“Flip the Pyramid zooms in on the core tasks for any organization that wants to endure: To identify the core values that guide decision-making, and to develop the discipline and teamwork necessary to live out those values hour by hour, day to day, and year by year. The principles behind this book set a high standard. The advice and examples in it tell you how to reach that standard.”
– Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and TO SELL IS HUMAN
“This is a practical how-to book on getting the best from your team written by someone who has been there and done it.”
– Verne Harnish, author of MASTERING THE ROCKEFELLER HABITS and THE GREATEST BUSINESS DECISSIONS OF ALL TIME
I have taken the posts that have appeared on this blog over the last several years, worked closely with a very talented editor, and turned them into a book, Flip the Pyramid: How Any Organization Can Create a Workforce that Is Engaged, Aligned, Empowered and On Fire.
This process has been fun and rewarding and I am excited to say that the book is now available in hardcover and electronically.
To give you an overview, below I have published the book’s introduction.
I do hope you have the time to read the book and please provide me with a review and your feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.
Have a great day,
FLIP THE PYRAMID: HOW TO UNLEASH YOUR SUCCESS STORY
Individual heroics, brute force, micromanagement, command and control. These things will get you only so far in managing the workforce of a growing organization. This sort of journey is hard, miserable and unpleasant. I trav- elled that road for 12 years after the launch of my com- pany. It was a slog, and I became very unhappy with my “job” as an entrepreneur. I wanted to quit! We got to about
35 employees, and we were relatively successful, but we were stuck in the mud and exhausted. We had reached the end of that road and just weren’t going any farther.
I knew there had to be a better way to manage the growth of our human capital, so I embarked in an intense learning journey. I read more than 100 business books, some excel- lent, some not. I attended dozens of business seminars, and devoured each issue of the Harvard Business Review. I got others around me to start doing the same, and we saw a much, much different way. The first several years of this process were hard, but then things got dramatically better.
Once we found this very different way, a way in which all of the people in our company were aligned, empowered
and engaged, we began to rock and roll. We began to grow with aplomb, and our growth and profits accelerated. Our journey be- came much more enjoyable, and we started going to better places. I wish I had figured this all out much earlier in life.
A fully actualized workforce is an exciting thing to behold. What follows in these pages is what we have learned and what we have done to implement this much better, easier journey to success.
ON FIRE: LIBERATING YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET
To be successful—all you can be—your organization’s leadership must learn that human capital is its most important asset. Your leaders then must structure and arrange the organization’s environment to enable individuals to thrive—to get the best out of everyone. Building an en- vironment that helps everyone to participate, contribute and achieve must become a strategic imperative.
If every organization were to do this, our economy and society would be in a much better place. People working in an aligned, engaged and empowered way tend to feel great about themselves—they get to the top of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” (self-actualization), which in turn allows them and their companies to achieve big things.
You can move mountains when this is done in the right way. What’s more, doing so is your obligation to the organization and its people.
Unfortunately, most organizational leaders do not understand this imperative. Or, if they do, they have no darn idea how to deliver on it. For years, I was in that category, but I continued to read, study, listen and experiment. I found an incredible amount of literature on this topic, as well as many others who have successfully gone down this road. No need for a lot of original thinking. This road is rather well marked; you just need to find it.
It will take time, however. Results will not be immediate. There will be naysayers—people who want to hold fast to the well-known “com- mand and control” approach to leadership.
WHERE I WANT TO TAKE YOU
I have two primary goals for this book. The first is to help you realize the importance of this mindset shift toward your organization’s human capital. Professor Douglas McGregor wrote about this mindset shift in his 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise, in which he articu- lated his Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X assumes people are lazy, will shirk work, and therefore need to be micromanaged through com- mand and control. Theory Y, in stark contrast, assumes that people are ambitious and self-motivated, take pride and satisfaction in their work and their achievements, but need the proper organizational environ- ment to bring this human attribute to fruition.
Based on 16 years in business, I am a firm believer in McGregor’s Theory Y. I hope this book makes you a believer as well. This mindset shift is a necessary prerequisite for unleashing your organization’s hu- man capital.
My second goal in writing this book is to give you a proven meth- odology to execute on McGregor’s Theory Y. Please note, however, that a sine qua non is leadership’s abandonment of Theory X (command and control) and embracement of Theory Y (aligned liberation). That first step, letting go, isn’t easy for many people, but it is a mandatory requirement. Once you make that pivot in your mindset, you then can rely on the seven necessary organizational components to execute on Theory Y, all of which I explain in detail in these pages.
