets is much less common today.

I compared the top ten list of 24/7 Wall Street’s best places to work with their 2015 list of Customer Service Hall of Fame members.

Only two companies made both top 10 lists: Apple and Chick-Fil-A. Along with their top engagement scores and customer service ratings, both these companies have outstanding fiscal performance. Apple is expected to announce last quarter gross revenues of $49 billion, a 30 percent increase over the same quarter’s sales last year. Chick-Fil-A has enjoyed 47 consecutive years of sales growth – including nearly $6 billion in sales in 2014.

That sweet spot – delivering consistently on my big three – is a unique, exciting, rewarding experience for companies, their leaders, their customers, and employees.

How do you know how your team or department or company is doing on those big three? You need to do regular, honest assessment of employee engagement, customer service, and results. Most companies monitor results, profits, etc. hourly or daily, with major milestones assessed monthly.

Some companies gather regular customer service data. Too few gather employee engagement data, as well. Only when you have reliable data on each of these three elements can you assess your organization’s impact.

How can you make your team or department or company a great place to work? My research proves you can boost engagement, service, and results by doing these three things:

First, define minimum citizenship expectations. Effective leaders formalize how they expect everyone in the organization to treat each other and customers. By defining values in observable, tangible, measurable terms, a leader creates the opportunity for workplace interactions that demonstrate trust, respect, and dignity.

Second, define minimum contribution expectations. Effective leaders formalize performance standards. They ensure projects, goals, and tasks are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and trackable. By defining SMART performance standards, a leader creates a clear path to consistent contribution.

Third, hold everyone – including all leaders – accountable for both contributions and citizenship. Effective leaders model the team’s valued behaviors in every interaction – and demand that all players do the same. They measure, monitor, and reward performance traction and values alignment regularly. They don’t tolerate mis-treatment of others at any time.

If you don’t aim for the big three and hold others accountable for the big three, you won’t enjoy a high performing, values-aligned organization.

What is your experience? To what extent does your company measure engagement, service, and results? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Rido – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Customer Service Polarities

How often are you positively WOW’ed by the customer service you experience? According to Tempkin’s new customer service ratings, the best service providers include USAA in banking, credit cards, and insurance categories, Chick-Fil-A in the fast food category, and Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Publix in the supermarket category.

This week brought examples of great and not so great customer service. Customer service is mediocre at best in our day to day experiences. It typically takes something really amazingly good and on target for us to be impressed at the service experience.

And, it typically takes something amazingly bad and off target for us to notice how awful the service experience is.

The great service experience was shared by Marsha Collier, best selling author and radio host. Marsha’s daughter Susan Dickman was born on August 7. Marsha, her husband Curt, and Susan celebrated Susan’s birthday at Morton’s, a steakhouse outside of LA.

Morton’s restaurants around the USA are renowned for great food, great ambiance, and great service. Marsha posted a picture (at right) of the menu the wait staff provided to their group. Boldly printed across the top: “Happy Birthday, Susan!”

That effort is one of many ways Morton’s creates service excellence. For this restaurant, it was a simple, inexpensive customization of that night’s menu for that one table. For Marsha, Curt, and Susan, it was a personal, caring touch that helped make their customer experience awesome.

The challenge that service providers like Morton’s face is that one slip-up can undermine the aligned behavior of a dozen colleagues. If the meal wasn’t perfectly prepared or of top quality or the wait staff interactions weren’t kind or if the chefs began arguing loudly in the open kitchen, that personalized menu alone would not have saved the day.

On the same evening, at about the same time, three states away, a very different service experience was found in a remote mountain community.

Our client had booked six rooms for band members at an independently run motel in town. After setting up our gear and completing our sound check, four of us rushed over to check in, change clothes, and head back for the Friday show.

One of my bandmates engaged the lone staff member at the registration counter in the lobby. The receptionist was remarkably, casually, completely rude and dismissive.

She was disturbed that we didn’t have a confirmation number, even after told that our client didn’t provide it to us.

When I attempted to engage with her, she said calmly, “I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to him.”

My bandmate was pleasant yet persistent. We got five rooms (better than nothing during the town’s major tourist event). When got my key card, I asked the receptionist to direct me to my room. She said, “I already told him (pointing to my bandmate).”

Other guests were waiting in line to check in. They observed her behavior and knew they’d get more of the same.

The rooms were dated but quiet and comfortable. The band had stayed in much lesser quality lodging during the past nine years of performing together. We all agreed, though, that we’d never seen a receptionist that treated guests – us – so completely badly. It was world class awful.

The challenge that service providers like this local motel face is that one bad hire – that “gatekeeper” receptionist – can undermine the aligned behavior of a dozen colleagues. It didn’t matter that the rooms were quiet and comfortable – the damage had been done.

The second night we stayed at a B&B that was booked solid on Friday. The owner was delighted to host the band and wished she’d had room for us our first night in town (especially after we told her of our experience at the motel).

Two completely opposite customer experiences happened, one great, one lousy. The stories of both experiences get told and repeated far and wide.

Customer service matters. Your business will thrive if you’re able to align every player, every practice, and every interaction to service values.

