Work Life Harmony

The notion of work-life-balance is nonsense. It implies that our work lives and personal lives are disjointed and function in constant opposition to each other. It was crafted as a protective counterbalance for people oppressed by their employers.

The two are not siloed. You can not prevent your work life from invading your personal life any more than you can stop your personal life from pushing against your work life. They are connected. You are connected.

I prefer the notion of work-life-harmony. In an ideal setting, they collaborate rather than compete. Work should be an outlet for us to express our personality and creativity. It should be the catalyst for our best work, not a barrier to our natural desires. This allows us to find opportunities for overlap and pursue alignment. Rather than focusing on keeping score, we focus on bringing our best self.

Actionable Insights

Practically speaking, our full time team members work 40 hour weeks. In an average week, those hours should fit nicely between Monday and Friday. That’s not to say there won’t be late nights or an all-hands push to launch a product. But to account for that, we add plenty of freedom and flexibility each step along the way.

Rather than optimizing for social norms, I prefer pushing people to optimize for their best self. When they bring their best, everyone wins. It’s worth taking time to think about…

  • What time works best to start your day?
  • What is required for you to focus?
  • How much sleep do you need to function best?
  • When do you do your best work?

Communicating Expectations

At Polar Notion, managing client expectations is a huge part of how we keep our sanity. We’ve even put together a Client Handbook that sets expectations. On top of that, we’re constantly reminding those we work with that Slack is not a realtime communication tool for us. We prioritize productivity over promptness. In the end, we teach others how to treat us and should own our own experience.

I also have a footer on my emails to make sure people understand when I’ll be getting back to them. Hint, it’s not within the hour. The simple act of communicating this expectation opens up a valuable discussion or endearing bits of encouragement.

Rest

Rest and relaxation are an important part of doing meaningful work. Constant ‘grind’ and ‘hustle’ does not map to increased productivity.

When you’re working, crush it. When you’re not working, fight the urgent need to ‘checkin’.

One Key Metric

“How should I measure my improvement?”

 
It’s a common question I receive from Apprentice and Junior Engineers. For those focused on growth, they often search for a metric to track their improvement over time. 
 
How will I be graded? What should I optimize for order to improve? How do I know I’m improving fast enough?
 
In software, ‘number of code commits’ and ‘lines of code written’ seems obvious. for early stage developers. It’s trackable and big numbers give the impression of progress. Unfortunately, code quality is not measured in quantity and volume. In fact, there is often an inverse correlation.
 
The question originates from a positive attitude, but the answer is complex and past attempts at oversimplifying have proven disastrous. There are stories of incentivizing engineers by ‘bugs found’, but that sparks the temptation to neglect proper troubleshooting up front. Incentivize overly-concise code and you may lose clarity. Champion lines written and things become verbose and bulky.
 
Reluctant to ignore a challenge, I sought out to answer the question. If an aspiring engineer were to focus on one key metric to drive their growth, what would it be?
 

Quantity and Quality

 
There was once a college professor working with a group of photography students. He divided the class into two groups and ascribed unique grading to each. Group One would be graded on quantity of unique photos. Group Two would be graded on quality of their photos.
 
In the end, the group of student who focused on quantity actually had the highest quality as well. They tinkering with lighting, unique subjects, and diverse settings. This resulted in better work over time. The quality focused students toiled longer per shot. They overvalued each interaction with the camera.
 
The moral for software engineer is not to write more lines of code. Instead, the focus on quantity should be around consecutive days. How many consecutive days can you try to apply the skills and techniques I’ve learned? Continual, deliberate practice. 
 
As I look back over years and millions of lines written, consistency has been my greatest strength. Early on, I was writing software every single day. Even if for a few hours, I was putting in the time to polish and refine my craft.
 
The idea came from my cross country coach. He would remind us that every day you skip a run, you loose 10% of your training. You slow the momentum and miss the opportunity for the effort to compound. He may have been wrong, but the idea anchored in my mind. I could sense the ‘ramp up’ time on Monday was longer when I would neglect Saturday and Sunday practice.
 
