Andrew Barnett on Coffee, Culture and Founding Linea Caffe

My guest Andrew Barnett (@andrewbbarnett) is the founder of Linea Caffe, a coffee roastery and wholesale company, which was one of the first vendors we began working with at Robin’s Cafe in 2016.

In this interview, we discuss how Andrew first introduced himself to me in those early days of the cafe, the humanness that he brings to his work, and his deep knowledge of coffee.

We discuss how the coffee industry has changed over the last 20 years, what it takes to create a thriving business, and why Andrew loves food service. He shares how he thinks about his company and what he does to build an inclusive culture at Linea Caffe.

If you’re interested in a unique perspective on building successful businesses and cultures, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

 

Show Notes

2:15 How Andrew and Robin met
5:15 Andrew’s interest in coffee and human service
8:30 The antithesis of Starbucks
11:30 Roasting coffee
13:45 Cup of Excellence program
17:30 The “Ah Ha” moment
20:00 Linea quality
24:45 Selling Echo Cafe to Intelligentsia
26:15 Third wave movement
28:15 Moving back to San Francisco and starting Linea
31:15 Andrew’s approach to people
35:00 Linea’s retail and roasting locations
37:30 What made this work for Andrew
40:45 Future of coffee
43:45 Find out more: Linea Website 

If you enjoyed this episode of the Robin Zander Show, you might also enjoy listening to my conversation with Steve Hopkins (@stevehopkins) on coffee, culture and the Future of Work.

Zander Strong Ep. 5 – How to Surf

I’m Robin Zander, and you’re listening to Zander Strong, a podcast about movement in the modern world.

Today: the story of how I learned to surf, and the simple tactical steps that you can use to begin surfing right away.

It has been an eventful last couple of years! In February 2016 I came up with the idea to run a big event. In September 2016, having sold 250 tickets and raised sponsorship from the likes of Microsoft and Accenture, I put on the 1st Annual Responsive Conference. Somewhere in the middle, I also opened up a café.

Meanwhile, throughout this, I’ve maintained a physical practice. Over the years this has meant a variety of things: ballet, martial arts, gymnastics, other forms. At the end of August, I re-discovered surfing.

I grew up around the ocean, and first tried out a surfboard on a beach in Costa Rica in 2003. The board was terrible — waterlogged, the surf rough — but I’ve always planned on going back. I visited the San Francisco Bay Area’s Linda Mar beach this August, and have been out surfing almost every day for the last few months. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Form Follows Function

I’ve long believed that “form follows function” meaning that good form — including posture, positioning, or physique — follows from the movements we do. What I haven’t explored before is how significantly my mental state follows from my physical practice.

Surfing can be scary, don’t get me wrong. But there are also long stretches of peace, sitting on a board out on the waves. Surfers don’t generally talk much — at least not to a newbie like me. And there is something inherently pacific about sitting on the ocean, looking for the next big wave.

Emotional Matching

September 21, 2016 was a big day for me. It was the day after my 250-person Responsive Conference. For more than 3 months I had worked 7 days a week to make sure that the event was a success, and throughout that time had practiced Thai Kickboxing — an aggressive martial form that I tackled in intense 50-minute bursts.

Walking into my fight gym the day after the conference, I was hit by the familiar smells of old sweat and testosterone. Leading up to my conference, the aggression of Thai Kickboxing was exactly what I needed to combat the intensity of my work. That afternoon, I was surprised how unappetizing they were. I realized I no longer needed such physical intensity, closed my account, and went surfing.

Surfing Culture

As I do when I become obsessed with a new physical form, I’ve read a lot. By far the most engaging book I’ve read is the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. This autobiography is a coming of age story about the author’s relationship with surfing, of waves from around the world, and about an addiction that I’ve just begun to explore.

Another little tool that has been incredible in learning the ins and outs of the surf scene is Surfline. This free app shares buoy data and live video feeds of prime surf spots. It has gotten so that when I ask a local about the surf at our favorite spot, he’s likely to say “Fair to Good,” quoting the app.

The Moment

Even as a young surfer, just beginning to transfer to an intermediate board, I’m struck by how much catching waves and not falling off comes down to mindset. As I’ve grown more confident, I’ve attempted larger waves — 6ft, 8ft, even 12ft. In the moment that I’m looking down from the top a sheer face of water, if I can control my fear I’ll be alright. When I remain calm, I stay on top of my board and don’t get pummeled. But even on 3–4ft days, if I get frightened and let that emotion run unchecked, the wave lands on top of me. My mental and emotional state, in that fraction of a second, shape the entirety of the experience.

Awe

Even amidst some professional success, entering in an entirely new industry, and managing two teams totaling more than 15 employees, some of the most memorable moments in 2016 and 2017 have occurred on the waves.

In mid-September 2016, amidst 16-hour days of event planning and logistics, I stole a few hours on the surf. Pacifica was fogged in, and I could hear fog horns in the distance. The waves were breaking 50 meters offshore, and birds were circling further out.

After 30 minutes on the water, it became clear that the birds were circling with purpose, and looking closer I thought I could see something in the waves. Then, a whale breached. For the next hour, I let promising waves go by to catch glimpses of the mammoth of the sea, slowly making its way north.

As usual, when I find a new physical form, I’m enamored. Whether this new love affair lasts weeks or years, it is special and new.

How-To and Mental Resilience

There’s a moment of thrill when you catch a wave, whether that is a two foot wave or a ten. The moment when you go from moving at the speed of your own arm strokes to be carried along as fast as the wave can carry you. Sometimes I experience a moment of panic, other times I am so much in the zone – in flow – that there’s just bliss. Of all of the parts of surfing, I believe that catching waves is probably the most important for a novice surfer. Getting familiar with the moment of riding a wave and that transition from powering yourself to be carrying by the wave is the hardest to describe and the most essential to understand. That said, don’t try to put all of the pieces of surfing together your first day out. It is not important to catch a wave in the moment that it breaks and try to stand up and try to steer all in one go. Go out on a slow day and rather than try to swim out past the point where the waves are breaking, ride some of the chop after the wave has crashed and as the waves are coming in towards shore. I am no expert, but I recommend a beach break where surfers gather in an area where the ocean breaks onto a stretch of beach, so that you don’t also have to contend with rocky terrain, shallow rocks, or coral. It’ll become a common mantra, but don’t try to tackle all of the aspects of surfing, or any physical form, in one go. Instead, find that small step – in this case the feel of catching a wave – and work to understand that experience and hone that skill.

Close your eyes. Notice how you are sitting, standing, or lying at this moment. Notice how you feel. Imagine that you’re lying on your belly on a surfboard. There are seagulls above you, the sounds of the ocean around you. You are in the lineup which is the area where waves begin to break. You see a wave growing behind you, and you begin to paddle towards the shore. It’s big but not so big that you are scared. You look over your shoulder and see the wave behind you and paddle even more furiously until suddenly you are no longer moving yourself but you’re being carried on the wave downhill and very fast. It’s almost like the wave has slingshotted you down the face of the wave.

Here are a couple of pointers that will make your entry into surfing much easier.

  1. Start small. If you try to do every aspect at once, you’ll have no fun and won’t keep coming back for more. However, if you tackle small steps at a time, you’ll see much easier successes and begin to find the joy and the small victories that will keep you coming back.
  2. Don’t go out on a big day. As much fun as it is to surf big waves, even as a novice, start smaller. You don’t have to go out in your first couple of surf sessions on the biggest days in order to catch waves or even practice standing up. Instead, go out when the waves don’t look intimidating, and even try to surf waves that have already broken so you are really just riding the white water into shore. Even those experiences can give you a taste of the thrill of catching a big wave and learning to steer.

If you’ve enjoyed Zander Strong, I’d love to hear about it! It would mean the world to me if you could leave a review on iTunes.

 

Zander Strong, Ep. 4 – Learning to Breathe

Thanks for listing in for another episode of Zander Strong: The Future of Fitness.

In this episode, we examine breathing, which is one of the few human functions that is both automatic and directly within our control.

Most of us walk around with our bellies tightly held. The equivalent would be if we walked around with our fists permanently clenched. It would substantially limit how we use our hands and fingers!

Instead, the chest and belly should both be able to flex and release – to be used, functionally. In this episode, Robin guides you through a movement meditation, which will give you direct control over your breathing, highlight, and then help you to overcome physical limitations in your chest and belly.

Please enjoy!

Could you do me a favor?

If you’ve listened to any of these episode, could you please leave a review on iTunes? I’d love your feedback and reviews make a big difference in show ratings!

Zander Strong, Episode 3 – Learn to Squat

I’m Robin Zander, and you’re listening to Zander Strong.

Today: the importance of squatting. How this long-lost physical practice makes the difference in health, and how you can learn to squat with ease.

We so rarely think about how we use and bend at the waist. We are on our feet hours each day but don’t frequently pause to think about how they our pelvis feels, and how we might use them more effectively.

This episode is about squatting. That characteristically human movement that in modern life we have abandoned. Most adults are not able to squat on their heels with their feet flat on the ground, but you can learn to do so.

I was first exposed to squats through ballet, where they are called plies. The grande plie, specifically, is a classic movement in ballet that is essentially just a squat with the legs in a slightly different turned out position. Years later, when I learned the basics of the squat in weightlifting, my teacher was impressed that I was able to squat so close to the ground because I had spent years practicing the movement in a different context.

What is required to do a full sitting squat is mobility in your ankles and hips and this comes not through force or disciplined practice but through paying attention and using subtle movement to increase your awareness and range of motion.

Zander Strong, Episode 2 – The Biggest Muscles in the Body

Welcome to Zander Strong: The Future of Fitness. Each episode I teach tools and tactics for increasing physical performance and mental resilience.

In this 2nd episode, we begin to explore a part of the body that is largely ignored by mainstream fitness, even while it has the biggest bones and muscles in the human body.

Learn to move with subtlety your pelvis, and discover the lasting impact small micro-movements can have.

Zander Strong, Episode 1 – The Future of Fitness

In conducting my annual review, one of the things that became clear was the importance of a week that I spent in Puerto Rico in June 2017 co-teaching a workshop based on tools that I practice daily but rarely ever speak about or teach.

