May 16, 2022

A new start. A fresh beginning.

Ahh. The birds of spring.

I hear them chirp when I wake up in the morning.

It’s the beautiful sound of simplicity. 

A new start. A fresh beginning.

Regrets from our past or fears about our future can creep into our minds and sap our boldness, but there's something about spring that speaks to us: “Change is possible.”

Change is always possible.

But the negative impact of an unhealthy culture can be impossible to overcome if you stay in it too long. 

Most people can analyze their bad decisions and explain why they happen. But few people analyze the impact a negative culture has on their mindset, habits, and outcomes.

It's like trying to eat healthy on your lunch break while working in a fast food restaurant. You intend to bring avocado toast from home, but when the nuggets and fries are free and made for you, how can you resist? The environment you are in has a bigger impact on your habits and outcomes than your intentions.

Change is possible, but it’s only sustainable in healthy environments.

There are two critical elements that define healthy environments as they respond to change.

  1. They are ready for change.
  2. They are committed to change.

Unhealthy environments have one, but not the other. The worst have neither.

There are three types of unhealthy environments to be on the lookout for.

The first is like a circus.

They fill the tent with big personalities and attention-grabbing acts. After all, tickets must be sold.

It’s exciting at first, but slowly it loses relevance.

It doesn’t adapt to today’s world.

It doesn’t upgrade the mission or the team.

The routines are no longer effective.

The show must go on, but everyone is just going through the motions.

One day, you look up and tumbleweeds are blowing through.

What started out as exciting turns to depressing.

Tickets are no longer being sold.

Circus environments are not ready for what comes next and they aren’t committed to change. 

If you want to stay relevant and have an impact in the world, eventually you have to leave the circus.

The second type of unhealthy environment is like a hot air balloon.

There is inspiration and vision. Hopes are high and dreams are born.

New ideas are shared with gusto. New actions are taken with courage.

They are ready for change.

But there is no commitment to it.

There’s no focus when things don’t go as planned.

There’s no resilience to pivot, iterate, adapt, or adjust when the winds shift.

What puffs up the organization eventually deflates it.

What goes up, will come down.

Hot air balloon environments are exciting, but they aren’t steady.

Healthy environments are steady and ascending into a vision, and they build infrastructure that maintains their progress while they explore new territory.

In the ninth grade I was in a hot air balloon race. Our balloon caught a downshift of wind. The pilot yelled, "Grab a post! We’re going down!" And we dropped into a field and the basket went sideways while we were drug through the soil.

If you want to sustain your impact, you have to leave hot air balloon environments.

The third type of an unhealthy environment is like a leaky ship.

They are committed to a chosen direction. 

They are aiming to go somewhere and have the focus to get there. 

They value consistency and will weather all storms to get where they intend to go.

They appear to be unstoppable, but there’s a leak underneath the surface.

Something is being ignored or tolerated. 

Maybe there is condemning data they refuse to acknowledge or accept. 

Maybe there are hidden self-sabotaging behaviors or a lack of maturity on the leadership team.

Whatever it is, no amount of effort will overcome the leak.

Their commitment to change will not make up for their lack of readiness.

They will sink.

The hustle and discipline of the leaky ship can shape you in a good way. 

Over time, though, if you want to be the most effective version of yourself and leverage your impact, you will have to leave.

Circus cultures are neither ready for or committed to change.

Hot air balloon cultures are ready for change, but not committed to it.

Leaky ship cultures are committed to it, but not ready.

So, how do you know which type of environment you are in?

You don’t do it by dissecting all of the negative attributes of your team.

You do it by learning a positive model of healthy and growing cultures.

It’s a model that you can apply to yourself as an individual and to your entire organization.

That model is: Be the tree.

Individuals and organizations that are ready and committed to making the necessary changes for growth are like a tree.

They don’t go through the motions like the circus.

They intentionally change with each season.

Real growth is occurring.

They’re not unsteady like a hot air balloon.

The root structure is continually developing.

The tree goes deep while it grows up.

And they’re not avoiding problems like a leaky ship.

Every storm the tree experiences becomes a part of its story as it adapts and cooperates with what’s unfolding.

Can you hear the birds chirping?

New starts are possible every day and every moment.

Healthy leaders and healthy growth cultures have a deep root system. They are secure in who they are and embrace being the tree to find inspiration to grow through all their circumstances.

Be the tree.

And work in healthy tree environments.

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