This seems to be the burning question on everyone’s mind and no one seems to have an answer. This year has been unlike any other in history. There is no precedent on how to come back from a world-wide pandemic. But we have to move forward.
Most companies are in survival mode, and they don’t have the luxury of a large bank account to save them. Every choice they make has huge repercussions. Talk about stressful. Unfortunately, this is the case for many businesses, mine included.
There are many thought leaders out there giving advice on what to do next. If I’m being honest, it’s been hard for me to trust what they are saying. Not because I think they are making stuff up, but because they aren’t experiencing the same thing I am. They run multi-million dollar corporations with a large bank account to get them from quarter to quarter. My companies, however, have to make smart decisions today in hopes of making it to the next quarter. There isn’t much room for error. This is a real fear and I know I am not alone in feeling this way.
Not only are we stuck in survival mode, but now my people have spent months at home working in isolation and isolation is dangerous. We belong in community, even with those we work with. Culture is critical to the success of a business, but it takes time and intentionality. In survival mode, time is a tough thing to sacrifice. I am constantly tempted to abandon culture and fight for survival. But I am choosing to hedge my bets on culture.
Roulette is a great example of the constant temptation we, as leaders, face every day. We put all our chips on black (culture). We act so confident that the people around us are bought in enough to place their bets black too. Then, at the last second, you push a couple of your chips over to red (survival). The people around you are frustrated and confused. Why did you abandon your bet at the last second? Because it felt safe. Fear forces you to make decisions that feel safe in the moment but aren’t in the long run.
Leaders need to be vulnerable with their people. They need to share their fears and concerns about the state of the company. They need to be able to depend on their people. You will be amazed at how your people show up for you when you give them a glimpse into your world. If you’re stuck in survival mode, how do you think that makes your people feel? They can feel your stress no matter how hard you try and hide it. You will have to do something tomorrow as a leader, so what will it be?
My advice: Get to know your people and let them get to know you. Talk about your worldviews—hopes, preferences, traditions, experiences, and beliefs. The diversity of your people is a great asset. People want to be understood for who they are, not just what they can do for you. When you tap into the intrinsic value of a person they will bring more to the table than you could have ever imagined. Make sure you can all agree to the purpose of your company, where you are going together. This is incredibly important, especially right now. You need people that can align their passions to the purpose so that they will take ownership of their role. Guiding Principles will be useful to you on the journey because it will help dictate how you will treat each other on the journey.
Lastly, make culture the boss. If you have done the hard work of getting to know your people and aligning to your purpose and guiding principles, then you are ready to let the culture dictate what you do next. The beauty of placing your bet on culture is that it will tell you how to move forward. It won’t force you to choose between your people and your tasks. It will help you use your people to accomplish your tasks. The choice will not be easy, but I am betting that it’s worth it.
About the Author
Author, speaker and entrepreneur, Chris Meroff, has made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works—and what doesn’t—in service-oriented leadership. What he has gleaned from his research has helped him build a fast-growing organization with a diverse and engaged workforce that understands the mission of his organization and their place in it. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they too can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. Learn more at www.AlignLeadThrive.com
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