culture

Be Thankful You Have a Job

…said the coal miner's wife.

Times have changed…thankfully. Now we know we don’t have to settle for just any job. Now we know we don’t need to put up with a culture we don’t deserve. Now we know working hard doesn’t need to be dangerous.

And now we know we should be thankful we get to choose the work we want to do and with whom we want to do it. Please don’t settle for anything less.

I'm Lucky Enough...

to be able to do this work…is much different than saying I’m lucky to be able to do this work here, in this place with these people.

Being unsatisfied with the work is an individual problem. A problem that is solvable mainly by the person doing it. Leveling up is a product of a person’s desire to learn and then consistently showing up as their best self…both things they control. But creating excitement about showing up (to do the work) is a group problem…one solved by leaders who care enough about a positive culture to focus and invest in it. A positive culture which celebrates and rewards each person’s contribution to group purpose is a very powerful motivator, even for those doing the so called menial work.

Trying to solve an employee's dissatisfaction with their chosen profession is often futile. It’s far more impactful to spend time on the environment they plug into…and the legacy they can build from it.

From The Neck Down

I recently had to go to a UPS central pick-up facility to collect a package. After three trips and a fair amount of chaos, the counter representative, sensing the building tension and unable to solve the issue, remarked…When they hired me, they told me they were hiring me from the neck down. 

What a shame…and what a poor choice to settle for this sort of culture. 

Everyone is smart…if they choose to be. Choose wisely. 

Create a Culture

Which attracts…

  • Generosity

  • Lifelong learning

  • Leadership

  • Problem Solving

  • Collaboration

  • Honesty

  • Candor

  • Warmth

  • Curiosity

It turns out most people want to be a part of something like this…something bigger than themselves which creates meaningful change. It might not happen overnight. But when the consistent and convictive work starts to pay-off, as the cultural shift occurs, most of the common hiring problems start to go away.

If your culture is going to be chosen, you might as well make it the obvious one.

The Job Interview and Culture

The perfect job interview, where everyone tells the truth, is a rarity. It only happens when both sides are completely secure, neither is going to “win”, and there’s no transaction at stake. At this level it’s not about a “job”. It’s about the alignment of goals and purpose and building trust. It’s less about the work, and more about the culture. Every job interview should be this way. But it’s not.

It’s not because a job is also about solving an immediate problem. Job seekers are solving the problem of paying bills, obtaining experience (so they can earn more to pay more bills) and relieving peer pressure to be successful. Companies need someone to answer the phone, serve a customer, bake cookies and solve math problems. The work is done for now, not later.

But later matters…a lot. Without later, now is irrelevant. Other than mere survival, the present is meaningless without a thought about later. Culture is later brought forward. It’s the version of the future we are working to create today. It’s what gives us and our work purpose. It creates challenge, tension and fear. But it also leads to excitement about the prospect of meaningful change. And it’s the toughest thing to talk about.

The job at hand is important. The work needs to be done. So there needs to be a discussion about that role. More importantly though is how the work is to be done…what’s the posture of everyone in the mix. And that’s defined by culture…so best talk about that first.

Most Postmen Don't Ring Twice...

Most don’t ring at all. But ours does. Tom takes the time to notice if something looks too important to leave in the box and rings the doorbell to get it safely into our hands. He takes the time to notice when a piece of mail is mixed in with another address and makes a special trip back to our house to be sure it arrives at its intended destination. And Tom always does it with a smile, please and thank you. 

Postmen don’t need to go out of their way, do the unexpected or cause delight because it’s not expected. It’s not part of make-up of what the postal service is for. The postal service isn’t designed to lead change or make people happy. Its designed to deliver paper as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. This applies to most monopolistic business like utilities, waste removal, coal mines and the like. The people in those organizations are protected by the customers' lack of choice. Consequently, virtually no care is taken to make hospitality, quality or improvement (for the benefit of the customer) any sort of priority. And the real shame is this sort of transaction centric mentality creeps into non-monopolistic organizations as well…cable TV, telephone, grocers, hotels, theaters, etc. It’s particularly well engrained into publicly owned companies where quarterly earnings reports dominate the culture. 

Fortunately, there are the crazy ones, the outliers, the ones that understand that happiness and change are important, that leaving a legacy is what work is for. Thankfully there are people like Tom.

Work is for two things…leading change and causing delight. It’s this adventure and pioneering spirit to make the world a better place that makes life worthwhile. Otherwise, what’s the point.

A Leader's Job Description

  1. Create a culture of remarkable work…in the organization, in the department or the team. Treat each product, craft or service as an opportunity to create a legacy.
  2. Protect the group’s core values (the culture) by choosing team members wisely.
  3. Lead the charge of solving interesting problems as they arise and teach others to do the same.

I Players

They are the opposite of team players.

  • They…
  • see themselves differently than everyone else
  • focus on the transaction that benefits them
  • are entitled by tenure or expertise in a specific task
  • have tunnel vision- can’t see beyond themselves and their transactions
  • believe they are indispensable

What would be missed if they were gone...beyond their specific task, beyond the transaction? Would the culture change?

Are they placeholders for a potential upgrade to someone who cares about the greater good, the whole organism.

If you care about culture, the fulfillment of team and individual dreams and about happiness you must avoid I players. And this is precisely why you should hire on attitude, approach and caring about more than yourself.