Monday, January 26, 2009

Baristas Brewing Folgers

  • Would you listen to a pastor who curses like a sailor?
  • Would you buy a car from a Toyota Dealer who drives a Ford?
  • Would you buy your coffee from a Starbucks barista brewing Folgers at home?

Should I believe you and your organization?

Do you believe authentically in your:

  • Product/service
  • Vision
  • Marriage/family
  • Church/non-profit
  • Sports teams
  • Etc.

Authenticity is hard to fake consistently…authenticity is hard to fake authentically? If you work so hard to fake authenticity, why not just live authentically?

Here is why you fake it…change is hard, scary, and requires extra effort.

  • We believe it is better to pretend we are happy at our current Church than it does to find a new one.
  • We believe it is better to keep our miserable job than it is to take the risk there might be something better out there.
  • We keep supporting the same political party our Father did regardless of what that party stands for.

You have two options:

  • Either start living authentically to your current credos or
  • Change the credos. Anything less hollows you out and makes a cynic of yourself.

CHALLENGE: Find the areas of your life where you live a lie. Where you fake a smile. Where you pretend to your friends that everything is great. Where you write down the goal but have no expectation of actually meeting it. Make a change, and start living authentically to that change.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cynicism Defeated: Authenticity

Be Authentic.

  1. Authenticity breads credibility.
  2. Credibility builds trust.
  3. Trust nurtures hope.
  4. Hope wards off cynicism.

No fakes. Live your vision matter the cost.

Just before Christmas, executives from the big three US automakers pleaded their case to Congress for why their companies needed significant Government loans to weather the economic downturn. Their testimony was eloquent. They spoke of how devastating it would be to loose thousands of US jobs if these automakers were to have close. They spoke of improving quality and competitiveness against foreign rivals. They spoke of the sad potential of a future with no US car companies. These CEOs waxed on about how their companies would be good stewards of any funds the government entrusted to them.

Sadly the eloquence of their words were overwhelmed by the volume of their actions. All three had traveled to the Capitol Hill hearings on private jets. Even if you think giving money to the auto industry is the right thing to do to get this nation of its downward spiral, doesn't a story about executives flying private jets make you want to slap each of these CEOs in the forehead with the flat of your palm and yell,

"You dufus, you just don't get it; you have NO credibility with me! I don't trust you!"

It is clear these men got the message loud and clear. In follow-up congressional testimony a week later, two execs flew on commercial airlines (in coach) while one drove across country in their company's new hybrid car. Imagine the powerful authentic message these men could have conveyed if they had switched their original travel plans a week earlier.

Authenticity is not the same thing as good marketing. If you are hollow on the inside, just like the dead Oak standing in the field, sooner or later life's storm will knock you over. Sooner or later your clever marketing will falter if the marketer does not really believe the marketing. Sooner or later marketing not grounded in deep-seeded belief in ones cause will ring false.

Authenticity is better than marketing. Authenticity is:

  • Rare, which makes authentic people and organizations stand out from the crowd.
  • Contagious, people naturally want to be around authentic people.
  • Empowering, even to those who do not share your vision. Simply seeing others truly live the way they say they will compels others to try harder to live their own visions.

Do you know authentic people or organizations? I would like to hear from you. I would like to celebrate these people and organizations with you. We need as many authentic people as we can get.

Cynics can be overcome. No shortcuts - just actions matching words...everytime.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Hope HOPE will Help

"I am asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington...I'm asking you be believe in yours." - President Obama

Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States this week.

He ran on a platform of Hope and Change. Hope is a powerful word. It flavors everything from how you view history, your current situation, to your future ambition. From your work life to your home life to your Church life – hope improves everything.

Although hope is long-suffering, hope breads cynicism if scorned. Cynicism breads quickly on a diet of a failed hope. Hindsight over the next year will show the net benefit of hope on this country’s position.

I am hopeful that hope will help.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Critics and Cynics

Last post, I wrote about Peeing the in the Pickles - the sad story of polluting one's organizational culture. Every day we either pollute or promote the cultures we are apart of based on the choices we make - no middle ground. Pollute or promote. Grow or destroy.

So who are your polluters?

