Organizational Culture That Supports Learning Curves

Organizational Culture That Supports Learning Curves

Have you seen the LinkedIn post that everyone is talking about? The one about the “crying CEO.”

If you need some context, take a quick look at this CNBC article: CEO posts crying selfie on LinkedIn after laying off employees – and it goes viral.

To start: No, this is not another comment on, critique of, or complaint about the original poster. Instead, I would like to address the impact of the publicized angst that has resulted from the original post.

So many of the team leaders I know and work with are trying to create an environment of psychological safety. This is not about whether I agree or disagree with the substance or style of the message delivered. I think it’s important to talk about the overwhelming number of comments and the overarching tone of responses to the message itself.

Each and every one of us is bombarded with so much information – some true, some valid, and some simply a waste of our intellectual energy. Many of us spend a great deal of time and energy just parsing this information down to “yes, I should pay attention to this” OR “no, this is not worth my attention.” But beyond that decision process, we still receive messages and perceived dispositions about topics that are not helpful.

When someone sends a message, whether you agree with it or not is not always the point.

Do you have to comment on it? Do you consider how your response will affect the whole? And do we have to reinforce an ethos that says one mistake or one bad delivery will be the defining factor of our reputations?

It is all too easy to take a lesson from this that will not help us encourage contribution, creativity, or foster psychological safety. The message coming from this is that the only real safety we have is to not say anything at all. If you say something, and you’re wrong, or you’re awkward in delivery, just remember there are thousands of people who will gladly point that out to you. That makes the learning curve even steeper, posing a problem for the leaders who are encouraging their teams to create an environment and culture that is both diverse and inclusive. A culture where we will make mistakes and learn rather than make mistakes and burn.

So, if we’re talking about the “crying CEO” – let’s talk about the environment behind the responses to the post. What kind of culture are you trying to create and how do you encourage learning curves in your teams?

#KSP #ProjectManagement #TechnicalProfessional #EthicalLeadership

How You Lead is How You Behave

Flying is simply part of how I “commute” to work.  Sometimes, just like on highway 88 in Illinois or 101 in California, you can run into really interesting examples of human behavior.

In Los Angeles, the other day, I had an opportunity to witness some of it.

At the rental car return 7 of us, then 11 of us, were waiting for the shuttle to take us to the airport terminal. Then it was 12 of us. One of the twelve was quite vocal about the annoyance this was causing her.  Her voice, her complaints, resonated with most of us. Then she kept demanding answers from a manager who didn’t have any answers.

Another car rental company’s shuttle driver approached the drop off area for a second time, assessed the situation and chose kindness.

“I’ll take you,” he offered.  “Come on – I have a couple of people waiting to get back to the airport that I need to pick up around the corner then I can take all of you.”

We swarmed down to his bus and, with many “thank you’s!” we boarded.

Along the way, the same traveler suggested he change his route – it would, she asserted, be faster. He politely declined; he had a route mandated by his boss. On the third time she tried to redirect him, he asked, looking up at the ceiling of the bus, “do you want to drive too?”

I was one of the last people he dropped off. I gave him a tip as a thank you for going out of his way.  He was pleasantly surprised and, almost as an afterthought, said that this was the only tip he had been offered.

I was embarrassed on behalf of my fellow travelers. I muttered something about how I appreciated what he did and walked into the terminal, shaking my head.

Many of the travelers that driver helped out were easily wearing more on their backs than he would make in a week. But that was not the heart of my distress.

What really bugged me was this:

Have we become so entitled that we believe that saying ‘Thank you’ to people covers it all? – even when people go out of their way? That’s it?


I hope not.  In this increasingly divided economic reality fewer and fewer people struggle to get to the end of the month without facing hard budget choices.  I mean hard decisions like “how much can I spend on groceries without having to call a few friends to see if we can carpool to work?” It may mean going in a couple of hours early or staying late but it would save critical money.

I don’t mean choices of “I really wanted to buy those shoes, that suit, that backpack, but I’m also saving for a Caribbean cruise so maybe I should hold off”.

When you choose not to be kind or generous in return for treatment that has been kind and generous it tells me something. It suggests that you are pretty sure that you are more important than they are.

Are you? Are you just in too much of a hurry to turn your attention away from yourself to a gesture of appreciation?

So what is it that keeps civility and good behavior going? Sometimes it’s the way we were raised. Sometimes it’s the surety of a “heaven or hell” type of choice.  Sometimes it’s being aware that the extreme focus on whatever we care about in that moment is making us blind to our fellow human beings.  And, while we may not always realize it, sometimes it’s our mirror neurons kicking in when we are around civil and well-behaved people.

The scary part is that those mirror neurons also pick up on patterns of behavior that, if we really think about it, we don’t actually want to adopt.  So I am taking a stand.

I don’t waste time and energy being frustrated by people who are self-centric, dismissive of the needs of others, or simply oblivious to the guidelines of ethical and humane treatment of others. I have decided, instead, to view those experiences as object lessons.

  1. Your example reaches further than you may realize – you don’t get to choose how many people your behavior will affect but you do get to choose what effect you make.
  2. It only takes a moment, a few dollars you may not even miss by the end of the day, to show appreciation for service you’ve received that was above and beyond.
  3. Reach for the ‘anti-goal’. I take it as an example of what I do not want to become – not even accidentally – and commit myself, as I will likely have to do a number of times, again, to a standard of kindness and generosity I can be proud of….even if it might get kind of lonely.

Will you join me there?

Tim Ryan Leads by Example

This is a chance to share stories about the amazing leaders who have taught you by example. How did someone teach you the power of leading by example, Oliver F. Lehman,MSc., PMP; Mark Leheny, Agnieszka Maria Gasperini, Candice Thompson, MBA, PMP, CSM, SSBB, ITIL, CWTS; Rosemary Hossenlopp; Corinna Martinez; Andy Kaufman, PMP, PMI-ACP?

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