The Great Resignation is getting a lot of attention, but shouldn’t we be focusing more of our attention on the Great Reset?
The world has changed and so have people’s priorities. Leaders and managers have never had more to think about as the line between work and home continues to blur, as well as anxiety and depression being at historically high levels. We need to step comfortably out of that cement foundation from which we built winning teams or those will become cement shoes that we will find ourselves wearing at the bottom of the river.
If you’re like most of the companies we are speaking with, your attrition rate is far higher than pre-pandemic levels. While it can be easy to dismiss the last executive who left because “she got higher pay,” it is important to remember that most people leave bosses, not organizations. There is likely something deeper at play that is enmeshed within the organization’s culture.
The concept of “culture” was hard enough to define when we all worked in the same space together. The most valuable part of a shared office space was not the food and beverage perks, but the unspoken assumptions and energy that is associated with the company. It enabled someone to figure out “how things get done around here” — the habits and rituals that become second nature to seasoned staff members. How does one learn “how things get done around here” if the “here” is thousands of laptops in people’s homes spread across the country — or even the world? For leaders to build a winning culture in this seminal moment, here are three foundational elements to focus and build upon:
1. Be crystal clear on what you celebrate and what you tolerate
An organization’s cultural identity comes down to this: What do you celebrate and what do you tolerate? In a remote or hybrid environment, leaders must be more intentional about explicitly stating what is celebrated and tolerated. For example, let’s say you have a salesperson who is the top seller on the team but doesn’t treat others with respect and skips team meetings without notice. While peak results are something to be celebrated, it can be easy to then let these results allow us to tolerate these other behaviors. Cultures that excite and energize people make it clear that how we treat others is just as much a part of our job as the results we get. And please remember, a non-decision, or a non-action, or not addressing the behavior at all has the opposite effect — it screams to your people what the culture is and what it is not.
2. Re-articulate the vision more than you think
Your company’s vision — the aspirational North Star — guides your strategy, enables you to recruit better talent, and keep your young stars energized with the promise of growth and opportunity. When people aren’t together every day and each person is working from their own physical space, it can be all too easy to lose sight of how we each contribute to the overall vision. Therefore, re-articulating the vision should be part of the cultural fabric of communication. With each new project, the leaders should clearly articulate how it connects to the team’s overall vision and brings everyone closer to realizing this North Star. Each developmental conversation should not only focus on what the individual should personally develop, but the skills that will enable the company to realize grand aspirations. Be creative — send an article, TED talk, or quote to support the process. Your team wants stability and consistency as the world they are living in is very much the opposite.
3. Foster “developmental curiosity”
All of us are internally motivated by growing and developing toward self-actualization — where we are fully tapping into our capabilities and functioning as the best version of ourselves. In our organizations, far too often “development” is defined as two things: raises and promotions. Developmental curiosity is when we are thinking about learning, growing, and stretching in a more holistic way. We encourage leaders to have monthly “step back meetings” with their people where no tasks or projects are discussed, but we take a step back to talk about how the person is doing developmentally and psychologically. In these meetings, the leader’s main role is to ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions to spark their people’s thinking and ensure their people have the support they need to achieve their aspirational goals. What if we started each meeting this way? Let’s each name something we are grateful for. Let’s share a memory from this weekend. What is the best podcast you have listened to recently? A waste of time? Too busy? We think not. The Zoom room is the new water cooler.
By being clear about what we celebrate and tolerate, re-articulating the vision at every turn both with small and large projects, and by fostering developmental curiosity, we are on our way to creating a culture of trust, connection, and peak performance that is not reliant on a shared physical location.
Matt Dubin is an organizational psychologist and head of client experience at Human Advantage. Scott O’Neil is the former CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and the author of “Be Where your Feet Are.”
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