I later learned this was the exact approach Jerry Seinfeld used when coming a comedian. He had a calendar where he put an ‘X’ each day he practiced. The only goal was to not miss an ‘X’. If you miss once, don’t make the mistake of missing twice in a row.
 

Let your mind rest

 
To be clear, I’m not advocating for endless hustle and grind. Your mind certainly needs time to rest. Every day doesn’t need 8+ hours of heads down time. That’s unrealistic and ill-advised. However for less experienced professionals, longer gaps require more time to get reoriented. 7 days spent working 4 hours is far more impactful than 5 days working 6 hours. Adding up the hours is misleading. The consistency is what leads to the greatest impact.
 
I would encourage you to use the grid on your Github profile to track your progress. Early on, my goal was ‘no white squares’. That means I would need to write at least one commit worth of code per day. That’s it. I found myself doing more, but there was no bonus for more commits. That starts incentivizing the wrong behavior.
 
If you want to get better, it will take time. There is not path to meaningful, overnight success. Buckle in and keep showing up.

Values First, Always

In 2016, the team at Polar Notion interviewed a passionate and polished software engineer. Fresh out of code school, she seemed focused, articulate, and eager to gain experience in the industry. The technical interview was organized and deliberate. From the first introduction we remarked on her poise and confidence. From twenty applicants, we had narrowed the list down to just two candidates. Geraldine Galue was one of them.

Our team suspected Geraldine would thrive in any role. She was a teachers assistant after graduation, maintained a nonprofit’s website, and even landed a spotlight in the local startup news. Unfortunately, the other candidate possessed more of the requisite experience. With much reservation, we declined Geraldine’s application. This was in February of 2016.

New Opportunities

By fall of that year, a lot changed. Polar Notion was moving full steam ahead, but I had also taken on a CTO position at New Story. A few months into my role at New Story, the work was pilling up. For months, my focus was around consolidating the external systems and reducing the technical debt. We were well underway, building a robust system to store the organization’s flood of information.

The team began looking for a full time engineer with years of experience, to fill the gap. We realized it wouldn’t be easy, but were only beginning to understand the difficulty of aligning culture fit with software engineering skills.

After a few weeks of looking and a number of candidates weren’t quite right, we began to discuss alternative options. I remember the phone call and pacing outside the office talking to the team in San Fransisco. Tasked with finding the candidate, I was hitting a bottleneck when the founders vetted for organizational fit (ie culture). Weighing out our options, a question arose: ‘What is more important, skills or culture?’

After an awkward pause and rumbling hesitation, Brett spoke up, “Culture. They’ve gotta be good, but definitely a culture fit.”

I bounced back almost immediately. “To be clear, you’d opt for an engineer of untested skills who fit perfect into the culture instead of an amazing engineer who wasn’t quite right culturally?”

“Yes”

This was a defining moment for me at New Story. The company was picking up steam and pushing for big goals. Culture was always championed but this moment felt appropriate to settle for ‘good enough’. Companies cast a great vision, but seem willing to compromise on the details. When push came to shove, I half-expected a side conversation with Brett advocating for the fast win and the highest performer.

That conversation never happened.

This interaction was a glimpse of true organizational integrity. It communicated to me that “We know who we are, we won’t compromise on our values, and we won’t ask you to do it either.” The call strengthen my belief in the team, and further endeared me their cause.

Something else became crystal clear during this call; I already knew our engineer. Walking back inside, I began drafting the email to Geraldine.

Unlocking Potential

Two years later, I’m thrilled by all we’ve accomplish together. In the early months, she stepped in to polish and support the product. Her full-time availability augmented my fractional availability. I’d work in the early mornings while she would keep things rolling during normal work hours.In hindsight, it was instrumental to me staying involved with New Story. Her self-directed style and tenacity allowed me to maintain my focus in other areas. For this, I’m beyond grateful.