For background, in the Fall of 2008, I met Anat Baniel. At that time, I was about a year into a very severe neck injury resulting from landing on my head on a trampoline and was looking for ways to recover. I was also fresh out of college and looking for a path forward. I did my undergraduate research – a year long research project culminating in an oral defense and 150 page published dissertation – on how people learn movement. So, in retrospect, it was oddly fitting that I spent several years after college trying to learn again how to move without pain. In meeting Anat, it was immediately obvious to me that this woman knew a lot about how we learn, and I was determined to study with her. While the majority of my college peers went on to their PHDs (Reed College has the highest number of PHDs of any University in the country), I spent four years practicing very subtle movement, first on myself, and then with a wide variety of clients, and then with children with special needs.

As I began to practice with clients, I recognized a need for verbal tools as well as the non-verbal physical coaching that I was providing and ended up studying at the Option Institute for an additional three years. There I learned a form of socratic dialogue and the practice of being completely present with another human being regardless of what they are going through, and how to ask them loving questions.

I’ve continued to practice and refine tools I learned from these organizations, my study of behavior design BJ Fogg at Stanford University, and more tools I’ve picked up over the last decade.

Fast forward to June of 2017, where I taught a small group leadership training on retreat in Puerto Rico.  This was the first time that I had taught these tools in public.

When I conducted my annual review, I was surprised to find that the Puerto Rico training stood out even among the many other personal and professional successes of 2017, and I’ve decided to double down on fitness education for the 21st century.

Thus, it is my great pleasure to announce the release of my new podcast, Zander Strong: The Future of Fitness, where I teach tools for cultivating physical health and mental resilience.

These podcasts are short, under 30 minutes, unlike my long form podcast, The Robin Zander Show. Each episode focuses on a specific tool or tactic that you can apply to improve your physical or mental performance.

Please enjoy Zander Strong and subscribe to the show on iTunes.

How I Conduct A Personal Annual Review – and Highlights from 2017

Every year, for nearly the last decade, I’ve conducted an annual review.

When writing a personal annual review, my process looks like this:

  • Going on the week by week view of my 2017 calendar and listing out every single thing that I spent my time doing. Given that most days I usually have 10-20 things on my calendar scheduled per day, this ends up being 4 or 5 handwritten pages. It goes faster than I would expect but usually takes about 2 hours. I list everything from phone calls, trips, and time spent in transit to meals (personal or professional), time at the cafe, time spent meeting vendors, and weekly standing meetings.
  • I go through and sort all of the items listed by category: business appointments, hours spent writing, hours spent exercising, hours working at the cafe.
  • Once I’ve organized everything by category, I give it a positive value judgement – a score from 1-10 on how much joy I derived from this activity, and a negative value judgement – a score from negative 1-10 on how much dissatisfaction I got from this activity. Each data point gets two specific numbers.
  • I mostly pay attention to the high scores of joy and the high scores of dissatisfaction. I circle the 8, 9, 10s of both positive and negative. I’ll list those out by peak experience by the positives like surfing, travel with my family, and time with my girlfriend, and the negatives like raising sponsorship, handling vendors at Robin’s Cafe, and time spent driving.
  • Next, I take this into action for the new year by grading the quality of my experiences over the year. If there are specific people that fall in the negative 8, 9, or 10 category, I may have to sever ties with them, which can be very challenging. I may email the person outlining the reasons why I am taking steps to set new boundaries in our relationship.
    • Ex: When I did this reflection in 2016, I noticed that there was a person that I had spent a lot of time with that year who I hadn’t enjoyed the quality of our time spent together. I asked myself – would I rather spend this time with this person or would I rather spend this time alone? To make a change going forward, I stopped calling him up. He invited me to a few things this year, and I declined. It was a pretty easy change.
    • Ex: Writing – I spent a lot of time writing in 2017. How much satisfaction did I get from the act of that process? Is that something worth repeating in 2018?
    • Ex: Time spent exercising – I spent significantly less time exercising in 2017 than in 2015 when I studied ballet every day. Is that amount of time per day enough? If the answer is no, I can schedule time to exercise everyday for a few hours in my calendar for 2018 for first few months.
  • Finally, I write down the 3 – 5 most significant changes or projects that I accomplished for the year (my trip to Morocco, my training in Puerto Rico, the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference, Responsive the book, and my relationship).

 

Significant Events & Projects in 2017

Morocco

I’ve written about cultural lessons learned on my trip to Morocco but less so about the importance of time spent with my parents. Growing up, I traveled with my immediate family several weeks per year but have not done so regularly as an adult. For my 30th birthday present, my parents took me on a 5 week trip to Morocco. What is interesting, in retrospect, is that even more than the cultural experience of traveling, was the importance of that time with my family. Taking time as an adult to get to know each of my parents, see myself in them, and be grateful for the quality of time spent has been, and continues to be, life changing.

 

Puerto Rico training

I spent 4 years in my early 20’s studying deep somatic practice with Anat Baniel and another 4 years studying at the Option Institute. While I no longer participate in either organization, I achieved a level of mastery with the tool sets that each of these organizations teach and continue to practice them to this day. On my first day of my first training with Anat Baniel, I told her that someday I would like to teach this material, and now 10 years later, I have done so only minimally.

The Puerto Rico training, which I co-taught with a friend in June of 2017, was my first public offering to teach and further refine the tool sets that I was fortunate enough to be exposed to and truly changed my life throughout my 20s. I am excited to further teach these tools through a variety of mediums in 2018.

 

Responsive Conference

2nd Annual Responsive Conference from Robin Zander on Vimeo.

The 1st annual Responsive Conference was a giant unknown as I had never previously curated and directed an event of that magnitude before. The 2nd Annual Responsive Conference was less of an exploration and more of a refinement. My single biggest goal was to form a cohesive organizing team, and in that I succeeded magnificently. Further, I sought to make intentional the curatorial choices I had begun in 2016 including factors like venue, speakers, and working with speakers to present fresh and relevant content. Across the board, the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference was a triumph. We had 225 people from more than 10 countries and with the help of my production team, the event went off pristinely. I am excited in 2018 to further refine and automate the processes that made the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference a success – aka to do less!

Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization

I have never been able to write as other than a very intentional act, and writing had been one of the primary things I avoided throughout most of 2017. Thus, I am thrilled to have actually publishedResponsive: What it Takes to Create a Thriving Organization which is a compilation of three years of interviews and curation on the future of work.

 

Relationships

Finally, and by no means least important, I entered into a new relationship midway through the year. I moved in with my girlfriend in December of 2017. This is far and away, the most significant romantic relationship I have ever had, and it’s no coincidence that we have become collaborators on multiple professional, as well as personal, projects. Relationships of all kinds are perhaps one of the three most important aspects in any of our lives, and I couldn’t be any more pleased with this developing romance.

What were your highlights in 2017? Lowlights? What do you want to build on in the year ahead? Let me know in the comments!

How To Run an Un-Conference

How to Run an Un-Conference

Organizing events is a community effort, especially events as open to interpretation as an un-conference. I first sat down with a small group interested in Responsive Org events in 2015. Of that initial group Steve Hopkins was a founding member of the Responsive Org movement, Dori Rutkevitz was an active organizer in the related Reinventing Organizations community, and all of us were enthusiastic to learn more. Steve’s initial proposal to organize an un-conference was met with enthusiastic support by everyone at the table, followed promptly by “What’s an Un-conference?”

In the two years following that first meeting, I have produced and directed more than a dozen un-conferences and several more formal events. This short article is the playbook I wish I’d had when I began organizing events.

What is an Un-conference

An un-conference is any event where the agenda is set by those who attend. The rules of an un-conference are simple:

Rule #1: Whoever shows up are the right people
Rule #2: Whatever happens is fine
Rule #3: Whenever it starts is the right time
Rule #4: It is over when it’s over

In less flowery language this just means ditch expectation and don’t try to control the experience.

Flow of the Day

After attendees arrive, an empty conference agenda is posted on the wall with time slots and a variety of meeting spaces. Leaders share a theme or question they would like to discuss and post it in a time slot. If you post a topic, it is your responsibility to turn up to that session and introduce your topic or question. If you are not hosting a session, you are free to attend whichever of the sessions you are interested in.

Attendees are encouraged to adopt any of a number of roles:

Leader — who is facilitating each breakout
Scribe — is someone responsible for taking notes for each group
Nomads — give attendees permission to move between break-outs

The Law of Two Feet

Everyone at an un-conference is encouraged to practice the law of two feet. The law of two feet says that if you become uninterested at any point, you are encouraged to leave and join another session. In an un-conference you are also invited to take breaks at any time, with the idea that it is sometimes in the breaks that the ‘A-ha’ moments arrive.

Roles & Responsibilities

There are three main components necessary to a successful event — recruiting, production, and a strong facilitator.

A Word on Recruiting

In my experience, it is helpful to have an extended network to help with recruiting, not just a single person. All other logistics can be handled by a single person.

Production

Among the organizers, someone has to be in charge of logistics, including:

— Venue sourcing and on-going communication
— Setting the date
— Attendee arrival emails
— Day-of logistics
— Recruiting

Facilitation

A strong facilitator can make or break any event, but especially one with as fluid an agenda as an un-conference. Facilitator on the day of the event. It is essential to have one strong facilitator overseeing each un-conference, to welcome attendees and provide context for the event.

How to Facilitate an Un-Conference

Here are some tips, most learned the hard way over hundreds of hours of practice in the last two years.

1. Stay Centered

Despite having spent a fair amount of time on stage, I found myself getting nervous and feeling rushed in the hours leading up to a day-long un-conference. My single biggest piece of advice for a facilitator is to arrive with plenty of time to spare so you won’t feel rushed. You are responsible for the framework within which the attendee experience takes place. As such, staying grounded and centered is the single most important thing you can provide, even though in the moment it may feel like it is more important to make sure the space is set up or the coffee is ready.

2. Don’t Participate

This one might seem odd. It can seem like the entire point of organizing an event is to participate. In my experience, doing so decreases the ease with which I was able to coordinate new sessions, lead an end-of-day wrap-up, and refocus attendees when necessary.

