I used to be in your world in corporatelandia. I put many years of my life into companies like yours, including my hopes and dreams, and a desire to be part of teams that could move mountains and do awesome things in the world.
I kept my eye on what kind of leader I was supporting. My expectations for you were pretty basic;
As a leader, will you own your responsibility and be accountable for the environment created under your watch?
Over and over again, it was clear this fundamental part of your job was not something you cared to deliver on. It sickens me to my core that you keep talking about culture, but you aren’t doing shit about it. I mean why the hell did you want this level of power anyway? To take bags of money with you to the grave?!
Your inaction to address what your PEOPLE are begging for makes me wonder, really who are you? Because in looking for authenticity, all I have found are empty buckets of promises.
While I never had the position you hold, when I was on the inside, I actively influenced change on my teams to honor the fact that it’s actually PEOPLE who are driving the business forward and lining your pockets. But the truth is, even as a change agent, I still had to tow a line, play a game and watch my tongue.
Now that I’m on the other side, there is no holding back. And trust me, it is this directness and blunt language that people on the inside WISH they could use without recourse. Just like a coach on the baseball field, heated in passion and direct with the players, this is CLEARLY what is needed here. So let me be crystal clear:
As it relates to culture: YOU ARE FAILING
Your bullshit press releases, your token hires whom you give no resources or power to, and your refusal to put your money where your mouth is…
It causes physical and emotional damage…do you even realize that?
I haven’t even touched on the blank stares when asked to fund some tiny budget for an ERG initiative, so that the intentionally ignored people in your company can feel supported, if not by their leadership then by their colleagues.
If your first thought is, who do I hand off this crazy letter to, then just put this letter in the trash because you aren’t ready yet. If your first thought is who in HR or PR or corporate marketing can I hand this rant to, well then you aren’t ready for the truth. You can’t handle it (yep, cue A Few Good Men).
Is there a part of you that’s scared, and also intrigued? Can you get past your own indignation about my accusations?
If so, and you are willing to keep one eye open to keep reading, then let me share with you a letter for your marketing leadership. And maybe, just maybe, there is hope after all.
Dear Marketing Changemaker,
I know shit is messed up right now. One minute you love your job and the next you want to pull your hair out. I also imagine that if you had an FU fund you would seriously consider putting in your notice and going somewhere you can really make an impact.
But wait, please don’t go. Not yet. The Corporate Culture Revolution needs you.
We need you to stay in the long game. I mean, you UNDERSTAND the long game. You get that winning consumers and clients is not about this quarter or next quarter. It’s about building trust, making promises and keeping them, and having deep insight into what is needed and how you can solve their problems…perhaps that they don’t even realize they have.
Culture…oh, it’s so elusive. But I don’t really need to define it, do I? I can just say it’s broken, and you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You are BEST poised to help with this challenge, known as CULTURE.
- You know what’s behind all the ‘hot topic’ conversations like The Great Resignation and
What To Do About Hybrid Schedules, etc.
- You GET that what truly drives innovation and creativity and whole-heartedness is not free snacks in the kitchen or one hour a week to work on a passion project, but that it goes to something so much deeper than that.
So what’s the problem I’m enlisting you to help with?
- When I think culture, I think about people trying to figure out how to do their best work within an organization’s overt and covert constraints.
- I think about people eating white supremacy sandwiches while trying not to lose their shit while sending an email to the person who THEY should be managing.
- Then I think about how trying to play within those antiquated boxes with outdated leadership models and toxic behaviors rewarded over and over again, has stuffed down all the life and magic within the cells of all the people working in these places, including you.
Does this bring up some triggers for you? It sure does for me. It also brings up thoughts like overpriced consulting firms, massive layoffs, PhDs in lab coats, and people who don’t know shit about the company placing names in little tiny boxes on an org chart.
That is not CULTURE work.
I imagine a different future.
I believe a new dawn is already here. To me, we are not in the great resignation, but rather the GREAT RESET. Let me tell you more about why I think YOU are at the forefront of this next era.
You have the credibility.
Period. Unlike HR, which was designed to protect company interests, Marketing was designed to build a business.
