People often talk to me about all that is wrong with their workplace culture, they are disappointed and discouraged. And with low engagement, toxic leaders or co-workers, or uncertainty due to rapid industry change and outsourcing, they have every right to be. But let’s not set up camp, build a frustration fire to gather around and tell stories about broken things and people are. Negativity and complaining, even about very real frustrations will not attract great followers, and not help create in any way the foundation for change and greatness you need to build a better workplace culture.
The vital importance of calling attention to VIRTUE
To build something great we must build on a foundation of great things. We can do this by calling attention to the virtues and greatness that is present in people, in our processes that are working and in the current culture. Positivity inspires more possibility and people than negativity and calling attention to the harsh realities ever has. So start with calling attention to what’s right in the world, what’s working and start celebrating the virtues of people and culture. There are two mantras and a principle that I adopted early in my journey of being a culture warrior that may prove helpful.
1) What we say more of, we will see more of. Said another way, “What we call attention to, now has our attention.”
2)What we focus on expands.
The principle is Virtue – I invite you to read carefully the definition.
WOW, so Virtue – leads to excellence, gives an advantage and elevates goodness.
We have all been in meetings and conversations where people have spent the majority and even entirety of the time complaining, criticizing, and creating a very negative and uninspiring outlook and feeling. We often find ourselves trying to avoid or minimize our interactions with this people. I call them the “culture killers” and while I do not believe they are intentionally trying to diminish or damage the culture, their choosing to give so much of their time, attention and focus to what’s wrong… has a measurable chilling/killing effect on positive cultural possibilities.
So I suggest speak to what’s broken if necessary, but give the majority of time, attention and focus to the possibilities before us, and the virtue and potential of the people around us. Celebrate and elevate the virtues by calling attention to all that is great and good in our past and in our present, and more importantly in our people. (Surely it will give advantage, elevate goodness and lead to excellence.) Surely it will be far easier to build on that, then a constant cynical interpretation of our challenges.
And speaking of challenges, maybe we could accomplish more and become more if acknowledge our need for challenges, and celebrated them more intentionally. James Michener offers, what I think is a great insight in the following analogy.
“A ship, like a human being, moves best when it is slightly athwart the wind, when it has to keep its sails tight and attend its course. Ships, like men, do poorly when the wind is directly behind, pushing them sloppily on their way so that no care is required in steering or in the management of sails; the wind seems favorable, for it blows in the direction one is heading, but actually it is destructive because it induces a relaxation in tension and skill. What is needed is a wind slightly opposed to the ship, for then tension can be maintained, and juices can flow and ideas can germinate, for ships, like men, respond to challenge” ~ James A. Michener (Chesapeake 
The same principle applies to our efforts in establishing a innovative and resilient workplace culture. Such an ideal culture can only be realized through the experience and challenges of dealing with less than ideal circumstances. A gentle breeze did never a seasoned sailor make. So if your current workplace culture is challenging you… then choose your focus with great intention, change the set of your sail and move forward. Adjust as you go, learn as your grow… While you may never be captain of ship, you certainly may become the captain of your culture.
Captain Kirk, out.
I’ll still be posting to my website blog, but not e-mail blasting after Jan 29. My mission to elevate culture and help grow the tribe of Culture Warriors will continue on twitter, Instagram and Linked In.
P.S. I invite you to join with on twitter and instagram @kirkweisler where I try to share daily #culturebits of inspiration about cultural development so that together we can work to improve the workplace.