Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

WHAT’S WORKED AT GOOGLE

Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations at Google, once interviewed a job candidate who was clearly wearing a new and quite expensive pinstripe suit purchased just for the interview. Bock told the candidate that he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he was hired; the bad news is that he would never wear that beautiful suit again.

Googlers, as the 50,000 employees of Google are called, do not wear suits. However, casual clothes is just one (rather minor) facet of a progressive working environment that has allowed Google to win numerous Great Place to Work awards, not only in the United States but in countries around the world. In his book Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Work, Bock details how the company recruits, motivates and manages the highly talented people who join the company.

A High-Freedom Approach

For Bock, a “high-freedom approach” to managing people is key, as compared to the low-freedom command-and-control approach of traditional companies. For example, in addition to mission (Google’s succinct mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”), the cornerstones of Google’s culture are transparency and voice, he writes.

While many companies insist they champion full transparency of the company’s operations and giving their employees a voice, Google translates the words into unequivocal, on-the-ground action. For example, one would expect that Google would carefully guard its code base — the collection of source code that contains, Bock writes, “the secrets of how Google’s algorithms and products work.” In most software companies, new engineers can see some of the code base for just their product. “At Google, a newly hired software engineer gets access to almost all of our code on the first day,” he writes. The issue is trust, he explains. If you trust your employees, there is no reason not to be transparent and not to let them guide decisions.

As Bock writes in one of the two “work rules” that summarize the chapter on culture, “Give people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you’re not nervous, you haven’t given them enough.”

Each chapter ends with two to four of these succinct work rules that encapsulate the core lesson of the chapter. These work rules are listed at the end of the book, creating perhaps one of the most comprehensive guides to managing people ever gathered in four short pages.

Some of the work rules are progressive but not surprising. The work rules for selecting new employees, for example, are set a high bar for quality, find your own candidates, assess candidates objectively and give candidates a reason to join.

Other work rules may be more unexpected. The rules for compensation begin with “Swallow hard and pay unfairly. Have wide variations in pay that reflect the power law distribution of performance.” In other words, it is often assumed that employees at a certain level should make approximately the same amount of compensation, with some slight adjustment for performance. However, the contribution that employees make to the company will vary greatly from employee to employee. Studies show that the top 1 percent (in performance) of workers generates 10 times the output of average workers. Employees, Bock writes, should be compensated accordingly.

While there are numerous books about Silicon Valley management methods, Work Rules offers both an in-depth exploration of the workings of the iconic company’s HR efforts and policies and a take-away list of practical to-dos valuable to the HR functions of any company.

Markers of Meaning

“The startling truth is that 70% of the workforce is disengaged – their bodies may put in long hours, but their hearts and minds never punch in.  You may even be one of those that’s searching for ways to make work really work for you.  This is a terrible dilemma for organizations trying to motivate employees to do more with less. So how to motivate the disengaged, and further engage the engaged?  It’s not pay, perks, or promotions.

The answer is to foster meaning at work, that is, give work a greater sense of personal significance, and thus, make work matter. “    Scott Mautz

Through his research, Mautz has discovered that specific Markers of Meaning exist, or unique conditions that create meaning in and at work. It’s possible to learn how to trigger each Marker of Meaning and inspire elevated performance and fulfillment that sustains over the long haul.

Markers of Meaning:

Direction

  1. Doing work that matters

Discovery

  1. Being congruently challenged
  2. Working with a heightened sense of competency and self-esteem
  3. Being in control and influencing decisions/outcomes

Devotion

  1. Working in a caring/authentic/teamwork-based culture
  2. Feeling connection with and confidence in leadership and the mission
  3. Being free from corrosive workplace behavior

Looking at this list of markers, I can see why such conditions would be motivators for engagement in any company or work environment. But how do we foster these markers of meaning in our organizations?

Join us on July 7th to learn how. We have invited Scott Mautz to present his findings and answers at our Soundview Live webinar How to Motivate By Creating Meaning. You’ll walk away equipped with a host of specific ideas, insight, and practical tools to help do so.

How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale & Agility

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In today’s ever-changing marketplace, every company is at risk of having a “Kodak Moment”— watching its industry and the competitive advantages it has developed over years, even decades, vanish overnight. The reason? An inability to adapt quickly to new business realities. Established companies are at risk, but it’s no easier being an agile startup, because most of those fail due to their inability to scale. Tomorrow’s business winners — regardless of size or industry — will be the ones that know how to combine scale with agility.

