Lon Langston

Culture Champion

Episode #96

Lon Langston stops by and shares how CULTURE plays important role in his business as a Confidential Executive Coach. His extensive experience with Behavioral Economics has contributed to his success. “What you’re thinking about a culture of the organization as the organization’s identity. It’s personality, it’s vision, it’s value, what ever is in innate about it and all the experiences.” ~Lon Langston

Lon Langston

Lon Langston

Executive Coach and Consultant

A proprietary executive coaching method, which uses strategies, techniques, and hacksdeveloped from 30 years in the business trenches and from a continuous, intensive study of management, leadership, and behavioral economics. I have also been fortunate, over the years, to have been mentored by several very successful people, from whom I learned the really coolstuff.

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Full Transcript

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast, where you host Josh Sweeney will give you the business leaders, HR professionals, and company culture aficionados the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

Josh Sweeney: Hello and welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast. Before we get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcasting space. And today, we’re joined by Lon Langston of Lon Langston Confidential Coaching. Lon, thanks for joining us today.

Introducing Lon Langston

Lon Langston: Thanks for having me, Josh, I appreciate it.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Thanks for making the treks. So tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

Lon Langston: All right, so I spent probably 26 years doing something I did not want to do. And-

Josh Sweeney: Well have to get into that as well.

Lon Langston: … yeah we’ll get into that.

Josh Sweeney: Okay.

“I want people to enjoy their work.”

Lon Langston: And so but I was eternally trying to figure out how to get out of that business and I started to realize that what I really wanted to do was help people enjoy their work and be better at it, right? So I kind of started studying that and it anecdotally and then more seriously. And eventually got to the point where I was able to get out of the other industry and get into this full time.

Josh Sweeney: Very nice. ‘Cause tell us about what this is, what kind of coaching do you do?

Executive Coaching

Lon Langston: All right. So I stared out calling it Executive Coaching because what I realized is people who have a business that has grown to a certain level, that may be 20 million in revenue and 100 employees and it may be fewer than that or more than that. But when they to a certain level they realize that their competency isn’t doing the thing not in running the business.

Right? And they kind of had gotten stuck and actually they’ll use that exact phrase. “I feel stuck.” And they stuck in this, not knowing where to go next, not knowing how to run this size business but it’s profitable. It’s doing well in a lot of cases but they’re stuck and that they don’t know what to next.

Lon Langston: I interact of a lot of these people who I was friends with and I owned a business that size. So these were my peer group. And so I understand from a personal experience, and from interactions with all those people over many, many years, how to help people get unstuck.

That’s what I do. I’ll start working with the … usually the founder, the CEO, or a senior manager in a company, privately held almost always because they’re a lot more flexible, and then I’ll work with that person one on one and usually or in many cases that will expand into … working with several different other people in that organization.

Why Professionals get STUCK

Josh Sweeney: Got it. So what do you think causes people to be stuck? Is it that the company kind of outgrew their currently capabilities and they’ve been doing it so long that they need to grow or they need to have a better growth plan for themselves or like what kind of contributes to that feeling of being stuck?

Lon Langston: Yeah, you know there are people who have this idea that they want to be professional managers. And they go to college and get an undergraduate degree that has something with that, then they probably go get an MBA, they want to be professional managers. But the kind of people that I am able to help don’t want to be professional managers. They started doing something they were good at. Maybe their family was in.

Victim of Success

Maybe they had a proclivity for it. They started doing that thing and started making money at it. And they said, “This is great.” But then actually they became victims of their own success because once it grows to a certain level, they’re not professional managers. They’re also loath to hire professional manager because they don’t want to give up the control, right?

Lon Langston: And so as a blend from, “Hey, you have to have professional management but you don’t want a professional manager, let me help you understand how to run the business like business,” versus just like what we used to call it a genius with a dozen helpers model, right?

Josh Sweeney: Right. What book is that from? Do you remember?

Lon Langston: No I don’t remember.

Josh Sweeney: Okay. I’ve heard it before I can’t remember where it’s from.

