I may not have the title of manager currently, but I feel it is my responsibility to be a leader in character and action every day. My perspective, passion, and point are that everything comes back to relationships and how we treat each other. How we interact with each other, and why we’re motivated to do what we do. Lately, I’ve spent some time reading and listening to podcasts about company principles, specifically, how our interactions and communication styles influence workplace motivation. For example, when people feel pushed and like it’s for someone else’s benefit, they will resist- even if it’s good for them. This response, called Psychological Reactance, can also appear as making an optional choice, a mandatory task.
I’d prefer to hear a manager say something like- If you utilize our principles, here’s how it will make the most significant impact in your day-to-day behavior. But that’s not how we are communicating what is and shall always be. In business, the purpose is to generate profit, and a manager is responsible for direction toward results. I believe a group or organization’s standards can remind us how we consistently complete and check our work. We solve the problems we do by implementing shared values and developing productive competencies.
Sometimes we communicate to coworkers only when we want something done and miss opportunities to debrief and understand what we can learn from our experiences or what we will change in the future together. This behavior could be an unintended consequence of our increasing levels of busyness, experience, or stress. Still, self-preservation environments and my obsession with relationships in the workplace have led to a feeling that I want to understand my experience and share resources that have helped provide some direction to my journey. When a lack of connectivity meets a lack of context in the workplace, how can we utilize our principles and company culture to engage constituents and raise our connectivity levels to each other? This is my attempt to make sense of it.
Incorporate Standard Principles and Demonstrate Belief
My curiosity led me to podcasts on culture from Whole Foods CEO and co-founder John Mackey and Dee Ann Turner- the architect of the organizational culture in Chick-fil-A restaurants and author of multiple books with subtitles like, How to Create a Remarkable Culture that Wins the Hearts of Customers, and The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture. These sound like they can help me learn a thing or two about inspiring the workplace for the better and have made my pending reading list. Hearing from high-level management discussing their workplace culture was encouraging.
It encouraged me to look for my own employer’s code of conduct and review them with my personal and professional values to see their commonalities. This review surprisingly led me to rediscover a list of principles I’d written down in 2004 and considered how I could find a purpose to inspire action in them still.
Can you imagine a 21-year-old version of yourself reciting affirmations like:
- Look at life as a journey and enjoy the ride.
- Do your best. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
- Wish the best for everyone. Applaud as if.
- Trust that there is a divine plan. You don’t know what’s in store for you.
- Ask no more of yourself than the best you can do.
- Don’t worry about something after it’s done. It’s out of your control.
- Give without expecting something in return.
- Choose your thoughts, don’t let them choose you.
- Judge no one.
- Love anyway and give just because.
That was me for about a year after meeting my first mentor. I may not have remembered all of those principles over the years, but reading them and recommended books, like The Magic of Thinking Big and How to Win Friends and Influence People, had a lasting impact on developing the mindset to write down principles and recite them as a daily practice.
In her in-depth podcast interview, Dee Ann Turner discusses ways to create an incredible workplace culture and mentions that it’s easy to fall into survival mode when times get hard. What does it look like at your workplace when times get hard? What about when everyone performs with purpose that shows an understanding their role in the organization has meaning? Our actions impact the group’s ability to achieve the common goal that brings us all together.
“The difference between those generic brands and truly great organizations with remarkable cultures is they’re willing no matter what the price to stick with their principles and their culture and nourish it rather than just slip back into rules and an environment where you’re just trying to survive.” – Dee Ann Turner
To inspire thoughts of what’s possible, I recite affirmations every morning, including standards for my ideal sales professional for almost three years now, and feel an expansion from where I was 17 years ago. Every morning, as part of my morning routine, I recite affirmations, like:
I act in spite of fear to contact leads, new customers, and prospects.
I am willing to do the hard work to achieve goals set for myself, my customers, and my company.
I focus on win-win negotiations for pricing.
The word “no” is not a personal rejection.
Whether you have a desire to recite affirmations or don’t understand their value, or if you have made some sense of your journey and already find meaning in your life, this is an example of where I started—aspiring to follow ten principles. You can also read about how I came to design my principles by reading my previous post, How My Morning Affirmations Created a Challenge.
Understanding Experience to Contribute
To begin understanding my role in my environment, I began to do some research. I wanted to have a clear definition of culture and became fascinated by how culture is created and communicated to everyone within the group, which comes from Cultural Transmission. This is “the process through which cultural elements, in the form of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavioral scripts, are passed onto and taught to individuals and groups.” This triggers me to think about the frustrated employee I used to be when running my store in Des Moines, looking for mentorship and coaching to help reconnect to inspired energy and commit to a journey to find fulfillment and direction in my life. But why?
I still see coworkers who look like I used to feel before I started this journey four years ago and recognize this isn’t a natural skill to possess. I feel like I’ve seen many missed opportunities to strengthen our culture in work environments and iterate how we address any connectivity lack. My mission now is to help create the psychological safety necessary to improve employee connectivity and performance competency by having conversations to enhance team chemistry and develop the consistency we lack to elevate our customer service performance when it drops. Using our company values as helpful directions to inspire action, we can see ourselves collectively taking steps from where we don’t want to be to where we do.
