Tag Archive for company culture

417 Reasons I Love My Organization

417.001417? You’ve got to be kidding, right?

Nope. 417. 417. 417 reasons I love my organization. Ready? Here we go.

1. I love its weird name. Mazuma. What the heck?

2. I get to work with folks who are becoming more than simply colleagues.

3-173. The Mighty Mazumans. I lucked out. These guys are awesome. Such an eclectic mix of people and personalities, each and every 170 of them.

174. I tricked my buddy into working here.

175. Our lending department has a punching bag. And it’s not a person. (most days)

176-183. I love my Culture/Branding/Development/HR/Corporate Social Responsibility gang. Each one of them is unique in their own way, and brings something different to the team. I’ll tell you this though — they care deeply about their work and the Mazumans and members for whom they do it.

184-188. I love my exec teammates. All great in their own ways, they’ve been nothing but kind, accepting, and supportive.

189. As Mazumans, we’re learning how to have fun together. At work. Yes, you read that correctly. Work…and fun…at the same time. It’s not an either/or proposition.

190. I love that we have clearly stated cultural values.

191. I love that having fun and being positive is one of them.

192. I love that creativity is another one.

193. I love that Mazumans are encouraged to learn and grow. We’re building a learning function basically from scratch, so it’s a long road; but we’ve got a vision, and when we pull it off, it’ll be pretty badass. It’ll just take us a hot minute to get there.

194. I love how my Benefits & Comp Manager and my Development & Culture Manager balance each other out. I’m also surprised that they haven’t strangled each other yet. In fact, they genuinely seem to like each other, though they almost couldn’t be more opposite.

195. Mazumans are encouraged to be themselves. Takes a while to really “get” this one, but we’re working on it.

196. Change is a normal part of life at Mazuma. If you don’t like change, you’d hate Mazuma. If you like to not only embrace, but also drive change, you’d fit in just fine.

197-317. I have that many different things on my wall. They’re pictures or pieces of art or objects or posters or quotes or vintage advertisements or stuff Mazumans have brought for the wall. It’s such an eclectic mix of cool, interesting, inspiring, funny, and thought-provoking stuff.

319. We have meetings outside sometimes.

320. A couple of weeks ago, the HR and Development gang set up beach chairs and a beach umbrella outside and made margaritas for the whole building.

321. Our MSS department keeps doing stuff to brighten the day of others. They did a mini-carnival for the whole building, they did a cookout for the whole building, etc.

322. There are so many Mazumans with really inspiring life stories.

323. There’s an actual, real-deal positive and encouraging relationship between my gang and the Operations gang. It’s not always like that in organizations. Let’s just say I’ve seen it be a bit more adversarial in nature.

324. To the best of our ability, we simply will not hire someone who doesn’t fit our culture, even if that person is the most technically skilled person on the planet. Plus, come one, if that person really is that, he or she should have no problem finding a place to land. It just won’t be at Mazuma unless he or she matches the culture.

325. A string of bad luck led to our gang being short-handed, but to watch them band together and work ridiculously hard to get stuff done was inspiring.

326. You can show as many toes as you’ve got. Perhaps that needs some further explanation. I hadn’t been at Mazuma long when I got the question: Exactly how many toes can be showing through my shoes? I know it’s two, but you can sort of see part of a third toe so I don’t know if I can wear them to work.

I was dumbfounded. My response? I don’t really care how many toes you show at work. Heck, if you’ve got twelve, show ’em all. Use your good sense and wear shoes appropriate for work.

Then I looked at the dress code and immediately understood why I would get such a seemingly bizarre question. The dress code was like this 4,923 page document detailing precisely what one could or could not wear. We trimmed to a page and a half.

327. We have fantastic benefits. We really do. There’s even a way to basically get your healthcare free. How many organizations do that for their people?

328. Sometimes I work from a coffee shop. Or from outside a coffee shop. Or somewhere outside.

329. I love watching the next generation of Mazumans come into their own, especially those who demonstrate leadership skills. They often don’t mean to or know they’re doing it, but that’s almost better because that means it’s just kind of who they are.

330-1. Zero. That’s the number of times I’ve gotten static about all the appointments I have to go to for the cornucopia of medical stuff I’ve got going.

