Viewing entries tagged
culture

Practicing leadership

At this point in my life, I’m ready to be a leader.

You might be wondering, “What makes you qualified to lead others? The fact that you’re yet another white, entitled male who feels as if he deserves it?”

I promise it’s not this simple.

From freelancing full-time to co-founding companies with others, I’ve spent the past decade fumbling through the process of creating my own path and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

First and foremost, I’ve learned that leadership isn’t about dominance or having the right answer - quite the opposite.

Some of the best leaders take a much different approach.

Instead of telling others what to do, they lead by example. They know their actions speak louder than any of their words and they do their best to align these actions with the things that truly matter.

Instead of taking credit for the accomplishments of their team, they know that credit for one person depletes ownership by many (Thanks Scott Belsky for perfectly capturing this idea using these words).

Instead of being the first and loudest person to talk, they listen first with the intent to understand. They are self-aware individuals who strive to be empathetic towards everyone, especially the people on their team.

These are just a few of the many ways in which great leaders facilitate great teams and honestly, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and show that these things truly matter to me.

Being an ally

I’m lucky that I get to work with a company that values having intentional conversation around what it means to be diverse and inclusive.

Each month, some of us meet at a different coworker’s home for an event called Homecoming where we discuss specific topics and share personal stories.

Last night, we talked about what it means to be an ally.

As someone who usually falls into the privileged majority in almost any situation (a straight, white, cisgendered male), I want to be an ally for individuals and groups who aren’t so lucky.

Admittedly, I don’t do nearly enough, and usually for one reason - I struggle not with what to say, but how to say it.

Sure, I understand that in the real world, you don’t get a gold star for doing the right thing. Speaking up for others (when that is in fact what they want) should be a given and we should just be able to do it.

The thing is, I also understand that we’re human, which means we’re messy, imperfect creatures that fall back on habits when shit hits the fan.

I’ve learned that if you really care about making a change, you have to consider the habits that drive (or don’t drive) your actions.

In my case, I’m focused on developing the habit that when I hear or see something that could be considered discrimination or injustice, I first ask the person being discriminated against, “Hey, are you OK? How do you feel right now? What do you need?”

As we talked about last night, not everyone wants or needs to be saved. As someone in most majorities, I’m sure it can be much too easy to default to a savior complex.

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and doing what I can to become a more effective ally.

Culture is inevitable

I’ve been thinking a lot about culture over the past few months.

From joining a larger company culture early on to helping shape it on a smaller scale within my own company and a cappella group, I’ve noticed something that is probably self-evident to most:

Whenever you have two or more people working together, culture is inevitable.

From the tone and topics of conversations to the way in which you make decisions, culture simply happens.

In the same way that indecision is still a decision, not intentionally crafting your culture will still give you a culture, it will just be one in which you won’t have any control.

That is why I’m learning to pay more attention to my actions and how they affect the people around me.

Ultimately, these actions contribute to the collective culture.

Believe it or not, when I respond to a Slack comment with a specific GIF or an emoji, this becomes part of the documented culture.

When I have certain conversations within earshot of others, this becomes part of the undocumented culture.

It’s easy to forget these things when we prioritize our work over the people doing the actual work.

In my mind, mindfulness should be just as important as margins, more urgent than email, and prioritized just like profits.

How are you contributing to your company culture?

Safe and connected

A few days ago, I started reading The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle and I’m surprised to see elements of this book already in action.

Within the first few chapters, Coyle shares that in order to create an effective culture, members on a team need to feel safe and connected.

After working at Slalom for a month, I can understand why so many consultants here read this book. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so safe and connected around a new group within such a short amount of time.

People here tend to go out of their way to create experiences that promote safety and connection. From conversations to courses to dinners, I’ve had the chance to be vulnerable with so many people in a safe setting.

Not everyone is this lucky.

When it comes to a company with this many high performers, I imagine it would be easy to let friction and ego get in the way while delivering value to clients.

Instead, people go out of their way to help even if it means a few lost minutes.

Thanks to this book and this company, I’ve learned that a rising tide really does lift all boats.

Love it or fix it

I was recently asked an unusual question during an interview:

"How will you fail here?"

Before opening my mouth, I paused for a few seconds.

Plenty of companies claim they support "failing fast" and learning from failure, but how many actually provide ways in which people can productively fumble?

I answered by admitting that, at times, I may be a little too eager to execute on ideas and my impatience could end up getting the best of me.

Seemingly satisfied with my answer, he went on to talk about how he uses one simple phrase:

Love it or fix it.

I can't tell you how close I was to jumping out of my chair and giving this man a hug.

As someone who is still developing a bias towards action, I can confidently say most people complain about problems without offering up solutions.

I get it. After all, it's much easier to focus on problems instead of creating thoughtful solutions - it's the path of least resistance.

Since hearing these simple words, I have already taken steps towards identifying the parts of my life I don't love and doing something about them.

What about your life don't you love? What will you do to fix it?


The small things

I'm in Kansas City for a wedding and I can't help but notice the small things.

Sure, this city is filled with great food, colorful art, and more hipsters than you can imagine, but there is so much more than meets the eye.

Whether it's the perfect lines of the street murals or the finishing touches to every dish, you can tell this city cares about the details.

Somehow, it embraces the different cultures of each neighborhood while also rallying behind a united front.

From the grassroots efforts of the people to the institutional traditions, this city knows how to connect the dots in a way that St. Louis doesn't.

We could learn a thing or two from our neighbors to the west.

But not beer or baseball - We've already got that covered.