What is your experience? How much attention is paid in your organization to the customer experience? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Marsha Collier. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Three Ways Servant Leaders Recognize Employees

Ubieranie butw“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

― William James

How many of you get enough praise on the job? I ask this question at nearly every keynote I deliver. The results are astounding. Less than 10 percent of audience members raise their hands!

My informal social research mirrors that of Tiny HR’s 2014 Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report which found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work.

A 2010 study by Psychometrics Canada found that 69 percent of HR professionals believe that engagement is a problem in their organizations. When asked what leaders can do to improve engagement, 52 percent replied, “Give recognition.”

It is clear that there is too little praise and encouragement that happens in our organizations today.

As William James said, humans crave appreciation. My 25 years of research and experience leads me to the conclusion that humans also crave validation, trust, and respect.

If leaders want better results and higher profits, they’d be remiss if they ignore the positive impact of employee recognition and engagement.

When team members feel appreciated, validated, trusted, and respected, significant benefits occur. Engagement goes up, by 40 percent or more. Customer service ratings go up, by 40 percent or more. Results and profits improve by 35 percent or more.

How do great leaders – servant leaders – recognize their employees? They do three things consistently.

First, recognition is personal. Servant leaders know that relationships drive everything in our hectic world. They spend time daily networking with team leaders and team members, casually and informally. When they praise someone, their preferred means is to do so face-to-face. If face-to-face won’t work, they don’t delay – they call the person to recognize them voice-to-voice. If a live call won’t work, they don’t delay – they write a personal note, thanking them for their efforts and contribution.

Second, recognition is authentic. Servant leaders gather key information before they deliver praise. They learn what the opportunity was, what the person did, and what the impact was on their customer, team, and the company. They include that information in their recognition, which makes the conversation authentic and meaningful. A simple “Atta boy” or “Atta girl,” without the context of what the player did to deserve recognition, is meaningless.

Third, recognition is frequent. Servant leaders take time daily to learn about good things that are happening and then promptly praise those good things. Servant leaders resist the temptation to sit at their desks engaged in solitary activities. Leadership is a verb! Servant leaders have “scouts” that report back the good things that are happening in the business. Servant leaders praise quickly – they don’t want the sun to set without praising that day’s aligned actions. They spend time daily “wandering around” their operation, looking for and recognizing things going well.

Employee recognition is not a complex process. Leaders, boost engagement, service, and results by recognizing your employees – personally, authentically, and frequently.

What do you think? How did your best bosses recognize leaders and team members? How do you praise and recognize your peers at work today? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © bzyxx – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Everyone Has Values

Good luck gesture with fingers crossed behindI had a wonderful conversation online recently with a leader who disagreed with me. I love to engage people with different points of view in a respectful manner (from both sides!).

My post and podcast last week (Surround Yourself With Values-Aligned Compadres) prompted the discussion.

Twitter discussions are interesting. The 140-character limit means one has to be crisp & clear with sometimes complicated concepts. Let me paraphrase our conversation.

This leader said, “I wish more people had values. Too few do!” I believe I knew what he meant – that many people don’t seem to act in alignment with values. My take is that everyone has values. Everyone aligns to their values daily. We can observe their values by examining their plans, decisions, and actions.

I responded with, “Everyone has values. Bullies have values. Teen gang members have values. They just hold values that are different than my own.”

The leader said, “I don’t think thugs have values!” No question about what this leader believes, right?

My responses might have helped this leader see this concept from a different angle.

My experiences with values alignment began formally four decades ago, in my YMCA days.

In the 1970’s I was actively involved in values clarification. A couple of my bosses used values clarification in our work teams. I used it with my camp directors and counselors to ensure we were all on the same page with how we’d treat each other, how we’d treat our campers, and how we’d treat their family members each summer.

In all the values clarification sessions I ran – for literally hundreds of people – not one person failed to come up with their personal values. The values might have varied widely from person to person – especially with how they defined their values – but every person was satisfied with their values list.

I also learned how values-aligned teen gangs are. The national project I directed looked at teen programs and what the teens of “today” (in the early ’80’s) were looking for in their lives. We conducted hundreds of interviews with teens and parents. One of the most valuable resources for us was a study that came from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

That study found that teens were looking for three things. First, they want do do things that are cool, different from things they do with their families. Second, they want to belong to a group (as opposed to isolating themselves). Third, they want to do things with that group that advance their group’s meaningful purpose.

In our discussions of this powerful data, we realized these three things are true for teen gangs. Gang members are as values-aligned as US Marines or Zappos team members. Those three groups hold very different values, but each embrace their “team” values deeply.

This data and my experiences lead me to believe strongly that everyone has values. We experience others’ values in the ways they treat others (including how they treat us). We experience others’ values in the decisions they make. We often question their decisions from a values standpoint. In our heads, we think, “I would never do that! I value my independence (or family or faith or whatever) too much to go down that path!”

Right now, we each are acting on our values. The beliefs and principles we hold dear guide our individual plans, decisions, and actions.

By formalizing my values, I can quickly assess how well I’m living them each day. And, I can quickly assess the values of people in my life – at work, home, community, etc. – and can then assess how aligned their values are with mine.

And I can choose who to hang out with, who to work with, and who to spend my life with.

What do you think? Do you agree that everyone has values? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Catalin Pop – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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