Creating an Environement for Success

I am reading the book, the Social Animal by David Brooks. His character Erica is a lower middle class girl, who is raised by a single mom in essence who appeared to suffer from manic depression. When she is ready for eighth grade she reaches a decision; she wants to change the trajectory of her life.

“She somehow understood that she couldn’t change herself on her own. She couldn’t remain in her current environment and turn her prospects around force of her individual will power…But, she could make a decision – to change her environment. And, if she could change her environment, she would be subject to a whole different set of cues as unconscious cultural influences.”

This is a big idea for us all. Erica recognized the power that the subconscious cues in our environment can have on helping to mold us into who we are now and who we can become.  Do you recognize that power? How powerful is this idea? Let’s look at some proverbial examples:

When we look at the legacy of John Wooden and the winning record he built; if we look deeply enough we see that it was about the culture he built. Legend has it that he started each season showing the team how to put on their socks the first day of training

Or perhaps it is the legendary service at Nordstrom’s. Jim Collins in his book Built to Last talks about Bob, who went to work at the company and 11 months later quit and went on to be successful elsewhere. He says that people that enter a company and that are not aligned with the values and cultures are “Ejected like a virus”.

What are these unconscious cues? Where do they come from? How can we manage them?

They are what Joe Tye in his book All Hands on Deck calls the “Invisible Architecture” of an organization. They are the values, the principles and behaviors that create a culture which in turn is the foundation for our organization.

The question for us as leaders is, are we going to pay attention to this blue print for our architecture and build a mansion or are we going to let the culture happen and end up with a sod hut on the prairies?

One Comment:

  1. A very insightful post, John. There is no question that our environment has an impact on us, our thoughts, and our behaviors. Deciding that we want to change our lives is the first step in a long journey to actually making that change. The environment that you live and work in is one of the keys to that change. Anyone who has worked in an uplifting positive environment can tell you about the energy that brings to both individuals and an organization. Those who have experienced only a negative environment often see no other possible solutions.

    In addition to the environment, your inner circle of friends and family play a major role as well. Do they encourage change and growth or do they intentionally or unintentionally want to hold you back at their level.

    The work that I do fits right in line with your blog posting in that we help people change their “lot in life” by changing the culture, leadership, and employee engagement of an organization. And what you’ve written here is one of the keys to making those changes.

    Thanks for posting this article.


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