Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Second Coming – W. B. Yeats, 1919
Sounds as if Yeats could have written it for our time. For it does seem at times that the center does not hold.
The question that I raise is “What is the center?”.
It cannot be a social media screen. Nor, can it be our national leaders who ‘are full of passionate intensity’ of hate towards those who disagree with them.
I’ve spent a lot of my career asking this question.
What is the center of the nation, or of a community or a business or a family?
It is a question of how do we define ourselves, of where our sense of identity comes from?
How is a Business Defined?
Last year I had a prominent global corporation as a client. I conducted leadership training for them. This company has had a track record of failures over the past few years that is frankly embarrassing. While at the campus, I was introduced to the executive assistant of one of the vice-presidents. She was very formal with me. I asked her about her time with the company. She was a long term employee. I told her how much I had enjoyed working with their people. I then said the following:
A company is not defined by its leadership nor its tragedies. A company is defined by what I call “a persistent, residual culture”. This culture persists because of a shared set of values that are the defining culture of the company. It persists because it resides in the relationships of the people who spend their lives working at the company. You are still here because you love the company, and I know it must be heartbreaking to see the hard times that you all are in.”
Immediately, her formality and defensiveness left her.
A Culture of Values and Beliefs
In times of uncertainty, we need to turn to the values and beliefs that define us. In a social environment, whether a family or a business or a community, the same is true.
Every place creates such a culture. It is often ignored by its leadership. It is commonly thought that leaders create culture. They can, but they can only do so by destroying the culture that is already there. Maybe it is necessary if that ‘persistent, residual culture’ has been corrupted and made toxic by the loss of belief in the company’s values. I’ve seen that. It is a very difficult thing to change. It is far better to go join the culture that is there and elevate it through leadership capacity building.
One of the ways that we elevate this persistent, residual culture is by creating a story that we tell ourselves. It is a story that reminds who we are. It is a story that helps us to say Yes to the good things and No to the wrong ones.
Where Do We Start To Create A Persistent, Residual Culture?
The Circle of Impact provides an answer. A culture is formed by Ideas (values, beliefs, purpose, vision, etc.) that provide a collection of people a basis for their Relationships. However, Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. They require a Structure. An organizational structure where the culture establishes a belief system and a social environment of respect and commitment to the organization’s purpose.
The remarkable thing is that these cultures are strategic, not tactical. They are essential to the well-being and effective functioning of the whole of the organization. Ironically, it is quite difficult for this culture to be passed down. These cultures grow up from the grassroots of the organization. This is where I discovered these persistent, residual cultures.
If you want a healthy organizational culture, then begin by elevating the leadership capacities of the people who are at the lowest echelon of the company, If you want a healthy family, you begin with your children. In both settings, train them, mentor them, support them, and celebrate their work. The result will be problems get solved at their point of origin. Communication improves. And the pent-up demand for leadership is then released throughout the whole of the organization or family.
One aspect of this leadership capacity building is helping people develop a story that they themselves find rooted in the persistent, residual culture of the company. This will be the topic of my webinar this Thursday.
Webinar: The Story We Tell Ourselves in Times of Uncertainty”
On Thursday, April 2, I’ll be hosting a webinar called, “The Story We Tell Ourselves in Times of Uncertainty”.
It is designed to address how to support people as they practice social distancing.
Webinar Date and Time: Thursday, April 2, 2020, 11 am-1:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time, 9 am-11 am Mountain.
Fee: $10 USD per link. The fee covers one person or many at one site.
The webinar is designed to accommodate family groups who are sheltering-in-place and business teams who are dispersed to their homes to work remotely.
Sign up with the link above.
On Wednesday, you will receive the Zoom link and materials for preparation.
If there are any questions, direct them me at email@example.com.