Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

culture #Amplify InsightsIs Culture tied to place or space? 

It’s a question that I have asked myself many times over the last two months. The question was sparked during a virtual roundtable with a group of business leaders. Several of them expressed anxiously they could not wait to get back into the office, they couldn’t wait to get their staff back into the office. Why? Not because they missed everyone (though they did express that they did miss everyone), but, rather because their culture demanded it. Their culture was built on open collaboration, the buzz of activity, close interaction among team members. 

It got me thinking…Is culture tied to place or space? 

It’s been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (actually, Peter Drucker is the one that said it). Without a doubt, your corporate culture can have a dramatic impact on the success or failure of your strategy and therefore your company. But what IS culture? 

There are about as many definitions of company culture as there are people in the workplace. The definition I like the best is by Susan M. Heathfield, in her post: Culture: Your Environment for People at Work

“In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior.

Culture is made up of such traits shared by a group of people. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of generally unspoken and unwritten rules for working together.”

So, is culture tied to place or space? I believe if culture relies on all of your employees being in the same place and sharing the same place, you are doing it wrong. Can place and space impact company culture, absolutely! A few years ago, as a new CIO the first thing I did was replace all the workspaces for the IT team. It made a world of difference on the mental health of the team. Just recently, I was with a company who moved into brand new office space. I can tell you, it made a huge impact on my own mental health, outlook, and desire to be there. So, yes, place and space CAN influence culture, but it can’t (or shouldn’t) define culture. 

That mentality creates a very exclusive mindset, even at a time when we are all trying to be inclusive. If you can’t be in the workplace, you can’t be in the culture. What of team members who can’t be in the office? What of team members who are afraid to be in the office? What of geographically dispersed staff? How do they become a part of the culture? Even companies who have more than one office..the cultures are going to be different, the “vibe” is going to be different…and that is OK. 

So, how do we create and maintain a company culture that extends beyond the walls of our office? 

Intentionality – Be intentional about including remote employees. This has been easier with everyone being remote, but as we return to the office, be intentional to include those who aren’t there. How many times have you been on a conference call, and forgot to tell those on the phone the meeting was over? It happens! But don’t let it! Make sure to include them in the pre-meeting chatter and the post-meeting debrief. Make sure to call on them. Be aware of time zones when scheduling meetings. 

Technology – You might have guessed I would have technology in here somewhere. It is one thing I think we have all learned over the last two months. While video is not perfect, it does create a connection. I believe we have connected at a far more personal level virtually than we ever have face-to-face. We have been invited into each other’s homes. We have a window into each other’s lives…dogs, cats, kids, spouses. Far more personal than a picture of my grandkids on my desk is my grandson entering my office and saying “hi” to all the people on the video call. 

Creativity – Be creative in including everyone. If your office is known for donut Friday…send donuts to those who aren’t there. If you are having an after work gathering (post physical distancing, of course), open up a video conference and let the virtual employees participate. If there is energy in the office, make sure the energy crosses through the connection. 

There are numerous articles on workplace design and its impact on culture. Extend those design concepts to the remote worker. Do they have all of the equipment to do their jobs as if they were sitting in the office? The answer should be yes. 

I would love to hear from you. What ideas do you have for extending culture beyond place and space? Send me your thoughts! 

#AmplifyYourLeadershipWith credit to Bob Dylan for a great lyric, these times certainly are changing. In the last 100 days or so, we have all experienced tremendous change, change in the way we work (and in a lot of cases this change meant a loss of work) and change in the way we live. As our economy slowly begins to open up, many want to return to “normal”. But, normal isn’t there. Normal has changed, because we have changed. 

We have all been impacted. The change of the first four months of 2020 has been unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. There have been a multitude of lessons. There has been opportunity for growth personally, professionally. There are many lessons on the river ahead. 

Remember your first 100 days as a leader in a new role, or a new company? We’ve all walked in with our 100-day plan. It’s critical to a leader’s success. Presidents are measured on their first 100 days. We’ve been given a great opportunity. The world hit pause. Perhaps it was more like a CTRL-ALT-Delete reboot. Your next 100 days as a leader will define you for the next decade or more. Leading through the crucible of the previous 100 days will be nothing compared to the next 100 days. 

One of the great ironies of the last 100 days is that we have connected with each other on a deeper personal level through the use of video conferencing than we ever have in an office. We have had a window directly into each other’s homes. We have had scenes from our personal lives play out live for everyone to see. How will you maintain that level of vulnerability, that level of intimacy, that level of connection? 

You may be anxious to get back into the office. To feel that normal. You may thrive on the buzz of the office, the phones ringing, the conversation, the clacking of keyboards. But what of your team? Are they anxious to get back into the office, or just anxious. There will be some who embrace the return to the office. There will be some who are uncertain, perhaps even afraid. There will be some who have thrived in the work-from-home world of the last 100 days. 

New leaders have emerged. Have you seen them? Have you felt them guiding their co-workers and teams through these rough waters? Will you help them continue to grow as leaders? 

Are you ready to meet them all where they are? As individuals? As people?

The office will not have the same vibe. Not for a long time…if ever. Are you prepared? Do you have your first 100 days plan ready?

I'm Gone. Now What?

You may recall last month’s Leadership Q&A. Or…you may not…afterall it came out March 10…right before our world changed. At any rate, here is a link to Should I Stay or Should I Go

Obviously a lot has changed in the month since. Many of you may have had the choice made for you through a reduction in force (RIF), layoff or furlough. (Know the differences!) You may now be among the 100’s of thousands who have lost their jobs. You may be asking yourself or others, “Now What?” 

My answer to last month’s question is right where I recommend starting to answer this month’s question: Reflection! 

Step One: Reflection

One of the exercises I recommend to anyone who is in transition is to make a Top Ten List (borrowed from Letterman, but not nearly as funny). Actually, I recommend three top ten lists:

  • Top Ten things you would use to describe the perfect job
  • Top Ten things you would use to describe the perfect boss
  • Top Ten things you would use to describe the perfect company

Then force rank each list 1 to 10 (no ties). 

Step Two: Journal

If you follow my writing, you know I am a big fan of keeping a journal. There are many benefits to writing in a journal. In his post “10 Surprising Benefits You’ll Get From Keeping a Journal” on Huffington Post, contributor Thai Nguyen describes some of the benefits you will get from journaling. At least three (and probably all ten) will help you in your transition: achieving goals (your goal is to probably find a new job); healing (you may not be physically injured or ill, but you HAVE suffered a trauma); self-confidence (you may be questioning yourself and your skills right now). 

I’d like to add a couple more benefits to the list. Keeping a journal can help you process what has just happened. You want to work through those emotions before you start to network for your next position, and certainly before you go on your first interview. You need to make sense of what has just happened. Writing it down gives you the ability to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and plans. You can refer back to your writing to see how your thoughts, feelings and plans have evolved over time. 

The other benefit I’d like to point out, is it helps to keep you organized. You will be busy in the days and weeks to come. It will be easy to forget some things and “misremember” others. Having a record of your daily thoughts and activities will help you to keep it all straight. 

My wish and my promise

I wish you success on our journey to your next opportunity. My wish is that you find peace among the chaos, clarity among the confusion, and confidence among the doubt! 

My promise is if there is anything I can do to help along the way…ask! Send me an email, connect with me on LinkedIn, let me know how I can help. 

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INSIGHTS

Insights is the weekly, thought-provoking newsletter from Jeffrey S. Ton.
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A different focus each week:

Leadership Thought – A lesson-learned, an insight shared
Leadership Q&A – A response to a reader’s or a connection’s question
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