Stabilizing at Stage Four

by Tribal Leadership on August 20, 2008

UPDATE: If you’d like to learn the techniques to creating a killer culture, Zappos has published the audio version of Tribal Leadership, available for FREE.

We had the wonderful experience spending a day at, the world’s biggest online shoe store. They have truly perfected the art of culture. Not only are their core values well-known throughout the company, they actually have the means to track the values across departments.

The internal maxim of the company is “We’re a customer service company. We just happen to sell shoes.” And they certainly live the brand. They not only treat their customers well (evidenced by having zero limits on the amount of time the call center can spend with a customer), they treat their employees with equal respect.  The decorated hallways, nap rooms, and free lunches barely scratch the surface. If you take a deeper look you see the life coach on staff, the contests, random parades and campy department videos.  And if you take a much deeper look, you can see people’s eyes light up as they walk down the hall of a company that is more like a family than anything. 

In our estimation, Zappos is one of the few companies that have successfully entered Stage Four and are looking to stabilize it before being pulled into Stage Five.  This may seem easy at first glance for a company with happy employees and revenues that just broke $1 billion per year.  However, it’s inevitable that a company of 1600 people with departments whose goals are not always clearly in sync will run into growing pains.

If Zappos can create a culture of coaching and triads, around a noble cause that unites all departments, they will upgrade to a rock steady Stage Four, and as we demonstrated in the book, prime themselves for the world to call them into Stage Five.

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