6 Examples of How Culture Can Work Wonders
If you have a business, you have a culture. And if you’re in the business of changing lives, your culture needs to support that. Here are some my favourite examples of what culture can do.
Increase the potential for flow
Never mind what Conan or Genghis Khan said. The best thing in life is to spend time in flow states. Flow states are characterized by time dilation, intense focus and high levels of performance. This is also known as being in the zone.
They are where the magic happens.
Flow states are the combination of extensive and deliberate practice. They’re also supremely enjoyable. To cultivate them, you need to reach just a tiny bit past your current ability level on a regular basis. Stack those micro-victories up over enough time and — when the flow state hits — you’ll see performance soar.
Flow states (and the performance that accompanies them) don’t happen when people are being micromanaged. They require freedom and self-expression. Give people the tools for performance and then let go.
Build durable humans
Humans are incredibly resilient. But some people pretend otherwise.
Certain manual therapists, for example, have figured out that the more fragile their clients feel, the more frequently they’ll return to get “fixed” again and again. This archaic model needs to die a horrible bleating death.
When we get folks with learned fragility into our hands, the first thing we do is change the language that they use. Then we give them a plan.
Your glutes aren’t dysfunctional. They need to get stronger. Here’s how . . .
Your knee isn’t messed up. Specific positions cause pain. Here’s where we need to be careful and here’s where we can push hard . . .
Your vertebrae totally do look weird in an MRI — just like pretty much everyone else’s. Let’s get you strong, mobile and skilled enough to protect your spine. Here’s what we’re going to do . . .
Reframe things toward a growth mindset
Nobody is stuck. No state is fixed. But some people continue to look at themselves through that lens.
When someone looks at a challenge they cannot handle and sees that as a reflection of their identity, this is a fixed mindset. How do you address it?
You normalize experimentation. You ensure that mistakes are non-catastrophic. You help people engage in citizen science — actively looking for what doesn’t work as an essential part of the learning process. You repeatedly give people an opportunity to smash through perceptions.
Mistakes are portals of discovery — James Joyce
Normalize intimidating or uncomfortable things
For many people, walking into the gym is intimidating. Maybe it’s because of a bad experience or maybe it’s because of no experience at all. Maybe it’s the racks and the weights and the smell of sweat. Maybe it’s the burden of expectation or feeling like you’re not strong or tough or have the right goddamned outfit. And maybe it’s all just weird and strange. People don’t always know if they belong.
We have a three-step solution for anyone wondering if they belong:
- Show up.
- Be nice.
- Work hard.
This is a 1, 2, 3 punch that any human being worth knowing can get behind.
Even after someone has been introduced, on-boarded, and is now moving around, the process continues. There will be strange sensations. What’s pain and what’s just discomfort? They’ve got all kinds of alarm bells going off. This is where normalization comes in.
Your hands hurt when you deadlift? Mine too.
How much weight should you use? Find something that intimidates you a little.
You feel nauseous? Let’s take a minute to downshift and remember our #1 rule: don’t puke on the turf. We’ll talk pre-training nutrition when you return to your original colour.
I don’t want to imply that we’re flippant about any of this. Inside their heads, coaches are crunching numbers, reviewing footage and cross-checking injury histories. Unless there’s something legitimately wrong, though, all the member gets is a quick nod and a reassuring word. We want all of their available RAM on movement; not wondering and worrying.
Shrink the space for obsessive thinking/fixation
On the subject of wondering and worrying, people often fixate on things. The body parts they don’t like. Their regrets. Their anxieties. And don’t even get me started on Ted in accounting (he’s the worst).
These things are not the real issue. But they are distracting when it comes to progress.
Call them neuroses if you want. But they’re better described as voids. You can keep shovelling into them all day and still come no closer to seeing them filled. They are no fun for anyone.
When you’re trying to follow a path, all kinds of things can light up to distract you. Neuroses are just one example.
That’s why you need to steer the dialogue in another direction. A strengths-focused culture can do that. Focusing on abilities and processes paints a clearer picture for people. Where they are, where they’re headed, and what they need to do to get there.
Reduce the barriers to full commitment
There’s a time to do research. Here’s where you explore every question and every doubt. And then there’s a time to act. It’s best not to mix the two.
That’s what trust does.
Military strategist (and pain in the Pentagon’s ass) John Boyd pioneered the OODA Loop.
It’s what made him a great dogfighter and exemplifies a lesson that we can all take and run with. Take your time. See what’s happening. Put your goals into context. Make a decision. And go.
You can review things again and again — but not during the act of doing. In those moments, all of your will and cognitive firepower is devoted to that one act.
Culture can help people plan, help people do, and not muddle the two things.
What great things happen within your culture? I’d love to hear about them.