The definition of a liquid is as follows, ”A liquid is a nearly in-compressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container…”. Taking water for instance, it fills to the shape of the container in which you pour it and does not compress well in that container. How can you relate this to people? The organizational structure as well the culture and environment of your company is your container. While the rules and regulations you place on your people are the compression you place on the “container” itself. Let’s talk.
I was sitting at work one day thinking about company culture and it’s impact on the people. The way I look at it is the following, you need to set a tone and clear understanding with your people about what you believe and value as well as clear expectations for all your employees. This is actually the first element of the book I just finished called The 12 Elements of Great Managing, which states that you know what is expected of your at work. The culture and environment drive those expectations. So, first as a manager you must build your container. Set and establish the expectations and the tone you want to run vibrant through your team. Most often as managers we forget that we hold the power to shape our container and we also forget that people are liquids.
When you look at a group of people within an organization we find a multitude of different personalities as well as age ranges. Now that the millennial generation has begun to take over the workforce we see that the “container” has been overlooked for quite some time and we now place more value on the result, rather than the people. I think this is one of the reasons why millennials leave companies early on in their career. I also think this is why most workforce’s, including millennials, break rules and regulations. When a culture or environment is tolerant of any and all things the container then becomes bigger. Then when you add the pressure to try to confine this behavior the liquid simply moves to another area of the container. Then next thing you know, your trying to put a twin sheet on a king size mattress. Maintain your container!
The pressure I’m talking about are the rules and regulations that you put in place for your people. They do not need to be a long complex list of HR policies that often send a mind numbing chill down your spine once year when you get the email telling you to read the code of conduct that has turned into a small novel pontificating about the dos and donots in which you must abide for the next decade of your life. These are simply rules that are checks to keep your container intact. What you allow to happen in your place of work defines the shape and size of your container, often alleviating the pressure you try to place on it. This is why companies that have poor culture often see high attrition rates and the “siloing” effect on departments and divisions.
Let’s recap. You as a manager set the culture that is allowed in your company/branch/region/lemonade stand. That culture is your container. You have the visions and the values that you instill in your people through training, workshops, etc…That allow you show your symbol to attract similar minded people. All things that you say and do are symbols of what you believe. Ensuring people understand that is very crucial to you maintaining your container. Not only because people will then support your beliefs, but also because then you are no longer the only one holding the group accountable. The second part is setting the right pressure. Allow rules and regulations that can be easily understood and well received by the group. You don’t always have to be the bad guy, but you do need to maintain some pressure or the container may become useless. Use your symbols to inspire people to join your cause and mold the culture you desire in your companies.
People take shape to the culture that is allowed, just as liquids take shape to their containers. Instead of griping about the problems about your company or complaining about your people not taking care of customers, start molding the shape of your container. At the end of the day we as managers think we are responsible for the result. Not only is this a flawed logic it also creates a repetitive cycle of our managers managing numbers and bodies rather than lives and people. I’m here to challenge the status quo. Do your part as a manager and do the same. People are the most important asset to a company and we need to start treating them like a heartbeat instead of a number.