What a Pokemon Backpack Taught Me About Organizational Culture

It started off as an uneventful morning.  Wake up. Brush teeth. Hustle the kids out the door.  On that day it was my turn to drive my son to school.   He was surprisingly ready and in my car as I was pouring my morning coffee.

My wife Sherri reminded me to grab his Pokeman backpack.  I barely nodded acknowledgement and muttered something about not being as forgetful as she thought.

Yea….. I forgot the backpack.

I could see the school driveway in the distance when I finally made the realization. We were barely on time as it is. I announced to my son:

“Hey bud! I forgot your backpack. No worries though. I’ll drop you off and go back home and bring it to you so you won’t be late.” Easy solution! Win-win, right?

Not so much.

My son suddenly became worried and upset. He talked about how if we walked into the classroom without his backpack (and more importantly the homework folder in it) that he would get in a lot of trouble.

I reminded him that he’d have the backpack in 12 minutes.

He became more upset. “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU DON’T BRING IT IN DAD!”

Maybe I’m a softy. Maybe my son scammed me into an extra twenty-minute round trip journey so he could attend less school that day. I really don’t know.  

25 minutes later, I dropped him off at the office, signed him in as late, and as I drove to my speaking engagement had this realization:

What are we emphasizing that is important to people and what is the effect of that emphasis?

On some level I am sure my son was overreacting but the fear was real. I’ve received the notes about remembering to bring in the backpack and the much prized folder that holds the secrets of the universe. No wonder he was freaked out. 

That day when he got home I tried to walk that fine line of teaching my son to respect the rules and not letting trivial things get to you…..but it was hard.

I thought about my experience working in office culture.  The things that were often emphasized and prized as important.

·        Attendance over engagement

·        Perception over productivity

·        Deadlines over everything else in your universe that can’t wait either

I am not saying things like attendance and meeting deadlines aren’t important. Of course they are. 

As you go back to your organization think about what is emphasized and rewarded in the lived experience. Focus on the actions that occur instead of the rhetoric. What impact does it have on the workplace culture? How do people react? Pay attention to the subtle cues. You will be surprised at what you notice.

A Pokeman backpack and a faulty memory taught me that.

****

Paul Artale is a motivational speaker and organizational culture expert. He is also the author of the book “The 2-Year-Old’s Guide to Work-Life Balance.” For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#leadership #shrm #organizationalculture #management #employees #retention