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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #91: Reclaiming Your Culture as We Reopen Business

June 10, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #91: Reclaiming Your Culture as We Reopen Business

As we reopen business across America, leaders must ask themselves some important questions. What negative effects did the crisis have on your team? On your corporate culture? What are some of the dynamics, emotions, anxieties, and uncertainties that your team experienced? In Episode #91 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how leaders can take necessary steps to reclaim and rebuild their culture. 

Want to enhance your leadership as we come out of COVID-19? Consider working with The John Maxwell Company for  Executive Coaching.

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Read Transcript Below:

Hello, and welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast. And as we said on the last one as America is trying to reopen, hey, we’re still recording in our respective home studios, although we did talk about going to the real studio, we’re still in our home studios. But we are still focused on helping you to increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach, and I’m connected through the Zoom Room with my colleague and friend Chris Goede, Vice President at The John Maxwell Company. Hi, Chris. How’s everything in the bunker? 

It is going well, Perry. I appreciate that. And we do hope to be back in the studio soon, so that the quality will enhance and you won’t have to keep looking, you know, at us while listening to us and so just kind of bear with us. We appreciate that. Yeah, you know, I think as we talked about reopening with I’m very excited that we’re even talking about reopening, we talked about in our last podcast, there are such opportunities for us to make memorable impressions on our team. And not only our team as individuals, which we really spent a lot of time asking those questions last week but now we’re talking about the culture itself, right? Like, that’s the bigger picture. That’s the next step. That’s the importance of moving forward. 

And so how do we reclaim that type of culture? How do we and then build off of it because I had a guy tell me one time just recently, and this whole thing, I was listening to something and he said, hey, it’s not like in regards to playing in a board game, to where you guys were in the middle of a board game. And then all of a sudden COVID-19 happened, everybody kind of went home, your culture stopped. Everything kind of stopped. You don’t come back and play the same board game. Because that board game when you left it is not the same board. It’s not the same pieces. It’s not the same at that point. And so now we not only have to reclaim what we liked about our culture but I even say how do we rebuild it? And how do we change it at this point in time? So we’re going to get into that today, Perry’s got some great questions and thoughts that he has come up with just from his experience and what we get to do and coach and, and lead leaders all around the world in different sizes of organizations. And that’s the great thing about what we’re bringing to you, we’re bringing to you corporate relevance, and the leading team just from what we’re feeling and what we’re hearing, and actually doing ourselves as leaders inside today’s world. So before we get started, just a quick reminder if you do want to learn a guide that Perry creates for you to go along with it if you’re interested in the 5 Levels of leadership, which is our foundation for all whether it’s a coaching process or a virtual workshop right now, so you guys are comfortable with, you know, having Perry back in your corporate office space, which may not be anytime in 2020. But if you are all joking aside, I’ll wear my pink shirt. That’s right. He’s wearing a pink shirt today, don’t hesitate to visit And even if you just have a question or a thought that you’d like for Perry and me to kind of work out, we would love to do that on one of our future podcasts. 

Well, so today is really where we’re gonna talk about reclaiming your culture, as we open it, reinventing it. And, Perry, when you think about this, and what you’re hearing, what made you bring this to our listeners in today’s podcast? 

Yes, I love what I think I call reclaiming. I like restructuring or rethinking. Yeah, rebuilding your culture is really a much better effect. I was watching some coaching calls and people are coming back into the office. We live in Georgia, which has been almost leading the way nationally for the United States and opening some people’s you know, scoffing at that some others cheering that but it’s been a it’s not like you said to come in. I’m not coming back from summer vacation. And what did during your summer vacation, it’s all back to normal is completely different. But we still have a mission, we still have things we have to do. So I thought as you think about the culture you had, when you left and how your team worked and how you did things and how it felt to be a part of your organization and your team, what could have been lost, what needs to be rethought and what needs to be reshaped? And don’t take that for granted. It’s not like you said, it’s not going back to the same board game, the board’s been changed, the pieces have changed. But it’s still the mission and vision could still be there. So we want to aim at that. But not taking it for granted. So I thought about the good. I know that you’re doing the same thing I was. Some of your folks are back in the office, not everybody. But how are you handling this? So if I could Can I just ask you a couple of questions and get your feedback as a real-life business leader? 

I would love that. And not only am I going to give you kind of what I’ve experienced as a leader but also what I’m hearing from other executives around the country around the world. had the privilege of just talking to them and checking in and dealing. So I’ll just even share some of that. I think it’s great to love to do it.

 Yeah. So I think if you’re a leader today, the first question I would ask and I’m asking myself and Chris is asking himself is, what are the negative effects of the crisis on your team? Or on your corporate culture? What do you think happened? And just think through that a minute, what are some of the dynamics, emotions, anxieties, uncertainties, what actually happened to the team? What do you think? 

