How to Create Core Values that Make a Difference

August 4, 2012

Most companies that reflect upon and create core values for their organization do it once, create a plaque, and post it on the wall to be forgotten. One company that does it well is Zappos. There are several things I admire about what they do.

I love how they created values that are statements rather than just words. Many times I see that companies have values such as integrity, respect, and responsibility which are a great start. Take a look at Zappos’ values.

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

Notice how they begin with a verb and give more direction than just a noun. In our work with clients and the research that was done in the book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, we found that Stage Four tribes had clear core values that provided a decision making framework. This is a lot easier and more effective than rule books and policies.


Tribal Leadership: Because Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

June 28, 2012

Triads Work: Starbucks Grew to $1B in Sales in 5 Years

June 26, 2012

Triads really do work. The key is getting three people to work together seamlessly. Starbucks succeeded with this because Howard Schultz, the founder, was able to give up his stage three need to control and surround himself and trust his Stage Four triad.

Howard Schultz writes in Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time (Hyperion 1999),

“Howard and Orin were both older than I was, by about ten years. Both took pay cuts to come to Starbucks but joined because they understood the passion and the potential and they believed their stock options would one day become valuable. To a lot of entrepreneurs, hiring more seasoned executives can be threatening, and actually delegating power to them is even more so. In my own case, I have to admit, it wasn’t easy. My identity had quickly become so closely tied up with that of Starbucks that any suggestion for change made me feel as if I had failed in some aspect of my job. Inside my head, it was a constant battle, and I had to keep reminding myself: These people bring something I don’t have. They will make Starbucks far better than I could alone.

Both Howard and Orin brought not only skills and experience but also attitudes and values that were different than mine. What I found, as we worked together year after year, was that Starbucks was enriched and broadened by their leadership. If I had let my ego or my fears prevent them from doing their jobs, we could never have matured into a sustainable company with strong, people-oriented values.” (p154-55)

By 1990, I had assembled a management team that worked together so tightly and synergistically that people called us “H2O” for Howard, Howard, and Orin. We stood for the vision, the soul, and the fiscal responsibility. In many respects, Howard and Orin are polar opposites, but each of us has provided an essential ingredient to Starbucks’ success.” (p 155-156)


Tribal Leadership Stage 3 is all about Me!

March 17, 2012

The book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, is the result of a 10 year study of over 24,000 people. Authors Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright recognized strategies failed 70 percent of the time. In their inquiry as to why this occurred, they discovered Peter Duckers’ statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” was true. A big reason is what we call Stage Three culture–49% of corporate America.

A recent participant in a two day Tribal Leadership Training sent me this video of Brian Regan as a perfect example of Stage Three behavior. At Stage Three, the language you hear is “I,  me,  my” and the background conversation that is oozing out is “I’m GREAT!” (and you’re not.)

This four minute video is hilarious!


CEOs, Executives: Do You Think Leadership is a Calling?

March 3, 2012


We do.

If you are an executive, business owner, or entrepreneur who is striving to achieve high performance, accomplishing bigger goals, and improving the bottom line, we invite you to apply for the new Tribal Leadership Executive program. This program is limited to 30 qualified executives, and will be led Tribal Leadership co-author Dave Logan and myself.

The benefits include learning:

  1. How to reinvent yourself as an executive leader, using the latest thinking, research, and tools. Most executives are not effective leaders. You’ll see why and how you can and must do better. Techniques that make the miracle stories of modern corporations — Apple, Google, etc. These techniques aren’t simple, but they are learnable.
  2. The steps for creating a collaborative, transparent culture that is stable at Stage Four for substantial increases in productivity and profits.
  3. How to artfully adjust your work culture, using small steps that produce massive effects.
  4. How to develop Tribal Leaders throughout your organization.

You will work on creating a strategy to achieve an outcome that will address your greatest challenge — a strategy that when implemented will produce a significant return on your investment.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll network with executives who are committed to creating thriving organizations with world-class cultures, and who feel the same call to leadership that you feel.


Tribal Leadership Stage Three Must See Video

January 25, 2012

The book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, is the result of a 10 year study of over 24,000 people. Authors Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright recognized culture strategies failed 70 percent of the time. In their inquiry as to why this occurred, they discovered Peter Duckers’ statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” was true.

One of the challenges to cultural change is that it has been difficult to measure and you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We assess a culture by observing the language people in the tribe use in their everyday conversations. This video displays the language of Stage Three.

Stage Three is  the  dominant culture  of U.S. workplace tribes, where the language is “I’m great” (and you’re not).  Stage Three people are competitive and work to show everyone that they are smarter and better than anyone else. This personally competitive cultural stage produces limited innovation and almost no collaboration. No amount of ropes courses and “trust exercises” will turn this tribe of self-declared superstars into a team.

I would love to create a series of videos that illustrate the different stages. Please send me your suggestions.



Tribal Leadership Insight: The Principles of Effective Triads

November 19, 2011

John King and Dave Logan concluded after a ten year, 24,000-person study, that 75% of our corporate cultures are ineffective. (Published as Tribal Leadership 2008) The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the great insights of their research was that the 24% of organizations that were effective had one major difference—they met in “triads”. A triad, at its most basic level, is three people that meet together. The objective is to create a peer-to-peer-to-peer relationship for accomplishing a mutual purpose. What follows are the best practices or principles for creating effective triads.

