Tips from our head of culture that will help you address cultural challenges due to the new ways which we conduct business.
Fact: organizations across the globe have zero idea what’s next given the uncertainties we are facing right now. We’ve been hearing mentions of “the new normal” in social conversations, business meetings and the morning paper- is that still a thing? The truth is, we don’t know what the new normal will look like. Your business may have plans in place for what the next few years look like from a logistical and strategic standpoint, I get that; as you should. You have growth models, P&L reports set, KPIs identified and a plan of action that ensure growth and success for your company and your customers.
That’s not the “what’s next” I’m talking about though; I’m not even talking about the massive anomaly of an economic black hole opening or the catastrophe of a terrorist attack. You have plans in place for those. The real hard truth here is that you really have no idea what’s next. When it comes right down to it, you just don’t know.
What I consistently tell our customers is that it’s important to focus on what you can control, and redirect your energy away from the things you can’t control. I have learned valuable lessons in my own life that led me to this point of view and wisdom. So when I say I know that you have no idea what’s next, I really know this, and to be radically honest, you know it too. On August 11th, 2015, I walked out of an AA meeting at 4:40 PST and received a phone call from the Asheville, NC Police Department. They told me my father had suddenly passed away. On June 30th, 2018, I woke up on a beautiful Saturday morning to a message on Facebook about cops outside my sister’s house in Vermont. She had suddenly passed away that morning. On both those occasions, I thought I had all my bases covered. The truth is that you can never have all of your bases covered because it is impossible. I didn’t, and you don’t right now.
You can cover all imaginable possibilities, but therein lies your blindspot: all “imaginable” possibilities. There are possibilities that you can’t imagine in this world, and we have faced many of those unimaginable possibilities over the past 9 months. One thing I can say with certainty is that the new normal that we keep hearing about will be full of curveballs, unforeseen events, and circumstances that you have no control over.
Despite all of these sobering facts, it’s time for some good news. Even though you can’t prepare for “that unimaginable event” you didn’t see coming, you can do things to safeguard against the repercussions of that event. It all starts with your culture, which is the “The Rock of Gibraltar” of your organization. If your culture has holes in it, then your entire organization is at risk for a gust of wind, much less something like a global pandemic, to blow your house down. Now more than ever in our global history, we need more clarity on how to focus on what we can control.
The best place you can start is with your organization’s culture. With so much external uncertainty floating around, investing in your company culture is taking the bull by the horns and establishing a bedrock you can stand on. It will pay off in ways that are measurable and aligned with the vision and values of your company. Business leaders have the ability to define and improve the organizations they serve; desire over doubt and belief over hope will encourage teams and individuals to get involved in the process.
There are many factors that contribute to the health of your organizational culture, but for now let's focus on two that are imperative to the strength and resiliency of your company right now:
Right now with all the uncertainty that’s present in the world, your ability to adapt and be resilient must be at the top of your priority list of things to excel at.
Let’s start with interaction first. How do your people interact with each other? Are they just a bunch of ships passing in the hallways of your office or are they collaborating, talking (and laughing together) in the lounge, and playing ping-pong (or beer-pong)?
The camaraderie and cohesiveness of an organizational unit is imperative to the sustainability of your culture and therefore the longevity of your company as a whole and the attrition rate of your employees.
On the other side of independence and interdependence is how well do people “take charge” and GSD (get sh*t done) when sh*t needs to get done. Do you find people lagging, and waiting for others to start, or are your stakeholders taking charge and getting into action when they see the need? Determining and taking advantage of the interaction styles of your stakeholders is going to go a long way when it comes to finding and sustaining your organizational flow state.
Now that we have addressed the importance of improving interaction, let’s talk about managing change. What is the default of your organization in a holistic sense?
Do you seek out stability (to the point of harm) or do you remain open to change (to facilitate growth)? Stability is great, and necessary, don’t get me wrong; without stability there can be no growth, innovation or longevity. Unstable is unsustainable. That being said, stability can be deceptive when it comes to change. Think in terms of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is stable, but it’s also debilitating. The growth mindset has inherent instability to it, but it’s also where all the magic happens. When your employees, partners, customers, and leadership are bought-in to the mission, vision, and purpose of your organization, they will trust, act, evolve (change) and innovate to progress the organization.
Now that I've shared some focus areas for cultural growth and improvement, here are five reasons why culture matters now more than ever.
1. The Office is Not The Office Anymore
The traditional office “structure” has disappeared because of the pandemic and the subsequent quarantine. There is less interaction between employees because nobody is in the same place. You have a zoom meeting, and then “see you when I see you”. Likely on the next zoom meeting.
2. Stability Needs To Be Manufactured
Right now you need to handle the uncertainty, and the best way to do that is to provide stability whenever and wherever you can. With all the uncertainty in the world, and the business climate right now, your people and the cohesiveness of your team are what is going to give you stability amongst the uncertainty.
3. Conscious Leadership Is Key
The leaders of your organization have control over one thing for sure right now: the culture of the organization. What are your leaders doing to maintain enthusiasm, maintain the company vision, and ensure that the values that mattered pre-covid, still matter now; or have been updated to fit the current climate? Your leadership has to stay vigilant about the fluctuations that are happening and anticipate the ones coming down the road. Solid leadership leads to a solid culture, which leads to a solid organization. This article from Harvard Business Review dives deep into how a positive culture will help your company thrive.
4. You Must Be Ready For The Comeback
The importance of establishing a baseline and bedrock for when you actually return to the office can’t be overstated. Out of sight, out of mind will crush coworker relationships, and therefore morale. Imagine walking back into the office and it’s all dusty, and rundown; your culture will be the same way if you don’t maintain it at its highest value now. In order to avoid this pitfall when you do return to the office, make sure that the culture remains strong, or dare I say gets stronger, right now. This will have your team thriving when you get back to being in the office regularly.
5. Without a Solid Culture You Have Nothing
Your culture is your calling card. It’s the energy that you create, and that attracts the highest quality people to your organization. If your “corporate energy” is less than ideal, your corporate culture will be toxic and you will attract lower quality people and therefore deal with high turnover, and wasted time, energy and resources. Maintaining a squeaky clean and solid culture will be the one of the most important things that will keep your company growing and thriving amidst all the uncertainty right now. In addition, having an established, positive culture will be your north star that you can always look to when the outside world is throwing haymakers your way. Check out this article from Forbes that further illustrates this point.
Some parting thoughts:
The Hard Truth:
If your company’s culture is not where it needs to be, you’re going to end up where you don’t want to be. Your people and their commitment levels will determine how your company handles, and walks through what’s next. With a solid foundation, the effects of external uncertainty will be greatly minimized.
What To Do:
Get your house in order. Plain and simple. Deal with any holes in your culture. Get to the root of any weak links and solidify them. Make yourself the most awesome company you can be so that when what’s next, or the “new normal”, arrives (it’s already here) you’re ready for it.
This isn’t just about being ready for what’s next; this is about being the best you can be every second, minute, hour of each day. When your culture is rock solid what’s next, or “the new normal” or even a global pandemic will be irrelevant. You will always be ready for what’s next.
One Last Thing:
What’s next is already here. Act accordingly.
Investing in your corporate culture begins with awareness of the state right now and taking action. The first step should be to take our Wellness Wave™. Once you’ve taken The Wellness Wave™ you can learn more about specific cultural solutions and what we do here.
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