Moving on.

Moving on.

I had an interesting conversation the other day.

It was with someone whose organization had turned on its ear. (Well, no surprises there – right?)

Spirits were low. Downsizings had devastated. The survivors questioned if they wanted to be there anymore.

This person described it as “hopeless” and trending downward – if that’s possible.

But not for the reasons I might have first guessed.

No, the mourning wasn’t so much for the cutbacks – or the increased work demands – or even the uncertainty of the future.

The grief was over the loss of just ONE PERSON.

One person that those left behind considered the cultural backbone of their organization – the spirit, the courage, the moral compass.

Swept away in a tidal wave of change – leaving those still onshore no longer sure they wanted to stay on the island.

Now in the grand scheme of things there’s a pretty good chance the company knew the individual cut was of high caliber – produced results – got things done.

There’s an equally good chance the company did NOT know they were infinitely more important than their title suggested – but they will in due course. 

For some reason that conversation made me think of an experience early in my career – as my family and I hopscotched around the country to fulfill various organizational needs – and my own ambitions.

I was on a house hunting trip – and had found, in my opinion anyway, the perfect home. Beautiful, spaciously appointed, and with the yard we wanted for our sons to play.

My agent – though eager to sell – cautioned me.  “Wrong area,” she said. “You’ll regret it when you have to sell it.”

“Trust me.”

I pushed back. This house had EVERYTHING.

And so, she fell back on the timeless advice all of us have heard before. “The 3 secrets for buying real estate,” she stated matter of factly, “are location, location, and location.”

Despite what I considered to be my better judgment, I finally agreed. We moved on.

Two years later – when we sold the home we eventually decided on  – and garnered a nice profit, my original choice still sat on the market.

Enough said.

I’m involved in a LOT of conversations around “homes” these days – only in my case it involves the displacement of companies – and the “cultural families” most affected.

I’ve described culture in the past as “that thing that happens while we’re all out trying to run a business.”

My decades in industry have taught me a lesson in that regard – it might not be as time tested as the Real Estate Principle but I’ll put it up against it anytime.

The 3 secrets for culture are character, character, and character.

  • Hire people of great character
  • Develop people of great character
  • Retain people of great character


Companies love to talk about culture – to wave the brochures – to place the impeccably worded posters in the hallways.

But the truth is that we really know nothing about a company’s culture until it comes “time to sell” – when crisis comes knocking. That’s when we find how much value has been built – or whether all the appointments are just “window dressing.”

No buyers.

A few years ago the late, great writer, director, producer, and actor Mel Brooks was asked what made his movies so successful – why flics like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles had become iconic.

He paused for a moment and then smiled and said, “Gene Wilder…Gene Wilder…Gene Wilder.”

The same is true for leaders who “build” a great culture.

Most of them know the real truth – it begins and ends with one thing – finding people of character – and then doing everything in your power to keep them. 




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