Toast Note - 6 April 2017

I’ve heard two phrases recently that have stuck in my mind and won’t let go.

“Our people are pushing against an open door.”

“It feels like there is a handbrake on everything we do.”

Who says you can’t describe an entire corporate culture in 144 character tweets? The first statement projects a sense of energy and envisions a head-long rush into the future. Granted, it’s possible people are streaming through into a Walmart but it doesn’t matter; They are eager and moving and waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care. The second statement, however, implies a group of folks who just can’t get moving. It’s like there is a big engine full of high performance parts and a leader putting their pedal on the gas but an Andre the Giant like figure has the back fender in a tight grip and won’t let them out of the parking slot.

Of course, what we want to know is why. Why is one group excited, the other frustrated. We could study these groups. We could read the literature. Ask questions… Are there structural impediments to the second group? Is the first group really so certain that they are going to find awesome on the other side of that door and what convinced them? Does one group have shitty leadership and the other a charismatic tour de force? (HINT: Uh yep… that’s clearly one big factor.) As a science experiment, you can’t ask for a better test tube. Both of these groups are at the same company. Same head office. Same rem/rec/reward packages. Same scary future for the industry. Same threatening projects on the horizon. Same this, same that, same the other thing. Yet clearly something is radically different, and I don’t think we can attribute all of the delta to just the leader. More critically, we need to fix that second group because one thing we know for certain… you can’t move an entire company forward if 20% of it is miserable. We’re all on this boat together, and we’ll rise, move, sink, and spin on the same tide.

“If misery loves company, then triumph demands an audience.” ~ Brian Moore