The Loss of Control

Lon Langston: Yeah, yeah. But so once they get to a dozen helpers, all of a sudden it gets out of control, right? And so they have other people say, “Oh, you’re a terrible leader.” And, “I could run this place better than you.” Stuff like that. So anyway, what I do is I help them transition, get over that hump and in a lot of cases, what it involves is you need to give some of this power away.

You need to delegate. You need to loosen the reigns a little bit. And so by the way, that’s where we get into culture. Right? You don’t need a culture when it’s … genius with a dozen helpers you just tell everybody what to do. The culture’s your personality, right?

THAT is Culture

Josh Sweeney: That is the culture.

Lon Langston: That’s the culture, yeah. But so once the organization gets a little bigger, you actually need a culture and as you know, every organization has a culture, whether you like it or not, right? So if you’re intentional about it, it might work. And if you’re not intentional about it, it’s probably going to fail. And so what we talk about is, hey, here’s your personality and there’s good and bad parts about that, and we’ll do strengths and weaknesses analysis of you that you’ll hate, and then let’s take the strong part to that and plus what aspirational you want for the business and let’s build that into an intentional culture.

Josh Sweeney: I love the idea of doing your strengths and weaknesses that I’ll hate ’cause all good things come after a personal growth for me, right?

Lon Langston: Oh yeah, for me too. Oh yeah.

Best is Yet to Come – Culture

Josh Sweeney: I think it works for all of us. We just sometimes don’t want to go there. So as you so graciously led us into company culture, we would to hear some shares from you from maybe historical background, what is and you don’t have to name any company name or anything but what’s the best company culture that you ever work within and why.

Lon Langston: That’s interesting because I hope that the best one hadn’t happened yet because I mean this is going to sound cynical but I’ll explain, it’s not as cynical as it sounds. I haven’t found a great one yet.

Josh Sweeney: Okay. That’s fair.

Lon Langston: And I think … and maybe a large percentage of organizational cultures aren’t great. And a small percentage are great. So maybe you say, that’s why a small percentage of organizations are phenomenally successful, several are kind of successful, and most fail. Right? Because they don’t have a great a culture. So I mean, I hope there’s a better one that I’ve ever found. So far, right.

Josh Sweeney: Okay, got it.

The Solo-Preneur

Lon Langston: But I’m also kind of on the solopreneur thing where the culture’s back to being my personality again, right, and just helping other people with their adventure. So I don’t know. Yeah I got jaded too. This on the side, but I got jaded about having my own organization, which I did because all those employees problems became my problems and then all that warehouse space and all that equipment, all those trucks I had on the road, and all that, all those were all problems. Right? And so I kind of said, “Hey, if I could ever get rid of this business, what I would like to have is just me and a laptop.”

Josh Sweeney: Got it. Yeah.

Lon Langston: So I don’t know, the best organizational culture, I don’t know that I found it yet. It’s definitely not just my personality ’cause that’s not the best although I continue to work on that. I mean, and if I ever did find one that I thought was really great, I’d probably try to get them to hire me but I haven’t.

Only One was GREAT

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I total understand because I’ve been doing this podcast for a while now and there’s definitely a trend in a lot of the shares I’ve had from the great cultures that I’ve worked for personally. My experience really only came from one company. Now there’s some other good things that came from various other companies but I wouldn’t put them … I’d put them in the good category not the great. I’ve only worked for one where I was like that one was great. You know it was exponentially better than all of the others. So for you to still be searching for that one I don’t think is that uncommon.

Lon Langston: I don’t think so either.

Josh Sweeney: So flips side, worse culture experience.

Lon Langston: Okay.

Josh Sweeney: If you don’t have a great, what is one take away, one thing you experienced where you’re like, this aspect of that company was just the worst experience. And again you don’t have to name any names.

Industry Culture Differences

Lon Langston: So as organizations have cultures, so do industries. And so I was an industry that tends to have a bad culture and that’s the fresh wholesale produce industry. So everything you buy in the grocery store that’s grown in the ground and then comes to the produce department, goes through a series of people, a series of companies who first harvest it and then cool it, and then transport it and then rearrange it again and then transport it again. And I was in that industry, the wholesale produce industry that’s where I spent 26 years and especially in the very beginning, the first company I worked for there, not only was the industry a tough culture, that company was a terrible culture.

