Being Free Isn’t Free

…but the investment in one another is priceless.

Happy 4th of July! It’s me, JMac, giving a shout out to everyone who has been celebrating the birth of the U.S. with friends and family today.  

Thankfully in today’s world, it is rare to find someone who doesn’t respect U.S. military personnel – the very men and women who make tremendous sacrifices to ensure our country’s freedom and protection.
And while I have an immeasurable amount of adoration and gratitude toward these people, I want to look at an entirely different angle of this story: how they lead by example.
Today’s U.S. workforce is at odds with itself, at least from my perspective as a culture change consultant. It seems that with the mix of at least three generations working together every day, the corporate sector is at the edge of a major paradigm shift in how we make businesses profitable while honoring the desires and needs of those who make the business possible:  its employees. 

The situation seems obvious. Baby Boomers aren’t retiring. They are still leading. Gen Xers are leading as well, yet still raising kids while doing so. And Millennials, well, they are demanding freedom in ways that are causing us to change the way we do business altogether.
As a result, many companies are struggling to find the right culture. One that will sustain and grow the business while sustaining and growing employee engagement.
No small task. 
Unless your company was founded and led by an incredibly intentional culture leader, creating and maintaining a strong corporate culture can be taxing.
Let’s look at the factors that determine how challenging this can be:

  • Age and history of the company

  • Self-awareness and intentions of the Chief Officers and Board

  • Emotional intelligence, skill and intentions of the Human Resources department

  • Size and scale of the company

  • Tenure of the C-Suite 

More than anything, the greatest determinant is the desire among all the leaders to create a culture that is designed to generate a win for all stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, and the bottom line itself. And, if they are boldly conscientious, they will also factor in a win for the environment in their business practices. 
It may seem as though culture only impacts employees, but that perspective would be short-sighted. After all, employees are the gateway to customer satisfaction, and customer satisfaction leads to profits, which make shareholders happy. 
What does all this have to do with freedom and the military?

Creating a winning culture is enabling more freedom. A high trust culture is owned by an empowered workforce. 
Now consider the military’s example:
High focus on training. Everyone knows exactly what they are being asked to do, and they are highly skilled at doing it. Each person has the other person’s back. Seldom does anyone question a decision – not because they are non-thinking robots, but because the trust in each other is incredibly high, and operations are executed with a clearly articulated plan that everyone understands. No one’s needs are forfeited for the sake of a higher profit margin. The focus is on the outcome. A victory requires total commitment and unparalleled teamwork.
Their example isn’t about command and control. It’s about trust – in each person’s integrity and expertise. 
It is my belief that when a team is comprised of highly skilled individuals who take pride in their work, trust their supervisor and team members, lend their expertise in the development of a solid plan, and commit fiercely to a stellar execution of the plan, all stakeholders win.
Outcomes exceed expectations. Success like this begets more and more success. Why? Because clarity of role and trust in one another not only generate incredible results. The combination of the two increases trust, respect and commitment.
A leader cannot simply tell a team to do this. Leaders are leading by example, whether they like it or not. This is how they inadvertently kill their culture. Many speak of these concepts, then make decisions solely on profit margin.
Profits are byproducts of a committed workforce. When employees feel valued, valuable and trusted, they become the most loyal guardians of the bottom line.
Creating a strong culture like this requires Millennials to balance their need for independence with their commitment to teamwork. It requires Baby Boomers to balance their ability to impart invaluable wisdom with their ability to listen to new ideas. And it requires Gen Xers to balance their time between their teams and their growing families while oftentimes bridging the generation gap.
Perhaps honoring our troops in corporate America really is about emulating them. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Here’s to using our freedom to improve lives, businesses, teamwork, and results – Cheers!