Culture Is A Verb: Just Do It

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Culture is critical. It differentiates companies, it creates energy and excitement, and it builds identity. In other words culture is a verb- it is what people say, do think, and feel. Yet too many culture initiatives are built with a noun mindset. What person will lead the training  and communication plan? We can change our workplace if we paint the walls or add a foozball table. We can copy that thing our competitors have that seems cool. Just Do It are three little words – but they are the summation and expectation of action that define Nike. So how can you “do” culture? Make it personal. Be Intentional. Commit completely.

Make it personal. There is no better way to change a culture than to change yourself. If you know that accountability is an issue at your workplace and that the lack of clear goals is impacting business results and engagement then be the change you want to see. Create goals for your team. Publicize them. In meetings use a RACI to confirm the roles people are agreeing to. Let go of your noun mindset – What are other people doing? I haven’t seen that anywhere else here. I should wait until something is rolled out officially across the organization. These are culture killers. Culture consultants and culture trainings/framework help us set a clear, common course, But unless you get in the blocks and run, you can’t win the culture race.

Be Intentional. The best (worst!) example of the disconnect between culture and action is perhaps Enron. Their vision and values statements begin with
“As a partner in the communities in which we operate, Enron believes it has a responsibility to conduct itself according to certain basic principles.” We know that they ended bankrupt, morally and financially. Being intentional about connecting culture and action comes down to what you permit, and what you promote. The action of promoting the jerk who gets great results by running over others is a culture killer. The inaction of addressing the leader who is disrespectful to women is a culture killer. No noun excuses- we have to be willing to let go of that person, close that place, and remove that thing if we are serious about the culture we are building. Hold up a culture mirror and say does this person, decision, policy, practice, etc, reflect who we want to be? We do a good job with promoting our culture on internal and external media.  We need to ask would we hashtag what we permit.

Commit Completely.  Thinking about culture change is like preparing for a marathon. It is a daunting. You can’t see the end. We know that we won’t all get to the same mile markers at the same time. Yes. So just do it. Make a run at changing your culture by committing completely and honestly. Acknowledge that it’s hard work and requires us all to think and act differently. Discuss that letting go of the known for the unknown is scary. Reward those that start, those that stumble but continue, and everyone who gets on the course. Culture killers are the people that nod along in the meeting and go back to their desk and work and act the same old way. The executive offices that are on a locked floor when you just announced an open door policy. The flex time policy that is actually inflexible for most peoples’ jobs. To win at culture and marathons you can’t be a spectator – it’s daily drills, long roads, and bumps and bruises that take you to there.

Culture differentiates companies. Everyone knows Just Do It and knows what is means. It resonates because it is focused on personal, intentional action,  Culture work is all about the verbs- it is what people say, do, think, feelPeople, places, and things matter — but getting caught up in a noun mindset can’t spark change. Instead go do culture by making it personal, being intentional, and committing completely.

Excellent Integrations Start with EI

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Most of us have had the experience of working on some kind of integration – a system integration, a process integration, or a business integration. Usually we are focused on our intelligence pieces – our project plans, our schedule, and our time/cost savings. As a result, we often miss the emotional piece at the heart of this endeavor – the questions, concerns, and experiences of the team receiving our “intelligence.”  A recent Price Waterhouse survey found that gaining people’s confidence and commitment during acquisitions are the biggest challenge to successful integration. Yet only 45% of respondents said they were “completely committed” to integrating staff during the acquisition process. Improving our self awareness, managing emotions, and having empathy are the missing pieces to most integrations- and are needed to complete a project successfully.

Improving Self Awareness. In the Harvard Business Journal article, What Self Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It), self awareness is like a two way mirror: it’s what you see and reflect internally and externally. Self awareness, not surprisingly, starts with self. It is understanding our values, motives, and behaviors, and how they impact others. It also means understanding how others view us.  Before charging in with your “intelligence,” stop and do some self reflection. Add the following to your project plan: How can my strengths help the team during integration? How could my development area impact the team? How am I viewed? How might that impact the project? Taking time to ask – and honestly answer- these question can have a huge impact to your integration.