The Early Days

Lon Langston: So imagine this, I just graduate from college and one, I’m a terrible student and incredibly introverted and I’m not going to do an interview to save my life, right? Okay, and you add to that, it’s 1988 and there’s a huge recession. All right, job prospects are looking really bad at this point. And then I’ve got fraternity brothers who are going out, graduating from college ahead of me and searching for jobs for months and then finding very low paying jobs. And I’m like, “Oh I’m doomed.”

Lon Langston: All right so, I had this opportunity to work for this wholesale produce company and I kind of took it as default because of all these factors. Right? And so here’s the culture there. We start at 4AM and you better be at your desk at 4AM when we start and we might finish around 4PM and that’s six days a week by the way and sometimes you might have to work the 7th day and there’s no holidays because we get busier on the holidays.

And if you want to have lunch, you need to eat that at your desk while you keep working because we can’t afford for you to leave and go to lunch, you got to have productivity the whole day. And you got two phones on your desk and they’re always ringing plus there’s customers walking in and sitting at your desk. So you might have two phones and somebody sitting there and this goes on for 10 or 12 hours a day and besides, this office 13 feet by 19 feet and it’s six chain-smoking alcoholics and me.

The Misery of the Building

Lon Langston: And I might have been in the category with them somewhere. But and this tiny little office is on a loading dock that’s not enclosed. So if it’s 30 degrees outside, and people are opening this door all day, it’s 30 degrees in that office. That lets the smoke out which is nice, but so that’s the beginning. And so I’m sitting at my … Oh and all these desks that are in this office, these seven desks, none of them match each other, right? And this office was built in 1957 and there’s dust still there from the beginning, from 1957. It’s like this thick you know, like an inch thick on top of these huge cables that used to be the phone lines. Dust on top of them. And so that’s the worst company culture ever.

Josh Sweeney: Right. Okay. Do those still exists?

Lon Langston: No.

Josh Sweeney: You think?

Lon Langston: I bet … well …

Josh Sweeney: I’ve been in some warehouse environments but I don’t think they were that bad.

Lon Langston: I don’t think you could find that to that extent any more.

Josh Sweeney: Okay.

Sense of Urgency

Lon Langston: But I mean it was a terrible culture and I mean thought, retrospectively about why if you want to get into a little bit of why or not.

Josh Sweeney: Ah yeah, go ahead. Lets so … why?

Lon Langston: Okay. All right, so you’re dealing with perishable product which imposes a time constraint. So from the time that produce is harvested it is necessarily deteriorating. All right so that make the sense of urgency incredible. All right, that sense of urgency then taints everything else. So that’s why you have to be there at 4AM and that’s why you have to work six or seven days a week.

That’s why you can’t go to lunch because that sense of urgency, right. And then in the wholesale produce business, there are no set prices, they’re no contracts. So every day, the cost of goods is fluctuating on an open market and the selling price is fluctuating on an open market and they’re not necessarily connected and you’re living in the margin, right?

The Stress

Lon Langston: And so there’s all this huge amount of stress. Am I going to be able to sell this stuff before it deteriorates and before the market changes and make any money? And a lot of times, that answer is no and it makes you more stressful. So anyway, that’s why I think it’s a terrible culture.

Josh Sweeney: Got it. And so that was an industry factor in that you’re dealing with this perishable good, you always need to be on and ready and processing this or you’re going to lose massive amounts of money.

Lon Langston: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: Right, got it.

Lon Langston: It’s like day trading with perishable inventory.

Josh Sweeney: But with apples.

Lon Langston: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh Sweeney: I’ve never day traded apples before.

Lon Langston: And actually apples are pretty durable. I was selling lettuce which you know you got about 24 hours to get that out of your cooler.

Josh Sweeney: Really. So there’s a durability level factor coming in here that’s what you’re moving that day.

The Opportunity

Lon Langston: And you know that plays into later so. I worked for this little small, mom-and-pop company that I just described and I ended up over after several years, being the general manager of that company. The owner didn’t even come there any more. I was running the company. And I talked him into selling it to a larger company. So actually kind of had two suitors but we sold it to a company Agway out of Syracuse New York.

