Rubber, Meet Road

otherthings-620x412In shocking news, culture is fascinating to me.

OK. Unless this is your first time here, you know I’m being silly when I say that’s shocking news. And if it’s your first time here, um, hi. And um, make yourself at home. Well, actually you probably are already at home, so…moving right along.

One thing you’ll see during a culture shift is when the organization begins to try to live differently, for lack of a better way of saying it at the moment.

You see, it’s all quite easy in the team meetings or on the email threads to say we’re going to do this or that, or be this or that. It’s quite another thing to actually do this or that or actually be this or that.

It’s never easy. And the reason it’s never easy is because doing something different rarely is easy. It’s usually uncomfortable to at least some degree. Even if you’re fully committed to being a thing, the actual being of that thing can cause hesitation, doubt, and even the temptation to rein it in a little.

You’ve got to fight it.

One thing I’ve loved watching here at Mazuma is this very thing happening. We want to put our team members first. We want them to be creative. We want them to do things differently. We want to be open to progressive and different work styles.

That’s all well and good until someone asks to move their desk to the roof and parachute onto it every morning because it inspires their best work.

So it takes some getting used to, both from an organizational perspective and a leadership perspective.

The organization has to move from a prescription mindset, where the powers that be dictated exactly how everything has to be done and exactly how everyone has to act; to a permission mindset, where they have the permission to be themselves, have fun, be positive, find ways to collaborate, be creative (whatever that means for them), learn, and grow together. There aren’t specific ways that every person will do any of those things. That’s why it’s not a prescription. We’re not prescribing anything. We’re describing our values, hiring people who share them, and then trying to make space for them to be the humans they are.

Leaders within organization have a different challenge in that we have to learn how to roll with some of the changes as they’re occurring. The fact is that some of the changes that these unique humans (or in our case Mazumans) make will be ones we didn’t anticipate and may not have suggested. But at the same time, we want to not only allow, but also encourage flexibility, creativity, and being “out of the box” with how we do stuff.

One example, just from me personally, would be that I love working outside or from different locations. I just can’t seem to sit still in the same spot in the same office and think well for a long time. (Thanks, adult ADD) So I have to switch it up, etc. Now my boss has given us the flexibility to do things like that, assuming of course that we’re getting our stuff done and assuming of course that we’re not just never at the office and so on. But there’s still this twinge every once in a while where I’m like is it really ok that I’m working on this project from a coffee shop? And I have to remind myself that yes, it’s not only ok, it’s probably a good thing. It’s our culture actually being lived out.

Or the other day, when my team set up beach chairs and an umbrella behind our building and made drinks for everyone. I loved it. But there was also this tiny part of me that was thinking maybe I should send an email detailing what sorts of fun and creativity are a good idea and what aren’t just so we’re all on the same page and all that.


No, no, no. They’re doing exactly what they should be doing — finding ways to live the culture we’ve said we want to live at Mazuma. Will it always look the exact way it should? Well of course not — we’re all different humans. Will it make us uncomfortable sometimes? Gosh I hope so or we probably haven’t changed much or challenged the status quo enough.

Sometimes we’ve got to fight our urge to pull back and just let ’em dance.

4 thoughts on “Rubber, Meet Road

    • Thanks. Quite a ride we’re on, and we’re just getting started. It’s amazing to watch these Mazumans do their thing.

  • Matt – couldn’t agree with our more about “Let em dance”. Just last Monday it was a beautiful day and our meetings are held indoors with a set agenda.

    Somebody made an off-hand remark about “doing lunch outside” and I said yes. The staff was not only shocked, but pleasantly surprised. I tossed the agenda and everyone brainstormed some ideas about revising our marketing plan while we were enjoying mother nature. Your post reminded me of how easy it is to ignore off-hand remarks and how important it is to really listen instead and think twice before saying “Tsk” to ideas.

    • Thanks, Kathy. Funny thing about that article–I got some pretty nasty emails about it. (shrugs)

      Love your second paragraph. That’s exactly what I was trying to get across. There’s like this subconscious thing where we tense up when something new either happens or is suggested because our minds have become accustomed to certain things being “the way things are supposed to be.”

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