Are all of your critics "polluters"? Is everyone that ever says a bad word about your organization trying to destroy your culture? Is it bad to have critics?

No. In fact some of the people who love you the most complain the loudest. Speaking from personal experience, I only bother complaining to the managers of organizations I actually believe would use my criticism to make improvements.

Criticism and cynicism are not the same thing - the differences come down to vision. Let's take a look at a couple of examples:

Critic: "I know what good service should be, that was not it"
Cynic: "No one can offer good service, you just want to take advantage of me"

Critic: "This leadership development program rings hollow unless managers are actually evaluated and promoted based on how well they follow these criteria."
Cynic: "What a joke, just the latest program. They role out one of these leadership things every couple years. Nothing changes. It's all just a fad."

Critics have a vision for what good looks like and want to raise performance to reach that vision. Well handled criticisms can promote culture and grow an organization. Tomorrow, send thank you cards to all of your critics (internal and external).

Cynics have no such vision, but complain none the less. Cynics spew pollution from a source of pain. These are the people who touched a hot stove after being reassured it would not hurt them. They have trusted before. Their trust was abused. They do not believe you because either you or someone else has lied to them in the past. They have scars to prove it. As a result, the cynic's starting position is one of strong doubt. They don't trust you. They don't believe you. Most cynics believe what you are doing will be to their detriment.


Cynics are polluters. But I can understand why. Cynics were lied to. Cynics were cheated. Cynics were abused. But cynics are passionate. Cynics are often vocal.

What if a cynic could be changed?
What if a cynic did not have to stay a cynic?
What if a cynic did not have to pollute?

How do you turn a cynic into a critic?
How do you turn a polluter into a promoter?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Peeing in the Pickles

Warning: This post contains some gross elements.
The gross-ness is important, but...
...put down your cheeseburger and lemonade before proceeding.
Trust me on this one.

In my brothers home town, a well known fast food chain was shut down in January 2008 because one of its employees urinated in the pickles. Yep, I'm not kidding. Health Inspector shut them down. Yuck (aren't you glad you put your cheeseburger down now!).

This got me thinking. I am doubtful the guilty employee woke up that fateful morning last January and told himself while brushing the corn flakes out of his teeth, "Today is the day, today I will pee in the pickles." No, you can't understand the "why" of this situation by looking at one isolated event frozen in time.

It's like seeing a large tree out in a field. It stands tall and strong and then one day, CRASH, it falls to reveal a rotten, hollowed out core. It is at that moment you release that tree has been dead for years and despite your perspective of health and strength, the tree was hollow and decaying on the inside.

The fast food restaurant manager needs to look deeply at the culture she is fostering. What culture hollows out a young man to point he would resort to peeing in the pickle jar? How does the restaurant's culture contribute to his decay?

This isn't a post focusing on society's responsibility for an individual's actions. People are still responsible for what they do. Let's talk about you, not society. Let's talk about your responsibility to the culture all around you.

Every day.
In every organization you participate in.
Your actions either promote your organization's culture or pollute it.
There is no middle ground.
In fact, because of the delicate nature of culture, you may be polluting your culture simply by doing nothing and sitting on the sidelines.
  • After work, ask, did i promote or pollute today?
  • After Church, ask, did I promote or pollute today?
  • After school, ask, did I promote or pollute today?
  • After family time, ask, did I promote or pollute today?

I need your ideas. How do we keep the tree from hollowing? How do we keep our people and ourselves from peeing in the pickles?

Engagement grows as promoting grows as polluting shrinks.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drink your Own Koolaid

Your kids know.
Your spouse knows.
And your team definitely knows.
Do you live out the vision that is stenciled on your wall?

If Yes - you are promoting organizational engagement.
If No - you are peeing in the pickles.

On paper your organization stands for something:
-Eradicating world hunger.
-Making the best hamburger on the planet.
-Equipping the bold to climb Mount Everest.

Do you believe your own press releases?
You need to. Drink your own Koolaid!

Your team cannot be expected to believe more than you do in the organizational vision.
Their action will follow your action.
Your team will live the vision in a more reserved manner than you (I can almost guarantee this point), which is all the more reason to live your vision boldly.