In my view, the facilitator of the un-conference is there in service to the attendees. I have found it gets in the way of the attendee experience to actively participate in sessions and workshops that occur throughout the day.

3. Practice

The facilitator should practice before the beginning of the un-conference. Review these guidelines for a successful un-conference and be able to describe un-conference rules from memory. Practice your welcome speech.

4. Incorporate movement

I have always found it very useful to incorporate movement into events. When we have short periods of movement interspersed with other kinds of learning, we shortcut the passive sit-and-absorb tendencies we all learned through the education system, and which have carried over into most events. Read this article on the importance of movement within events.

Conclusion

Events are a lot of work, and sometime I have learned to produce of necessity. However, in this hyperactive digital age, I’m convinced of the value of what Tony Hsieh calls “spontaneous collisions” — the value of people spontaneously cross paths. If you’re considering putting on an event of your own, I encourage you to do so. When we create a container — an event or gathering — we create the opportunity for emergent possibilities to fill the open space.

Interested in learning more about the un-conference format or the Responsive movement? Join our Future of Work mailing list or check out my new book Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization, which comes out tomorrow!

*Acknowledge: This un-conference format is derivation of Open Space Technology, founded by Harrison Ownen.

Adam Pisoni and Robin Zander – Live at Robin’s Cafe

This episode was recorded in front of a live audience at Robin’s Cafe with Adam Pisoni, co-founder and former CTO at Yammer, co-founder of the Responsive Org movement, and founder and CEO at Abl Schools.

If you missed it, I recommend starting with our first podcast episode back in 2016!

In conversation from stage and then Q&A with the audience, we discussed founding Yammer, the Responsive Org movement, and his efforts at Abl Schools to revitalize the U.S.education system. Exciting possibilities emerge when we reconsider that even behemoth institutions like the U.S. education system can become Responsive!

Adam has implemented a variety of future of work principles at Abl Schools. He has been very open about the challenges of building a diverse founding team at Abl Schools.

While there is a lot of conversation about fostering an inclusive company culture, very few Silicon Valley companies have an equal gender split between male and female employees, and even fewer have women or underrepresented groups at the highest levels of leadership.

We will explore the challenges and lessons learned at Abl Schools, and tactics any founder can apply in the effort to build a Responsive organization.

Show Notes

4:00 Intentions
7:00 Yammer and Conway’s Law
10:00 Starting Responsive Org
11:45 Theory of Responsive
13:30 Challenges of these changes
16:00 Iterate in the shape of your organization
18:00 Adam mentions:

19:15 Adams transition to education
21:30 Mindsets
24:30 Dropping out of high school
26:30 Education limitations
30:00 Diverse founding teams – podcast and article
36:15 Social emotional skills
40:00 Responsive Org tensions
46:45 Balancing success and time with experimentation
51:30 Egos and fear of failure
53:30 Integrative decision making
57:30 Value of experience
1:01:00 Diversity
1:04:45 Abl’s work in public schools
1:07:30 Measuring impact
1:10:00 Playing with boundaries of leadership and structure
1:15:00 Hiring that focuses on diversity
1:20:00 Purpose of diversity
1:24:30 VC’s reporting on diversity of companies they fund
1:26:15 Robin’s Book: Responsive: What It Takes to Create A Thriving Organization

Don’t forget to give a listen to my first podcast with Adam Pisoni, as well.

If you have enjoyed The Robin Zander Show – which just passed 50 episodes! – or benefited from any of the work I’ve done over the last several years, take a look at my new book Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization.

It is out on Amazon. I’m extremely proud of this book, and it’d mean the world to me if you’d check it out!

Beyond Violence – Fighting, Aggression and My Study of Muay Thai

I took up Thai Kickboxing towards the beginning of 2016, after several years dedicated to the study of ballet. I had wanted more Muay Thai (the formal Thai name for the sport) ever since having tried the form for a few intense weeks in 2013. 

Early 2016 was a transitional time for me. I had just quit my full-time job for the educational company Socos, was exploring what would become the Responsive Conference, and looking for something to compliment my training in gymnastics and ballet. I joined “El Niño’s,” a fight gym in San Francisco owned by professional fighter Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez. Thai Kickboxing is an unusually effective form at the intersection between sport and practical self-defense. I had never thrown a punch and wanted to try.

As is often the case when I begin a new physical practice, I quickly began to take class 3 and then 5 days a week, and to practice ‘shadow boxing’ (sparing without a partner or bag) while on phone calls or in the shower. It was fascinating to see how much the intensity of the martial form complemented the rest of my life, and I found myself wanting more.

Muay Thai is called the “art of 8 limbs” because in addition to kicking and punching, the form uses elbows and knees. In traditional Thai fights, there is a great deal of ritual, followed by some of the most abrupt violence I have ever witnessed.

I have never been prone to violence. Growing up, my mother taught me to believe that violence should always be avoided. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I considered the difference between the concepts of aggression and violence. The practice of a deliberately violent sport was far outside my experience. In Muay Thai we train with heavily padded gloves and pads, and it is still scary to throw my weight into a punch at someone’s head. Above all, my study of the form was as an exploration of fear — the fear of getting hit and of hitting another (albeit, consenting) person.

I’m not proud of everything that came out of my time practicing Muay Thai; I experienced significant downsides. And through my daily study of controlled violence I discovered a level of confidence and courage that will serve me well for years to come.

From 4th grade until early high school, I was an outsider — the “sensitive” kid in a community that valued hyper-masculinity. I sported boy-band long blond hair in defiance of the buzz cuts of my peers. I was called “girl,” which was the biggest insult any of us could think of. I remember one day in 5th grade getting invited to play basketball, only to have the ball thrown at my face, breaking my nose.

Fortunately, I grew out of those years, and it took a decade to find an appreciation of team sports and even longer to begin practicing martial forms. That today I enjoy watching professional fighters compete would have shocked my 10- or 15-year old self.

I remember the first time I felt like a predator at El Niño’s. My fight gym has some world class fighters who practice with us. Merely hearing their exhalations when they strike is enough to make me want to take a step back, and the force of some of their explosive kicks against a bag makes me cringe.

In my first month, I was paired with a fellow — call him Miguel — who was in his first week. He was a few inches shorter and maybe 10 pounds lighter than me. We were taught a sequence of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees designed to help us practice a specific type of attack and defense. It wasn’t especially challenging to hold pads while Miguel executed this series against me. When it came my turn to attack, it was clear that he was tired and bit scared. Like a tiger sensing prey, my aggression spiked and I went after him more intensely. This aggressive drive continued to spiral, until I found myself thinking — through a fog of effort — “I could kill him!” While he was never in any danger, that fleeting thought — that I was capable of causing physical harm to another — rocked me.

I don’t walk around afraid anymore. When someone attempted to steal the tip jar at my café a month ago, I had no compunction about stopping him physically. I was also surprised at how angry I became.

In August 2016 I spent a week camping with my family in the Sierras. One evening we found ourselves in a heated discussion, and I got increasingly angry to the point that I literally punched a tree. My parents were shocked, in 30 years never having seen me angry to the point of violence. I was surprised, too, and somewhat bewildered by my own actions. My bloody knuckles were a useful reminder for the next several days.

This and similar violent outbursts could be attributed to the stress of my professional life — opening the café, running the Responsive Conference — but that would be false attribution. It was tied to the daily practice of violence and aggression. When I walked away from Muay Thai in September, I left behind the intensity of the practice and the anger.

I’m glad not be practicing Thai Kickboxing for the time being, and I’m extremely grateful for the range of experiences, practice facing fear, and understanding of violence I learned.

This post was originally published on Medium. If you’ve enjoyed this article, join my newsletter for a short weekly updates with articles, stories about building culture at Robin’s Cafe, and more.

Spoiled Yogurt and Small Business Fortitude – A Robin’s Cafe Story

It was 8:00 a.m. and I had just received another urgent call. We had just sold yogurt & granola to a handful of customers, and only then did the barista preparing those breakfasts realize that all of our yogurt had spoiled.

I had been quietly drinking tea, and working my way through the morning’s email, but this urgent text threw me into action. Without bothering to shave or finish my tea, I drove to the cafe. On arriving, I found the kitchen in disarray. My manager had spent much of the opening hour sorting spoiled food, and as a result, we were already running low of coffee and other essentials.

I ran to the nearest grocery store and got yogurt, and then jumped onto the line and began preparing orders. Several hours later, I looked up to realize that I had missed several scheduled appointments, including with the City of San Francisco about permitting for our outdoor tables and chair.

This was my first month as a small business owner. In part because we opened Robin’s Café  on 3 weeks notice, I had a lot to learn about running a cafe/restaurant in those early days.

The biggest problem with running a small business (which I’ll define, as does the federal government, as any business with under 500 employees), is that the founder/owner is assumed to do the work themselves. When I walk along Mission Street in San Francisco, and day after day find the same owner/operators at their small shops at 8am and 6pm every single day, I’m amazed. I don’t have that kind of fortitude!

For some reason, there’s the assumption in most white collar jobs that the individual will eventually grow beyond their current role, but this is not held true is small business ownership. Small business owners are assumed to work within their own company, and most do.

Over the months that followed that first experience I continued to struggle relinquishing control of day-to-day operations at Robin’s Café . Obviously, I want my cafe to be a success, and simultaneously am not willing to spend 12 hours/day behind the counter. What’s the solution? It comes down the mindset necessary to love and guide employees, with the ability also to let go – of control of the outcome, and – when need be – of specific employees.

The solution that week was relatively straightforward. My manager and I concluded, together, that he wasn’t best suited for the role. Sorting spoiled goods wasn’t the reason he had signed up to help me build Robin’s Café in the first place, and we amiably parted ways.

Over the last 18 months, I’ve also grown more comfortable not treating every unknown as a crisis. If there is someone else who may be able to handle a situation – like that of our spoiled yogurt – I don’t. And I haven’t missed meetings with the City of San Francisco since.

