Category: Company Culture

Please Stop Writing about Millennials in the Workplace

June 15th, 2016

Millennials chatterIn five years, a majority of workers will be Millennials. Boomers are retiring or being replaced at a rapid pace of 10-13,000 per day! Everyone talks about how Millennials are going to change work for the rest of us. They have. But the change started long before they came on the scene in large numbers. The only point that matters is that many of us want to work differently. And have been working on it since Millennials were born.

Smart businesses have realized that most of us don’t work for a paycheck. We work for a purpose. Which is why so many of us care about working some place that has a mission!

They say Millennials only care about their growth and new skills. Haven’t we all grown tired of video games and smoothies at work? Food and tchotchkes barely, if ever, really mattered that much compared to how much I liked my job. But, chances to have new experiences? Lead new projects. Learn new technologies. That is what real talent has always wanted.

Nobody can lead like a 5 star general anymore. Command and Control is dead. Communication and ideas must flow freely. And decision making is distributed and pushed out to the front lines, putting decision makers much closer to the customer. This is not new, this is 20 years in the making kind of stuff. Millennials (and the rest of us) want leaders that can coach too and value our whole selves. So please, stop writing and talking about Millennials in the workplace. We get it, there’s a lot of them.

Is “No Silos’ an achievable goal?

February 10th, 2016

Silo Mentality‘ is “an attitude found in some organizations that occurs when several departments or groups do not want to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same company.” (Investopedia)

The key phrase I’d like to point out in the above definition is “do not want to share.” Why? I’ll get to that, but first let me set up where I am coming from.

No Silos is one of our Outside-In® values. We like to brag about being one team where politics, title and departments do not create barriers to doing business for us. With multiple brands, teams and functions this value symbolically declares our equality — regardless of title or role — to everyone internally and externally in the business.

Silo MentalityBut I am here to say that we have silos, and probably always will. There are a few sources of silos that are unavoidable. For one, it is only natural for people to imprint strongly or bond with a team, a client, or group of people (when you start in the same orientation class, for example). Folks are always going to find some commonality to silo around. Everyone looks to self identify — where we live, who we know, what we know and of course who we work with or share information with. We tend to discriminate or create silos when we don’t know others. It is easier to not help or not share when you are strangers. So with strong relationship bonds, silos are naturally created.

Another example of unavoidable silos in business are organizational functions. The operations, finance, HR and sales teams (and so on) are by nature separate functions that create silos for a number of reasons: knowledge/expertise, common projects & goals, shared leadership, or even the fact that people sit closer together. Work is organized in such a way that you spend a lot of time together working on similar work, and therefore barriers are created between one functional group and another.

So yes, companies and organizations will always have silos. There will always be groups of friends, project groups, account teams, functional departments and leadership at every company. Let’s go back to the phrase “do not want to share” in the definition of silo mentality. There is one thing that separates a company with silo mentality and one without: it’s the willingness to share information.

If you sense a Silo Mentality at your company, dig deeper into the why. 1. Are people unwilling to share information with other teams? 2. Are there rules from leadership that prevent information sharing? Or 3. Is it the organizational structure that makes it hard (but not impossible) to work across teams and departments?

At Outside-In® Companies, we have experienced a lot of organizational change lately as we get organized for growth and scaling. As we define roles and put infrastructure in place, we are experiencing some of #3. But what I can tell you, is that our issues with silos are not as severe as the stories I hear about from companies that experience #1 and #2. How about needing to fill out an actual form that must be approved by each department head to receive permission to talk to another department? So much for collaboration at the water cooler or getting together for happy hour to create, solve or address business problems, large or small.

Or this recent one. Sales and Account Management teams refused to include the Service team in the customer conversation. These departments misconstrued who owns relationships, and maybe most importantly who is involved with delivering an experience to the customer! Imagine trying to get anything done!

So yes, at the Outside-In® Companies, we do have Silos. But our Silo Mentality is not because we are unwilling to share with our team members or because we have rules in place that prevent cross-team collaboration. In fact, with No Silos as a value, cross-team collaboration is encouraged. The No Silos value is about building relationships because you can. And encourages reaching out across silos — without rules, forms, sign up sheets or leader’s permission. Regardless of a one leader’s behavior, one can always talk to or work with whom they want.

Now, back to the question at hand, “Is ‘No Silos’ an achievable goal?” No Silos is an aspirational value. It’s impossible to have No Silos in a business. But you can reinforce a ‘No Silos Mentality’ and adjust your organizational structure to break down barriers that prevent departments or teams from working well together. The mentality or mindset is achievable, and one we always strive to improve upon.