In Design to Grow, a Coca-Cola senior executive shares both the successes and failures of one of the world’s largest companies as it learns to use design to be both agile and big. In this rare and unprecedented behind-the-scenes look, David Butler and Fast Company senior editor Linda Tischler use plain language and easy-to-understand case studies to show how this works at Coca-Cola — and how other companies can use the same approach to grow their business.

Design to Grow is a must-read for managers inside large corporations as well as entrepreneurs just getting started.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Key differences between scale and agility.

• What it means to design on purpose.

• The three realities underlying the new normal of today’s marketplace.

• The power of modular design for creating agility.

• How open systems can help you create a leaner organization.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

 

Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done

PRODUCTIVITY STRATEGIES DESIGNED FOR HUMANSIt seems that every day is the same for most of us: too much to do, too little time to do it. In this hyper-busy, 24/7 world, author Josh Davis’ contention that we can regain control of our lives by being highly productive for two hours a day seems almost silly. Yet in his book, Two Awesome Hours, Davis makes a compelling case that we can get most of the important work done in a total of two hours — or a similarly overall short amount of time (two hours, he explains, is not a magic number but representative of the small amount of highly productive period for which we should aim).Not a MicroprocessorThe secret is to change the mindset of most productivity efforts, which is built on the concept of trying to be efficient for the entire day. The fact — as proven by science — is that machines and computers can be efficient for eight or 10 hours a day, but humans cannot. The brain is not a biological version of a computer microprocessor. You can’t just turn it on and off. It needs to rest. It becomes distracted — and that’s okay.

In short, Davis writes, we need to stop trying to emulate the productivity of machines and instead work with our continually expanding knowledge of how the brain works.

Five Strategies

Based on the science of the brain, Davis has developed five productivity strategies that are designed for humans and not machines.

Strategy 1. Recognize Your Decision Points. It may seem that the moments between tasks are unimportant and, in fact, unproductive. After all, you are not working. As a result, most people rush through what Davis calls “decision points,” those moments in the day when you are deciding what to do next. In their quest to be “productive,” however, people don’t give enough thought to what they should be doing next. They grab the first task they see and end up spending an enormous amount of time on a task that is of secondary importance. “There’s a time and place for the less important work, but leveraging your decision points will help you keep attuned to your larger priorities,” Davis writes.

Strategy 2. Manage Your Mental Energy. Not all hours are the same. This is a major difference with machines, which will work the same no matter when they are operating or for how long. A brain will become tired, and different tasks have more or less impact on brain fatigue. Davis urges his readers to learn when their mental energy is at its peak; this is the time to focus on the most difficult of tasks. And they should be careful not to drain their energy just before that energy is most needed.

Strategy 3. Stop Fighting Distractions. As with decision points, distractions are often seen as the enemy of productivity. In truth, they can be opportunities for regeneration and refocusing. That doesn’t mean reading the sports pages or cyberloafing on social media sites at will, Davis explains. However, daydreaming for a few minutes while looking out the window can send you back to the task refreshed and newly focused.

Strategy 4. Leverage Your Mind-Body Connection. There is a tendency, Davis writes, to separate the mental from the physical. In truth, mind and body are connected, and this offers opportunities to help (or hurt) your mental capacity by how you treat your body. How, when and what you eat or drink, for example, can make a big difference in your mental capacity. Use the mind-body connection to your advantage, Davis urges.

Strategy 5. Make Your Workspace Work For You. The right physical environment will also play a major role in your productivity. “You often can’t change the place where you work, but there are lots of little things you can do to ensure that your workspace is helping, not hindering your productivity,” he writes.

These five deceptively simple strategies, Davis writes, “are effective not only because they are simple and easy to start implementing but also because they work with, not against, your biology.”

In this quick and engaging read, Davis makes a compelling case that the secret for creating the conditions “for at least two hours of incredible productivity every day” is to forget efficiency and draw on the lessons from the latest research in psychology and neuroscience — two disciplines that have nothing to do with machines.

What I’ve Learned About Being A CEO

Today’s guest blogger is Charles D. Morgan, former CEO of Little-Rock-based Acxiom Corporation, world leader in data gathering and its accompany technology. Today he leads a new tech startup called PrivacyStar. His memoir, Matters of Life and Data: The Remarkable Journey of a Big Data Visionary Whose Work Impacted Millions (Including You).

