Total Leadership coverTwo weeks ago, I presided over an amazing “experiment” with my friend and mentor, Stew Friedman.  But before I tell you about the experiment, let me tell you a little about Stew and Wharton.

Stew was my Leadership and Teamwork professor at Wharton’s MBA program.  Wharton is a pretty hard-nosed school, located in a tough area in Philadelphia, with famous graduates like Steve Wynn, Donald Trump, Donny Deutsch, Charles Butt (of local fame), Leonard Lauder, Lawrence Lessig, Peter Lynch, Harold McGraw III, Michael Milken, Michael Moritz, Elon Musk, Ronald Perelman, Lewis Platt, J.D. Power III, Mortimer Zuckerman, and countless investment bankers and management consultants.  Stew actually founded the Leadership and Teamwork program at Wharton in 1991.  Hard to believe that no business school, in the U.S. at least, taught this subject until then.

Like many Wharton MBA candidates, I was skeptical of the subject.  Most of us were thinking, “why are we in this class learning this ‘soft’ stuff when we could be learning the ‘real’ stuff?” (note: Stew’s class was part of the core, or required, curriculum).  However, a few years after I graduated, I wished I had paid more attention.  As an entrepreneur, I can tell you that this is the most important subject of any MBA program.  You cannot build a great company without great people.  And you cannot attract and retain great people without great leadership and teamwork.  Realizing this a few years after graduation, I contacted Stew and he has been a fantastic mentor ever since.

Stew is one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of work/life balance, pioneering in the field since 1984 (read his amazing bio).  He doesn’t like the term “balance”, though, as it implies tradeoffs.  So, for the last few years, he has working on a program he pioneered called “Total Leadership”, which challenges the participants on the “balance” notion.  By the way, when I say working, I mean practicing in the field, as in with real companies.  This is one of the best aspects of a world-class MBA program: professors that actually learn from the field instead of inside an ivory tower.

Stew’s new book, appropriately named Total Leadership, will be released on June 8.  I have been a student of leadership and teamwork for over a decade now, and I honestly think this is the single most powerful book I have read on the subject (I was an early reader, per my mentoring relationship with Stew).  So I decided to buy everyone in our company a copy of it and ask Stew to visit us in Austin and personally train us on it.  Graciously, he accepted.

Stew trained all of us on Wednesday, May 14 for the entire afternoon.  It was the most powerful moment in our culture’s history, in my opinion.  Prior to his visit, I told my co-founder, Brant, that this would have a “massive impact” on our culture, and I wasn’t disappointed in our company’s initial response. Many employees thanked me afterwards, and the fun is only beginning (we are going through the entire program and all of its exercises over the next four months).

Culture has been a huge focus for us from the beginning, and is, I believe, the most important reason that we now lead our emerging industry.  We have tried and adopted many practices that were controversial at the time, such as:

  • Testing for all new hires – many fail the test and it is frustrating when under pressure to hire, but it ensures that we make fewer mistakes and build a strong culture (without a strong foundation, building a strong culture is not possible).
  • No vacation policy – we trust our employees to not abuse it and we do not want to limit them from taking personal time when they need it; for example, we had an employee take a 3-week vacation to China just two months after starting with us (and beating all of his goals at that time).
  • Quarterly performance feedback (our “3/3/1” process), including “upward” feedback for the managers from their staff – to help all of our employees rapidly grow and reduce the anxiety in our organization (everyone always knows where they stand); I have been told by many of our employees and managers that they have learned more at Bazaarvoice than anywhere else they have worked.  Our feedback is balanced (the 3/3/1 is a simple email form to document the 3 things you did well that quarter, the 3 things you could have done better, and the 1 initiative you are going to focus on as a result).  The upward feedback from staff illuminates blind-spots on our management team, many of which have never been discussed with them in previous companies because the feedback process was too poor to generate intensely constructive dialogue.
  • And much more (read our Culture page to learn more).

But perhaps none of these were more controversial than the roll-out of the Total Leadership program.  Why?  Because it usually results in a decrease of time spent at work.  So why take this risk when Bazaarvoice is doing so well?  Well, because I sincerely trust our employees.  Many of our cultural policies are “discovered” at our quarterly executive strategy meetings when brainstorming on how to evolve culture by treating employees with trust, like the mature adults that they are (treat others the way you want to be treated, remember?).  And I know from first-hand experience that I wasted so much time at work before the birth of my daughter, Rachel.  Once she was born I was more focused than ever before, and it led to a corresponding increase in my productivity although my work hours actually decreased.  So, I believe that the Total Leadership program will do the same.  And, sure enough, Stew’s research shows that productivity/effectiveness goes up at work once employees go through the exercises in this program.

