Tesla: Now the Most Interesting Workplace Culture in The World...

Forget Google, Apple and if you're into pain, Uber.

Tesla is now the most interesting workplace culture in the world.  Here's 4 reasons why, my friends:

1--For starters, they've got a founder who is brilliant and unreasonable all at the same time. 

You've heard of Elon Musk, so he really doesn't need an introduction.  From a unauthorized biography I just read on him....

"When Musk came into the meeting room where I'd been waiting, I noted how impressive it was for so many people to be at work on a Saturday.  Must saw the sitaution in a different light, complaining that fewer and fewer people had been working weekends of late, 'We've grown f***ing soft", Musk replied, 
'I was just going to send out an email - we're f***ing soft'"

Founders.  Always a fun time.  There's 100 examples of this stuff in the book.

2--Tesla's under immense pressure to get production of it's newest car model, the Model 3, up to scale. And they are behind.  More from Bloomberg:

"Tesla said it built just 260 Model 3 sedans during the third quarter, less than a fifth of its 1,500-unit forecast. The company has offered scant detail about the problems it’s having producing the car. The vehicle’s entry price starts at $35,000, roughly half the cost of Tesla’s least-expensive Model S sedan.

A delayed ramp-up risks the ire of some of the almost half million reservation holders who started paying $1,000 deposits early last year." 

3--Tesla's at the intersection of manufacturing and automation with the ramp up of the Model 3 - here's an Instagram post shared by Musk late last week to respond to people reporting that there was limited automation at this point on the Model 3 line (email subscribers click through if you don't see the post below.  It's good):

4--Embedded in the founder driven culture is... wait for it.... people being fired after lackluster performance reviews!  And the company is saying that's the reason!  More from Bloomberg:

Tesla Inc. has fired an undetermined number of employees following a series of performance evaluations after the company significantly boosted its workforce with the purchase of solar panel maker SolarCity Corp.

 The departures are part of an annual review, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in an email, without providing a number of people affected. The maker of the Model S this week dismissed between 400 and 700 employees, including engineers, managers and factory workers, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Oct. 13, citing unidentified current and former workers.
 
“As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures,” the company said in the statement. “Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”
 
An interesting founder still running things.  Big innovation.  Production delays.  Saying you're trimming the bottom performers aka Jack Welch and stacked ranking.
 
Tesla is the most interesting workplace culture in America right now.  It's not even close.

The More Your Company Wins, the More Great Talent Will Allow You To Coach...

I saw this one last weekend.  I think you'll enjoy it.  Here's your set up.

Alabama's football team is coached by Nick Saban - did a post early this week after what a control freak he is.  The thing is, if your system gets great results, you have the ability to be a complete control freak.  If you're not a world class leader, you can't be a micromanaging control freak, because people you manage won't take it - they'll revolt.

Most of us aren't good enough at what we do to be complete control freaks.  Nike Saban, however, is good enough.

Here's a new thought to add to that post earlier this week:

The More Your Company Wins, the More Great Talent Will Allow You To Coach

Video clip below (click through if you don't see the clip).  Talk about what to look for after the jump. 

Alabama is playing at Texas A&M.  The outcome was never in doubt, BUT... Texas A&M scores and is kicking off, and IF they recover an onside kick, they could throw a hail mary with 5 seconds left to tie it, etc.

So the onside kick is cleanly fielded by one of Alabama's best players - in a roster full of 5 star recruits - Minkah Fitzpatrick.  

Here's where it gets interesting.  Average players field that onside kick and collapse like they've been shot. Minkah Fitzpatrick. is not average, so he fields it cleanly and runs it back.  That's what stars do, right?

Ultimately, he gets pushed out of bounds, celebrates with his teammates and then at the :23 second mark of the video, puts his hands over this face like he's just seen a ghost.  

He saw Nick Saban.

Flash forward to the :27 mark of the video. Minkah Fitzpatrick. comes to the sidelines and takes a tongue lashing from Nick Saban before an assistant grabs him to explain things more calmly as Saban walks off.  The coaching is obviously that if you fumble as you run it back, there's a chance we lose this game.

What's interesting to me with this one is that Micah Fitzpatrick looked over at the sidelines after the celebration and thought, "oh no" - I screwed that up.

He's one of the best players on the best team in the country, and he just made a great play.  But the devil was in the details, and when it saw the sidelines, he realized the coaching that was coming.

The More Your Company Wins, the More Great Talent Will Allow You To Coach

Success brings a lot of positives to your organization.  One of the things we don't think about is how open talented people are to coaching.  But ff you're losing as a company, it's harder to coach the great ones.  If you're winning, it's easier.

