Building Your Company’s Culture in the Moment

Scenario: You witness a situation at work and it is clearly evident that this will lead to a culture-killer for your company.  What do you do?

Most people do one of 3 things:

1. DO NOTHING.  Look the other way.  Ignore what you’re seeing, hearing, and feeling.

2. JOIN IN.  This is the mob mentality.  “A riot is an ugly thing…I think it’s high time we have one!” (Young Frankenstein). This only fuels the fires of negativity.

3. PROMOTE, PRACTICE, and PROTECT the culture.

in the moment

Easy. It’s just as easy to not act as it is to act.  Just like losing weight or exercising or reading or being intentional in a relationship….it’s easy to do something and it’s not easy to do something

 

Fear.  We fear taking a stand.  We fear retribution from our peers (“who does he think he is?!”)

Deflection. “It’s not my job.  I’m not a manager, VP, CEO…”

Since when is protecting our culture the sole responsibility of a supervisor?

hey

 

Self-worth“Who am I to say something/take a stand?”

Too many times, we don’t take a stand because of what we say to ourselves.

  • “I’m just a line worker/entry-level accountant/etc.  I have no authority.”
  • “People will make fun or treat me differently.  I don’t want to risk that.”
  • “I’ve only been with the company for 6 months.  I don’t know enough to speak up.”
  • “I’m an idiot.  I should shut up.”

Please realize that there are people who applied for your position and did not get it.    YOU are in!  YOU made it.  YOU are worthy!  Your company believes in YOU.

But in order for your company’s culture to grow and be cultivated, each team member has to make the right decision at those critical moments.

  • And every time you and I stand up to PROMOTE, PRACTICE, AND PROTECT our culture, we build momentum.
  • And when momentum builds, it becomes the norm.
  • We raise our standards.
  • We don’t settle.
  • We refuse to live to the lowest common denominator.
  • The culture becomes alive.
  • WE become the culture.

 

protect your culture

The Transformation “Doings” by Jim Johnson

Transformation requires work.  We all know that.  Years ago I read that to realize change, we need to start doing some things and stop doing others to get us to where we want to be.

Transformation requires these 2 “doings”  – START and STOP

If you want to transform an area of your personal and/or work life, you will need to START doing something new, in different ways.  Why?  As I wrote last time, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.  So, transformation requires that we START to do something new – the CHANGE.

If you want, for example,  more energy, lose weight, and improve the overall sense of health in your life, you can START doing something new by:

  • Drinking more water.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Choose healthier food options.
  • Visit your doctor on a regular basis.

But in order to improve your health, you will most likely need to STOP doing things that will hinder this goal:

  • Stop drinking soda pop.
  • Stop eating junk food throughout the day.
  • Stop going through the drive-thru lane at a local fast food restaurant multiple times per week.
  • Stop plopping yourself in front of the TV for hours each evening.

START Here:

So on this 2nd day of the new year, think about where you need transformation. Write it down.  Next, create a 2-column list and write as headings START DOING and STOP DOING.  Fill out each column.  This list is not a wish list.  It is a doing list.  If you think you’ll waiver on this, share your list with a friend who can help with accountability (in fact, why not ask a friend or two to do this along with you).

We can tend to think of transformation as some sort of dramatic life event that will catapult us to a new level.  Maybe in the movies, but in the real world, transformation takes planning, determination, work, and intention.

And it can be as simple as this:

START doing the things that will move you closer to what you want to be, achieve.

STOP doing the things that put up obstacles on the road to your transformation

 

start stop doing

TRANSFORMATION: change…seriously…change by Jim Johnson

always do what you always have done

Day after day…month after month…year after year it is the same.  You keep doing the same things in your life and yet you wish things were different.

“Why can’t I lose weight?”             “Why didn’t I get that promotion?”

             “Why do I feel stuck financially?”              “Why isn’t my relationship with my kids better?”

Deep down inside, we already know the answer.  We have not seriously changed anything to help us realize our goals/dreams.  We have not been transformed.

I hear this lament all the time from family and from coworkers.  I’ve seen people struggle with “getting ahead” in so many arenas in life yet they keep behaving the same as they always have.  They keep believing as they always have.  They keep thinking as they always have.

Yet they expect different results.

How do I know this?  I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about this.  And I have personally struggled with this.  We all have.

Why?  Why have we all struggle so?  Why can’t we seem to “get off the dime” and really experience change in our lives – change that we truly want to see happen?

“If you always do what you’ve always done…”

Our “doing” – our habits – have us right where we are.  Right, our habits (a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up) have set the program by which we live our lives.  We have so regularly practiced something…

  • Making unhealthy food choices
  • Putting off exercise
  • Dragging our feet on innovating at work
  • Not taking the initiative to deepen a relationship

…that it is now “settled”…it marks who we are.  We don’t like it.  We want to be different.  But habits are “hard to give up”.

So what can we do?  Note:  the dictionary definition of a habit states they are hard to give up – not impossible.  In other words, it is entirely POSSIBLE to change a habit to make it work FOR you and not against you.

