Category: Company Culture

What is Your Personal Operating Philosophy?

April 2nd, 2014

Although each of us has one, few of us have ever sat down to work on it. Yet it still exists and your operating philosophy is at play all of the time. How do you react to people and situations? How do your beliefs impact how you act and perhaps even how you interact with the world around you. Your series of beliefs are your operating philosophy.

Trust me, even if you think you do not have one you do. So we all have a choice to make here to determine our philosophy. People do not know themselves. They know they don’t necessarily like dishonesty or rudeness or folks that lack direction or purpose in their lives. But knowing these things for yourself. Well I think in business and as a talent expert I see all kinds of people who simply have not taken the time to decide who they are and what they stand for. Imagine a culturally led organization asking culture-based questions to folks that don’t know their own culture? Hard to find a match.

So how do you go about defining yours? A business has an operating philosophy that defines in many different ways. Things like a mission statement, values or culture, even things like a purpose define the operating philosophy. They work hard to answer the basic questions of what a business does, why it exists, and how it goes about doing its business. I get asked this everyday as a business owner. And an answer I must give.

As people we have a choice. Are we half full or half empty? Are we reactive or proactive? Are we going to be friendly or nasty? Each of us needs to determine what we stand for and believe in.

ISTJ2I help people refine their personal operating philosophy by asking the following questions:

  • Brainstorm leaders in your community and famous people. What is that you admire about them?

  • Think of who you admire most. Then determine why.

  • Find an assessment tool like Disc, Strengthfinders, Myers-Briggs, or other tools for self-reflection and thinking.

Most important of all is to do some thinking about what the world needs from you. If we truly control our reaction to the world, we get to decide what we put out to the world, right? So the real answer is to define your thinking about your attitudes, beliefs, and values. And be able to talk about them.

So what is your operating philosophy?

Seasons: The Ultimate Agent of Change

March 26th, 2014

Spring is finally here. The temperature and my yard still look like winter; however, we can count on seasonal change. Ironically, we tend to look forward to this change. This winter is easy to forget as we all long for the warm sun and time outside! When the heat of Summer rolls in we will long for cool breezes and crisp Fall days! We accept these changes and embrace them. Why do we not accept other changes?

agent-badgeWith today’s world evolving and shifting right before us, I know most employees struggle with the notion of being an agent of change. Sometimes we all long for normalcy, safety, and just a little status quo. We find comfort in routine and the familiar. However, this is not really the way the world of work stays for long. I believe today’s worker has begun to romanticize the notion of being an agent of change. We all want to believe that we will be the ones that smile in the face of adversity, that take the bad news head on, that are willing to do whatever is asked of in order to live this value. Though truth be told, change is hard. We might have to give up tasks and duties we like and that give us energy. We might even have to take on new tasks that are brand new and unfamiliar, that we might struggle to grasp and master. As employees we might even do things we are not good at and never, ever saw ourselves doing. And when faced with change in reality your response can be very different than perhaps you want or even planned. Reactions to change are personal, unique, and ultimately up to the individual.

I have lived this first hand. Entrepreneurial founders face many crossroads and business challenges. During the “great recession” I found myself cleaning our offices on the weekends. I was also thrust back into leading, selling, and managing in a way I did not have to do for many years. We always have a choice with change. I actually fought it for too long. I ignored the recession, reacted slowly, we kept fighting, but we were not embracing the real realities of the new economy and its impact on our services and the marketplace.

Our goal at the Outside-In® Companies with change? To teach, discuss, equip, lead, educate, and work on our knowledge of the topic of change. We make it a value to remind us of our desire to be change-makers. We want our customers to envy our adaptive and flexible mindset. We want it to be an edge that we use daily to take advantage of business opportunities. And as a feature in working with us that provides our customers a one of a kind benefit. We find that our customers need to drive change and it is very hard work, but a partner that lives, breathes, and eats change seems to make their transition easier and less painful!

To be a true agent you must do more than be willing to be adaptive in your job and to the role you play in your company.  A true change agent seeks to understand why change is absolutely necessary to begin with.  Change is not just happening to you; change is constant for a business.  A business and its leaders must be making adjustments at all times, balancing goals with results, the external marketplace with internal resources, etc.  A company with a real advantage has to do less work convincing and influencing staff why change is necessary.  And gets to spend more time being productive!

