Uber is now known just as much for its scandals as it is for its cheap rides. Why do things continue to go terribly wrong at the San Francisco ride-sharing company whose CEO was just caught on camera in a heated argument over money with one of his drivers? Gerald Leonard, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant on corporate culture, says you don’t have to be a fan or critic of Uber to learn from its mistakes; these include an aggressive and unrestrained culture where harassment and phobias were ignored. Leonard says the company lacks the vision and values to put its employees and customers first that would have prompted management to openly address its problems at the first sign of trouble. As more customers continue to delete their Uber accounts, Leonard can share the three unifying principles that are hallmarks of great company culture and why so many companies fail the test. He is the author of “Culture is the Bass: 7 Principles for Developing a Culture That Works.”
Ed Tyll: The Ed Tyll Show Starcom Radio Network. Gerald Leonard is joining us the author of Culture is the Bass, seven principles for developing a culture that works. Yeah, we keep talking about Uber, look it's the best new idea that's why it's a nightmare and a mess. It's one of the few inventions in technology that did something we didn't use to be able to do. Punch a button and have a car pull up a great idea and it's a; one negative headline after another. The scandals of Uber tells you something has gone terribly wrong with the San Francisco ride-sharing company. And Gerald It's a heartbreak right because this is a business that was just sitting there waiting to be done. People love it by the fact of the way they use it simply, it’s got everything, but it's got a truckload of controversy. What do you make of this?
Gerald: So what I make of it is that Uber has a culture issue and they have a values issue. The overall product and service is excellent from the standpoint of thinking about the customer journey and what the customer needs, pushing a button identifying the car and knowing who your driver is and go from point A to Point B and making that experience seamless. The challenge has been at the leadership level where the values that they have a spouse or not being lived out in their day to day lives and that's what's really creating the challenge. And from what I could see from today a number of the leaders I think the CEO is actually taking a sabbatical stepping down and basically saying that he's getting ready to start working on himself 2.0 as well as Uber, working on Uber 2.0.
Ed Tyll: You know there's an old tradition, it was taxi drivers, and it became black car drivers, and Uber has tried to organize what has been generations and generations of ground floor business people where they own that car. That's how they make their money, dad drives around the clock. Maybe they share the car, and one person drives it for 12 hours, the next person takes it over. This was a rough and tumble way of making a living if you were a driver or you were a dispatcher chances were you were in some back room no air conditioning tough nasty coffee pot. You know what I mean, and now they put it all into your smartphone, and they gave it a gorgeous logo, and they told you can have access to it, but they still have to deal with the nuts and bolts of that business. That business has always had shady operators, arguments with drivers, etc. Aren't they dealing somewhat with the reality of the car business?
Gerald: Well in some ways they are, but you know those types of practices can be done in any business. I don't think it's just the car business, I think it's business in general when the values and the vision do not align with the overall purpose of where the company wants to go. There has to be a leader that says here's how are we going to operate, here's how we're going to treat people and here's how we're going to live on a day to day basis regardless of what the industry used to be like. This is how we're going to do business now. You know that rings makes me think about Southwest and United, and I know that's not what we're talking about but those are to the rough and tumble businesses. But Southwest has been the up and coming of the business that has led the way from a character standpoint, and we know what's happened with United, and I think when the company has leaders that are not living according to their values that's what really causes the challenge.
Ed Tyll: Right. And isn't there on the other side of that equation a limit to how you can dictate values? Because they're still drivers. You can't make a driver into you know, you know he's never going to be Ginger Rogers dance partner. Drivers aren't going to be Fred Astaire, they're not going to be elegant and smooth. They're going to be drivers. Yes, sir No sir but some of them you know what I mean there's the human element there.
Gerald: Right there's the human element, but then that's where you have to decide whether you're going to employ those drivers in your business.
Ed Tyll: Right.
Gerald: Because any company work itself and says we have these values, values are not just plaques on the wall. There are things that are tangible that you can hold onto that you can stay in touch and see and they need to use those values as criteria for bringing people into the business. When you open a door and say come one come all anyone can come and be Uber driver, and it doesn't matter your character, your background or what happens. Often they do certain checks and balances, but you also have to go a little further and say if this is the personality I want for my company I have then I need to use those values as a benchmark to measure their character. Because most of the great companies I know say that all of the great companies where there's an incredible experience you'd better believe they're using their values as the measuring stick for who they're bringing in the door to be a part of their organization.
Ed Tyll: Exactly. Listen no doubt about that, the problem I think for some operators has always been you know we would prefer not to use this driver but the pickup isn't Syosset at 3 AM and how many drivers do I really have? The Uber will be defeated if you hit the button and it says 97 minutes until the car is there. Our guest is Gerald Leonard, He is the author of Culture. Am I saying this right Culture Is The Base?
Ed Tyll: Culture is the base.
Gerald: Yes Culture Is The Base.