She exudes positivity and team spirit. One of our most heralded values at New Story is something we call ‘team of founders’. It’s not about grunt work. It is an attitude of teamwork, humility, and willingness to do what is needed. “That’s not my job” is the antithesis of a team of founders. For nearly two years, Geraldine did what was needed to support New Story and my role. Where many engineers may have been burned, she continued to show up with enthusiasm and a smile.

In recent months, I’ve reflected on this level of commitment. While it speaks volumes of her, it illuminates one of my greatest failures as a leader. In her diligence, I failed to advocate for her personal growth and career aspirations. I allowed myself to be distracted by competing priorities. Her humble pursuit of excellence, a strength and company value, never screamed for attention. She has been patient and consistent.

As we head into her third year at New Story, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to course correct. Her skills and abilities have grown significantly during her time here and she is indispensable to the organization. In the coming months, she will be taking the reins of the original system we began building together in 2016.

While much of the tech team develops a new product, Geraldine will own the engineering demands of our current system. Our operations depend on it every day. It maintains thousands of donors, tens of thousands of donations, millions of dollars in contributions, and each recipient New Story has impacted around the globe. It’s complex and sophisticated. I look forward to seeing her rise to the challenge.

Geraldine, you are an inspiration and a friend. You have been patient and gracious as I learn to lead within such a unique organization. Thank you for still trusting me and believing fully in the work we are doing. It’s a delight to see how far you’ve come and I know this is only the beginning. You embody what it means to be a team of founders.

Boldly forward!

Saturday Mornings

The world is quiet on Saturday morning. My phone doesn’t ring. New emails are not piling into my inbox. The time is all mine.

While somewhat overstated, I seem to do 2-3 days worth of work within a few hours. The day is optimized for heads down, distraction free output. I’m afforded hours of deep work.

Why am I working on a Saturday? These days, my schedule is splintered by messages, meetings, and management. I share my time with two business. This allows our family to maintain our standard of living, my wife to stay at home each day with our girls, and my mind to fully leverage it’s passions and interests. The diverse contexts allows me to compress decades of experience into just a few years. I realize it won’t last forever, but I find the work invigorating and impactful.

Balancing Polar Notion and New Story, its likely someone is waiting on me for something. Saturday is my chance to catchup on everything. I crush outstanding tasks, send followups, and finish documenting any lingering thoughts. Anything that builds up during the week, it’s nothing a well managed Saturday can’t address.

I love leading teams and investing in the lives of others, but a block of time to myself helps me stay balanced. I’d likely trade a year of Thursday afternoons for a month’s worth of Saturday mornings.

Data is Feedback

The value of data will vary depending on stage of the business. Regardless of ones season of business, the numbers matter. They will likely be different, but tracking key information is no less important. Most often, it’s a few numbers that impact an organization’s performance.
 
For young businesses, it’s hard to know what matters since change is constant. There is a bent to focus on things that are easy tracked, such as Google Analytics, revenue, or expenses. However, there is more pointed information that can have a greater impact on the business.
 
At a high level, the data of the business fits into four buckets:
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Financial
  • Product/Service Data

Sales

Sales is the front door of the business and focuses on prospects and new business. A few numbers can determine the health of ones sales pipeline. Also, the right numbers can provide insight into the future business success.
 
Common metrics include:
  • conversion rate
  • close rate
  • new customers

Tools

PersistIQ. An outreach automation tool, PersistIQ simplifies followup emails. It can be time consumng to stay in touch with unresponsive individuals. Persist helps followup at various intervals without pulling attention from more eager prospects.

Financials

These are the basics of any business, regardless of size. Common metrics include:
  • Revenue
  • Expenses
  • Profit
  • Gross Margins
An important note, expenses within some businesses are much more important than others. At Polar Notion, we spent some time in early 2018 looking at cutting expenses. As a lean service company, we realized our time wasn’t well spent. Without inventory sitting on a shelf or high overhead costs, we stood to gain pennies. Time spent increasing efficiency however, yielded significant returns.
 