The challenges inherent in running a small business remain. Small businesses, while a hot commodity for large companies that want to sell to us (I get regular sales calls from Yelp, Square, and many others), aren’t taken as seriously as technology companies that are trying to “scale.”

But for me, there’s nothing more meaningful that being able to brighten a customer’s day with a kind word, or help a member of my staff improve develop themselves. Robin’s Café continues to be – day to day – a more thorough learning experience than any company I’ve ever built. And we’re just getting started.

Robin’s Café is located at 3153 17th Street in San Francisco. Come by and say hello!
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I’m 29 and gave up everything to study ballet alongside high school students

I walk into the ballet studio at 3pm on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco’s Castro District. I’m 29 and have been dancing ballet 6 or 7 days each week for more than a year. At this time of day, most of peers who work in technology in San Francisco, in science at University of California, San Francisco, or as doctors or lawyers, are looking forward to getting off of work soon and enjoying what’s left of the afternoon with friends. Instead, as I step through the ballet studio doors, I am enter a world filled with 14 year old dancers who have 10 years more ballet experience and better performance to show for it. I will be taking four ballet classes this evening, along side a group of students just finishing up high school.

My name is Robin, I’m 29 years old, and I’m new to ballet.

As you might guess, I did not grow up dancing. While I have always been physically active, on my family’s 4-acre farm and on the high school cross-country team, I didn’t start dancing until college. While attending Reed College, I discovered a love for movement and sports, and quickly started gymnastics, Capoeira, modern dance, and a variety of other forms. After college I attempted to train dance but the siren call of an adult life led me to explore other paths.

In the years since I’ve maintained a physical practice that has spanned gymnastics, Argentine tango, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and many other forms. But eventually I found myself drawn back to ballet, and especially the classical pas de deux and men’s technique that I couldn’t get outside of a very strenuous pre-professional ballet program.

In the last year I have made sacrifices to accommodate the schedule I now enjoy. I haven’t been able to enjoy the perks of a well-funded technology company or attend graduate school because those wouldn’t allow time for my practice of ballet. On the other hand, I did recently finish a 10-week contract performing with the San Francisco Opera’s Les Troyens.

My goal in sharing this story is to inspire others who have similar hesitations — at any age — to explore the things we believe we are too old to begin. You are never too old to start something new. I don’t have time right now to share the entire story. I have to get to class. But if my example can serve in any way, I hope that it can show that if you want something enough, you can get there.

This post was originally published on Medium. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join my newsletter for more on fear and physical learning.

Anil Dash and the Quest to To Create Benevolent Technology

I’m really excited for this interview with Anil Dash, which was recorded in front of a live audience at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference in September 2017.

Anil Dash is an entrepreneur, activist and writer recognized as one of the most prominent advocates for a more humane, inclusive and ethical tech industry. He is the CEO of Fog Creek Software, an independent New York City tech incubator, which created startups like Trello, Stack Overflow, and Glitch.

Anil has been working to make technology more ethical and humane for a long time. He has been:
  • On the Internet since before the web.
  • On social media before that was a phrase.
  • Blogging since before the word blogging. He’s been blogging at AnilDash.com since 1999.

He’s very active on Twitter and is the only Twitter account to have been retweeted by:

  • White House
  • Prince
  • Bill Gates

This interview gets pretty intense very quickly, as we explore how technology companies are not humane or ethical, and what can be done about that.

Anil has served as an advisor to the Obama White House’s Office of Digital Strategy, and today he advises major startups and non-profits including Medium and DonorsChoose.

Enjoy!

 

Show Notes

3:00 Introduction
4:00 Commodore 64
7:30 Anil’s childhood
10:00 Culture and politics
14:00 Anil’s experiences at the airport
18:00 How to show people you are safe
21:00 Self reflection
24:30 Tech industry on race and inclusion
29:30 Implications of misrepresentation in tech
31:00 How tech is disrupting the taxi industry
39:00 Silicon Valley is developing a bad name for tech
46:00 Facebook on diversity and spending money
49:30 CEOs being held accountable for ethics
52:00 Different models for funding technology
56:00 Surveillance from data sets and advertising
1:03:00 Ethics within computer science
1:07:00 Where To From Here?

If you have enjoyed The Robin Zander Show – which just passed 50 episodes! – or benefited from any of the work I’ve done over the last several years, take a look at my new book Responsive: What It Takes To Create A Thriving Organization. It is out today on Amazon. I’m extremely proud of this book, and it’d mean the world to me if you’d check it out!

Also, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m hosting a free event with Adam Pisoni at Robin’s Cafe.

Join us for the conversation and book launch at 7:30pm tonight, Nov. 2, 2017!

Responsive – First Chapter and a Taste of Things to Come

How To Use This Book

My career path has never followed a traditional route. My first job out of college was as a management consultant, with a gig as a circus performer nights and weekends. Of course, I couldn’t tell the consulting company that I was in the circus, but I also couldn’t admit to my fellow circus artists that I wore a suit to work. I am not content to live in such a binary world. I want to live in a world that encourages the full expression of every individual, and I am dedicated to building it. Improving the ways we work seems like a great place to start.

Responsive is a compilation of tactics and accompanying short stories about innovators on the front lines of the future of work. It is designed to be a choose-your-own-adventure exploration into how we work in the modern era, the approaches and perspectives employed by high performing organizations, and what makes those methods so effective.

While this book can be read cover to cover, I have designed it so that you can jump to those sections most interesting or relevant to you right now. Ultimately Responsive is intended as a reference guide as much as a road map—a resource you can return to again and again as you dive deeper into Responsive and the future of work.

Some operating principles for the Responsive organization

…as the pace of change accelerates, the challenges we face are becoming less and less predictable. Those practices that were so successful in the past are counter-productive in less predictable environments. In contrast, Responsive Organizations are designed to thrive in less predictable environments…

— Responsive Org Manifesto

The world is changing more rapidly than we have ever seen before in human history. According to 2012 estimates, members of the S&P 500 were expected on average to remain in the index for only eighteen years, compared to the sixty-one years they might have expected in 1958. The anticipated lifespan of companies has dropped dramatically over the last few decades.

We also see this in the rise of the ridesharing industry—Lyft and Uber, among others—which was enabled by the proliferation of smartphones. This new industry seized a large part of the taxi market, which previously had been considered stable, if not untouchable. Similarly, the rise of home sharing—and most notably, AirBNB—was made possible by the hyper-connectivity of the Internet Age, and disrupted the traditional hotel industry.

Another example of the changing nature of the business landscape is the 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon.com. The day the acquisition was announced, Whole Foods stock rocketed almost 30%, while the value of competitors in the grocery business dropped precipitously. The presumption, it seems, is that disruption of the grocery industry is now inevitable.

There’s a broad lesson in the emergence of ride sharing, home sharing, and the Whole Foods acquisition—which is that any organization or industry is liable to be shaken up at any moment. The goal of every company in the 21st century should be to become resilient, flexible, and have the capacity to respond to inevitable change. Industries, today, can change with unprecedented speed.

The Will to Change

Desire is the first, and probably most important, element needed for organizations and individuals to change. An organizational leader interested in changing their company will face a myriad of questions and decisions about how to initiate that change, but without first establishing the willingness to change across the organization, any future implementation will hit roadblocks.

Each organization will differ in how pervasively they want to introduce Responsive principles—and that’s okay! It may not make sense to implement every facet of Responsive into your organization. As we’ll discuss in the pages to come, incremental changes can lead to big impacts, while still keeping employees and customers on board. Adapting your Responsive approach to fit the needs of your organization is essential. To quote former president Barack Obama, “Change is never easy, but always possible.”

Adapt to the Needs of Your Organization

One of the most exciting and intriguing challenges presented by work in the 21st century is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to focus on the specific needs and the ecosystem within and around your organization.

What environment does your company operate within?
What factors are changing that have the most significant impact?
What aspects of your organization are most ripe for disruption?

We’ll explore all of these questions and many more as we make our way through a variety of stories and examples of organizations implementing new and different ways of working.

Rethink Technology

While technology isn’t the specific focus of this book, it is woven throughout. The ability to communicate near-instantaneously across the globe enables collaboration and remote work in unprecedented ways. As we consider how we organize and work together in the modern world, we can’t overlook the influence of technology.

Change Structures as Needed—Even When it’s Hard

We’ll hear more about General Stanley McChrystal and his aide de camp Chris Fussell (Chapter 4, How We Organize), who together implemented what has come to be called a “team of teams” approach to military strategy during the Iraq War. This approach was counter-cultural to the command and control operations of the U.S. military at the time. But as Chris describes in his book One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, they were trying to defeat a 21st-century threat with a 20th-century playbook. Al Qaeda terrorists were spreading propaganda using YouTube and formulating plans via Internet forums, which translated into quick action. Meanwhile, the U.S. military was hobbled by its traditional command and control decision-making processes.

It took a complete rethinking of how the Navy SEALs structured their decision-making to devise a new hybrid hierarchy/network model. This model empowered the people closest to the action to make the moment-by-moment decisions necessary to meet the challenges of a new and agile enemy.

Responsive doesn’t argue that change is easy, only that it can offer benefits while addressing the limitations of previous systems.

Tackle the Gaps of Legacy Practices

We’ll also get to know Adam Pisoni (Chapter 4, How We Organize, and Chapter 9, Inclusion and Diversity), who co-founded Yammer, the Responsive Org movement, and is now founder and CEO of the education company Abl Schools. Abl Schools is changing how principals and administrators relate to their teachers and allocate resources. The idea is to help schools better manage their day-to-day operations to be able to achieve their educational goals.

The education system in North America is still reliant on an assembly-model way of teaching and thinking. Consider the structure of most schools: there are grades, segregated by age; there are alarm bells which tell students when to move from one classroom to the next, and the most common form of learning is to sit passively and absorb lectured lessons.

More subtly, subjects get taught according to a linear progression. Math education in the United States, for example, moves from algebra to geometry, to advanced algebra, to precalculus, to calculus. This sequence trains students to think about math in a way that only entrenches a hierarchical, linear view of how the world works. Simply put, schools in the 21st century are still designed to produce people to work in factories.