Yeah, when you ask that question, I think about it in two buckets for me and what I’m hearing, seeing, and feeling inside our organization. The first one really, the first bucket I look at is really kind of they’re both personal but I’ll label as a personal bucket, which is just this fear and the uncertainty of the unknown, having a conversation the other day, and it just talked about with one of the leaders about how the fact that a lot of his people are just so uneasy, was the Word, right? Like, you know, there’s like, like, you just, we all feel like, at times that we just want to, we just want to wake up from a nightmare and be, you know, it’s all back to how it was, and it’s not gonna be back to how it was. And so one of the things that I think, when we talk about our culture is the negative effects that we’re bringing into it, that if we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t talk about it. We don’t want those negative effects to stay around because that will negatively affect your culture. Perry and I often talk about it from a positive side that this comment is, I think you got to be aware of these things because it will negatively affect your culture, as you reinvent, right as you reclaim the best of what you love about your culture. And now more than ever, you have the opportunity to throw away what you didn’t like about your culture and reset and reset and restart. And I think that you but you’ve got to understand that your team, your people, they’re going to bring in a lot of uncertainty, unknowns, they’re going to be fearful. It’s going to change the way that they interact with people. I had one of my team members say, Hey, I’m going to come in, and I’m definitely gonna be there. I’m gonna have a facemask in my office. What I don’t want is I don’t want people to think that I’m being rude because my doors closed right now during this time, and we had a conversation about it and because you, that affects your culture, right? You think about it like some people are, you know, hugging and high five and jumping around, you know, offices, that’s just maybe this, they have to respect and understand that other people do it differently. There’s gonna be a different perspective of their culture now. So that’s the personal side. The other thing, the other bucket that I was just thinking about, really comes from a financial side, huh, right and the financial side of it is we are all being for the most part impacted from a financial standpoint, businesses, and individuals. And so your business is slow. There’s less work. Right? I had one of my team members, I’ll talk a little bit more about this than a further question you’re gonna ask. We had a team meeting this week and I and one of the things I said was, now, what’s Iraq you’re dealing with right now, in your daily work life? What is the biggest rock that you could tell me right now that you think about that I could do that rock for you? And she did sit back and smiled. She said, I just don’t have enough work to do. Like, give me something to do. Give me more projects to give me you know, she’s just being transparent with me. But part of that then needs a little bit more of the fear. like are we going to go out of business all these things that people start asking, am I going to get laid off? Am I going to get furloughed and so all of those are real? And the reason I really just kind of share those with you and then I’ll stop talking and let you know this is not such a good format Perry but Stop going. I’m getting the cross parents like come on. It’s really real. Yeah. I’m loving it. God. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Perry wakes up. But you know, the thing that’s so important about this is just that it is going to show up in the culture of your office as you reopen. People are going to talk about it, they’re gonna feel that. And so as a leader, we just need to be aware of it. 

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I love the fact that somebody in your team trusts you enough to tell you that because a lot of people would hide it. I’m very busy, very busy. Don’t be thinking I’m not. So yeah, I love that. So that if I were a leader, and I hey, um, the second question I’m asking myself, and I’ll ask you is what do you think will be on people’s minds? When they do return to the office? What are they dealing with? And you hit a little bit of it there but you know, I’m, let me stop there as well. What do you think people are thinking when they come back? And why would you want to know the answer to that

Yeah. So Joseph, Granny, I mentioned this maybe on a previous podcast, I heard him say this, and I think this is so relevant right now, which is that your people want to know that they’re psychologically and physically safe. mmhmm, that is what is on their mind. Now, you mentioned earlier, you know, our corporate offices here in Georgia, and we’ve opened up probably earlier than most. And so as people return to this office and in our culture and people return to business in general, especially when you’re able to maybe continue to move the ball forward, virtually. And now you’re asking them to come back, and they want to know, how am I going to be safe? Am I going to feel safe? And how are we going to work together and what procedures Do we have so what we did was the front end for us here in Georgia, kind of opened it back up in the middle of May, May 15. And so what we did was we sent out some communication. The second one command said, Hey, we are going to, we’re going to reopen a meeting. And that’s kind of what we were allowed to kind of reopen. But we reopened, we reopened in shifts, we split the team up and kind of A/B’s depending on where you’re sitting and where you’re located and certain days of the week and we got people coming back into it and then we said hey, on June 1, here’s the next step of our kind of reopen phase and so what we did was we talked about everything in an email and communication that we were going to be doing a little bit differently. Right now and then talk about having a cleaning crew come in and talk about you know if you want to have a mask on feeling comfortable to wear masks, we have several people in our organization or wear masks, and we have a couple of other leaders. I’ve been talking with everyone this week that everybody in their offices, much bigger companies wear masks, and so it’s gonna look different for everyone. But I think that I think the biggest thing here is you’ve got to communicate in a way that they at least know, you are acknowledging.

