Uber, the world's largest ride-sharing network offers a great example and real case-story to demonstrate how the challenges from today's problems are accelerated with our collective culture and our hyper-connectedness. The traditional ways of leadership; one of short-term thinking and top-down decision making isn't working too well for today's needs.
If you haven't been following the company's (hopefully temporary) leadership implosion, you can get a primer here, here, and here. Not to just call Uber out specifically, there will be many companies that will be embarking on similar paths that operate their businesses from exploitative aggressive values.
What are values? While there isn't a need to get into the HR-psychology jargon of it, it really is as simple as: "What is important to you". Your values are what motivates you at the unconscious-auto-pilot level to do things. If your values are aligned, it becomes easier and more effortless. Consider as a simple example, why for some children they will naturally clean their room, and for some children even if you give them incentives like candy and money, it's met with heavy resistance.
A values system, coupled with collectives beliefs and behaviours forms a culture; a natural ecosystem in which individuals and communities experience and create their world. Whether this world is your own, community-life, family, work, or even an entire country, as we are navigating #thePurposeAwakening, it's becoming more apparent the need to be more cognizant of our values and deliberately ensuring a collective coherent fit to be successful with today's complex challenges.
This is where top-down and hierarchical leadership systemically fails. When the world was more separated, isolated and resources were limited and scarce, it was important to ensure the system was efficient and effective. Centralization and top-down relationships allow for competition. It's bold. It's fast. It's sharp. Compartmentalization ensured things were done and ideas from the few are realized programmatically to the masses. The cost for competition was minimal; the winner collects the spoils of war, the losers can play again next time patting the dust off their bottom. We all laughed it off, and the system absorbed the costs. As our population continues to explode, at nearly 7.5 billion people on this planet, this way of leadership and decision making is no longer sustainable or viable.
The good news: as technologies after evolved over the last 20 years, the costs to create relationships and connections has dropped dramatically. The Internet enabled us to very efficiently process the costs for dialogue, make more connections, and share thoughts and ideas with little friction. We can now better process a level of collective wisdom almost as fast as a depending on the executive decision of a single leader. Higher values like trust, transparency and consensus which was once a luxury, has now become values that are expected, to live in today's connected and purpose age.
What's nifty about living from your higher values; love, joy, community, compassion... what was once only reserved for more enlightened individuals like the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Ghandi and Mother Theresa are now being embraced by our leader's today like Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Tony Hsieh, and I'm positive in many of today's community leaders to name a few. The rise of social entrepreneurship and the social-purpose business.
While it's fantastic to "look up" to these leaders, the #futureofLeadership is about enabling any of us, for those who choose to, to live and experience the world from the lenses of higher values. We are living a time when we can all elevate ourselves if we choose to. In the short future, we can "look anywhere" to find great leaders.
In attempt to find and review Uber's core founding values, it's clear that it stems from a value system of a very driven aggressively-entrepreneurial mindset. On the positive end, it's what allowed Uber to get to where they are today; high growth, massive valuation and scale, scale, scale, monopoly, aggregate, scale. It's not new news by the way. These types of dominating institutional values are the same drivers that cause many of the world's complex plights today like environmental degradation, mass extraction, conquering-wars, inequality, poverty and discrimination. We've also seen ways before to navigate out of this is,
- Top leadership wakes up to some moral conscious transformation and shift towards a deep service to others, realizing we're all inter-connected, and rebuild around a new values-system. Near death experiences, an enlightening meditative moment on the hilltops of Machu Picchu or flying to space to look down at the marvel of the planet sometimes does the trick.
- Utilize the rallying power of community movements and mobilization within the organization (a la Iceland recovering from a corrupt banking and government system), and for Uber, along-side the top-down 47 recommendations by former US Attorney General Eric Holder, to establish culture around a new values-system.
While this might apply to Uber, here are three simple ways to live from a place of higher values to navigate any of your own uber crisis':
- Exercising "For What Purpose..."
- Be aware of Move-Away Values
- Integrating Threshold Values
For What Purpose. For What Purpose. For What Purpose. When it comes to answering "What's Important to You", whether for yourself or for others, this one phrase helps you to get deeper to what's truly important. Most people's starting response are usually what is socially conditioned with: safety, security, money.
