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Company Culture hybrid office

Shopify Bursts 

In recent months there has been a lot made of rethinking what work looks like and how you balance remote, hybrid and full time in the office.

The demands are very different, some are taking steps like removing chat apps, we have seen slack take a digital first approach to presence, Dropbox and Front take different approaches and the big tech giants like Apple and Google fail in moving away from brand and perk based cultures, while Coinbase is struggling with top down driven culture.

Here is how Shopify are making deliberate steps in improving team work and collaboration in their remote first working environment.

What Are Shopify Bursts?

A fresh way to look at getting the remote teams together and focus on deep immersive teamwork. 

What Features Does It Have?

  • An internal web and internal app that books flights, Hotels, Food and even Experiences 
  • It has an automated check-in process and enables easy collaboration that works for the team or department looking to get in real life and connect or collaborate.
  • Choose what type of thing. Pure work and social activity. 
  • It is important to note this was all in-house built and really connects to the deliberate ways Shopify like to work. 

What About The Offices?

  • The offices were turned into “ports”, where group work and collective problem solving and connections are being made.
  • Access to old offices. Retrofitted community spaces for teams and departments to come together. 
  • The offices become locations and have a booking system – encouraging smart work and times for teams to come together or parts of the teams to come in and work on problem-solving

The data from bursts become available to the leads and prompts a burst over a set period of time and encourages connection and in-person collaboration.

The whole process has a rating system to keep score and ensures it connects to Shopify’s data-driven decision-making.

I personally can see why companies like Shopify have thought through the first to third-order effects of bursts and in-person collaboration. It takes on what the likes of Automattic have been praised for, for years and brings teams together when busyness gets in the way of thoughtful leadership.

The question to ask yourself moving forward: Could you adopt this approach? Or are there elements you could develop out to improve hybrid work and reduce the cognitive load on managers – I would hope so.

Want to know more, listen to:

Listen to Brandon Chu the VP of Product at Shopify explaining his take on product and how bursts work best:

& Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein’s discusses the new set-up and how Shopify & Amazon can play in the same space

Be inspired by Shopify in other smart ways

Leaders Letter 104 – If I Were To Take Over The Company Tomorrow What Would I Do? 

The Key To Winning Business – Be The Power P: The Partner, The Platform, The Piping

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 108 – The solution to your team members’ burnout might not be the webinar that HR are offering.

Dear Leaders, this week’s Leaders Letter comes from bestselling writer Bruce Daisley. As well as being the author of books like The Joy of Work, Bruce has a wealth of frontline leadership experience including setting up YouTube in the UK and spending 5 years as EMEA Vice President for Twitter.

How is your firm proposing to deal with burnout? 

We seem to be in a blizzard of talk about resilience as a response to the moment we find ourselves in. Last year there was a collective realisation that the Zoomageddon of modern work was leading to a burnout pandemic. We felt frazzled by the relentless inflow of incoming messages and the sense that at any moment somewhere out there was a meeting we were meant to be dialled-in to. 

When I worked at Twitter we had a huge burnout epidemic. After a wave of job cuts we found that the team who remained seemed exhausted, dead eyed and battle weary. We knew something had to give. We set about slashing the amount of time that the team spent in meetings. 

In the wider world of work there’s a storied history of the leaders of bad cultures seeking to reframe burned out workers as a product of individual weakness rather than an expected outcome. When it comes to understanding this the research of social scientist Alex Haslam is incredibly instructive. Haslam explained to me that there’s a history of trying to attribute the consequence of toxic working cultures as down to employee shortcomings. 

He reminded me of a case in 2003 when the UK’s Health and Safety Executive issued a ‘Stress Improvement Notice’ to West Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust to resolve burnout issues they were experiencing. The notice was an official caution that the Trust was expected to resolve the toxic workplace it had created. Haslam explained to me that faced with blame for an overwhelming culture, rather than setting about the Herculean task of instituting root and branch reforms the Trust chose instead to reframe the issue, ‘One way they did that was rhetorically by saying “OK, we’ve had enough of talking about this bad stuff. So let’s start looking on the positive side and talking about resilience’. And so the reframe of burnout began. Stress wasn’t the understandable output of an unsustainably toxic working environment, they suggested, it was what happened when workers weren’t hardy enough.