The more you develop a culture of success, the more open all employees - even the great ones - are to coaching.


The Top 10 Reasons Recognition Programs Fail...

A valued reader weighs in below on why Recognition programs fail in reaction to this column I wrote over at Workforce.com... Thanks Ron!

-----------------------------------------------------

At 75, I have witnessed several formal Recognition Programs and have seen the flaws in all of them.   The downsides overweigh the upsides. Trophies

1. There is never a substitute for daily recognition from the boss – it is personal and real time.  Anything else is Management by Gimmick. 

2. Bosses are stingy with their thank-you’s because there is a formal program.

3. Recognition Programs typically evolve into personality contests.  Introvert contributors tend to get ignored.

4. For every winner, there are many losers and they feel like losers after the gala is over.

5. The losers tend to downgrade the alleged contributions made by the winners.

6. Instead of emulating the winners, the average person does what they always do.

7. The awards are not always  treasured by the winners, ala, give me money, not a parking space.

8. Most of the programs I have seen evolve into peer recognition programs due to the many flaws in the top down programs which become apparent.

9. The peer programs fade away too, because they are very popularity-driven.

10. A process of every manager of Catching People Doing Things Right is 10X more powerful.

I would have liked your dad.  My dad was a college teacher and I heard his shoes hitting the ground everyday too.  I also learned my work ethic from him.  External hoopla meant nothing to him and he didn’t wear a blue collar.

Employees are starved for meaningful work, a larger purpose and the need for a good boss.  Article after article are saying that employees leave bosses, not companies even the companies with Recognition Programs.

Ron
Ronald Ulrici
HR Director


The Tyranny of Single Stall, Gender-Neutral Bathrooms in the Workplace...

Notes to follow from life on the road...

Topic: Transgender individual's rights to use either bathroom (men's or women's) they desire.

Buckle up, people. But it's probably not going to be what you think. TG

I spend a lot of time on the road, and I spend that time in a lot of different parts of the country.  One thing that's happening in retail (shops, restaurants, etc) points to a trend I hope doesn't come to office parks.

Here's the trend... Businesses - faced with legal pressure or simply wanting to accommodate Transgender individuals - are increasing changing single stall bathrooms (one for men, one for women) to gender neutral status.  That "reclassification" means that either men or women can use either bathroom that is available.  That solves the transgender issue without the economic burden of retrofitting a third bathroom to exist alongside men's and women's facilities.

I understand that I'm probably going to get emails from what I've wrote already, because I'm not an expert in Transgender issues.  Send your emails, however, because I do want to learn more and understand to a greater degree.

But I am an expert in some things.  Allow me to school you on why reclassifying a men's and women's bathroom to gender neutral-status doesn't work:

Men are pigs.  Females deserve better.  

If 10 dudes use a bathroom during the day, odds are it is not going to be suitable for a woman, or anyone who wants to sit down.  This just in - Men often go to the bathroom standing up.  Hit this link if you want to see the legal world in action on this issue.  

When businesses make existing single-stall bathrooms gender neutral, females (anyone identifying as female) lose.  And this trend is alive and well in some areas of the country.  It's a natural, completely understandable reaction to the capital cost of building new facilities.  

I can only hope this trend can be avoided as transgender issues become more accepted and we work through the same challenges in the workplace.

Rights for everyone - Ok and check.  Let's evolve together.

Rights for dudes to use bathrooms on a frequent basis that females will have to use afterwords - we're better than that America.  

No.  Just no.

 


Mansplaining Gender-Related Harassment...

I'm up today over at my other site - Fistful of Talent - with a post called, "A Man’s DIY Guide to Rid Your Company of Gender-Related Harassment".  Here's a taste:

"Ready for some mansplaining?  Good, because I’m a guy, and damn, it seems like companies are having a hard time avoiding gender-related harassment.  So I’m here to help.

I’m referring to s*x**l harassment, but I have to call it gender-related harassment because a lot of you have email filters at the corporate level that won’t allow content in with the word s*x**l.  You know, because you can’t be trusted.  As a result, you end up missing good stuff like this and Marvin Gaye videos your friends might send you.  Sucks to be you.  But I digress."

Go get the full post over at Fistful of Talent by clicking here.

 

A Man’s DIY Guide to Rid Your Company of Gender-Related Harassment


UBER's New Leadership Exec Pledges to Wear Uber T-Shirt Every Day, Until...

Company logo gear is a tricky thing.  There's a lifespan of when and where employees are willing to wear your logo shirts in public.  The cadence goes something like this:

--Startup Mode - your employees are willing to wear your logo gear anywhere and everywhere, especially if you've done a nice job related to your colors and the logo itself. Frana To the extent you have a good/great culture, the willingness to wear your logo shirts in this stage gets magnified.