In ‘Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!’, author Greg Crabtree discusses key financial numbers. His has identified ‘Return on Invested Capital’ as any businesses greatest success metric.

Tools

Xero. We’ve used this for years as cloud accounting software. It provides simple reporting and access to our information wherever we need it.

Operations

Operational data and metrics speak to the work of the business. This isn’t the data that’s part of the core service, rather it’s information about performance around the product or service.
  • customer satisfaction
  • customers services
  • churn
  • customer retention
Net Promoter Score is a example of Operational Data. ‘How likely are you to recommend to a friend’. It illuminates how well the business is delivering on what the customer is buying. A simple 5 star rating can also go a long way in understanding what matters most to consumers. At New Story, an international housing nonprofit, we track funds received. Atop this common financial metric, we also track how fast we can deploy those funds received. At Sharpp, a SAAS product for franchise management, we look at daily active users.

Tools

Promoter. A tool for tracking your Net Promoter Score, Promoter makes analysis straight forward. The net promoter score is a little more complicated than most realize. This tool handles the collection and calculations, which saves time and energy.
 
Google Reviews. Their simple 5-star systems keeps the barrier for feedback quite low. Assuming the reviews are positive, it can also bolster a brands online presence. If people are searching for your business, chances are they’re using google. Why not show market validation when they find you.

Product/Service Data

Data that pertains to the product or service has become popularized in recent years. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science depend on this type of data.
  • Bounce Rate
  • Pages per Visit
  • Session Duration
  • Popular Search Terms
  • Most engagement content
  • Usage times
Google relies on information like number of times ‘fluffy cat video’ is searched. This drives the quality and price of their advertising service.
 
Lyft and their ability to match drivers and riders comes from service records. The more they know, the better they anticipate and provide value to customers.
 
Facebook is best example (though likely the worst if tracking benefit to humanity). Their ability to collect and take action on user data has led them to a half-trillion dollar company. Customer satisfaction is plummeting, but their knowledge of our behaviors is unaffected.

Tools

Google analytics, Full Story, and Customer.io are great tools for tracking user activity. Armed with this knowledge, you can make more informed decisions.

In closing

In the end, everyones key metrics will be different. What matters most is consistency and simplicity. Three numbers tracked daily will prevail over dozens of numbers rarely engaged. Start by identifying 1-2 numbers before group. Online how often you’ll track them and where you get that information. When possible, include others in the process. Consider making those numbers more visible within the organization.
 
That which gets measured, gets improved.

Making Big Decisions

The discipline of big decision making

As we’re presented with important decisions, it’s easy to procrastinate or become immobilized. Over time, the stakes get higher and our decisions affect more people. To withstand the pressure of major decisions and keep moving forward, I’ve outlined habits I revert back to when big decisions arise.

Rest

Before leaving corporate life to raise our kids, my wife was wrestling with a decision for months. At the time, she was not sleeping well. The workload was causing her to neglect her health too. Recognizing the need for a change though feeling too overwhelmed to decide, we scheduled a day or so away at the spa. No work, agenda, or responsibilities she was free to rest up, relax, and recover. Before returning home less than 48 hours later, she knew what she had to do.

Don’t make big decisions when you’re off your game. Being clear headed and calm is invaluable. Sleep, food, and exercise all play a part in our mental capacity. Their presence or absence continually impact our lives.

Reflection

Think back on past experience. While our victories can be enlightening, our failures are often more useful instructors. Those unwilling to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. For me, writing is part of my reflection process. I’m constantly evaluating past situations based on my current understanding.

Over the years, I’ve found it enlightening to revisit the same experiences regularly. As we learn and grow, it’s likely our own history will reveal new insights. There are a few anchor moments that serve as a baseline time and time again. Those this can be somewhat painful at times, our past experiences continue to shape us.