Resilience by a rub of Aladdin’s lamp 

The end result of cases like this is that we end up with a solution for burnout beckoned to us like Aladdin’s genie. “We need to find a way for individuals to stop being so beaten down by circumstance,” is the ask. It was this rubbing of the lamp that first led to the superstar psychologist to be summoned to create interventions, first for school children and then for adults. And so it is that if your firm offers resilience training it will be the work of Seligman that it is almost certainly based on. 

Not to get lost in the weeds of an investigation that I’ve just spent two years completing but the long and short of it is that this training simply doesn’t work. This is the double whammy of the moment that resilience is having. Firstly the very idea that our colleagues can’t handle unsustainable working conditions is due to their lack of resilience is victim-blaming. Secondly, the training that they are offered has been shown in independent analysis not to work anyway. We’re gaslighting our colleagues and then offering them a sugar pill.

The funny thing about resilience is that aside from the Happy Meal version of the concept that was created to meet the corporate demand for it, delivered by jobbing well-being organisations in Zoom webinars, it is pretty clear that resilience, that human capacity to reenergise and bounce back from setbacks, clearly does exist. We see it in the legendary braveness of the Ukrainian people, we see it in the survivors of Bangladeshi floods, we see it in the toil of frontline medical staff through the pandemic. 

The vital lesson for every leader is that far from being some magical feat of individual strength conjured up by top performers in moments of adversity, resilience is a collective attribute. Individuals aren’t resilient, groups of people are. As one person declared in a research interview, “you can’t be resilient on your own, can you?” No doubt any of us might feel fearful if called up to the frontline, but the sense that “we’re in this together” emboldens and fortifies us way beyond what we believe we are capable of. 

If your team members are showing signs of frailty right now you might ask, how can I reduce the workload and increase the sense that we’re all in this together?

Bruce Daisley’s new book Fortitude is published in August.
He’s currently offering to do free private, virtual talks for teams who preorder 50 copies of the book.

Thanks for reading this week’s letter and I will see you again next week.

Danny Denhard

Here is some more content from Bruce to inspire you this week

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 107

Dear leaders, recently I was part of an ask me anything series, it is always interesting to see what people will ask in different formats. I love AMA’s and have recommended them in leaders letter 22, (alongside hosting my own AMA with you previously) and implemented correctly, there is something magic about sharing information and answering questions you may not have received previously.

One answer that came up stuck with me:  

“Don’t assume your manager knows what you are doing day to day or even from week to week”. 

This answer has resurfaced a couple of times in slightly different formats over the last month.  

Why this answer? It was in response to a senior exec concerned that their work was being lost or felt like they had to constantly update their CEO on their work and their team’s work. 

This is a true statement, most CEOs or founders aren’t on top of their direct reports workflows and do not feel the need or have the time for micro-management. Most execs are in their role because they have to lead their department and workstreams, rarely needing management from the CEO, COO or founder. 

Q: Should this company exec see this as a sign of trust from their boss? 

When we dug a little deeper it was that they have fortnightly one-to-one and there are no updates between the two unless an email or instant message from the CEO asking for updates on projects.  

Being proactive seemed to be seen as wasting the CEO’s time, but they never asked about updates and never agreed upon their leadership principles which are a must-have!  

Culture Change Needed? 

A tip I recommended was building a culture around updates and switching it to a growth mindset, where learning and updates go hand in hand. 

The recommendation leaned on: 

  1. The management team to get together and put forward ways of working that kept each other updated on important projects, keep them curious about results and asked to provide feedback and concentrated on sharing the updates throughout their team 
  2. Roll out a new system where there was a captain owner (read the captain system for more context) and a champion collaborating on the project or campaign and ensuring internal comms improve knowledge flow and developed a subculture of ownership and learning to cut through the noise with the most important updates. 

The CEO or founder would need to be on board and on-boarded, however, the improvements would remove the time to chase, digest and understand the language used. 

There would be a home for the updates in email (most CEO’s live in their default app… email) but more importantly on the company wiki so there is quick access and the ability to work asynchronously without interruptions and needing meetings.

When you are looking to remove micro management or improve company culture it is essential to know what is expected and what success looks like and manages these at every sign of confusion or miscommunication. 

Company culture thrives when you are aligned, people know how to be successful and what is expected of them, even the most senior of executives need to be reminded and guided from time to time and what better by better communications, not more. 

