Saturday, October 21, 2017

People do not quit companies, managers, or leaders – they quit organizational cultures. Here’s why.

Over the summer, I caught up with Susan, one of my favorite college classmates, over brunch.  Even though Susan and I never worked together, I always admired and loved working with her on school projects.   We both became consultants at different firms.  Over the years I continued to run into Susan and her colleagues at the airport so we stayed in touch quite often.

To no surprise, Susan’s colleagues gushed time and time again about her.  She was smart, hardworking, politically savvy, and had a very likable personality.  She was the go-to person for clients, coworkers, and leadership alike.   I watched over the years as Susan continued to climb up the ladder at her firm and we would joke about her eventually fulfilling her world domination plans.  On the outside looking in, it seemed like the sky was the limit for Susan’s career and the firm she worked at was a slam dunk.

Until it wasn’t. 

Susan recently handed in her resignation and this news came as a surprising blow to her former firm.
For Susan, this was years in the making. 

Why did Susan, a long time firm rockstar and a favorite leader, decide to leave? A changing culture.    
“When I joined the firm 13 years ago, the leadership created an amazing culture of high growth, development, and community.  But over the years, many of the leaders I grew up with retired. And then the firm started hiring a lot of new leaders with different values because of their ability bring in revenue.  What the leaders failed to realize is that this changed the culture of the firm over time.  I do not recognize or identify with the company anymore.”

I asked Susan, “What about your leadership team, mentors & sponsors? Where do they stand in all of this?”

Susan replied, “Yes, I have had an amazing support system of leaders over the year. But the culture had gotten so bad that even they cannot change it either.”

Up until my meeting with Susan, I had always believed that people quit leaders not companies. But then I realized that there is probably another way to look at it.  It is more than just leaders.

People do not just quit companies or leaders…they quit organizational cultures.   

According to a Harvard Business Review article, apparently employees leave both good and bad bosses at almost comparable rates. The article shares: “Good leadership doesn’t reduce employee turnover precisely because of good leadership. Supportive managers empower employees to take on challenging assignments with greater responsibilities, which sets employees up to be strong external job candidates.”
So what actually comprises of an organizational culture?

Organizational culture, in its simplest form, is an ecosystemic mashup of values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, symbols, rituals, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of employees and driven by leadership. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of - generally unspoken and unwritten - rules for working together.

I then asked my social media network why they would leave a company. 40+ people generously shared example after example, story after story all pointing back to culture that I have distilled into 5 components:

Misaligned vision and leadership
Limited company vision. No perspective of where the organization is going. Why are we are investing time, money and resources without a goal.
“Not being able to see how my role are fits into the bigger picture.”
I have left companies and projects primarily because things aren't a good fit for me.
If leadership does not have a vision big enough for an individual’s personal goals and dreams to be achieved they will look elsewhere.
Leadership acted differently when they are going to sell a company vs growing it.
When a company's values contradict their business decisions, the mismatch begins to tear down the trust.

Compromised values, beliefs, and increased toxicity
When employees feel that they are being coerced into doing things that don't align with their values they will find other places to use their talents.
Constant burnout with favoritism, gossip, and disrespectful people.
Mediocrity was accepted as good enough.
Lack of allowing creativity / new ideas, and condescending attitudes.
Abuse in the workplace such as underpayment or demands exceedingly unrealistic responsibilities.
You can be the most motivated and driven individual on your team but sometimes it isn't enough. It requires the collective efforts of an entire team to truly achieve the company's mission.

Lack of connection, appreciation, community, and affinity
Not challenged, appreciated or feeling disconnected from the team and the organization as a whole.
An extroverted workplace with no flexibility for introverts to manage their energy and time to produce their best work.
Discouragement due to lack of visible progression of women and people of color in leadership roles.

Uncertainty during hard times and massive change
I saw a lack of faith from some folks at my own company during the recession. We've always had a strong people/family-oriented culture, but during that time and a couple of years after we got away from it and several key people left.
The company owner's fear of the business going under was getting in the way of us actually being able to solve problems that would help the business run better.

Organizational structures & processes that create malaise and stagnation
I was in a culture where it wasn’t safe to fail, to express yourself, to grow, or to be heard.
Lack of a feedback mechanism. Too many people to confirm with for simple decisions.
Culture of impossible wins with unattainable and unrealistic goals setting.
Not having structured processes that support workplace flexibility have forced people to leave.
I couldn't stand the waste. Wasted time in meetings, wasted use of resources, and wasted opportunities.
I get really bored when I stop learning and that dramatically reduces motivation and output.
I felt that I wasn't learning at the rate I wanted to learn and saw no future for career growth.
I wasn't learning new things (being developed as an employee or leader.) And I wasn't being leveraged to do the things I brought to the table.

What do you think employees and leaders can do to help steer the ship of an organizational culture? 

