I recently finished the book Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation by Adam Bryant. It was a though provoking read and I recommend it to all leaders. The book is based on 200 interviews with CEO. 80% of the book is quotations from these CEO on how they develop remarkable culture in their organizations. I went into the book not overly interested because sometimes these books don’t relate as well to LDS leadership. With each turn of the page I really enjoyed various quotes from the book that I’d like to share.

All these quotes are mostly from different CEOs which I reference at the end of each quote.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. (Kindle page 175)

I’ve heard this quote in various publications but nobody really knows who conceived it. It sums up this book in one sentence and is something that should be applied to our local LDS leadership. We talk a lot of strategy in ward council and look over the power of building solid culture in our quorums and groups.

“I have a very simple model to run a company. It’s starts with leadership at the top, which drives a culture. Culture drives innovation and whatever else you’re trying to drive within a company. And that then drives results. When I talk to Wall Street, people really want to know your results, what are your strategies, what are the issues, what it is that you’re doing to drive your business. They’re focused on the bottom line. Never do you get people asking about the culture, about leadership, about the people in the organization. Yet, it’s the reverse, because it’s the people, the leadership, the culture, and the ideas that are ultimately driving the numbers and the results.” -Stephen I. Sadove (Kindle page 184)

Are you wondering why sacrament attendance is down or visiting teaching isn’t getting done? Instead of looking at your strategy, consider your culture, your people, and your ideas.

“The way we define culture overall is ‘how companies get things done.’ If you have a factory, you get a lot of things done through machinery. Most companies in software get things done through people. So our machinery is people, and to put it in technology terms, people are the hardware and our values are the operating system.” -Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix (Kindle page 491)

In the LDS church our operating system is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a powerful thing, but it requires the action of others to make positive change. Don’t forget operating system requires hardware (people).

“I reach out to a lot of employees. It’s one of the first questions I ask: ‘Are you having fun?’” Chris Barbin, CEO of Appirio (Kindle page 680)

One of the important questions of a personal 1-to-1 interview is “are you having fun?” There is nothing more fun than being passionate and if they aren’t finding a passion in the work call someone else that will. This reminds me a discussion I had with a bishopric counselor. He shared with me his deep passion for his calling and couldn’t see why people would avoid such a responsibility that allows you to be so involved in the work of the Lord. He loved his calling–he was in the right place.

“As all these examples show, there is no “right” set of values for an organization, nothing that stands out as a best practice. Values have to emerge in a way that doesn’t feel forced, so that they reflect the personalities and beliefs of the leadership team and the collective culture of the organization.” Marcus Ryu, CEO of Guidewire (Kindle page 758)

Values can never be forced! An elder’s quorum president cannot force upon his quorum the values of home teaching. He has to help them discover it within each individual so that the values reflect what they already believe.

“When they’re awesome, I tell them they’re awesome. When they mess up, they hear about it. But do it the right way. Do it consistently. Do it with respect. No yelling and screaming, but ‘Here’s our expectation, and here’s where you missed. What do you think you need to do to get better so this doesn’t happen again?’ That’s what creates the positive culture. That’s what attracts amazingly talented people.” John Duffy, CEO of 3Cinteractive (Kindle page 850)

This is quote hits the nail on the head. One of my great weaknesses as a leader is not giving enough feedback when they mess up. When they mess up, I love to encourage, pat them on the back, and inspire them to keep doing good. But when they mess up, I fail to correct. Quick correction can be the greatest catalyst to developing intentional culture in an organization. They will know where you stand and become more committed.

“And I don’t know where I got the idea, but I just said: ‘You’ve got to go buy everybody ice cream. We’re having an ice cream party.’ Because I realized that if I yell at everybody, they’re just going to figure I’m a jerk. But if we’re all sitting around eating ice cream, everybody knows why we’re eating ice cream—it’s because this guy screwed up. That will set in and they’ll remember it and then just maybe they’ll think, ‘Oh, yeah. We had ice cream last week. Maybe we should back up our work.’ Knock on wood, we haven’t had to recover any more hard drives.” Dan Schneider, CEO of SIB Development and Consulting (Kindle page 948)

I love this story. We don’t have to throw stuff and yell for people to understand they made a mistake. Do something simple that will impress in their mind the mistake that was done. Something like eating ice cream creates a strong memory in everyone’s mind the mistake that was made. Nobody wants to buy ice cream for the team, but if they have to, they will remember why.