--Growing Pains Mode - with size comes complexity, and things aren't as rosy any more.  Your employees gladly wear your logo shirt on an assigned day, but you see less and less of the gear on a daily basis as employees become more neutral in their pride to work at your company.  Most companies never progress to a more negative state than this related to how their employees treat logo wear.

--Cable Company Mode - I used to be a leader at a Cable company, and this mode is the most negative spot in the employee/logo wear continuum. Your employees will change their shirt in the car - from your logo to no logo - to avoid customer confrontations and negative feedback.  Who likes the cable company?  No one, so it stands to reason your employees just want blend in with the crowd when grabbing a gallon of milk.

You know who's recently moved into the Cable Company Mode when it comes to logo gear?  Uber, at least for the time being.  The wave of news related to driver relations and harassment claims from employees has moved them straight for "logo wear pride/startup mode" to "Cable Company Mode", albeit with a certain tech swag that could retain some pride.

That's why a recent interview with Frances Frei , Uber’s new vice president of leadership and strategy was so interesting.  Appearing on stage with Recode’s Kara Swisher at a live onstage taping of the Recode/Decode Podcast, Frei wore and Uber t-shirt and told the audience and listeners that she's taking the following approach (which I'm paraphrasing)"

--"I'm wearing a Uber t-shirt every day, until it becomes acceptable to do it again."

Think about that for a second.  There's drama at Uber, and employee pride is likely at an all time low.  The struggles have been public and no one wants to be seen in the Bay area wearing an Uber t-shirt.

But a new leader makes the pledge to wear that t-shirt daily.  To engage in all the conversations that it will encourage - both good and bad.

--Wearing the company t-shirt - leadership-light.

--Wearing the company t-shirt knowing it will cause 5-10 conversations a day you could have avoided - hmmm.

The second one feels like a stab at true leadership, and a small path to recovery for whatever the culture becomes at Uber.

Well played, Frances.


UBER-ing: 5 Thoughts About Naming Your Primary Conference Room The WAR ROOM...

In case you missed it, one of the outcomes of the Uber fiasco - in addition to an indefinite leave for the CEO, departure of a board member for an inappropriate comment during an all-hands meeting among other things - was that the company will be renaming it's primary conference/board room from "The War Room" to "The Peace Room".  More from Bloomberg:

Uber is trying to turn a new chapter in its history, and is renaming its "War Room" the "Peace Room," according to Bloomberg. Uber

On Tuesday, Uber released a 13-page report it had commissioned from Eric Holder, the former US attorney general, and his firm, which sought to evaluate and make recommendations for changes to Uber's corporate culture.

"Several of Uber’s planned changes are symbolic," Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer wrote. "For example, a conference room known as the War Room will be renamed the Peace Room."

Uber will also jettison many of its "cultural values." Here are a few that are getting the ax: “Let Builders Build; Always Be Hustlin’; Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping; and Principled Confrontation.”

Where at we meeting at Kinetix today?  THE WAR ROOM.  Should we change thatname?  Here's some thoughts from the a company where the halls are orange and the majority owner is a woman:

--If I'm apologetic to anyone from our primary conference room being named the War Room, it's not the folks who expect political correctness, it's veterans who have participated in armed conflict.  Business isn't war.  If a hat tip is necessary to anyone, it's vets.

--Our culture is pretty far from Uber.  I'm not sure renaming the room is necessary for us.

--We've named all of our offices, and most of them are pop culture movie and music references.  So the rest of the names are pretty soft.

--We don't have the values that Uber had, but our values are pretty action-oriented.  War room fits the action orientation.

--My CEO would fire me if I changed the name of The War Room to The Peace Room.  Too much.  I'd fire me too.

I get why Uber is doing all of these visible things.  They need to overcorrect.  The rest of us don't.  "Always Be Hustlin'" as a value?  Tells you all you need to know.

Alternatives if you need to change the name of "The War Room" to something else:

--The Conflict Room (lame)

--Politically Incorrect (descriptive, but presents liability)

--Mosh Pit (rock is dead, won't work..)

--Hunger Games (probably true and pop culture reference fits)

--Let's Get It On 

Scratch that last one, that was from Uber's list right before they named it The War Room....

Hit me with your best option in the comments to rename "The War Room".... If you say "Conference Room 1", I'll slap you.


PURE GOLD: On the Topic of Age Bias and Startup Culture...

Old people are..just so..so..so...old!