Ed Tyll: Seven Principles for Developing a Culture That Works. Tell me what the title means, talk about your title of your book.
Gerald: Okay the title is basically I'm a classical and jazz bass player who's also a business consultant.
Ed Tyll: There we go, now I get it.
Gerald: And if you think about music, any great music is going to have a great bass line, it's going to have a great foundation, and any great company is going to have a great culture. So there's the metaphor, that culture is the base of a great company.
Ed Tyll: All right now when you say develop a culture that's not easy to do, and you enunciate in the book Seven Principles. If you're a new business owner and you want to set out on the right path developing a culture. About the how long before it will settle in? If you do the right things how should it go for you? Why don't you walk our listeners through? You know you're now taking over say the family business, your dad's retiring, you want to now take it to the next level, and you'd like to develop a forward-looking and sounding culture. Maybe you're going to get deliveries into people that you haven't had before you go and expand your territory this kind of thing. So you want to develop a culture conducive to going forward. What might that look or sound like?
Gerald: Well the first thing you have to do you really have to have an incredible vision for yourself and for the company that's actually bigger than you are. That it's a vision that compels people to want to join your cause. Right. And so once you have that compelling vision that you truly believe in as the owner I mean it's something that you live and breathe and that people can see in your character on a daily basis. You have to then identify what are the core values and prioritize those values that I'm going to live by and that we're going to run this company by. And once you identify that incredible vision and your values that you're going to live by you then need to create what I call Buy-ins and buy-in is a team sport. You think about football, basketball any of those sports where they're winning championships every single member of the team has to buy in. I can't have some people on the bench who don't care and some people who are in the game who are trying everything they have. I have to have everyone on the team bought into the vision, and the values and one of the ways to do that is to tell great stories about why you're doing what you're doing. People love stories because stories are things that capture your head, your heart, and your hands. And once you get people engaged in that isn't living those values they bought into the system. You then simplify the operations with best practices and basically use best practices that are baked in, you think of you know great chocolate chip cookies. You want to bake in best practices and make them simple. You think of organizations that have best practices, and they have processes just let's list it out so that people can follow them and they're very simple. The fifth things that you want to have great environment; it's really six things. You want to have a great environment, and you got an environment whether it's physical or virtual that supports the vision, the values, the buy-in process. Do I have close offices? Do I have open offices? Do we ever communicate on a regular basis? So we want to have an environment where it's all baked in there and then once you have those six things lined up working you're going to have the ability to execute on your strategy, but you have to prioritize what you're going to focus on. And what I see is that this becomes an incremental process whether you're a small business or large business, if you take these pieces and put them into practice then incrementally roll them out but exemplify the character that you want the company to have from the leadership on down. You're going to see a massive change in the way the organization works.
Ed Tyll: Gerald Leonard is our guest on the Ed Tyll show Starcom Radio Network and the FM stations all across America. Gerald helps organizations develop a culture that works. He works with organizations and individuals to deliver the right projects, the right way and improve performance and profit. These are very traditional business terms that we're using here. How does the fact that you're a musician a bass player inform what you do with business tools?
Gerald: Well you know it's an interesting question, and that's a fun question because there's really no difference between a really great orchestra or band and a great business because in a great orchestra or band. When you're working with other musicians and you are in a groove, and you're going down the same track, and you're playing a song, and everybody's on the same page, and there's this emotional connection. That is the same process that happens when you're in a company or a team, and everyone understands the purpose, everyone's supporting each other, everyone believes in the value of the team, everyone's working together. You can get the same emotional feeling and the same emotional process that is generated from having great music. If you have an orchestra, they can be the best musicians in the world, but if you get every one of them as a different piece of music or different score from a different type of music and have them play it perfectly, it’s not a concert you're going to want to go to. But if you have good musicians that may not be world class musicians, and they are playing from the same store, and they're playing their parts and they're interacting and they like each other and they're working together that's going to be one of the best parts are to go to because it's going to generate an emotional feeling and an emotional experience that is bar enough. And it's the same with great.
Ed Tyll: Exactly. I mean you know I don't mean to interrupt you, but I wanted to add even when you see a sports team perform so well and you're kind of you know it's one of those moments where you're riveted on the activities. That is the result of everything that you're talking about that went into that moment, that moment didn't just happen. That moment was bound to happen from the way you're prepared. As an athlete, as well as I, think of any kind of performer in today's world which is asking more out of performers than ever before. Alright so II want to ask you then I'm on the website www.principleso execution.com, and I know we have a lot of listeners who are small business people sole proprietors many of them. Who are struggling with some of the very things that you address I want to mention a couple right here. Poorly defined goals, insufficient resources. You know what you should be doing, but you're not prepared to do it and every day that goes by it eats away at you and something else. I love the way you phrase it called scope creep. Do you mind talking about how people who struggle with that can be helped by hooking up with you?
