Whose Garden are you Growing?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those previous employers who once treated me poorly. 

I’m not being facetious. I am truly grateful to them for providing environments in which I grew in patience, resilience, empathy and understanding, all while learning from both their and my mistakes. It took me a while to recognize that they were growing me for the benefit of others they would never know. Truly, I wouldn’t be who I am today without these people.  

Truth is, every employer is growing a garden. The only question is whose garden are you growing?

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Snapping Pictures for Quality Assurance

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The pictures you acquire from an ethnographic study of cultures are worth more than a thousand words. Sometimes, they’re worth millions of dollars too. 

Years ago, I was a quality-control project manager, tasked with identifying hardware and software errors for a prominent cell-phone manufacturer. The phones in this project were a cheap alternative to the flip-phones that were popular before the smartphone (iPhone would soon appear on the horizon). 

One day, a quality-control tester on my team noticed a peculiar error: the phones did not always receive multimedia messages, especially if those messages contained a picture. Although there were more pressing tests to be run, I instructed the engineer to put aside these other tests and work towards isolating the problem. When he presented the results, I felt ill. 

I immediately contacted my liaison at the parent company, informing her that we identified a catastrophic error. The liaison, who had already come to trust my insights and instincts, gave me the benefit of the doubt concerning “catastrophic” and met with me that afternoon. After I carefully laid out the threat, she also felt ill. We immediately set up a meeting with two senior developers, both of whom were much more skeptical. After a couple of hours, they had the same illness.

What was this catastrophic error? 

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How to Fuse a New Organizational Culture from the Old Culture

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

“You will never forget this time in your life.” He was right, although not for the reasons he was thinking.

Our guide was giving us a tour of our new home, a brand new casino resort featuring a new golf course. There was a lot of excitement over the potential, a potential which was soon realized. At the end of our grand-opening year, our casino would be the third-highest revenue producing casino west of the Mississippi. 

Yet, it almost didn’t happen.

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The Missing Ingredient in many Servant-Leadership Cultures

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I like to joke that, if life is akin to singing a part in the larger symphony of the world, many, when warming up using the musical scales (do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do), never finish getting warmed up. 

The reason? They get stuck on one particular note: me.

Do…re…me…oh! I like the sound of that! Me. ME! 

Me-me-me…me-me-me-me…yup, I’m ready! Are there any other notes?

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The Standard Approaches to Fixing Organizational Cultures (and what you can do differently)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

There’s an adage related to culture: the fish are the last ones to know they’re in the water. 

A fish wouldn’t be aware of the water surrounding it, anymore than you are consciously aware of the air you breathe. The only time you become conscious of air is when it’s suddenly absent, polluted, or you fall into water.

Culture is like water to fish, and air to you: you were born into it, it’s always been there, and you likely haven’t given it much thought. You become aware of your culture when you are alone for an extended period of time (culture necessarily includes people), it becomes toxic, or you’re placed in a different culture. The more radical the experience, the more conscious you become of your own cultural upbringing. 

There’s another similarity between culture, water, and air: the health of the occupants is partially determined by the health of the environment. Like dirty water or air, if your organization is not obtaining the results you want (i.e., it’s not healthy), your culture is likely the primary cause. 

You now have a clean-up project on your hands. “What am I going to do?” 

This post was written for you. 

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The Two Prerequisites for Transforming a Culture

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

Peter Drucker once said that “company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.” 

And what have we got? The research studies tell us the same thing every year: people love what they do, but hate where they do it (eighty-six and sixty-six percent respectively, last I heard). If employers could listen in on their employees around the water cooler or during happy hour, they wouldn’t need statistics. 

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