Outside-In® Ubiquity

March 19th, 2014

Last year we realized that Outside-In® Companies have done much work to achieve our written and stated purpose. You see, we like a purpose because it is more actionable than a mission statement. I hope you don’t care for mission statements—they get put on lobby walls and above doors of conference rooms, but are not often talked about or brought to life. I am not sure what consultancy started to charge tens of thousands of dollars to Corporate America sometime in the 80s, but they should have to give their money back. In fact, most are not active in the day-to-day lives of the typical employee. Committees write them, yet no one understands them. And it’s easy to know why, they are just a bunch of jargon and buzzword-filled statements that impress but have no real purpose. In fact, most mission statements don’t seem to make any sense and are foolish, even!

purposeNow, purpose–this is why I hope you bolt out of bed every morning and get excited about what you’re doing. (Of course you love your job and career, right?) All of us at times need to think in longer terms, say 10-15 years in order to achieve and dream. Creating a big future and broader meaning for being are critical to culture and the experience that your employees and customers feel when they are a part of your organization. This is what drives you through thick and thin. And it is why I am writing this story. A purpose needs to be talked about, be actionable, and be alive and well in every single meeting. There is little coincidence that we use the word ubiquity in our purpose. We want our purpose everywhere, every place, all of the time. And everyday we bolt of bed to climb the Outside-In®  Mt. Everest. We put it out there for others to use. Now we need to get inside people and create a doctrine of beliefs that people can find useful to making their lives better and more fulfilled!

We have always wanted to get Outside-In® to become a household name in business. We registered the trademark in 2004. We wanted to encourage its use and not litigate, defend, or protect our claim. To me, the greatest form of flattery was when the national business magazine, or local technology blog used Outside-In® in a way that described customer-centered thinking and a culture that is, in essence, built around the customer.

I have a shelf full of books and an electronic database of references to our precious, Outside-In® moniker. Here’s four:

Getting Outside-In® in everyday language was fun. This was hard work. This is still a vibrant goal.  But we wanted to think bigger and differently about the next ten years. To us, Outside-In® is about our values and how they can play a role in our lives as employees, as parents, as neighbors and siblings, frankly all of life’s roles. We started to think that perhaps our new purpose is about showing everyone that Outside-In® Ubiquity is quite possibly the best thought we ever had. We started to hear from employees that they were taking our values home and into their personal lives. That they helped show the teenager the value of homework, that they improved relationships with neighbors—that our values were becoming ubiquitous. This makes a lot of sense. If you hire for values you have employees that generally came there for those congruent reasons. If we are rewarded, recognized, and appraised consistently against these values then the purpose becomes more like an Outside-In® tattoo. It is forever omnipresent in our lives.

Interrupt Us!

January 29th, 2014

At Outside-In® Companies we have a value that is rooted in being responsive. Responsive is somewhat nebulous because it means something different to everyone. The key to being responsive is to be Outside-In® with your audience. To do this you must ask the questions, “If I got back in touch with you tomorrow at 9am would that meet your needs? Is an email summarizing our pricing by end of day going to work for you? Honey, if I take the trash out before dinner is that ok?” I think you get the idea. We must all work hard to establish expectations with our various relationships if we hope to have any shot of living up to (and exceeding) our own standards.Responsive

We like to take responsive one step further here at Outside-In® companies. Each and every one of us answers the phone during office hours and we set a standard of picking up in three rings. We’re competitive so two rings is better; one ring is best. Hard to do better then that, although we would if we could. Being responsive is a cultural mindset that starts with leadership. Like a drumbeat, it must have a consistent and never ending rhythm.

However, that is not good enough. Part of being responsive is the demonstration of our commitment to it. When you call our offices we will ask you if you would like the person you are calling for interrupted. Please take us up on it! So few will, but, we know you called for a reason. To show you the importance we expect our staff to be able to juggle calls, take your call quickly, and arrange the best way to get that thing done your were calling about. Of course there are exceptions. However, most of the time we can juggle and we know it makes our customers more productive. Most importantly, being responsive stops the game of phone tag cold!

Welcome to our value of being responsive!

Knot Your Average Ribbon Cutting

January 15th, 2014

Have you ever seen a councilman sweat under the pressure of playing a larger-than-life game of Jenga? On Monday, we joined The Greater Newark Economic Development Partnership (GNEDP), local elected officials, and members of the business community for a chance to be kids again and to celebrate the business partnership of CBI Group, Placers, and Barton Career Advisors.

A few months ago, we announced our official three-brand partnership under our shared values-based culture, Outside-In®. As Outside-In® Companies, we are united by a mindset that advocates putting the customer first in all scenarios, at all times. The companies’ consider our customers to include clients, internal employees, and even vendors.

In true Outside-In® fashion, we opted to have a “ribbon tying” in lieu of the traditional “ribbon cutting”, a literal representation of the merging of our brands to the public.

DSC_0031Mayor Polly Sierre and New Castle County Chamber Member/Incubator Tenant Matthew Doyle kicked off the ribbon tying by recognizing the Outside-In® Companies for its job-creating venture, contribution to the community, and charitable company culture.

