Blog

HBR: Great Leaders Understand Why Small Gestures Matter

I travel a lot of for business, and like most frequent flyers, I dread connecting flights. Except, that is, when those connections take me through Denver or Charlotte, where the prospect of an hour between planes brings a smile to my face and a spring to my step. Why the good cheer? Because I know I’ll be able to spend time with the men and women of Executive Shine, one of the most soulful (or is it soleful?) businesses I’ve ever encountered.

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HBR: To Build a Strong Culture, Create Rules That Are Unique to Your Company

Ben Horowitz, the high-profile venture capitalist behind some of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing startups, is out with an intriguing book, called What You Do Is Who You Are, that emphasizes the power of culture, rather than technology or money, as a driver of business success. One of his most intriguing insights is that powerful cultures are built around what he calls “shocking rules” — rituals and practices that are memorable, so “bizarre,” that people inside the organization “encounter almost daily” and that people who hear about them wonder why they are necessary.

Horowitz’s argument is as simple as it is powerful: You can’t create something unique and compelling in the marketplace unless you first create something unique and compelling in the workplace. Truly great organizations work as distinctively as they hope to compete.

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HBR: Do You Give Employees a Reason to Feel Proud of What They Do?

I recently visited Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where I serve on the College Board of Visitors. The campus was buzzing — in part because the weather was so nice, in part because the football team had cracked the national Top 25. But much of the warm feeling was the afterglow of a recently completed, larger-than-life dance extravaganza starring the school’s facilities-and-maintenance staff.

You read that right. For three nights, nearly 70 custodians, landscapers, electricians, and construction crews performed in the school’s main Quad, where thousands of students, faculty, alumni, and neighbors roared their approval. 

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HBR: To Come Up with Better Ideas, Practice Paying Attention

We live in a world where virtually every business is an “ideas” business. Executives and entrepreneurs are desperate for insights that allow them to amaze customers, reimagine products, and otherwise separate themselves from the crowd. But it’s hard to see new things if you don’t know how to pay attention, how to cut through the endless meetings, messages, and emails, how to really listen to and begin to decode what’s happening in the world that truly matters to your organization.

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Barron’s: Have We Mastered Technology, or Has It Mastered Us?

In an era when organizations are being reshaped so profoundly by technology, what colleagues and customers remain hungry for, and what we are at risk of losing, is a deeper and more authentic sense of humanity. This is a problem for Silicon Valley executives, who have to reckon with the “techlash” that is sweeping business culture. It’s a problem for investors, who have to figure out the limits of automation, artificial intelligence, and other risky bets on substituting computers for people

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Barron’s: Forget Socialism Versus Capitalism. Here’s the Real Debate We Should Be Having.

Executives and investors have so far mostly watched this discussion nervously from the sidelines. But business doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and all this talk of socialism is a sign of the breadth and depth of dissatisfaction with rising economic inequality, declining social mobility, and accelerating climate change. It’s hard to maintain a booming economy and a rising stock market amidst bitter social divisions and angry political discourse.

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HBR: Dear HBR – Getting Sidelined at Work

Have you been sidelined at work? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Bill Taylor, a cofounder of Fast Company and the author of Simply Brilliant. They talk through what to do when your responsibilities have been reduced, you’ve been moved to an underperforming team, or your boss is leaving you out of key meetings.

Listen to the podcast here:

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HBR: The Legacy of Herb Kelleher, Cofounder of Southwest Airlines

Herb Kelleher died last week at the age of 87, and with him went a true business original. As I take stock of his life and legacy, what strikes me is how much all of us can learn from what he created and how he led—that you can create vast economic value based on genuine and generous human values, why what you hope to achieve in the marketplace must be reflected in what you build in the workplace, how in an age of disruption and transformation, simplicity and consistency matter most.

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HBR: Making Kindness a Core Tenet of Your Company

Scan the newspaper headlines, or switch on cable news for a few minutes, and it’s easy to conclude that we are living through harsh, mean, divisive times. But a recent column in the Washington Post reminded me of a truth that is even easier to overlook: Just as bad behavior tends to spread, so too does good behavior. Kindness, it turns out, is contagious. The column highlighted the work of Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, who documents what he calls “positive conformity.” In his research, “participants who believed others were more generous became more generous themselves.” This suggests that “kindness is contagious, and that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way.”

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