Today I’d like to explore the topic of culture. Overall, culture is just how people work together. Is it casual? Uptight? Scared? A lot of culture depends on leaders. Berkeley actually did a study on this recently and found that narcissistic leaders infect their organization and cause lasting damage even after they leave – “There’s a colorful saying that the ‘fish rots from the head down’—employees see leaders acting like jerks, and they become jerks, too.”

I think a lot of these culture issues stem from a lack of trust. If you don’t trust your team or your leader then not only will you not share your opinion but you won’t be as encouraged to push the boundaries. I’ve even personally experienced this. One example on the good side is the dynamic on the team I’m on at work. Regularly my boss tells me “If I’m asking too much tell me” or “If I’m saying something stupid feel free to say ‘You’re being stupid'”. I trust my boss and he trusts me – and that means not only do I have a good experience but I also get to innovate and feel fine with failure because I know that at the end of the day my boss trusts me to do a good job with the next thing. On the other end, you have a lot of school projects I’ve been on where you get randomly assigned with people you don’t work well with. There’s not a lot of trust there, and as a result work wasn’t able to be done as efficiently or as well as it could have.

A lot of the pressure for setting goals is on leadership. Setting realistic goals is an important part of this. I know a lot of people who like setting super unrealistic goals and are surprised when they don’t achieve them. I don’t believe in that. A better idea is setting realistic goals and setting stretch goals. That way, you get a few benefits. First, you can have something to achieve. If you can look at something and know you can achieve it, it means you’re more likely to attain the goal. Second, you can still have stretch goals. If you hit the stretch goal, great! Celebrate a little. You had a goal that was higher than baseline and you achieved it. But with super crazy high goals, there’s no way you can achieve it.

A lot of it comes down to your team and how they work together. Sometimes you just need to talk to people and understand how they all work together. Talk directly with people and actively observe. Especially pay attention to how people act in times of crisis or stress. Oftentimes in times of crisis or high stress people will revert to what they know. For example this is why a lot of military/tactical people like to train under stress. You can put on a face all day but things are very different when your mind is under pressure.

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