“But we always did it that way!”
If you are like me, that phrase is like fingernails on a chalkboard. How an organization embraces change and evolution has a huge impact on culture. At my last association, the culture had a great balance between tradition and change. I was solidly on the change side for the first four or five years, pushing people on why they did things the same way when there other options.
Flashforward to years five and six, we had some turnover, and then there were new people who played the same role as I had; fighting processes, coming up with new ideas, and pushing for change. At this point, I found myself defending the status quo—I had become that which I fought for years! The worst part was others noticed as well; co-workers started joking that I had finally stopped fighting to change everything.
This experience got me thinking about how people and cultures impact each other. Culture is a construct created by humans, but as much as we create cultures, they also make us who we are. As an executive director, I know it is critical for people to fit into the culture, but at the same time, it is important for the culture to positively impact the people as well. It is important to make sure that everybody within an organization feels fulfilled. This doesn’t mean that everybody is happy or that every day is easy. To feel fulfilled is to feel successful as a person, and I think the organizations with the strongest cultures find a way to align individual fulfillment with organizational success.
No person or culture is perfect, and neither is finding ways for a group of people to feel fulfilled. Years ago, I heard something that stuck with me:
“We win, I fail.”
As leaders, we need to recognize that no success comes from us alone; it takes people to contribute and make it happen. However, when something goes wrong, at the end of the day, it is my responsibility. Working this into a culture gives people the space to learn and grow as human beings, and hopefully find fulfillment along the way.
Allen will be speaking in the “Troublemakers! Influencing a Culture that Drives Success” session during SURGE Co-Creation, an interactive virtual conference hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on May 1st-3rd. Click here to register.