Does your company have a Silos Mentality? If so, you have a leadership problem. Yup, I said it. Silos exist because leaders allow it, can’t address it, or are rewarded or incentivized to allow them to exist. So dig deeper to find out the why.

What is Outside-In?

February 4th, 2016

Although Outside-In® is a regular topic in my blog, the definition tends to elude some readers. By definition, Outside-In® is when a business is customer-centered. It is a philosophy, a culture, a way of thinking that impacts the way a business and its employees operate. When you’re Outside-In®, you are always listening to your customers’ needs and wants for opportunities to improve, drive change, or try something new for your customers.

I know many leaders that pride themselves on focusing on the customer exclusively — kudos to them. But how many leaders truly turn outward first, then build a company that does the same? A leader’s focus on the customer does not necessarily translate into every employee. Outside-In® suggests that leaders don’t have to hold the customer’s wants and needs on their shoulders alone. In a world that is moving faster every day, isn’t it better to have everyone in the organization listening and reacting to customers, instead of just one or a few?

Outside-In® companies should and can run like one, big, constant focus group. Imagine a focus group that never ends, where employees get to ask the questions and observe the customers’ behavior. What if these observations were collected and cherished every day and that company decisions and plans were driven based on all the customer insights collected? In an eternal focus group, every employee sees the impact the company has on the customer and when that impact is negative or unproductive, each employee has the opportunity to recognize how the issue could be addressed.

Employee IdeasLast year, Comcast NBCUniversal awarded employee ideas in the company’s internal ‘Shark Tank’ competition, The Idea, which challenged employees (139,000+ globally) to come up with the next big idea to make the company better. Employees responded to challenge, submitting 200 submissions within two hours of the program’s announcement, and nearly 3,000 ideas in the end. All employees’ suggestions “for enhancing the customer experience or driving innovation and new business opportunities.” Maggie Suniewick, a Senior VP for the company and organizer of the competition shared, “We have so many talented and engaged employees with really good ideas — they just haven’t always known how to share them more broadly.” The Idea winner, Nathan Kalish agreed with executives inspiration behind the competition, “We have to look to employees and consumers to identify needs and challenges,” he says. “And if we want to adapt and grow, we need to respond.”

Google is another example of a company that not only rewards employees but also their customers who uncover vulnerabilities in Google’s system. Last year, Google rewarded Kamil Hismatullin who discovered that he could delete any YouTube video file in minutes. Instead of exploiting this information, he reported the code he used to Google, who fixed the issue within a few hours and gave him $5,000 as a thank you. And just this week it was reported how much Google paid the man who bought the domain back in October 2015. What would Google do if they no longer had!

There are lots of companies that practice the Outside-In® behavior of listening to customers to fix problems, make improvements and implement new ideas. And you don’t need to be a big company with a huge bank account like NBCUniversal or Google. Harvard Business Review notes one Japanese company Idemitsu, which gets more than a hundred ideas per employee each year without offering any bonuses. Imagine your company living with a customer-centric mindset 24/7! Wow, think of the money you could save. Or how much your company could make with new ideas?

How to Earn the Right with Outside-In

January 13th, 2016

I have a problem with the way you conduct yourself.

Earn the RightYes, that’s right I do. You have called me repeatedly and asked for my time. I have emails from you, many I might say. I even got the snail mail brochure that is sitting on my desk under a pile of other papers. You have done a terrific job of making you and your firm known to me. However, not in a good way. I am a small business person. Without relationships, customers, even new prospects to talk to, I do not have a company to run. So, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this subject. I am, what I am going to call an “earning the right expert”. What is earning the right you might say? I hope you ask me that question or better yet read this post before you call and email for the 7th time on Tuesday at 1:30 pm. Yes, I even know when you are going to call me. And I make plans to avoid your call.

Earning the right is a core value of the Outside-In® Companies. Admittedly, I think we can do better at this one. Earning the right is what we must do for all of our relationships both internally and externally in our business.

  • Earning the right is about how we build trust.
  • Earning the right is how we make and keep small commitments.
  • Earning the right is how we demonstrate and create value for people.
  • Earning the right is about doing something for others because you have made an effort to find out what is important to them. And once you know that, deciding if your sphere of influence can help them out.
  • Earning the right is the first step to becoming something more in a relationship.

Need an example? Try asking me what my problems are. Or consider investing in me personally. Everyone always has a car to buy, has a kid graduating, a neighbor who needs a vendor or vendor who needs a problem solved. Help me help you. Be authentic. Be Genuine. Invest in me first.

