Congratulations for navigating a year which has wreaked havoc on the social, economic, health and well-being of almost everyone in the world.
Never before have people of all ilks had such a deep and impactful common experience. It reminds us that we are all human, that we can join in a common purpose.
As we make plans for the next normal, pulling the threads together from our past successes into a future we don’t feel confident predicting, it is our hope that we as a people are more empathetic, more open, more agile, more human.
We are launching a series of articles on the topic of ‘Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal‘ and invite your input on our online survey. https://forms.gle/gzFXFd4LctoERxXq9. All results will be shared with survey and interview participants and also the larger FountainBlue community.
We’re combined survey, interview and community findings with the data and information we’ve collected from decades of coaching, leadership development and change management experience, with an emphasis on our findings over the past 18 months.
- Introduction: Redefining Normal – see August Blog
- Chapter One: What to Do When Nothing’s Normal – see September Blog
- Chapter Two: How to Build Culture When Nothing’s Normal – see October Blog
- Chapter Three: Use Cases: Culture Plays from the Field – Describing Culture Challenge scenarios framed around football plays, and suggestions on how leaders at all levels can take culture-forward positions, putting people first.
- Part Five: Resources, Worksheets, Best Practices
- Call to Action: Leading from Any Chair When Nothing’s Normal
August 1, 2021
All the talk has been about the pandemic and how it has been affecting our work and personal lives, as well as how it’s impacting how we do business now and going forward. As the sands keep shifting beneath all of us, independent of gender, race, education, role, and background, we wonder when things will go back to normal and how we can survive and thrive until then.
However, the truth is that some things, including corporate culture, have fundamentally changed, and won’t return to ‘normal’. With that said, there are things that leaders and managers at all levels can do, despite this fact.
This article will be the first chapter for a book I’m writing entitled ‘Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal’. I will release more chapters in upcoming blogs. The book outline is shown at the bottom of the chapter.
For this article, we will pontificate on why things won’t be returning to normal.
- Our shared experience
Never before have we had such a common experience – one which has touched everyone everywhere so deeply, so directly, one that connects us viscerally, while also isolating us unapologetically.
Leaders and managers at all levels must leverage this sense of shared experience to drive engagement, to promote meritocracy, to correct misperceptions, to update policies, processes and procedures, and ultimately to connect more deeply as ONE team with a common purpose.
- Our sense of purpose
Regardless of whether you or your loved ones were directly impacted, the pandemic caused health and welfare issues which helped us all see the fragility and preciousness of life. With that realization, it’s only natural to look at how you’re living your life and whether your day-to-day life choices are in alignment with your values and your life mission. Thus, many are looking at securing more meaningful work that’s in alignment with their values.
As managers and leaders, emphasizing the mission and vision of a company and ensuring that each employee feels like they are contributing to that purpose has become more important than ever.
- Our ability to embrace change
We had to change our habits when the pandemic hit us to meet our minimum basic needs. For some, that meant working from home and ordering everything with no-contact delivery. For others, that meant embracing new technologies, processes, and people.
Leaders and managers at all levels must accept that change is inevitable, and that change will happen much more quickly now. The new standards or ‘normal’ will keep evolving, but it’s a given that rapid change will be an integral part of that evolution.
- Our dependence on technology
Whether we were masters of tech or mere newbies, the pandemic’s made many of us embrace technology at a new level so that we can do our jobs and carry on with our lives. With technology now more ubiquitous than ever, its adoption and advancement will only continue to accelerate.
Managers and leaders at all levels must address the challenge of providing resources and support so that people can efficiently upgrade to more versatile, more powerful, more personalized technology solutions – those which would ideally also respect privacy, access and security protocols.
- Our desire for balance
Gone are the days when we work long hours, depriving ourselves and our loved ones regularly of quality time together. We are willing to work hard, but not as a matter of course, and not exceedingly often.
Leaders and managers must recognize everyone’s need for balancing work and life and provide appropriate compensation and recognition for reasonable hours. Otherwise, they will risk losing employees who highly value a balance between life and work.
- Our focus on efficiency and convenience
Out of necessity, many of us found the most convenient and efficient way to stay safe while also addressing our basic needs – like food, water and safety! We adjusted well to ordering-on-demand and expecting things to be delivered to our doors efficiently.
