Tag Archives: Brian Bedford

What Can Cricket Teach Us About Culture?

Today’s guest blog features Brian Bedford, co-founder of MillerBedford Executive Solutions.

I know cricket isn’t high on most US sports lovers’ lists, but the England national team management recently faced a dilemma we often see in our consulting practice. It concerned a star batsman, Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen is one of world cricket’s most charismatic players, with great statistics, and capable of outstanding brilliance when in the right frame of mind; he can be a game-changer, but he can also be petulant, difficult, self-absorbed, and on occasion, the opposite of a team player, with all the disruption that creates.

So the dilemma was, should the national team management keep selecting Pietersen, and keep his potential to produce a match-winning performance, or put the team culture first, and get rid of the disruption he caused?

The English sports media gave lots of advice, and it was all over the map; on the one hand, the advice was “You have to find a way to keep him in the fold; he’s a superstar, he can win a match for you single-handed, and has done many times, so you have to find a way to keep him.” On the other hand, the advice was “You have to put the team first, and you can’t allow one person to behave in a way that damages the team, and get away with it, no matter how good he is.”

We see the same dilemma all the time in our consulting practice with businesses, so often that we have a name for it; we call it the “Good ‘Ol Joe” syndrome. We describe this in our book, “Culture Without Accountability-WTF? What’s The Fix?” Many organizations have a “Good ‘Ol Joe” – Joe is the guy the CEO can always rely on to come up with the extra sales the company needs at the end of the quarter, and keep Wall Street happy. Trouble is, Joe is a huge disruption; he treats people like dirt, screams and yells, ruins meetings, and employees go out of their way to avoid him, to the point of leaving to get away from him. But he gets a pass on his behavior, because the CEO feels he’s indispensable. Who knows what damage he creates outside the company with customers or others?

It’s the same decision English cricket faced. What would you do?
For us, the decision is clear; the company, and the team, must come first. If you want to establish a winning culture, the behaviors needed to establish that culture are of critical importance. Once you start making exceptions, it’s a slippery slope, and the company or the team can fall apart.

English cricket felt the same way, and Pietersen is gone. In the short term, he’ll be missed, but in the long term, the team will be better. Same with the “Good ‘Ol Joes”; they either conform to the required behavior standards, and change their behavior, or take the consequences. If you want your culture to stick, the needs of the culture must always come first.

You can learn more about corporate culture at Brian Bedford’s course on SoundviewPro: Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success.

Fix the Culture!

Today’s guest blogger is Brian Bedford, co-founder of MillerBedford Executive Solutions.

How many CEO’s value the culture of their organizations as the main driver of the company’s success? How many really take the time to define what the culture should be, cultivate it, nurture it, and the most difficult part, make sure all employees uphold it? We’re talking way beyond posting Core Values on conference room walls and on the website. To answer our question, we would say far fewer CEO’s are treating the culture with the respect it deserves.

Core values should be the guiding principles for all employees to follow when making decisions and deciding what actions to take. However, employees’ behaviors and actions don’t always match the stated core values. And these actions which deviate from those expected – even small ones – if left uncorrected can lead to the slippery slope of culture decline and later to a company’s demise.

Here’s a good example of what we are talking about. GM’s Core Values are stated as: “Integrity, Individual Respect and Responsibility”. Now let’s consider their actions…we’re sure many of you have followed the woes of GM’s ignition-switch recall. Under certain conditions, the faulty switch caused the car to slip from the “run” position to “accessories” which was possibly linked to 31 crashes and 13 fatalities. An engineer testified that GM made a “business decision” not to replace the $2 part. So what went wrong? On GM’s website you see that employees are trained annually on “Winning with Integrity”. The right words are in place, and employees were trained? But where was the accountability or the “teeth” in the process to ensure the words drive each employee’s actions? We would bet that no one individual set out to use a defective part that could cause so much damage, but rather, slowly, gradually actions were taken, decisions were made, behaviors chosen that eroded the core values. What became allowable or acceptable was not upholding the Core Values they stated. No one “called” people on their misgivings or gave them feedback to correct their wayward behaviors.

Compare this to the recent success of Ford. In the April issue of Fortune magazine, Ford’s CEO Alan Mullaly was given credit for “saving the company without resorting to bankruptcy or bailouts by doing what previous leaders had tried and failed to do: change Ford’s risk-averse, reality-denying, CYA-based culture.” Last year, Ford earned $7.2 billion in profit – far more that GM or Chrysler. You can bet Mullaly did more than posting the new Core Values on the walls to get that huge organization to change their ways. You can’t change a culture and keep all the same people, so we’d bet some of the key positions have new incumbents too.

Here’s another CEO who is taking culture very seriously. After hearing a major investor’s most important advice, “Don’t [mess] up the culture (only he didn’t use the word “mess”), Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, sent an email to his team. That email has now gone viral – you may have seen it…in Working Life called “Don’t [Mess] Up The Culture”.

