Culture, dude.


Y’all remember the old saying, “People leave managers not companies.”? This quote is in a 1999 book by Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules.

Well, 23 years later we don’t say “managers” anymore, we say leaders. And blaming the leader now for people quitting is not digging deep enough

Leaders are wholly a reflection of the company Culture.

Think about restaurants. Travel. Any service business– you can tell the ones who have a stellar Culture because the behaviors and beliefs trickle down to the front lines. 

One of my favorite restaurants in Austin is a Mexican food place, Maudie’s. Why do I love it? The food is good, but mostly because I can order anything on the menu, in any combination, any way I want it. No one tells me, “We can’t do that.”

“I’m sorry, but our system can’t do side orders.” [I am getting agitated right now just writing this.] 

Sometimes you get a bad waitperson. But most likely someone in leadership has decided they cannot accommodate customers who are sitting there in the restaurant and WILLING TO PAY EXTRA, because the Culture does not reflect customer service. The Culture reflects their values of systems and processes taking priority over happy customers. Probably unintentionally; so therein lies the problem.   

People are leaving Cultures. 

Within healthy corporate Cultures, leaders are living and breathing the Culture Code as a key element of the hiring and training they receive. From the outside looking in, Dell Technologies is impressively executing in this area.

To modernize Mr. Buckingham’s statement for 2022: People leave Cultures, not leaders. 

Or maybe some have left to work for themselves? To become an entrepreneur?

In April 2021, evidence began emerging that the Great Resignation was beginning in the United States.

That month, a record 4.0 million Americans quit their jobs. In June 2021, approximately 3.9 million American workers quit their jobs.

As the buzz about the Great Resignation began, I thought to myself, “Hmmm. They’ll be back.” 

Over the decades, the sustaining stat says about 90% of startups fail in the first year, but you can’t tell that to people with big dreams who have never worked for a startup or had to book revenue to call it a business. They need to try it, live it, and most will not make it, and some will succeed. Which is a great accomplishment! 

I think they will be back soon because during this recession they will not be able to pay their rents or car payments or insurance premiums; unless Mom and Dad are still footing their bills. 

There are some people in this world who are smart free-spirits who are born to do great things out there in the world of entrepreneurship. But most people need a steady job, with reliable income and a place they can fully be themselves. No matter who they are, or what they believe. 

When the great resigners make their comeback, will your Culture be the one they choose? In uncertain times will your Culture nurture the people you already have? Or will you simply be the paycheck people need while they actively look for a Culture where they can make a living and not sacrifice who they are?

The corporate world is in constant change, and one thing is for sure: Talented people who do not have rich parents, or a trust fund or the luxury option NOT to work, will always need jobs. So how do we create a place where they can not only thrive economically, but thrive personally? 

We continue to evolve and create Cultures that are psychologically safe, and the wellbeing of all people are at the core of a thriving environment. 

A place where people discuss opinions without judgment. A place where leaders and co-workers hear ideas and execute them. A safe place where we can tell our leaders, “I need a break today.” And a place where people will openly share their wildest dreams without the fear of mis-trust. 

People leave Cultures, not leaders. What are you doing about your Culture and helping people to thrive?


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