Your calls, emails, and letters will be left where they are until you ask me to share my story. And you actually listen to it. Yes, I probably need what your selling. I might even be actively looking for your product or services right now. I could make your month or your quarterly bonus. But don’t sell me your product or your company. Tell me your story. But ask me about mine. Earn the right first.

ps: By the way earning the right fits in every single relationship situation. This is about slowing down. Doing things right. Don’t be selfish. Or at least fake it a little, please. Folks that don’t practice earning the right sound like whiny teenagers demanding the car keys on a Saturday night! Earn the right in all your relationships.

4th Annual Holiday Infographic

December 10th, 2015

Happy Holidays from the Outside-In® Companies!

Take a look at our year in numbers through our 4th Annual Holiday Infographic!

Why Being an Intrapreneur is Good for Your Career

November 18th, 2015

Where are new jobs being created? Small to mid-size businesses! This is where most of the world works. And if you don’t already work for a small or mid-size business, this is where most of you will find work in the coming years. Being entrepreneurial is all about creating, building, and problem solving! Entrepreneurial companies are about building jobs, creating economic value, finding new markets, innovating and solving unsolved customer and marketplace issues. That is why the jobs are in growth companies. A free market works this way. And these are not the type of jobs that your great-grandfather had turning a wrench on the assembly line, working for a big company. These companies create jobs that demand intrapreneurial behaviors and actions.

Small to mid-size business requires a very different mentality and shift in employee thinking and behaviors. If you don’t want to start your own business and take on the burdens of business ownership, then go work for a growth business. I call that being an intrapreneur. As an owner, we choose to create an entrepreneurial environment, in which you can think and act like a business owner, which is being intrapreneurial! For the Outside-In® Companies, well, we made intrapreneurial a value because we want entrepreneurial behaviors in the business.

intrapreneur-entrepreneurialWe want to encourage all employeees to lift their head, to think and see business problems that need solving and to find solutions to them. Intrapreneurs see business opportunities. Take calculated risks. Will never say that’s not my job. And typically that is what it will take to manage and handle a growing business. All hands on deck. Intrapreneurial employees are interested and clear about the company mission. And have an attitude about their job that is different than those who work for a big company or have a government job.

Intrapreneurship means anyone will do whatever it takes to move the company forward in its mission. And this may seem extreme or impossible if you work some place that says just do your job or says no to every idea that you have. But, imagine a place that wants and collects your feedback and ideas. Or that is pleased when you do something that is not on your personal scorecard but it is great for the business.

So what is the opposite of intrapreneurial?
If you work for the government or a really big company, you’re mostly paid a wage to do a job — nothing more or less. If a wage is what you’re after, great! You found nirvana. But many workers get frustrated and feel like it is hard to have any kind of greater impact. They are made to feel or are told to color within the lines. Don’t challenge. Keep new ideas to yourself. Don’t work too fast. These behaviors will call attention to you, or worse yet others on your team. Many leaders want to change this reality and a few do. BUT, most quit trying for the very reasons others have — it simply takes energy that is not worth it. And in the end, these behaviors are not welcomed because they are a threat. To go above and beyond, one must feel appreciated for it. When they aren’t appreciated, one of two things happens:

  1. Some start to just do the minimum and learn to keep out of the way.
  2. Those who are more intrapreneurial leave!

Contrast that to an entrepreneurial, fast growing and changing business. You’re hired to create economic value. In fact, your earning power is much more directly tied to the power of your ideas and output! Not just the work you do. And in the end, this creates a career path that is more matrix-like, than a ladder that you climb. And climbs take time right? When you slide diagonal and side ways? It happens faster!

So try to behave in these intrapreneurial ways :

  1. Create value. Look around and see what is broken or wrong in your area. Figure out how to fix and then, fix it!
  2. Keep growing and learning. Think this is a silly? Well, many won’t invest in themselves, but the world demands it. Keep up or suffer the outcome.
  3. Understand how people handle change. You must change personally or know how to help others.
  4. Know your market. What are customers saying to you? What is the market sharing? I bet your company can get better and so will your career if you know and work on this.

Try this Inexpensive Way to Improve Service

October 21st, 2015

In every office and warehouse in all corners of the globe, there are responders (responsive employees) and late responders (unresponsive employees). As you read this you probably patted yourself on the back or nodded your head, “yeah I one of the responsive ones.” Next, you thought of that person on your team or in another department that never seems to, well, respond to anything or anyone. How do they keep their job anyway, you wonder.

We all know late responders, we all have stories about them. YouTube “bad service” and watch customers answer the phones in retails stores because no employees would do it. Try calling the government on a service hot line. I don’t mean to pick on the obvious, however, I just called my state government and was told “your call is very important to us, there are currently 97 callers in front of you and we will answer your call in 1 hour and 24 minutes, please go to the website…” I had to wait. I eventually talked to a responder, but wow, their overall service is much more about being a late responder! So what are the responsive and non-responsive behaviors?