Lon Langston: All right, so then that was a great opportunity which what I was looking for to work for, a more sophisticated company where I actually had benefits and we actually took holidays. But even more than that, I actually got training and exposure the way business is really done. This is a multi-billion dollar company in multiple states and so I was there at Atlanta location manager but also got to travel around the country doing projects that involved a bunch of different people in that organization not just for the produce people.

Learning the Contrast

Lon Langston: All right, now I’ve got a contrast now. So I’ve got a contrast between this terrible small little mom-and-pop company and this huge, pretty well run multi-billion dollar company and then I took those two things together and said, “All right, I still want out of this terrible industry, but I can’t leave because I can’t monitize this institutional knowledge I’ve got. Right, if I leave, I’m going have to start back somewhere … “

Josh Sweeney: All over again, yep.

Lon Langston: Yeah. All right. So here’s my plan now, Josh. So what I say is, I’ve got to start my own produce company, even though I hate it, because I got to have something to sell, right, something tangible. All right so-

Josh Sweeney: Yes.

Lon Langston: … yeah. So I start-

The More Durable – Potatoes

Josh Sweeney: Apples, they’re more durable. Right?

Lon Langston: Whatever. Okay. Actually what I focused on in my company was potatoes.

Josh Sweeney: Okay.

Lon Langston: Far more durable.

Josh Sweeney: Nice.

Lon Langston: Right?

Josh Sweeney: Got it.

Lon Langston: Okay. So-

Josh Sweeney: I’m getting a whole education on vegetables and durability here.

Lon Langston: [crosstalk 00:15:10]

Josh Sweeney: Learning something during this.

Lon Langston: Well the problem …

Josh Sweeney: You have potatoes.

Lon Langston: The problem with potatoes though is, I was repacking them into consumer packs which involves hundreds of thousands of dollars of capital expenditure to have the equipment in the warehouse to do it. So that … I don’t know if that was a good idea but that’s when I went to the lap top and me right?

The Five Year Plan

Lon Langston: But okay, so I had a five year plan, I’m going to build this company up for five years and then I’m going sell it. And the five year plan worked great, except in year five, I was making a lot money and I got greedy. And I said, “Why would sell this company? It’s doing great!” Right? All right, the next year in August, year six in August, the potato market crashed and there’s a lot of micro-economics involved in that but all you need to know is that made the company not profitable any more. And now all of a sudden, I can’t sell it again or at least not for the amount of money I want.

Escape from Shawshank

Lon Langston: All right, so I spend the next four and half years building it back up and marketing it and selling it and successfully sold it in October. On October 1st of 2014, which is when I escaped from the produce business, and I think it’s a lot like … I always think about like The Shawshank Redemption. You know how he tunneled out through the sewer? That’s how I got out of the produce business. Right? All right, so but all that, maybe that’s too long …

Josh Sweeney: Hopefully, your experience was more lucrative though.

Lon Langston: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: I don’t know, freedom is very …

Lon Langston: Freedom man.

Josh Sweeney: That’s worth a lot.

Lon Langston: What do you want? I mean.

Josh Sweeney: That’s true. Okay, okay. I’ll take that back then.

What do you REALLY want?

Lon Langston: You know you want … okay. This is maybe way off the subject, oh but not it’s not actually. It fits into culture and … What do you really want out of your whole existence? I’d argue. I’d submit to you that if you want peace of mind, and positive impact and freedom’s got to be a huge part of that.

Lon Langston: Now a lot of times we think about, what I want is a lot of money I can do what I want. Well that’s freedom. That’s also peace of mind. Right?

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Lon Langston: So peace of mind and positive impact’s everybody is looking for.

Josh Sweeney: So I’m going to take us back to this sense of urgency item ’cause I do have a little bit of a burning question, so you’re in this organization, people are putting in massive amounts of time or you’re putting in … you worked there right? You’re putting in massive amounts of time, there’s always sense of urgency. In the companies that you work with now, do you feel like we’ve gotten maybe too far away from the sense of urgency? Is it too relaxed? Are we at a good balance?