I’ve been a CEO for nearly 40 years, and whenever anyone asks me what’s the most important thing I’ve learned about building successful companies, I answer with two words: corporate culture.

Leadership is about what you do, not what you say, and a healthy corporate culture is evidence of a CEO’s leadership. Some of that evidence is physical, such as daycare centers and basketball courts and exercise rooms, three facets of the culture we created at Acxiom Corporation that contributed to our being named one of America’s “best places to work” by both Working Woman and Fortune magazines.

But while those physical amenities are nice to have, I believe it’s the more abstract parts of a corporate culture that ultimately matter most. In the late 1980s, Acxiom was growing so fast that we lost our way. We were adding so many people, and building up so many layers of management, that we were having trouble getting things done. By the time we woke up, we had 13 layers of management in a company of 400 employees.

We slashed the management structure down to three layers, eliminated corporate titles—mine became simply “Company Leader”—and got leaner and looser and quicker on our feet. By cutting all those layers of supervision we created a culture of engagement in which our “associates,” as we called our employees, were encouraged to think freely, to make mistakes, and to be as creative as possible. We actually institutionalized a philosophy stressing leadership at every level. “You manage projects, and you lead people,” became our mantra, “but you don’t manage people.” To my mind, there’s no faster way to kill creativity than over-supervision.

Our people responded exactly as I hoped they would—they stopped checking their brains at the door and started enjoying the challenges that came their way. By the end of the 1990s, Acxiom was a fully international company with 5,000 employees and $1 billion in annual revenue. I have no doubt that our success was due to our people’s new sense of freedom—of being respected, trusted, and expected to strive for excellence.

Recently I traveled to Silicon Valley, where the subject of corporate culture came up in several meetings—often in a negative context. At one tech company boasting every luxury that so often characterizes top tech firms today, the executive I met with appeared to resent his pampered young employees. Between the lines, he seemed to be saying, I hate that I have to give these spoiled people all these entitlements, but that’s what it takes to hire and keep them. To me, that seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In contrast, I also met with executives at Hewlett Packard, and they couldn’t stop talking about how Chairman and CEO Meg Whitman had “blown up” the stuffy old HP culture. They showed me the telecommunications room, a space much smaller than a typical boardroom. “This is where Meg spends most of her time,” one executive said. “She sits in here and talks with HP employees all over the world.” Now that’s how to make high-tech really work for you.

Meg Whitman’s telecommunicating reminded me of Sam Walton, whom I got to know in my early days at IBM; in fact, I made the presentation that resulted in his buying Walmart’s first computers. Even in those relatively low-tech times, Sam showed his leadership by creating a culture of interaction that became part of the DNA of his company. He would climb into his twin-engine piston airplane and fly himself from town to town visiting his growing chain of stores, walking the aisles and listening to his people. It didn’t take long for his managers to get the message, and soon Walmart had a fleet of 20-or-so planes. Every Monday morning at 7 a.m., the little Bentonville, Arkansas, airport sounded like the U.S. Air Force was getting ready to take to the skies.

To me, the lesson is crystal clear: Empowerment always trumps entitlement, and the very best CEOs work to create a healthy corporate culture of engagement with, and self respect among, their employees. That’s the kind of culture that positions a company for success.

To learn more about Charles Morgan and the use of data in today’s business world, join us for our Soundview Live webinar: The Remarkable Story of a Big Data Visionary.

Modern Day Gold Rush

The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 sparked the Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. As news spread of the discovery, thousands of prospective gold miners traveled by sea or over land to San Francisco and the surrounding area; by the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852.

To accommodate the needs of the ’49ers, gold mining towns had sprung up all over the region, complete with shops, saloons, brothels and other businesses seeking to make their own Gold Rush fortune. The overcrowded chaos of the mining camps and towns grew ever more lawless, including rampant banditry, gambling, prostitution and violence. San Francisco, for its part, developed a bustling economy and became the central metropolis of the new frontier.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and a new gold rush is taking place. As Charles Morgan, author of Matters of Life and Data, puts it: “Data mining is the new gold rush, and we were there at first strike, dragging with us all our human frailties and foibles. In this book’s cast of characters you’ll find ambition, arrogance, jealousy, pride, fear, recklessness, anger, lust, viciousness, greed, revenge, betrayal, and then some.”