Exciting possibilities emerge when we reinvent behemoth institutions like the U.S. education system by experimenting with new approaches that leverage technology and use innovative models of collaborating. What is necessary is the willingness to experiment.

Plan for Incremental Change

It is more efficient to navigate organizational change by utilizing small, systematic adjustments than by making large, dramatic changes. Consider a ship plotting its course. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to navigate by charting a path and then checking for accuracy several days, or even months, later. Most likely the ship will end up far off course. It is more effective to estimate the desired direction and then make incremental adjustments along the way.

As Steve Hopkins, co-founder of Responsive Org and VP of Customer Success at Culture Amp, notes, organizational design “happens in the millions of micro-decisions that people make.” Several stories in this book highlight how navigating by incremental changes can be highly effective. Small actions may feel ineffectual, but those steps can add up to a marked change in culture and operations.

Focus on People

One of the most exciting developments in forward-thinking companies is an emphasis on people—that is, the human experience of work. Humans are no longer seen as cogs in the machine of business. Some of this is due to shifts in bargaining leverage: it is easier than ever for employees to change jobs or create enterprises of their own. Younger generations just now entering the workforce expect positive work environments and purpose-driven companies. Organizations themselves recognize that their success increasingly calls for creating cultures and environments where their employees love to work.

As I’ll describe in later chapters, Adam Pisoni is emphasizing an inclusive company culture through his efforts to build a diverse team at Abl Schools. At Culture Amp, Didier Elzinga is relinquishing traditional assumptions about compensation to improve his company Culture Amp. And the founders of Buffer are embracing salary transparency to ensure equal treatment of its employees.

I can’t wait for you to read Responsivewhich comes out on Monday.

I hope you’ll join us for the launch party and a Responsive Salon with Adam Pisoni, 7pm on November 20th at Robin’s Cafe in San Francisco.

I have lots of exciting things planned in the months and weeks ahead, so stay tuned.

Most of all, though, thank you! I would never have published this book without the support of you – my readers and listeners.

How Charles Best Created DonorsChoose.org – A New Kind of Non-Profit

Charles Best (@CharlesBest), is an American philanthropist and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding platform for K-12 teachers in US schools.

Charles launched the organization seventeen years ago out of a Bronx public high school where he was teaching. Since then, DonorsChoose.org has become one of Oprah Winfrey’s “ultimate favorite things” and was named as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World” by Fast Company. For three years, Fortune magazine has also named Charles one of its “40 under 40 hottest rising stars in business.”

I’ve gotten to know Charles over the last year, and every time we dig a bit deeper in conversation, I’m impressed with how systematic he has implemented so many Responsive practices.

In this interview, we dive into how Charles built one of the first crowd-funding non-profits, and hustled his way to prominence. He shares surprising findings about where and why donors give to classrooms and what he hopes to accomplish with DonorChoose.org in the long run.

I hope you enjoy this interview!

 

Show Notes
2:30 Stephen Colbert’s engagement with DonorsChoose.org
7:00 New ways of funding for nonprofits
9:00 Connecting with celebrities
13:00 Core model is the same after 17 years but always experimenting
17:30 Charles’ decision to become a teacher
20:30 Challenges for Charles
22:30 DonorsChoose use of data and transparency
26:30 Founding story of DonorsChoose
31:00 Finding personal connections for donors
34:45 Charles’ and Robin’s passions
37:45 Humility as an organizational core value
41:15 Experiments within the organization
45:00 Charles’ enthusiasm
49:45 Charles’ book suggestions:

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov
Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Learn More:
DonorsChoose.org

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No Call, No Show: Robin’s Cafe Memorial

If you’ve been reading the series about Robin’s Café, you know that the cafe got off to a rough start. It was chaotic and frantic and terrifying, but those feelings were put into perspective when we lost our early employee in a tragic accident. This post is in honor of Frank.

The first week of opening Robin’s Café was an unmitigated mess. Opening Rush, combined with enthusiastic Design for Dance attendees who all wanted to support the cafe, created a bonafide lunch rush on our first day with a full menu. In those early days we were a team of 4, and were often making up recipes on the spot to cover orders. The original employees and I often look back on those times after tough days and realize that no matter how terrible things get today, it will never be as chaotic and insane as those first days were.

I honestly don’t remember much of it, but going back and even looking at the numbers from those days is nuts. We desperately needed additional staff. Monday or Tuesday of our second week, with a hiring sign posted on the window and our usual morning rush waiting for their coffee, Frank dropped off his resume.

I didn’t even notice him at first, he quietly dropped off his resume and left while I was elbows deep in an exploding keg of cold brew. If he’d stuck around long enough, I would have hired him on the spot — we needed workers so badly. I later realized that it was just a mark of his professionalism and knowledge of the industry to realize that we were at a busy time, and not to linger. As soon as I mopped up the lake of cold brew, I gave Frank a call. I was struck by his playfulness and openness as well as his professional experience. He had been working in Lake Tahoe in real estate and catering, and recently moved back to the city, he was already a chef at a popular BBQ restaurants across town, he was just looking for a second gig so he could work mornings. I invited him into the cafe to meet in person.

Frank arrived at the same time as our weekly bread shipment and immediately started talking shop. He knew our supplier and their product well, he started talking about his favorite loaves and uses for our day-old bread. By the end of the meeting, I had discovered that he was also a B-boy, and a member of a troupe in town, and he had a working recipe for a version of bread pudding, an ideal use of our day old crusts.

As April turned into May, the cafe finally began to fall into a routine. After two weeks of practically living at the cafe, I finally felt able to take a day off, and let the cafe run without me. I made it halfway through my day of “relaxation” before I swung by and checked up on everything. Frank was working the counter, and as I confided some of my feelings that I had abandoned everyone, he simply laughed and said, “Oh, Robin! Your presence here is felt.” I asked what he meant and he said that he noticed when he came in that I had come by and made new chai, because it was on his list of things to do in the morning, he said that customers were asking and commenting as they came through and talked to each other. “You’re doing the best you can,” he said, “and people notice.” I left, excited to enjoy my day off.

On May 20th, Frank was scheduled to open the cafe. Around 9:30, I got a call that Frank hadn’t shown up. Was he sick? I had no message from him. I emailed and called him, but his phone kept going to voicemail and I got no response. On Friday I sent him an email titled, “Are you Still Alive?” We had all assumed that he was a no call, no show — a fairly common occurrence in service — and that Frank’s cut contact was probably due to job abandonment for whatever reason. Still, it didn’t seem like him, and I wanted to make sure he was okay. By Sunday, I was really worried, and turned to Facebook to see if I could find him, or find someone who knew him. I found his brother, and friended his with my question. I heard nothing for another week.

Frank’s brother called me out of the blue seven days later. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” I remember him saying, “My brother is dead. He was hit and killed by a train.” He went on: “I want you to know how happy he was to be working at the cafe.” I remember that Sunday vividly.

At the cafe, we remember Frank as someone who was always thrilled to be in contact with our guests. Checking in with him after his first week of work, Frank had said to me, “I’m great! I got to serve customers all day! Normally I don’t get to see them; everyone is so nice!” We were all touched by his delight in people, and his delight in our community. He taught me how to price out recipes, and had endless creative ideas about how we could use our leftovers to delicious advantage. One day a woman came up to me out of the blue, and exclaimed that she had never had such delightful service, and how glad she was that we were in the neighborhood. When I asked who had served her, she described Frank, primarily by his smile.

In how Frank showed up to work, in his professionalism and kindness, knowing him and losing him reminds us what we are working for at the cafe, and astounds us with the possibilities of a daily contribution. Last month, we brought back the bread pudding in his honor.

This article was originally published on Medium. It is the third installment in a series about opening of Robin’s Café, a cafe, gallery, and event space in the Mission, San Francisco and exploring what it means to create a Responsive company.

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How to Make a Holacracy* with Skim Milk

What does it mean to create a Responsive coffeeshop?

This is Part II in a series about Robin’s Café, a coffeeshop at 3153 17th Street, San Francisco. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading Part I.

Espresso at 3am

Raul Torres (right) discussing community during our first #ResponsiveCoffee meet-up at Robin’s Café

I woke up in a cold sweat. Glancing at my clock it was 3am and I had been asleep for all of four hours. I tried to sift through the thoughts brought on by the nightmare, “What if the customers laugh at me?” “What if the health inspector comes in?” “What if I literally freeze with terror and can’t do anything for my customers 0r employees?” As someone who really doesn’t have nightmares, this was a foreign experience. Why had I turned down a $200/hour consulting gig to fill my spring with sleepless nights and stress dreams? I made myself a cup of Pu-erh, headed into the still-dark cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District, opened the shop by myself for the first time, and waited. It was finally real, and I was totally terrified.

How we are building a Responsive coffeeshop

Building teams is a lifelong passion. That’s what I would have been doing at as a consultant, but in opening a cafe there was an incredible opportunity to be able to do so from the ground up.

I was first introduced to Responsive Org in 2015, and the principles dovetailed well with much of my own work and thinking. The Responsive Org manifesto — co-written by my friends Steve HopkinsAdam PisoniMike Arauz, and others — outlines different tensions that most organizations experience when making the transition from a self-interested industrial-style assemblage machine to an organization focused on the consistent gentle evolution of both its product and its people.

More Predictable <-> Less Predictable

Profit <-> Purpose
Hierarchies <-> Networks
Controlling <-> Empowering
Planning <-> Experimentation
Privacy <-> Transparency

Learn more at Responisve.org

All of these tensions are present at Robin’s Café, yet the balance between hierarchy and network stands out as an essential struggle. I know very few people who would rather be overlord to a team of underlings than work alongside a truly competent colleague. Certainly, I prefer collaboration. And besides, we are all ultimately responsible for our own behavior. In a hierarchical workplace, when a boss walks in and employees change their behavior, it is still the employees who choose to act differently. The real question is whether each of us does our work from a place of fear or the conscious desire to contribute.