Coming off a two-day blitz to finish some interviewing training, and what interviewing training would be complete without a section on non-Title VII bias that impacts us all?  Turns out, science shows we all like a certain type of person no matter their qualifications.  Among the things we're suckers for:

--attractive people...

--smooth communicators...

--people who are alums from the school we went to...

--candidates who tell us we are both attractive and smooth as part of the interview...

Kidding about the last one.  You know what's not listed above as something we are subconsciously attracted to?  People who are older than us (related to attractiveness for sure).  That's why this farce blog post from a fictional startup was so accurate - it basically just says it all.  Check out these excerpts from the post at McSweeneys and then go read the whole thing:

"Hello, and welcome to our startup. We hope you’re enjoying your complimentary snifter of vaporized coconut water. Once you’re done, please place the glass into one of the blue receptacles around the office, which will send the glass to be washed and dried. Do not place it into one of the red receptacles. The red receptacles take whatever you put inside of them and launch it into space.

As you can probably tell by looking around, every employee at our startup is 23 years old. On the morning of your 24th birthday, the barcode on your employee ID stops working and you can no longer enter our building. We do this to ensure our company has a ceaseless, youthful energy. We believe old people are displeasing to look at and also, bad at ideas.

Care for a nap? Well, you are more than welcome to take a quick, refreshing nap in one of our many nap pods. You will be lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of our 23-year-old founder softly whispering startupy things such as, “Disruption,” and “Like Uber, but for horses.”

Go read it all.  It's all truer than we'd like to admit at all companies who chase culture as part of a strategic plan.


The Perils of Your Company Culture Becoming Sales-Focused (Above All Else)...

Nothing happens without sales.  Treat your salespeople right, because unless they kill something, nobody eats.

For the reasons stated above, it's not wrong for the leaders of your company to want to transform your culture into a sales machine.  The problem happens when people who weren't hired to sell suddenly find themselves with quotas but no idea of what to do next.

I was reminded of the perils of leaders trying to transform a decent culture into one that is purely revenue-focused by two things over the holiday weekend.  First, this from Fast Company on the Tesla acquisition of one-time solar energy darling SolarCity:

If there was one sign that the company was flying too close to the sun, it was, many felt, an extravagant sales-team huddle in Las Vegas around March 2015. In a scene straight out of HBO’s Silicon SolarCity.IPO_1Valley, Barnard, then SolarCity’s chief revenue officer, burst onto the stage in front of Lyndon, Peter, and 1,300 employees (Musk would arrive later) at Hakkasan nightclub, rapping over Nicki Minaj and Drake’s hit “Truffle Butter” while surrounded by provocatively dressed dancers. At another point, he appeared dressed as Helios, the Greek sun god, wearing a green suit of armor designed by the same people who created the Iron Man costume for that movie. “The party was cool,” recalls hip-hop artist Chingy, who also performed. “Lots of energy, a beautiful crowd. We shined like the sun.” There was, after all, much for them to celebrate. SolarCity was by then the clear industry leader, owning a third of the residential market and handling more installations than its next 50 competitors combined. (Barnard explains that he was only trying to rally his troops, and strongly denies that the culture became bro-y. “I don’t tolerate that bullshit,” he says.)

OK - that's fun, but what follows shows how the grind to create revenue and keep growth rolling quarter/quarter and year/year can result in less than stellar sales practices:

The company’s growth rate—it was hiring 100 sales reps a week to help hit aggressive targets—led to some dubious tactics when it came to marketing SolarCity’s zero-money-down concept. Many sources felt that the drive to hook customers often eclipsed any concerns about whether they would follow through with the lease purchase. “You had all these poorly trained reps basically going, ‘Just sign here! Don’t worry, you can cancel any time!’ ” says a former sales director. “People were treating it like signing off on iTunes’ terms and conditions.

The company’s average cancellation rate increased to 45% or higher; its door-to-door sales team saw rates of 70%, multiple sources say. (The SEC is reportedly probing the lack of public disclosures around cancellation rates in the solar industry. A spokesperson for SolarCity says that rates have improved, and that the company reports on “installed assets,” rather than “preinstallation cancellation rates.”) With competition in the solar space increasing, SolarCity engaged in a pricing war with many of its rivals, a race to the bottom that hurt deal profitability.

If there's one thing that seemingly happens a lot when companies/employees are under incredible pressure to sell, it's the emergence of low quality/borderline fraudulent sales that might not ever generate revenue as outlined above at SolarCity.

