Redefining 5 words will prevent your organizational culture from collapsing

From father to son (after his son was suspended from high school): “You know better than that! Why do you present yourself this way? »

Son to father: “Because, daddy, you don’t make me feel safe.”

It’s a genuine interaction shared by Mark Gunn, Director of Human Resources at 99 Cents Only Stores, during our recent Summit on Leadership in the Age of Personalization.

Gunn said his perspective changed that day, thanks to his son. He realized how important it is to listen to the truths of others.

“From that point on, I understood that when the human being doesn’t feel safe, you’re just going to get goofy behavior out of it,” Gunn said. “So the ability to listen to the truths of others, where they are at that moment, and then to be able to accept that, is the key to being able to accept people in their own individuality. .”

This article is part five of a six-part series that discusses the importance of individuality, how to see where we are suppressing it, how we can change the way we lead, and evolve our organizational culture.

These articles feature a mix of written content and short videos from people from all walks of life (doctors, professors, executives, deans and more), who shared stories and insights during our recent Summit on Leadership in the Age of Personalization.

Gunn’s insight connects many of the themes presented at the summit and throughout this series of articles, and is key to preparing us to lead in a world of perpetual uncertainty and change.

To listen to people’s truths, we must first allow them to share their truths. Most organizations don’t.

Our organizational cultures are not adapted to our new reality

There is a massive shift happening right now, and leaders are unprepared for it.

That’s the stern warning from Nik Modi, Managing Director of RBC Capital Markets.

Modi brings a critical Wall Street perspective to this series. He says we are embarking on what he calls individual revolution – a shift of power from traditional institutions into the hands of individuals. RBC Capital Markets calls this probably “the biggest disruptive force” (“RBC Imagine: Preparing for Hyperdrive”).

One of the reasons leaders aren’t ready for this new reality is that most don’t know how to make people feel safe or listen to the truths of others. If your mind immediately turns to thoughts such as “people are snowflakes” or “it’s not my job to worry about other people’s problems”, then you are not ready for a world in which individuals have power.

“[Many] young consumers have a belief system that relates to the environment and good governance, and these individuals are going to directly affect the market capitalization of these large global multinationals,” Modi said. “As technology democratizes everything, people are going to be able to align themselves around a common set of beliefs and start to have a real say in what’s happening in our society. We’re already seeing that.

Modi said companies are not prepared for this because they are still governing with an old legacy standardization model.

“The reality is that what happens in society is now starting to ripple through the institution in a much more significant way,” Modi said. He gave this example of how power shift is beginning to manifest: “Fifty-four percent of white-collar workers would quit their jobs if they didn’t have a hybrid work environment. I mean, that’s a big number for something that’s so new.

The current ways we lead, learn and do business are unsustainable in a world where the balance of power has shifted from the institution to the individual. I have written extensively about that very shift, and that’s been the heart of this current series.

How can leaders prepare themselves and their organizational cultures for this type of power shift? Here are insights from American healthcare, education and business leaders. In their own way and from their own perspectives, they encourage each of us to change some key definitions.

1. Changing the definition of productivity

Harlan Levine is President of Strategy and Business Enterprises for City of Hope, a leader in cancer treatment. At the summit, he discussed a new initiative called AccessHope, which brings NCI-level cancer care to people where they are, by bringing experts who specialize in a specific type of cancer to partner with local treating physicians. They partner with organizations to make this available to employees.

He said we need to challenge assumptions about what we consider “productive.” In the past, we may have wanted employees or co-workers to keep quiet about their personal struggles and focus on work. But it’s not really productive.

He talked about the importance of giving employees a space and a place to really talk about what they are going through. In developing AccessHope, they learned that “employees not only don’t have access to quality care, they don’t know how to manage cancer. There’s this Old School that thinks it’s keeping it to itself. In our AccessHope program, we have a line of nurses where people can unload and talk about how lonely they felt as cancer patients.

He said when employees see that their employers give them access to something like this, they start to believe it’s okay to talk about their cancer.

2. Changing the definition of health

DeAnna Minus-Vincent is executive vice president and head of social justice and accountability for RWJBarnabas Health.

She shared her ideas on how we can create healthy communities.

“We need to change the definition of health,” Minus-Vincent said. “We need to think about the whole person – social, economic and educational outcomes as well as health outcomes. When 80% of all health problems are due to social, behavioral and environmental factors, we can’t just think of the 20% [related to clinical].”

Look here to learn more about his work for social justice in health care.

3. Change the definition of influencer

Andy Sulick is president of Santa Margarita High School in Orange County, Southern California.

He explained how he empowered students and enabled them to influence the institution.

“For the first time in the history of our 34-year-old school, we included seven student leaders in our leadership meetings,” he said. “We invited different profiles of children – we have a transfer student, an international student, an athlete, a comedian. We have an eclectic group of people.

All parties benefited from this interaction.

“We are really excited about these meetings and have received a lot of good feedback from the students and also from the administration,” Sulick said. “It builds bridges. Children see our point of view and we see their point of view. We hear “Oh, okay, I didn’t think of it that way.” It’s really added to the connections, to the well-being, and just to the overall health of our student body.

4. Changing the definition of courage

Arthur Valdez is executive vice president and chief supply chain and logistics officer of Target. He talked about owning your destiny, taking calculated risks, and trusting your ability to act rather than waiting and regretting it later.

“I define courage as an individual who is able to demonstrate their authenticity, even in the face of [pressure to] not be the individual they are,” Valdez said. “Its not always easy [to maintain] your sense of who you are, your upbringing, your heritage and then being yourself. Courage comes from a place of trust in who you are.

This means you might be misunderstood for a while. But it is okay.

“You have to be ready to go for it, take risks and build on what you know,” Valdez said. “You have to accept being misunderstood, and that’s not a comfortable place for most people. But if you do that and work hard and find that path, you will finally see – and others will see – how you can be understood. Then you have adoption and you have followers to help you do what you need to do. So being misunderstood until you are misunderstood is a way to go for me.

5. Modify the vulnerability definition

Let’s go back to Mark Gunn, director of human resources at 99 Cents Only Stores. He believes that courage must coexist with vulnerability.

“The only way to show courage is to show people that you are vulnerable, especially from a leadership perspective. In my experience, the best way to get people to follow you is to let them know you’re ready to be vulnerable. And being vulnerable means having courage.

He had to pick up his son from high school that day, it was early in his career, he was raising three kids as a single parent, and he was one of the few diverse executives in his company. He was in a meeting with fellow executives when he got the call from high school saying his son had been suspended.

“I had to bend down and say to my boss, ‘Hey, I have to leave to pick up my son,'” Gunn said. “His first response was, ‘Ask your wife to pick him up, it’s an important meeting.’ I had to say, well, you know, there’s no woman. I have to do this.”

Listen to each other’s truths.

We are all working towards many big goals these days: increasing diversity and inclusion, boosting employee engagement and retention, improving employee performance, improving our leadership development and team building.

But if you really think about each of these goals, at the center is the beating heart of an individual with a life full of joys and concerns, of friends and family, of skills and experience, of dreams and fears. And truths about their work and their lives. Either they hide these truths out of caution and fear, or they share these truths out of trust and empowerment.

You can’t help someone become more engaged at work (or improve teamwork or whatever) if your organizational culture isn’t designed to make sure people know that it is safe and beneficial to share who they really are and what they are struggling with. in their lives.

Once you start listening to each other’s truths, you start release individuality.

Order my new book, Unleashing Individuality: The Leadership Skill That Unleashes All Others.