This week, consider this and how you can add value by offering better and fewer updates and allow for this to be async in the future. 

Have a great week.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Here are a few tips to help you this week

Categories
Business Performance hybrid office

Should Companies Remove Chat Apps Like Teams And Slack?

In recent weeks, we have seen numerous issues with internal conversations being shared and leaked to the press from internal slack and Teams chats.

Elon Musk Issues: One of the biggest examples was from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, 2600 staff were concerned over their CEO’s tweets. An internal memo raised a number of concerns and a number were fired, with the SpaceX COO commenting:

“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism”

— Gwynne Shotwell. SpaceX COO

This is a pretty extreme take on genuine concerns raised.

Elon Musk’s recent town hall at Twitter was basically televised via slack and commented in real-time externally via journalists’ accounts. With Bloomberg sharing insights.

Brian Armstrong Issues: Coinbase is another large company example, with the staff concerned over the performance and misguidance from the Chief Operating Officer, Chief People Officer and Chief Product Officer, addressing concerns in their open letter. Coinbase also had issues with political issues throughout 2020 and 2021.

Many other companies have seen issues with tools like Slack and Teams where departments convene and raise concerns or create tribal movements to challenge the leadership’s direction or raise issues externally to force a conversation when ignored internally.

Social Networks Vs Work Communication Apps

These tools act like social networks with reactions, video and photo sharing and often groups forming around non-work-related topics, leading to internal debate and disconnect. When these actions occur, this often causes internal movements to apply pressure for the company to respond to external political topics that the company often never would have.

As we saw from the SpaceX example, we are seeing a lot of hard kick back (including firing) from large firms.

Much of the debate centres around a ‘them vs us‘ scenario, however, are the chat-based apps becoming less work-related and too centred around the private chatter.

A question to answer at a partical level and importantly an operational level? Can you focus work apps around work? Ask 25% of your workforce in an anonymous survey and it will surprise most c-suites.

Hybrid Work Not Hybird Chat?

Hybrid work relies on asynchronous and real-time conversation, many opting for real-time and long threads in slack or Teams, making this the centre point of work rather than software tools like Asana, Monday.com, Notion, Google Docs or Office products.

Remote companies have worked through specific guides and do’s and don’ts for chat-based tools. Without chat apps, these firms would greatly struggle.

Many departments and colleagues fail to remember the apps are there for work and developing out projects.

Teams sole focus is to connect the Microsoft suite in a team-centric environment. Enabling everyone theoretically to stay on the same page and get work done.

Slack is focused on bringing your digital presence to the workplace through API integration and quick decisions and cross-functional project hubs.

For many, chat apps were the saviour of forced work from home in the height of Covid, many relying on chat apps to stay connected, keep company culture flowing as best they could and be introduced to new colleagues via apps like donut.

Would there be a huge backlash if you decided to phase out your chat app?

Would Removing Non-Work-Related Chat Work?

An issue that has spanned over a decade, could you remove non work related chat from apps like Teams and Slack? Do colleagues simply move their conversations to group chats on their personal devices and over to apps like iMessage and WhatsApp?

Rightly or wrongly, we know a number of managers move to text messages when they need a quick answer and remove boundaries, is this where leaders need to really consider the work life blur and respect that email is for x, chat apps are for y and workspaces is for z (async and deep work)?

Could you remove Slack Or Teams tomorrow?

The likely answer in most execs head is a simple yes.

To most underneath the C suite or founder team it is a hard no.

A few years ago I had to put together a business case for Slack over Teams, the business was reliant on Slack for the integrations into automated reports, for alerts into news items and we were deeply invested in channel management for effective real time work.

Removing Slack would have meant a number of issues for the business and a wealth of knowledge (in conversations and workspaced) removed – this would have removed many different working styles and history of sales conversations, pitch decks and a huge number of celebrations of how we worked under pressure and numerous micromoments and micro events where we beat out competitors and achieved hyper growth through real time collaboration in our newsroom approach.

We were lucky to have a rigirous workspace async working principle that helped us to centralise the most important information.

Many do not have these style of work and struggle to keep up with email, chat apps, team hubs and workspaces. Removing the chat app over night would mean a huge change to the business and a loss of huge amounts of invaluable information that would not live anywhere else.