Weigh Tradeoffs

Imagine you’re juggling 6 balls. Some are rubber, some are steel, and others glass. Rubber will bounce back quickly if dropped. Steel won’t bounce, but it likely won’t be damaged. Glass, unfortunately, won’t take a hit. You can’t choose how fragile the balls are but if you’re deliberate, you can let the right ones fall.

At any time there are dozens are competing priorities. Time, cost, quality, and satisfaction are just the tip of the iceberg and they rarely work in unison. It’s important to spell out what’s most important and be willing to compromise on the rest. We’ll never be perfect, but we can choose where to double our efforts and what we should let slide.

It’s also helpful to assess the consequences. Some choices have limited consequences while others may be painful to recover from. Decisions with a large upside and limited downside are usually a great place to start.

As leaders, common tradeoffs include:

• Timelines

• Budget

• Morale

• Quality

• Speed

• Value

Due to so many tradeoffs, there is rarely a ‘right choice’. Optimize for the most important factors and let the rubber bounce.

Gain Perspective

In 2017, our team at Polar Notion was pulled into a law suit. The experience shared by fellow business owners and entreprenuers proved priceless. Not only did their perspective help reframe my expectations, we went into the situation more informed and level headed.

Ask others who have made similar decisions and whose insight you trust. Leveraging their expertise and insight, filter your situation through their perspective. Beyond settling for ‘what would you do’, inquire about a time when they were in a similar position. ‘What did you do’ will lead away from speculation and toward real world experience. You path will be different but the exercise can reveal new insight.

Commit

In 2014, separate from our existing business, we tried to launch a software company. The market seemed solid and the technology worked well… the issue was our commitment to the idea. Allowing ourselves to be distracted by other projects, the failure can be attributed to our level of commitment.

The final and most important step is taking dedicated action. More often than not, failure can be traced back to weak commitment, not the quality of our decision. When you take action, commit fully. A mediocre decision, fully execute beats a great decision with half-hearted effort.

If you have take the time to rest, reflect, weigh tradeoffs, and gain perspective you should trust your conclusion enough to move forward confidently.

Weekly Rituals

Over the years, I’ve developed a series of daily, weekly, and monthly rituals designed to keep me focused and moving forward. Rather than allowing each day to dictate my priorities, these rituals provide a cadence of thoughtful progress.

In recent conversations with entreprenuers and business leaders, some of my weekly rituals have been of particular interest.

Pre-week

Before the momentum of a week, the following actions help things stay within my control.

Cancel

Priorities are constantly evolving. Coincidentally, some meetings are scheduled weeks and months in advance. Before blindly attending, evaluate it’s relevance and have the courage to cancel if it’s no longer necessary. Not only does this free up precious time, but it also respects the time of other attendees as well.

A business meetings without written agendas should be prime candidates.

“Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it, and spend it rather than invest it.”  – Jim Rohn

Reschedule

If you have a full schedule, doing a bit of restructuring can free up whitespace. For example, meetings across the city can be grouped to reduce travel time. Our office is on the west side of town, so I want to make the most of an eastbound trip.

It also helps to look another week out. Meetings late one week can often be pushed into the next, especially when it adds focus and attentiveness.

Plan

Nothing will waste more time than arriving at an appointment without your details in order. Even if just a few bullet points can help keep the conversation on track.

As I’ve become more intentional about adding value to others, I’ll look over their social profiles and see what they’ve been up to. This can frame a social interaction and illuminate where I can be more helpful.

“If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

Post-week

If we are not careful, one week will easily bleed into the next. A post-week ritual can reduce the mental load heading into the weekend. Knowing you’ve closed a week well can be the catalyst for great rest and relaxation.

Gratitude

Before following up with people I met with throughout the week, I take time to reflect on who introduced me to the other people involved. Whether personal or professional, I’ll reach out to the person who made the introduction, express gratitude and when appropriate, share about the meeting I had as a result of their generosity.

This includes recent and age-old relationships. Even after catching up with an old friend, I’ll send a quick note to the person who introduced us long ago. In a recent interaction, the friendship was over 10 years old.