Responding to the Team

Inspired by The Ready’s OS Canvas, I recently outlined which aspects of cafe operations are non-negotiable, and which I consider to be up for discussion. We have some clear policies (you are welcome to peruse our Employee Handbook) and some other core tenets that I believe in strongly like Community, Service, and Responsiveness. But I was surprised that there are only a few non-negotiable aspects to the business — things like taxes, health code, payroll, and safety. There are not many rules, and those that do exist are very specific and frequently required by law. I consider everything else about the running of my business up for negotiation. Pay, vendors, menu, target audience and even the contents of the Employee Handbook — all up for discussion.

Recently, by a majority vote, we changed our hours to stay open an additional 15 hours/week. That’s what the cafe staff felt was important, what would serve their desire for more hours, and what we all agreed would better serve our community and customers. The more we are able to make decisions like this, the more people feel empowered to work as a team, and work in a way the really works. We are all more invested in what we are doing, which in turn impacts how we show up for our customers. I hope to build a cohesive team that continues to thrive together for a long time. And whatever we built here, it is my hope that these people — my team — will develop confidence and skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Day 4 of operations, April 30, 2016

Better Coffee?

Months ago, when I sat scared in the dark, I was questioning every move that I had made leading up to opening the cafe. Now that a season has gone by, we’re beginning to get the hang of a new way of working. We’re definitely not a perfect system, as countless mistakes have shown, but we’re not trying to be one. We are striving to become a Team of Teams, a system that is in the process of becoming more skilled at responding to our own mistakes and finding solutions that stick. I can see the difference that building a team has created, see customer’s reactions to the vibe, and hear stories about the difference it has made in the lives of my staff. I won’t be the judge of whether it actually improves the lattes, but to iterate on how we work, and watch simple decisions affect my team, our customers, and beyond? That is worth more than anything.

*We aren’t building a Holacracy (but here is more on the concept). By way of comparison, I’m very intrigued with the Team of Teams model. Founders of both of these models will be in attendance at the Responsive Conference.

This article was originally published on Medium. It is the second installment in a series about opening of Robin’s Café, a cafe, gallery, and event space in the Mission, San Francisco.

Visit the cafe at 17th and Shotwell in San Francisco or join our newsletter for weekly updates.

Robin’s Cafe — An Origin Story

Logo thanks to SpatialK and Code Switch Labs

On April 27, 2016 I opened a cafe. And since opening Robin’s Café the most common question I receive is, “Have you always wanted to own a cafe?”

Honestly, it had never even occurred to me until 30 days before I signed the lease. For years now I’ve juggled a variety of gigs in very different industries. The closest I came to a “day job” was my work as first employee at the education tech. company Socos, and even then I was dancing ballet and performing with the San Francisco Opera. My other gigs have included a series of un-conferences, consulting on building more resilient teams, and directing the first annual Responsive Org conference.

Opening a cafe seems like a crazy decision given that I haven’t worked in food service since I bussed tables in 2004 — my first job upon moving to San Francisco. But by the end of this last April I was shocked to find myself the owner of a cafe in the Mission and the primary employer of 7 people. What’s more, I opened the cafe on 3 weeks notice.

David Leventhal presenting at Design for Dance 2016 #DanceTech

Impetuous as it may seem, the cafe was certainly no accident. I’ll be telling the unlikely story of Robin’s Café over the next several weeks, but for now, here’s how it all began:

In 2014, BJ Fogg invited me to speak at Design for Dance, a conference which BJ had founded to explore the benefits of human movement. I fell in love with the amazing collaborative spirit of the event, and offered to help however I could. Less than a year later I was offered the directorship, and then ownership of the Design for Dance conference. ODC, the largest modern dance company on the West Coast, presented at Design for Dance in 2015, and when I was looking for venue for the 2016 conference they offered their theater located in the Mission District, San Francisco. Equipped with a 175 seat theater, studios, and a conference room, I was also excited for the cafe on site which could easily provide coffee and lunch to my conference attendees.

On March 15, 2016, I sat down with the program manager at ODC to finalize details for the Design for Dance conference in April. These plans had been several months in the making, so we were just finalizing minor details, confirming the number of chairs we would need and so forth. With not a clue what was in store, I asked who to contact at the coffee shop to make sure that they would have enough coffee for my conference participants. The program manager looked at me and said, “Well, actually the coffee shop is closing, so you are out of luck with that.”

Serving cappuccino for the first time since I was first trained as a barista 15 years earlier.

I was completely floored. The cafe was one of the reasons I had originally booked Design for Dance to take place at ODC — to have my attendees get food and beverage throughout the event was an incredible perk. We spent a few minutes chatting about the cafe, but since it was independently run, I wasn’t able to get much more information.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the cafe’s closing that day. Yes, I was without a coffee for the conference, but I was also struck by what a lost opportunity it was. Who would abandon the chance to create a community hub in the center of San Francisco? More importantly, I thought, “Why would I pass up that chance?”

Obviously, there are a myriad of reasons not to open a cafe. For all the many reasons that 90% of small businesses fail. Minimum wage in San Francisco makes it hard for a small business to stay afloat, and even so those wages may not cover the increasing cost of rent in the Bay Area. With no prior experience, I’d have to learn a completely new industry with no time to prepare.

To afford the equipment being offered for sale by the old cafe, and the start-up costs associated with a new business, would cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000. Not to mention that I’d also have to stop — or at least pause — most of my other projects, some of which were proving lucrative.

And all of this came just six weeks prior to the biggest conference I had organized to date!

The lively lobby of Robin’s Café during Design for Dance 2016

That afternoon, I emailed the executive director of ODC, asking about the cafe and its availability. The next day, I walked around the neighborhood to see what it was like and who was there. It was easy to see little ways to create something stable and unifying in a changing neighborhood. I ended the afternoon in the cafe talking to a longtime employee of the cafe. He stated — definitively — that the cafe was already being sold. I emailed and called my contact at ODC again to double-check this claim, with no response. Five days later, I had no new information, and moved on. There was no point in wasting energy on an impossible dream when there was already so much work to do.

Two weeks later, in the thick of preparations for the conference (now just 3 weeks away), I finally heard back from ODC by way of an email forwarding me on to the cafe’s then-owner Matt. I met with Matt the following next day, just to hear what was going on with the cafe’s new owners and was greeted by Matt and a full inventory list, with prices. The sale hadn’t gone through after all, and the cafe was mine if I wanted it (and could find a way to pay).

Our customer’s favorite food — the best-selling Avocado Toast

The next two weeks went by in a complete blur. I was working on the conference during the day, getting up at dawn to train as a barista (not to mention hiring staff and figuring out payroll and vendors in between), and then going home to refine a new lease with ODC at night. It would absolutely not have been possible without the somewhat baffled support of friends and family, the full co-operation of the former owner Matt and most especially the enthusiasm of ODC.

Somehow — bafflingly — I raised $40,000 in two weeks from family and friends for the down payment on the cafe equipment. This also meant opening bank accounts, getting a business license, health inspection, transferring a liquor license, and all of the other essentials that make a food business run. Matt generously agreed to a sales arrangement that enabled me to rent all of the equipment for the cafe for the first month, and then purchase outright the things that we really needed after the conference and re-opening were over.

Three days before Design for Dance — on April 26, 2016 — I signed a new lease with ODC to open Robin’s Café. April 27th was opening day.

The night before we opened, I woke up at 3 in the morning, unable to sleep. Eventually I got out of bed and went to the cafe. I got there around 4:00 am, set up, and cleaned until we opened for business at 8:00 am.

It was an insane experience. I was hosting speakers for the conference, people from out of town were borrowing my car, and I was running around in circles trying to be in several places at once. At one point, I actually conducted a driving staff interview, talking to an applicant in the passenger’s seat on the way to pick up supplies (He got the job when he magically talked the SFPD out of towing my car).

The day we opened, we served coffee, tea, and avocado toast and by our second day of operations we were serving a full menu to the neighborhood.

Opening a small cafe in the intersection of so many different aspects of Bay Area’s community has been — and continues to be — a powerful learning experience, full of generous and inspiring people, reflection, and unexpected growth. It’s an experience that has transported me, and left me feeling more fulfilled in my work than I ever have before, both within the cafe and beyond. I’ve had people at the startup next door come in to get coffee every day. And it’s incredible to think that they’ll remember getting coffee at their job five years later because the baristas and the experience we created for them were so great.

Opening the cafe has become an opportunity to create community in a whole new way. It is the opportunity to touch the lives of my employees and then the individual people they interact with on the ground each and every day. Being a part of someone’s daily routine is an chance to be a part of their daily habits, and to create an environment for those habits to grow. Having daily positive impact on employees and customers alike in a small, sweet, and humble way makes such a huge difference. Robin’s Café is an unexpected journey, but an incredibly empowering one.

This article was originally published on Medium. It is the first installment in a series about opening of Robin’s Café, a cafe, gallery, and event space in the Mission, San Francisco.

Visit the cafe at 17th and Shotwell in San Francisco or join our newsletter for weekly updates.

Pam Slim on Capoeira, Building a Body of Work, and the Value of Small Business

 

My guest today is the award-winning author, speaker and small business strategist Pamela Slim (@pamslim).

I first began following Pam’s work with the publication of her first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation, and have watched with enthusiasm as she has transitioned over her career across several very different industries and classes of business.

Her latest, bestselling book, Body of Work, gives a fresh perspective on skills required in the new world of work for people in all work modes, from corporate to nonprofit to small business.

As the founder of K’é in downtown Mesa, Arizona, she now supports small businesses through classes, networking events, and virtual programs.

As the owner of a small cafe in the San Francisco Mission, I was very interested to hear Pam thoughts on why small business is not only necessary but also a great place to build within, with enormous potential.

We discuss a trait that Pam has embodied throughout her career, which I think of as being a lifelong learner or autodidact – and what Pam calls being a multipotentialite.

Pam will be speaking at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference on Sept. 18-19th 2017 in NYC. I hope you enjoy this interview and hope you’ll consider joining us!