Removing chat apps sound good in theory but in principle, it will require a huge amount of planning, a huge shift for most working styles and force a step change in communication.

Is there better and more effective operational ways of working away from chat apps? Yes.

Is it worth removing chat apps and centralising conversation around more async documentation – likely but this won’t work for those untrained from this working style and in hybrid and remote work it could actually do more harm to performance and culture.

The Move To The Work Metaverse

When Microsoft, Slack and many other companies see themselves as the work metaverse, it is going to be a challenge to remove your companies and department’s reliance on Teams or Slack. Particualrly when the work metaverse promised more immersive settings and presence in remote and hybrid meetings.

The question for many to answer moving forward is – can we concentrate work on projects and campaigns and remove the tribal working nature enabling all colleagues forming together? Or is chat apps a vital part of modern day work and there will have to be more policing on usage and policy making around chat apps. Most likely.

All in all, removing chat apps will be a huge undertaking and will need such intentionality you may just push colleagues to email, private documents (like open Google Docs) and workspaces.

Categories
Company Culture Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 106 – Revisiting Ideas To Make The Most Out Of Them

Dear Leaders, something I am passionate about is making the most out of time and energy around ideas generated individually or as a team. 

Zooming out: The computer, the laptop, iPhone and the AirPods wouldn’t have been created and revisited if the ideas were not captured, considered and then strategically picked up and prioritised to come to market. 

Let’s be honest, most ideas end up in the recycling, onto someone’s camera roll or more recently on a Google Sheet or worse still… a Miro board you’ll never revisit or review. 

Sharing Is Caring: As previously discussed, the best companies in the world share their knowledge, they encourage discussion and keeping ideas alive by having references to them and keep a searchable history of campaign success, a live updated section for ongoing projects and roadmaps and product launches centralised in the knowledge centre. 

Despite what you have been conditioned to lately, asynchronous worked tremendously well and encouraged deliberate discussion versus forcing “real-time meetings”.  

Recommended Framework:

There is a process I often recommend to clients, especially cross-functional teams 

Here is my framework I recommend: 

(Review &) Promote  

  • A great idea that needs to be rolled out
  • Likely needs a tweak and prioritisation to promote this idea 
  • Needs full distribution plan (internal and external)  

(Review &) Optimise

  • Good idea that lands well but needs some time to be optimised and made more relevant 
  • The idea will need work to optimise and then planning to release 

(Review &) Revisit

  • Good idea that is not a right now idea
  • An idea that requires work and a time to revisit. 
  • Likely an idea that is more seasonal or would land better at a different time of year 

Without giving away all of my secret sauce, here are a few factors to apply to (Review &) Promote, (Review &) Optimise, (Review &) Revisit. 

Follow On Factors:  

  • Right now idea vs not right now idea 
  • Time Sensitivity – Date Sensitivity  
  • Resources 
  • Quality of idea 
  • The Reward Vs The Effort 
  • Cost 
    (A) “Personal Project” vs “Another Professional Project” Cost 
    (B) Internal Project Cost
    (C) External Project Cost 

There are many methods we waste time, we squander resources and delevel the collaborative work (the impact of reducing collaboration is a serial culture killer), don’t allow short term thinking or first-order thinking negatively impact your department or your businesses ways of working. 

This week improve your work and working environment by making the most out of ideas and the times you co-create and problem solve. 

Thanks and have a great week ahead. 

Danny Denhard

Other Great Ideas Resources

Categories
Company Culture

Operation Revive COIN – Coinbase Top Down Culture Issues

Over the last two weeks, Coinbase has been on a mission to address the well-publicised Coinbase cultural issues.

Most recently Coinbase CEO and founder Brian Armstrong’s appeared on the Good Time Show (with backers a16z appearing), where he attempted to address the coinbase culture, suggesting they were focusing on a work-driven mission.

Top Down Culture In Action Or Challenge Culture? ⚠️

Over the past week, (June 10th) Brian attempted to address a long thread on YCombinator News (aka Hacker News) with his thoughts on why Operation Revive COIN is a dumb idea.

Operation Revive COIN is a vote of no confidence in the COO Emilie Choi, Chief Product Officer Surojit Chatterjee, and Chief People Officer LJ Brock by the Coinbase teams.