Dr. Shad Helmstetter teaches that we can re-program our mind to think more positively by merely repeating new thoughts consistently.

“In logical progression, what we believe determines our attitudes, affects our feelings, directs our behavior, and determines our success or failure:

  1. Programming creates beliefs.
  2. Beliefs create attitudes.
  3. Attitudes create feelings.
  4. Feelings determine actions.
  5. Actions create results.”

This works for both negative thoughts and positive thoughts.  Both thoughts follow this progression.

So, if you want to transform how you think, for example, you have to change your programming – those thoughts which you allow into your mind.

The same is true for our health.  If we eat unhealthy food, we will become unhealthy. A steady diet of junk food will not result in a healthy body.  We were not created this way.  “Garbage in, garbage out.”

So much has been written about habits.  I would encourage you to read about habits, their power, and how you can truly make effective changes in your life.  I recommend the following books:

The thoughts these authors share will change your life. They really will.  But not by merely reading.  It will be in the doing.

If you feel stuck…if you feel hopeless…if you struggle…if you are disgusted you are where you are…CHANGE YOUR HABITS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

TRANSFORMATION happens through effective habits.  Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, says that true change happens – not in huge dramatic moments – in the everyday effort of moving closer to our goals. More to come on this.

Look at your habits.  Looks at your goals.  If your current habits do not move you towards what you want, change them.  Every day, change them.

There may be a thousand little choices in a day. All of them count.
Dr. Shad Helmstetter

 

Protecting Your Company’s Culture – whose job is it? by Jim Johnson

In my last post, I introduced how team members can have confidence in building their company’s culture.  I shared about those critical moments when an employee has to make decisions about how to respond to counter-cultural situations.  The best course of action, in my opinion, is to do these 3 things as a matter of habit:

  • PROMOTE – This is where we actively, intentionally promote the very best of our company.
  • PRACTICE – The best way to promote a company’s culture is to practice it.
  • PROTECT

By protecting the culture I mean intentionally standing up for it.  Let me give an example.

You are in the company’s lunch room.  You hear one employee gossiping (assume negatively) about someone who is not present.  Others are around listening and sometimes joining in. Others are doing and saying nothing.

At that moment, what can you do to PROTECT your company’s culture.  You know what you are observing is NOT going build a healthy culture.  You know what you are hearing is hurtful and not helpful.  So what can YOU do?

protect

In my opinion, you have the right – and responsibility – to approach the gossiper.  Wait…what?!?!  Yes, YOU  have this right.  But take the right approach:

 

  • Approach the gossiper in private.  Don’t create even more negative drama by calling them out in front of a group.  That rarely, if ever, works.  Yes, what that person is doing is wrong, but professionally meet with them in private.  This will truly help “save face” to the one in the wrong.
  • Explain what you heard.  Tell them that the company’s culture is too valuable to make room for hurtful talk about each other.  Tell this person you believe they are better than they portrayed themselves to the group in the lunch room.  Maybe even ask them, “How do you think people perceived you when you talked about that other person in the way you did?  Do you think any of them may believe you’d do the same thing about them?  I want you to be better than this.  I hope you would want the same thing for me and others here.”  Help this person understand you care not only for the person being maligned but that you care for the gossiper, too.  Face it, most of us become blind to certain behaviors and attitudes.  But approach this person with the intent to help them become better.  
  • Tell them that you are not their supervisor, but as an employee of this company, you care about things that move the company forward.  And you care about things that hold the company back.  And you care about the people that work here.

Please note:  this is NOT simple to do.  Too often things get in the way of us making the right choice to protect our culture:

  • Easy. It’s just as easy to not act as it is to act. Just like losing weight or exercising or reading or being intentional in a relationship….easy to do and not easy to do.
  • Fear. We fear taking a stand.  I’ll admit it, it is scary!
  • Deflection. “It’s not my job. I’m not a manager, VP, CEO…”
    • Since when is protecting our culture the sole responsibility of a supervisor?
    • If you saw someone trying to kidnap a child at the mall, you would step in, right? Or would you tell yourself, “hey, it’s not my kid…”?
  • Self-worth. Too many times, we don’t take a stand because of what we say to ourselves.
    • “I’m just a low-level employee.  I have no authority.”
    • “People will make fun or treat me badly.  I don’t want to risk that.”
    • “I’ve only been with the company for 18 months. I don’t know enough to speak up.”
    • Who am I to speak up?  What do I know? I should shut up.”

But your company’s culture is worth protecting and nurturing!  Every time to PROMOTE, PRACTICE,  and PROTECT your culture, you help build momentum.

And when momentum builds, it becomes the norm.

You help raise the standard.

You don’t settle.

You refuse to live to the lowest common denominator.

The culture becomes more alive.

You/We become the culture.

 

Next, I’ll share some practical ways to PROMOTE and PRACTICE the culture.

 

Curiosity – Leaders Can Encourage It!