Managers and leaders must acknowledge this mindset as it will transfer to work. How can we more efficiently provide customized, personalized goods and services to our employees and teams so that they continue to be efficient at work?
- Our drive to deeply connect with others
Humans are social beings, but our desire for social connection varies. Some of us thrived in social isolation. Others of us wilted as social circles shrunk. As more and more people begin to return to in-person work, many have thought deeply about what type of social interactions they’d like to have, with whom, and how frequently.
As leaders and managers, it’s important to recognize these preferences and find ways to ensure bonding and connection within a team or company, despite the wide variance of social connection needs.
- Our respect for science
It’s science that has helped us move beyond the reactive response mode to the logical mode by understanding the mechanisms of the virus and how vaccination can increase our immunity. Recent pandemic-related scientific accomplishments showcased how science and technology can more quickly and effectively address challenging issues.
Managers and leaders must bridge the divide between those who are pro-science/pro-tech and those who might be vaccine hesitant, while also investing in science and technology and research.
- Our interest in justice
Many of us have witnessed the injustices highlighted by the pandemic, the divide between the haves and the have-nots. It forced us to look at what’s just and how to provide more equal opportunities for all.
As leaders and managers, equal opportunity and treatment will be a much higher priority to many.
- Our search for our selves
Many of us have gone on a journey of self awareness, asking ourselves what it’s all about. We have a greater understanding of what we stand for, who and what is important to us, what we need to do to ensure our loved ones feel important, and that our every thought, every word, every action is in alignment with our purpose.
As leaders and managers, we must take an inside-out, outside-in approach to ensure that we meet the needs and objectives of the people who work with and for us.
With our follow-up blog posts, and in our book, I will explain just what I mean by this approach. We welcome corporate managers and leaders at all levels to contribute to our online survey for inclusion in our upcoming blogs.
What do you do when nothing’s normal? How do you plan for the day-to-day, for the future, for what’s next? How do you build a culture when nobody can see the future?
In our August post, we talked about Redefining Normal and followed up by collecting more survey results through phone and online interviews. We’ve combined these findings with the data and information we’ve collected from decades of coaching, leadership development and change management experience, with an emphasis on our findings over the past 18 months.
Indeed, the pandemic and its aftermath has made us all look at what we took for granted as normal, and wrestle with the realization that nothing will ever be normal again.
Yet the Resilient forge on despite the challenges,
and the Successful tap into shared knowledge and networks,
knowing that we are stronger together.
This month, we look more deeply at what leaders can do to build culture when nothing’s normal, exploring a model which takes an inside-out, outside-in approach. We don’t promise you answers, only more questions and updates on our findings so that together we can explore what to do when nothing’s normal.
An Inside-Out Perspective on Building Culture
Inside-Out: In this section, we look from the perspective of the individual, the leader and manager at all levels who sees directly how he/she/they can contribute individually to the culture.
In general, when individuals look through their own personal lens, there are three main motivators:
- The mission-driven calling to work for a purpose, in alignment with their personal values;
- The burning desire for continuous learning and development which makes them better versions of themselves;
- The passionate drive to do something new and bold which innovates and makes the world a better place in ways small and big.
Those who are mission-driven want to contribute in ways big and small to a cause in alignment with their values, a cause larger than one they can serve by themselves, a cause that can be addressed because they show up fully and regularly at work. They must feel like their companies, leaders, technology, and brand are in alignment with this sense of purpose.
To serve the needs of the Mission-Driven staff, leaders at all levels must provide:
- Creation of a Common Platform which matters beyond the work
- Brand Integrity and Authenticity
- A Culture-First Mindset
- Alignment between the Mission, the Vision and the Execution
- Transparency and Authenticity
- Clarity of Purpose in Thoughts, Words and Actions
Those who are Lifelong Learners want to be presented with challenges at work, the opportunity to excel at and learn from these challenges, with a source of light pressure to drive continuous improvement, never settling for mediocrity.