The Complaint Filed

Petition to Remove COO Emilie Choi, Chief Product Officer Surojit Chatterjee, and Chief People Officer LJ Brock in a Vote of No Confidence

Summary: We the employees at Coinbase believe that the executive team has recently been making decisions that are not in the best interests of the Company, its employees, and its shareholders. COO Emilie Choi, CPO Surojit Chatterjee, and Chief People Officer LJ Brock have been the most prominent executives who have been executing plans and ideas that have led to questionable results and negative value. Some of these include the following: 

  1. The failure of the Coinbase NFT platform
  2. The over-prioritization of certain products, which has led to a lack of focus on other important issues like infrastructure
  3. Initiatives like the Dot Collector and the Performance review system that has led to a toxic workplace culture
  4. Aggressively hiring for thousands of roles, despite the fact that it is an unsustainable plan and is contrary to the wisdom of the crypto industry 
  5. Not being able to output any higher or better quality products and services despite aggressively hiring more employees
  6. Rescinding offers to new employees despite promising them that their offers would not be rescinded two weeks earlier, leading to a massive negative reception from the public and the industry at-large
  7. The failure to communicate important ideas and plans to the rest of the company, such as the possibility of lay-offs and the plan to fix many technical debts 
  8. A generally apathetic and sometimes condescending attitude from the CPO, COO, and Chief People Officer

**
**

Their actions have hurt multiple parties: 

  1. The employees, who have to deal with the unrealistic demands from said executives and the damage they have caused on a day-to-day basis
  2. The shareholders, who have seen their stock price continually fall, especially from the high of $420 at the beginning of the IPO and the middle range of $250 throughout the summer of 2021
  3. The company itself, whose plummeting stock value and bad workplace management led to low morale and the threats of losing top talent 
  4. The company’s reputation to the public, where people are less likely to view Coinbase as a trustworthy and reliable crypto exchange to do business with

Because of these factors, we believe that Coinbase should immediately find replacements for LJ Brock, Surojit Chatterjee, and Emilie Choi. We hope to find people who have had experience in the crypto space and can run such a company more responsibly. 

Signed,

Aired In Public, Addressed On Twitter

Brian rightly points out it is on him as the CEO and many other valid points on his twitter thread.

Leaders Lead is always what you are trained but is this time for the management team to own collectively? Yes!

The biggest issue here: the three of the most powerful and influential leaders to ask to be removed publically identifies a huge distrust problem.

The issue here is his leadership is obviously creating fractions for his management team and then disconnecting with the middle managers and causing issues that are not being reported back in management meetings.

These issues are highlighting a real disconnect between the managers and the “leaders” within Coinbase.

In addition, the agreement of mission-focused work and delivering on cultural promises is obviously not being translated well from the c-suite to VP to team level.

Question To Ask Externally

This does raise the question when you and many others believe in the promoted performance-based culture and work-focused culture, where do you go to voice these concerns especially when you have likely raised these internally and have been dismissed.

Can ‘challenge culture‘ work in an environment like this?

When issues go unaddressed it creates internal and departmental conflicts and creates combative them vs us environments.

Many company cultures and subcultures are overly reliant on the business leader to acknowledge, discuss internally and then share their approach externally as a listed company.

Pattern sends alarm bells and signals there is potentially a leadership issue. When having to address in public and address open internal issues.

Will The Headcount Reduction Going To Highlight The Biggest Issue?

On the 14th of June, Coinbase announced 18% reduction in headcount, with three main factors referenced in the shared email on the coinbase blog:

(1) Economic conditions are changing rapidly
(2) Managing our costs is critical in down markets
(3) We grew too quickly (suggestions of over 5000 employees).

It is unclear which exact areas of coinbase were impacted, it is likely the COO, CPO and Chief People Officer were not included despite the ongoing issues.

Will this headcount reduction reduce fractions or highlight the issues more clearly? Most likely highlighting the ongoing issues and potentially increasing the bad company culture bubbling up to the top of the external news cycle.

Any PR Is Not Good PR

In the previous podcast discussions and addressing external factors coming into the workplace, Brian mentioned how well that it played out after a month or so with top-quality talent wanting to join.

Right now this is coming back to bite Brian and his business performance. Externally pointing fingers by teams rarely works, however, this really does demonstrate a need for critical discussions.

With company culture being recognised as an essential factor of successful businesses, will this count against Coinbase leadership? The quick answer for sure, especially with crypto’s recent performance, the volatility within the web3 space.

