unCUlturers: musings on organizational culture & development (and stuff about credit unions too)
No, that's not a misspelling, and yes, I realize it's not an actual word. But it's exactly what a lot of organizations need.

Countless organizations out there right now, while perhaps even appearing healthy and stable to those on the outside looking in, are dying on the inside. Morale is down. Infighting and politics are on the rise. Trust is lacking. Inefficiency isn't. In short, it's a mess.

So what's to be done? Well, that would certainly depend on the group or organization, and what the specific symptoms are, but I think there's at least one common denominator. These organizations need leaders, whether they have the fancy title or not, to step into the fray and become initiators of change.

When those leaders--again, whether they have a title or not--begin to shift together, use their influence together, talk together, dream together, strategize together, and, well, you get the idea; when those things happen, a group or organization will start to see change. And it will be the best kind of change, because it's organic, felt-in-the-heart change, not some overwrought corporate mandate that comes down from above. 

So if you're a leader within a group or organization, whether officially recognized as one or not, start the shift. Lead. Encourage others to do the same. Get together with them. Talk about it. Recruit others to join you. Make a difference.

It's leadershift.
Too many organizations of all types (companies, churches, non-profits, etc) are unwittingly, or perhaps even "wittingly," cultivating a pretty crappy culture within which their teams and people are required to function. And I say hey, if you're going to create such an environment, at least go all out. (I say this with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.)

Here's one thing you can do to ensure your organization's culture is crappy. If you're in leadership, cover all of your mistakes. I mean that. Every last one of them. It's crucial to your survival that the team or organization you lead thinks you're flawless. I mean, think of the consequences if anyone within your organization got wind of the fact that you're a human being that makes an occasional mistake. That would border on cataclysmic, would it not?

So whatever takes, don't admit mistakes, don't be vulnerable and open with your team, group, or organization, and no matter what you do, do not--I repeat, do not--let anyone know you make mistakes. There's always someone else to blame, after all.
...Then I'm afraid you're likely missing some opportunities. Too often people wait on this or that. They wait for approval from everyone they know before they act. They wait for the timing to be perfect before trying something. They want to be sure what they do won't rock the boat. Or anyone else's boat for that matter.

If there's something you want to try, try it. If there's something you want to create, create it. If there's a problem you want to solve, try to solve it. Quit succumbing to to the pressure to fit in, fly under the radar, and be representative of the status quo.
If you’ve been around peewee league soccer, there are a few things you know. You know that there is absolutely no strategy involved whatsoever. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

You also know that it’s “just for fun,” or something. And really, it is. As parents, we show up, put out some lawn chairs, and watch a clump of children swarm the ball wherever it goes on the field (and sometimes off). 

These days, a lot of leagues have even stopped keeping track of score altogether, choosing instead to acknowledge everyone for participating. At the end of the year, children nationwide are given certificates of “participation.” 

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a huge problem with that. But if I’m honest (and if you are too), you often find yourself cringing a little bit. You think things like: If we don’t keep score, what’s the point of playing? Doesn’t my kid need to know how to both win and lose the right way? I want my kid to excel, not just be content to participate! And so it goes…

Well here’s the thing. The same thing applies to your professional (and personal) life. As you progress through life’s various stages, are you really interested in merely “participating”? It’s like someone saying, “Hey, great job. You lived and breathed.” The sad reality is the corporate world, society, churches, etc, are filled with these type folks. Is that really what you want?

No, I want something more than that, and I hope you do too. I hope you’re interested in far more than a certificate of participation. I hope you’re interested in far more than watching others excel. I hope you take what you do really personally, and determine to do what it takes to be among the best in your field. Take risks, be creative, work hard, learn well, and for Pete’s sake, don’t just participate.




I’m just a bank teller. I’m just an customer service rep. I’m just a trainer. I’m just a new hire. I’m just a receptionist. I’m just a clerk. I’m just one executive. I’m just one manager.

If you repeat things like that long enough, they may become true.

Sometimes I really hate the word just. I’ve been trying to pin down exactly why I detest it so much in some instances, and I think it has something to do with what people mean when they employ the word.

Think about the examples above. If someone says they’re just a customer service rep, what are they actually saying? What they often mean is that there’s something they can’t do, initiative they can’t take, dreams they can’t accomplish, change they can’t create, or goals they can’t attain. There’s usually a whole lot of can’t behind the word just.

I hate the word because it downplays the potential any given individual has. Now, do I mean that if people believe or want something strongly enough that they can always get or do it? No. Of course not. I really wanted to be Superman when I was a kid, but you’ll notice that the outfit I’m wearing today is more Clark Kent than Superman.  A tie isn’t nearly as fun as a cape, by the way.

But now that I’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, I hope you’ll understand this: when you say you’re just this or that, it’s really like you’re taking your own legs out from underneath you. Instead of being an empowered, creative, positive, motivated individual, you’ve reduced yourself to being just something (whatever that happens to be).

So don’t fall for it. Don’t fall into the mental trap that so many fall into. You’re not just your position. You’re an integral part of your organization. You’re an individual with goals, dreams, abilities, and ideas. You can be a motivated, empowered, positive, valuable member of the team if you just decide to put forth the effort and work it takes to be those things. 

Don’t settle for just.