Lon Langston: It’s an interesting question. I think that …

Josh Sweeney: The reason I ask is, I’m very fast paced.

Lon Langston: Yeah.

The Balance

Josh Sweeney: On the smaller business side in the global scheme of things and I want everything yesterday. So I love the idea of things happening constantly, always. Now not to that extent of course of burning people out and having a terrible culture, but also not so relaxed that everybody thinks they have all the time in the world because what I noticed is, no matter what, every month the bills still come in. Right.

Lon Langston: So okay. Like everything, I think in life the balance is important. It’s never binary. The choice is never a or b. Right. The choices is always-

Josh Sweeney: Somewhere in the middle.

Lon Langston: It’s always in the middle. And the … were in the middle changes. Right? So I think every day you come to work, and you think, “How much should I push versus how much should I let other people have autonomy?” I mean I did as a leader.

And some days you get that roar in one direction and some days in the other maybe a lot of days it’s close, you know if you’re lucky. But and it’s not binary. If it was, it would be easy. If it was, somebody could go to business school, come out and make a billion dollars. But that never happens because it’s not easy.

Good Cop Bad Cop

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. I know in our organization I would say we don’t intentionally do good cop, bad cop but we kind of do by personality. So I’m the one that usually pushing for more and challenging and trying to get more. And then Crystal whose our head of culture, is the one reinforcing the why and putting people little more at ease about what I ask for. So it’s a little bit of internal give and take around how do we insure everybody knows that there is a sense of urgency.

We don’t have all the time in the world and that we need to get things done quickly, but also a balance in that people want to make sure that they’re having a good experience. We want them to have a good experience in the organization and we want to retain the best talent so like you said, that’s a give and take, there’s a balance.

Retention requires great experience.

Lon Langston: So recruiting and retention of great talents going to require that they have a great experience. So that’s what keeps you from driving them so hard that they quit or burn out, right? And I also think it’s a little bit meta that someone who does a culture podcast has a head of culture. That was interesting.

Josh Sweeney: Just a little meta. Yeah, yeah. I like it. Awesome. Well what else have we not discussed around company culture that you’ve experienced? Is there something you’ve experienced in the last few weeks or last few months where it’s like, hey things are shifting, people need to make change happen?

Lon Langston: So I don’t know if this is exactly the answer to your question, but there is something-

Josh Sweeney: It was a vague question.

Mission Statements DO NOT Drive Behavior

Lon Langston: … I’ve come to a realization in the last, maybe, several months, maybe a year but I’ve come to a realization. All right what we have generally, traditionally, thought of as culture is the mission and vision and maybe value statement of the organization and so typically the senior management goes away on a retreat and they come up with a mission and vision and they carve into stone and they come back and they inflict it upon the masses, right.

The rank and file will say, “This is it. Memorize this. Put it on a card and keep it in your wallet or whatever. Print it on the wall.” But you know what, it never turns out really to be the culture even though they want it to be. That turns out to be something … a lot of times it’s forgotten completely. If they’re lucky, people memorize part of it. But it really doesn’t drive behavior. And that’s what culture does.

Lon Langston: So the culture’s actually happening somewhere else, and the senior management’s often not even aware of it. And a good organization, they are aware of it. In a great organization, they’re involved in it but I hesitate to even say they’re driving it. Because I think what’s driving it, now this is the revelation, what’s driving it is the individuals.

Culture VS Strategy

And so you think … So go back to the Peter Drucker quote, “Culture eats strategy for Lunch.”

All right, so we think in terms of, all right, how are we going to do strategic planning and what’s this person going to do and what’s this person? What’s this job responsibility? And roles and goals and let’s do review every year and talk about where you’re at.

Lon Langston: All right, you know what? That person’s not really behaving day to day, in their job based on all of that stuff, based on strategy. They’re behaving based on the culture. That’s why the Drucker quote’s so true, “Culture eats strategy for lunch” because if the culture’s not right, no strategy’s going to work. Right?

Every Employee Affects Culture

Lon Langston: Okay, so back to the revelation, is that each individual, even if say it’s the hourly worker who started three days ago, impacts the culture. Now the chief financial officer or the chief operating officer doesn’t want to believe that, but it’s true. It’s true especially when you’re lowest paid people in a lot of industries are interacting with your customers. Right?