This fight in public opens Coinbase and the business up to showing the bigger and ongoing issues internally, namely the trust of the leadership team and those who have joined and delivered weaker products leading to poor performance.

The CEO in any business has to live and die by the sword especially ones with continued rumblings and continued people-related issues.

In the coming weeks, we will likely hear less about the internal issues with Coinbase, listed companies often have a way to reduce the external reporting, however, with so many stories and known issues this is unlikely to go away and it could be another story where business “leaders” on the c-suite exit the business to plaster over these issues.

Social media will be a hard place for the Coinbase leadership team as many will air their truths, especially after the large headcount reduction.

Is this unique in the business world in 2022? – no, however, this is a theme Coinbase is setting for others – yes. It is going to be a case study in years to come on how to or how not to handle internal issues when you are lorded as a leading light by some powerful figures and identified for what leadership is not anymore.

Resources To Improve Company Culture

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 105 – 🇸🇪 Fika – State Of Mind Coffee Breaks

Dear Leaders, is a cultural coffee break the best way to improve connection within your business?

I want to introduce a tradition from Sweden that might well be a new weapon in your arsenal to improve company culture and build connections.

Fika is simply translated having coffee.
Fika explained is a state of mind, it is connecting over a coffee (or tea) and a cake break.
Importantly, Fika cannot be a solo experience.

Two of my friends have lived and worked in Sweden and openly suggest Fika is key to happiness at work.

Below is the BBC explaining (video) what Fika is and how it helps create a break to boost your wellbeing and performance, importantly declining a fika is not acceptable.

In my last full-time role, I would make it my mission to have a coffee break with a set number of colleagues fortnightly (yes alongside my 1:2:1’s and team meetings) it was a slot where I would connect with people I wouldn’t often work directly with but would look forward to and I would learn a lot over coffee.
It was unintentionally fika.

I recommended fika to a leader’s letter subscriber when they emailed me directly for some help and I am confident it will help with their team and subculture.

Is fika something you roll out across your business?

Are you connecting enough?
Are you embracing a state of mind to improve your working day with colleagues?
Can you introduce fika to teams or parts of the business that are not as connected as others?

One of my favourite recommendations is to have fika between leaders and the next generation of talent, as it is far more relaxed and who doesn’t want the boss to treat you to a drink and cake?

Have a productive week and consider rolling out fika to your business.

Thanks,
Danny Denhard

Essential Company Culture Reading

Categories
Leadership

The Lessons From “Why Coinbase Shut Down Woke Activism”

Read the latest Coinbase Cultural IssueOperation Revive COIN – Coinbase Top Down Culture Issues & What it will mean for the company and their employees.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong joined the recent Good Time Show, a dedicated podcast from some of the a16z team to discuss Coinbase, the mission they are on and the decade long journey of Coinbase in crypto and embracing a web3 future.

There was a ten-minute section (see below) of the podcast that is vital listening for any leader and leadership team that you can learn many lessons.

The Lessons To Take Away

It is important to note this podcast was recorded before Coinbase rescinded job offers by email and is now on a hiring freeze with the crypto space and macroeconomics being so uncertain. Watch the full vodcast here

Coinbase addressed cultural issues with a mission-driven approach in that infamous blog post.

The lesson: Being public with big internal decisions is important, owning the message and getting ahead of internal leaks has been an important step for many businesses to own some of the conversation(s) and be transparent, particularly when you are a listed company is going to help shape the future conversation and encourage those internal and external to support your leadership and buy into your company.

Tribal nature impacts businesses

The lesson: Many leaders are often blinded by what happens within their business and how tribes form.

The leaders are commonly disconnected from their departments, their teams and their people and miss understanding the tribal nature of their business and what impact internal influencers have.

Knowing tribes form, knowing how they are forming and being in a place to address these tribes is critical to leading the business and empowering those around you.

Dreading townhall and Q&A’s based on external factors.

The lesson: Business has changed, businesses and business leaders are expected to comment on larger items and have a stand, Coinbase decided to go against the grain and not comment until they engaged the right advisors. Even impacting how their people would view them and understand the company.

Often in modern-day business, external factors impact your company culture far more than ever before and you have to be prepared to address these, whether it is clearly calling out it is a factor or a factor you will not be discussing as a business, however difficult and negative impact it could be the short term.