In that email to his team he instructs that their next team meeting will be dedicated to Core Values, and prior to that meeting he wanted people to know why culture is important. Here’s one of the things he said, “By upholding our core values in everything we do. Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. We also have the power, by breaking the values, to [mess] up the culture. Each one of us has this opportunity, this burden.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Mary Barra, GM’s new CEO, needs to fix an entrenched culture-and quickly-if she is going to succeed. Maybe she needs to start with a similar email to her team.

You can learn more about corporate culture from Brian Bedford and Julie Miller in their Soundviewpro course Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success.

Can You Change the Culture with the Same People in Place?

A guest blog from Brian Bedford, co-owner of MillerBedford Executive Solutions.

Much of our work as international consultants concerns business culture. Sometimes we’re asked by companies to establish and align a new culture to support the strategic direction of the business; and sometimes we’re asked to help change the culture of a business, because the CEO and the leadership team believe that the existing culture is hindering progress.

Culture change is significantly more challenging than creating a culture from the outset of an organization. It takes years to establish a particular culture, so it’s unrealistic to expect change overnight. It takes focus, commitment, clear expectations, consistent application, and regular feedback.

But the most important thing we’ve learned about culture change is that you can’t expect it to happen if all the same people remain in place. Relationships build up over the years, as do loyalties, old grudges, and resistance to change. As the old saying goes, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs”; similarly, you can’t change the culture of an organization by simply making statements, and leaving all the old guard in place. The old culture will win every time, and spit out those who desire change with the greatest of ease. Culture is built on behaviors; unless clear expectations are set as to how behaviors are required to change, and unless people are held accountable for getting in line with the changes, nothing will happen.

Take a look at a couple of examples to see what we mean. The first is General Motors. GM appointed Mary Barra as the new CEO, and there’s been a lot of talk about the need for culture change. However, Ms. Barra is a 30+ year veteran of GM. We don’t doubt her good intentions for one moment, but she’s a long-term part of the culture, and she doubtless has a lot of the loyalties we talk about above. So take a look at the structure of GM; how many senior executives have gone? When the recent troubles over ignition switches took place, exposing a culture of cover-up and negligence, how many senior heads rolled? A few middle level people, perhaps, but no-one at senior executive level. “The lawyers didn’t do their job”, we heard. Who do the lawyers report to, pray tell? Yes, you can give Ms. Barra credit for defending her people, but to do so at the same time brings into question how serious GM is about culture change, or whether it’s simply PR. Unless there are major changes at senior level, and clear expectations are set for behavior change, the existing culture will always win, and all the old behaviors will remain the same.

Now, compare that to Charlie Strong, the new football coach at the University of Texas. We’re not naïve enough to compare the challenges of running a football program to the challenges of running one of the world’s biggest companies, but the differences in approach are instructive. First, Mr. Strong cleared out all the old coaching staff, and brought in new people on whom he could rely to make the culture and behavior changes he was looking for. Second, he defined the new culture clearly; “Honesty; no stealing, drugs or guns; treat women with respect”, and added his 4 T’s-“toughness, trust, togetherness, teamwork”. To prove his point, seven players have been kicked off the team to date, and a further three suspended. This man is serious about culture change, and about the accountability that goes with it.

Back to where we started. Culture change requires clear expectations of behavior change, and personal accountability for those changes. Any guesses as to which organization will be more successful? UT or GM?

You can learn more about accountability-based culture at Brian Bedford & Julie Miller’s course Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success.

New Courses Added Today

Our library of free video training courses is receiving a few additions today. The 4 new courses are all taught by business experts and cover topics such as employee engagement, developing customers for your startup, getting into the entrepreneurial mindset, and making accountability a critical part of your company culture. Read the full descriptions below.

We’re really proud of our current library of courses and are excited to be adding new courses regularly. This round of new courses is the third expansion of our library, and we have many many more additions planned. Stay tuned!

Solving Today’s Employee Engagement ChallengesLes Landes


Les Landes asks a pertinent question to any organization. “When it comes to delivering on the promises you make, does your organization know how to walk the talk?” This course will provide you the tools to empower your employees to deliver on any organizational promise through the ImaginAction System.

Customer Development for StartupsBob Dorf


Why do more than 95 percent of all startups in North America die? Serial entrepreneur Bob Dorf will give you all the tools you need to avoid the startup curse. This high-energy, no-nonsense course will keep your entrepreneurial feet firmly rooted in reality.

How to Develop an Entrepreneurial MindsetFaisal Hoque


You don’t need to start your own business to be an entrepreneur. Author and serial entrepreneur Faisal Hoque believes a true entrepreneur is someone who pursues an opportunity with limited resources. In this course, he gives you the skills to develop thrive in a world of change.

Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for SuccessJulie Miller and Brian Bedford


Accountability is NOT an initiative. It requires a specific set of practices that help you weave it into the fabric of your organization. In this course, you’ll learn how to install and maintain a culture of accountability.