December 4, 2014
Today, as confirmed by the State of Delaware’s Division of Corporations and announced on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s blog, the transportation platform Uber raised a financing round of $1.2 billion, “with additional capacity remaining for strategic investments.” Just how much additional capacity that is appears to total $1.8 billion according to the filing.
Uber’s “Growing Pains”
Kalanick’s blog post also addressed the “significant growing pains” that have been publicized about the company. These growing pains presumably include the comments that SVP of Business Emil Michael made at a New York dinner party. Allegedly, in conversation with BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith, Michael ranted that one million dollars should be spent digging up dirt on journalists who criticize Uber. Or, the company’s investigation into the behavior of Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York, who was accused of using the company’s God View feature to track reporter Johana Bhuiyan without her permission. Not only did this accusation include email logs that Mohrer sent to Bhuiyan showing that he was tracking her, but he also was reported to have waved the screen at her when she arrived at a meeting and told her that he was watching her progress.
Continuing on in the blog post that Kalanick submitted today, it is mentioned that “seeking counsel from those who have gone through similar challenges” is on the company’s top priority list. It’s unknown whether he is referring to other companies who have faced the challenges of deploying God View at company parties to impress socialites, but Kalanick does say that “taking swift action is where Uber shines.”
Why It Matters to the Rest of Us
The Uber platform of transportation solutions is one that is crucial to technological advancement, urban planning, and answering to market needs. Those who seek to protect legislation that does not protect the people have extremely deep pockets, and so it is more important than ever before for Uber to get these “growing pains” figured out. If swift action leading to a “smarter and more humble company that sets new standards in data privacy” is the priority, then it is important for radical change to come directly from the top. Here are some resources for Uber, or any company looking to address culture from within.
Culture Follows the Leader
“A group or organizational-level of shared beliefs and values that lead to norms and expectations for members of that culture,” is the pragmatic definition of culture, according to the research compiled by Laurie Hills, MA, in this report. She continues:
“Leaders need to create the conditions for the transformation of a culture. Leaders and managers do not change the culture, they merely invite their people to change the culture through day-to-day behaviours. Leaders ensure the systems and processes support the new behaviours. Modelling new behaviours must start at the top.”
To that end, leaders must act upon the right thing to do while serving as a watchdog for all systems and processes. It’s not enough to simply list the core values of a company and display them in a neat mural on the wall. When vision, attitudes, and behaviors are aligned, it is the leader who makes sure that these imperatives have teeth by acting on them. This includes the determination of who gets hired, and who gets fired.
Have High Ethical and Moral Standards
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP at Leadergrow, Inc, echoes the statement that leaders build culture. What’s more, he writes that leaders have a responsibility to ensure that people trust that the organization will hold true to the culture, which ultimately defines their sense of purpose and meaning in their work.
“Have high ethical and moral standards. Operate from a set of values, and make sure people know why those values are important. The essence of values needs to be implanted in the hearts and minds of everyone, and behaviors need to be consistent with them. A plaque on the wall does not make for good values. People living up to their highest standards makes for good values and an environment where people can trust each other and their leaders. It has to start with the leaders.”
Employees Watch a Leader’s Attention
Culture is created when the team sees where leaders are focusing attention. Lizz Pellet lists this as one of the four distinct methods by which a company will create culture (again, simply talking about it is not one of them.) The allocation of attention and resources literally allows a leader to put money where one’s mouth is. If an employee with poor behavior is rewarded because he landed a huge partnership, then it’s the partnership that other employees focus on, not the behavior.
“Innovative and creative organizations realize that with little effort, they can create avenues for dialogue that are inviting, engaging and display effort on the part of leaders that want to be better understood and open to their employees.”
The long list of colleagues who defend leadership at Uber, citing deals with American Express, Toyota, GM, Starbucks, and TripAdvisor, is a telling way to show what is being valued within Uber culture.
How are you showing that you are intentionally leading a culture at your startup?
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