Non-responsive Behavior

  • Ignoring emails and any repeated attempts to engage — (After many attempts to combat this behavior, others may even make excuses for late responders [they are busy, they have a hard job], but these are excuses for non-responsive behavior.)
  • Letting calls go to voicemail because you can — I am not talking about general opinions about phones and texts here. I am talking about flat out avoidance of work.
  • Cancelling meetings
  • Not listening — (Late responders do all of the talking.)
  • “Quitting and staying” — I don’t have enough help or I have issues at home, they say. Whatever it is, late responders can’t help you, no matter what kind of customer you are. Have you been to an overwhelmed, fast food restaurant lately?
  • Complacency — Late responders have no reason to try too hard. Perhaps they are comfortable, or hiding from you. Regardless there is no internal reason to respond any faster than they feel like.

Responsive Behavior

  • Take action and engage
  • Showing respect for and appreciating others
  • Know, build and maintain important relationships in and out of the company
  • Balancing the need to get to the to do list with the needs of others
  • Caring — Sure it helps when you like your company and believe in its cause.
  • Liking what you do — It also helps to have a boss that cares about your aspirations and looks out for you.

If you’re smart, you’re realizing that these responsive behaviors are a personal choice that your employees have to make. A great company focused on service realizes that this is a wonderful way to add value to customers’ and employees’ worlds. And it’s free. So try this inexpensive way to improve customer service and adopt or promote responsive behaviors in your workplace.

  • Being a non-responder or owner of a company full of them is not free. It’s bad for business, and in fact, hurts your paycheck or your income statement.
  • Being a responder is free, a competitive advantage and good for stakeholders.

p.s. If you really are a responder, you can work for me anytime. Send your resume to icanhelpyou [at]

When do company values go wrong?

September 16th, 2015

We are in an era where workers are looking for reasons to why a business exists beyond making money. A time when it’s commonplace to discuss the greater purpose of a business and the values that are important to both the leaders and employees of a company. The values of a company are the personality of the place. The behaviors that the founder(s) and leaders want from all employees in their absence. These behaviors act as an ongoing compass that provides employees direction when they are on their own or faced with an opportunity or crisis in the business. When the business purpose is not clear, it is almost assumed that the purpose is to make money. But today there are so many other reasons for the business to exist; to do good for social causes, to be active in the community and to exist for greater good!

So, in the modern business world we celebrate values. Google is famous for the value or corporate motto “Don’t be evil”, which really encourages all employees to think morally about the impact of their decisions on the people who use their service. And as the legends suggest, software engineers often pound the table when a suggested change will do evil.

Despite businesses as large as Google or Zappos having values and a greater purpose than just making money, I am asked frequently about the implications of having corporate values. What happens when the company values are misinterpreted by employees, or even customers for their personal gain? “Don’t be evil” is regularly misquoted as “Don’t do evil.” Big deal? Not so sure.

One of our values that is often misquoted at Outside-In® Companies is being Front Door. Picture a house with three doors; a front door, side door and back door. Now imagine how communication flows in any good size group. Inevitably issues and opportunities arise. Conversations need to happen. Not everyone likes, knows how or knows when they need to have the hard conversations that represent being Front Door. So being direct is front door, being indirect is side door, and water cooler chatter or gossip is back door.


Now imagine that an employee misinterprets the Front Door value as their right to say anything they want directly, regardless of tone or its impact. For instance, screaming expletives and justifying the behavior by saying, “I am just being Front Door” is an abuse of the value’s intent. And undermines the goal, which is to get in front of small problems before they fester into larger ones. Front Door is not a right to be mean or to lack other professional attributes when you go about your business. When this happens, it can mean one of two things. The employee has a misunderstanding of the meaning of the value OR that employee is misusing the value with intent of personal gain, and therefore is not a culture fit.

To elevate this another level, what happens when a leader appears to behave in a way that defies the values? When leaders run a company in defiance of its values, only bad things happen and a decline is inevitable. For example, when a leader continues to promote an employee that habitually defies the company values, a ripple effect of decline is inevitable. The key word for leaders to note is “appears.” A leader may be acting within the definition of the value(s)’s intent, but the appearance of defiance can have a ripple effect as well. In this case, the onus is on the employee to be Front Door with the leader to say “you are not living X value.” This gives the leader a chance to explain the missing perspective and prevent a decline. Having company values feels good, but living values and holding teammates accountable is the mark of a true values-based organization.

