I’ve been hearing people talking about our “culture problem” recently. It’s been popping up here and there, half mumbled, half cried out in desperation.
We all want to work somewhere we enjoy; we also want to work alongside colleagues that are also enjoying themselves. We want to be energized when we come to work, and we want the chance to forge meaningful, lasting connections with the people that we see every day.
So yeah, we may have lost a few charismatic “culture leaders,” in recent months; we may feel that our team is missing a spark, or missing someone that ties us all together.
But I want to introduce the idea that culture at RED Academy definitely isn’t lost. I want to discuss the idea that, just because we haven’t gone out for drinks in a while, and that we’re feeling a bit rough, doesn’t mean we have a culture problem.
I think our problem is how we define our culture.
I would like to suggest that we look at staff culture, not as a series of activities (like going for a drink or going on a hike), nor as the regular rituals we observe (like daily stand-up or team lunch). Instead, I would like to suggest we look at culture from the lens of our five guiding values, and discuss how we can truly actualize them. It’s our underlying values that bring us in the door every day, and our values are the reason that RED Academy seems to be able to fill itself with people who are here for more than just a paycheque.
Heart is the close relationships we form, and heart is what makes it so hard to leave. When we show up at work and bring our hearts with us, we’re forming real connections with one another that mean that as a team, we’re so much greater than the sum of our parts.
Heart is realizing that every single person connected to this company has an entire life both within their job, and outside it. Heart is keeping in mind that everyone is trying their ABSOLUTE VERY BEST, just like you are.
Heart is encouraging your team mates to bring their whole selves to work, right alongside your whole, vulnerable, feedback-needing self. Heart is being kind to one another when we bring our whole selves, and forming relationships that transcend teams, cities, countries, and when it comes to it, continue beyond the boundaries of our careers at RED Academy.
How do you show your heart at work each day?
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Nobody at RED Academy can be accused of not going above and beyond; we see one another going above and beyond every single day...
Don’t get me wrong — above and beyond should not be defined as staying late every night, answering emails on the weekend, or saying yes to everything that gets thrown your way. Above and beyond is how we care for one another as human beings every day, beyond our jobs as colleagues and beyond the walls of our schools. Above and beyond is caring about the future, even when we can’t control it.
Above and beyond is providing a safe, quiet space for a teammate or a student having the roughest week of their life. Above and beyond is reminding one another to eat, take breaks and breathe (and so is heart). Above and beyond is wanting our coworkers and our own selves to be healthy, to be happy and to be enriched by what they’re doing — not because we’re getting paid to, but because we are the sort of people that aren’t here to do the bare minimum.
How did your teammate go above and beyond this week?
Leadership can be leading a team to a profitable quarter, opening new schools or taking on curriculum design. Leadership can be in your title, or it can be your spot on the organizational chart, or it can be your place within your social circle at work.
But we all know that’s not the be all and end all of RED Academy’s leadership.
Leadership is leading by example; it can be quiet, it can be loud, or you can be doing it without even realizing. It’s showing one another that we can switch off at a reasonable time each day, or building boundaries to keep yourself healthy.
Leadership at work can be suggesting new ways to improve old structures. It’s having the courage to break away from doing things “just because this is how we’ve always done them.” It’s finding new frontiers to explore for the sake of the team, the students and the company; it’s not for the recognition or the shout outs, but it’s because you’re a leader in your own right, however you choose to be.
Leadership is being brave enough to need a time out, and being brave enough to recognize that you went too far after you hit the wall (but ideally before).
RED Academy’s leaders aren’t necessarily the people running the meetings. RED Academy’s leaders are the ones who know they’re doing their job right, doing their job well, and looking out for their teammates as they go.
How have you been leading lately?
This one is hard. I know that this one can be really. Freaking. Hard. It’s hard to innovate when we’ve poured so much of ourselves out already. It’s hard to innovate when all of our resources are stretched so thin that we don’t know if we have anything left to innovate with.
But the surprising thing is, innovation happens despite all of this.
Despite not being the swankiest tech school with the most money to buy the fanciest branded merch, you’ve all been innovating since the day you got here.
You’re innovating when you’re making your content more interactive, or figuring out how you can deliver a lesson while the school is flooded.
You’re innovating when you’re figuring out ways to enrich the learning experience beyond their confines of the classroom, and you’re innovating when you’ve figured out a way to give someone feedback in a way that you know they really, truly heard you.
Innovation isn’t just figuring out how to break down the hurdles; innovation is figuring out new ways to be excellent, despite the hurdles you face every single day.
What new idea are you mulling over, and who are you going to call on to help you make it a reality??
We all want to create a better future, and we all have different ways of doing that. Some of us teach so that our students can get better jobs, make more money, live a better life. Some of us get really involved in social action, climate change, environmental efforts. And some of us are connected to our non-profit community, or volunteer our spare time with charities. But impact can look really daunting when we look at it as a gigantic, world-changing undertaking; it doesn’t have to be so huge.
Every single one of you has an impact on every single other person in this organization, every damn day. None of us exist in a vacuum; what any one of us does affects everyone around us, and it’s our duty to ensure we’re making affecting one another in a positive way.
When you give someone space to finish their train of thought in a meeting, you’re empowering them to make a difference with their expertise. When you spend your time teaching a colleague or a student a new skill, you’re enriching someone’s life in a hugely positive way! When you say hi, recommend a book, or a hike, or a new place to try lunch, when you hold a door open, when you tell someone you like their shirt, when you ask someone how they are, you are changing the world. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean you haven’t made an impact.
What small impact are you having on the lives of people around you at work?
I think our “culture problem” is introduced when we put the onus on the louder, more animated people in the room to bring the energy and be our culture leaders. Charismatic people aren’t obliged to invigorate your team culture, any more than your mom is obliged to cook you dinner; sure, she might love to do it… but she’s got a lot of other stuff going on, and she’d love it if you could cook dinner for her for once.
If you wish we had more staff drinks or mini-golf, go ahead and organize staff drinks or mini-golf. It’s a great way to make an impact, be a leader, and go above and beyond!
But do consider how we can bring our values into our outings, and how we can be intentional about the time we’re spending together and the bonds we’re building.
Remember, culture doesn’t come to the party, slam a beer and then leave. Culture is every single person who showed up to the party, with all their complications, intricacies, hearts and souls; culture is brought by every single person who comes to RED Academy, and enriches our experience on this global team.
Culture isn’t daily stand-up, get-to-know-you lunch, or going out for drinks. Sure, they’re regular rhythms that — if done right — can keep our business on track, or give us time to talk about work outside of the office (don’t lie, that’s what we’re all do when we go out for drinks.)
But our culture is so much more than what we do. It’s why we do what we do, and how we show up for one another when the going gets tough.
We are literally ALL culture leaders.
What are you bringing to the RED culture party?