Gerald: On my website. I have a blog and that website I have a number of article, podcast and free downloads and an assessment that people can take that that will really help them see the value but also see where they are standing and where they're at. When you think about scope creep and some of the other things that you just mentioned there. It's the same whether you're a large business or a small business. Because if you play your cards right as a small business you will become a large business, and you have to lay the foundation, you have to prioritize and realize that you can't multi-task and do a hundred things well maybe do two or three things really well and focus within your niche or your length and then build partnerships with other companies that can support you. With scope creep you don't want to take on too much because it's like taking on too much to the point where you can't digest. It's like going to a restaurant and sitting down and then putting just mounds and mounds of incredibly delicious food in front of the steak and lobster and everything and try to eat it all in one bite because it's impossible to do it. That's the same thing with culture and great processes, you have to incrementally implement those things into your life and focus on what's going to be the quick and what's going to get me the greatest value. Start small and slowly roll yourself to the point where you can begin to put those processes throughout your business in a way that lays a foundation so that you don't go backward, you're constantly going forward, or at least it gives you a firm foundation to stand on.
Ed Tyll: You know Leonard I think it is because you're a musician that you're an amazingly effective communicator. You make these things sound so non-threatening. I think you'll get that because you're a musician you know that when you get the vibe just right with people, their potential is unlimited. But that is the trick of the tail. Can you get that match just right? Do you mind I just want to recap now? Three unifying principles that you think are the hallmarks of a great company culture. What are those? I know we've covered a lot of this, but for people who are taking this in for the first time, I want them to have a takeaway. What are those three hallmarks?
Gerald: Well the three hallmarks, it's funny because I'm writing a new book called the Symphonic Company Culture. And the first section of the book is going to be called Unify. Say that again?
Ed Tyll: I got you, Unify yep.
Gerald: Okay. So the first part of the book is going to be called unify, and it's the three things I talked about in the beginning. You have to have a compelling vision because the vision is what's going to get you up in the morning, keep you up late, it’s going to put fire in your belt, it's going to give you that passion and that motivation to keep going even when it's difficult.
Ed Tyll: Right.
Gerald: The next thing is values, I can't express how important values are. Jason Jennings in his book "It's not the big that eat the small-- it's the fast that eat the slow." He talks about values tremendously and how great companies are companies that live their values and use them as decision-making frameworks. And then the third thing is Buy-in, Buy-in is a team sport, Buy-in is a team sport. There's no other way to say it because you can't have half the company bought in and the other half not, teams that make it and go all the way to the Super Bowl to the Stanley Cup to the NBA Finals or to the Pennant race. They all everyone on that team has bought into the process, and that's what great company’s, great bands have in common.
Ed Tyll: You know everything you just laid out was present last night at the conclusion of the NBA finals. If you looked at a compelling vision last night, you could keep it with you for the rest of your life. You watch the way that team played, then you watch the way they behaved after they won how they cherished it. So they had an amazing vision, they had the work values. I mean they had your hallmarks of a great company applied to the Golden State Warriors for sure.
Gerald: Yes exactly.
Ed Tyll: Total buy-in.
Gerald: Any, you can look at any one of those great teams, and you're going to see the same principle, but it's laid out. And what the book does, it demystifies as culture.
Ed Tyll: You got to have the vision, you got to have the values, and you've got to be 100% bought in, and you need your team 100% bought in. Gerald, you're a great man. Thank you for helping on Uber, and just in general a business I really want to thank you because we have a lot of small businesses as I mentioned before and these are the new hard workers of America. You know what's happened in the job market, so many people now have gone to start a business working on it tirelessly, but they really do need the guidance that you give. The book is called Culture Is The Base. Our guest is Gerald Leonard, a bass player. Culture Is The Base, seven principles for developing a culture that works. The Web site www.principlesofexecution.com. And thank you for letting us know you're working on a new book. I cannot wait until that's out. Is that for this year or next year when do you expect it?
Gerald: I'm expecting to release it this year.
Ed Tyll: Beautiful I'll tell you what we're having you back because you're an amazing guest. Thank you for the visit today. Thanks for your time. Thanks for your insights. And again congratulations on all your success.
Gerald: Thank you very much glad to be here.
Ed Tyll: You got it, Gerald Leonard, Author of Culture Is The Base. He's a bass player, you go to the Web site you'll see a picture of him and Jack Canfield together. This guy radiates success you'll feel it start to read the words. Let them sink in. Culture Is The Base, seven principles for developing a culture that works. The Web site www.principlesofexecution.com. And there's a free giveaway. Take the Eleven Common Mistakes online assessment for free when you go to principles of execution. I'm going to read this out for you. This is what you want to click on. Principles of execution.nsvey.net and you'll see Eleven Common Mistakes. Download it take the assessment. Move forward and remember who to thank Gerald Leonard who wrote it for you. The author of Culture Is The Base seven principles for developing a culture that works on the Ed Tyll Show Starcom Radio Network and the FM stations all across America. Coming up news, weather, traffic sports, and the close on Wall Street. Then we're back with more.