Author Archives: Donavon Roberson

About Donavon Roberson

Donavon Roberson is the Culture Evangelist for and Zappos Insights by day and a devoted husband, father, and friend by night. As a Culture Evangelist, he spends a great deal of time assisting business owners and senior leaders create a strong and actionable culture that makes sense for their company and that benefits their employees, as well as their customers. He has been with Zappos for just over three years and has held a few positions in the company, such as CLT Representative, Help Desk Operations Manager and now the Zappos Insights Culture Evangelist. In his past life (for 13 years), Donavon helped teenagers navigate some of the most trying times of life by serving as their Youth Pastor. When he finds a little extra time, he blogs at, his blog regarding his journey of faith. Donavon holds a B.S. degree in Christian education from Appalachian Bible College, and is working towards a MAR in Leadership from Liberty Theological Seminary. Find Donavon online at:Zappos Insights: Website: Twitter: @Zappos_DRob Facebook: LinkedIn:

So the question came up from my last post:

How do we create a company culture when the manager does not really care about their employee’s good? What is the motivation for a manager to really want to invest in the life of his employee?

In my opinion this is really based on two things:

  1. Vision
  2. Values

Before we go there I want to look at what it means to be a leader and discuss what leadership is all about.  Let’s take a moment to talk about the difference between management and leadership. Some say that they don’t manage…they lead. Management has taken on a bad stigma as of late but why? What is the difference?

I see the difference being:

  • Leading is leading people to be better individuals. The emphasis being on the people being lead. The focus of leadership isn’t what but who.
  • Managing is making sure a process get’s accomplished. The emphasis here is would be upon the tasks at end. The focus of management isn’t who but what.

The problem with this is that I don’t believe you can effectively lead people without managing a process, so I don’t believe that you can truly separate the two. You need both of styles of leadership. Generally “managing the process” becomes the focus of many organizations or managers and not leading people.  The completion of the task becomes secondary to leading our people and inspiring them to greatness.

So what is leadership?

Leadership is what happens when, through my interaction with my team, I am inspiring my people to greatness. Leadership happens when I as a leader help my employees or team to become better individuals. Leadership is all about pouring into their lives in order to see them grow and succeed. Leadership happens when I can honestly say that I am investing in the lives of my team.

The reality is that while my team is growing personally, they are impacting the company in a positive way as well.

Since leadership is about success and growth, it does require that we manage a process. Managing a process correctly requires that the leader understand how that process relates to vision or the purpose of the organization. Without vision there is no meaning or standard of decision making to make sure that vision comes about.

What is vision?

Vision is that which we aspire to attain. It’s the direction which an organization or company is heading. It is the way that we’re going, the path that we are on, and the end goal that we want to see happen. It is not simply “who we hope to be one day” but a clear idea of where we are going, with steps along the way to help us get there.

However you want to define it, vision is the purpose of the company or organization.

Without vision, a leader is simply taking a stroll. Without vision, a leader is simply taking a walk with followers strolling aimlessly along with no direction, no purpose.

The problem with vision is that it can limit our growth if it is not large enough and it can frustrate the organization if it is too high and lofty. A vision must be clear, concise, and actionable. That is not to say that a small vision can’t be part of the process to accomplish the larger vision and that a large vision cannot be attained with careful planning and preparation…both can be true.

Vision should be something that is clearly communicated inside the organization and something that everyone can get behind and support. Without alignment, the vision is not going to easily get off the ground.

Vision is key to effectively leading our employees to realize their greatness and the greatness of the company.

Vision helps us as leaders figure out:

  • where we need to go
  • what we need to do to get there
  • how we’re doing along the way

Vision provides:

  • unity for all within the company or organization
  • energy and drive to see the company move forward
  • accountability and

That’s where values come into play and that is for another post.

But before we go, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is your vision?
  • Is it greater than just the bottom line?
  • Do your employees understand your vision and do they have ownership?
  • If your vision isn’t where it needs to be, are you willing to make changes in order to get back on track?

droberson[at]zappos[dot]com | @zappos_drob|

We’ve all been there. Right?

We’ve had those managers that have asked us to do things that they themselves would never do. In fact most of the time they have asked us to do certain tasks because they refused to do those tasks themselves.

  • What about those managers that have called the meetings and then haven’t shown up for their own meeting?
  • How about this? Your supervisor asks you to do something and then they come back later and change their mind simply because they hadn’t thought the project through from the beginning?
  • What about the times that your manager has gotten in your face about something or confronted you on an issue, when they themselves have done the exact same thing?

What is it about management that makes managers think that there untouchable?

The truth is that is how corporate cultures are set up today. Most of Corporate America is set up in a “dog eat dog” environment. As the authors of Tribal Leadership would describe it, the corporate culture in America is set up for the stage 3 leader. The battle cry of this leader is:

  • “I’m great”
  • “What’s it for me?”
  • “How can I climb the corporate ladder to get what is best for me?”

This culture has created an environment where managers don’t really think about employees, they just want to get the job done. Managers have become task driven – task oriented – task focus, not employee focused. We have become more concerned with “getting it done” and do not give much thought as to how we can do it smarter, how can we do it better, or how can we do it faster by empowering our people to own the vision and go after it.

I’ve heard so many stories from individuals that tell me they feel their managers take advantage of them, as employees. These folks would rather be part of something great! Most employees want to be part of something exciting, something that matters and that really truly makes a difference.

Let’s be honest, there are times that it is not just about the paycheck.

  • Yes they need the money.
  • Yes they need to pay the bills.
  • Yes they need to keep the lights on.
  • Yes they’ve got to provide for their family.

But deep down at their core, they would like to a part of something that is more meaningful than just the money. The way that management treats their employees, doesn’t help the situation. They frustrate their employees. They tell the team to show up to a meeting and then don’t show up to run the meeting. They make sure that all employees punch in on time, but then they are late walking in for the day. They do what they want, because that’s what benefits them, not for what benefits the team.

What if your place of employment was different? What if you worked in an environment, where employees wanted to come to work each day? What if you worked for a company where the management actually cared about the employees? What if your role as a leader was less about getting a job done and more about investing in the lives of your employee?

Let’s stop the cycle of seeing employees as simply means to an end, but the end itself.

Let’s start asking ourselves: How can I add value to my employee’s life?

That’s what company culture and core values do. Core Values speak to those things that are important to the company or organization. Core Values unite the people, they bind people together and they get everyone moving towards a common goal. Corporate Culture is not just a buzz word anymore, it’s the way the business must be done if it is to truly make a difference and move into the future.

droberson[at]zappos[dot]com | @zappos_drob|