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Lon Langston: And so they’re definitely driving your culture and you might not even realize what they’re doing. All right, so then the question becomes, how do you manage culture if culture’s not centrally located and I think that is you got to spend a whole lot of time and effort on the individuals, on the people.

Culture in the Frontlines

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Definitely. Spending that time on each individual, I like your concept around the front line people, managing, being that part of the culture in which the customer sees. I think we get … A lot of times we get separated from that. I think organizations get separated from that. Right?

Lon Langston: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: Like you said, they’re coming up with a culture up here but somewhere on the front lines, are the people that are actually dealing with them. And there’s also we see a lot of disconnect in the perceived culture from external like the customers, the perceived culture from the front line and the perceived culture from the management ’cause we have to get all of those in alignment to really create the result that we want to have.

Alignment – Still Matters

Lon Langston: Yeah. You know that word alignment is an old word, but it’s still very relevant. That matters. Alignment matters hugely. And so what you’re thinking about a culture of the organization as the organization’s identity. It’s personality, it’s vision, it’s value, what ever is in innate about it and all the experiences. Well that’s a same thing with a human. A human’s culture is their identity also. What they’re innate proclivities and talents are, what they’re personality is, what their vision is, what their values are and what their experiences are.

Lon Langston: All right, you got to align those two things, right, or those ten things which what makes it hard then you multiply that by the number of employees and to the extent that there’s alignment, that you’re going to have a great culture.

Lon Langston: Okay, so circle back around, Josh, to why I said I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a great culture because that’s my vision of it that it’s aligned with every person’s identity and the organizational identity are moving in the same direction. It’s incredibly difficult to achieve.

Personality Balancing

Josh Sweeney: Yes, definitely. I mean there’s a lot of personality that comes in. I know we try to be as goal oriented as possible but some people are goal oriented, some people are not by personality. So we have to look at that balance. And then what is happens when you have too many goals oriented people on team or too many relationship orient on the team? Where does that imbalance come in? And what you’re saying, what I’m hearing at least is, it’s that one example times a million, right?

Lon Langston: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: It’s not just goal or results, it’s punctuality. When does a company start? When do people come in? All of those ideals, that not only make up them, but as a whole create the company and create that company culture.


Lon Langston: Right, exactly. And okay, so then you have to get to that intrinsic motivator. Extrinsic motivators, carrots and sticks, are going to get you a certain amount of engagement but not much. Right, so to use another old word, engagement, you got to have engagement and alignment. Those old words still matter because they’re right. But so carrots and sticks, extrinsic motivators are not going to get you much alignment or much engagement. So you have to get back to the intrinsic. Okay, now again, it gets hard because now you’re dealing with every individual persons intrinsic motivator.

Lon Langston: Have you read Drive by Daniel Pink?

Josh Sweeney: It’s been a while.

Lon Langston: It’s an older book.

Josh Sweeney: It’s been a while.

Lon Langston: But he talks a lot about intrinsic versus extrinsic and I kind of had this brainstorm the other day about a metaphor for this. And it is, okay, so motivation is the fuel of the organization. All right. So if motivation is the fuel, what’s fueling the organization? Well, it may be the CEO, the founder, or the senior management team, maybe and they think they are but in fact, they’re only going to be able to provide a certain amount of fuel, right? You need fuel sources from everybody whose involved.

Fueling Culture – Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Lon Langston: All right, so think about this. Extrinsic motivation. So carrot and stick motivation, motivation by goals and by incentives and by bonuses that kind of motivation is like this really low octane, high pollution fuel. You’re not getting much bang for your buck and it’s polluting the whole culture. And okay but intrinsic motivation is like a super high octane, low pollution fuel. So you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck and it’s not polluting the culture.

Lon Langston: All right, so if you think about how do I fuel the culture? You want to fuel with that high octane, low pollution fuel but you’re only going to get that if you’re engaging every person or as many as possible, every person’s not possible, as many as possible in the organization.