“How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.” -Truett Cathy

Followup

Once I’ve expressed gratitude, I’ll followup with the actual attendees from each meeting. Whether we exchanged a quick call or a monolithic meeting, I touch base. Obviously touching on any commitments made in the meeting and passing along any addition words.

When appropriate, I suggest next steps with clearly defined options so they don’t have too struggle through a similar response. Yes, by end of week some people have waited a 3-4 days for a followup. I’ve actually found this delay helpful to actually process our conversation. Also, it sets healthy and sustainable expectations for the future.

Generosity

After the followup, I’ll push myself to make introductions on the attendees behalf. Rather than asking for something, I end the ritual with a deliberate attempt to add value.

If the meeting was with a code school student, I’ll intro them to fellow graduates in the community or potential employers.

If it’s a potential client, I’ll connect them to other professionals within their industry or people who they would like appreciate getting to know.

This habit creates a great sense of accountability during our time together. As they talk, I’m actively listen for ways to amplify their interests.

“If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” – Zig Ziglar


If you haven’t noticed, each of these habits pertain to time. At the beginning of the week I set out to protect it. After the week is over, I want to make sure it was as valuable as possible. Time is our most valuable asset. Our behaviors should reflect that.

Keeping Projects on Track

A team’s ability to keep projects on track and moving forward is crucial. Regardless of the team, surprises and hangups will pop up along the way. When a project gets off track, trying to understand ‘why’ is a common pursuit. Unfortunately, questions that explain past decisions do not drive the conversation forward.

Foregoing why a misalignment occurred, a more effective question is, “What do you need to get back on track?” A solution oriented approach, this question illuminates a path forward. There are four solutions to being offtrack. The solutions include: simplify, clarify, increase expertise, and extend timeline.

When a project is off track, most people will default to adding more time. Unfortunately, time alone will rarely make it better. The following unpacks alternatives and provides a framework for forward momentum.

Simplicity

How can we simplify and still hit the target?

Simplifying the solution is the easiest way to make up for lost time. It’s not a matter of cutting corners. It is about assessing the work to and removing unnecessary complexity. Simplicity is the first solution because it rarely requires outside inspiration or help. If the solution accomplishes the goal, why should it be any harder than necessary?

Clarity

Will an increase in understanding result in an increase in efficiency?

This is common in cross-disciplinary projects. A deeper understand of priorities and expectations can go a long way. Building technology, communication between designers and developers can be instrumental in removing obstacles. 15 minutes of a web designer explaining their intentions can save hours, days, or even weeks.
When eye-glasses have smudges, removing the blemishes can bring more into perspective.

Expertise

How would someone with more specialized expertise approach the solution?

Experience is a magnificent teacher. In times of struggle, leaning on those with more experience can pay dividends. Experienced professionals have more tools, strategies, and tactics. Their experience reveals trends and patterns that can speed up impact.

Time

Given that simplicity, clarity, and expertise have failed… How much more time?

Adding time to a project should be a last resort. Exhaust all other options first. From there, it’s important to determine how much more time is necessary and how that time will be spent. The greatest concerns with adding more time is it’s ability to create future problems. Missing deadlines will compound with other timelines and commitments.

Holiday season is a great example. With a mid-November deadline, an extension would likely bleed into Thanksgiving. Without resolution, the project would get bounced around December. Team members would juggle it with their previously scheduled holiday travels. Next thing you know, it’s January and you aren’t too much further along.


This shared language can rally a team and keep the trains running on time. Getting off track is inevitable. It can be a sign of trouble or a sign of real innovation. More important than reasons or excuses, the team should understand what it takes to fix it.

Battling Indifference within Service Work

A few years ago, we were working on a logo design project for a cities parks and recreation department. While putting together three examples, we decided to add a fourth alternative. Unlike the first three, this fourth option was dated and clearly inferior. It was an anchor to make the others look even better. Our hearts sunk when they selected and became unwavering about option four.
 
