An organization does not live by its members agreeing with one another at all times about everything. It lives by people committing to support the decisions and the moves of the business. – Andy Grove, High Output Management
Winning has a price. And leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right. Once you join the team you live at a certain standard that I play the game (at) and I wasn’t going to take anything less. I wanted to win but I wanted them to be a part of it as well. – Michael Jordan, The Last Dance
There is a strong correlation between the books featured in The Broyhill Book Club and those I take to the beach. This is part of the reason we decided to shift the publication of our book club to the summer months – so folks would have an ocean-side summer reading list to enjoy. As it turns out, it’s also a great time to step back and reflect on what I’ve learned over the past twelve months, as I begin laying the groundwork for this year’s book club.
In doing so, I realized I never closed the loop on our last series of posts prompted, in part, by some of our favorite reads this past year. So before sharing this year’s addition of the BBC, I’d like to share with you what I learned from our team navigating the pandemic and how we are using that feedback to improve lines of communication and refine Broyhill’s culture day by day.
In The Octopus & The Shark, we explained the difference between operating like an octopus with a lantern and a shark with a laser beam. The key takeaway is that too much time hunting like a shark can take a toll on us. The intensity of that laser beam means that it can burn out if left on too long.
In our next post, That Will Never Work, we explained that these different operating environments require different leadership styles, which led to a period of reflection and introspection at Broyhill.
Open and honest feedback is the foundation of a high performing culture designed for continuous improvement. We want to build a company where it’s okay for freewheeling discussions to get heated. Where ideas stand on their own, independent of where they come from. And where disagreement is collaborative, aimed at finding the best answer, rather than being right. No matter how passionate, a successful investment culture is dependent upon the team’s ability to function effectively in such an environment.
Today, we’ll wrap up with a few examples of how that transformation is progressing at Broyhill. This wasn’t easy. Most of us prefer to avoid conflict (my wife is not one of those people). But conflict and disagreement are necessary components of effective problem-solving. We are a work in progress. And that’s okay because it means we are still learning.
Here are a few of the things we’ve learned over the past year and a few of the things we are still experimenting with to help us navigate through different operating environments.
- BAM Weekly. This is a ritual that began when Andrea joined the team, heading up BAM’s “HQ2” in the NC Research Triangle. As we both lean towards the introverted end of the spectrum, we found it helpful to wrap up the week with a recap and share our focus for the coming week in a Google Doc titled BAM Weekly. This document has evolved over the years and is now complemented by our Monday Morning call to plan and prioritize. It’s a simple exercise designed to help folks pause and reflect for a few minutes each week, utilizing the following prompts.
- What I Accomplished
- What I Am Focused On
- What I’m Excited About
- BAM One-on-Ones. Our weekly calls are important for the team to “get together” every Monday morning. But they are not enough. One of the things I repeatedly heard from colleagues is a need for more regular check in’s. So, for the past year, we’ve blocked off Friday mornings for individual 1:1’s. Initially, I spent 30-60 minutes with every member of the team every Friday morning. It didn’t take long to figure out that was unsustainable. So, as we got more comfortable having these uncomfortable conversations, we decided to rotate these calls every week, which allowed me to spend more time with everyone individually, rather than rushing through back-to-back calls.
- BAM Strategic Update. Another thing I heard consistently from each member of the team was the need to continually reinforce and communicate our vision, our goals, and our strategic plans. While we do so during our annual offsites, it was clear that this was not enough. So, we decided to hold a quarterly strategy session to recap and celebrate what we accomplished, and outline objectives for the coming quarter. While it takes a good deal of work to prepare, the effort is well rewarded, and these have quickly become some of our most productive and valuable meetings. In order to lighten the load on any one of us, these quarterly meetings also provide each of our “Informed Captains” an opportunity to take the lead in highlighting our accomplishments and setting goals for each segment of the business.
- BAM 360 Degree Feedback. We have taken a number of steps to provide each other with more consistent, real-time feedback. To start, we’ve experimented with putting feedback at the top of every meeting agenda, although we clearly still have a ways to go before we are completely comfortable giving and receiving feedback in public. As a short-term compromise, we’ve created a Feedback channel in Slack, although admittedly, this remains one of our least used Slack channels, for now. To help bridge the gap, I try to share any and all feedback I receive from colleagues publicly, either during our morning calls or through our Slack channel. We have also agreed as a team to share our annual 360 reviews with one another to support and encourage continued development. These reviews are not a substitute for real-time feedback but are extremely valuable if done right and singularly focused on helping each other succeed. So we now take the time to sit down on an annual basis to inspire each of our colleagues to grow. This requires a good balance between accountability and development, a recognition of big achievements, and an acknowledgment of existing skill gaps. Much more on this below.
You might wonder why we are sharing all of this. In truth, we debated doing so for some time. In part, we were concerned that this may give folks the wrong impression – that after twelve months of reflection, we have figured it all out and are now operating as a high-performing team, having successfully implemented each of these initiatives. As much as I’d like for that to be the case, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is we are always learning.
We put the attached guidelines together to help us do that. And we are sharing them here to start a dialogue, ask for your feedback, and give you a look into “how the sausage is made at Broyhill.” BAM’s Feedback Guidelines include key takeaways from the Netflix Culture Deck, which Sheryl Sandberg called “the most important document to come out of Silicon Valley,” along with our 5A Feedback Model (adopted from Netflix’s 4A Feedback Process), advice from The Culture Code (one of the best books on culture ever published), and a list of related resources and suggested reading from the Broyhill Library.
Building a company culture doesn’t have a finish line. We will always be a work in progress.