Currently, I’m sitting with my feet up on my desk and my chair kicked back – enjoying some coffee and the low hum of the air conditioning. The office is mostly quiet, but with an energy in the air. Kurt just pulled into a parking space outside my window and is walking in with a bag of freshly baked bread. He loves creating these artisanal loafs and sharing them with the office, some with jalapeños or basil and tomatoes – I hope it’s that one. I’m finally sitting down and getting into the groove of my work day.
I’m not stressed even though I probably should be. I’m in the process of buying a home and I’ll be dealing with the due-diligence items today… sewer, asbestos, termites, etc. I’ve got a wedding coming up in just 82 short days, plus the company is planning on moving into our new location sometime within the next 3 weeks. So yeah, I should be stressed, but I’m not.
I was late this morning because my son was up most of the night and felt it was necessary to scream, to everyone, that he was not sleeping. Not crying…. just yelling… really... really… loudly. Needless to say, I missed my alarm.
Anyways, on to my point. I wanted to talk about the culture we have at The Institute because I feel it makes a big difference when it comes to all this chaos. We have a culture here that is safe, fun, creative, and collaborative. Even with a new member joining the team, it still feels like a family I’ve known for years. This kind of culture is far too rare, and I’m blessed I get to be a part of it.
It wasn’t always this way and by no means am I saying it’s perfect here. Nothing is perfect. But, the difference here is that we all know it. We know it can get crazy and stressful, and that we’re doing things that most companies wouldn’t do. Because honestly, innovation is difficult and risky. We all work together knowing that, and there’s a real sense of camaraderie because of it.
Some companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish this kind of culture. To me it’s a huge waste of money. The right culture cannot be bought. It’s not some commodity to be traded, it’s a living thing and you can seriously kill it if you’re not paying attention. Think of a golden goose, but the goose is surrounded by giant holes, and the goose is riding a unicycle. The wrong move can completely destroy it. But the right move… now, that’s where it puts on a show.
I hosted one of the Leading Edge podcast episodes a couple weeks back and we discussed company culture. Patrick said that culture corrects. He meant that the right culture will constantly guide the company to make the right decisions, both employees and managers. But that got me thinking about it another way.
Culture corrects. I might as well have my life up in flames right now with everything going on and yet I’m fine. I’m more than fine. I’m excited and driven, I want to take on these challenges in a big way. I think that having a safe, dependable, and inspiring culture helps correct in other ways. It bleeds into the other parts of my life. I get to carry that positivity with me. I know that I can come into work feeling pride in what I do. I know that my team is going above and beyond with their projects and getting things done. It’s comforting to know that I get to be myself and express my creative side without ridicule.
The other parts of my life can be a mess as long as I have this security and growth. I don’t have to suffer the grind because there isn’t one, I’m excited to come to the office. This kind of culture is not often found.
I’ve worked for a boss who would threaten me with physical violence, a company that would punish me for going over on a call by 13 seconds even though it was to take care of the customer, and a business who thought it was okay to let customers pour alcohol on me. All of these experiences—and where I’m at now—make it sad to know things could have gone differently.
Your culture is your business. It doesn’t matter if you fix cars, sell shoes, or paint pictures. Your culture is you. How you handle yourself, your perspective on the world, and the way you treat others. If you allow a sour culture to rot your business, then it weighs on your shoulders. Just like your mortgage or your children at home, you are responsible.
You are in charge here. You make the choices. It doesn’t matter if you are an employee or manager (although it might be a little easier if you are in management), you have to take control of the culture you’re in – and the beauty of it is that you can.
Say “good morning” to your colleagues every morning. Join your team for lunch every now and then. Listen to their troubles and revel in their personal successes. You spend most of your time with the people you work with, why not make that time well-spent? We often feel that the terrible things in life are certain, fixed. That no matter what we do, we can’t change them.
That’s crap and you know it.
Have fun! Create! Do something crazy! I realize this blog was supposed to be about business culture, but you know what? It’s about your life. Do you work to live or live to work? And does that bring any sense of meaning or value to you? Whether you’re an employee, manager, or owner, you can make simple changes right now that will improve your quality of life.
Culture does a lot of things, but it’s ultimately up to you what you do with it. I hope you can find the balance that a good culture brings to your life. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a slice of artisanal bread and head into a marketing meeting.