Freeeeeezing temperatures and a slight drizzle didn’t dampen the spirit of 130 Shell staff in Melbourne who competed in CBD Race that started in Hawthorn and ended at the very-cool Money Order Office.
Sitting is the Smoking of our Generation
I find myself, probably like many of you, spending way too much time in front of my computer. When I do face-to-face meetings, my colleagues and I typically met around some conference table, sometimes at an airport lounge (nothing like getting the most out of a long layover), and quite often at coffee shops (hello Starbucks!). But that means that the most common denominator across all these locations wasn’t the desk, or, the keyboard, or even the coffee. The common denominator in the modern workday is our, um, tush.
As we work, we sit more than we do anything else. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation.
Of course, health studies conclude that people should sit less, and get up and move around. After 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90%. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like (good cholesterol) HDL levels in our bodies. Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer. You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? Just 3.5 million. The New York Times reported on another study, published last year in the journal Circulation that looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11%. In that article, a doctor is quoted as saying that excessive sitting, which he defines as nine hours a day, is a lethal activity.
And so, over the last couple of years, we saw the mainstreaming of the standing desk. Which, certainly, is a step forward. But even that, while it gets you off your duff, won’t help you get real exercise.
So four years ago, I made a simple change when I switched one meeting from a coffee meeting to a walking-meeting. I liked it so much it became a regular addition to my calendar; I now average four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. Today it’s life-changing, but it happened almost by accident.
My fundamental problem with exercise has always been this: it took time away from other more “productive things.” Going to the gym to take care of me (vs. companies, colleagues, family) seemed selfish. My American-bred Puritan work ethic nearly always won out. Only when I realized I could do both at the same time, by making exercise part of the meeting, did I finally start to get more exercise. This is one of those 2-for-1 deals. I’m not sacrificing my health for work, nor work for fitness. And maybe that’s why making fitness a priority finally doesn’t feel like a conflict. It’s as easy as stepping out the door and might require as much as a change of shoes.
And, yet, it’s true that some people will turn you down. Probably 30% of the people I ask to do these kinds of meetings say that they are not fit enough to do a walking meeting. I had one person tell me afterwards that they got more active for an entire month before our meeting, so as to not embarrass themselves on their hike with me. I don’t judge the people who won’t do a hiking meeting, and in most cases will choose to do another type of meeting with them (lunch or whatever) but I am also reminded of James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis’s research from their related book, Connected. They observed that obesity spreads according to network effects; if your friend’s friend’s friend who lives a thousand miles away gains weight, you’re likely to gain weight, too. And if that extended friend also loses weight, even if you’re not in the same city, you’re likely to lose weight, too. My goal is to be someone who socializes the idea that physical activity matters, and that we each matter enough to take care of our health.
And after a few hundred of these meetings, I’ve started noticing some unanticipated side benefits. First, I can actually listen better when I am walking next to someone than when I’m across from them in some coffee shop. There’s something about being side-by-side that puts the problem or ideas before us, and us working on it together.
Second, the simple act of moving also means the mobile device mostly stays put away. Undivided attention is perhaps today’s scarcest resource, and hiking meetings allow me to invest that resource very differently.
And, finally we almost always end the hike joyful. The number one thing I’ve heard people say (especially if they’ve resisted this kind of meeting in the past) is “That was the most creative time I’ve had in a long time” And that could be because we’re outside, or a result of walking. Researchcertainly says that walking is good for the brain.
I’ve learned that if you want to get out of the box thinking, you need to literally get out of the box. When you step outside, you give yourself over to nature, respecting its cycles and unpredictability. It keeps me more awake to what is happening around me by experiencing the extreme heats of summer, or the frigid power of winter. It makes me present to the world around me instead of being insulated from it.
To keep this commitment — to myself and to others — I’ve marked off certain times on my calendar for these meetings. I block off two morning appointments (when I can take a shower afterwards) and two end-of-day appointments for hiking meetings. I try and schedule these slots before scheduling “regular” sitting meetings because it means I have no excuse to not move that day and it helps me be more awake during the day or less zombie-like (and still-thinking-about-my-inbox) going into the evening. On the rare days when someone bails on a hike last minute, I typically still head out for the time, and I find myself hearing even my own voice more clearly.
Corporate culture is becoming increasingly important in the war for talent and retention at companies of all types around the world. Corporate culture is the personality of a company and it can’t be faked. Through social networks, review sites and word-of-mouth, a company’s culture is revealed. If employees are happy and fit in the culture, then the company gets a strong name and more people want to work there.
Some of the elements of culture include management techniques, shared values and mission, work ethic, daily work practices and language. Companies are not only competing for customers and revenue, they are competing on the basis of how they treat their employees and what they represent. If you have a strong culture, people will not only want to work for you, but they won’t want to work for anyone else so it’s well worth the investment of money and time.
