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  • Writer's pictureColin Christensen

Healthy Organizations are Better

“I'm not lookin' for the best players... I'm lookin' for the right players."
  • -- Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 US Men's Olympic Gold Champions

I find that this whole talk regarding healthy organizations and culture and building your team can often turn off the more practical-minded people. If you're anything like me - and I work in the industry - the thought of fixing company culture gives me the heebie-jeebies. I picture a wasted day of consultants coming in, playing trust games and closing with a solemn rendition of Kumbaya.

Not for me, thank you.

Yet over the years of study and application, the practical world of culture has piqued my interest. I have seen great teams take failing products and turn them around. I have also seen amazing companies run into the ground because of bad teams. This is very sad. As a huge fan of business and entrepreneurship, I deeply desire to see teams become effective and make a difference in the lives of their owners, their employees and the economy.

A great culture isn't just about everyone agreeing and getting along, but about performance as well. Peter Drucker, the grandfather of strategy, says "a business only exists to make a customer." If all aspects of your business are not about increasing, retaining and serving your customers, maybe you shouldn't be in business.

Guys like Richard Branson and Tony Hsieh agree that to make your customers happy, it is most important that your team be happy. This comes down to culture.

However, like you and me, if all we did was what made us happy, we wouldn't be very... happy. Ironic. Like our kids thinking a diet of only sugar will work just fine.

A highly productive team, when created properly, makes everyone happy - from leader to lowest. This sort of happiness is better described as healthy. That's why I believe one of the best metaphors of culture and building great teams is Healthy.

After all, healthy is better.

Let's look at some similarities between a healthy body and a healthy organization:

  • Healthy is Attractive (people want to be a part of a healthy organization)

  • Healthy aids in Longevity (your business can be a legacy to pass on – which means it can live on its own – FREEDOM)

  • Healthy Burns calories when sleeping (it keeps going when you’re passive)

  • Healthy is Easier to maintain (your job as a leaders becomes easier)

  • Healthy is Resistant to disease (when someone who isn’t the right fit somehow slips through the cracks, they will work themselves out of the team rather than the team being infected by them; also outside cancers like bad press, competition etc)

  • Healthy is Stronger (able to do more with less)

  • Healthy is Agile (can change directions quickly, if needed)

  • Healthy has Better Endurance (you can out last your competitors when times are tough)

  • Healthy has Less temptation (people won’t be as quick to jump ship)

A healthy company is what we are all looking for. I am one of many out there devoted to helping teams become healthy.

Here are a few new practices to get started:

  1. A 5 minute check-in with each of your direct reports each day. The focus: how's your life? What are you working on? and, What can I do to help?

  • the "how's your life" question is better served as "how was your son's ball game last night". Of course, this means you need to be talking personally about stuff like this along the way. The other two questions are great for keeping up on what people are working on and identifying the momentum of your business. Also, our chief purpose of being the chief is to leverage our authority to benefit those we lead. That means offering help where needed.

  1. Take each of your direct reports out to lunch and share the vision you have for the company and share why you got into the business in the first place.

  • this will have a magnetic effect on your team, it will allow them to cultivate some vision for themselves and further motivate them to work to help you achieve that vision.

  1. Take some away-time to foster your own vision of the company. Have a weekend retreat and restore your dream for the business you started or why you do what you do.

  • It is incredible what a weekend away to focus on your dream can do. This isn't a time to do work that has piled up but is strictly for remembering why you got into business, where you'd like it to go and how you can get it there.

In some ways these are backwards. However, doing them in this order will likely inspire you as you connect with your people, inspire your team as they connect with you and give you more of what is needed to spark that dream again.

This can turn around a downward spiral. We'll talk more about that next.


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