In the book Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser, she writes that “In meetings, we often see people making suggestions but not listening to others. We see people selling their ideas but not considering the ideas of others.” Imagine attending an employee connectivity meeting in your workplace with a manager you don’t know well, and they begin by asking why doesn’t your group trust your coworkers? Would you feel safe to respond if you’ve noticed an issue and don’t know the room very well?
How would you feel if, during the span of a conversation with a group of managers and coworkers regarding the developing group connectivity, you notice managers leaving early after pointing out ideas for solutions that didn’t solve the problem previously, while you stay for the entire duration of the meeting? I think a helpful book to refer to figure out how we begin to have more impactful conversations is Conversations Worth Having. In it, authors Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres say that “focusing conversations on problems is not worthwhile, because the associated imagery does not move us away from the problem. By contrast, the practice of using positive framing and generative questions creates images of where we want to move and what we want to achieve.”
It’s not easy, but this conversation would help our purpose and draw attention to why we are here and connect with our coworkers’ goals. John Mackey, CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market, describes standards, values, and principles as “the scaffolding that you want to build your culture around.”
In his interview on one of my favorite podcasts, The Science of Success, he brings up the importance of starting with purpose and an understanding of why your company or business exists and how the core values reflect that purpose and “the mission of the business.” From there, “leadership principles are the way we do things.”
My goal is to help recognize in a management role or leadership position that how we communicate the cultures we wish to create will be compared to what we do to create them. We can’t just talk the talk, especially when it comes to inspiring actions. We have to demonstrate the actions because the people are watching. Engage with a sense of connection or provide context to team members about where we are and how we get to the future state of where we want to be, addressing people’s specific needs. Receiving that feedback is critical to progress, especially when things aren’t working. In the book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath discuss how groups will bond like cement by taking on a demanding task that’s deeply meaningful, and coming together to create a more engaged and inspired workplace will not be a simple task. The old style of how management produced results will need to find a new way to lead us forward to a brighter future.
Where Can We Begin?
Every voice has a different perspective, and we all have something that we can contribute to each other. My story may not precisely translate into what is 100% applicable to another person, but resources of information and sharing knowledge may be helpful. On another episode of The Science of Success Podcast titled, Cracking Complexity: This is how you solve your toughest problems, guests David Komlos & David Benjamin discuss that it’s not just about bringing “the right people” into a room for discussion, but “that they’re all connected directly with each other and that you are putting them through a sequence of what we call collisions, where they are interacting in a meaningful way with every other individual there for a brief amount of time, in most cases, where they have a chance to understand and learn something from each other and then share a piece of information or come away with an insight that only that collision could have brought them.”
As the working environment changes to some hybrid remote working experiences and smaller group gatherings, if any at all, are becoming replaced by virtual, how do we begin to bring people together to get company values and principles motivating in the workplace? In January, I attended an online workshop to learn how to facilitate virtual events through something called the XCHANGE approach. According to their site, “XCHANGE is a radically effective, scientifically based, multi-disciplinary approach for leading and managing teams, organizations and learning communities, both at in-person events, as well as in the virtual environment.”
In two hours, we walked through simple to apply exercises that would make a group or work environment feel like a closer peer-connected group. I had an inspiring breakout conversation about seeing humanity at its best in the last year, despite the pandemic. Sixty-plus people from multiple countries talked about when we’ve seen some act or service done to improve something in their surroundings. Can you think of an instance of humanity at its best in the last year? This meeting was thoroughly engaging, and no one left early, and I would recommend looking at it and The Conversation Factory.
I’m now doing some bigger picture thinking now after visiting PositivePsychology.com and working through the many articles on the benefits of random acts of kindness. If another can benefit by feeling less depressed or increase feelings of self-worth and overall wellbeing, I’m on board to do my part to help. The Flow Research Collective and Compete to Create courses are my expert level pieces of training on learning about high-performance team-building. I’m beginning to believe significantly in having a continuing education aspiration to contribute to our work cultures leveling up and improving our ability to be present for personal relationships. Add my favorite topping of The Common Denominator of Success and it all comes together with purpose.
Do your best, and if it doesn’t work, then try something else.
I’m interested in hearing different tips or ways people are implementing things at work and what you’ve seen or listened to, helping stay current with your changing work environment. Are there any studies you’d recommend or books you’d suggest reading that can be helpful or beneficial to improve workplace culture? The landscape of work will continue changing as the global vaccination process begins, and together, we can help each other thrive in this new normal.
Let me know what you think. You can drop me a line at my new email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Send any ideas, book recommendations, or if you want to reach out and connect. I’d love to hear from those of you who are moving toward the change we want to see.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post or find a useful idea, please share it with your friends and family. Your referral is greatly appreciated. I look forward to discovering where the change happens with you. You can also check out the Resources page for a full list of books I’ve read that I believe will inspire the change you would like to see in your journey. Be well and happy reading!
Purchase your copy of the book Where the Change Happens, here.