"The opportunity to strengthen culture lives in the space between what you say you value and how you live those values out."
Tennis is my favorite sport to watch on TV, so I was a pretty happy gal this weekend as I hunkered down on the couch for the women’s and men’s singles finals on center court at Wimbledon. The tension is thick and I love it. Why?
Because in tennis, no rally is insignificant. Every play results in someone inching ahead or falling behind.
Basketball players can run the court several times without scoring. The same in football. Soccer. Plays are made without any change in who's up or down. In tennis, even if it takes 26 minutes to arrive at one single point on the scoreboard, as happened with Djokovic and Alcaraz this weekend, the rules of the sport do not allow a game to go unaffected.
This is how I teach executives about workplace culture. There are no insiginificant plays, no actions that do not result in impact. Every time we speak, every action we take either strengthens or weakens the company, including how we show up in the privacy of our own offices:
How do you respond when you or an employee messes up a big project?
How do you treat big successes?
Which questions do you ask in a team meeting, and how keenly do you listen to responses?
What does the CFO say to the administrative assistant on your way out each evening – and what time does she leave?
How's the furniture arranged in the lobby?
It all matters. Every decision. Nothing is neutral.
Leaders sometimes avoid culture work because it can feel fuzzy or theoretical. But it isn’t elusive. It’s pervasive. Most days, it’s pretty mundane. Opportunities to strengthen it live in the space between what you say you value and how you live those values out.
You don’t have to win every point to win the match. Just don’t forget that everyone in your company is in a position of power and influence, every day, in every interaction, to influence culture for the better. Isn’t that incredible?