One of my favorite things that I get the privilege to do in my job is to facilitate retreats for corporate leaders. Six weekends a year our company runs Heart-Led Leader Men’s & Woman’s Retreats – for rising leaders to senior executives. These weekends are life (and career) changing. I’ve been running these retreats for nearly a decade. I will never be able to put in words the impact they have on our participants.
And they have an impact on me too. I get to learn from the brightest and most passionate leaders from all industries and from all over the world.
Occasionally, there is a participant that says something during a leadership retreat that blows my mind. Something that stays with me long after the weekend.
Because these retreats are 100% confidential, I can’t tell you who said what. But I will do my best to share the importance of what I learned.
Last weekend we held one of our Heart-Led Leader Retreats up at C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado. One of the exercises we do during these retreats is to talk about corporate culture. Good culture. Bad culture. And the role we have, as Heart-Led Leaders, in creating good culture. That is when this young attendee said something I will never forget.
“Our culture defines who we are. It sets us apart from any other restaurant chain in the world. I would do anything to protect our culture. ANYTHING. In fact, if they asked me to mow the lawn at our corporate headquarters, I would gladly mow the lawn with the biggest smile on my face!”
The crazy thing is that this young man meant every word. I’ve had hundreds of young leaders and executives go through one of our leadership retreats and I have NEVER met anyone with that much love, passion, and commitment for their job (and culture).
Got me thinking.
How do we build a culture in our organizations that folks would gladly mow our lawns? Not because we asked them, but because they love what they do? Because they feel so valued. Because they believe in our culture?
I consider myself a full-time student of servant leadership. For the past decade of my life it has been my full-time job studying, learning and teaching the power of leadership. I have spoken to, met with and coached thousands of leaders. And if I had to sum it all up in a few sentences, here is what I’ve learned.
Most leaders believe they have built a good culture.
Many employees do not.
This discrepancy in many organizational cultures is proof that there is much work to be done.
Here is a great exercise to do as a litmus test of your organizational culture.
Walk around your office. Assume (pretend) that you have an acre of grass around your company’s headquarters.
And then ask yourself as you pass each employee……If I asked this person to mow the lawn, would they gladly do it with a smile on their face?” Better yet, would they do it without you even asking?
When I was a teenager growing up on 22 River Road in Suffern, New York, I woke up on Saturday mornings and mowed our lawn. If not on Saturday, then Sunday after church. I’m not sure I mowed our lawn with a smile on my face, but I did do it without my father having to ask me. Why? Because I loved him. Because I respected him.
It’s not really any different in our own organizations. Our people will gladly mow our lawns because they love us. Because they respect us. And they will do it with a smile on their faces because they know we love and respect them.