Last evening, I read a very good article in the Sept/Oct 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review.  The article, entitled “The Business Case for Curiosity” by Francesca Gino (Professor, Harvard), spelled out why curiosity is so important in our businesses and for our team members.

Prof. Gino defines curiosity as “the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities“.  As much as I value curiosity, it was sobering to read “although leaders might say they treasure inquisitive minds, in fact most stifle curiosity fearing it will increase risk and inefficiency“.

Prof. Gino speaks of two barriers to curiosity:

  1. Leaders have the wrong mindset about exploration.  The fear here is this could lead to a “costly mess”, make the company harder to manage, and could possibly slow down operations.
  2. Leaders tend to seek efficiency to the detriment of exploration.  Prof. Gino uses Henry Ford’s drive to reduce production costs so much so that he was unable to be nimble enough to address General Motors surge in introducing a greater variety of automobiles for the public.

So how can a leader “bolster curiosity”?  Prof. Gino lists 5 ways:

  1. Hire for Curiosity
  2. The Leader should model inquisitiveness.
  3. Emphasize learning goals over or as much as performance goals.
  4. Let employees explore and broaden their interests.
  5. Have “why?” and “what if…?” and “how might we…?” days.

Harvard Business Review Sept cover

I am purposefully leaving out a lot of detail in this post. You should invest a small price to read this excellent article which can be found online here:  https://hbr.org/product/the-business-case-for-curiosity/R1805B-PDF-ENG

Or better yet, subscribe to HBR here: Harvard Business Review subscription information

Become a Detective by Jim Johnson

CEO Next Door

I have been reading the new book, The CEO Next Door, by Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell.  In today’s reading, I came across the phrase “become of detective.”  The context of this speaks of when a leader is trying connect with their team, stakeholders, board members, customers, etc.  Becoming a detective means to work to truly understand the other person’s perspective so great decisions can be made and meaningful directions can be set and navigated.

 

 

So what do the authors state as the key elements of becoming a detective?

  1. Ask questions.  Become curious.  Asking versus telling will help you learn so much more about the other person’s values, needs, wants, concerns, etc.
  2. Engage intellectually.  No simple patronizing nods.  Ask more probing questions.  Follow up.  Follow through.
  3. Listen.  Engaging intellectually means you are actively listening and asking great questions based upon what you have heard.  Listening communicates to the other person you are investing in them – right now.
  4. Gather information to understand.  Don’t make decisions in a vacuum.  Your actions of asking/listening are the vital part of your information gathering.  And all of that should lead to better understanding the situation.
  5. Harness what matters to them.  Nothing frustrates customers/team members more as when a leader appears to have listened and then acts in a way that seems to ignore all of the previous interactions.  If you truly want to connect with your customers/team members, harness what matters to them based upon your interactions with them.

This book will be available at the first of March.  I received my copy through LeaderBox.  Or you can follow this link to pre-order your copy today.  It’s worth the read!

 

Voice vs. Vote by Jim Johnson

Every day, decisions are made at organizations everywhere.  In some companies, a select few are chosen to make the decisions.  In other organizations, more of a team approach is taken.  And there are plenty of examples of everything in between.

Your team members need to understand how decisions are made in your particular company, and they should understand what role they could play in the decision-making process.

I call the the Voice vs. Vote understanding.

If you serve in a company that allows team contribution during a decision-making venture (i.e. bringing on a new vendor, new software solution, etc.), be sure you are doing the following with/for your team members:

  1. Be on their side.  Actually, breakdown the “sides” and help them know their input is important to share.  And have them share it in the appropriate channels.  Ask for and expect open communication and the flow of ideas.
  2. Encourage them.  I’ve seen team members complain about a process but they offer no input into that process.  Encourage them to get involved!
  3. Give power to their voice.  Get them on a project where their experience and expertise are needed.  Expect collaboration.  Tell them that their voice needs to be heard.  Help connect them to the right people during a decision-making process so their voice is heard.
  4. Help them succeed.  Don’t assume your team member knows how to voice their opinion into a decision-making process.  Show them the way.  Help them succeed – even if their idea is not acted upon.
  5. Help them understand.  The decision-making process, recommendations, and letting go are critical for your team to understand.  Do not assume they already know how the “powers-that-be” operate.

Hopefully at your organization, everyone has a voice.  But as I explain to my team, not everyone gets a vote in the end.  But the voices during the decision-making process are vital for great decisions to be made.

speak up

 

Why vs How by Jim Johnson

When you are confronted with a challenge, question or any conundrum, what do you ask yourself?

Why is this happening?”

How can I figure this out?”

What you ask will determine your outcomes.

WHY seems to assume there in only 1 answer.  WHY can freeze you in your tracks – paralyzes you from moving forward. WHY creates a self-pity scenario.  WHY drains you. WHY is not the best way to deal with obstacles.

how

HOW triggers creativity in your brain – you will start looking for options and possibilities.    HOW looks for potential.  HOW energizes you.  HOW empowers you.