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Company Culture, Leading Wherever You Are

Where are we now? We are all collectively experiencing a pandemic. And the pandemic is changing the game.

From the C-Suite: Let’s recognize a couple of things. How we behave at work is different from how we behave at home.  Home is our safe haven, but corporate America has infiltrated it.  We are out of balance now. Your sanctuary feels non-existent.  This cannot be fixed in the near future, but hope is coming. Vaccine, please?

However, because those under the glass ceiling are also in their homes, they are sharing the same experiences the world is.  One or two people supporting the running of the household/mortgage/etc., homeschooling, housekeeping, camp counselor, trying to safely buy and prepare food, entertain our children, care for ageing parents, avoiding Covid.

Empathy has now come into play. The children may not realize there is an executive meeting on Zoom in five minutes.  Life is busier and harder to ensure you do everything for everybody and do it well.

Headquarters are now in kitchens everywhere. This being sudden, arrangements were never made to make this effective.  By design, corporations paid outrageous sums of money to have cities reflect their position in the world with concrete and steel. Now they are empty, and our spare bedrooms have been retrofitted to accommodate.

Regarding company culture, if it was not in a great place prior, it’s challenged even more so now.  How can companies and the C-suite handle this well and possibly reconstruct what didn’t work in the past?

  1. Level up your remote management: The modern business leader needs expertise in remote work from leaders that walk the talk. Leaders who didn’t just wake up on March 14th with a remote workforce. Gitlab was doing this long before our kitchens became an overnight office. Gitlab Suddenly Remote is for companies that want to deploy remote-first practices and overall remote fluency.
  1. Offer tangible forms of release.  This is not a virtual happy hour on Friday night at 6:00.  Your employees hate this.  It is not company culture, it’s a mandatory expectation to smile and make the manager feel good. What is tangible and is good company culture? Send your team a bottle of wine to share with whoever they want at the end of a long week.  Send them a gift card for free takeout on Friday to lighten their exceptionally heavy load.
  1. Trust: notice how productivity is still high regardless of location? Thank your employees. Give them a day off to acknowledge that. Tell them that you’ll respond to all their emails, don’t log in until Monday. Mail a handwritten thank you card, yes, for real.
  1. Recognize need when you see it. Get employees help if you see anything that resembles challenges with mental health. Body language during Zoom, voice changes, a decrease in interactions, camera shut off at meetings, basically anything that strikes you as different.  Don’t pass the baton to HR.  Do a 1:1. Offer counseling on a regular basis to support any degradation of mental health. Be there.
  1. State of Mind: see if a buddy system could be implemented. A 1:1 for team members if they feel more comfort in receiving support from a colleague versus the boss or HR.
  1. Babysitters, retired teachers, senior centers across the country for Grandparents. Reach out to your alumni association, and as the CEO, you probably have a robust list. Hire people for an hour a day for a story time, scavenger hunt, show-n-tell. Guaranteed there are a boatload of recent graduates that are in their parent’s basement that would love the opportunity to help the company. Ahem, this spells foot in the door for them.

There are neglected, bored grandparents everywhere that would benefit from the interaction. And your employees get an hour relief from the entertaining of antsy kiddos. Caveat: do not schedule a meeting during this time. Why? Because there may be only one computer for that. It’s the chance to tell your employees to breathe, meditate, flip through a mag, play a pickup game with their eldest child, etc.

Now on to you, the employee: What can you do? Can you benefit company culture from the ground up? I think so, yes.

There is a blurring of lines now.  It is your opportunity to be heard and seen. Somehow that corporate ladder is visually less noticeable.  I’m not saying it doesn’t exist.  More importantly, do you see yourself as an emerging leader? If you could manifest your own destiny, what would that look like? Yes, would you dance if no one was watching? Silly, yes, but you get the point.

Let’s spitball some ideas:

School-up:  Here’s a free one from Coursera called The Science of Well Being. It’s the most popular course at Yale. Skillshare offers all kinds of workshops. Most of these sites have free offerings and free trials.  Offer to take the class with a work buddy, share the experience and you’ll be looked at differently.  Let HR know you are signing up and want to take the class with others.  Set-up a virtual certification ceremony when you finish. Perhaps HR also has a budget to continue classes after trials are up. Maybe even fund that certification ceremony!

Are we ready for the New Normal? The Great Reinvention by Rishad Tobaccowalla on the world post-Covid and how leadership should navigate business. This is short but rich with content that you can use and deploy. If you see yourself as a leader one day, or as an intrapreneur, books like these are great for leveling up.

It’s time to go inward, studies show exercise will help you absorb all that knowledge.  Insert deep breath here.  Okay, one more. Work/life balance actually takes work.  You have to schedule this into your calendar.  The Audible App offers free yoga (love the free part): Rise & Shine Yoga Flow (25 to choose from, because variety is key). Yoga for Breakfast 2 with Peter is a fav.

Also, on Audible, by Aaptiv: 21 Days of Meditation series. They say it takes 14 days to create a habit, so there is enough flow and breathwork here to establish a consistent practice.  Grab your mat and head outside. You can find an accountability buddy.  See if others in the office are interested.

Listen, I get it, downdog is not your vibe. Didn’t you say you wanted to order that beer kit and learn how to make the next craft brew? Going inward can be in any form, no judgement here. Here’s a kit for about $100.

If your eyes are getting blurry, try a podcast, Boss Files with Poppy Harlow, her interview here is with Salesforce’s Marc Benioff on the Future of Capitalism. This was recorded prior to Covid. It’s still an interesting blueprint for the future of business and governance.

Here are a few favs: Arm Chair Expert with Dax Shephard this is light, and his guest roster is fun.  His interview with Alicia Keys was great. The Joe Rogan Experience park a big time slot for that one, Morning Brew’s Business Casual Kinsey Grant brings in A-listers. Second Life is great if you see yourself as an entrepreneur. Code Switch goes deep. Unlocking Us is Brené Brown’s way of helping the world. Encyclopedia Wommanica are great five-minute episodes about interesting women in history that you probably don’t know.

The best part is you can prep your 100th meal of the day or get out for a walk if you download a podcast. See what you did here? Doubling down with a casual listen and exercise.

The key point in this section is that clubs, exercise, shared interests, classes and books enhance company culture because it is not forced love by management.  Do your part to change the dynamic. Share the above or a variation of it. Build your connections, you and the people you interact with can impart a positive culture and find emerging leadership together.

In closing, I’d like to say company culture is a changing dynamic. You have the power to affect change.  Companies are under great scrutiny from the media and are more accountable to ethical treatment.

If you are already at the top, I hope this gives you a birds-eye view. Your employees are counting on you to create a healthier place, impart trust, tools and some thank you. If you are climbing to the top, I hope this offers some ideas that resonate with you.

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