However, our event was not all suits and ties. We humorously participated in a giant-sized Jenga game to encourage our guests to take positive social risks and network with our community. Part of our Outside-In® Family, Newark’s own Klondike Kates provided a picnic-style catering spread and exceptional Service to the Nth Degree.

Together under the Outside-In® name, CBI Group, Placers, and Barton Career Advisors continue to serve the national marketplace offering talent solutions in recruitment, staffing, and outplacement.

Leadership: Vacation or Values?

January 8th, 2014

I once worked with a leader of a local business who told me the greatest stories of his early years in running his company. Most of them revolved around the tough decisions that leaders face. One time, when his business was just a few years old, he went on a family vacation.  These vacations were rare. His wife and kids did not ask for much. This was their time. Besides, he needed the break to recharge and rejuvenate on so many levels.

Then he got a dreaded call. A trusted employee shared intel that the employees were making their own rules, coming and going when they pleased, and were covering it up. Asking her to also participate, get her buy-in so to speak, by incriminating herself in action! She said no and called the boss. Thank goodness. This was a service business. Customers calls and requests were not being responded to. In fact, they even left her to run the business for extended periods of time!

rear-mirror-167581_640So what does a leader do when they get this kind of call? They sit in their car on the side of the road for several hours weighing their options. If I ignore it, I can go back to the beach with my family. I can simply deal with it later. Not perfect, but I deserve the downtime. However, this is about culture and values. Your culture is what people do when they are alone at 3 am. Culture is your company personality. Values are those key guide posts that drive behaviors when you’re not around. Well, you’re not around and the values are not being lived. What do you do?

You get in the car and drive right to the office. In the end you let a few people go and you warn a few others. All in all, you make it clear what your leadership is all about and that values matter. Especially if it means you will have to work harder and start over in your business. Even if you’re inconvenienced during your time off.

Curiously, I am not sure if this is truth or a great leadership fable. I am not sure it matters one bit in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is what you would do as a leader. Would you take the path of least resistance? Stay on your vacation? Or drive home? I like to dream that I would get in the car and prove that culture and values matter!

What if Santa Decided to Use a Few Temporary Elves?

December 18th, 2013

elf2We have all seen the holiday movies that suggest that perhaps it is time for Santa to modernize the factory, get some of his lead elves certified in Six Sigma, or to employ lean manufacturing in his workshop. Gone should be the days of elves singing Christmas carols, eating cookies, and making toys from scratch. The days of that sort of craftsmanship and artisan work are long gone as the nice list runs into the millions.

I am a contingent workforce expert. My Outside-In® Companies help leaders like Santa make sense of the realities of today’s workforce and workplace. And well, Santa does things the old fashioned way with his people, I mean elves. Today’s toy workshops have challenges in staffing and productivity during the busy season. Imagine Santa’s workshop in the weeks and months leading up to the big day! More importantly, what does he do with all of those elves in January?

I propose that Santa would benefit from a temporary elf workforce. Santa could bring in new skill sets and the workshop would flourish with new ideas and concepts. Those hard to fill roles might get the attention they deserve during the busiest of times.

lisaelfjNow, Santa would have to consider today’s laws and hiring standards. No longer can he claim that the measured height of his workshop is a legitimate bona fide job requirement. OSHA made him change that in the winter of ‘82. It just might be a good thing to see a few more guys and gals that look like Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel on the Big Man’s campus. A little diversity is important. Santa needs to keep up with his Affirmative Action Plan as people now live at the North Pole, too.

Most importantly? Santa can staff up and professionally work with the Outside-In® Companies to wind down post-holiday season. Rather than having elves paint the workshop and sweep the floor each and every day, Santa can feel confident that his staffing partner is redeploying his elfen talent that was there for the “busy season.” When one Holiday ends, another begins. Perhaps we can skill-market that talent to the Easter Bunny and have a temporary workforce plant hidden eggs around the globe?

What are YOU Thankful For?

November 27th, 2013

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and our Outside-In® Happiness Project, we decided to express our gratitude in a fun and unique way. View our video below to see what we are most thankful for!

We also asked our team what they are most excited about in the upcoming long weekend. Some of the many things we are looking forward to are:

  • Spending time with family
  • Cooking
  • The restful day after
  • Leftovers (hel-lo turkey sandwiches!)
  • Football
  • The Macy’s Day Parade
  • Pumpkin Pie

Wishing all of our customers a safe and happy holiday!