Making the Culture Distinction

Lon Langston: So that makes me think of another book, which came out this year, so let’s jump forward to 2018, the books is Powerful by Patty McCord.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah.

Lon Langston: So Patty, she was the … she was the chief people officer, I think that’s the title, chief people officer at Netflix for 14 years. And she is compassionately brutal.

Josh Sweeney: Yes.

Lon Langston: Right?

Josh Sweeney: A lot of good context.

Lon Langston: She’s like, “Okay we’re going to treat people with respect but a lot of people don’t belong here.”

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Lon Langston: “And if they don’t belong here they’re going to leave.” Right?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah.

Lon Langston: That makes it interesting. But some of the getting the right alignment is, “You know what? You need to just be set free to go work somewhere else.” And I think where there’s a lot of cultures fall down is, they don’t make a distinction. They don’t and Patty makes this point, but they don’t understand the team versus the family way of looking at culture, a way of looking at the organization, especially an organization like the size I work with, where it really started … an organization that was really small and felt like a family for good and bad and then when they grew to this point we talked about earlier where they need help, they’re still trying to be a family and you know what, family takes care of everybody no matter what.

Josh Sweeney: Right.

The Sports Team

Lon Langston: But that’s really not how an organization works best. An organization works best like a sport’s team. So you want to treat your players really well. You pay them well. You take care of them. You hopefully treat them with respect but what happens it the second baseman doesn’t perform? Well, he doesn’t have a job. You trade him.

Josh Sweeney: Got to go.

Lon Langston: Yeah, he’s got to go. All right and that’s Patty McCord’s point was, “It’s a team, not a family.” And I really think that’s a big jump for a lot of people and that’s when the size of your workforce gets to a point where, you know what, this is going have to be more professional, more like a team, that’s a difficult transition for a lot of owners, leaders, founders.

Josh Sweeney: Definitely. And that book was Powerful?

Lon Langston: Powerful.

Josh Sweeney: Powerful, right. I actually just read that. It’s probably been a few weeks now but it’s a great books.

Josh Sweeney: So with that, I’m going to thank you for your time. All of this great information. I’m going to leave you, the views, off with the book recommendation of Powerful. I believe it’s from Patty McCord and hopefully you read that, get some value out of that and this podcast session. So thank you for joining us.


Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture Podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co.

If you have questions or topics you would like us to address, or expand on, Tweet us @epicculture1 or email at podcast@epicculture.co.


Podcast Highlights and Resources


  • They became victims of their own success because once it grows to a certain level, they’re not professional managers. They’re also loath to hire professional manager because they don’t want to give up the control.
  • You need to delegate. You need to loosen the reigns a little bit.
  • Like everything, I think in life the balance is important. It’s never binary.
  • So recruiting and retention of great talents going to require that they have a great experience. 
  • Culture’s actually happening somewhere else, and the senior management’s often not even aware of it. 
  • You know that word alignment is an old word, but it’s still very relevant. 

Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us

Daniel Pink Drive Company Culture

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

Shawshank Redemption

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker Culture Eats Strategy 

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

Powerful Patty McCord Company Culture

When it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, Patty McCord says most companies have it all wrong. McCord helped create the unique and high-performing culture at Netflix, where she was chief talent officer. In her new book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, she shares what she learned there and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

McCord advocates practicing radical honesty in the workplace, saying good-bye to employees who don’t fit the company’s emerging needs, and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans. McCord argues that the old standbys of corporate HR―annual performance reviews, retention plans, employee empowerment and engagement programs―often end up being a colossal waste of time and resources. Her road-tested advice, offered with humor and irreverence, provides readers a different path for creating a culture of high performance and profitability.

Powerful will change how you think about work and the way a business should be run.

Prototype Prime

Prototype Prime is a 501(c)3 non-profit incubator focused on early stage software and hardware technology startups. Our mission is to provide startup companies with the support they need to launch & scale.

Funded by the City of Peachtree Corners Prototype Prime is a regional affiliate of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech, and is located just 30 minutes north of Atlanta.

Our suburban location within a 500-acre commercial office park, adjacent to a custom- built intelligent mobility test and demonstration track, is the ideal place to envision what smart cities of the future will look like.