Morgan, the Founder, Chairman & CEO of Acxiom Corporation (NASDAQ: ACXM), world leader in data gathering and its accompanying technology, grew Acxiom from an early-stage company to an international corporation growing to $1.4 billion in annual revenue during his tenure as CEO from 1972 to 2008.

If you’d like to hear the inside story of this 21st century gold rush from one of the key players, join us on June 30th for our Soundview Live webinar with Charles Morgan titled The Remarkable Story of a Big Data Visionary. You’ll get the inside scoop of the good and bad players in the data industry, as well as learning about how this data gold rush is affecting our business and personal life.

 

Creating Behavior That Lasts –– Becoming the Person You Want to Be

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Do you ever find that you are not the patient, compassionate problem solver you believe yourself to be? Are you surprised at how irritated or flustered the normally unflappable you becomes in the presence of a specific colleague at work? Have you ever felt your temper accelerate from zero to sixty when another driver cuts you off in traffic?

As Marshall Goldsmith points out in Triggers, our reactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They are usually the result of unappreciated triggers in our environment — the people and situations that lure us into behaving in a manner diametrically opposed to the colleague, partner, parent or friend we imagine ourselves to be. So often, the environment seems to be outside our control.

Even if that is true, as Goldsmith points out, we have a choice in how we respond. In Triggers, Goldsmith shows how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives and enact meaningful and lasting change. Goldsmith offers a simple “magic bullet” solution in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging around what he calls “active” questions, six “engaging questions” that can help us take responsibility for our efforts to improve and help us recognize when we fall short.

With these and other strategies, Triggers can help us to achieve change in our lives, make it stick and become the person we want to be.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• The most common belief triggers that keep us from changing.

• To identify your triggers and use active questions to counter them.

• The power of the environment to influence behavior and the importance of structure to change behavior.

• Why a “good enough” attitude can harm interpersonal relationships.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

 

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

EVERYONE CAN BE A GOOD STORYTELLER

Anyone who has read Steven Levitt’s phenomenal bestseller Freakonomics remembers the advice that his father gave him when Levitt, an economist with suspect mathematical skills, wondered about his professional future as an economist. The advice: Find a niche. The advice itself is not the memorable part, of course; it is the story that accompanied it. Levitt recalls that his father explained how he, too, was not the genius of his class and decided that his best bet was to find an under-filled niche that the stars of medical school would ignore. Thus, Levitt explains, his father developed an expertise in intestinal gas and eventually became known as the King of Farts.

Freakonomics is filled with evocative, funny and illuminating stories, which explains, according to Annette Simmons, author of Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, why it was so successful. Facts are important, she writes, but they often fail to connect with those who hear them. To truly be informative and persuasive, you need good stories — especially personal stories.

Another major advantage of stories is that they effectively convey experiences. “Experience changes minds, alters decisions and creates cohesive action,” Simmons writes. The best way for investors to understand the impact of poor working conditions in the company’s developing world factories, for example, is to walk through a sweatshop. In most cases, however, using the tool of personal experience to influence others is not feasible. A good story, if told with enough feeling and detail, can act as a vicarious experience, plunging the listener into the situation.

Six Stories to Tell

Many people believe that they are not good storytellers, when in fact, Simmons points out, every one of us tells stories all the time. We may not realize, however, that when describing a funny moment of forgetfulness or venting about a frustrating customer-service experience, we are telling a story. Of course, not all stories are appropriate for influencing people. Venting makes us feel good but is hardly a teaching moment.

Simmons identifies the six types of stories that, she writes, “lead to influence, imagination, and innovation”:

Who-I-Am Stories. People won’t trust you if you don’t get personal. “Reveal who you are as a person,” Simmons writes.

Why-I-Am-Here Stories. Use stories to explain your agenda and to be authentic. Explain what’s in it for you.

Teaching Stories. Telling a story that creates a shared experience will be more motivating than just giving someone advice.

Vision Stories. Describe, through a detailed story, your vision of the future.

Value-in-Action Stories. Use stories to show a value in action. Hypothetical situations will sound contrived. A true story will make a compelling case for that value.

I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories. Use a story to show your listener that you are already aware of their unspoken objections or suspicions — and that you have an answer.

Finding the Right Stories

One of the challenges to becoming a good storyteller is finding the right stories. Simmons offers four buckets of story sources from which storytellers can draw: a time you shined, a time you blew it (embarrassing stories build trust); a story about a mentor (which shows humility and gratitude); a story from a book, movie or current event (that exemplifies the core message).

