From the outside, the world saw an entrepreneurial company taking a well-known and often-used service and making it better. In truth, they didn't just make it better, they radically changed a traditional business and became one of the best and most common examples of how to totally disrupt an industry by redefining it. I'm talking about Uber.
The Uberfication Effect
Uber came into the fray by challenging the established transportation industry. It fought back against Unions, local government and doubting customers to succeed becoming a company valued at $68 billion.
Many corporate conference rooms where strategic plans were being crafted heard statements like the "uberifiction" of business. Economists started writing articles with titles like "The Uberification of our Economy".
Uber took advantage of global trends and started a business movement that revolutionized the way we experience and think about how we get from here to there.
In what seemed like an overnight explosion, Uber became the darling of creating new business models, developing loyal customers, rethinking long held beliefs about the way the world worked, and dramatically changing the way consumers thought about their own mobility. Uber was on top of the world. What could go wrong when you are the new standard of a dynamic business for the future? Well, as it turns out, a lot!
The "Frat Culture"
By its own admission, Uber had a "frat culture" created and perpetuated by its unchecked executive rulers. You know all the details. There have been a plethora of media reports regarding the lawsuits, the discriminatory actions, the lack of structure and control. There are now so many questions... where do they go from here? What type of leadership will serve the company and its employees? How do they move on from this unsavory place?
Today, Uber is thin at the top. There is no CEO, COO, CFO, CMO or President to speak of. The organization is being run by a committee of executives. The former CEO, Travis Kalanick, (who remains on the board) is known for his aggressive ways paving the path for unprecedented growth, but also for creating a slew of human resource and regulatory issues.
Making an Uber Comeback
Can an organization known for its aggression continue to dominate while changing its culture to be more trusting and accepting? Can a leader be both a good listener and assertive? Can an entrepreneurial powerhouse also have common standards that are as important as its skyrocketing growth rate?
Most leaders see the questions above as "either/or" propositions. For example, we are either going to be entrepreneurial with the can-do spirit of settling the wild west or we have standards and processes that must be followed to ensure quality and reliability. The Uber-like company never wants to have the deadly bureaucratic name attached to its culture. Similarly, a well-established financial service organization can't afford to have a data breach in a culture that has a free-wheeling spirit where anything goes in the name of growth.
In these extreme examples, what works the best is when the financial service culture becomes more entrepreneurial and the Uber culture agrees on a set of common values that represents what they stand for in the service of significant growth. So the real answer is: yes, AND. We need to be this AND we need to be that. We need to do this AND we need to do that.
Unfortunately, senior teams rarely take the time to do the tough work of defining the "and" for their culture and for their people. It is as if the entrepreneur is so fearful of becoming bureaucratic, and the security conscious firm so fearful of a failure in reliability, that they avoid stepping into and answering the "and".
Here are 4 ways you can start saying yes, AND today.
- Make your beliefs transparent-----Make your beliefs on how you will run and grow the company clear. Beliefs drive behaviors. When you're clear, then the tough paradox issues of aggressive AND trusting can actually work.
- Establish behaviors that match these beliefs----Behavioral rules help define boundaries and what it looks like when we are acting in concert with our beliefs. It is critical to be explicit about what behaviors are central to the culture we want to have. In Uber's case, the behaviors would define what it would look like to be aggressive in scaling business growth while being trusting in employee relationships.
- Identify and address your key paradoxes----Step into the adversity where two perspectives seem to be in opposition. Paradox is creative opposition like complex simplicity, isolated integration, and structured freedom. It goes against the grain and requires a shift in thinking and clarity that helps others understand what seems to be a huge contradiction instead of a key compliment. Figure out what your specific paradoxes are and build your beliefs and behaviors (in 1 and 2) to accommodate them.
- Tells Stories of what success looks like for the AND---Show, don't tell. People's first reaction to hearing or seeing an AND paradox as a business directive is to shut down. They think it's an impossible task and therefore ignore it. Your job as a leader is to show them what it looks like when the AND paradox is achieved. Show them how you're going to be fearless AND calculated, how you're going to give people autonomy AND provide a framework within which they can work that's good for them and the organization.
What's your biggest AND paradox?