Show Notes

03:00 Capoeira
06:30 Lessons learned from Capoeira
09:30 Pam’s move to Mesa, Arizona – Pam mentions the film “Dolores” by Peter Bratt
14:15 Small business is sexy
18:30 Tactical learning
21:30 Work mode
27:30 Different aspects of self
29:30 Pam’s time in college studying in Mexico and Columbia
33:00 Having multiple career choices – Pam mentions How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick and her TED Talk
36:00 Body of Work in practice
38:30 Characteristics of Pam’s Incubator
41:00 Building networks
44:00 Growing small, innovative businesses in small, unexpected locations
49:15 New cities becoming hubs
52:00 Enjoying the process
55:00 Pam’s physical practice
57:45 Learn more about Pam:

Pam’s Website

2nd Annual Responsive Conference

58:30 Parting thoughts

If you enjoyed this episode with Pam Slim, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference this September 18-19th in New York City. 

 

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!

You can also keep track of the podcast and all of my projects via my newsletter. Just visit RobinPZander.com and click Newsletter.

Jenny Blake on Fear, Physical Routines and Learning to Pivot

 

Today’s guest is my friend Jenny Blake (@jenny_blake) an author, career and business strategist and speaker who helps people organize their brain, and build sustainable, dynamic careers. She is the author of PIVOT: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One and led a workshop at the 1st annual Responsive Conference in September 2016.

Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients pivot their career or business.

Jenny is brilliant at building simple systems which delegate responsibility and automating decision making. We break down what that means early on in the interview! and she shares a lot of specific personal examples.

We discuss her regular yoga practice, and how a physical routine have helped her build a sustainable career.

Jenny and I also discuss fear, a theme embedded throughout her book PIVOT. We discuss where fear has impacted her business and her personal life, and how she thinks about tackling those.

Whether for an organization or person looking to PIVOT, or just for tactics for simplifying decision making – and life – I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jenny Blake!

Show Notes

02:30 Finding systems
06:15 Explaining systems and delegation
12:15 Jenny’s flow and new book PIVOT: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One
14:00 Robin’s flow
17:15 Writing
20:00 Jenny’s trends for writing: Toolkit
22:30 Jenny’s family
25:30 Jenny’s desire for teaching and business as a child
28:00 Jenny’s physical practices
29:30 Fear
33:00 Jenny’s relationship
36:00 Fear in physical activities: muay thai and surfing
42:30 Personal responsibility:

Loving What Is by Byron Katie
The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

44:30 Jenny’s coaching
47:30 What’s next for Jenny:

Building Pivot

50:30 What’s next for Robin:

2nd Annual Responsive Conference
Robin’s Cafe
Leadership Retreats

53:00 Find Jenny:

Pivotmethod.com
Toolkit – for authors
Pivot Podcast


If you enjoyed this episode with Jenny Blake, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference this September 18-19th in New York City. 

 

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!

You can also keep track of the podcast and all of my projects via my newsletter. Just visit RobinPZander.com and click Newsletter.

Didier Elzinga on storytelling, leadership and building Culture Amp

Didier Elzinga (@didierelzinga) is the CEO & Founder of Culture Amp – the world’s leading Culture Analytics platform.

Didier was previously the CEO of Rising Sun Pictures (a leading Hollywood visual effects company) and founder of Rising Sun Research (winner of a Technical Academy Award). What is particularly interesting is what Didier learned about leadership, building a culture first company, and storytelling in his growth from 6th employee to CEO of Rising Sun.

In this interview we discuss what being a “culture first” company really means, and some of the tactics Didier and Culture Amp have tried. Culture Amp has implemented a “Team of Teams” style of management, which Didier describes. He shares why Culture Amp doesn’t pay its sales people via variable compensation, which goes against standard sales doctrine. Didier was also the first person I heard using the phrase Diversity Debt, which he likens to the more commonly understood Technical Debt discussed throughout the technology industry.

I’ve known Didier for 2 year, and in that time been really impressed both with the company he leads, and his own leadership style – which is thoughtful, experimental, and bold.

 

Show Notes

3:30 How Didier and his wife met
7:30 Work life blend
12:45 Culture first
16:15 Focusing on the people
17:45 Didier’s time working on Hollywood films
21:30 Doing the work you enjoy
25:00 Going in with your eyes wide open
27:30 The start of Culture Amp
32:00 Didier’s unique value
35:30 Storytelling
40:00 Diversity debt
45:45 Removing sales commission
52:45 Team of teams
56:30 Didier’s suggestions to building a cohesive workforce
59:00 Books mentioned:

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal
The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker
Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Poems to Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony Holden

1:00:00 Find Culture Amp

Culture Amp’s Website
Culture Amp’s Blog

If you enjoyed this episode with Didier Elzinga, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive ConferenceMy previous podcast guest, Steve Hopkins, will be telling the story of Culture Amp’s “Team of Teams” implementation at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference this September 18-19th in New York City. 

 

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!

You can also keep track of the podcast and all of my projects via my newsletter. Just visit RobinPZander.com and click Newsletter.

 

Megan Poe Teaches the Most Popular Class at NYU – on Love

Megan Poe is a psychiatrist and interpersonal psychoanalyst  who teaches one of New York University’s most popular and fastest-growing classes. Her topic? Love! At this year’s Responsive Conference, she’ll explore with us what it takes to live, love, and work well.

In addition to her professorship at NYU, Meg has a private practice in New York City. Meg’s mission is to help people feel most present and alive in their creative flow and inner life. She specializes in helping adults create more-intimate, fulfilling relationships in their lives and work.

In this interview we cover a ton of ground –  why Meg’s class at NYC is so popular, the definition of self-love, and how Meg thinks about love both chronologically over a lifetime, and in different roles – mentorship, familial love, romantic love, and more. We discuss Megs background as a doctor, but also her exploration into sound healing and kundalini yoga – and how these influence her work today.

I really enjoyed this wide ranging conversation and can’t wait to see her onstage at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference. I hope you enjoy today’s interview with Megan Poe.

 

Show Notes

3:00 Meg’s class on love at NYU
9:30 Collaboration
13:00 Teams and projects that bring people together
16:30 Dream analysis
21:30 Kundalini yoga
24:45 Kundalini rising
28:30 Working with students
33:30 Love that is not regarded as love
37:45 How Meg began looking at love
42:30 Self acceptance
48:00 Expanding our understanding of love
50:30 Lack of self love
52:45 Tools for self love
1:01:30 Mixing science and art
1:06:00 Med school
1:10:00 Find Meg:

Meg’s Website
2nd Annual Response Conference

Books Meg mentions:

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch
The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron

 

 

If you enjoyed this episode with Megan Poe, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference, which will be taking place this September in New York City.

 

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!

Srini Rao and the Art of Being Unmistakable

My guest today, Srini Rao (@unmistakableCEO), is an author and the founder and host of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, where he’s interviewed over five hundred creative people. Former guests on the show include Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Seth Godin. His first, self-published book The Art of Being Unmistakable got the attention of media personality Glenn Beck, sold over 15,000 copies and hit the “Wall Street Journal” bestseller list.

My conversation with Srini starts and ends with surfing, which we both have a passion for, and forms the outline for his new book Unmistakable. Srini credits surfing with the launch of his podcast and the Unmistakable brand, and using surfing analogies to teach the principles of creating unforgettable work. We discuss behavior change, and how incremental steps add up over time – whether in a physical practice like surfing or in building a brand or business. We discuss the art of the interview, and what Srini has learned about people – and about learning – from conducting over 500 interviews.

I hope you enjoy this interview with my guest, and host of the Unmistakable podcast, Srini Rao.

 

Show Notes

3:00 Surfing
9:30 Srini’s new book: Unmistakable: Why Only is Better than Best
12:30 Behavioral change through consistency
16:30 Deliberate practice
18:00 The art of the interview
21:00 Curiousity and presence
25:30 Make a podcast entertaining by asking the right questions
31:00 A.J. Leon
33:00 The Compass: A Creator’s Guide to Instigating Something that Matters
34:30 Greg Hartle and The Art of Being Unmistakable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in the Universe
39:30 Glenn Beck
46:00 Misinterpretations
48:00 Habits: The 8-Step Daily Routine That’s Enabled me to Write 100’s of Articles and 3 Books
52:30 Behavior shifts that start from physical movement
55:00 Scary surfing moments
57:00 The challenge of scale
58:00 Books:

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor
The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit by A.J. Leon
How To Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky
The Fear Project by Jaimal Yogis
Saltwater Buddha by Jaimal Yogis
All Our Waves Are Water by Jaimal Yogis
Barbarian Days by William Finnegan
The Art of Being Unmistakable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in the Universe by Srini Rao
Unmistakable: Why Only is Better than Best by Srini Rao

Find Srini:
Unmistakable Creative Website
Unmistakable Creative Podcast

 

If you enjoyed this interview with Srini Rao, you might also enjoy my interview with BJ Fogg, PhD on behavior change and much more.

Could you do me a favor? If you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, I would really appreciate a review on iTunes. Reviews help others find the podcast, and more importantly let me know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Thank you!

Diversity, Inclusion, and Company Culture with Jennifer Brown

My guest today is Jennifer Brown (@jenniferbrown), author of the recently published book “Inclusion.”

Jennifer runs Jennifer Brown Consulting, a global consultancy that working with Fortune 500s to improve their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Even more than her work in D&I though, I’ve been impressed with Jenn’s enthusiastic immersion in all of the challenges to do with the future work.

Jennifer has been a frequent attendee of many of my Responsive events, and presented at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference in 2016.

This is a wide ranging two-sided conversation about diversity, what makes an effective company, the role of the body at work, and much more.

I hope you enjoy this interview and discussion with my friend Jennifer Brown.

Show Notes
02:00 How Jennifer and Robin met
05:00 Openness without judgement
08:30 Inclusion without self-blame
10:00 Robin’s Responsive Unconference
12:30 Educational systems
14:00 Robin’s background in gymnastics and the circus
18:00 Physicality in life – Reference to Amy Cuddy
21:00 Innovative technology that tunes into bodies and self awareness
26:00 Robin’s Cafe
29:30 Leading with love
32:00 Robin’s work with kids with autism
34:30 Building responsive companies and holacracy
40:00 Risk, privilege, and emergent organizations
44:00 Diversity
48:30 The challenge of time when hiring
53:30 Inclusiveness and gender equality
59:00 Jennifer’s background as a singer
1:02:00 Transitioning into leadership development
1:05:20 Where to find Robin and Jennifer:
Jennifer’s book Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change
Robin’s 2nd Annual Responsive Conference
The Robin Zander Show Podcast
Robin’s Website
Robin’s Cafe
Jennifer’s Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
Jennifer’s Website
Jennifer Brown’s Podcast

 

If you enjoyed this episode with Jennifer Brown, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference, which will be taking place this September in New York City.