Why did I call this “an experiment”?  Well, it certainly is one for our company, with it being a new initiative.  But, as importantly, it is an experiment for Stew too.  He has never rolled out the program to an entire company – usually just to a large team at a Fortune 500.  So he is just as excited about it as I am.

To bring the power of Stew’s program to the rest of the Austin community, I also hosted Leadership Austin, Bootstrap Austin, 100 attendees outside of Bazaarvoice, and Stew Friedman at our offices the evening of May 14.  I received just as many compliments from those attendees as I did from our own employees.

This is a very powerful book, and I highly recommend it to all of our clients and partners.  Roll this out to your team and you will not be disappointed.  Buy it for your friends, clients, and partners as a holiday gift.

Total Leadership is a way of life, and I have already incorporate many elements of it into my workstream.  I hope you decide to do the same.  The workplace will be a happier place if more leaders “take the leap” to trust and empower their employees to not just be a leader at work, but a leader in all aspects of their lives.  If you want to learn more, buy the book and check out Stew’s website for the program (watch the videos, especially).

Finally, I have one request.  We are going to double our staff this fiscal year, and we need your help.  Please forward this post to anyone that you think may be interested in joining us, and remember that we have four offices now (Austin, London, Paris, and Singapore).  Here is our jobs page.   Your friend would not only be joining a great culture, they would be joining at an amazing time of growth, globally, in our company.

Update 5/28:
The New York Times logoThe New York Times just wrote about the Bazaarvoice Total Leadership experience.  This will be live tomorrow in their May 29 print edition and is online now.  I am very proud of this recognition, especially for Stew Friedman who has spent his entire professional career helping others become better leaders, managers, and people.  For Bazaarvoice, I am especially proud of this press hitting on the evening of the launch of our first Social Commerce Summit, which is sold-out with 230 attendees present!  I’m off to network with our clients and partners, and I hope to see you here next year if you missed it.

23 Responses to “Total Leadership and Bazaarvoice’s Amazing Culture”

  1. Dave Hendricks

    Brett – thanks for the recommendation to check this out. Based on your user generated review and the NYT article, it’s a no-brainer. I’m not sure if I was supposed to buy it at Borders, but one-clicking won instead. I’ll write a review after I read it!

    Dave

  2. Dave Hendricks

    Brett – thanks for the recommendation to check this out. Based on your user generated review and the NYT article, it’s a no-brainer. I’m not sure if I was supposed to buy it at Borders, but one-clicking won instead. I’ll write a review after I read it!

    Dave

  3. Dave Hendricks

    Brett – thanks for the recommendation to check this out. Based on your user generated review and the NYT article, it’s a no-brainer. I’m not sure if I was supposed to buy it at Borders, but one-clicking won instead. I’ll write a review after I read it!

    Dave

  4. Brett Hurt

    Thanks Stew. I very much value your friendship and mentorship. The impact that Total Leadership is already having on our culture is truly profound, and it is only going to get better.

  5. Brett Hurt

    Thanks Stew. I very much value your friendship and mentorship. The impact that Total Leadership is already having on our culture is truly profound, and it is only going to get better.

  6. Brett Hurt

    Thanks Stew. I very much value your friendship and mentorship. The impact that Total Leadership is already having on our culture is truly profound, and it is only going to get better.

  7. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in some way to the amazing Bazaarvoice culture! I had so much fun visiting with Brett and his incredible team in Austin and cannot wait to hear of everyone’s progress through my book and its exercises.

    /Stew Friedman

  8. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in some way to the amazing Bazaarvoice culture! I had so much fun visiting with Brett and his incredible team in Austin and cannot wait to hear of everyone’s progress through my book and its exercises.

    /Stew Friedman

  9. Brett Hurt

    Brandon,

    It is my pleasure to have done so, and I’m glad you enjoyed the event at our office.

    The more humanity the leadership of a company shows its own team and the team of its staff, the better. Treating employees like adults – with trust and respect – leads to huge returns. Plus it makes it a healthier place to work for you as a leader. It sounds so simple but I have seen it done so wrong.

    Thanks for your kind words, and good luck with the book in your own life as well as your career at Wayport.

    Best,
    Brett

  10. Brett Hurt

    Brandon,

    It is my pleasure to have done so, and I’m glad you enjoyed the event at our office.

    The more humanity the leadership of a company shows its own team and the team of its staff, the better. Treating employees like adults – with trust and respect – leads to huge returns. Plus it makes it a healthier place to work for you as a leader. It sounds so simple but I have seen it done so wrong.

    Thanks for your kind words, and good luck with the book in your own life as well as your career at Wayport.