Sorry about that. Okay, gotta be, you gotta be communicating in a way that you are acknowledging that you are taking new steps to make them feel safe. So you got to have an open dialogue about it, not only in the beginning but it’s got to be a continuous dialogue. And so I asked the question in a team meeting this week, I was talking about just a minute ago, and I just said, Hey, okay, we’re a couple of weeks back into this thing. And now we’re in it where, you know, we’re open every day in the office. How do you feel? Do you feel like You are safe, like, do you feel like we have placed steps in place to make sure that you feel comfortable here, and it’s part of that culture and part of that feeling? And so I think the open dialogue part of it is to be able to hear from them as well and it goes just back to this whole communication thing. And you’re going to get different answers from different people. I got a different answer from everybody on my team. But you need to be having those conversations. And what I also said, to set this up, and I encourage you to do the same thing as you’re talking to your team, and build this culture, as I said, now, listen, just because somebody else says, oh, man, this, I feel great. No fears, nothing loves what we’re doing. Don’t feel like you’re being pressured into saying that, like, I want to have a candid conversation as a team, so that we can all hear kind of from you and where you’re at. And so just that’s what I would encourage you to do. 

That’s kind of where I started. I got these first two questions, which was, what do you think happened since we were now? What do you think people’s views are going to be coming back? What’s on the front of mind? And the third question would be so if I can anticipate those things as you just articulated, what can I be intentionally doing ? and you hit a few of them there about over-communicated intentionally doing to open strikes to reopen strong, and to reclaim that, that part of the culture that we want restructure the new parts of the culture that are made possible because of what’s happened. So I wonder if you think about anything else you’d add to the after you anticipate how they felt and what they think. Coming back? Are there any other things you would intentionally do to really claim that culture you want? 

Yeah, good question. So a couple of things that for me is I’m still pressing on growth. Okay. So this is what I encourage them to do, as we got back into this culture and word growth culture, that’s what John’s all about, right? It’s, you know, we don’t set goals. We, you know, that is kind of the finish line, which I look at as a process and it’s always growing. And so I encourage them because this is something that is what I talked about, what do we want to keep and reclaim in our culture, we want to have a growth mindset. And so I just shared with him I said, Listen, I think I can’t thank you enough for while we were working virtually in our office and it was not open. One of the things I had been doing was listening to content, reading, and then sharing their takeaways from the team so that everybody was sharing all of their information in an email. And so we were all learning tenfold compared to what we could do ourselves. And so I challenged him, I said, this is something that is part of our culture. And I want to encourage that just because we’re back in the office, and you may feel like we’re getting back to this new now, new normal or normal, or what it used to be. I want to encourage us to keep continuing to do this because this was adding value to the team. And so I really stressed from a positive standpoint, one of the things we took away from, you know, being in a shelter in place of how the team was growing together that we continue to do that. And I kind of cast the vision around that. The other thing that I did not talk about that kind of falls under question two, but also question three, which is just you have got leaders you have got to be a good active listener better than ever, right? Now, you’ve got to allow your team to be able to talk about what they’re, you know what their struggles are, and so that you can not only acknowledge it, and that they can build further trust in you. And there’s authentic communication between the two of you. But then you can come back and have conversations about the perception of that on the culture, the how that is going to proceed, how do I help you if it’s a negative, overcome that in our culture, how do I get you to talk about that more around the team because that is something I do want to learn about our culture. And so the only way for you to really do that is to become what I love that you say is an aggressive listener. Right to the team. 

And so I think that’s probably the two things that I would add on to that that I didn’t talk about in your question number two. What do you think what’s the importance of I know we talked about it in perspective principles a few podcasts ago, but about John’s big on reflecting. And I just think, how much of intentionality do you put behind reflecting on what happened? What’s changed? And now what’s possible when your team’s coming back, we’re back together. We’re bringing our team back together, we’re establishing our culture and how we work together. But are you doing a lot of reflecting on what happened? And what would change? What can we do differently going forward? 

