It’s not the big resignation – it’s the big reveal

How can a healthy forest or woods help us understand high-level teams and La Grande Démission? A healthy forest has a diversity of tree, shrub, and ground cover species that grow in friendly competition to keep all of them healthy. It is durable and regenerates naturally. However, the biome, or team culture, can be overtaken by a dominant invasive species, such as honeysuckle in the Midwest or kudzu in the South, which stifles diversity and prevents further growth.

In a team, the honeysuckle represents a dominant and uncontrolled personality. Unless culture is clearly defined, it can become defined by this dominant personality. This is where things can go wrong: people disengage or leave, productivity drops, some organizations even fail. Corporate culture is a living energy experienced by everyone who is part of the organization, whether positive or negative.

I see The Great Resignation as a big revelation of those areas of discontent that result from not having the space to be healthy, contribute their best, and provide a path for growth. Much of what I do in my leadership and team development practice is to help teams define or redefine their culture. I call it team building rather than building because it consciously sets the framework for a culture they want. It takes an in-depth look at the desired culture they want to create and creates a structure and tools to maintain it.

Much like eliminating honeysuckle, team development requires ongoing attention and elimination. It’s a long game. How are teams overwhelmed by honeysuckle? Here are a few examples that I have witnessed.

Blockers disguised as High Performers

Some people considered to be high performing individuals can seem invaluable to a team. Sometimes these individuals “block” the performance of others. Blockers don’t invest in helping others grow and almost invisibly hold others back. As the team sets the culture, blockers are revealed and will often go away. I have witnessed the departure of a blocker on several occasions, the performance of the team is rising! If you have a superstar on your team, consider whether they are helping uplift others. Remember that healthy forests are regenerative!

Leadership seems complacent

As an external consultant bound by confidentiality, most of the team members feel quite comfortable sharing with me. What I often find is that people have raised issues with leadership and it seems that leadership is not doing anything. It seems that some unfair things are going on in the team. It takes a lot for many on the team to say something that might sound like a complaint. Sometimes this is due to privacy laws; other times a leader thinks it’s not that bad. When nothing happens, it becomes a pressure cooker for these people. It’s the ultimate honeysuckle – smothering a species that adds value.

Divide the direction

If the leadership above the team is not aligned and respectful of the direct leader / manager of the team and allows others to bypass direct leadership, honeysuckle will prevail. While competing agendas between operations, finance, and human resources are natural and important, they need to have some alignment and cultural respect. If the C suite hasn’t defined its own culture, it’s an invitation to honeysuckle!

Monoculture wins

Start-ups are particularly vulnerable to a honeysuckle crop. By nature, the personalities who come together for a startup are very different from those of a thriving midsize organization. They tend to attract dynamic, dominant and energetic personalities. Just like a rocket, a startup needs a lot of energy to get off the ground. As they settle into day-to-day operations, boredom can set in, triggering destructive conflict. However, I have watched so many times that these energetic people keep hiring people like them! When what they need are diverse talents who are comfortable with the monotonous process of growing up. Startups don’t tend to want to spend resources on something like culture that they can’t see. In the long run, this lack of attention to the costs of culture is very costly. Remember, healthy forests have diversity!

“The Great Reveal” exposes the blind spots of leaders and organizations in their communication, compassion and culture. If you’re going through a big resignation, it’s time to do the much-needed work of identifying and eliminating the honeysuckle in your corporate culture. It is not a one-size-fits-all process; you need to continue to stay close and watch – the honeysuckle will find any opening!

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