Managing Emotions. Quick word association: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Bobby Knight? Guessing chair thrower, yeller, maybe basketball came to mind. Winningest coach of all time (at the time of his retirement -902 NCAA Division I games) sadly is not usually our first association with Coach Knight. We all have emotions, and they are important to acknowledge. Managing emotions isn’t stuffing our emotions. It is creating a space between stimulus and response. We want Bobby Knight to be passionate. We just want him to keep four on the floor. We all have things that trigger us- that elicit a deep emotional reaction in us. The trick is not immediately responding to that stimulus. During an integration there may be a sense that the new team is resistant. That you are behind schedule. That the process/system changed, but you don’t see the expected improvement. Instead of charging forward, pause and practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness allows you to recognize what you are feeling – mad, frustrated, upset – which creates the space for you to take a deep breath and reset your approach. Add the following to your project plan: What emotions might I experience during this integration? How would I like to handle them? What will it take for me to do that? Creating awareness of your triggers before the heat of the moment can keep the integration from going up in flames.

Having empathy. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. So try it. If you were on the other side of the integration, what would you be thinking, feeling, and/or worried about? What might help you move forward? The word might is important — empathy is not based on the golden rule but rather the platinum rule: treat others as they would like to be treated.  How will you know what they want? Ask and listen. Ask the team what is important to team. What is on their mind? How can you be most helpful? You don’t need to agree with what the other person says — this is not about you, it’s about understanding them. Next listen to their verbal and non-verbal cues during the project and adjust your approach. Add the following to your project plan: How can I find out what this team wants and needs? Add a listening session to the project up front, and check-ins along the way, to be sure you continue to look at progress through their eyes, not just your checklist.

Integrations tend to be a GSD exercise. Successful integrations shift their perspective from Getting Shit Done to Solving Goals Together. Adding emotional intelligence to your integration puzzle will improve both your project and people results- and keep those pieces together.

Spring Clean Your Mind

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April usually brings thoughts of spring and renewal. Many of us have a ritual of spring cleaning – donating clothes the kids have outgrown and admitting we don’t need 6.5 pairs of scissors in one drawer. Spring is also a great time to bring a renewal mindset to our work. In the article Three Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Work Life author Zameena Mejia says that we take in about 64B of information a day. This makes our brains feel like our hall closet- stuffed the the gills, no longer organized, and hard to open. It also makes it hard to be productive at work when we are in overload mode. Take the time to spring clean your mind by clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space.

Clearing Clutter. Clutter can be both physical and mental. Start with the stuff that’s easy to see. Take a step back and think about how you would like to organize your work space. Give yourself permission to give away or throw away the books, papers, and even mementos you really don’t need anymore. Once you’ve made a dent in your office space try something radical – delete all emails over 30 days old from your inbox, sent, and deleted folders. Just do it. Freeing up that space is very liberating – and helps you to focus on the current tasks at hand. Learn some of the simple but awesome Microsoft Outlook rules to help you manage incoming emails more effectively. Now for the hard part. Clear the clutter from your mind. That project that didn’t go as well as you hoped. The nagging feeling you have that Pam in Payroll is upset with you. Make a list of the worries that are gnawing at you. Then crumple up the list and throw it away. Those worries are in the past. The question is, how do you want to move forward? You can choose to set up a meeting to check in with Pam. But if you don’t, then let it go. That issue no longer has a worry hanger in your mental closet.

Creating Focus. April means we are 25% through 2018. Have you accomplished 25% of your goals for the year? If not, how can you create more focus? Now is a good time to take out your annual goals and ask (1) Are these still the right priorities? (2) Am I making progress? (3) Where do I need to focus? One the best leadership tools I’ve picked up comes from the book The 12 Week Year. This book was written way before quarterly reviews became trendy. It challenges us to break our goals down into 12 weeks vs. 12 months. That means each week has more urgency to make progress towards your goals. It introduces a Periodization Plan to help you track and monitor your goals. I have been using this with my teams for the last ten years and it is a great tool to create focus.  Another key to mental focus is taking time to pause. If you are like me and love the idea of meditation but find it really hard to do, check out Buddhify. com. It is a great app for those of us who have a hard time slowing down. This is the most important step in your spring cleaning routine- so be sure to give focus some focus.

Creating Free Space. The only way to keep your spring cleaning stay clean is to ensure you don’t fill it with new clutter. In order for you to be your best self at work you need to have some downtime at home. Downtime is time when you are powered down and present. That may mean not working after dinner. Or not bringing phone in the bedroom. We all need some time of our day to be spent without a screen. We can also create free space by regaining control of our calendar. Instead of multitasking on a conference call, decline it and spend an hour focused on researching a key project. Block time on your calendar to read business and industry news. To be a leader we need time to think, not just do. Another great way to create free space is to work out. It doesn’t matter what you do or what level you are at. Engaging your body physically can unhook your mind and give you time to think about things in a new way.

I encourage you to make a commitment to spring clean your mind this month. It won’t make the MN snow melt, but it will help you with clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space so you can spring ahead on your 2018 goals.