- You get that Business does not get built without people. Humans. Living, breathing, emotional beings who actually make decisions from their heart space and not just from their head space.
- You understand that a brand promise is sacred, just like leadership promises should be, and that authenticity isn’t just a value that goes on a piece of paper.
- Authenticity is in a context, in a culture, and it requires work to be bold enough to be honest and true, and stand apart from the competition.
- You have to be ok with being polarizing because that’s how you stand for something and find your tribe and help people be discerning with their choices. From choices of the brand they buy to the company they work for.
You understand strategy through EXECUTION.
- You get that you can’t just say you’re gonna do something and then not do it. You can’t SAY you will deliver in 2 days and then the package never arrives. You’d be out of business before you can say ‘fuggedaboutit’.
- You get the importance of being on top of what’s happening IN CULTURE and IN CONTEXT. I mean, because yea, you aren’t going to place an alcohol ad in a recovery magazine. You also get that accountability matters. The HOW matters. The action plan is everything. That whole ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ thing – you know it’s not just a saying…it’s true.
You understand HUMAN behavior change.
- You get that consumers aren’t going to buy your product after the first ad, or the second ad, or even the 5th (ok MAYBE if you’re a cereal brand launching a donut flavor, the 5th time will be enough). Point being, it takes time.
- It takes a deep understanding of that consumer’s media habits, buying habits, triggers, and barriers to purchase, to move the needle. Just like any change to habits and behaviors that are within our comfort zone, it’s freaking messy, complicated, an art and a science.
You have so much more power than you think you have.
Yea, I know it’s difficult to “fix” things with your cross-functional teams, the pressures, the timelines, the deliverables. And I know you don’t have enough time or budget for what you want to do with your team, to lift them up and thank them for all they do. BUT, I also know this:
- You get how to prioritize things to drive the RESULTS everyone is relying on you to deliver.
- You get the importance of influence and building relationships, and I know that if working on your team culture really hits home, well, you’ll figure out a way to make that priority.
So, this is my rally cry.
Pick up the mantle to tie your company’s mission and purpose to your team culture. Lead the way to a new era of what
organizations CAN BE.
Show the organization what can happen when you truly put people first. Show them how one individual can make a difference by being the heart-centered person you want to be in the context of things that might be, well, broken and disheartening. It’s the ripple effect thing. The drop of the pebble.
I’m not saying it’s easy.
Noooo, being the leader you want to be and creating the culture that makes you proud, isn’t easy, but it can be simplified. It can also be more sustainable, acknowledging that this is a LONG GAME I’m asking you to play. In fact, I even think it can bring you great fulfillment.
I believe change CAN BE JOYFUL.
Like witnessing a new butterfly fly erratically and without abandon. And the feeling of electricity in your body when you see a team member stand in their power and soar.
I’m enlisting you…
Because I think of everyone in your company, you still believe in the bottom of your heart that we can make corporations a force for good. I think you see your corporate mission and have a seedling of hope that it can manifest in authentic ways internally because the idea is a GOOD one.
I think that on your best days, you’re fired up to fight the battles that need to be fought. So, I’m wondering, will you pick this one? Will you decide to be an activist from the seat you have right now?
Will you choose to use the incredible power you have as a single individual to make an impact on one person, one idea and therefore on a system at large?
If you’re hesitating and doubting that you have this power of which I speak, might I remind you of a microscopic virus that has taken down the mighty and the powerful, a virus that has no voice even, only action.
You are more powerful than you think. More magical than you can imagine.
It’s already been too long. We’ve already suffered from too much burnout, trauma, and loss of identity. We’ve got to help people take their power back. Because I think when we do that, the healing becomes real. And when there is healing, creativity and innovation can flourish. And companies can be a force for good.
I don’t know what the whole roadmap looks like yet for your particular situation, my friend. But if we work together, I’ll take those difficult but necessary steps with you. Are you in? I’d love to hear your thoughts – drop me an email. You can also SHARE THIS NOTE with a fellow changemaker to start a dialogue.
Stay Feisty and Fabulous,
To learn more about how I can support you in your corporate culture change, visit me here.