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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You can also keep track of the podcast, Robin’s Cafe, and all of my projects via the newsletter.

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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

How Not to Join a Cult with Bob Gower

bob-gower

Bob Gower (@bobgower) has one of the most eclectic career paths of anyone I know. I met Bob after he published the article “From Sex Cult to C-Suite” and I was so intrigued by the range of things he had done in his life that I reached out to him. We have been collaborating ever since.

In this interview we dive into what does it mean for humans to be fully mature and how can organizations support human development.

Bob is a part of the curation team and a speaker at the upcoming Responsive Conference, taking place on Sept. 19-20th in Berkeley, CA.

Show Notes

1:30 – 5:30 Adulting
5:30 – 9:30 Why sustain a business?
9:30 – 14:00 Maturity, values, and purpose
15:00 – 19:00 Bob’s eclectic background
19:00 – 22:00 Organization applied to people and organizations
22:00 – 25:00 Messes that work
25:00 – 29:30 Experiencing the world while also faking it
29:30 – 34:00 The cult
34:00 – 36:00 Trying something new
36:30 – 40:00 Cult-like behavior elsewhere
40:00 – 44:30 Freedom after leaving something
44:30 – 47:00 Good Company
Bobgower.com

For another podcast episode discussing The Future of Work, listen to this interview with Mike Arauz:

And if you’ve enjoyed the Robin Zander Show, stay up to date with goings-on and get weekly tactics via the newsletter.

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Meredith Haberfeld on Fostering Leadership and Building High Performing Organizations

Meredith

My guest today, Meredith Haberfeld (@merhaberfeld), is the co-founder of Think Human, a coaching company that has worked with a wide variety of organizations – including, among many others, SoulCycle, Spotify, and Flat Iron Health – to foster leadership and build high performing organizations.

Meredith looks at things from a unique viewpoint bridging a scientific, business savvy, and soulful perspective. Since we first met over coffee half a year ago I have been increasingly impressed with Meredith, and how she carries throughout her professional and person lives.

I had the opportunity to spend time with Meredith’s family on a recent trip to New York, enjoyed late night conversation on human development and organization design, and saw first hand the quality with which Meredith treats everyone: using questions to foster each person towards growth.

Meredith will also be a speaker at the 1st Annual Responsive.org Conference in the Bay Area on September 19-20th.

Show Notes

2:00 Meredith’s personal story
5:45 Think Human
9:00 3 lenses: Science, business, and soulfulness
11:30 Coaching and training
15:00 What differentiates the people that work at Think Human
18:00 Building the right team
21:00 Shifting an organization
25:00 Rewire your brain
34:00 Meredith’s experience with SoulCycle
37:00 Having a clear vision
41:00 Building wins for everyone
44:00 Meredith’s vision as a parent
47:00 Meredith’s purpose
Reach out to Meredith: http://www.think-human.com/

Adam Pisoni on Founding Yammer, Responsive Org, Abl

Adam-Pisoni (1)

My guest today – Adam Pisoni (@Adampisoni– is the co-founder and former CTO of Yammer, a business communication software company which sold to Microsoft for over 1 Billion dollars.

I met Adam last year as a part of the Responsive Org community, which Adam co-created.

Adam’s new company A.b.l. is the next step in building resilience and responsiveness at work and beyond. We discuss how A.b.l. is striving to impact children’s lives through changing how schools allocate resources, which drive the day-to-day operations of student’s learning.

Throughout this conversation – and all of Adam’s endeavors – I’m impressed with his playfulness in the face of big and challenging issues. Among other examples, Adam is constantly considering the diversity of his own company. Tech start-ups are predominantly straight, white men. Diversity in Silicon Valley is a hot button issue and Adam tackles it head on, voicing his strong opinions, recognizing his own privilege, and being willing to be proven wrong.

I couldn’t be more pleased to have Adam on the podcast. He’s a tested and proven entrepreneur – which I take to mean just a starter of things.  His efforts to start the Responsive Org movement have paved the way for many of my own events and community organizing. Adam is thoughtful, curious, and playful in the face of challenge. I hope you enjoy this rambling conversation and interview with Adam Pisoni!

 

Quick note: If you enjoy this conversation with Adam Pisoni, check out the 1st Annual Responsive.org Conference, happening in the Bay area, on September 19th and 20th. Adam will be a speaker, and it is going to be an incredible event. Check it out here!

