Some Assembly Required

I have a 1969 Mustang coupe named Donna. Actually, I have all the parts of a Mustang. She still needs to be reassembled, which is no easy task. It didn’t take long to take her apart, even allowing for time to take lots of pictures and notes about where everything went. Putting her back together is a much more daunting task.

Winston Churchill said, “To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”

People remember how someone made them feel. They don’t always remember the exact words or actions, but they tend to hold on to the feelings, good or bad. Those feelings accumulate over time. Good feelings add, and bad feelings subtract. More importantly, you do not get to decide how much value a feeling has, the person feeling it does. So, just because you think something you did or said wasn’t that bad, if the other person does, it was.

The accumulation of experiences (feelings) results in relationships. Those experiences are the culture we perceive in a community, so, in a way, culture is transmitted through relationships. The tricky part is that some people have a significant amount of experience with our community, and some have very little.

If someone’s past experiences were mostly good, then there is a high positive value that offsets momentary negative ones. However, if there was a significant negative experience somewhere in the past, they may still have a low or even negative balance and, therefore, little tolerance for additional negatives.

People who are new to our community have little or no experience history, so their current experience tends to be their overall “view.” Someone who joins Kimray in late November and then gets the Christmas gift the first week in December “feels” that Kimray is an awesome place. Someone that joins during an upturn and then finds themselves working overtime several weeks in a row may have a very different opinion.

A leader’s words and actions have a significant impact on the way people feel about their role and relationship with the community. Studies have shown that after pay, the next two highest ranking reasons people leave a job is lack of opportunity and lack of respect. When leadership won’t listen, doesn’t acknowledge people’s dreams and desires, and fails to communicate clear paths for advancement, it shouldn’t be any surprise when people have negative feelings.

If we want to build healthy, thriving, respectful cultures, it is going to take effort. Positive culture requires intentional and thoughtful actions. Let’s be honest here; you can’t fake caring. You must believe in the intrinsic and equal value of everyone to consistently act with care and respect. Over time, you can create something of significant value.

You are going to make some mistakes along the way. The good news is that people are good at determining what someone’s motivation is. You do not have to be perfect; you just have to be consistently moving in the right direction. People will notice and cut you a little slack when you mess up.

Donna will be beautiful when she is finished. Of course, the truth about project cars is that they are never finished. That is also true about cultures and communities. They are never finished. They are always in transition, always becoming. My prayer for you is that 2024 is a year of adding and building with little subtracting and tearing apart. January 1 is just another day, and like every other day, it is an opportunity to do the next right thing and live The Bison Way.