334-399. 65 years Mazuma has been serving the Kansas City area. That’s a long time to be invested in a community. And believe me when I tell you that the best is yet to come.

400. I have teammates who pop in every once in a while to see how I’m doing. How I’m really doing. Means a lot.

401. Most of my exec teammates are OK with my….oddness.

402. I get to do stuff I love. Culture and branding? Are you kidding me?

403. Another Mazuman teammate of mind has a bigger heart than almost anyone I know and cares about Mazuma more than anyone I know. And it shows.

405. We’ve got some unbelievably cool stuff on the horizon. I could tell you more but then I’d have to kill you. (I’m an Italian with either a gun or a cannoli. Hint: it’s not the cannoli.) :)

406. I wear ties to work. Some days, I wear dress slacks, a shirt, and tie to work. I have the freedom to do that.

407. I wear business casual to work. Some days, I wear pants and a shirt to work. I have the freedom to do that.

408. I wear jeans and a t-shirt to work. Some days, I wear jeans and a t-shirt to work. I have the freedom to do that.

409. I do not wear a speedo to work. Mazumans do not have the freedom to do that.

410. When you walk by rooms within which folks are meeting, you often hear laughter. Thank goodness for non-uptight work environments.

412. Living our core values is part of our annual performance reviews. A big part. Live it or leave it.

413. I have tattoos.

414. I don’t have to hide them at work.

415. We have what we call Semi-Happy Hours, where Mazumans gather at local watering holes to hang out, have a drink, and do whatever. Appetizers are typically on Mazuma. It’s only a Semi-Happy Hour because the drinks aren’t on Mazuma.

416. I love that I don’t get dirty looks about the huge, blue crashing wave I put onto one of my walls.

417. It’s the sort of situation where you just want to drop your anchor and live happily ever after.

6 Considerations for a Creative Culture

be7db324062b24a5bf1a53f28899602dYesterday we looked at a creative culture from an individual level, but today I want to zoom out and look at it from a broader, organizational level. What are some practical considerations if we really and truly want our teams to be creative?

It’s not as simple as telling them to be more creative, or nodding and smiling when someone mentions creativity or innovation. There has to be an intentional focus on it, or it will become an afterthought. You’ll have little bursts of creativity here and there from individuals, but nothing on the level or organizational creativity.

Here are some things you could take a look at:

1. Workspace

I’ve jokingly said before that cubicles are tiny, cubed prisons where ideas go to die. And by jokingly, I mean I’m being completely serious. It’s not that you can’t use cubicles, but you’ve got to figure out ways to get the team out of them sometimes. Or have really low walls. Or something.

Have meetings other places. Go outside for the love of pancakes and pogo sticks. When it’s feasible you could even let folks — gasp — meet offsite. You know, get some fresh air and all that. Studies show that humans think and work better that way.f056f6d2c62cf2fc41490b688f6ce874

Even the workspaces themselves need to be examined. What do they feel like? Just looking at them, what sorts of actions or behaviors or attitudes do you think they encourage? What symbolism do they bring? Are they sterile? Bright? Uniform? Individualized? Formal? Relaxed? Closed in? Open? Buzzing fluorescent lights? Natural light? Colorful? Colorless?

It all matters. It all combines to create a certain atmosphere. That atmosphere can be one that either encourages or stifles creativity.

2. Interaction with others who think differently

How easy is it for people to get together to talk, think, and create?

Some of us don’t have time to stand around and talk about solar-powered umbrellas. We have work to do, Matt.

Yeah, sarcasm’s like a second language to me, so I’m reading you loud and clear there. And don’t be silly — a solar-powered umbrella doesn’t even make sense.

I hate how something that is not just helpful, but necessary for an organization to be innovative is relegated to something that’s only done “if there’s time.” No, no, no. If it’s important, we make time for it. Simple as that. We make time for the most inane crap every day, but we can’t find time for that?

3. Rules

3334a2a9d7ec2434995596a7329b02a0Or policies. Or guidelines. Or suggestions. Or unwritten codes. Whatever. Depending what they are, they can snuff out creativity. Like this one:

You may not be on the internet during work hours.

Really? You want them to be creative but don’t want them to access the single largest source of information and inspiration in the modern era? Seems a little off, no?

Or this one:

Social media networks are off-limits.

