By: Anthony Bird – Independent Certified John Maxwell Coach
Own Micro-Culture, or Macro Trends Will Destroy Your Organization!
I did a search today for the news stories and the term “Job Cuts.” The results spread across more than 15 pages of links, the first four pages of which were all stories from the calendar year – that is less than one month!
Contrarily, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that November and December of 2017 achieved a 17-year low in the US Unemployment Rate. Recent tax code changes are intended to put more capital into the hands of business owners to spend on labor among other things.
These are competing headlines in a world where the news constantly spins. Human nature leads us to glass-half-empty thinking frequently. It is just easier to see what is lost instead of what may be available to gain from change as it comes into our lives. Nearly daily there are local, national and international stories of companies that are reducing their locations, downsizing their workforce or going leaner with their management teams. This is reality in the competitive landscape of the US and Global market that keeps businesses focused deeply on the bottom line.
Managing Communication Between Culture and External Challenges
If you cannot get away from these headlines – those times that your work day presents challenges and then the television at home exacerbates those challenges on a broader scale – it can become overwhelming. At a corporate level, the impact to your first line of customer service teams and first line leaders can easily show through to the consumer. As companies message their desire to maintain their culture and keep employees and customers at the center of their values, that message is deeply undercut by messages of closure and staff reduction.
So, how is that it we take ownership of our micro-culture before these macro trends create irreversible harm? It is easy, the power to build a culture for yourself and our team is much more within your control than you may realize. Today, I ask you to think about the macro and micro cultures in your place of work, John Maxwell’s Law of the Picture, and the impact you play on the micro culture that surrounds your day.
The Reality is Your Company is not Immune.
My workplace and I are not immune to these dangers. I have witnessed, failed to stop, and even joined in those conversations of the many things that no longer exist and the good ol’ days. History contains valuable information on success and failure, but this focus on “way things used to be” maybe the greatest hurdle to getting where you are going. Most often these hurdles are constructed even though the destination is required or inevitable. What that happens it only becomes a longer, more difficult journey.
My wakeup call came in December. The teams that my wife and I work with made an amazing gesture that really brought me back to the way things used to be yet showed how that way can exist within the way things are today. As I have noted, 2017 ended with some challenges. Our family was aware that everyone was making a sacrifice to ensure we had the means to pay for the veterinarians who ultimately saved our dog’s life. There was a lesson for both young and old about priorities, sacrifice and the real spirit of the season. Little did we know, an even better lesson was also growing behind the scenes.
Our teams joined forces and lived out the “way things used to be” in tremendous fashion. Together, they made sure that everyone in our home had gifts under the tree. The greatest gift was not one of the wrapped and tagged material items, it was the reminder that we may not be creating the culture for thousands, but we can create the culture for tens. A grassroots effort toward establishing the micro culture that you want for our workplace. Even if you do not believe you can impact tens (which I bet you can), but you can impact two or five or seven, that’s great. Start there and make it happen! As with any start up, the growth with come in time.
I nearly titled this entry, “Keeping the Christmas Spirit All Year Long.” That is still the essence of my message, and assuming that you want a culture of selflessness, giving, and team work, you can look at it that way. But the more I considered the weight of the many headlines I mentioned earlier, I realized this goes beyond any seasonal spirit.
John Maxwell’s Law of the Picture
In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership John Maxwell teaches the Law of the Picture. The law very simply and accurately states that “People do what people see.” The laws teaches us to model the behaviors and other characteristics that we expect. Stop thinking, I can see into your mind right now. You are nodding along and thinking this law is really common sense. Yes, it is, but still I am certain you can name moments at work or at home where you have not completely lived that you are asking of others. I am certain I have had those moments too, with more to come! It is really human nature.
Maxwell’s teachings further states that “The most valuable gift a leader can give is being a good example.” I believe that this is often read tactically. For example, the reaction is “I should be on time because that is what I expect.” While that is literally true, I want you to go much deeper to a greater point of view for this law.
Our opportunity to be a good example goes beyond the day to day, quality and customer service, attitudes and approaches. We have the opportunity to set the example that extends all the way to the core of our micro culture. The culture of those who sit closest to you, work your same function, or make up a team within your department. It starts with defining the culture you want to create, committing to it, and then remaining forward focused on what you are seeking to achieve.
Start with releasing the “way it used to be” mindset. Anyone who takes part in those
reminiscent conversations about the good old days, but does nothing to positively impact the environment and culture around them is really no different than a “do as I say, not as I do” leader.
Define the Culture You Desire
Consider the culture that you want from the team you work with each day. Yes, I said it above, this is step one. You may even stop here and write out either in list or statement form the type of culture you want to be a part of. Do this work independent of the macro culture that exists for your company or unit. Once done, you may compare statements or thoughts about the macro and micro cultures that you exist within. The overlap that exists, no matter how larger or small, will become the connecting points between the two.
With a defined vision of the culture that you want to be a part of established, the more difficult consideration is how well you currently embody that culture. Be honest here and remember this is your starting point, not the final outcome. My belief is that you are naturally living out much of what you have identified, but if you really reflect, you will identify opportunities to remain more consistent day to day.
You may consider an accountability partner or even visual cues in your workplace that help keep your actions consistent with your desired culture. One exercise that Maxwell encourages is to use a trusted peer to silently observe and record deviations from your vision over a period of time to help identify things that may be in our blind spots. I believe another benefit of this exercise is that to enlist this peer you will need to communicate your desired culture to them, which may lead to refining it together and voilà, you have a champion, not just a supporter! If above, you felt you could only influence a micro culture of one, this is how you quickly expand that to two!
Finally, take action, rinse and repeat! Your micro culture will be an evolving thing impacted by changes from the macro-culture all the way down to adjustments in local teams, buildings or floor plans.
Bottom Line: Maxwell said it best – People do what people see. Regardless of your title at work, we all want a work environment that is supportive, inclusive, and well performing. If your position is a formal or informal leader, you cannot expect your team to embody these traits before you do. This means that you must go first. However, you will not arrive at the right destination by mistake.
Given the time we spend at work, I cannot imagine anything more important than defining and personifying the environment that you want to spend that time in.
Reach out if I can be of service.
Here’s to taking ownership of the environment around us & continued development!
Anthony Bird – Independent Certified John Maxwell Coach