Culture is the oxygen of your organization

I went for a run yesterday. Due to travel but mostly because I’ve been trying to fight off a cold, it was my first run in 6 weeks. It’s been frustrating (something I never thought I’d say about not getting to run) but yesterday I finally felt like I was good enough to get out. I had also been short with friends several times throughout the day and knew I was in need of some 1st Gear recharge to clear my head. So I laced up and off I went.

Less than a mile in I thought I was going to die. My legs felt great but I couldn’t breathe. I was coughing, spitting, struggling to get any sort of rhythm. In a 3 mile run I ended up stopping 5 times just to try to get my breath. And it wasn’t due to speed — I was running just off my normal pace, trying to not overdo it my first day back.

It was incredibly frustrating. My legs could’ve gone 6 miles or more but my lungs wouldn’t let me. You can be in great shape but if you can’t breathe, you can’t run.

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Our teams and organizations are the same way. You may have strong, talented individuals but how healthy is your culture? And no matter how talented our people are, talent in a bad culture has limits. Under stress, culture — good or bad — trumps strategy but it also trumps talent.

Talent gets undermined by drama, gossip, lack of clarity and unclear communication. Without a healthy culture, talent turns inward and focuses on themselves rather than working and fighting for the good of the team. They may eventually achieve the desired goal but at what cost? The end result is not always what matters.

Talent is certainly important but culture is the oxygen of your team. A healthy culture breathes life into everything you do. It gives your team the endurance it needs for the long run. A toxic culture suffocates. It breaks down. Leaders define the culture of their team and organization. Create it intentionally.