    Best,
    Brett

  11. Brett Hurt

    Chip,

    That is great news. It is refreshing to hear large companies like Lenovo implementing similar programs. It sounds like you are enjoying your new job, and I’m very happy for you.

    Most of Stew’s consulting work in this area is with Fortune 500s. But small companies can benefit just as much.

    Best,
    Brett

  12. Brett Hurt

    Chip,

    That is great news. It is refreshing to hear large companies like Lenovo implementing similar programs. It sounds like you are enjoying your new job, and I’m very happy for you.

    Most of Stew’s consulting work in this area is with Fortune 500s. But small companies can benefit just as much.

    Best,
    Brett

  13. Brandon Canaday

    Brett,

    I was fortunate to have been an audience member for the Leadership Austin event hosted by Bazaarvoice. Thanks for helping make this great event available to the community. I’m reading my signed copy of Total Leadership now and as far as I’m concerned Mr. Friedman is spot-on. I’ll be adding this book to my list o leadership favorites such as “Enlightened Leadership” by Ed Oakley.

    As a leader in a Fortune 50 company I’m seeing that people are hungry for leadership that appreciates and inspires them multi-dimensionally. The Total Leadership principles aim to do just that and they are ACTIONABLE.

    It’s a refreshing callout by Mr. Friedman that “Leadership in business isn’t just about business. It’s about life”. As globalization prompts expansion while mobility and technology prompt virtual contraction, the line between work and other “domains” becomes non-existent. “Total Leaders” will help bring harmony to that potentially chaotic situation.

    Good luck to you as you inspire the Total Leadership concepts inside and beyond Bazaarvoice. I look forward to hearing how it goes and will also share my experiences.

  14. Brandon Canaday

    Brett,

    I was fortunate to have been an audience member for the Leadership Austin event hosted by Bazaarvoice. Thanks for helping make this great event available to the community. I’m reading my signed copy of Total Leadership now and as far as I’m concerned Mr. Friedman is spot-on. I’ll be adding this book to my list o leadership favorites such as “Enlightened Leadership” by Ed Oakley.

    As a leader in a Fortune 50 company I’m seeing that people are hungry for leadership that appreciates and inspires them multi-dimensionally. The Total Leadership principles aim to do just that and they are ACTIONABLE.

    It’s a refreshing callout by Mr. Friedman that “Leadership in business isn’t just about business. It’s about life”. As globalization prompts expansion while mobility and technology prompt virtual contraction, the line between work and other “domains” becomes non-existent. “Total Leaders” will help bring harmony to that potentially chaotic situation.

    Good luck to you as you inspire the Total Leadership concepts inside and beyond Bazaarvoice. I look forward to hearing how it goes and will also share my experiences.

  15. Sam;
    Very interesting posting – greatly appreciate your sharing this publicly! Will read the book, but it seems that I subscribe to many of the concepts in your book and fortunate to have found that my new employer (Lenovo Group) is implementing many of these concepts as well.

  16. Sam;
    Very interesting posting – greatly appreciate your sharing this publicly! Will read the book, but it seems that I subscribe to many of the concepts in your book and fortunate to have found that my new employer (Lenovo Group) is implementing many of these concepts as well.

  17. Brett Hurt

    Thanks Julie, I really appreciate your kind words. We have worked hard to build a great culture here, and it has paid off in more ways than I ever imagined it would.

    Good luck with your interviews with us!

  18. Brett Hurt

    Thanks Julie, I really appreciate your kind words. We have worked hard to build a great culture here, and it has paid off in more ways than I ever imagined it would.

    Good luck with your interviews with us!

  19. It is great to know that Bazaarvoice’s culture is an infusion into the workplace, not just on the website. I have been searching for such a company for awhile now and am excited to know that Bazaar Voice is right in my own backyard.

    I have applied for a position with Bazaarvoice and perhaps I will work there soon(if I pass the test). Until then, I look forward to reading Total Leadership and will be first in line to purchase my copy–hot off the press.

    For those of us curious about the results Mr. Friedman’s Total Training has on Bazaarvoice’s culture, I do hope that you keep us informed on your blog.

    My best to you,
    Julie

  20. It is great to know that Bazaarvoice’s culture is an infusion into the workplace, not just on the website. I have been searching for such a company for awhile now and am excited to know that Bazaar Voice is right in my own backyard.

    I have applied for a position with Bazaarvoice and perhaps I will work there soon(if I pass the test). Until then, I look forward to reading Total Leadership and will be first in line to purchase my copy–hot off the press.

    For those of us curious about the results Mr. Friedman’s Total Training has on Bazaarvoice’s culture, I do hope that you keep us informed on your blog.

    My best to you,
    Julie

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>