To serve the needs of the Lifelong Learners, leaders at all levels must provide:
- Access to Materials and Training
- Accountability and Ownership
- A Culture of Continuous Learning and Development
- Guidance and Coaching on Educational Plan
- Individualized Offerings
- Rewards for Agility and Openness
Those who are Innovators are motivated by their desires to be creative, solve problems, and work on a variety of challenging tasks which make a difference. They are hungry for a fail-forward mindset and culture, as well as tangible opportunities to innovate and learn with the support of mentors, resources and the organization at large.
To serve the needs of Innovators, leaders at all levels must provide:
- Access to Mentors, Sponsors and Resources
- Assurance that Credit is Fairly Distributed
- Focus on Customer-driven Innovation Projects
- Diversity of Perspectives and Experiences on Team
- Inspiring Examples and Success Stories
- Rewards for Innovative Ideas and Execution
An Outside-In Perspective on Building Culture
Outside-In: In this section, we look from the perspective of the leader or manager at any level, on what managers and leaders from any chair can do to facilitate the development of an organization’s culture.
In general, when individuals look through the lens of the team, organization, or community, there are three main motivators:
- The socially-minded desire to connect with and trust in others. They crave a co created history along with traditions and continued progress toward common goals and including celebrations of success;
- The burning desire to leverage corporate influence and resources to collectively impact larger social, political, and environmental issues;
- The passionate drive to advocate and lobby for more equitable rights, resources and opportunities for those less fortunate, less empowered and less enabled to succeed.
Those who are Community-Builders are motivated by the desire to create a safe, trusted and synergistic network focused on everything from developing and supporting each other to creating deep relationships and from providing empathy, camaraderie, fun and energy to working as a team to deliver extraordinary results. Community-Builders are looking for a sense of belonging, a trusted and supportive network, and for opportunities to share experiences, celebrations and traditions together.
To serve the needs of Community-Builders, leaders at all levels must provide:
- A Positive and Productive Culture which Celebrates Success
- Clear Accountability and Metrics
- Resources and Support to Achieve Results
- Sense of Fit and Belonging
- Connections between Community Groups and Members
Those who are Social Responsibility Advocates are motivated by the desire to leverage company resources and brand to deliver impact on social, environmental, and systemic challenges, to provide services to others in need, and to provide socially responsible leadership and financial support. The corporate platform and brand provides opportunities to make a broader impact in many ways, including by serving the needs of local nonprofits, by supporting the fundraising efforts around climate change, or by providing resources for the disadvantaged.
To serve the needs of Social Responsibility Advocates, leaders at all levels must provide:
- Partnerships and Ecosystems to Amplify Impact
- Platform to Amplify Impact and Share Knowledge
- Opportunities to Serve Social Causes of Interest
- Alignment between Corporate Mission and Social Causes Supported
- Respect and Support for the Daunting Challenges of Today
Those who are Justice-Seekers are motivated by the desire to to witness equal opportunities around pay, recognition, and opportunity for all. Justice-Seekers would like to see open-minded leaders who respect and embrace diverse people in their thoughts, words and actions. Transparent, data-based conversations will help justice-seekers see the progress being made, and respect their leaders and organization overall.
To serve the needs of Justice-Seekers, leaders at all levels must provide:
- Alignment on Values, Policies and Communications
- Equal access to Support, Coaching, Education and Resources
- Systematic Approaches to the Recruitment, Retention and Advancement of Diverse Talent
- Training on Unconscious Biases
- Celebrate and Reward Diverse Thinking and Ideas
- Transparent and Regular Reporting on progress to date
Bringing it Together:
Whether you look through the lens of what you can do as an individual to shape culture personally, or look through the lens of the organization as a whole, take ownership and focus on making a difference, through the conscious choice to evolve the culture, consistently and relentlessly.
Next month, we will create a how-to blog around building culture. As we continue to develop our content in Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal, your input is welcome through our survey, e-mail, or an interactive conversation.
MESSAGES of HOPE for the Next Normal
Not always nice, but always KIND.
Not always identical, but always OPEN.
Not always privileged, but always ENOUGH.
Not always influential, but always HEARD.
May we all respond to the challenge of our founding fathers:
The EQUAL right to realize a LIFE of LIBERTY,
in the PURSUIT of HAPPINESS,
No matter our background, our perspectives, our history.
Be a Moral Compass,
by Linda Holroyd, February 2021