Leaders struggling to let go.
Managers struggling to speak up.
The rest of the team feeling stuck in the middle.
It’s easy to over-complicate the process of transforming a company culture. Underneath, the story is often far simpler and more personal. It comes down to this: Will today be the day where we talk about what we didn’t risk talking about yesterday?
That’s why the big-picture and culture-change tools we’ve all tried don’t, in the end, deliver on their promise. Because these tools — the vision statements, however compelling; the brand positions, however inspiring; the open office and more evolved benefit plans; while they make things better in some ways, can take your eye off the real goal — which is to create a place where each human being in the organization feels seen, heard and valued for who they are today, and equally challenged to become the next better version of themselves tomorrow.
Top-down and generic initiatives can’t do that because they’re about everyone but nobody in particular. They don’t speak to the unique emotional needs, wants, and fears of each person, and the life-changing conversation that is right there for the starting between any two individuals in the organization right this very moment.
You could channel Steve Jobs while writing your five-year vision and it won’t help James in marketing deal with the life-long depression he’s afraid to talk about. Which, if he felt safe to do, would not only alleviate some of his suffering and loneliness but would simultaneously free him up to discover a more authentic and honest voice for the copy he writes on your website.
It won’t help Marla in finance discover what it’s like to speak her mind in front of a room full of men, and in the process make her a better controller and the company more financially secure.
It won’t help Jen in development find the emotional strength to hold the guys on the team accountable to their commitments, which — without ever having to talk about it directly or becoming her therapist — might translate into the emotional strength to move on from her last relationship and become a better project manager at the same time.
We don’t have a work self and a separate personal self.
The gap is an illusion — but it’s an incredibly seductive one — that requires a little bit of our vigilance each day to not fall asleep to.
The manager of the future has that task at the top of their agenda today.