Simmons devotes a chapter to each of the six types of stories. In each chapter, she assigns the reader a general situation. In the chapter about teaching stories, for example, she asks the reader to imagine a pet peeve concerning a job poorly done. The assignment is to tell a non-judgmental story to teach the person to do a better job.

In the final section of this practical how-to book, Simmons helps the reader hone the craft of storytelling. She covers areas such as how to add sensory details that make the story experiential, the importance of brevity and the power of multiple points of view.

In an information-age world that seems enamored with the mass processing of “Big Data,” Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins offers the refreshing perspective that the most traditional of all types of communication — the oral history — is also the most effective tool for influencing and leading people.

Brand Your Brand Through Actions Not Advertising

Today’s guest blogger is Denise Lee Yohn, a leading authority on building and positioning exceptional brands. Denise is the author of the bestselling book What Great Brands Do:  The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest.  Read more by Denise at http://deniseleeyohn.com/bites/best-bites.

If you’re investing time and money into branding strategies that don’t seem to be making a difference, you’re not alone. Most business leaders are frustrated by the lack of return they’re seeing on their advertising dollars. And yet some companies enjoy rapid growth and success with minuscule marketing budgets.  What are the leaders at these organizations doing that so you should also do?

Great brands consider their brands as verbs, not nouns. They don’t use their brands simply as external images promoted through advertising and communications. Instead, they use their brands to shape:

  • the internal culture they cultivate — using a purpose and values to inspire employees and customers alike
  • the core operations they run — creating customer relationships that are meaningful, valuable, and sustainable
  • the customer experiences they deliver — making differentiating and emotional connections with customers

They conceive of and use their brands as what they do and how they do it.

This means that the stewards of the brand don’t reside in the marketing or advertising department; they’re at the highest levels of the organization.  These leaders ensure their organization delivers the brand identity and core values through everything they do, every day, all day. They recognize that brands are built through actions, not advertising.

When you use your brand as the central organizing and operating idea of your company, it makes it easy for everyone who works on your brand — from your executive team to frontline employees to business partners — to know how to nurture and reinforce it because everyone shares a common understanding of the value you’re creating.  It makes it clear what to do and what not to do, so no one wastes time, money, and resources on things that don’t align with and contribute to that value.

By shifting your concept of brand from noun to verb, you also allow for constant evolution. When you think of your brand not as an identity to promote but as an instrument that you fuels, aligns, and guides everything your company does, your brand values and attributes serve as inspiration for innovation into new markets, new offerings, and new categories.

In this day and age where nearly perfect, ubiquitous information allows buyers to predict quite accurately the experienced quality of products and services, people today rely less on advertising and promises of quality and more on the opinions of experts and other consumers.  People no longer need a creative campaign or an attractive message to help them decide which product to buy.  The influence of brands on purchase decisions seems to have diminished.

But this doesn’t mean that brands have become less important.  Ask the executives at Starbucks, IBM, Apple, or IKEA.  The brands at these companies remain integral to their success because they develop and use their brands as more than mere messages.

You can build your brand the way great brands when if embrace the concept of operating your business based on your brand.

To learn more about building a great brand, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Denise Lee Yohn: What Great Brands Do.

Soundview Summaries for July

 

This month we are covering three great new titles: Triggers, which is about personal success, and Design to Grow and The New IT, which are about corporate success.

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Triggers

Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be

by Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith shows how we can overcome the unappreciated triggers in our lives prompted by people and situations that lure us into behaving in a manner diametrically opposed to the colleague, partner, parent, or friend we imagine ourselves to be. Goldsmith details six engaging questions that can help us enact meaningful and lasting change in order to become the person we want to be.

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Design to Grow

How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale & Agility (and How You Can Too)

by David Butler & Linda Tischler

David Butler and Linda Tischler share the successes and failures of Coca-Cola as this large, global company learned to use design to create both scale and agility. Regardless of size or industry, the same approach, which is presented in a clear and actionable way, can be used successfully by other businesses.

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The New IT

How Technology Leaders Are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age

by Jill Dyché

Jill Dyché provides a new business model for building and strengthening the role of IT. By using field-tested techniques to align your IT department with your corporate objectives, you can leverage the power of technology across the entire company. The New IT reframes the IT conversation to bring your business and IT teams together in a truly transformative way.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the individual titles to purchase and download them right now to begin learning these critical business skills.