In The Real World

Each month, “In The Real World” takes a look at a few stories from the other parts of our lives – sports, pop culture, music, world affairs, etc. – and extracts lessons we can apply in the business world. This month, we’ll look at what might motivate someone to retire at 28, how automation will continue to stoke fears, and what we can learn from the Royal Family drama across the pond.

Culture is Queen: What business can learn from The Duke and Duchess of Sussex opting-out of the Royal Family.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are calling it quits. No, they’re not getting a divorce. To the contrary, they apparently like each other so much they decided the royal life isn’t for them and they wanted to run off into the sunset. They’ve decided to relinquish their royal duties and seek their own financial independence, sparking shock (and outrage) across the globe. I don’t claim to know the ins-and-outs of the Royal Family and every factor leading up to this decision, but one thing is blatantly obvious. Meghan Markle, in particular, has taken a beating in the press and tabloids since joining the family. The abuse would be taxing on anyone and in this case, it reached a peak where the only option is to remove yourself from the abuse. That’s what leaders need to understand about organizational culture. Culture is single-handedly the most important factor between mediocre and great teams. Your people cannot thrive in toxic environments and eventually the good ones will opt-out if you don’t do anything to fix the toxicity. Make sure you’re focusing aggressively on creating the right culture and cutting out the cancer, when needed.

Luke Kuechly retires at 28, reminding everyone money Isn’t everything.

Luke Kuechly, LB for the Carolina Panthers and former Defensive Player of the Year, is hanging up his cleats after “only” 8 years in the NFL.  His retirement caught many by surprise given he’s led the league in tackles over the last 8 years and made the Pro Bowl in 7 out of 8 seasons. Luke’s decision to pass up millions of dollars a year doing his “favorite thing in the world to do” only showcases the value money can play in motivation.  In business, organizations and leaders typically view monetary rewards and bonuses as the driving motivator in the workplace.  The reality is money often plays a role, but you can’t put a dollar amount on personal satisfaction, happiness, health and meaningful relationships.  Luke walking away from millions so he can enjoy the latter should be a reminder to all organizations to focus deeply on creating a culture where the intrinsic motivators can thrive.

The machines take over and iHeartMedia lays off thousands; highlights the importance of forecasting automation in the workforce

iHeartMedia and iHeart Radio announced massive layoffs in January, citing advancements in AI and technology as a driving factor in their attempts to modernize the company. It’s the perfect recipe to stoke fears amongst employees in all industries: jobs once held by ‘people’ getting restructured, displaced, or all-together eliminated by ‘machines.’ Personally, I’ve been in this spot before. It’s unnerving and my sincere hope is the people displaced land on their feet quickly – or perhaps experience it as a blessing in disguise. But employees also need to avoid looking at these technological advances with fear. The people who try their best to embrace technology and even, as in my case, intentionally work themselves out of a job, will likely find new opportunities in areas less impacted by automation. We can’t save the world from automation. Point blank – some jobs need to and will be automated 10 years from now. If you find yourself in one of those positions, use the time now to dive deep in the technology, learn how to work through implementations and parlay that experience into something new.

Major League Baseball (MLB) hammers Houston Astros for sign-stealing scandal. It’s proof cheaters never win (well, sort of…..)

Let’s go back to the sports world where allegations recently arose the Houston Astros were using technology to steal signs and relay those messages to their players during their 2017 World Series title run. The practice undoubtedly gave the Astros an extreme competitive advantage. One of the Astros bench coaches, Alex Cora, parlayed the World Series win into a head coaching job the following season with the Boston Red Sox, where this sign-stealing practice continued and helped the Red Sox take down the title in 2018. MLB has since opened an investigation and, while not complete yet, penalties are starting to roll out. The most interesting piece for the business world? It’s not the penalties for cheating (which are significant). It was the actions taken by the Houston Astros. Houston fired their GM and head coach immediately, despite clear evidence to support the fact both the coach and GM did not know of, or participate in, any of the sign-stealing practices. They were fired because it happened on their watch. It’s a lesson in strict accountability for leaders. In leadership positions, you’re ultimately responsible for the actions of your team – the good and the bad. You better be versed in all facets of the business and have a way to ensure you stay in the loop consistently.

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