  1. Common Interest. “Triads are based on core values and mutual self-interest.” The purpose of three people meeting is to contribute to one another towards a common goal or cause. What is your mutual interest?
  2. Collaboration. The way of being in a triad is supportive. It’s ‘I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine’ or ‘all for one and one for all’. “The triad provides a level of support that often comes as a surprise to people.” (p191)
  3. Authenticity. Authenticity is being real with one another. It is transparency and speaking the naked truth without fear of looking bad or holding back out of fear of rejection.
  4. Contribution. It is a way of being with one another, where the intention is always to come from contribution and not ego or judgment. “Once the triad is established, all the roles merge and morph, requiring each person to contribute to, and receive contributions from, the other two.” (p 204) It is like a flock of geese, where each goose takes a turn leading. Each person in the triad steps in when it is appropriate. Triads are vibrant, values-based, and filled with people giving their best efforts—leading and being led at the same time.” (p 185)
  5. Identify & leverage core values. “Values are only manifest when they are called and they are only called when they are missing; when a value is missing, the anchor presences the value.” An anchor is a device that is used to connect a vessel to prevent it from drifting due to wind or current. In a triad, the anchor connects each person to their values in order to prevent the relationship from drifting. Each person is an anchor for the quality of the relationship between the other two, and consciously nurtures the relationship.

Way of Being:

  • Be Authentic
  • Be Accepting
  • Be Present
  • Be Useful

Value of Triads:

  • Opportunity to get an unbiased perspective from peers that have no hidden agenda
  • Help with decisions, challenges, problems
  • Expertise, diversity and experience of team members
  • Fresh ideas and perspectives
  • Share resources
  • Benchmark
  • Strategize
  • Hold one another accountable

A Tribal Leaders Guide to Upgrade Your Company Culture

October 31, 2011

Just as birds flock and fish school, people tribe. A tribe is a naturally forming group of 20 to 150 people. Smaller companies can be a single tribe. In larger organizations, there can be many tribes; for instance, it is easy to spot the cultural difference between sales and engineering departments. Tribes also operate at different cultural stages, which can positively or negatively impact your results as an organization. A high performing tribe can be three to five times more productive.

Measuring Culture

How do leaders change their company culture and become a high performing tribe? Like the old joke about eating an elephant, the answer is one bite at a time. The book
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving OrganizationTribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, is the result of a 10-year study of over 24,000 people. Authors Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright recognized culture strategies failed 70 percent of the time. In their inquiry as to why this occurred, they discovered Peter Drucker’s statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” was true.

One of the challenges to cultural change is that it has been difficult to measure and you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We can assess a culture by observing the language people in the tribe use in their everyday conversations. These observations can be classified into five different stages. The study found that the stages form a bell curve, with the majority of workplace tribes at Stage Three. By observing and classifying the people that work for you into these five stages, you will be able to lead them to the next highest level. The impact of moving a tribe up one level is an increase of three to five times in productivity and profits.

Read the full article in the NY Enterprise Report.



“I don’t like to micro-manage, but I need to know everything that’s going on.”

September 12, 2011

I laughed out loud when I read, “The 32 Dumbest Things That Real-Life Managers Said” in Geoffrey James blog. Here are my favorite top ten. Click the link to read all of them. They are funny because they are true! Which Tribal Leadership Stage do you think these managers are in?

  1. “Am I the only one around here with half a brain?!”
  2. “I’m sorry if I ever gave you the impression your input would have any effect on my final decision.”
  3. “Don’t worry, give it a try. You have nothing to fear but failure, demotion and termination.”
  4. “I’m getting a new company car new week. Please call the dealer and ask him to delay the delivery until after Wednesday’s layoffs. I want to appear sensitive.”
  5. “I don’t want to force this decision on you. It would be much easier if you just agree.”
  6. “I’ve already made up my mind, but I am eager to hear everything you have to say on the matter.”
  7. “I know there is a communication problem in my department. I just don’t want to talk about it.”
  8. “We have too many unproductive meetings. Please put aside next Wednesday to attend an all-employee staff meeting to discuss this issue.”
  9. “We do things democratically in my department…and I’m the ruler.”
  10. “Whenever you have an idea, discuss it with me first, and if I feel it is a good idea, I’ll tell the others. You must learn to let me get credit for your good ideas. That’s what team work is all about.”

Triads are the Building Block of Stable Relationships: Insight from Tribal Leadership

June 23, 2011

John King and Dave Logan concluded after a ten year, 24,000-person study, that 75% of our corporate cultures are ineffective. In their NY Times bestselling book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization one of the great insights was that the 24% of organizations that were effective had one major difference—they met in “triads”. A triad is not just three people meeting together. It is a relationship where each person is responsible for the quality of the relationship between the other. It is where each person has the other’s back. It’s ‘I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine’ or ‘all for one and one for all’. it is The objective of a triad is to create a peer to peer to peer relationship to accomplish a mutual purpose. “Triads are based on core values and mutual self-interest.”

Let’s face it; most of our working relationships are ineffective. The structure of relationship in most organizations is “hub and spoke.” The CEO is the hub; the spokes are the reporting executives, such as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and so forth. The hub has a dyadic, or one-to-one relationship, with each of the spokes. The dyadic relationship is inherently unstable, Think of a two legged stool. Three is the minimum number of legs required to make a stable structure.

In a TED Talk, called “Making a Genius Tribe,” Dave Logan says that the key for a successful triad is where everyone is responsible for preserving the relationship between them. When conflicts arise between two people in the group, the responsibility of the third person is to help them patch things up. The third person is what can make the relationship stable.

My friend Steffan Surdek, shares what he has learned about triads in the Tribal Leadership Intensive, in his blog entry.


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