Applying a supported risk benefit framework and engaged his team and most trusted external advisors

The lesson: The role of the CEO can be extremely lonely and can feel an impossible role, particularly in a crisis. Engaging your support network and your leadership team on big topics will be imperative to address big situations and pivotable moments for the company.

Pros and cons be a great exercise however it often is too biased whereas a risk/benefit framework helps to frame bigger issues and help to guide longer-term and the most critical decisions, providing you with the discussion points with the team.

What I Want Vs What The Company Wants

The lesson: Brian was brave referencing it was what he wanted versus what the people within the company wanted and didn’t want to change the business.

This is a tough call and something that shows vulnerability, the lesson to learn as a leader you have to make the right decision for the company and that decision may upset a larger percentage of the company. Ensure your decisions are right for the company, not just you.

Why the hard decision caused a month of hard decisions and losing top talent

The lesson: There was a hard period where they lost talent and people who wanted the company to be part of the bigger picture, however, this also brought in great new candidates who wanted to work at a work mission-driven company

Broader Lesson To Takeaway

It is important to note for any manager or leader appearing on any podcast can create many challenges, particularly when discussing sensitive topics or asking about well known public events. Podcasts with friends or connections are challenging, more open, you become more relaxed and you speak more openly than you may on other formats, particularly shorter TV, radio or magazine interviews.

On Podcasts be mindful of:

  • The language you use (like and whatever can be extremely dismissive language)
  • The references you make (and suggesting your experience and other companies better or worse, and is similar or the same as you rarely have enough information to back this)
  • The tone of your voice will be analysed internally and externally.

Leadership in 2022 is more challenging than ever before and learning lessons from high profile CEO’s like Brian Armstrong and big moments in their career are essential.

Below is an important follow-up read, the internal email shared (on their blog) following on from the original memo/blog post and addressing internal issues

Hi team,

I wanted to send you a follow up now that the deadline has passed for people opting in to the exit package.

I know there have been many difficult conversations happening to help clarify what our apolitical culture means in practice. It’s been great to see the whole team come together to reach understanding here, and support each other through it. It’s not easy to get through, but I think it will result in us having a stronger and more united team.

I also want to acknowledge that we could have done a better job bringing the Operating Group and managers along on this clarification of our culture so everyone was prepared before it went out to a wider group. Our practices will continue to evolve as we grow as a business, and we’ll work to do a better job on this in the future.

Many of you are probably curious about the outcome. I wanted to share that about 5% of employees (60) have decided to take the exit package. There are a handful of other conversations still ongoing, so the final number will likely be a bit higher. For those of you who have decided to move on, I want to thank you for your contributions to Coinbase and we wish you the very best. And for those of you who are opting in to the next chapter, I want to thank you for your trust and commitment to this mission. I’m excited to build the future with all of you.

I’ve heard a concern from some of you that this clarification would disproportionately impact our under-represented minority population at Coinbase. It was reassuring to see that people from under-represented groups at Coinbase have not taken the exit package in numbers disproportionate to the overall population. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on this to ensure we are building a diverse, inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong.

Finally, I saw a few misconceptions pop up in public responses. And I know many of you have had friends and family read various articles and send them your way. I thought I would take a minute to address a few of them.

Isn’t crypto inherently political?

Yes, we are ok being political about this one particular area because it relates to our mission.

Do employees have to pretend politics don’t exist?

No, we support each other through tough times and also have conversations about recent events like any team. We have just made a decision to not engage in broader activism as a company outside of our mission.

How will I know what counts as political?

We recognize it’s a blurry line, and ask that employees use good judgment. Our goal is not to look for violations, but rather to support employees in adapting to these clarified expectations.

Does Coinbase just stand for making a profit?

No, we stand for accomplishing the mission and for creating a great place to work. Growing revenue and profit is the only way we will be able to grow our team to build all the things that are needed to accomplish the mission. And we need an environment that is welcoming to everyone to attract and retain team members.

Hopefully these clarifications help clear up any remaining misunderstandings. To help create the same clarity for our external audience and prospective candidates, I’ll be posting this email to the Coinbase blog a bit later today. If you still have questions or would like to discuss further, I encourage you to reach out to your manager, HRBP, or me directly.

