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Uber came out of nowhere in 2009 and completely disrupted the transportation industry. Remember that disruption doesn’t mean to make a product better or faster, but to design something that didn’t previously exist and create a demand for it. Henry Ford did it when he introduced that four wheel motorized “thing” known as a car that nobody ever thought they would use — until they did. Netflix disrupted when they came up with video subscription. Nobody ever thought a subscription model for videos would work — until it did.
Because of the Uber’s success, the company has gone from a superlative, where “Uber” has been used in every context ranging from disrupting existing markets (“This is going to Uber-ize the market”) to companies being pushed out of their own industry (“They got Uber’d”). There’s even a website called Ubersuggest.io geared toward keyword and SEO research.
Except now, the word has become a moniker to avoid like the plague.
The world’s most valuable startup has come full circle. Uber is getting Uber’d — by itself. The $70 billion company is in chaos and struggling to establish stability. Reports are 20 employees have been fired due to sexual harassment allegations, emptying four of its top cabinet positions, and now CEO Travis Kalanick has been forced out by investors.
If that’s not chaos, I don’t know what is. Don’t let your company uberize itself. Here are four leadership lessons learned from Uber’s chaos:
1. Report across, not up.
When you report “up”you only inform your boss, but when you report “across” you inform everybody. That’s why in today’s constantly changing, competitive landscape, knowledge is not power, shared knowledge is power. Shared knowledge enables others to act on what they can affect (influence) and effect (change or control), and allows you to do the same. This is how you optimize your output. From there, you scale it across the organization to hone the competitive edge.
2. Your company is an ecosystem.
What happens in one far flung corner of the company impacts all other “corners” and everything in between. Think of your company as an ecosystem with seasons, and seasons represent change; they represent healthy competition between people and departments (keyword being “healthy”).
In an ecosystem, if there’s only sun and no rain, then nothing can grow. If there’s only daylight and no nighttime then rest and recovery become infrequent and haphazard. You need the bad to complement the good, that’s how innovation occurs. However, the trick here is balance. Too much of any one “thing” is just that — too much.
3. Start with self.
You can’t lead others until you know how to lead yourself. I’ve worked with many leaders who saw the problem as “out there” when, in reality, the challenge was themselves.
How you see the problem usually is the problem. Kalanick eventually realized this, stating “If we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.” Unfortunately for Kalanick, it was too little, too late, but there are a number of ways to reframe perspective, such as by playing devil’s advocate with yourself to hiring an executive coach to challenge your world views.
4. Optimize your team.
Teams don’t form by themselves, and teams are different than groups. The success of a team depends upon the willingness of each member to put forth effort and hold himself, each other and the team accountable.
Strong teams have a clear mission, clear roles and responsibilities, well established behavioral norms and myriad other “soft” characteristics that are anything but soft. They’re extremely hard skills and practices to learn and employ but they’re what turns ordinary into extraordinary and groups into teams.
Your company’s product or service shouldn’t have any loopholes if it’s to be successful, and neither should how your business conducts business.