As you flush out your deepest values, you'll begin to realize some patterns. As an example: "What's Important to You with your work?": Safety, "For What Purpose": Protection, "For What Purpose": Family, "For What Purpose": Love
"What Else is Important to You with your work?": Money, "For What Purpose": Be Rich, "For What Purpose": Travel more, "For What Purpose": Freedom, "For What Purpose": Joy, "For What Purpose": Love
As you exhaust this process, you'll start to uncover what drives you with what you do. This exercise can also be extremely useful uncovering other people's values, and aligning values to come to a mutual motivation or purpose.
A quick note: did you notice that this is a process for uncovering a person's values? Many companies put values on a plaque and expect people to live by them. I like to call this a hallucination. Remember, our own values are what makes us unique. You can't just brainwash values and expect people to be automatically motivated by words or value-driven behaviours that don't align. Throwing more money can only go so far. (remember the children who naturally clean their room and don't?)
Now if an organization were to hire people that share the same narrative of values of their own, with the perception the organization is looking to project, you'll get a coherent, engaged and congruent culture. Zappos is a great example of a company that does it. I experienced it myself at Virgin Mobile Canada back in its early start up days, a la Richard Branson's "Screw it let's do it", "Employees come first, then customers, then shareholders" mantras.
(acknowledgement to the HR, Marketing and Customer Care teams... and well anyone really who played full on for the member experience)
Be aware of Move-Away values. As you saw with the above exercise, examples like "protection" "safety" "security" are all move-away values. The way to identify them are that they have a pain-prevention component to it. You might also see them with "not wants", such as: not broke, not left alone, not bored, not frustrated, not being treated like a loser, not being unheard, etc.
Can we be motivated by move-away values? We sure can! This is the pain-and-pleasure, sticks-and-carrots approach to life. Motivation is temporary at best.
Have you ever went on a diet and a sprint-routine exercise, see some results, only to gain weight again and go through the cycle all over again? Whether it's in your health, money, relationships... if you ever see a "yo-yo" effect of temporary results, a phase of slacking, pain-zone, motivation zone, those are move-away values in action at the unconscious-auto-pilot level. Have you ever noticed people who are just healthy as-a-lifestyle? The sustained motivation and discipline come from move-towards values; that's how powerful this exercise is. Be aware of Move-Away values.
The beauty of uncovering values, and designing behaviours and practices to reinforce them is that they become explicit and actionable. After this exercise is where engaging in all the personality assessment-fits and leadership-strength-styles flourish.
However, a simple practice like this, when not done, leaves your culture to chance. Asking hiring managers that ask leading questions to their hallucinated corporate values, for those who themselves don't do this practice and have read your values laid out on your web page... out of survival will "game the interview" to create an artificial fit. It's not until they are hired and "working" when you realize it's too late. Your next chance is to elicit their higher values and hope that there will be a fit, otherwise you'll be having an engagement problem, where only so many performance reviews, celebrations and salary raises can mend.
Integrating Threshold Values. As you begin to elicit your own values, sort and prioritize them, the one set of values that we commonly miss out is the threshold values. These are the values that even when all your top values are met, if these are broken, you will leave.
We might see this in relationships, for example: you're with your dream partner and everything is perfect with a values alignment, and suddenly a partner decides to cheat, just once. A threshold value could be loyalty, and even given everything that's perfect in the relationship, it's a no-fly-zone deal breaker.
Learning about threshold values, especially threshold values as a collective are important, as if one is broken, it might lead to a cascading mass exodus of the company if overtime that one person builds enough trust and influence to persuade other members of the team to leave with them.
The magic question: "Given ALL the values you've listed are there, is there anything important to you that if missing, would cause you to leave?"
Master all three of these tips to live out of your higher values, coupled with the conversational tact and rapport to bring them out of the people around you and you'll have a deep foundation of motivation that will help build and develop a culture of purpose.
Since values act as the emotional and motivation lens of how we perceive and create our reality, imagine the profound deep level of impact, creativity and authenticity that will become out of it.
My challenge to you, if you decide to operate out of your own greatness is: What values would you use to fuel the creation of your reality?
I invite you to share your values on this forum, or to those around you and start a conversation around it.
#KeepthePassionAlive #UnleashYourPotential #StartYourImpactJourney
P.S. And as always, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and share your thoughts and feedback! I am always happy to meet passionate people from around the world. If you find that I have overlooked an issue of importance to you, or that you want to share some of your experiences, I welcome your feedback.
P.P.S. I like the idea of sharing knowledge, therefore, please share this post with your network.
A little about me... Hi! I'm Duncan So, the Founder & Chief Catalyst of Phinklife, a Systems Change Agency, and the Head of Global Education at the Phinklife Institute for Social Impact empowering leaders for social impact.