Chris Fussell: Former Navy SEAL shares how leaders build a Team of Teams

My guest today is former Navy SEAL and New York Times best-selling author Chris Fussell (@fussellchris).

Chris is the co-author of Team of Teams and was a speaker at the 1st Annual Responsive conference in September 2016. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Chris over the last year.

Alongside General Stan McChrystal, Chris runs the McChrystal Group – an organizational design consultancy that works with companies all over the world to do in industry what Stan, Chris and the US Military did during the Iraq War. In the book Teams of Teams Stanley McChrystal and Chris outline how they took the special operations branch of the US Military – a stereotypically bureaucratic organization – and transformed it into a adaptive, agile system.

Chris’s new book is called One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams. In it, he outlines the tactics and tools they used during the Iraq War, and are now teaching in larger organizations. In reading the book, I’ve enjoyed tactics like their multiple-thousand person daily video conference, and the emphasis placed on how to build an underlying narrative throughout an organization of diverse and distributed teams.

In this interview, Chris and I also dig deep into what it meant for him to be a Navy SEAL, his upbringing and family, how he and his wife maintained contacted their relationship while he was deployed overseas, and how he thinks of an emphasis on what he calls “physical readiness” happening in cycles throughout life. Chris and I went pretty personally into a lot of aspects of his life in the service that I’ve always wanted to ask about.

Over the time I’ve known Chris, I’ve been really impressed. He’s unflappable, but also humble. He presents solutions to some of the most complex problems facing organizations today, but also talks candidly about challenge and what is need for transformation – whether a single person changing their mindset, or an entire organization changing their operating system.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. Here is… Chris Fussell.

Show Notes

3:30 Team of Teams and the military
8:30 Navy SEALs
11:30 Chris’s upbringing and training
14:30 Going through BUD/S
16:30 Early experiences as a SEALs
19:30 Being humble and good at listening
26:00 Chris’s remote relationship
33:15 Physical practice
39:30 Outlets
42:30 Closing down emotion
46:30 Transition back to family life
50:00 One Mission
57:30 Operations and Intelligence Forums

Books

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams

For more from Chris

If you enjoyed this interview with Chris Fussell, you might enjoy his presentation at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference. Sign up for the Responsive Conference newsletter here.

Doug Kirkpatrick on The Morning Star Company and Building Self-Managed Organizations

Doug Kirkpatrick is the author of Beyond Empowerment: The Age of the Self-Managed Organization.

He spent the first season of his business career in the manufacturing sector, principally with The Morning Star Company of Sacramento, California. In addition to being a world leader in the food industry, the Morning Star Company is known for being a completely self-managed organization, which we discuss in the interview.

Doug now engages with the Morning Star Self-Management Institute and other vibrant organizations and leaders to co-create the future of management.

I asked Doug to come on to the podcast because he has more experience than most with non-hierarchical organizations and I appreciate the philosophical underpinnings that shape his thinking.

Connect with Doug Kirkpatrick on LinkedIn

Continue reading “Doug Kirkpatrick on The Morning Star Company and Building Self-Managed Organizations”

Wikipedia, Culture and Poetry with Gayle Karen Young

My guest today is Gayle Karen Young (@MissGayle), the former Head of Culture and Talent at Wikimedia, which is the parent company for the Wikipedia. Gayle shepherded a company which grew to 300 employees serving half a billion users each month! We discuss her role, and what made it possible for her to support both company employees and the much larger Wikipedia community around the world.

Since leaving Wikimedia in 2015, Gayle has returned to her practice consulting practice and now works with a variety of companies and executives to create dynamic organizational cultures in which people are empowered to do their best work.

I have rarely been as moved by the careful choice of words as I was throughout this conversation. I was  impressed with Gayle’s depth of thinking about human development applied to organizations.

Gayle was one of our speakers at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it!

Show Notes

1:00 – 4:00 Gayle’s interest in organization design
5:00 – 9:00 Wikimedia Foundation
9:00 – 13:00 How the Wikimedia Foundation is organized
13:00 – 15:30 Diversity within the team
15:30 – 23:00 Gayle time joining Wikimedia and the Wikipedia blackout
23:00 – 25:30 Leading with consciousness
25:30 – 28:00 Buddhist monk influence –
28:00 – 30:00 Robin’s podcast with:

30:00 – 35:00 Organizational dynamics created by leader’s shadows
35:00 – 38:00 Creating open feedback loops and a growth mindset
38:00 – 41:00 The mythic and the mundane of leadership
41:00 – 44:00 The power of poetry and understanding the spirit of an organization
44:00 – 48:00 Encyclopedias and editors
48:00 – 52:00 Why Gayle left Wikimedia
52:00 – 56:00 What Gayle is working on now
56:00 – 60:00 Working from cities versus isolated islands
60:00 – 102:00 Robin’s life
102:00 – 110:00 Embodiment

Gayle’s Recommended Books:

Connect with Gayle:

On the web: http://www.gaylekarenyoung.com/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gaylekaren
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/MissGayle

Erica Seldin: Diversity at August, Radical Transparency and Safety at Work

Erica Seldin (@eseldin) is one of the founders of August Public, a new kind of consulting company that believes today’s most valuable work depends on teams of people who work well together, enabled by organizations purposefully designed to embrace uncertainty.

We cover a wide range of tactics that August has implemented since their inception in August of 2015. We discuss the principle of transparency and why they share their salaries to the curious public. Erica shares what August is doing internally to foster safety at work – not a term often applied to the workplace. And we talk at length about they are doing to build a remote company – the strategies they are implementing to foster collaboration and communication for team members across time zones and continents.

You might also enjoy this conversation, which occurred on stage at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference. Erica shares learnings from August’s transformation effort inside a Fortune 100 company.

Show Notes

03:00 August
6:00 Growth of the company
9:00 Video over audio
12:00 Remote work and office culture
14:00 Physical space
18:00 Diversity
22:00 Inclusion
26:00 Safety at work
33:00 Leadership within August
34:00 Encouraging more ownership
38:00 Erica’s background at the mayor’s office
42:00 Finding the HOW to get things moving forward
45:00 Going back into public service
51:00 Transparency (Link to Buffer and August transparency dashboards)
55:00 Learn more:

 

Alexis Gonzales-Black: Zappos, Holacracy, and How We Work in the 21st Century

alexis

“This is what the future of work looks like – we just have to figure out how to talk about it.”

My guest today is Alexis Gonzales-Black, an early advocate of the Responsive.org movement. I had heard Alexis praised as an incredibly innovative thinking on “the future of work”, and it was certainly my experience that she brings enormous enthusiasm and insight to bear on the topic of organizational design.

Alexis co-led the rollout of Holacracy (which is a system of self-governance) at Zappos – the world-famous shoe company. She describes what is was like to be in the room when the CEO Tony Hsieh walked in and declared that the company needed to operate more like a city. Alexis now works in organizational design at IDEO.

I’m really impressed with the work she as done to date, and I hope you enjoy this interview with Alexis Gonzales-Back.

Show Notes

00:00 – 4:30 Turning Zappos into a city
4:30 – 6:30 Working under Tony
6:30 – 9:30 Holacracy at Zappos
9:30 – 13:30 What is Holacracy?
13:30 – 17:00 Transition from recruitment to implementing Holacracy
17:00 – 21:00 Alexis’ history that lead to her interest in self-management
21:00 – 25:30 Responsive.Org as an identity
25:30 – 29:00 Responsive tensions
29:00 – 36:00 Hierarchy
36:00 – 38:00 Education
38:00 – 40:00 IDEO

Learn more about Alexis:
LinkedIn
Thoughtful Org

Joel Gascoigne, Buffer CEO interview at 2016 Responsive Conference

joel

Today’s guest – I’m thrilled to announce – is Joel Gascoigne – the co-founder and CEO of the social media company Buffer.

This interview is an experiment, recorded live at the Responsive Conference on September 20th, 2016. I’ve admired Joel and his company for several years, as they have paved the way for a new kind of company. As we discuss in this interview, Buffer exemplifies the exploration at the forefront of the future of work.

Buffer has transparency is a wide variety of usual areas. Employee salaries are known, based on specific and published criteria. The company’s revenue are published regularly for all to see.

I admire Joel’s ownership, his willingness to experiment and own up to his mistakes. Recently Buffer did away with all managers, and we explore the consequences in this interview. Joel describes running a “future of work” company as a series of experiments, where it is his responsibility to allow the pendulum to swing first away from traditional models of leadership, then towards them, to find new operating models best suited to his company.

Whether you are a face of social media, or think that new forms of communication are troubling distraction, Buffer and this interview with Joel has a lot to say about how companies can and will organize in the 21st century. Enjoy!

Show Notes

3:00- 4:00 Live podcast at the Responsive Conference
5:00 – 8:00 Buffer’s experimentation with transparency
9:00 – 12:00 Finding balance as a company among pendulum swings
12:00 – 15:00 Self-management
15:00 – 18:00 Fully distributed company
18:00 – 21:00 Naivety and optimism led to experimentation
21:30 – 25:00 Managing a completely remote workforce
25:00 – 28:00 Sacrifices and strengths of being a founder/CEO
28:00 – 30:30 Budgeting and company retreats
30:30 – 34:00 Impact on company culture after not doing company retreat
34:00 – 38:15 Facing the reality of their mistakes when laying off employees
38:15 – 41:15 Risks of transparency at Buffer
41:15 – 44:30 What’s the next big experiment?
44:30 – 47:30 Challenges in implementing self-management
47:30 – 48:25 Contact Joel:
Buffer Website: buffer.com/transparency
Blog: Open.buffer.com
Twitter: @joelgascoigne
Joel Website: Joel.is