An obsession with learning is one of the most common traits of successful leaders, sportspeople & entrepreneurs. This week I’ve heard how two global entrepreneurs have leveraged other people’s experience to grow their businesses through an obsession with reading.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos is an avid reader. Tony strongly encouraged all of the early Zappos employees to read key books from the Zappos library. These days Tony continues to read and Zappos now holds classes on those important books for it’s staff. ‘Pursue growth and learning’ is one of the core values that Zappos’ famous culture is based on and they sure seem to be living it.
The quote ‘learn before you earn’ is a catch cry of Brad Sugars (he’s got a lot of sayings!). Brad, founder of ActionCOACH who reads one non-fiction book every week, reckons that unless you first learn how to play a bigger game, you’ll never pull it off. Over 15 years, Sugars claims to have read more than 1200 books.
I too have a goal to read a book a week, but I haven’t been hitting it. I definitely need to lift my reading consistency. How about you?
**This post is from the 2012 series ‘What I’ve learnt this week’. If you’d like to receive these and other Culture is Everything posts in your email, subscribe here.
Zappos.com is famous for their company culture. Today I had the chance to check it out first hand with a tour of their campus. I was impressed. The Zappo’s culture is everything I expected it to be: it’s high energy, it’s welcoming, it’s fascinating and it’s pretty weird. Here’s a few predictable and not-so-predictable things I learned..
- When I arrived early, really early, about 45 minutes early, it didn’t matter. Even when I went in the wrong door, I was greeted by an excited Zapponian (that’s what they call themselves) named Sonia who happily walked me to the main reception. (Very welcoming start).
- The Zappos culture is based upon living their 10 core values. From recruitment to training, reviews, rewards, recognition, competitions and even parties, everything is built around their core values. (This was expected, but they do it REALLY well)
- The desks, corridors, stairwells, bathrooms, boardrooms and kitchens are messy! There are streamers on the roof, weird trinkets everywhere you look, Zapponian-created graffiti on the walls and right now, halloween decorations and huge pumpkins everywhere!
- Tours of the Zappos campus are run by a small group called the Zappos Insights team. This team do an awesome job of welcoming guests like me and hosting the tours. They are open, honest and helpful (as expected). But..
- When I asked our guide what are the 10 Zappos Core Values, she could only remember two (yep, 2!) before referring to the list on the back of her name badge (Unexpected!! I thought she’d know them).
- Their recruitment process is exhaustive. Culture-fit is the most important criteria and some of the weirdness you could be asked at interview is: “What would be your theme song and why?”, “Please now perform your theme song for us!”. (Yep, our guide actually performed at her interview!!)
- Absolutely everyone, even their new CFO, does a 4-week initial call centre training program. Even senior executives know how to answer the phones and are expected to get involved on the phones as ‘holiday helpers’ at peak times.
- The Zappos team continues to grow at approx 100% per year. Right now they have over 1300 team members, next year that means 2600. People move from all over the US to join the Zappos team. Their culture is magnetic. (I expected to hear this). With 100% growth, about half the team have been at Zappos for less than a year. (That’s a lot of newbies!)
- Two years ago, there was a huge demand from Zapponians for free access to doggy daycare. This year, there is much greater demand for actual daycare (here come the Zappos kids!). Times are a-changing at Zappos.
- Las Vegas is not perceived as a great place to bring up kids. Lots of Zapponians seem to be leaving after 12-36 months and heading back home to start a family, etc. (This is why Zappos HAVE to keep their culture buzzing, they need new hires for growth AND to replace lots of people leaving).
- When my tour ended, the super-helpful Zappos Insights guys ordered me a cab and paid for it as I headed downtown Las Vegas. (My Zappos time ended as friendly as it started).
My Zappos tour was an awesome experience. Living, breathing and talking core values is the absolute key to creating a magnetic culture. It was also refreshing to see even the 10-tonne gorilla of values-based cultures having some improvements to make. Zappos will never stop learning and improving. Neither should we.
To maintain a strong company culture, selection is as much about keeping the wrong people out of your team as it is about getting the right people in. Here’s why..
At Zappos, people that don’t fit their culture are known as ‘polluters’. I love the simplicity of this term because I’ve seen it first hand. When the wrong people join a team, very quickly they start to pollute and dilute the very culture that you’ve worked so hard to create.
At The Physio Co (TPC), we have a firm belief that before selecting a new team member, there must be a very clear ‘YES’ for cultural fit from at least two existing TPCers. A ‘Maybe’ from either interviewer is an automatic ‘No’.
Selecting the right people is a critical task that leaders must nail. Near enough isn’t good enough. Are you disciplined enough to say no to every maybe you meet?
PS - Interested in what exactly is ‘culture-fit’? See this post..
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