Here are three companies that are doing it right:
Founded by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah in 2006, HubSpot now has hundreds of employees and millions in revenue. They have attracted some great talent, especially many top millennial workers who I’ve come to know over the years. Why do they select HubSpot over the other software and marketing companies out there? Well, there is an unlimited vacation day policy, free drinks and a relaxed dress code, just for starters. Their value proposition is perfectly in line with their target audience. They don’t believe in the 9-5 workday, they want passionate people and they know that you won’t stay at the company forever. Unlike most companies, HubSpot is very open with the public, was probably one of the first companies to ever have a corporate blog and recently published their “Culture Code” as a presentation on SlideShare.net. The deck has already generated over 150,000 views and really captures the essence of what they are all about.
Founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998, the company now has over 50,000 employees and over 50 billion in annual revenue. Employees are offered free cafeteria food and there’s a flat management structure. They have also made their company’s core values public. The company founders still do busy work, including keeping the cereal fresh in the cafeteria. Google is constantly getting feedback from employees and even has their own tool called Google-O-Meter to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions. In addition, they have “culture clubs”, which are groups of employees who come together to talk about culture issues within their country or office and how to improve things. Google is a special place to work because the way they design their office spaces and groups is that you feel like you’re still working at a startup but within a major company. This culture, similar to HubSpot’s, attracts the top young engineers.
Founded by Nick Swinmurn in 1999, the company is now run by Tony Hsieh and was sold to Amazon.com, amassing over a billion dollars in revenue. Zappos is crazy about corporate culture, shown by their ”Culture Book“, one similar to HubSpot and Google’s which defines what it’s like to work there. Employees contribute new sections to the book each year and define what Zappos means to them. They have gone so far as to pay people $4,000 to quit their jobs if they don’t feel like they fit into the culture after four weeks of training. Employees can access on-site classes focused on happiness and careers. Zappos also lets employees pitch new business ideas and Hsieh has used social networks like Twitter in order to maintain transparency and reinforce the brands position as the best in customer service.
We had a beautiful Sydney morning as the backdrop for our CBD Race that took teams all across Darling Harbour and into the CBD competing a series of challenges over 3 hours.
Huge thanks to all of the teams for participating and getting into the spirit of the day. Check out a few happy snaps!
The importance of site selection cannot be understated. Decisions made early in your project life cycle relating to venues you choose impact on the vision and outcomes you require of your event.
Having a clear vision for the atmosphere you wish to create is as important as a list of ‘must have’ features and benefits for venues reviewed. Developing a checklist of venue pre-requisites¹ which incorporate qualitative as well as quantitative measures is critical if you wish your event to come close to the vision you set for it.
Bearing in mind, such a list should be as bespoke as you wish your event to be unique. Checklists should be developed for each and every site inspection to incorporate the qualitative and quantitative measures you require of your venue to drive the outcomes you require of it.
Build on each and every framework by which you evaluate venues during the site selection process. However a basic template should include the following measures:
- Reputation for Quality and Service do your research and use your network for recommendations.
- Flexibility and cooperation during discussion and negotiation how much effort is the venue taking to understand the type of event you¹re planning, what are they able to contribute and what value-adds do they bring to table when coming to an agreement. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
- Experience and knowledge of the sales and operational contacts at the venue ensure you know who you¹ll be dealing with at each stage of your event
- Management practice and capability what is the venue management policy and can you value their expertise? Also be aware of the venue¹s industrial relations record and OH&S policies
- Conflicting activities at the venue or vicinity of it what other bookings does the venue have over the dates you¹re considering or are there any conflicting events or festivals in the region which will affect your event?
- Are there macro elements which will affect the venue’s ability to perform as intended economic, social, political, environmental etc.
- Access for people, goods and equipment
- acoustics & sound proofing
- activities & entertainment
- air conditioning
- availability and costs
- break-out rooms
- carnet requirements and tradeshow exemption policies
- ceiling heights
- floor loading capacity
- food & beverage range and quality
- language and translators
- licensing and liquor laws
- lines of sight
- parking & transport arrangements
- presentation inc. type and style
- reservation and deposit policies
- security specifications
- storage facilities and restrictions
- venue restrictions
As with any profession, an artform prevails in your ability to efficiently plan for and arrive at the right decision when choosing a venue for your event. Even those who have developed a greater intuitive sense of what they’re looking for based on undertaking hundreds (if not thousands) of sites will seek out professional guidance and support when embarking on the process of selecting a venue.
An experienced event manager will aim to partner you through such a process, qualifying your brief to develop and drive a site inspection which checks all your boxes and permits you the ability to remain focused on your strategic goals and vision.
Designing and managing bespoke events requires both creativity and expertise. Events Beyond guarantees fresh ideas, a flexible approach and service which is efficient and reliable. Our guarantee to deliver Beyond stems from an understanding of what it takes to keep audiences engaged, ensuring a message withstands the test of time. Our expertise means we budget efficiently, plan accurately and leave nothing to chance.
We were in Cairns recently for a Guinness World Record attempt for our friend Glenn Coxon (who runs our Karate Board Break experience) who was attempting to break his own record of 359 wooden boards in one minute.
