12 Coach Culture a move to a new city. Does anyone want to uproot their family, take their children out of school, maybe place their parents in an eldercare system, just to go off somewhere and possibly fail in this new challenge? If I know the company is not going to have my back, why would I take that risk? No—better to fight to stay in the “experts” quadrant. Unfortunately, this experts-only mentality can breed contempt. It makes for employees who are not only unexcited about coming to work, but they’re bringing down the community around them. It’s a fear-based environment where people are afraid to ask questions or even for clarification. They want to keep their head down. Once, one of the VP’s of a company I worked with casually asked an engineer for information. Very casually, as in, “Gosh, I wonder how much that costs? How many of our customers have that?” It was a think-out-loud, pondering type of question, not a heavy, top-priority question. But the poor engineer who heard him didn’t know that and didn’t feel comfortable asking to clarify. This was a Friday at 3:00 PM or so, and the engineer had no choice but to take this request as gospel. He couldn’t question, he couldn’t push back, so he went all in. He spent forty-two hours that weekend running reports and researching. Then, when he delivered all the info to the VP, the response was, “Oh, cool.” It was almost inconsequential. That engineer never asked what the priority was. He never asked if spending an extra weekend and a couple thousand dollars to come up with that information was essential; he just did it. And how do you think he felt afterward? Certainly not motivated or connected.
Introduction 13 FEAR: A LESSON FROM VOLKSWAGEN A fear-based environment does more than just wear down employees. ‘In September of 2015, VW- A German Automaker, “admitted they installed on-board computer software designed to cheat on government emissions test in nearly 500,000 of its four-cylinder ‘clean diesel cars’ sold in the U.S.” (Associated Press and Reuters). The top executive in the U.S. told lawmakers that this was not a corporate decision but actions taken by software engineers. Whether that statement is wholly accurate or not, is irrelevant, what is relevant is that VW had created a culture that compelled employees to create a workaround to meet performance objectives. A culture created by an executive’s directive to achieve goals. As of April 2017, VW was expecting the first rulings in the legal cases resulting from the scandal. After the initial admission in September of 2015, the lawsuits expanded to four, with 47 people indicted with some duplicates. The number of cars affected by this scandal included 11 million. How did that happen? Often, when something like this happens—and it frequently happens with less widespread and visible results— it isn’t just the accident of one person. It’s part of a team effort with multiple contributors. Some executive order must have come down, some decree demanding, “Make it happen.” In a fear-based culture, people are so desperate to keep their jobs that they’ll comply. It’s a rationalization process: If we don’t get our efficiency to forty miles a gallon, then thirty people in our department are going to get laid off.” Or maybe, “If I don’t do it, somebody else will— and then I’ll get the ax and they won’t.” “What’s your version of this story?”