“Recently, I’ve really shifted my thinking. Our culture reflected our work, which is to create a sense of family for our teams. So our staff would say: ‘We’re a family. We’re a family.’ And I’ve actually said directly to everyone in all-staff meetings: ‘We’re not a family, because in a family you never can fire somebody like your uncle Joe. You just can’t. You have to put up with him because he’s family. In an organization, if someone is taking the organization down, we can’t accept that because the organization is bigger than any one of us.’ So I’ve said to them that the analogy that best suits us is ‘We’re a team,’ and in a team, everybody’s got a role to play. And the team wins when everybody plays their roles to their best ability. The other thing that’s different in a team is that people understand the concept of roles. So if you’re the manager, you have a job to do as a manager. No one, generally speaking, resents the fact that you have authority, because they understand that it comes with the role of a manager and that teams need managers. They don’t manage themselves. “But in a family, it is about power. You know, Mom or Dad has the power, and I think the dynamic that often plays out in a workplace is that people project all of their parental stuff. And I remember a job where I actually had to say to my team: ‘I am not your mother. I’m the division director here. I have a job to do. You have a job to do.’” Linda Lausell Bryant of Inwood House (Kindle page 1206)

This quote gave me a perspective about church leadership I didn’t expect. As mentioned, being on a team in a secular company has some big differences from being in a family because you can’t fire anyone in  your family. Being on a church “team” is maybe more related to a family. Leaders can release people but they can’t fire them from the ward. If they release them they still have to find a place for them to serve. It made me wonder that maybe researching best practices for solving problem in a family may teach us more about how to solve problem in a ward. This is a topic for an entirely different post. It’s worth thinking about.

“I ask this question a lot in different situations: ‘What do you recommend we do? You can get a real sense for who’s invested in moving the company forward, and who’s watching the company go by, with that very simple question. People lay out problems all the time. If they’ve thought through what should be done from here, then you’ve got somebody who’s in the game, who wants to move, and you can unlock that potential. Bystander apathy or the power of observation, in and of itself, is not very valuable.” Bob Brennan of Iron Mountain (Kindle page 1722)

Consider who really thinks through problem in ward council. Consider those that seem like bystanders. Leaders want people who are “in the game” and ready to take on a problem with their ideas. How can leaders get the ward council bystanders in the game?

“I’ve seen organizations where the boss makes all the decisions. That’s not leadership, that’s a boss. I don’t want to be the boss, I want to be the leader. So I want to get you to help me figure out what we’ve got to do here.” Also by Bill Flemming of Skanska USA (Kindle page 1735)

This is a great concept that most leaders have room for improvement. Check out the post You Are Not to Take Over for more info on this topic.

“I think you’ve got to create a culture in which dissent is valued. And there’s probably a lot of ways to set that tone. Certainly you can tell if you’ve got a culture of dissent when you walk into a company. People can figure out very quickly whether dissent is encouraged or whether it’s actually not welcome. It’s a red flag to me if there’s just too much consensus and not enough dissent. I feel like in any human community there’s always dissent because people just disagree. Anytime there doesn’t appear to be dissent, it means that the corporate culture has just shifted way too much toward consensus.” David Sacks of Yammer (Kindle page 2070)

I could’t agree more. One phrase I use a lot when I start a meeting is, “As I come up with ideas, I want you to tell me why I am wrong.” Respectful dissent is truly powerful in a ward council.

“We have signs in every conference room in the office that say, ‘We respect our colleagues by not reading e-mail during meetings.’ This is one of the few things that drive me absolutely insane. Let’s not meet if no one’s going to be paying attention.” Seth Besmertnik of Conductor (Kindle page 2273)

I need to go make that sign.

“In a recent meeting, I had two things I wanted to float. I said, ‘Now somebody has to stand up and tell me three reasons why this is sheer genius.’ Everybody’s laughing, and then I said, ‘Now I want people to stand up and tell me the three reasons why this is the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard.’ It’s playful, but it puts people at ease and allows them to say things that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise. It works. It pushes critical thinking, and it does it in a way that’s not oppressive.” Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book (Kindle page 2336)

Funny example and yet effective. This would be a great way to stimulate dissent in a meeting.

“So in the beginning, they wouldn’t say how they feel. And I said: ‘Tell me what you love, what you don’t love. You have to have an opinion because actually I pay for your opinion. I pay you to have a point of view, good or bad.’ And toward the end of the summer, they couldn’t wait to tell me what they thought. Most people can’t wait to tell you what they think anyway, but they didn’t know that they could.” Jenny Ming of Charlotte Russe (Kindle page 2379)

I love this approach. Obviously nobody is paid to have an opinion, but can you imagine someone in the quorum of the 12 that never shared an opinion. Those experienced men are put in those places mainly because they have such strong opinions. The local ward council should be the same. If someone is being a bystander tell them they were called to this position to share their opinion.

“I believe most companies fail because they’re not focused, they either get focused on other things in the market that aren’t important, so they’re thrashing around without a clear objective, or they’re focused internally on things like politics and bureaucracy. It’s not that these companies aren’t smart companies and they don’t have good businesses. It’s just that there’s a lot of noise.” Ryan Smith of Qualtrics (Kindle page 3486)

Wards produce a lot of noise. Your role as a leader requires you to quiet the noise and point everyone back to the focus.

“The companies that will thrive over the long haul will understand that culture is a key element of their strategy—for attracting and retaining the best talent, for encouraging employees to bring their best selves to work, and for fostering an environment in which everyone feels motivated to innovate.” Ryan Smith of Qualtrics (Kindle page 3531)

How is culture created in a ward? This question is more important than anything related to accomplishing 100% home teaching because effective home teaching isn’t possible without establishing culture.


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