Jodi grabbed a cup of coffee, and while the others spent the break checking emails and responding to voice mail, she decided to take a walk on the beach to absorb the sounds and smells of the sea. She found a peaceful place, a small cove where the waves met the rocks with both force and grace. Quickly, she found herself lost in thought. Although energized by the morning’s discussion, her mind still kept getting stuck on the fact she’d been a part of other organizations that placed similar emphasis on communication, decision making, focus, and accountability. However, they lacked the organizational discipline and know-how needed to make it real. She decided she’d bring it up after the break.
Jodi found herself a little nervous walking back into the living room. It was a bit frightening to raise an issue that might be construed as negative, especially given that she really didn’t know Thatcher all that well. But, she decided to give it a go. “Um, before we get started, can I share a quick thought?”, Jodi inquired somewhat demurely. “For sure.”, Thatcher smiled. “Okay, good, thanks. I decided to use the break to go for a walk. By the way, there is a beautiful spot about 100 yards down the beach that I highly recommend.”, Jodi shared, trying to push past her nerves. “Anyway, I kept thinking about when I worked for another organization going through a similar period of change. They, like us, determined it was important to improve communication, decision making and find ways to better maintain focus and accountability. Yet, nothing changed, because in my opinion, they lacked the organizational discipline and know-how needed to make it happen. How can we be sure the same won’t happen to us?” “ I am really, really glad you raised that question for a lot of reasons.”, Thatcher said genuinely. “But, let me take a side trip here for a second. You used the term “work for”. I would like us all to get in the habit of saying “work with”. You don’t work for me, your team doesn’t work for you, and none of us work for the company. Since we all have a choice of where we work and we have chosen to work here, then we all work “with” each other and “with” the company. I understand it’s just semantics and it may sound stupid, but in my experience, the mindset that accompanies this language is powerful. With that said, let me come back to why I am so glad you asked that question. First of all, I don’t want anyone here just to drink the Kool-Aid I pour. As I’ve mentioned, we need to embrace creative friction. Secondly, I actually think your question is an existential one. If we can’t convert these theories into actions, we are in real trouble. Anyone have any thoughts?”
The room was silent. “It’s a tough thing to figure out, I know.”, Thatcher admitted. “Spitball here, just share some ideas,” Gail spoke up. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the business, I live the numbers, but I’ve never invested any time into learning how to better communicate, and that frankly, has bitten me in the ass more than a few times. So, I guess I’d suggest that we invest a little time and money into adding some tools to our communications toolbox.” “I think that’s a great idea, and we will do that for sure.”, Thatcher committed. “Anyone else?” “In terms of accountability, I think we already hold people accountable for their performance.”, offered Eric. “Then we expect too little because the results still stink.”, Don said unable to stop himself. Thatcher jumped in, “Accountability shouldn’t come from the carrot or the stick because it will only be as effective as the perceived value of that carrot or threat of that stick. I’ll share what I’ve learned. While I believe, as you put it, Jodi, that discipline and know-how play a role, it is a relatively small one. In my experience, the companies that are able to communicate well in all directions, the ones that make really smart decisions, and whose people are intrinsically focused and accountable, share a common set of traits. They have a real sense of purpose, a clear vision of what success looks like, core values that are unbreakable, and defined outcomes that serve as milestones. I see this as the foundation, that we, as leaders, must build before we can ever worry about developing strategic and tactical plans. This is what we are here to do.”
Thatcher smiled at Jodi. “Your thoughts from your walk along the beach provided me with the perfect segue, thank you. I really want to spend some time searching for our sense of purpose. So Jodi, why don’t you show us that spot. Let’s all walk over there barefoot and in silence. As we do, here’s a challenge. Look for the answers to these questions. What is it about what we do that will get us and every member of our team out of bed in the morning, excited to come to work? What is it that we do that will make our customers want to buy from us and be evangelists for our product? What is it that we do that will make our families proud that we work here and our community thankful that we are based here? When we can answer these questions, we will have a better understanding of our purpose. Shall we walk?”