Monday May 11, 2015
Ask anyone around you to name their favorite Opera star. Other than the occasional Opera fan, few can. Ask anyone around you to name their top five favorite Rock stars, and many will have difficulty limiting their answer to only five names. Why is that? Opera stars have perfect, well trained voices. They should be the model of how vocalists sound – the best practice… right?
Wrong. Most of us don’t like perfect voices. We like flaws. Whether it was Streisand in my father’s day with her nasal sound, or Dylan with his… well, Dylan sound that my retro son likes to listen to, it’s the imperfect voice that people enjoy. The nuance is what makes the voice unique. And that’s what people like, remember, and talk about.
What does that have to do with organizations? Everything.
Face it; your organization is quirky. The best ones – the enviable ones – are. That’s part of organizational culture. The ones who try to clone some other organization’s quirkiness are like a take-off band; they may sound somewhat the same but they aren’t authentic.
Leaders can sometimes become enamored with other organizations’ success, and then try to imitate that as a best practice; especially when everyone else is doing so. That’s a mistake. Someone else’s best practice won’t be yours, at least when it comes to culture. Your organization has to be comfortable in its own organizational skin, quirks and all. Removing the quirkiness is tantamount to making Dylan into an Opera singer. Scary thought.
I love seeing organizations embrace their own quirkiness, rather than considering it to be trivial. To capitalize on organizational quirkiness, I recommend these 5 steps:
- Define it. Define what makes your organization unique. Define its nuances. You do this in sales to define your unique value proposition. Do the same for your team and your prospective team. Know what sets your organization apart as an employer from every other organization. When you define it and know it, you can play to your nuances as strengths much like a singer does by using her nasal sound or his… well, Dylan sound, rather than trying to mask it as something other than what it is.
- Create it. If you don’t know what makes your organization unique, it’s time to create it. This can include everything from the way you pay to the way you play. Don’t try to do what every other organization is doing. Prevailing practice is not the same as best practice. Your best practice will be your organization being the best it can be at who it is. Just like a singer works to develop his or her voice, you get to develop your organization’s quirkiness.
- Own it. You could be a newer organization that is poised for growth, a stable organization in maintenance mode, a competitive, cut-throat environment, or a collaborative “one for all and all for one” team. One is not better or best. Some people like each of these. And you can drill all the way down into the quirky ways you recruit, the ways you evaluate success, the ways you pay, and the ways you celebrate. The better job you do at owning your culture, the better you will attract people who like it… and fit. If Streisand had been generic, she would not have been Streisand. If Dylan had been generic, he wouldn’t have been…. well, Dylan.
- Share it. Talk about the quirks as if they are yours; the collective “yours.” Let them belong to your whole organization, defining the way you do what you do. Get people talking about “us” and “our way” as if they own it or have an emotional stake in it. You want them to. Great teams do just that. Whether it’s sports teams, work teams, mission teams, volunteer teams, people rally around uniqueness. I bet Streisand has sold more records than any opera singer ever.
- Enjoy it. Have fun with your quirkiness. I can’t imagine Streisand, Dylan, or any other famous singer not enjoying their voice. Streisand doesn’t cringe when she hears how nasal she sounds; Dylan doesn’t gasp when he hears his rasp. They use their nuance, they develop their nuance, and they let others enjoy it. Organizations should too.
Singers know that their unique sound makes them who they are. In the same way, leaders should know that their organizational quirkiness makes their organization who it is. Quirkiness can help you enlist, engage, and envision people. It also can help you keep people. After all, the best team members may be reluctant to leave a culture that has a quirkiness they identify with and love. They know they cannot find it anywhere else.
At Open Door Organizational Solutions, we honestly believe that the right team, united around a compelling vision, can change the world. We help organizations create vision, culture, and an enviable employment brand. And we help them find and keep the right team members, part ways with the wrong ones, and get everyone on the team focused on the compelling vision. But we leave the change the world part up to you.
Mark Weaver, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, QES