These seven components for success are as follows:
1. A Constitutional Framework
2. A disciplined meeting rhythm
3. Metrics literacy
4. A tribal culture
5. An obsession with communicating
6. Embracement of change, risk and failure
7. Great people and physical and mental wellness
Within this organizational construct, you’ll be able to let go, liberate your human capital and achieve big things.
BUILDING YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK
To play a great game, people need to know its rules, purpose and goals. How can you step back and let your people take the field and play their best unless they know that stuff? If you simply stop micromanaging, if you simply dispense with command and control, you will run astray.
When this occurs, the unfortunate knee-jerk reaction is to revert to micromanagement and say “Look what happens! People need to be micromanaged!” This is the wrong, emotional response—Professor McGregor’s Theory X. I tried that and it doesn’t work.
On the contrary, you need to build a Constitutional Framework, the organizational construct that sets the rules and the goals that enable people to play an excellent game—allowing them to self-actualize. This concept is central to this book, and so important that I capitalize it. You need to put an incredible amount of time, energy, thought and faith into building the environment and the organizational construct that will provide guidance and support self-actualization in an aligned, engaged and empowered manner.
So how do you build your Constitutional Framework? The details are in the subsequent chapters, but I’ll tell you right now that you need to begin with core values, a core purpose, a brand promise and objec- tively measurable goals. This is classic Jim Collins (more about him later). This framework, if strong and vivid, provides every individual in your organization with the guidance they need to self-actualize—to take tactical action steps with confidence, within clearly defined be- havioral boundaries and toward clearly defined goals. Everything else flows from there.
A TRIBAL CULTURE
Once you have that Constitutional Framework, you can nourish a powerful tribal culture. Many founders, entrepreneurs and leaders just don’t get this: We are tribal animals. We are pack animals.
Too many leaders are too focused on their own egos. They think it is all about them. It isn’t. Leaders must shift their focus to everyone else. You have to deliver an awesome tribal experience to everyone in your company. This is a responsibility of leadership. People want, people crave, a tribal experience. It is human nature. It is simple. People want to belong to something bigger, to something exciting, to a movement, to a journey. So leadership must deliver this experience.
This is why we join civic organizations, political movements, re- ligious organizations, clubs, follow sports teams, but with no real need to understand why. Just understand that we like to belong to something bigger than ourselves. So give this to people. And let them take an ownership interest in your organization’s culture. This is an essential element to building an aligned, engaged and empow- ered workforce. People will thank you for this.
A strong, healthy, positive culture is also one of your most important assets. It protects all stakeholders: employees, family members, part- ners, shareholders, lenders, vendors, clients, the community and our government. Is your culture healthy enough? Is it strong enough? Lead- ership must constantly worry about the organization’s tribal culture.
OUR BACK-STORY: HOW WE LEARNED WHAT WE LEARNED
My own company’s Constitutional Framework and tribal culture has proven to be powerfully effective, and it’s getting better every day. However, it didn’t happen overnight. It also wasn’t created in a vacuum or solely through theoretical discussions in a conference room. Instead, it was born from experience—the fits and starts we had as a rapidly growing company in the late 1990s and early 2000s. What we experi- enced in those often heady and sometimes frustrating days informed our unique path to the realizations that have resulted in what we call our Flip the Pyramid approach.
Because our own experience as a startup was central to the success we’re enjoying now, I’ve included our back-story in this book’s first two chapters. As you read them, I hope that they resonate in ways that provide additional perspective on your own issues and aspirations as you prepare for your journey toward becoming a fully functioning, aligned and self-actualized organization. At that point, you will be fully prepped and equipped for the main course—the blueprint for success encompassed by Part Two.
ACHIEVING BIG THINGS
The responsibility of an organization’s leadership is setting people up for success in their job and in life, enabling them to feel great about what they are doing every single day—and to do it in an aligned way where everyone is individually and collectively moving toward clearly defined goals. This requires a full-time commitment on the part of leadership and the organization. Again, it isn’t easy, but it is absolutely achievable.
I truly hope you enjoy this book and are successful in putting these methodologies into practice. With your full commitment to the prin- ciples and practices described in this book, I’m confident that everyone in your organization, including you, will ultimately love what you are doing, and will achieve big things. I look forward to hearing about your success.
Oh…and don’t forget to have fun on the journey.