Polar Notion, like many creative teams, focuses on bringing ideas to life. Other people’s ideas. We have a talented team that has seen hundreds of projects. This experience allows us to track trends across the industry and dial in our intuition. Our team pours days, weeks, and months into the thoughtful execution of these projects.
 
From time to time, clients ignore our expertise. Whether direction shifts or minds change, our efforts are rendered unnecessary. It can be defeating and discouraging.
 
Eventually, this type of behavior can lead to indifference and burnout. As humans, we enjoy creating but the work should be seen, experienced, and enjoyed. Crafting something special only to live unshared is demoralizing.

Open-handed and Close-handed

Sitting in the tension of client services, I separate choices into two types. Our work yields open-handed solutions and close-handed solutions. An open-handed solutions is one in which there is ample flexibility. We may have an opinion, but can compromise without much resistance. A close-handed solution is one in which we have a strong opinion. Unlike an open-handed solution, we push harder on close-handed issues. These are choices there is a deep conviction about. They are the hills worth dying on.
 
A few years ago, I began practicing a three strike policy for close-handed issues. If convinced about a decision, I’ll make three attempts to plead my case. With each attempt, I become more deliberate with expressing the value and the risks of opting out. The third and final attempt comes to a head with me stating, “I can budge and we can move on. But what I hear you telling me is I need to do what I’m told. Is that correct?”
 
Hired for our expertise, acknowledgement here can shift us into a passive posture. If three such instances were to occur, we know it’s time to part ways.

Walking Well in the Tension

We want to be respectful, generous, and humble but we are also hired to do a job. When it’s clear our opinion is not valued, it undermines our value and wastes everyone’s time.
 
In the end, we’re in a constant battle against indifference. The three strike policy is a way of protecting our passion. It also provides a shared vocabulary that promotes credibility and trust with those who entrust our team with their ideas and inspiration.

Workplace Diversity

At New Story’s recent quarterly leadership summit, Alexandria Lafci (a cofounder and friend) presented on the value of diversity in the workplace. With patience and empathy, she shared in depth research and permitted an endless stream of questions. Reflecting on her thoughtful presentation, it felt like something worth sharing.

We should be understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations, as well as differences in personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases. That’s not to imply most people are outwardly aggressive or openly alienate those who are different. In many cases however, it’s our unconscious biases that wreak the most havoc.

Awareness is the first step toward making a change.

Speaking Intelligently

It was clarifying to see diversity in two categories: inherent diversity and acquired diversity.

Inherent diversity includes Demographic characteristics like race, sex, and age.

Acquired diversity includes factors such as education, experience, values, skills and knowledge.

Competitive Advantage

Despite what people may believe about human rights, a strong business case exists for diversity as well. According to the University of Michigan, “Groups of diverse problem solvers outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.”

McKinsey conducted a study in which they discovered that “companies with diverse executive boards enjoy significantly higher earnings and returns on equity.”

That’s not to say the appearance of diversity it important. What matters is giving everyone within the group an equal voice at the table. It is the presence and leveraging of unique perspectives and experiences that drives the increase in performance.

Inequality

Work compensation is the most objective measure of inequality. For instance, studies show that Latin females make less than 50 cents on the dollar.

One of the simplest ways we’ve found to combat such indifference at Polar Notion is to institute transparent compensation across the organization. Those within the organization understand how their pay was determined, what it takes to move up, and how it compares to their peers. It involved defining each tier and diving deep into expectations, but the veil of compensation is non existent. Interestingly enough, it was the pursuit of greater team buy-in and enriched collaboration that sparked transparent salaries. Equality was a natural benefit of that same level of transparency.

Today, I’m still learning a lot about what diversity truly means. It’s invaluable to have friends like Alexandria and others willing to engage in discourse. My process is imperfect and comes with a renewing sense of discomfort. However, the pursuit is important and I hope our teams and communities are better for it.

Feel free to read more about my gateway into the topic of diversity.