Oh geez. Think about how odd that must sound to employees, and especially those who were born later than others of us. They’re told to collaborate with others, but they’re told that they are not to access their largest network of people. Hm. I mentioned this in a #TChat a while back, but telling employees today that they can’t use social media is like telling employees a couple decades ago that they couldn’t use the telephone.

4. Resources

This is a tough one, because there’s so much uncertainty around it; but if you want something to happen, you’ve got put any number of things into it. Maybe that’s people, maybe it’s time, perhaps it’s money, and maybe it’s all those things.

5. Hiring

Very few interviews I’ve seen or heard of do anything substantive in the way of figuring out if candidates have any inclination toward creativity. Want a creative culture? Then interview and hire people who demonstrate creativity and a desire to exercise creative ability!

6. Leadership

Like anything else, leadership is absolutely critical here. If leadership is risk-averse, uber-conservative, loves tradition, prefers the status quo and so on; chances are that creativity will not thrive there.

On the other hand, if leadership is OK with people flexing their creative muscles everyone once in a while when they have free time, creativity will likely flourish, right?

No, sillies. It won’t because the above is still way too passive. It’s not enough for leadership to be OK with creativity. They should be pushing it, facilitating it, asking about it, and demonstrating it themselves in their own ways. We lucked out at Mazuma. Our CEO encourages creativity. It’s actually an element that we’re weaving into the culture. And he’s not just paying lip service to it. You should see what he let me do to my office.

So what say you? Agree? Disagree? What would you add to the list?

Your Team’s Work Matters

meaningDeprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It really is a shame, but many employees trudge into work every day on autopilot. They’re corporate-logo-bearing zombies. They punch a clock, meander to their workspace, plop down into what may or may not be ergonomically correct chairs, and begin their daily countdown to 5:00 PM.

For these employees, there’s no real passion, no real desire, no pressing urgency about their work. And why is that? For some, the work just doesn’t matter. Don’t be so quick to assume they just need attitude adjustments. Before we go chalking those feelings up to those employees’ bad attitudes, I think we, as leaders and organizations, need to look in the mirror.

We like to speak in lofty terms about culture, employee engagement, etc; and rightly so. They’re very human, important things. They matter. Our people matter. Their work matters. But sometimes that idea — that their work is relevant — gets lost in the shuffle.

What I’m saying is that our employees need to know their work is relevant. They need to know it matters. And they need to know how it matters and to whom it matters. We’re not just running transactions or making loans or selling widgets.

A while back, I was speaking with some folks in the lending department at a financial institution. I asked them why they came to work every day. I asked them what they did during the course of those eight hours. I asked them if they even liked what they did.

The answers I got were sadly familiar. “Honestly, it kind of sucks,” said one.

“We fill out paperwork,” another chimed in.

Another piped up. “We process loan applications. That’s it.”

“I’m just here because I can’t find another job,” one even said in a moment of painful transparency.

My response? “Man, when you say it that way, your work does suck.”


64ed726b2fcbf319d734269664febc3dI went on to explain what I thought of when I thought of a lending department. It’s entirely different from what they were expressing to me. When I think of a lending department, I think of a group of dream facilitators. These people come to work every day, and yes, perhaps fill out reams of paperwork. They put in long, ridiculous hours. They work their asses off to help make other people’s lives at least a little bit better.

It’s not just empty paperwork. It’s paperwork that is a means to an end.

The lending department enables other human beings to accomplish their dreams on a daily basis. Do you see the huge distinction here? They’re helping people, day after day, accomplish something that’s a big deal to them. They’re consolidating debt to make it more manageable. They’re getting a new car or boat. They’re finally purchasing their first home. After saving for years, they’re buying that retirement condo somewhere warm. The lending department isn’t just lending money – they’re fulfilling dreams. Their work matters. It’s more relevant and meaningful than they know.

Obviously this principle applies across departments. Teams and organizations that get this idea will have more passionately engaged employees. It’s actually a huge competitive advantage for your organization when your employees really understand how relevant and meaningful their work is. The question for us all is this: Do they get it? Do they know and clearly understand how meaningful their work is?

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make that connection for our teams sometimes. We have to show them why their work matters and to whom it matters. It’s not just meaningless, mindless work. It contributes to something bigger. It contributes in at least some small way to making the world better.