I received a note this weekend from a gentleman who'd just read Contagious Culture (McGraw-Hill, 2015). He shared some of his takeaways, had a couple of questions, and closed with the following statement:

I thought I was picking up a book about changing organizational culture, I had no idea how much my own internal culture had to do with that organizational culture and what was happening with my team. Thanks for writing a no fluff real stuff book that invited me to take an honest look at how I show up and how this impacts everything around me.

This is not the first time I've gotten this kind of feedback on that book. And it delights me every time. I didn't want to write just a "culture" book that looks "out there"--I wanted to write something that would invite people (and give them the short cut) to look "in here". See, when people think of culture, they tend to think of things outside of themselves; other things and people that need to change; initiatives that need to be put in place, mostly really external stuff. And while this can all be great and helpful--really, the key--and highest leverage point, not to mention what we have the most control over--is inside each of us.

It's the culture we're creating within ourselves that allows us to show up well, lead more powerfully, and invite the best in others. It's our own internal culture. And it's our own accountability for creating external culture.

I hold the "culture" as the energy of the container we create for people--and ourselves--to do our best work, to live joyfully, and to show up well... or not.

And I'll sing it again and again... It starts with us. (Which is incredibly fortunate--we have power here.)

So how's your culture? And how are you making it that way?

Let's play with it:

Consider what you LOVE about your...

  • Team's culture
  • Organization's culture
  • Family culture
  • Friendship culture
  • Internal culture

How do each of these feel and jive and what do you LOVE about it?

Take a minute and write it down. Do it on a post it, journal it, or map it on your wall--doesn't matter. Quick and easy is the name of the game here--go deep if you wish, but name ONE thing for each. (It'll be worth the extra 5 minutes spent on this article.)

Now... Consider what you DON'T love about each of these.

Yes, write it down. This may take a few more minutes. No problem. Write it out.

Now... Here's the magic--for EACH of these--the LOVE and the DON'T LOVE--consider how you are contributing to each thing to make it so. I promise you are contributing to the quality of that culture by the way you are showing up. There is something you are doing or being that is either enhancing and delighting culture and how you feel, or dragging it down. I promise. Look. It's worth it.

For the stuff you love, here's the next: Do more of it and nourish it. Whatever you love--give it gratitude, acknowledge it, make it even more so. Underline how you're showing up that's making your culture work. For example, one of the things I love about my personal internal culture is that I'm nice to myself. I'm kind, I catch myself going "bully"--I breathe, and then I shift and give myself credit for taking a risk (or whatever provoked my internal bully), I purposefully learn from my mistakes, I send myself flowers.

One of the things I love about my team's culture is we're honest, we say what we mean, we know that we come from a place of positive intent, we're kind, and when things get tense, we know we'll come back to the table to play it out. Having the internal culture that I have enables me to show up better with my team. It all relates.

Got it? Little or big.

For the stuff you don't love, there's a bit more work--hop to. Again I'll use myself here--but please, insert YOU.

If I don't love my team culture because we're disorganized or not productive or we're showing up late for meetings, I have to look at how I'm contributing to that: where can I be more organized? Where do I slide in at the last second? What requests do I need to make?

If I don't love the quality of my family culture and connectedness, I get to look at how I'm contributing to that: where can I create more opportunities for connection (i.e. family dinner together with no phones), being more present, and ME actually being off my phone versus being frustrated that my kids are always on theirs.

If I'm not digging my friendship culture because it's loaded with gossip and a lack of safety (because of all that gossip), I get to look at how I'm showing up with that: where do I participate? Where do I need to stop participating, redirecting the conversation, or make a request to focus on something more life-giving vs. soul-sucking?

If my internal culture is of worry, judgment, and negative self-talk, what's the littlest thing I can do to shift that?

Got it?

Little things, big things... they all have impact.

The idea here is the more aware and solid you are personally with your own internal culture, and the more aware and accountable you are for creating the external culture you want to have, the easier it is to create an environment and container where you can all thrive. Foosball tables at that point just become a bonus.