“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

- Peter Drucker

Everybody loves their university experience and for likely different reasons than everyone else.  It is a product of the time of life, the people in proximity, the growth you experienced, and the vectoring direction life took after that season.  Mine is no different, but again, for likely different reasons than yours.

I read a fantastic book a few years ago called Questions for my Father by Vincent Staniforth.  The author essentially collected all the questions he wished he had asked his father before he died, but never did.  For a season, I carried it in my car and would prompt my teenagers to ask me questions from the book when we rode somewhere together. 

I’ll never forget the first question they asked me:

“Dad, what was your best day of college?”

The answer came immediately and made my eyes well with tears.  If you had asked me that question in another context at another time, I could have responded with dozens of great stories.  But that precious child of mine asking me that question at that time, brought forth the truest answer.

“My best day of college was when I moved into my first apartment.”

I went on to describe how significant a thing that was for me:

  • It was the first time I felt like I had a home.
  • It was the first place where I felt like I belonged and was truly welcomed by everyone there.
  • Where I felt loved, cared for, and fought for.
  • It was the first time I was part of a community that believed the same way I did and wanted the same things.
  • It was the first time I felt I had everything in common with those around me and we shared everything, willingly.
  • A place where we laughed, cried, and shared the best and worst experiences together.

The same four roommates lived together for the next 4 years.  It changed everything about my life.  The best day of my life in college literally shaped every day I have lived since.  So powerful was that sense of place that I have fought for it ever since.

When we help establish culture in a company, I am often reminded of that experience.  It is about getting clear on what is most glorious and possible within an organization.  Defining it, articulating it, celebrating it, and making sure it is known and felt by everyone.

How important is that?

What could be more important?

Our companies are filled with people like me, like the boy who found some roommates in college.  Who found his first home.  Our companies may be the healthiest place that some of our employees get to live (if only for 40 hours a week).  It may just be the place that gives them the desire, strength, and hope that a different life is available for them in every other area of their lives.

Establishing and living into a healthier culture might just change all your employee's lives.  It might just show them the “art of the possible." Like it did in my life, it might just change the generations of their families.  

One of my favorite quotes came from a man at a company I worked with:

“The culture of this place is not just changing my life, but the future generations of my family.”

What could be better than that?  

Why would we settle for anything less?  

I got to celebrate that man’s 40th birthday last weekend.  Not only is his life different, the next generation of his family is changed as well.  He is living a powerful and abundant story.  He is not only changing the lives of the people he now leads at that company, but dozens of others outside of the workplace as well.

Many years from now, if he gets asked the question about the best day of his work life,  I am pretty sure he will tell of the day he started at that company.  About how the culture of that place changed his life and every day after.

A culture.  

A life changed.

The rippling affect across many lives and generations.

How good is that?

  • What is the culture of your company?
  • Has it been defined, captured, and encouraged?
  • It is referenced, celebrated, and known by everyone?
  • Is it changing the lives of those who work for you?