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‘The Parking Lot Movie’ – A 2010 documentary about a bunch of 20 something, way intellectual, parking lot attendants who really, really love their job.

These guys elevate what some may deem a lowly occupation to something truly meaningful, and apply the kind of dedication, passion and creativity most managers only dream would ever come out of their teams.    They feel free to do this in large part because of their boss, and the environment he creates.  At one point called a spiritual teacher, Chris Farina simply believes that his employees come first, and that customers (which in this case he considers the cars) come second.  I love this film.   If you have a Netflix subscription, you can ‘Watch Instantly’ too.

Andrea Useem at Brazen Life created a nifty post today highlighting 6 Must Watch Career Videos selected from Big Think…all of them awesome.

And finally two videos featuring Steven Johnson discussing ‘Where do Good Ideas Come From?‘.    

The title of this post captures a genuine (albeit vague) request for help from a manager I met with the other day.  The next day I sent over something of a generic brain dump of ideas/perspectives/tips etc. to get him started.    Although it would have been great to know more about the specific challenges he’s facing so I could have customized my advice, I have to say, it was fun to challenge myself to quickly come up with a relatively short list of things that I think are non-negotiables – especially #1!

Here’s my list…send me yours!

  1. Immediately buy this poster for your office – if you remember this simple wisdom, the rest of this list will sort itself out in the end
  2. Thoroughly assess your current state – leverage interviews, surveys, skip meetings, roundtables
  3. Learn from any internal success stories, locate your evangelists, identify toxicity
    • Who has found a way to succeed right now.  What are they doing?
    • Who has enthusiastic energy that is dying to be tapped?  How can they be leveraged?
    • Who are the key influencers?  Are they on board?
    • Who is poisoning the well water?  How are they being sorted?
  4. Articulate a team vision and brand – start with ‘Why’ – keep it simple and measurable
  5. Establish a process by which senior managers can participate in both talking through the vision and determining how the organization will get there.
  6. Establish expectations – what behaviors do managers need to demonstrate to walk the talk, what won’t be tolerated in the culture/environment, what will be celebrated, how will the team see the vision and brand come to life in the environment?
  7. Communicate
    • With consistent messages and multiple platforms (pay particular attention to how leadership is positioned)
    • Leverage your ‘Why’ statement generously, reinforce the brand
    • Be radical – put the people slides up front!
    • Make it conversational and create a leadership brand within the brand – assure all managers are leveraged
    • Ensure managers have the tools they need to stay on the same page – good intranet site for resources, talking points as required etc.
    • Make sure your evangelists and influencers have the right messages to propagate
    • Encourage two-way communication and follow through on it
    • Create platforms that demonstrate what teams/individuals can teach one another
    • Don’t create a platform or process that can’t be sustained for the long-term.
    • Constantly assess what’s working and what’s not

A few years ago, while working at another investment bank, I received a random call from the head our division (I ran global communications for him). He told me that our CEO had just communicated his vision for a new aspirational culture which was to be based upon several core principles – all of which began with the letter ‘I’. These words became known as the ‘Five I’s’. Rigggght.

Anyway, at the time I was tasked with making sure that EVERYONE in our division knew what these Five I’s were. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, we did come up with some creative ways of accomplishing our goal – but that’s not really the point of this post. (If, however, you are curious about some the methods I used, shoot me a note and I’d be happy to share.)

No, the point of my post is actually this…. it just happened again! Today, I am at yet another large investment bank and was just told we’re going to use yet another set of words all beginning with the same letter, to describe our aspirational culture. Sure there are bigger problems in the world – war, hunger, poverty, global warming – but seriously folks, this must stop!

So I say this to all my tens of readers, please don’t lean on schtick or gimmicks when seeking to develop or improve a team or corporate culture. Rather, lean on honesty and transparency, talk about the real problems and how you’re going to address them, talk about how you’re going to engage employees in helping to solve the problems that are of concern to them, talk about the kind of place you want to be, and about what’s genuinely important to you and about what you value…I could go on, but you get the drift. Define your culture using conversational words that you can stand by through your actions and that (very important) your employees truly understand, can relate to and feel they can follow.

Rather than this…

Our core principles are…
Invigorate!
Innovate!
Investigate!
Inspire!

Work on developing something like this…

In our company we believe in respecting each other above all else, in working hard for our clients, in collaborating to solve problems and in taking care of our people.

Just put down the dictionary and the thesaurus and TALK to people, in a genuine way, about the kind of place you’d like to become. Then once you’re done, work to ensure you are living and breathing that vision, and make decisions that lead everyone down that aspirational path (i.e. don’t preach ‘communication’ and spend all day in your office with the door closed) What’s the point of that?

If you can start with a statement that people can relate to, I guarantee your folks will feel way more Invigorated and Inspired by that than by all the ‘I’ words you can dig out of the dictionary.

Except maybe ‘Ice Cream’ – which actually works every time.

p.s.  I made it to Freshly Pressed today!  So exciting!  Thank you all for reading and if you like what you read please comment, subscribe or share via the links below.  Thanks again!

June 2017
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