Unfortunately Glenn didn’t quite make it however the leftover boards gave Henry a chance at a double board break.
Has your company culture morphed into a frankenstein with a life of its own? It’s almost certainly distracting you and everyone else from actually doing great work.
Company culture is an amorphous concept at the best of times. About the only thing you can be sure of is that when it’s bad, you know it.
The lousy utility company’s so-called “customer service” call center; the uniformly unsmiling flight attendants working for that dreadful airline; the coffee shop with no atmosphere, dire food, and non-existent service–when you interact with a business that has a soured or bad culture, it’s painfully obvious.
So the opposite must be true, right? That you can tell a company has a great culture by experiencing the opposite–perky people, fun atmosphere, lots of excitement.
Those ping-pong tables, the cafeteria, the employee’s pets roaming the halls–that must mean we have a great culture, yes? Oh, and don’t forget our ergonomic chairs, nap rooms and on-tap fair trade chai tea. With all that, our culture must be outstanding, surely?
Well, not so fast. When it comes to corporate culture, more doesn’t equal good, and even more isn’t a guarantee of excellent.
In fact, just as the cult of productivity has bred productivity porn, so the race for the coolest, hippest culture has bred culture porn–a grotesque misinterpretation of the whole purpose of an organization’s culture, driving the concept of culture away from delivering the highest possible stakeholder experience (the only viable reason for developing a culture in the first place) into preening, self-referential self-indulgence.
Here are three signs your allegedly great culture has morphed into a frankenstein with a life of it’s own–and is almost certainly distracting you and everyone else from actually doing great work.
1. Everyone is blown away when they visit. Yes, it’s wonderful to have the occasional nodded head, jealous smile, and barely-suppressed “Neat” from site visitors when they experience what your employees experience. But if people walk around your office with permanent, jaw-slackened looks of amazement, maybe it’s time to reconsider what you have wrought.
Look, if most people remark on how lovely your kid’s eyes (or nose, or mouth) are, you might rightfully, and pridefully, conclude that you have one darn handsome kid. But if people are flocking in tour busses to closely inspect his or her every feature and gesture, that’s some kind of a freak you have right there.
Don’t equate outsider obsession with a good corporate culture. As JT Barnum proved, crowds throng to see some seriously weird stuff.
2. Your corporate vocabulary is esoteric and self-referential. One of the most telling signs that an organizational culture has curdled is when it becomes cultish.
Often, this begins by using semantics to create a wall between “inside” and “outside”. Outlandish (often twee) names are given to normal, everyday activities. Everything–projects, meeting rooms, even meetings themselves are branded internally with culture-centric nomenclature. And refusing to play along–using the wrong vocabulary, or speaking plain english–is seen as non-compliant or willful.
There’s nothing wrong with a great corporate culture that’s playful with its company or brand name. The Motley Fool, a world-class company with a world-class brand (also, in the interests of fair disclosure, a client of mine) is a great example of this. But when you start using vocabulary in a way that cultishly emphasizes a distinction between us (those who work in the company) and them (everyone else), you’re on the slippery slope to Spinal Tap self-parody.
Here’s a quick test: If your clients or customers enthusiastically and willfully use the same vocabulary, you’re probably OK. If they resist using your twee phraseology, it’s time to dial it back.
3.The CEO is on the speaking circuit. That’s super-cool. I’m excited for you. One quick question: Isn’t being CEO of your business a full-time job?
Forget the carrot and stick. Motivation and innovation come from a desire to help.
For decades, bosses have assumed that the best way to motivate workers is by promising financial gain and threatening financial loss. With one hand they dangle a carrot of more pay while brandishing in the other, the stick of “get to work or you’re fired.”
However, according to a recent article in the New York Times, research in organizational psychology strongly suggests that people are more innovative and more successful when motivated by a desire to help other people.
This is a vast departure from the management theories of the past which have assumed that success in business is “the survival of the fittest.” Under this way of thinking, helping others is a waste of time and effort… except insofar as it’s self-serving.
What Do You Like Best About Your Job?
Over the past 20 years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of successful people, mostly top executives and top salespeople. I start nearly every conversation with a simple question: “What do you like best about your job?”
In every case, these highly-successful individuals have responded to that question with some variation of: “I like helping people.” When I probe, I usually discover that they’re not just talking about customers. They want to help coworkers, too.
When I look at the different types of writing I’ve done in my life, there’s no question that I’ve been happier, more productive, and more innovative in exact proportion to the likelihood that what I’m writing will help others be more successful.
I’ll bet if you honestly review the jobs you’ve done in the past, and the job you’re doing right now, you’ve accomplished more when you were certain that you were helping others than when you weren’t quite sure.
The lesson here is simple: when you focus on helping others rather than helping yourself, you draw upon your deepest sources of motivation. It frees your creativity and energy while developing simultaneously developing both empathy and patience.
It’s not a dog-eat-dog world out there. It’s a “let’s make this happen together” world.