Use Common Sense & Be A Kind Person

Use Common Sense & Be A Kind Person

It continues to be evident as I work with so many diverse and unique people/groups that far too many issues of miscommunication start with all the labels we assign and adopt for ourselves. We label what kind of leader we are. We label what kind of learner we are. We label what kind of parent we are. We label what kind of shopper we are. We have a harmful obsession with labeling ourselves with nicely packaged ideas of what and who we are. We assign labels for ourselves so that others can understand the fundamentals of our behavior. Why is it that in contemporary culture, we appear to have such a strong desire to dissect the most natural elements of human life to marketable, universal, social-media ready, and generic labels?

These labels seemingly are employed to offer comfort and clarity, possibly even a sense of belonging and togetherness within these populations. Why though? Is it a social device for us to distinguish between friend/partner and potential foe/annoying co-worker, a mechanism to recognize who we can or can’t identify with? Or rather, do we utilize them so as to define ourselves by what we are not [or what we don’t want others to think we are]? I would go so far as to say that this ‘labeling’ – in fact – perpetuates a culture of  anti-collaboration and anti-cohesion in most workplaces. The fundamentally problematic element of this is that by offering a select and often exclusive description for one type of person/people, this inadvertently and inevitably causes the remainder of people to be excluded from our “circle” because they are “different’ than us – which is something to fear or, at least, avoid, right?!

We, as a society, appear to catalog and characterize almost every element of human nature and the styles in which we handle our day-to-day lives. What this obsession with labeling ones-self seemingly promotes is a culture of personal and professional over-analysis and paranoia. What would benefit us greatly is to incorporate a vision of optimism into our lives – what traits do we have that do not support division or the creation of hierarchical scaffolding but that absolutely support an understanding of one another on a personal, human level.

The Most Powerful [Common Sense] Culture Statement I Have Come Across

In the last three years, I have had the fantastic opportunity to visit many different organizations and meet with lots of interesting and inspiring C-level leaders. However, one of my absolute favorite organizations to learn about and immerse myself in is Netflix. They are amazing in so many ways. They have the absolute best and most powerful Culture Statement, with the core philosophy being people over process, that I have come across [their deck is so powerful it has been viewed approximately 13 million times]:

  • Encourage independent decision making by employees
  • Share information openly, broadly, and deliberately
  • Are extraordinarily candid with each other
  • Keep only our highly effective people
  • Avoid rules

They even go so far as to refuse to hire “brilliant jerks” because those people are too disruptive to the workplace and the people who would have to work with them. Instead they seek out “grown up” talent to elevate their business and keep their company innovative, collaborative, highly-functioning & productive, and focused on growth and sustainability. Every time I am in a new business and I see a bunch of wordy, flowery, senseless, and – usually – ignored values and vision statements I think how much stronger the company would be if they adopted and applied these standards. Between a range of poor decisions and the crass adoption of technology – most business have ruined themselves by extracting common sense and humanity from the workplace and hanging on to “jerks” that display occasional flashes of brilliance.

According to 8% of Netflix’s employees depart involuntarily, compared with the U.S. average of 6%. When it comes to voluntarily separating, 13% of employees leave the typical U.S. company, but only 4% at Netflix.

People work hard because it’s the expectation inside the culture and they are empowered and responsible to do so. They perform at a higher level, are engaged, and more committed than the average person because their job – literally – depends on it and they accept the role understanding that’s the agreement. The moment they are found to be redundant, they are exited from the business, respectfully, as the grown ups they are.

Most companies today cater to the lowest common denominators in their organization [which can be absolutely terrifying]. Policies and procedures are created as parental and/or condescending governing practices to – let’s face it – “control” the masses that we don’t feel we can truly trust [and we certainly don’t seek to empower]. This creates a culture of excessively entitledsnowflakes” in most companies.

Smart, highly-productive people want to work with innovative companies that care about their people and treat them respectfully as the high-functioning, ambitious, driven, responsible adults they are.

Unfortunately, most people are thrilled to tow the line of mediocrity and seek to work anonymously and without expectations in their role. This leaves the average company with people who are unable deliver or digest dialogs with candor because we – generally – don’t hire “grown ups” to work in the business [this challenge is exacerbated in low skill, low wage environments] but we hire for compliance and a job description that is a list of operational tasks and to-dos. Then we erode the relationship further by treating the people we choose to invite into the organization like actual children through a moldy, outdated babysitter-ish style of “management” and a weird hands-off approach to any issues that require a candid conversation.

Best Leadership Question I Have Come Across

What is going to free, fuel, and inspire this person to bring the best version of themselves to work each and every day? Each day our objective should be to meet the needs of our people in the best and most professionally satisfying way(s) we possibly can, without sacrificing standards or imposing inconvenience on anyone else. This question doesn’t require a label to answer…it’s common sense at its finest and it only requires us to be empathetic and involved human beings to determine the answer.

When we hire “grown ups” and treat them respectfully, with integrity, trust them, and empower them – we will better understand how to support them and they will even have the courage and confidence to tell us what they need from us and how they can help the company. I firmly believe that employee empowerment is a key value that can propel companies into robust and vibrant brands that are talent magnets. However, it requires leaders [and all people in the company] to demonstrate common sense and intellectual honesty. When common sense is abandoned in favor of entitlement or treating people poorly, the entire structure collapses, all relationships [internal & external] then become transactional, commercial, and annoying.

It is one of the most important qualities of a leader to connect with and be an active participant in the journey’s of their people and to show them what’s possible. We can only do that if we are warm, competent, curious, and creatively invested in their success as unique and valuable individuals.

Three Simple Ways To Treat People Like “Grown Ups”

INVOLVE & EMPOWER: This consists of a couple steps…first, leaders that are adapting their style to one that trusts and empowers their team will need to over-communicate, initially. Leaders must be clear and unafraid to reinforce messages time and time again until it becomes second nature. Your people will want to make sure that they are on the right path and hearing you say it, will help them. Next, you have to hold people accountable that aren’t delivering to the standard they need to deliver [which needs to be that of your highest-producing person/people]. Organizations and teams cannot survive without a culture of accountability. It is up to leadership to be mindful, fair, and decisive in their actions when holding people accountable for their performance.

ELEVATE ACCOUNTABILITY:  When you hire the VERY BEST PEOPLE, clearly communicate the strategy or objectives, and the meaning and purpose of their role in it and the timelines, and allow them the latitude, tools, and resources to get it done in their best way – you are doing the right thing. Today people are bringing new ways to work that don’t fit in – necessarily – with traditional, pedestrian, or parochial practices that the masses find “safe” and that certainly don’t fit in with the “but this is how we’ve always done it” way of work that so many companies find comforting. Let them do it their way. Provide them feedback and get theirs during the process. Give them what they need to be highly-productive. When they aren’t delivering the right results in the right time – have that conversation…immediately and with radical candor!

MANAGE TO THE MAJORITY, NOT THE MINORITY: Are there people who will take advantage of relaxed policies and/or not deliver on their commitments? Of course there are, but great leaders who understand how to find the best talent know those people are the minority. In an environment that sets high expectations consistently, these folks will eventually out themselves. The majority of employees will appreciate additional responsibilities and freedoms, and you’ll be amazed at the results they get when they choose to deliver on their discretionary effort because the workplace has proven worthy of it. Deal with the malcontents swiftly and justly but respectfully.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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