 

BOOKS DISCUSSED

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankindby Yuval Noah Harari

 

SHOW NOTES

2:30 Always Be Learning (A.b.l)
4:00 Origin of the education system and the need to update
9:30 Adam’s life growing up
12:30 Adam’s perspective on privilege
17:00 Being a contrarian at Yammer
21:00 Naming the Responsive Movement and predicting its future
27:30 Working in large (Yammer) vs. small (A.b.l) organizations
30:00 Building a diverse workforce from the start
34:30 Hiring at Robin’s Cafe
40:30 Moving beyond the comfortable
45:00 Compassion for other people
48:45 Robin’s key lessons from opening the cafe
50:30 Breaking of hierarchy stereotypes
56:00 Robin’s Cafe – 3153 17th Street on 17th and Shotwell
            Monday – Fri 8am – 5pm
            Saturday – 9am – 4pm

 

FIND ADAM

Twitter: @Adampisoni 
Linkedin: Adam Pisoni 
Website: ABLschools.com

 

Join Adam, me, and a host of amazing speakers at the 1st Annual Responsive.org Conference. Hope to see you there!

Steve Hopkins – Coffee Connoisseur, Yammer, Culture Amp and Building Responsive Organizations

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My guest today, Steve Hopkins (@Stevehopkins), is one of the original signators of the Responsive.org movement. In this interview we discuss Steve’s history and his current work with the start-up, Culture Amp. We cover his experience building Yammer alongside our mutual friend, Adam Pisoni, why he moved to San Francisco from Australia, and his love of coffee.

We also touch on parenting and sports, to better understand how to manage people and work as a team.

Continue reading “Steve Hopkins – Coffee Connoisseur, Yammer, Culture Amp and Building Responsive Organizations”

The Doctor of Hip-Hop Blake Brandes on the Benefit of Random Encounters, Hip-Hop for Good, and Dropping the Beat

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Blake Brandes (@BlakeBrandes) is a motivational speaker, hip-hop educator, and music producer.  He was the recipient of the Marshall Scholarship, one of the most competitive postgraduate awards in the world, which he used to complete his Master’s and PhD on hip-hop and global youth cultures at the University of Kent in England. While he was completing his PhD, Blake was also running a music production and artist management company, where he produced Top 40 radio songs and played over 75 shows across Europe and the US.  Blake completed a 3 year term as chief program officer at Champions for Kids, where he helped design service projects and corporate partnerships that resulted in over 1 million children receiving needed resources across America. Blake was also recently invited to audition for America’s Got Talent, where he received a standing ovation from a crowd of 3,000 people in Madison Square Garden.

Blake is co-founder of the personal development company, Motivational Millennial, and co-host of the Motivational Millennial Podcast. He serves as Chief Innovation Officer for the benefit corporation, Simple Giving Inc., and he runs a hip-hop motivational speaking business as President of Decrypt Productions. Blake is currently finishing a motivational hip-hop album called Remix Your Reality, and he also runs a blog called The Up Beat, where he publishes rap videos and blog posts on motivational topics like overcoming challenges and balling out of control.

Continue reading “The Doctor of Hip-Hop Blake Brandes on the Benefit of Random Encounters, Hip-Hop for Good, and Dropping the Beat”

Physical Culture with Cody Fielding

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D. Cody Fielding is a professional coach who has worked in the fields of fitness, wellness, and performance enhancement for more than 20 years. I met Cody in 2008, shortly after moving to San Francisco, just as I began my own career as a personal trainer, and he had a profound impact on my own thinking about movement and the body.

We conducted this interview in Cody’s private studio in the Mission District of San Francisco. Cody’s backgrounds includes the study and practice of biomechanics, posture, nutrition, evolutionary biology, psychology, and physics. He has worked with and studied the works of everyone from Joseph Pilates, Moshe Feldenkrais, Scott Sonnon, Mel Siff, and many others.

I’ve been consistently impressed with Cody’s diligence and examination of how to improve performance, but also the subtler elements that make a peak performer. Once, over coffee, Cody interviewed me with a quality of complete focus that contributed to my own desire to learn to conduct interviews. Similarly, over the course of one memorable hour Cody taught me how to throw a football, which is something I had never done previously. His thoughtfulness and thoroughness made learning to throw a football effortless, and for the first time, fun.

Cody and I delve pretty deep into what he calls “physical culture,” which is to say the study and practice of movement and the human body. I have learned an enormous amount about performance, movement, and the body from Cody and I hope you enjoy this interview.

 

Continue reading “Physical Culture with Cody Fielding”

The Life of a Circus Artist and the Art of Hand Balancing with Cory Tabino

Much of what I know about hand balancing I learned from today’s guest – professional acrobat Cory Tabino. To celebrate I’ve re-released my book How To Do A Handstand and just this week I am giving it away for free. Visit fearlesshandstands.com for your own free copy.

