Companies who have built great cultures are winning the battle for top talent.
A great culture is not created by luck, or wins, or an HR person. It is the cumulative, human impact of how your leaders show up everyday – and if you believe that everyone is a leader to someone, that means we all contribute to culture.
Culture is like a living thing that grows and evolves, and it is a differentiator that is as unique and inimitable as you are. Instead of food and water, it requires care, intention and the resolve to foster the environment it needs to flourish. In this three-part series we explore what gets in the way of building a great culture, and how we can be better at it.
In part one of Culture is Queen, we explore how capacity and burnout impacts corporate culture.
“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brown
A 2020 survey by company DDI found that nearly 60% of leaders felt burnt out after a day of work. Of those, nearly half felt so worn out that they intended to move to a new company in order to advance their careers, and a quarter planned to leave their employer within a year.
A workplace made up of humans who are overcapacity and burnt out is fertile ground for jerky behaviour to thrive, so before we talk about how to up the connection, inclusion and communication factors with your people, let’s start with the thing that stands in the way of most of these initiatives: our own capacity.
To lead with your best self takes intentional effort. The biggest barrier to you having the culture you want might not be the pandemic limitations on your company holiday party, it might be your ability to engage and perform at your very best and that includes paying attention to your corporate culture.
Our capacity level is reflective of our ability to manage major demands and stress. It’s where we sit on the spectrum of action and rest with that elusive sweet spot of optimal capacity being the balance people struggle to strike. When our clients talk to us about culture, I’m not hearing them say they don’t care about improving it, or that they don’t know how to, they just don’t have the time. Is this a cop out? I don’t think so. I’m looking at faces and seeing burnout, a little bit of fear and zero capacity to do much more than execute on the tasks at hand.
So, before we talk about how to improve your culture, let’s talk a bit about how to improve your capacity. If you’re feeling burnt out, here are some questions to consider:
- What are your signs of being over capacity? They could be:
- Working harder or longer to get the same job done
- Unusual tension or irritability
- Non-communication, shutting down
- Moments of quiet are rare
- Inertia and prolonged indecisiveness
- Feeling like you are compromising your potential
- Feeling like life is always in 5th gear
- Feeling wired and always on
- Who needs to know that you are feeling over-capacity and what your signs are (e.g., friend, family, colleague, etc.)?
- What could you do to move towards optimal capacity?
Now, when it comes to that last question you’re probably thinking – thanks for that nugget, it’s not like I haven’t asked myself that before. Well okay, but when was the last time you asked it? And how many ideas did you come up with last time? Consider taking ten, uninterrupted, minutes to list as many things as you can think of to improve your capacity without stopping. When you’re done, some ideas may seem doable, like opting out of a particular meeting, while some may seem totally unrealistic, like having yourself cloned. But when we let our minds go, new possibilities emerge. Maybe that clone idea you leads you to think about how you can level up your number two in ways you hadn’t thought of before.
If you believe that having a healthy culture is the key to attracting and retaining talent, then you need to seriously consider how you can create the capacity to foster one. Look at that list you made. Who could you share it with? What could you try? What you try doesn’t have to be permanent; think of making a change as trying a little learning experiment. Observe what happens carefully and apply what you learn.
The best advice I have received when it comes to minding my own capacity is this: Remember that every time you say yes to something, you say no to something.
Do you know what you said no to the last time you said yes? What did that decision tell you about your culture?
Look for part two of our three-part series Culture is Queen: Promoting Psychological Safety in a Pandemic World.