Wednesday, April 23

No More Strays

Yesterday, someone asked me what kind of breed my dog was, and when I replied, “He’s a stray,” the fellow responded, “Aren’t we all strays?”  It was a comment meant lightly in passing, but I guess it touched something in me, because I’m still reflecting on it.
Maybe we are all strays—or many of us.  The work of great organizational leaders is to make those of us who are strays feel as if we belong to our organization as vital members.  This is the heart of culture—the glue—both visible and invisible—that holds a group of people together.  If you have a positive culture based on trust, common goals, and respect, nobody will feel like a stray.
That brief conversation reminded me of a story about my dad that happened long before I was born.  During WWII, he was the general manager of a Goodyear plant in Akron that had been converted to making gull wing aircraft—the kind that takes off and lands on aircraft carriers.  The challenge he faced is that his workforce was composed of people who were ineligible to serve in the war.  He had a rag-tag collection of women who had never worked outside the home and old or disabled men, several of whom were blind.  The timetable to convert the factory from manufacturing tires to producing planes was extremely tight and the materials they needed were often not readily available.

My dad engaged everyone in the challenge of figuring out how to make this work, and how they could help others perform their roles consistently, as they understood that their contribution to the war effort was real—American lives were depending on them.  What they created is a CONNECTIVE CULTURE that had no room for bureaucracy, egos, or excuses.  
When the first plane came off the assembly line, my dad had arranged for it to be flown over the plant, where all the employees had gathered in the parking lot.  As it dipped its wings in salute to the workers who had built it ahead of schedule, my dad reported that there wasn’t a dry eye among them.

Credit: Goodyear manufacturing archives available at: http://warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=48517&start=45
What kind of culture do you create around yourself?  Every family, neighborhood, team, and organization has a culture.  What is your contribution to making it as connective as possible?  Do you recognize and praise good performance?  Do you make sure everyone shares an understanding of their common purpose and is clear about their piece of achieving in order to connect your “strays” into a cohesive group with a united focus?  Once you know people agree on the outcome for which they are working, do you stay out of their way by not telling them how to do their part, trusting that they will use their strengths to complete their part?  Do you help make sure everyone has the tools, skills, and authority to do what is expected of them?  These are all actions that can help you create your own Connective Culture.

1 comment:

Monica Medina-Olds said...

Your posts always give me so much to think about but I rarely comment. I couldn't let this one pass without saying something. It makes me think of the many opportunities I've had to be part of a connective culture and what a difference it made in whatever i was involved in: family, work, project. Thanks for continuing to focus me on the importance of the cultures we create around us.