Now, onwards with the Show!

I’m thrilled to share today’s guest – Cory Tabino – who is a professional circus performer and acrobat. Cory was my first hand balancing instructor and paved the way for much of my performance career since.

Cory has been a professional circus artist for more than 20 years, having done performances ranging from sideshow to Cirque du Soleil. He is full of hilarious stories about the life of an acrobat, and he shares them throughout the show.

Back alley surgeries?
Stage fright?
Training with Marines?

This episode has it all!

Continue reading “The Life of a Circus Artist and the Art of Hand Balancing with Cory Tabino”

Steve Scott: Authority on Publishing, Writing 60+ Books, and More

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My guest today, Steve Scott (@stevescott1), is an authority on self-publishing. Steve is an extraordinarily prolific writer, author, and Internet entrepreneur.

Steve has published 60+ books on Amazon, several of which made the difference for me to publish my first book start writing and publishing. I first learned about Steve Scott from an interview he did on the James Altucher podcast in 2014, and have Steve to thank for the publication of my own first book “How to Do a Handstand,” which went on to be a National Bestseller in Japan.

Continue reading “Steve Scott: Authority on Publishing, Writing 60+ Books, and More”

LATE NITE ART, Experience Design, and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone with Adam Rosendahl

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Adam Rosendahl (@Adam_Rosendahl) is the founder of the global creative events company LATE NITE ART. Adam and I reconnected at last year’s Design for Dance conference, but as it turns out also went the middle school and played soccer together as kids. In the decades since Adam has been a high school teacher, volunteered with a homeless shelter, and led Outward Bound trips which are leadership with at risk youth in the Mississippi bayou.

Along the way, Adam began leading creative, collaborative pop-up events, and now runs the company LATE NITE ART, which creates creative, collaborative, stylish and also playful events for corporate audiences. Adam details whatLATE NITE ART is and how it works early on in the interview.

Continue reading “LATE NITE ART, Experience Design, and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone with Adam Rosendahl”

Founding Google’s Dance Program with Anna Botelho

Anna Botelho Head Shot for NYC

Today’s guest, Anna Botelho, founded Google’s Dance Program, and told her story at the 2015 Design for Dance conference. She will be speaking at the 2016 conference on April 28-29, 2016. But before we dive into her introduction I want to share a special opportunity. Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 Design for Dance conference. And today only tickets are 50% OFF.  Join us for 2 days in April to learn from and collaborate with our amazing presenters.

Join us for only $99!

 

Now, onwards with the show… Anna Botelho was a keynote at the 2015 Design for Dance conference and founded Google’s Dance Program. She is now in the middle of building out Google’s entire Arts Program. I think you’ll enjoy this interview.

Continue reading “Founding Google’s Dance Program with Anna Botelho”

Michael Krigsman on CxO Talk, Photography, and What Makes a Compelling Story

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Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman), founder of CxO Talk, is internationally recognized for his work as an industry analyst and commentator, and a man of many interests. A writer, interviewer, speaker, and professional photographer,  Michael finds ways to share his passions across a wide variety of media.

We discuss Michael’s interviews at CxO Talk as well as his love for photography. He shares what he has learned about openness and storytelling after hosting hundreds of live interviews and we discuss the benefit of a creative practice. Whether for practical insights into how technology impacts everyday life, or for insight into what makes a compelling story, please enjoy this interview with Michael Krigsman.

Show Notes

2:00 CxO Talk = Chief [blank] Officer
3:15 First guest: Guy Kawasaki
6:20 Solving for complexities in large company
10:30 The story of the elephant
12:30 Positive change = innovation
13:00 Innovation as defined by John Michael Schert
13:30 Michael and Stephen Hoover (Xerox PARC) discuss innovation
17:30 Average Is Over by Tyler Cowen
18:00 Practical tools from Michael’s interviews: Be open, listen carefully, and pay attention
19:00 Characteristics of these people: bright, curious, passionate, competitive, focused
22:00 Michael’s photography
23:00 Equipment doesn’t matter, the photographer does
27:00 Photography = recognizing shapes, spatial relationships, color, light, gradation but can be very visual and emotional rather than intellectual
35:00 The writers habit: write for a few hours every morning
45:00 Michael’s favorite books: The Heart of Unconditional Love  by Tulku Thondup. Also, Chögyam Trungpa.
47:00 More about Michael:

For another podcast episode on innovative entrepreneurship listen to this interview with founder of Entrepreneur on Fire John Lee Dumas:

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