Is Your Culture Big Enough?

Do you know that some fish, including sharks, will grow only to the proportion of the container you keep them in? Seems sort of obvious, but what this means is, depending on the size of the aquarium, you could end up with a mature 7-inch shark.

The literature I read stated that in these situations the fish adapt to the capacity of the environment offered to them. At least that’s a myth that has propagated - that this is a reasonable thing to do.

In researching why fish will mature, but conform to the size of the containers they are housed in, experts say it is due to stunting. The dimensions of the environment they are offered limit their size.

They could grow larger if not confined. This means you are not going to end up with a healthy 7-inch shark that will live a long natural life. One expert even described this as cruel.

Is The Size Of Your Culture Stunting Your Employees?

A colleague recently recounted a story about a meeting with the new CEO at his company. The CEO shared his principles with employees. What the CEO did not do was engage employees about what those principles meant to them and for them in the culture he hoped to establish.

They were not asked how they were interpreting the principles. It appeared the CEO was not interested in a two-way interaction. Essentially the CEO set up the employees to play it safe and literally contain themselves. Employee growth would be limited to the size of the environment he offered.

Do You Want Growth or Do You Want To Be Right?

I have run into leaders who were not interested in a mutual exchange of ideas about principles, expectations or culture. They saw questions as a challenge to their authority or experience or character, or something.

In one case when I suggested that a dialog with employees might bring more clarity and buy-in, well...my suggestion was met with disdain. The leader said it would be coddling employees. He quickly experienced the consequences of his own stunted mindset, thank goodness, and was promptly replaced.

How do you make sure those who look to you for leadership experience a culture big enough to accommodate their growth into healthy individuals, performing at full potential?