I am collecting stories where values have gone bad or have been misinterpreted or misquoted for the purpose of personal gain. Please send them to me at Icanhelpyou (at) thecbigroup (dot) com or share them in a comment below.

Outside-In® Chronicles: Lead from the Heart

September 9th, 2015

Outside-In® Chronicles: Originally published in September 2009, this was the first blog posted on the Outside-In® Guy Blog. How did he react after revisiting his writing from six years ago? “I want people to know that I believe in this and fail at it too. But I get back to it. This is the hardest part of being a leader for me.  I want to protect and shoulder the burden, but we can’t. We must share because others can help!”

Living “from the heart” is Leading from the heart

Lead with heart.I was taught to live life from the heart. To lead from it. To sell from it. Parent from the heart. You get the point. So much about business life mimics the rest of life. Insert _____ from the heart in all aspects of your life. It requires honesty, directness in communication and perhaps most importantly, some humility. It requires you to give it away and take risks. So much about sales and leadership today is anything but “from the heart” behavior. Leaders today are operating more efficiently because they must do so to survive.

The opportunity is to include employees further in the business. They can take it. They want the truth. Anything short of the truth creates doubt and issues in clarity when it is needed most. I have made mistakes with this as a leader. Not to hide something. But because I thought they deserved a break from the pain of the recession. I let up a little. I softened the bad news. I told them it was under control — and it was not. I got real and they engaged.

Today information is not to be kept as advantage; it is best shared so the team can utilize it to better the business. Leaders need to admit mistakes, not blame others. During times of uncertainty, leaders revert to hierarchy as a means of maintaining control and making sure there is order. People have jobs to do, they can’t be worried with the strategic challenges of the business. This is a major error in judgement. Outside-In® leaders get others involved. They seek opinion. They learn that control comes from giving it away.

Leading from the heart in an Outside-In® organization requires a change in most leaders’ way of operating. Employees know the difference between the corporate line and real communication. Employees know what is plastic. Guess what? So do prospects. Sales people that try and dump their products on their prospects without involving them in the decision don’t make the sale. Those that look and sound like the stereotypical images of sales people fail. There is only one way to build business and that is by building relationships based on trust and credibility. Where real conversation solves real business problems. I find when I am myself, flawed, direct, open and imperfect in sales that people like it, and you often get real in return!

Quit this One Habit to Improve your Customer’s Experience

August 19th, 2015

There is the idea of “moments of truth” in service. This concept basically represents every time we interact with a customer that we have a moment to impress, do our best, or make the interaction either positive or negative.

In a restaurant, when your hostess or waiter doesn’t bring you your menu for 10 minutes, it is a negative thing – not a good moment of truth. When the waitress finally arrives at your table, s/he explains that s/he had just arrived and all the servers are transitioning shifts and juggling tables. Thanks, I think. This is an excuse. The words offer me no value, and it actually makes me feel even more frustrated. All I wanted was an apology and a chance to order. The comments made nothing better. I really don’t care about why.

Over years of study and real world application, “Burkhard leaders” have learned that making an excuse at any time in service with a customer, peer, boss, vendor or friend never adds value or improves the mistake. An excuse always makes things worse. No one wants to hear you give an excuse. We just want it fixed and done right. The excuse drags out the negative moment and in fact, adds another negative moment of truth. Instead, when you offer me a solution to fix whatever broke, you could win me over forever!

No excuses

Apply this thinking to your own world at work or in your home life. All day long someone makes an excuse on why you did not get a response to the email, why they did not attend your important meeting, or finish the project. Giving any excuse simply makes it worse, right? When your son does not clean up his room or do his assigned chore. Which is worse: the missed work or what he has to say about why it’s not done? Johnny came over and we got distracted. Or, I got my homework done instead. We don’t need all that from a teenager! If he understood “No Excuses”, he would simply go up stairs and clean his room and tell you when it was done. Nothing extra, nothing more. No excuses.

No Excuses is a core value of our companies. No Excuses is about how we act and react in moments of providing service. At the Outside-In® Companies, we try very hard when we make a mistake. Yes, we make them too! Our playbook is to fix what broke. Apologize. But never, ever make an excuse. When we do it well (offering a fix instead of an excuse), there is no drama to discuss, no flames to fan. It is simply matter of fact. Fixed. Done. Over. I like to think this is about running head first into the problem. Get it over with. But for goodness sakes, don’t try and over-explain the why.

Win over your customer by quitting the habit of making excuses. No Excuses means no drama. No Excuses means action. No Excuses means taking one on the chin and not feeling like you have to explain yourself away. All we want as customers is what we asked for. Nothing more.

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