On our way through the States, one of the things on my list of ‘to do’s' was to go for a run on the campus of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. I put this on my bucket list sometime in the mid to late nineties. Knowing that we would be just a little more than an hours drive from the campus made it seem like the perfect time to check this off the list. I really don’t know why I’ve always wanted to do this. Part of the reason very likely stemmed from watching the feel-good movie, “Rudy”. The rest, I think, was just hearing about how beautiful this University Campus is. It did not disappoint! In fact I thought that I had high expectations going in and our day on campus surpassed all of those.
The run itself was perfect. I went at about 8:00 in the morning, so campus was sleepy. I found the paths that surrounded the two lakes on campus and followed those. In all, I only ran for a little over 30 minutes but I was thrilled, considering that this was my first run since my knee surgery. I loved every minute of it. No doubt the students that I met, also out for their morning run, wondered who the smiling middle aged woman was who was saying hello to everyone!
The rest of the day Jim and I spent wandering around the beautiful campus. The second highlight of the day for me was the tour of the athletic facilities that we took at 3 in the afternoon. It was on this tour that I began to think about culture, the important role it plays at Notre Dame, and the important, but often overlooked role it plays in our lives.
Notre Dame is steeped in culture. The tone on campus is relaxed but everyone seems to have a purpose. Every single person that we came across was welcoming, pleasant and helpful. Every one. Students, faculty and volunteers all seemed to understand that they were the face of Notre Dame. On the tour, we were able to enter the football team’s locker room. This is storied ground at Notre Dame. Our guide, Don, pointed to the ND logo in the carpet of the locker room and told us that no one, no one, steps on the logo. This has been a tradition for 175 years. It seemed to be just another small, but important part in the culture of respect and pride.
It dawned on me that this kind of culture is what separates good companies from those that are great, good schools from those that are great and good families from those that are great. It made me think about the culture of my family and of the culture in places I have been fortunate to work. In all cases, I have been very lucky to have witnessed and been part of creating places where culture was consciously created and was a positive experience for me.
When you walk in the door of a company (or university or home) it is easy to get a quick feel of the culture there. When care has not been taken to develop a desired culture, the culture forms itself. Many people don’t often think about the culture of their own family. When Jim and I were first married we talked about this. I’m not sure that we used the exact word, ‘culture’; however, we certainly knew that we wanted to create a certain kind of environment in our home. We talked about what kind of hosts we wanted to be when people came to visit. After many of our early visitors left, we talked about what went well and where we wanted to change. These days, we don’t spend much time on this topic. It isn’t that we no longer care, it is simply that we now clearly know how we want guests in our home to feel and we both do our best to make that happen. Similarly, early on, we developed a culture of how we wanted our family to be. We knew that we wanted to be huge support systems for each other. We created a culture where we encouraged and supported each other. We also developed a culture of kindness. When I think of the little time that it took to do this, and the huge rewards from it, I’m glad that we did it.
When I was teaching at Red Deer Lake School, I learned on my very first day, that this school had a culture, that everyone in the building was expected to uphold it, and that it was a culture of respect and pride. New students entering the building quickly found out, from the other students, that not trying was simply not part of the culture in this building. Nor was rudeness or poor sportsmanship. The lessons I learned at Red Deer Lake about the importance of culture, have been a powerful influence in my life.
I have heard about companies where people say they love to work. I would bet quite a bit that this is because the culture in these places is one where people thrive. I have heard of other places, even places where huge salaries are offered, that people walk away from because of the culture.
In each of the places in our lives that we identify with, a culture exists. Not only does it exist, but we each contribute to it.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How am I contributing to the culture of this group?’
Finding the tools you learn in these blogs to be helpful. Contact me today to find out how we can work together to facilitate the change you want.