Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Triple Play of Best Practice Commentary from the Blog "Bob Sutton Work Matters", Author of "The No Asshole Rule"

Best Practice Sharing From the Blog "Bob Sutton Work Matters" and some information he highlights from Robert W. Baird, #39 on the Fortune List. and the thinking that helps make them great.

Cut #1

The "No Asshole" Rule and the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work

Fortune just came out with its top 100 Best Places to Work list. I've written a lot about many of the companies on the list, as many have "no asshole rules" (albeit usually in more polite language). Google is Number 1 again; as I wrote in The No Asshole Rule, Senior Executive Shona Brown had this great quote when I talked to her about the rule at Google, "It just isn't efficient to be an asshole here." When I gave a talk on the book at Google last March, I asked the audience about this, and they started telling fairly detailed stories about how -- because teamwork is so important to them and because their status system emphasizes who has the best ideas and gets the most done above all else-- that acting like a bully was a career limiting move. In fact, after the talk, a woman came up to me and kind of whispered to me "I am really not a very nice person, but I have to act nice here, or I can't get anything done." That's a pretty strong testament to the power of strong social norms.

I have known Shona a long time as she was a doctoral student in our program at Stanford. I have two favorite memories of her. The first, which shows how far she has traveled, is that she was so broke when she came to Stanford that I loaned her, I think, $300. She paid me back promptly! The second is that she was asked by the local Palo Alto paper something like "What mythical figure would you want to be." Her answer was "Santa Claus, because I love children and love to travel." Great answer.

Back to the 100 best places. Some of the other firms on the list that I have written about include #29 SAS Institute , #44 Plante & Moran, #55 Perkins Coie, and #87 Yahoo!. I was also especially pleased to see financial services firm Robert W. Baird was listed as #39. And they were described as follows:

39. Robert W. Baird
What makes it so great?
They tout the "no-a**hole rule" at this financial services firm; candidates are interviewed extensively, even by assistants who will be working with them.
I will look into Baird more closely, as I hope to add them to my honor roll of companies that have the rule. If you have any more information about them and how they apply the rule, please get in touch with me.

Cut #2

Details On The No Asshole Rule At Robert W. Baird: #39 on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies To Work” List

I wrote a few weeks back about Robert W. Baird, a financial services firm with headquarters in Milwaukee, which had just earned #39 on Fortune’s 2008 list of the best places to work. Fortune’s brief explanation of why they are on the list emphasized Baird’s no asshole rule. So I added them to my honor roll.

In my post, I asked if anyone knew more about the company. I was delighted to get the note below from Leslie Dixon, Baird Chief Human Resources Officer (That is her picture):

Professor Sutton,

I noticed your recent blog posting about the FORTUNE “100 Best Companies To Work For” and your reference to Baird and our No-Asshole Rule. You mentioned you were interested in learning more about Baird, so I’m following up to provide some detail.

Baird is an employee-owned, international wealth management, capital markets, private equity and asset management firm with offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. Established in 1919, Baird has more than 2,300 associates serving the needs of individual, corporate, institutional and municipal clients. Baird oversees and manages client assets of $77 billion. Committed to being a great place to work, Baird is one of FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2008 -- its fifth consecutive year on the list. For additional information, please click here.

I also thought the following section from our FORTUNE submission would be of interest. When asked about our hiring process, we included the following section as part of our response:

Because the Baird culture plays a key role in the success of our firm, every member of management at Baird understands that every new hire must be thoroughly evaluated for not only the right knowledge, experience and education, but also the right fit for the values that make Baird such a special place. As the Baird culture statements detail, we seek individuals who value honesty, teamwork, quality work and who genuinely care about others. This strategy is often referenced by Chairman, President & CEO Paul Purcell when he meets all new associates as part of our New Associate Onboarding Experience. Paul’s presentation and his openness and willingness to answer any questions are often cited as highlights by new associates in their evaluations of our welcoming process. To add emphasis to how committed all managers are to having a respectful, fair work environment, Paul uses a very down-to-earth way of making his point when he tells new associates: “We have a ‘no asshole rule’ here.” While the earthy approach is out of character for Paul, it is a statement that clearly makes an impression and leaves no doubt that everyone is expected to be respectful of everyone he or she works with. New associates often comment on the “rule” and the fact that it’s supported by the way they are treated long after the interview process.

Paul is very passionate about Baird’s No-Asshole Rule and was thrilled that FORTUNE featured it in our “100 Best” coverage. I’m sure he’d be happy to talk with you about the rule’s importance to Baird and our success. If you are interested in talking to him or sitting down with him to learn more, please let me know.

I am most impressed by how seriously they take the rule, and more important than the rule alone, the reason Baird is a great place to work is that it reflects a broader set of values and practices about treating people well. I am looking forward to learning more about Baird later in the week, when I have a phone conversation scheduled with CEO Paul Purcell.

Cut #3

No Asshole Round-Up: The Rule at Baird, The Japanese Title, A$$hole Hits the Stores, and Other News

I've got a lot of news about assholes in the workplace, so I thought I would do a quick round-up of events over the past few weeks.

1. I wrote earlier about the no asshole rule at Baird, a Midwestern financial services firm that is led by Paul Purcell, and that is #39 on Fortune Best Places to Work list. A had a lovely telephone conversation with Mr. Purcell, who is a charming and smart guy. I will use some of the material for a new chapter I am writing for the paperback version of the book (which won’t be out for at least a year), but there is one thing Paul said that I found intriguing. I asked him how he defines as an asshole. And he said something like, it is someone who does three things:

Persistently puts his or her interests ahead of co-workers
Persistently puts his or her interests ahead of the company’s interest
Engages in ethically suspect actions
Paul noted that people who do the first two things are especially prone to unethical action, a good point. Now, this isn’t how I define an asshole, as I think of them as people who leave a trail of demeaned and de-energized victims in their wake, but definitional issues aside, I agree completely with what Paul is trying to accomplish. And the key of course is that Baird isn’t just trying to select “good” people, they work very hard to create a culture and systems that support such unselfish and ethical action.

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