Thanks to Susan for inspiring this effort, best of luck in your new role. 

Many thanks to my social media network for contributing to this blog post – including those that preferred to remain anonymous.  You rock! Tim Knight, Titania Veda, Sean Wachsman, Bill McArthur, Jay Morales, El Peterson, David Vaassen, Megan O'Leary, Tina Huynh, Kristin Jekielek, Su-Ann Lim, Doreen Chen,  Keri Robinson, Lisa Guida, Julien Fortuit, Chrissanne Long, Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, Kishshana Palmer, Francesca Lujan, Anthony Palmer, Nathan Kituuma,  Ibinabo Koleosho,  Janell Powell , Luis Vazquez , Donald Weber, Jr. Nick Burnett , Leanne Castro

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

12 hacks every new podcaster should do to create and launch a top ranking podcast show

MECE Muse Unplugged starting trending on iTunes on July 19, 12 days after officially launching #81. 

At its (current) peak, tho show ranked at #14 on iTunes business category.

I went from having no podcasting production knowhow to having a top ranking podcast show on iTunes with 100s of weekly listeners and well over 8k+ plays and downloads in less than 60 days.

…And you can too.

While it is all about your concept…
Have a laser focused podcast concept that speaks loudly to your audience.   As a Seth Godin altMBA alum, I used Seth’s ShipIt journal to refine my concept.  This was actually the most challenging portion of the podcasting journey, but most valuable. 

Make every podcast decision with your listeners in mind. My podcast target audience dictates important elements such as the time of day to release, the length of average episodes, and the frequency.   If I am not sure, I just ask some of my listeners.

Have an end goal with your podcast concept.  What is the goal of your podcast?  Demonstrate expertise? Make money? Promote your business? Build your thought leadership skills?  Make sure you have a clear goal as to why you are creating a podcast show.

…content is still king.
Give yourself permission to be creative.  While conducting interviews is the tried and true way, try other podcasting formats.  I personally create micro content episodes where I answer fan mail, I do previews of past or future episodes, and also embed a Q&A format.  My podcast show is also a pop-up variety show which means like HBO’s business model, I have a pre-determined end date to my show to end it on a high note.  Being creative gives your show more personality.

Make sure you are authentically passionate about your podcast show.  I ask my listeners what they like about my show the most – surprisingly, 80% of my listeners tell me it is because I care about helping them and they could hear it in my voice.  Pick a concept that you care about, regardless of your podcast’s goals….passion and authenticity matters in the game of podcasting.

Focus on your content and not perfection. As with any media channel, podcasting is still about content.    While I am still in the early stages of my podcasting journey, as a recovering perfectionist I sometimes cringe when I hear the first set of episodes I hear every recorded mistake or miscue.  But what is interesting is my listeners absolutely love the show because of the insights provided, and are very forgiving with newbie mishaps. (for that I am grateful!)

You will figure it out along the way – it’s not about perfection part II.   If you are trying to create the perfect show, you might not ever get your show off the ground.  Launch and refine along the way.

Spend as little money as possible until you have a proven concept.  I spent less than $80 to get started for my artwork, microphone, and a microphone computer stand.  I used a free version of UberConference to record interviews and used free Setmore as a scheduler.  Once I noticed that the podcast show was starting to take off, I decided to begin investing in creating efficient processes and higher quality products.

Remember to tell people what you will do, do it, then tell them what you did.

Begin marketing the show before you launch.  Once I decided I was going to create a show, I started to market the show for 6 weeks before the first episode was even recorded.  I publicly shared a launch date of July 7 with a personal launch date of June 23.  In that timeframe, I liberally shared the show with my network, on various social media sites, at speaking engagements, and sent pitch letters & press releases to over 100 podcast shows seeking interviews.   The week before my launch, I had a virtual launch party and began sharing my podcast fan toolkit to future fans.

Always over deliver to build trust and rapport with your listeners.  I originally advertised my podcast as a bi-weekly show but interestingly enough, I was never bi-weekly!  Within days of launching, I realized that I needed to publish more frequently to build momentum.   I launched with 4 episodes from day one and continued publishing regularly.  Some weeks I publish two episodes a week in order to continue building trust with my listeners.

Seek feedback to refine your show while bringing your listeners along the journey.  My show is relatively new and I am constantly refining the show, intros/outros, guests, etc.… but I ask for constant feedback and my listeners provide it.  Let your listeners know what you are thinking about and why.  They will tell you what they need.

Obtain as many podcasting hacks as you can.  I personally attended at podcast conference called PodSummit in Calgary, Canada.  Great investment of time and money.  Within one day, I learned everything I needed to know to confidently launch a podcast. I then decided after learning about the mechanics to outsource the podcast editing portion of the process.   Here is my hack “gift” to you -  notes from that conference and a couple of other hacks here,  here,  and here…everything you need to launch your own podcast show. Enjoy. :-)