Should Happens (Thanks, Josh)

should.008You can blend in, or you can be OK with being different. It’s pretty difficult to have it both ways.

Not that people and organizations won’t try.

It’s understandable too. Lots of folks are dying to tell you and any other organization what you should do.

Within the friendly confines of a team meeting, it’s easy to say you’re going to do this or that bold thing. It’s not nearly as difficult for a group of executives or managers to say they’re going to take a risk and do something different than it is for them to actually do that different thing. And the degree of difficulty is ratcheted up even another notch or twelve when the feedback on that something different isn’t 100% positive.

(Weird how suddenly that’s the standard when folks start to get nervous and want an out. When else is 100% the standard for success? We wouldn’t be able to do anything! But I digress…)

When a person or organization does something different — something outside the norm — you can almost be certain they’re going to catch some sort of flack, and often a lot of flack. Sometimes it’s from well-meaning folks; other times it’ll be from people who are taking the opportunity to take a shot at you. Kind of goes with the territory though, right? You want the feedback either way, or at least you should. Doesn’t mean they’re right; but they’re not necessarily wrong just because they’re acting like donkeys. (And you might also double check to be sure that it’s not you being the aforementioned donkey. We all end up doing that more often than we’d care to admit. At least I do.)

There are oodles of people out there — and maybe inside your organization who are more than willing to precisely describe for you how you or your organization should be acting. Or how they should be marketing. Or how they should be training. Or how they should be operating. Or how they should be dressing. Or how they should (or should not) be using social media. Or how they should be doing any number of things.

Before you know it, they’re shoulding all over you.

You’re knee-deep in should.

They’re so full of should it makes you want to slap them (figuratively, of course).

And you’re torn. I don’t give two shoulds about what they think, you say to yourself.

Or do I? Maybe I should give a should. Or two.

Before long you’re scared shouldless and aren’t quite sure what the heck to do.

You have that Oh Should moment. Or maybe even that Holy Should moment. Are they right or is this culture stuff really just a bunch of bullshould?

Then one of a few things happens:

You start spending all your time trying to convince the whole wide world that you’re right instead of doing your thing, or…

You get super defensive and repeat the above, or…

You start to believe them and begin to pull back, or…

You start to doubt yourself, or…

You get so caught up in complaining about no one else “getting it” that you become more known for that complaining than for the thing you’re doing that people aren’t getting.


But here’s the thing — if you try to bend to every whim of every individual or every group that tells you how you should do or be something, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. You’ll just be getting jerked back and forth like those psychotic rat terriers you see on “walks” with people.

They’ll say you should avoid being so boring, so you’ll lighten up. Then they’ll say you should be more professional, so you’ll tighten back up.

They’ll say you should have more staff, so you’ll beef up. Then they’ll say you should “be more efficient” because your staffing numbers are “above the industry norm” (or something) and you’ll do an efficiency study.

They’ll say that since workplaces are universally becoming more casual, you should too; so you finally bite the bullet and do a jeans day. Then a customer or three will complain about the jeans and so you’ll revoke the jeans day on account of the fact that 0.000001% of your customer base didn’t like the fabric content of your employees’ trousers. But then your employees are going to be irritated that you’ve taken away the jeans privileges they just got. And then you’re in a real pickle because either way you go, someone’s going to be ticked.

So then what do you do? You’re darned if you do. Darned if you don’t. You’re up should creek without a paddle.


You’re OK with being different. You’re OK being you. You’re OK with having a unique organizational identity and culture, and you understand that not every organism in the universe is going to love you.

Sometimes you just shouldn’t give a should.

(Hat tip to Josh Wooley, AVP Ops & Member Experience at Mazuma, for giving me a title for this thing.)

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