Ironically, the most enjoyable discipline in shaping culture might be the most neglected – celebrating others who are modeling the culture you want to create. If yesterday’s post was all about the need to say, “Hey, that’s not how we do things around here”, today’s is all about the need to say, “Hey, that’s EXACTLY how we do things around here.”
This kind of celebration can take place in an email, a phone call, a text, a special lunch, or recognition in front of a larger group. It can be a gift certificate, an unexpected coffee or time off. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate. All that matters is that the person knows why you are celebrating; it’s not because they’re generally awesome, it’s because of the specific way they handled a specific situation.
This seems so obvious but so many leaders ignore the power of celebration. We’re wired to move on to the next challenge and find it hard to pause long enough to say good job in taking the last hill. That’s a big mistake because we miss out on four benefits of celebrating:
- It’s fun! There’s something wrong when we stop enjoying a good party.
- Often times people don’t know they’ve modeled the culture until you tell them. Yesterday’s post talked about how many deviations from your culture come from unintentional wandering. The same is true for many manifestations of your culture. Don’t assume people know they got it right or why they got it right. It’s our job as leaders to make it crystal clear. Catching people doing the right thing is one of the most powerful culture shaping tools available to a leader.
- Celebrating one person’s success becomes a vision casting, culture shaping exercise for the rest of the team. If you celebrate publicly, everyone else has an aha moment themselves. Plus, it shows them the path to being celebrated…that’s a path people like to take!
- It shows everyone you really care about all of this culture stuff. It shows it’s at the forefront of your mind, you’re constantly looking for it and care deeply about how this all gets lived out.
Who do you need to celebrate today? Are you willing to send a quick text, make a call or send a gift card? It’s not just being nice…it’s shaping your culture.
I spent my first year out of college working at a cell phone store and for a management consulting firm. Both experiences left me deeply aware that there’s often a huge gap between a leader’s glowing review of their corporate culture and the reality on the ground. I would meet with plant managers who insisted that worker safety was their number one priority only to hear stories in the plant of how impossible it was for workers to get steel toed boots. I would meet with leaders who were genuinely convinced their company was the greatest place to work only to find out that the majority of the staff spent the majority of their time sending out resumes.
So, while it’s important to be able to define the culture you’re looking to create in your team or organization, the reality is that simply putting it in writing or being able to talk about it will never get the job done. Leaders must model the culture we want to create.
Paul says it this way, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1). That’s a high calling for any leader to live up to, especially when you add Jesus into the mix! Here’s what I’ve come to understand as a leader – this verse is a self fulfilling prophecy. Your people will follow you in exactly the same manner you follow Christ! So, if your organization struggles with celebrating wins, it’s probably because you struggle with celebrating wins. If your organization frenetically jumps from new idea to new initiative to new plan to change the world, it’s probably because you have the attention span of a fruit fly! For a leader, examining organizational culture is a lot like looking in a mirror. As has often been said, you can teach what you know but you’ll reproduce who you are.
So, leaders, we must ensure that our lives embody the culture we’re trying to create. Two ways to accomplish this:
- Don’t steal someone else’s culture. If you hate change, don’t try to make innovation your competitive advantage. If operating efficiency is your thing, find your advantage by offering the best product at the lowest cost. Know who you are and lead the organization that makes sense for you. One of the most helpful things I heard in planting Restoration City was from Larry Osborne, “Plant the church you’ve always wanted to attend. It’s the only one you’ll be able to lead instinctively.” Here’s how I see it – your best friends should be the least surprised at your church’s culture. They should look at you and your church and say, “Yup. Makes sense to me.”
- Allow people on your team to hold you accountable. If you deviate from the culture, people need to call you on it – and do it quickly before the whole organization follows suit! You’re going to go off the path every once in a while. Make sure there are people in your organization to get you realigned quickly.
It’s as simple as this – organizational culture flows out of leadership culture. People aren’t following the inspirational sayings in your lobby. They’re following your life.