Yeah, I think that’s so key. I think it’s a great question, too. It’s funny, because what I would tell you, my initial thought was man, as a leader, when you reopen, don’t allow those thoughts, those questions that you just asked me that we were very cautiously talking about while we were sheltered in place of business shut down. And what do we learn in and what are we gonna do moving forward from this? And it’s because it’s real. It’s now. And so you little conviction there when you asked that question because I think we did a lot of reflecting on that when we were in that shelter and place in the offices but now that we reopen you get back into your routine. And you still need to be asking those questions now what we’re doing is we’re implementing a lot of those things that we see that we saw that we reflected on that we think is gonna happen in the future. And but we need to continually ask ourselves that question, then maybe you don’t do collaboratively as a team, but as a leader in yourself, you should be spending time to be reflecting, even when you get back into the chaos of reopening your business, 

For sure, yeah, I think it’s so key because it’s, you know, hate to let a good crisis go to waste. What would it teach us about ourselves? and John was so clear that the final question would be about something I’ve, we’ve talked about here, I bring it forward from my mind a lot about insider-outsider dynamics that can occur when something this touches an emotion, the way that this pandemic has touched people. And now there are some other dynamics going on also in the United States and around the world, about where people feel like they’re an insider or an outsider on your team? You know, I think about wearing a mask not wearing a mask. Don’t come to my office, stay away from me. I’m not coming in and you’re coming in. I just wondered if you think about that at all. From a cultural point, insider-outsider dynamics can be a culture killer. If somebody doesn’t feel like they’re an insider, they’re outside the group you ever think about when you come in back and re-establish my culture? How big a part does that play?

I think it’s a huge part. And I think you need to be aware of it. leaders, I will tell you, you need to be patient with your people. Because everyone is bringing a different story to this crisis from this crisis, I should say, and that comes from some that are more concerned than others, some that have a story, or an issue at home that they’re they’re trying to protect and so I would tell you, encourage you to be patient, I would also encourage you to understand that everybody’s going to respond differently. And they’re going to respond differently because of their story. So what is their story? Do you? Do you have enough listening skills? As we talked about? Do you have enough EQ in you too, to be patient, ask questions, and to truly understand why your team is acting out the way they are, coming back when I say I cannot get out and coming back to reopen the business? Here’s what I’ll tell you is I kind of wrap up my answer to this question. You know, John, this is where we, you know, this is where I think as an organization, this is our culture. And I think if, as leaders, you can keep these three things in mind that it will help you in your culture, make sure that people don’t feel like they’re outsiders, and that they’re insiders and but it’s on the leader’s responsibility, and it’s really three things. It’s pretty simple. We have to value people, period, every single one, we have to believe in our people, every single one of them, we have to unconditionally love our people. And I think those three things right there that if you will value, believe and unconditionally love your team as they’re coming back into this culture. And you do it on an individual basis, I think you will help keep that insider versus outsider. Bounce because if you’re doing that, what’s going to happen if they feel that way? They’re going to come to talk to you about it, and you’re going to be able to help lead them through that. 

And I totally agree, I think it’s a big overlook sometimes for leaders. We set up boundaries somehow that make people feel like what they’re doing doesn’t matter. And I’m in my office with my mask on and everybody else is running around. I’m not included. You know, there’s a lot of things we can do, like you said, just over-communicate. I think kindness, generosity, and empathy right now will rule and really establish that culture that most people want.

Let me wrap it up just by saying I have found from our 5 Levels conversation, this is a really a time for Level 2 leadership to see people individually, as you’ve mentioned several times to realize they’re coming from different places that they need a little more care and a little more attention. And that you can really establish that as a leader to set that tone of authenticity, a little vulnerability that makes people really connect and makes you more approachable, more adaptable to what’s going on, people really see you in a different light. I think that we can show that we care for each other and establish our culture while moving the ball forward in our businesses and reopen strongly and safely in a way that makes people feel valued and what they’re doing. final comments from you?

 I think this is a great time for us as leaders to talk about reclaiming our culture, rebuilding our culture, I think as you had the separation from the team and the culture now’s a great time to reinvent the culture. And don’t take for granted. Think about that board game illustration. And let the board be different, the pieces are different, your culture is going to be different. And so leaders, I would say that you need to be, you need to be more visible than ever, you need to be out in front, we talk often about the fact that you know, leadership and culture are more caught than taught. Okay? And so we need to make sure that everything that we’re thinking about in reinventing, reclaiming the culture, the pieces that we want, we don’t want, we don’t want, maybe we can’t get rid of it. But COVID-19 helped us get rid of them. And we reinvent new ones that we are leading the way ourselves by the example of what we want, you know, of what we want that to look like. And I think a couple of things that we talked about and kind of went back and forth on today. I think if you keep those into consideration will help you as you kind of reclaim and rebuild a culture coming back.

Fantastic. Well, if you would like a learner guide with these questions and some other thoughts from our discussion, you can find that at I’ll also leave a question for Is there a comment that can also learn more about these 5 Levels of Leadership that we balanced almost everything with. We’re very grateful that you take the time to join us and be here with us each week. We would welcome any comments or questions you might have. We want you to stay safe. We want you to get back and reopen and do it profitably and quickly. Good for all of us. So thank you. This is all from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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