The 3 Pillars of A Growth Culture

Jan 24, 2023

Every work culture is built on a set of principles. I refer to these as pillars. These are the things on which the culture stands. Do you remember the “rocks in the jar” analogy used a few years ago about how to get everything done? You start with the big rocks, then you add the medium rocks, then the smaller rocks, then the pebbles, and finally the sand.  The analogy was used to emphasis – Do the most important stuff first – the big rocks. The pillars on which a culture is built are the big rocks.  

The Pillars

A growth culture is built on 3 pillars. If you only focus on building these, you will quickly see your culture begin to transform into a Growth Culture. 

  •  Build a Relationship Between People and Their Craft
  • Create a Learning Environment that Fosters Self-Discovery
  • Help People Channel Their Energy During Times of Transition

This blog introduces each pillar. In future posts we will explore each of these in detail.

Build a Relationship between People and Their Craft

A Growth Culture is built around role growth. And just so we are clear, growth is different than plateauing at “meets expectations.” Growth means that people continue to grow in their role throughout their career. Continued growth requires a relationship with what they are doing - their craft. So, the role is not just a series of tasks that someone does every day. It is a process, a collaboration, an integral part of the organization’s success. To stay emotionally invested and connected to the organization, they need to keep growing.

Think about athletes, musicians, scientists, authors who play at the top of their game. For them, work is not a series of tasks. It is a craft that they practice every day. Great writers write every day. Great musicians practice every day. Great scientists explore what is possible every day. Sure, they want to win, but they care more about mastering their craft than they do just winning. Why? Because they know that the more they master their craft the more they win. Winning is by-product.

Do you have a strategy to help those on your team get better at their craft? Or, do you expect that to happen on its own? Here’s the truth about most people and organizations. Most people are adapters, and most organizations are happy when people “meets expectations.” The combination of adapters and “meets expectations” is plateauing not growth. In a Growth Culture “meeting expectations” is the starting point, not the end goal.

Create a Learning Environment that Fosters Self-Discovery

I have been in the learning business for 30 years, and I see a clear pattern. In most organizations, learning has been diluted to giving people information and expecting them to apply it on their own. If it’s video learning, you doze through the videos, answer the quiz, and then go back to work. If it’s live training someone talks, you do an exercise, someone talks more, you do more exercises, you fill out an evaluation… and then you go back to work. Either way, there is usually no clear expectation of application. And if you are expected to apply what you have learned, you do that on your own. This is why most training is a waste of time.

If all we needed was the right information, we would all be in great shape, have great relationships, and be wealthy. The issue is not information. The issues are application and reinforcement. The best way to create self-discovery is to actively engage people in the learning experience. Instead of giving people information and expecting them to apply it on their own, flip the table. Give them the information and then practice applying it with guidance and coaching. That’s how growth occurs.

Plus, shift how you communicate with your team. Tell 10% of the time. Ask & explore 90% of the time. Self-discover is always built on questions. Whether people do something right or wrong, ask questions. Use questions to reinforce right thinking and actions as well as exploring what went wrong.

Help People Channel Their Energy During Transitions

This final pillar is where the actual growth happens. Transitions are the zone between where you have been and where you are going. You have left where you are, but you are not yet to the new place. During transitions there is TENSION in your brain and body. Part of your brain is pushing you forward to the next stage of growth while part of your brain is pulling you back to what is familiar. Without leadership support and encouragement, most people tend to stay with what is familiar rather than venturing into an unknown future. Your job is to help them through the transition. The place they are going IS a better place, but they can’t get there alone. 

In the next 3 blogs we will explore each of these pillars in more detail. As always, if you have these blogs helpful, share them with others. See you next week.

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