The Dark Side of Culture

November 6th, 2013

Have you ever noticed that a great and vibrant company culture also has a dark side? Year after year, culturally led businesses win awards in all categories worth measuring—growth, earnings, or being great places to work. The culture is different and unique with each founder’s purpose, the needs of customer, and the change throughout time. The culture of a company is the personality of the business, and, is often the strength of it. These strengths, like all strengths, can be overused and become a means of preventing change or alienating new staff.

dark-clouds-173926_640For example, take a company known for its culture where relationships are critical to working in a Team-Based environment. Working in a team environment is intoxicating. Everyone has some input and can contribute equally. This often leads to breakthroughs in innovation, quality, and productivity. Decision making is a group effort. Traditional leadership structure gets modified and the team must buy into the decision. The leader’s role is to hear all perspectives, analyze all possibilities, and have everyone buy into all decisions. Enter the dark side. Sometimes decisions and changes take a really long time or simply get delayed in the process. Change for the sake of change does not happen. However, change that could benefit the business is often delayed by those that will suffer in the short term from a decision. They maybe can’t see, or perhaps, don’t care about the long-term benefits of it!

At the Outside-In® family of companies, we are known for being slightly off-kilter, fun, and relaxed. Our twenty values come together to create an office environment that mimics our genuine, positive, and spirited culture. However, our liveliness often casts a shadow one of our core values—being Results Driven. We strive to hit our goals—outcomes and achievements that our customers set based on their unique business objectives. We play hard, but we work harder.

building-200009_640Imagine our other value of being Front Door. Picture a house as a metaphor for how we communicate as teammates.  We can come in the back door, complaining or talking to others about a concern or decision we may not like. We can come in the side door, conversing by the water cooler perhaps. Or we can come directly in the front door, being honest, humble, and direct. Go right at the truth. Front door is a surprisingly hard value to live as employees who don’t like confrontation. It is easier to gossip or not address something than to actually do something about it sometimes. However, we do occasionally have people misconstrue Front Door as the license to communicate in a nasty, ignorant fashion. Being Front Door is not an approved caveat to say, “I am going to be Front Door with you and tell you what I really think…” Front Door has a dark side.

Values have pros and values have cons. Knowing, writing, and talking about the dark side is what keeps it vibrant and healthy! Think of your culture, where do you see the dark side?

12 Things You Get with the Entrepreneurial Employee

October 30th, 2013

Big global companies are looking for employees to be more entrepreneurial. What exactly does that mean? When we go to work for most jobs we must be productive during the time we work. Do the job, do what you’re told, and your contract with your employer is kept in tact. What is so different and unique about getting an employee with entrepreneurial drive?

  1. An entrepreneurial employee gets the rare opportunity to consistently redefine their role and, therefore, their contribution. You may have been hired for one thing, but you’re good at something else. Or more frankly, an opportunity emerges for those are willing to take a risk and go for it!
  2. By making something extraordinary happen, an entrepreneurial employee is rewarded. Doing your job is doing something innovative or special with that project.
  3. An employee can get exposure to bigger and different work much, much faster than they would in a large company.
  4. man-96868_640It is OK to take risks. In fact, risk taking is more likely to be rewarded. A big company wants to limit their exposure to risks. Small businesses know that well calculated and timely decision making can mean the difference between growth, a new market, or even if you win a deal.
  5. Change is something that is encouraged when staff is not defending/preserving what they have because there is much less power base or turf to lose. You must think differently. This is where an employee can see what is wrong and know that it is ok to speak up about it. These littlechanges make all the difference.
  6. Titles mean nothing to an entrepreneurial employee. Those that demand them rarely make it for long. The job must be about the work and the work must be about the learning experience and depth of the opportunities.
  7. Your status comes from your accomplishments. Your position comes from the quality of your relationships and influence on the business. This is simply small business culture.
  8. Entrepreneurial employees have an ownership mindset. Their work is a direct reflection of themselves. It is easier to gets things done. Less politics, less hands involved.
  9. Know that being a good teammate matters. There are fewer employees, and perhaps limited resources. However, entrepreneurial employees know that they must work on their teaming skills as work gets done with people—not because of fear, title, or demands!
  10. Entrepreneurial employees are accountable. They want to feel and see that they are truly making a difference.
  11. An entrepreneurial employee can answer the “why” question. They know why the company exists and its broader purpose. They are a part of something special; something bigger than themselves—and that shows.
  12. An entrepreneurial employee knows that they are deferring some of their potential income. They can always go get a job! But they get to be a part of so much more of how their company works. They are a part of crafting the company future and can see how their work contribution connects to it! And for that risk, they gain knowledge and work experiences that make them more marketable and give them the potential to be future business owners themselves!

shield-108065_640There are inherent differences between entrepreneurial organizations and big companies. An entrepreneurial employee likes a dynamic, evolving, and constantly changing environment. They thrive in companies with less structure and less certainty because there are more ways for them to innovate and to contribute. In small business culture they have the opportunity to be rewarded more in an environment where they are constantly learning and growing!


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