As we all step carefully into 2021 jaded by a year that flipped us all upside down and hopeful for a return to normalcy and new opportunities, I think we are in the perfect spot to reflect on what we want to bring with us into this year and what we need to leave behind.
Before coming on board to High Performing Culture I spent 6 years in the United States Army. It was during a deployment in Afghanistan that I first learned about David Friedman, the CEO of HPC, and his Fundamentals System. I read a copy of his first book, Fundamentally Different, and it completely changed the way I thought about team engagement and leadership. As a young, enlisted soldier I wasn’t exactly the target audience for the book, but the methodology and principles behind the system were very practical and applicable to me. It was a playbook for me to use to be the best at whatever I set out to do.
On a typical mission a U.S soldier carries between 60 and 100 pounds of gear. This includes body armor, weaponry, water, ammunition, communications equipment, medical supplies, and any other assortment of things you might need “outside the wire.” When I tell people that, they often ask some form of the same question, “doesn’t that make it harder to move?” It’s a fair question. Obviously, speed and agility are important for survival. Soldiers, however, are trained to do everything they need to do while carrying all of that gear. We ruck march, we complete obstacle courses, and we train daily while wearing our gear until it becomes second nature.
On a long mission your equipment just becomes part of your body. It isn’t until you’re finally able to remove it, especially the body armor, that you realize just how heavy it is. When you first remove all your gear you feel almost weightless. You feel as if you could run and jump higher than you ever had before. It’s a similar feeling to a runner wearing ankle weights or heavier shoes to help them be able to run faster or jump higher once they take them off. The point is that when we carry around a heavy weight or burden, our bodies become accustomed to it to the point that we don’t even notice it anymore, until it’s gone.
Early on during the pandemic when everyone first went remote, I was on a call with a CEO from a company with about 50 employees. This particular organization had their team running alternating shifts in and out of the office. One week half of the employees would work in the office while the other half worked from home, and they would rotate the following week. I asked the CEO what she had observed and learned from this whole experience thus far. The first thing she said was that she noticed how much happier a place the office was when certain people weren’t there. Talk about an observation. She was able to identify something she hadn’t noticed before, or perhaps something she hadn’t wanted to notice before, that some people on her team were just simply negative, cynical jerks who were making the other employees unhappy.
Every organization has these kinds of people. Sometimes they might be the best salesperson in the company or an administrator who has been working there since the dawn of time. Whatever the case may be, typically there is a reason for why the business owner hasn’t sent them packing like they probably should have. Sometimes, like in the case of the CEO I mentioned, they themselves hadn’t noticed how bad they were until they weren’t there. Much like the heavy weight that we become accustomed to carrying around, bad behaviors that don’t fit the culture we envision for our workplaces are allowed to fester or grow, and nothing is ever done about them because we take them for granted. “That’s just how things are done around here.”
Let me offer some hard truth. You may have in your head a vision for the kind of work place you want to create. You may think you have the best intentions in the world to create a high performing culture in your organization, but at the end of the day the behaviors you are promoting are actually the behaviors you are tolerating. They could be the behaviors of an employee or they could even be your own. Either way, the best thing for your company would be to leave them behind in 2020.
I would like to share with you a quote from the author, Neale Donald Walsch.
“Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old all the while declaring that you want something new. The old will defy the new; the old will deny the new; the old will decry the new. There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.”
2020, by necessity, forced us all to reevaluate the traditional workplace model. The companies who were most agile and willing to adapt were the ones who benefited the most, and created the safest work environments for their employees. The companies with an intentional and defined culture were the ones least impacted by the upheaval of having employees working remotely. At the end of the day, an organization’s culture is really just a behavioral road map, and regardless of whether your employees are working in the office, at home, or in Timbuktu, those behaviors should not change.
Additionally, the top talent in the workforce know that they can work remotely now. Because of this, businesses no longer must protect their talent from only local competitors, they now have to protect their talent nationally as well. The talent pool just got a whole lot bigger. People with the right skill sets will be able to be more selective about their careers. It is on us to intentionally create the kind of work environment that attracts the people we want. The old way of thinking won’t get us there.
Most business leaders I speak with describe their culture as “fine” or maybe even “good.” In a competitive environment, good just isn’t good enough. These leaders don’t see taking an intentional approach to organizational culture as a pressing priority. Or at least that’s what they say. Their focus is in any number of different directions while they try to deal with more obvious issues. They are like a doctor treating symptoms, but not the condition. In reality I think a “fine” or “good” culture often gets ignored, not because the business leader doesn’t think it’s important, but because they don’t see it as actionable. They have absolutely no idea how to take their culture “beyond good.” They created a “fine” or “good” culture simply by being a good leader. It wasn’t intentional, they just did the right things.
I love getting to teach those CEOs about CultureWise because it blows their mind to see how such a simple methodology can be the exact tool they need to implement their vision for what they want their company to be. Culture IS actionable. Culture IS a priority.
If in this new year you want to be serious about creating a culture in your organization that attracts and retains the top talent, and creating a place where people enjoy coming to work, give us a call, shoot us an email, or click the button below.