I wrapped up the holiday week by listening to some former Wells Fargo employees talk about the account fraud that happened at the company, with over 2.1 million fake accounts created by associates at the giant retail bank.  To hear my dinner companions tell it, everyone in the company knew it was going on. Find a good rundown of what happened at Wells Fargo here - and here's a great snapshot of what can go wrong when you say EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE IN SALES at your company:

“Cross-selling,” it’s called, and virtually all banks want to do more of it. Once a customer opens a checking or savings account, maybe he or she would also like an auto loan or overdraft protection or a credit card. The more products a customer has with a bank, the more money the bank makes and the less likely the customer is to leave. That’s why all banks cross-sell. But arguably no bank has ever done it with the fevered intensity of Wells Fargo.

Training in “questionable sales practices was required or you were to be fired,” a former employee tells Fortune. “We were constantly told we would end up working for McDonald’s” for not meeting quotas, a former branch manager told the Los Angeles Times in 2013; another former branch manager said employees “talked a homeless woman into opening six checking and savings accounts with fees totaling $39 a month.” 

The message was clear to everyone in the retail bank: “The route to success was selling more than your peers,” the board’s investigation found—not profitability or customer satisfaction, but simply selling more products to each customer. Everyone knew the goals were sheer fantasy for many branches and employees. At some branches not enough customers walked in the door, or area residents were too poor to need more than a few banking products. Bank leaders called overall quotas “50/50 plans” because they figured only half the regions could meet them. Yet no excuses were tolerated. You met the quotas or paid a price.  The predictable result: fake accounts.

Ugh. Companies can't succeed without sales.  But leaders who are trying to transform from product/service cultures to become sales machines at all costs generally fail.  More often than not with jail time being possible/likely for someone involved.


Sometimes Great Teammates Decide To Let Co-Workers Live With the Consequences of Stupid Decisions...

Sometime after your first year with your company, you start to settle in.  All the onboarding is complete, the honeymoon is over and you've accurately assessed your job as a mix of positives and negatives.  If you're still there and not on the market after a year, that generally means you're content.  Hopefully you're learning and things are starting to click related to your role and how you can have success.

Another thing happens after the one year mark - you've settled into a clear understanding of who your teammates are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and if applicable, the circumstances/topics/conditions that will make them absolutely self-destruct.

You're a good teammate - so you've likely tried to make the self-imploding teammate aware of his self-destructive, hot button issues. 

But.They.Just.Won't.Listen.

So you do what a reasonable human would do after getting nowhere.  They next time the mushroom cloud is getting ready to go up, you grab some popcorn, a Fresca and get ready to watch the show.

That's what happened to Buster Posey (catcher of professional baseball's San Francisco Giants) last week.  A hothead teammate picked a fight with an opponent, and Buster decided to take this scrum off.  If you don't see the picture below, enable pictures or click through to the site to see the setup.  Buster's the one that's standing behind home plate while the #### is getting ready to go down:

Posey

Pretty good analysis from the Mercury News in the Bay area:

Oh, crap. Why do I have to deal with this knucklehead? Whatever.

Buster Posey can say whatever he wishes with his own words about what happened Monday afternoon. He can speak out loud and put his own spin on the way Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland’s purpose-pitch hit Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper in the butt and sparked a bench-clearing meltdown. But anyone who watched Posey’s body language during the play could read and see exactly what was happening inside his brain.

Really, dude? And you expect me to defend you after . . . that?

The unwritten rules of Major League Baseball decree that when an angry batter leaves the box and charges at the pitcher, the catcher is supposed to sprint out and make an effort to hold back the batter before he reaches the mound.

Posey did just the opposite when Strickland plunked Harper, who reacted with a stare and then a sprint toward the pitching rubber. Watch the video. Watch Posey. As Harper storms toward Strickland, the Giants’ catcher actually takes a half step backward, not forward. Then he watches.

You’re on your own, pal. I can’t believe this. But you deserve whatever happens next. 

As everyone knows, Posey is the center of gravity inside the Giants’ room. He has been almost since 2010 when he joined the team full time. He calls the pitches on the field. He calls out teammates when needed. He has a dry and wicked sense of humor but is a very serious man. We don’t see everything that happens when the locker room door shuts. But you get the impression that before any other Giants’ player speaks up, he at least glances over to Posey to see how he’s reacting.

Odds are you've got a couple of people like that pitcher in your organization.  They've got talent.  But they've got a hot button that limits them career-wise.  You've probably already gotten splatter on you from the fallout when you tried to help them.  Either they lashed out at you or someone else in the organization accused you of being in their camp.

At some point, you have to back away, let them implode and let nature take its course.  It's Darwinian in nature.  They've got a flaw and try as you might, you can't help - and you certainly can't fix it.  They couldn't adapt.

You're a vet now.  Sometimes you have to do what Posey did.  Just let it happen and stay above the fray.

The honeymoon is over, right?