I recently got to know an inspiring new friend by the name of Bill Latham.
Bill gave a keynote alongside my wife at a recent conference, where he spoke on creating a culture of transformation. He (and his company Meteor) are leading the way in disrupting their industry, rethinking the 21st century classroom, and innovating in creating high impact learning environments for schools across the nation. When my wife Danae told me about Bill and the mission he is on, I couldn’t not reach out.
During a recent chat we had, the topic of culture and employee engagement inevitably arose.
Based on recent GALLUP findings  on employee engagement, Bill painted an analogy of a boat:
“Say you’ve got 10 people in your boat.
You’ve got 3 people actively paddling;
5 people will paddle if asked, but if you look away they will be on their phones, playing with their oars, splashing in the water, etc.;
and you have 2 people in the back of the boat actively drilling holes causing the boat to actively take on water."
This is what is actually happening in our workforce today — according to the GALLUP findings, of every ten workers:
- 3 people are positively and actively engaged,
- 5 people are not engaged, and
- 2 people are actively disengaged.
This means 70% of customers are being underserved, 70% of kids are receiving an inadequate education, 70% of hospital patients are not getting the treatment they deserve, 70% of public servants are underserving the taxpayer…you get the idea.
Bill continued by asking, "What would you do with the two people drilling holes in the boat?"
My answer: “Well, you’d get them to stop.”
Bill: “And if they don’t?"
Me: “Throw 'em overboard."
We talk about making culture and fancy ourselves "culture-makers," at least to some extent. Yet we overlook, ignore, or forget our responsibility to, not only make culture, but to protect and guard the shared set of values as well.
[Of course, the caveat and important first step is creating a clearly defined set of values which are communicated effectively and shared corporately among your team.]
He reminded me that cultural guardianship is a responsibility of everyone in the boat.
It’s not just for the leader, or for a few zealous rah-rah culture police. Each one of us must take an active role in the creation, championing, and guarding of the cultural environment we desire to operate within. We have this amazing choice, opportunity, and responsibility to ensure that what we do aligns with the corporate identity we want to live out and into. As leaders, we are all vanguards of culture.
It’s real easy to complain that the boat is taking on water while sitting and doing nothing about it. It’s another thing entirely to guard the boat from those people who are actively engaged in drilling holes.
We have a duty to keep the boat afloat and moving in the right direction.
 "Majority of U.S. Employees Not Engaged Despite Gains in 2014": http://www.gallup.com/poll/181289/majority-employees-not-engaged-despite-gains-2014.aspx