Why not live in your own hotel?
Why not brew the same coffee at home that your restaurant serves its guests?
Why not sit in your own pews for several hours (comfortable enough)?
Why not try to reach someone by following the prompts of your 800#?
Why not eradicate inconsistencies in your service?
Why not sit in the same lunch room as your employees?
Why not give the hourly workers your parking spot?
Why not leave the office once in a while to work the line?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vision is Storytelling

The gong sounds.
The trumpet blasts.
Everyone gets ice cream!

You’ve seen it before. The Corporate office sends out the updated company vision with great fanfare (usually minus the ice cream). Corporate expectations are high. The boss is convinced this new vision will guide the company through treacherous competitive waters to lush profits on the shores of the new world. Most of this mush consists of some concoction of the following elements:

  • Offer some product/service
  • Provide more value to customers than our competitors
  • Meet Growth/Profit Targets
  • Do all of the above in a positive, ethical, discrimination free, and environmental manner

WE ARE DOING VISION WRONG! If vision is so important, let’s start doing it right.

Vision in its current form communicates poorly. Case in point:

Name the vision of:

  • Your company
  • Your church
  • Your favorite non-profit, or even
  • Your family

Could you do it? This lack of recall for most of us does not invalidate the vision itself. The vision still represents a desired future. But a vision must motivate to be effective. If a vision doesn’t persuade me to action, how effective was it really? So how do we communicate vision from the boardroom t the backroom, and ultimately to the living room?

The best visioneering is storytelling.

  • Storytelling is fun.
  • Storytelling carries a message.
  • Storytelling is participative
  • Storytelling is communal.

The Greeks and Hebrews wove storytelling into the very fabric of their cultures. In fact, some scholars now believe the ancient Hebrew Scriptures may actually be the earliest recorded plays. Take that Shakespeare (and Zeus, for that matter).

The team at the Arbinger Institute continues to use stories to teach corporate lessons. Their book, Leadership and Self-Deception continues to be a favorite of mine. I learn without the baggage of boredom a textbook often brings.

But how is storytelling a better way to convey a vision?


  • What the organization will Be
  • Vague
  • Focused on the Organization
  • High-level Summary
  • Received Passively
  • Defined
  • Forgettable
  • A Statement on a wall


  • What the organization will Do
  • Specific
  • Focused on the Customer
  • Example Driven
  • Received Actively through Participation
  • Evolving/Growing
  • Memorable
  • A Culture lived out

Consider the following example:

Butlers Café & Coffee is a growing gourmet coffee chain the Midwest. They are committed to sharing their corporate vision through storytelling (see if you can guess their vision through their storytelling). Butlers brings fresh flowers into the ladies bathroom everyday. During the spring, they wash the windows of drive through customers. Their seating area includes a floor-to-ceiling wall of books (500 provided by Butlers, 500 provided by the community on opening day). The guests have the opportunities to vote on changes to the menu. There is a waterfall in the bathroom for goodness sake!

With a name like Butlers (think Top Hat and Bow Ties”), it is not surprising to hear their corporate vision statement includes “extravagant service.” But what if that phrase, “extravagant service” was handed to you as a new store manager or employee (by the way, Butlers calls their employees, “Servants” in case employees had any questions about their job description). As a manager, how would you implement this element of the Butlers’ vision? Without stories of extravagant service to set the bar, the vision would be reduced to platitudes on the wall, regardless of how often repeated, actions would drift toward the hollow. Without stories, the valiant attempt to change the world is quickly scoffed at for its hypocritical tendencies.

Now that I have shared the story of Butlers Café & Coffee, I bet many of you could not only get excited about implementing this component of the company vision, you probably have even more ideas of how to enhance the work Butlers is doing (send emails to
Storytelling also includes company lore. A Butlers servant conveyed to me a story of 100+ degree day last summer where a Butlers manager stopped mid-sentence while leading a company training session. While his servants wondered at his actions, they watched as the manager took a smoothie out to the man mowing the grass out front of the building. Upon his return, the manager apologized for the delay with the simple statement, “He looked Hot.” The retelling of this story sets the bar high for authentic, passionate, implementation of one’s vision!

Storytelling promotes organizational involvement and buy-in. And as we discussed previous posts, storytelling is a powerful tool to overcome organizational cynicism.