What Are You LEaving on The Table?

Written by Matt Curts

Sliver Beach Pizza in St. Joseph’s Michigan is a great family spot for quality pizza and craft beer.  This past weekend it became the spot of a great debate amongst three generations.  The topic, the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.  My father is almost 70 years old so you can probably guess that the likes of Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson made it into the discussion.  I swear I think I even heard a reference to Pistol Pete before we asked him to just stop.  For me I wasn’t even sure why the conversation was necessary, certain that all present had seen the Last Dance.  But my son and nephews insisted that the players of today are greater than the greats of our day.  They are especially fond of a so-called King.  Nonetheless, it’s a circular conversation really, that always ends in focusing on one or two players and relegating all others to a list of the underappreciated.    

With any discussion of comparison, we often use statistics until we can’t.  Offensive statistics, defensive statistics, vertical jump statistics.  But all roads lead to the number of championships won.  And when that doesn’t satisfy, we use terms like “killer instinct” and “great vision” to try and explain what seems inexplicable.  Back in the day, Spike Lee even asked, “Is it the shoes?” 

But no matter how you slice it, individual players do not win team sport championships, teams do.  And so, it goes back to stat lines and box scores and consecutive championship runs before grasping for words to separate what is good team from a great team.   But is it really so hard to explain?

Hall of Fame Coach Phil Jackson once said, “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the me for the we.”

Today players demand to be placed alongside other all-stars to chase the championship that has alluded them their entire career.  Time after time we see these super teams become super duds as the individuals can’t see how to work together for the collective good.  They share the same skills but not the same values or since of identity.  This doesn’t show up on a stat sheet or box score.  But everyone knows in spite of their combined superior technical skills they still lack “it”.

That “it” is a great culture.  A clear identity.  A great culture allows for nothing to be left on the table.  But too many analysts sniff at that which can’t be easily measured and often serves a branding exercise as much as anything.  Chemistry is often an afterthought because people don’t believe they can clearly define what they are to do to create it.  This is left brained thinking.

In your business you have followed all the best practices both inside and outside of your industry.  Your strategy is defined for efficiency and effectiveness. The systems and processes are in place.  The individual skills have been hired and developed. You have surpassed all your expectations when you started your venture.  But still, you know there is more to be had.  What is holding you back?  What else could be possible?

Culture is how we make meaning of the world.  It’s the way we perceive it based on our past experiences and values shaped by those experiences.  It’s how we believe the world even sees us.  In contradiction to popular belief our brain is not split in two.  But, the right side of our brain starts processing our surroundings and draws conclusions before the left side is even aware of what is happening.   It governs the whole of our relational life and manages our strongest relational connections.  In a sense our right brain is running a five-minute mile and our left brain a six-minute mile.    

The good news is that what seems to be immeasurable is being measured every second of every day by your people as they constantly search for a place of belonging.  The human brain was designed to look for and run on joy. Our joy drops when we sense few faces shining on us and few people happy to be with us. ALL OF US are collectively looking for our we.  When organizations excel in creating high trust and high accountability the right part of our brain has found what it is looking for and our left brain can fully engage in the mission at hand.  Thus, producing a high productive culture.  Great cultures don’t leave anything on the table because its people have found what they first look for. 

So how do you become the group that others are seeking after?  I believe it starts with two things.  The first is to simply be honest.  Being honest is not simply just telling the truth (although that is one measurement for a good workplace culture).  It is also being unapologetically you.  The Detroit Pistons of the 90’s produced a team that was hated by many but revered by a few.  Their style of bad boy basketball offered a place of belonging to some who felt like misfits among the elite.   They succeeded because they fully bought in to the values of the group.  Willing to sacrifice their personal accolades for the whole.  Not all cultures are created the same.  You’re unique, so own it.  Second is to clearly define and know your roles within your organization.  All great teams start with the greater why of defining who we are and what we are about.  But it still requires each member to know how they participate in that why.  It is often the underappreciated ones who make it possible to have the greatest success.  The greatest of all time does not win six championships without the likes of Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, and Toni Kukoc playing their roles to perfection. 

If attachment is the strongest force in the human brain, then we need to give others something to attach to beyond our strategic plan.  Peter Drucker famously quipped that culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you succeed in attaching relationally to your people you will succeed in ensuring nothing is left on the table and you will accomplish immeasurably more than you could have ever dreamed or imagined.

So, here’s to going from good to great.  It simply starts with being unapologetically you.  

Be sure to join us for the Culture Webinar later this month. Also, be sure to check our other Weekly Tips articles throughout the month of July.

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify, build, assess, and nurture your business culture, please feel free to take our culture assessment which can be found at the following link:

Company Culture Assessment

Once completed, a Thrive Consultant will review the results with you and develop a high-level action plan of next steps. 

For additional help with growing your company, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance team! If you’re looking to improve upon your communication skills or want to help one of your key team members develop personally, sign up for the Thrive Leadership Development package today! Additionally, if you find it difficult to find or keep quality employees, check out our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting Package.

Tom Dunn