While having team members leave is never easy, I think we will emerge as a more aligned company from this. From time to time we need to rearticulate and clarify our cultural norms as we continue scaling. I’m excited to be moving forward as #OneCoinbase to pursue our vision of economic freedom for every person and business.

Thank you,
Brian

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 104 – If I Were To Take Over The Company Tomorrow What Would I Do? 

Dear Leaders, this week a lesson and an exercise from one of the names you should know but might not. 

I recently read a long profile of Tobi (Tobias) Lütke and it really made me consider what makes a great leader within mature businesses making a difference. 

Tobi is the CEO and founder of Shopify, he is widely recognised as one of the most influential and important CEO’s of modern-day business. 

Tobi is famous for asking the five whys and wanting to understand each component of the engine to truly understand the topic and help to shape his business future. 

Tobi is well known for having a saying
if I were to take over the company tomorrow, what would I do?” 

Simple but effective right. 

Remember — sometimes the most simple question and comments are the most impactful. 

Exercise To Try: I often say to founders and management teams, go up a level and ask themselves if we had to restart what we would change tomorrow, next week and next month. 

I like to consider this question as a quickfire question to ask leaders within your business and then a deep pondering to address in asynchronous work. A working document (slides in my typical use case) and ensure everyone has a chance to think, draft and create an action plan they would take forward. 

What would you change within your company if you took over tomorrow? 

What elements are truly broken and need instant attention. Prioritisation will be the hardest part of this, nonetheless, it is an essential exercise. 

This works with bigger themes like company culture, long term strategy and checking in on your mission and vision for the company.

Sketch / Design Over Tables: Something I drive forward in sessions like this is imagery, whether hand sketched or created within your favourite editing tool because you put in more effect and more thought into making it understandable for colleagues. 

Yes, a table is often the easiest (and you will rarely hear me tell you not to create a simple as possible table with the right columns and rows), however, a table doesn’t enable you and your colleagues to demonstrate the connective element of pen on paper or really thinking about the steps and flow.

Make It A Priority: I recommend you take this question quarterly, if you have quarterly business reviews (QBR’s) and in long-range planning (LRP’s). 

Moving forward into Q3 and H2, make this a question you have to ask yourself and then those around you. 

Thanks and best of luck in answering this simple but driving question.

Danny Denhard

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Categories
hybrid office

Future Of Work Inspiration – Farming

Why Farming Is Working From Home / Hybrid Go To Example We Should Be Using

Farmers were one of the first and only industries that worked from home and then adopted hybrid work.

For thousands of years, farmers have been effective and operating in hyper-competitive markets.  
Alongside this, farming is a seasonal business, that can wipe their business in days. There are many more comparisons.

Farming is comparable to most office work and office reliant companies. 

Why? 

  • Ever-changing workforce / staff 
    • Full time, Temp and remote workers all are commonplace in farming
  • Working with local and international suppliers
    – similar to most businesses, their produce has to be sold internationally and across multiple timezones
  • Offering samples of products – 
    either in person or sending out to potential partners and reviewing together online or remotely
  • Covers all business areas and often has to pivot based on seasonal changes and demands from suppliers (like supermarkets). Farming covers all business types including:
    • B2B  
    • Wholesale
    • B2C
    • B2B2C
    • DTC
  • Have to leverage network effects
  • Have to drive and build Product, Marketing, Ops and Logistics 
  • Hybrid has been a default for years  
    • Finance often managed hybrid 
    • Analysis and analysts off-site are essential to improving performance and selling the right product
    • Collaboration (in the cloud)  
    • Management team meetings are often hosted remotely, particularly when investors are involved or international family members are part of the SMT
    • Growth plans are often collaborated asynchronously and discussed across zoom and video calls
    • Working on the road – Farmers have often had to work on the road and from anywhere, especially when working on their land or when commuting to partners and suppliers
  • Bot and human collaboration – farmers have trusted robots and automation for a generation and this is an area to ensure operational effectiveness and drive business scale and growth
  • Working with and trusting new technologies before mass adoption
    – new automation, new equipment, new forms of delivery, adopting drones and software. All areas where farming evolves faster than what many consider more advanced industries

All of these factors have helped farming to evolve with and ahead of the times. Next time you and your leadership team misunderstand hybrid work and moving with the demand, embrace the way of the farmer.