The sales number looked great with two weeks to go, and now we’ve missed it. By a lot. Up to the last week, the sales team was solid: “98% likely. We’ve got a bunch of upside”. The product was going to ship in three weeks, for sure, and now it needs another month. The weekend before the ship date the product team was quietly confident: “yes, we’ll make it”. They were wrong.
This happens (not usually both at the same time, I should add :-), and has shown up in coaching a few times in the last year.
At some point in a management career, and the earlier the better, we need to develop the ability to look round corners, to see the ice starting to get thin, to sense when the wheels are about to come off (if you’ll forgive the many mixed metaphors). This is where management becomes much more than checking tasks off a list, or numbers off a spreadsheet. Now we are learning to sense the scope and abilities of the organization.
Your Culture is Being Created Now. You Might As Well Pay Attention.
I was doing a Q&A at a startup incubator recently when I was asked: “when is the right time to start working on our culture?”. I was pretty surprised. The answer is of course: you start working on your culture from the first moment you start your company, and you’re working on it right now, whether or not you are conscious of it.
An example (90’s edition):
In the 90’s, we used to visit Microsoft frequently. Almost without exception, we’d end up in a room where a young exec with a short floppy haircut would sit in a chair and rock back and forth as he stared at us, hard. He would ask rapid, deep technical questions with some aggression and very little humor. The execs were different every time, but the behavior was the same. Why? Because Bill Gates was an intense youngish man with a floppy haircut who famously would rock back and forth in his chair as he subjected his teams to direct and intense technical interrogation.
You’re Going To Get A Tribal Identity: Pay Attention
If you put a group of people together for any length of time, even a few minutes, they will start to form what we might call a tribal identity. They will start to agree amongst themselves, quite unconsciously “this is who we are”. Think of a group of strangers stranded at an airport gate. Very quickly the group will decide: “we are lost” or “we are helpless” or “we are heroes and we’re not going to take this any more”. These “decisions” won’t be made explicitly or with much discussion – they will happen as the people in the group pick up on the moods and intentions and characters of the people around them.
In a previous post, I stated that Culture is You. That is: the culture of your organization is largely defined by what you believe and value, and how that is transmitted through your actions.