Our 2018 Wish for You
Fellow Leaders Passionate About Personal Growth,
As a culture-obsessed leader, I hope that, like me, you look back on 2017 and ahead to 2018 with equal parts exhilaration … and sobriety.
Exhilaration because, at least when it came to the conversation around people management, the things you’ve been thinking and talking about for your whole career are finally taking center stage.
Nobody could’ve imagined that this conversation — around how to give high-value feedback, how to have one-on-ones, how to talk about personal growth at work, and how all of that connects directly to business results — would’ve come this far, this fast. We’ve still got a long way to go, but the number of organizations who are not actively looking for solutions here is rapidly approaching zero.
Everyone is trying to solve some version of the same problem: how to create a culture of personal ownership and accountability.
Whether you’re doing that on behalf of an organization or for your development, at the heart of that are three interrelated questions:
How do we give timely feedback and hold one-on-ones that foster growth and not defensiveness?
How do we get beyond the words to truly embody the role of coach and mentor with our teams?
How do we provide the space people need to grow while raising, not lowering, our standards for work product?
The underlying problem is not new. Management gurus have been talking for half a century about how to motivate a team and create leadership at scale. What is new are the multiple converging cultural sea-changes that have opened up a window for us, as a leadership community, to solve it.
It’s exhilarating, which brings us to the sobriety part.
It's gotten noisy, with endless offers in your inbox to solve this problem — new people tech software and platforms, executive coaches and culture consultants, management trainers, and culture conferences. Each of these has their own innate wisdom and value to your culture change project, but the risk is ending up sampling a wide range of things without going deep enough to the place where people make the changes that stick
That’s why for 2018, my wish for you is singular: Focus. Keep coming back to the root problem you’re trying to solve. A client summed it up nicely in what’s become my favorite quote of the year:
“We’re going to hire awesome people. And, we’re going to talk to each other. That’s our HR strategy from here on out.”
It's a simple question that's easy to overcomplicate: How do we get the talented people we hired talking to each other? In real-time, one human to another, and not waiting for an annual review or over-relying on short-term digital communication (the two easiest ways to avoid both saying what’s on your mind and listening with curiosity to what’s on someone else’s.)
If you’re serious about changing the culture where you work, your job is not to let that happen. Keep listening for trends and trying new things, but don't fall into the trap of over-relying on tools and technology to substitute for conversation and curiosity.
Emphasize the basics, and that almost every ounce of tension in your office can be solved by two people, sitting in a room, finding a way to have an honest conversation.
Your gift to the organization is to hold your ground with your CEO and fellow leaders when they, understandably in a hurry, brush past a situation that you know will spiral without action.
Your strength is to say politely, "No." , when someone comes to you to handle a conversation that they need to have themselves for the sake of their credibility with the team.
Your wisdom is to when you see someone tempted by the seeming efficiency of a top-down mandate instead of a bottom-up listening, to coach them to see a better way.
This often lonely, hard to quantify and budget-neglected work is what you signed up for. You do it because you love people, and you know that there's a better way. Trust that the people in your organization know that too, and they need you, from time-to-time, to remind them by saying:
“No … we are better than that here. We don’t manage around or out. We manage through.”
So, with the holidays upon us and the year drawing to a close, I hope you’ll take a few moments to look back on the wins, the moments where you can say with pride:
“Yes, we did that. That’s not how we would’ve handled it before. We are making progress.”
Give yourself that reflection time. Find 15 minutes over the holidays to sit quietly, to breathe and digest a year that was beyond full on every level.
On behalf of the team here at Refound, hearty congratulations.
And, when you come back in a few weeks, let’s get to work.
Founder & CEO