Culture – to create and protect

After a brief hiatus from this blog to have another baby and get life organized, I’m back!

Things happened this week at work that have got me thinking (more than usual, which is already a lot!) about Organizational Culture… That nebulous, intangible atmosphere that surrounds all of us in our workplaces.

Many people say culture is synonymous with your values, that it’s set from the top and that it’s represented in everything from the office layout, to your approach to problem-solving.

In my mind it’s simple. Culture is co-created by everyone in the system. It’s the way we act and interact with each other and our customers. It’s reinforced through people practices, and modeled by leaders… but no one person has the power alone to set or transform cultureCulture.

This week we lost one of our leaders… A passionate, kind man who for many was an inspiration. He left on his own accord, and for his own reasons. The reaction in our system was varied. Some people understanding and supporting the need for new leadership, and others feeling hopeless with the loss. He was instrumental, after all, in helping to shape the culture and signature sense of community that we all hold dear.

But what I know is this. Emotions, connection and community run deep. Far deeper than any one person alone can create or destroy. My want for our system as we go through this transition is to allow everyone to tap into their own power around creating culture; to identify those things that they will fiercely protect through this change and the inevitable others to come; to own our culture as their own; and then to act and interact in a way that aligns completely with the culture we’re building.

I’m biased, but we are creating something special together. That’s what makes us peers in the deepest sense of the word… Friends, collaborators, co-conspirators in our quest for the extraordinary.

If you had to pick 2-3 things in your own culture to fiercely protect or amplify in the spirit of excellence, what would you choose?

Boomers, Xers, Nexters and Facebook.

I had lunch this week with a leader-friend of mine who has recently made the shift from CEO to consultant. What he doesn’t miss: The drama that comes with leading in a generational whirlpool.

You’ve heard it before. Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever – with 4, even verging on 5 generations in the workplace at once. My experience working in an organization where 80% of our workforce was Gen Xers and Nexters (aka Millenials), tells me that things aren’t like they used to be. And… It’s a good thing! The ideas and innovation that come with such a diverse mix can be groundbreaking… if it’s harnessed correctly.

According to Linda Duxbury, a University of Carleton professor and expert in organizational health, a generation is formed not because of dates of birth, but rather because of the world events and moments that define their lifetime. At a macro level, life experiences shape our orientation towards the world and our work. Here’s a quick glance at the generations in today’s workforce:

  • The Veterans (born just before or during WWII – 59 +)
  • The Baby Boom (1947 to 1964)
  • The Baby Bust (Generation X) (1961 to 1974)
  • The Echo Boomers (Nexus, Gen Y) (1975 to 1990)

And what we’re seeing now is a new generation entering the workforce… Let’s call them the “Facebook” generation for lack of a better term. More details to come as we learn more about this tech-savvy, compassionate, want-to-make-a-difference-in-the-world cohort…

The applications for leadership? Three words: Pause, Reflect, and Inquire.

  • Before you jump to judgment about that crotchety old boomer in the cubicle next to you, spend a brief moment to pause and think about putting yourself in his or her shoes.
  • When you get annoyed with the need for immediate feedback that so often characterizes a Nexter and now the “Facebook” generation, remember what they’ve grown up with: cell phones, text messaging, twitter – a world full of technology and innovation… they know no different.
  • Check out your own assumptions and treat them as such. Rather than form solid beliefs, take a moment to ask some questions. I bet you’ll learn something new!

Let’s hear about your experiences with generational diversity. Any tips to share?

For more information on Generational Diversity, check out these resources: