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leadingIn(tech)#16: Small things, Done well. Part III.2; The Guard and The Culture Creek
Hi there! 👋🏽
This week’s issue is a continuation of the series dedicated to The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well by Michael Lopp. The third part of the book is dedicated to executives and, as mentioned in the previous issue of this series, is especially useful for leaders landing in a new company with an existing team. In this issue, I’ll cover two chapters dedicated to company culture. The first is about how as the company grows, you can often identify the formation of two groups of people; the old guard and the new guard. The second chapter is about how the company culture is formed by the everyday actions of these groups of people working together.
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Part III: For Executives
If you are an executive that joins a start-up company that has been running for a while and starts to scale, you will find that usually, two groups of people can be identified; The Old Guard and the New Guard.
The Old Guard is formed by the company's early employees who have been there since the beginning of the times; they have been long enough to remember how and why things are the way they are. These people have built a bonding over time due to creating and failing together. They look up to each other and seem to have the superpower to fix things fast when they break.
The New Guard is everyone else that arrives at the company after the first group. You can find them both in an awe state and a helpless state. They are inspired by the work done so far by the old guard but also can feel overwhelmed by not fully understanding how things work and why they were done that way. They bring new energy and new eyes.
Old Guard: “I feel empowered to fix everything.”
New Guard: “I don’t know how to fix anything.”
Now, these two groups don’t know each other well enough. They don’t have shared experiences and haven’t built the same level of trust that the old guard did.
As a leader, you will have a mission to help build that new layer of trust. Your focus should be to create the environment and context where you can get these individuals to join their forces and use the first group's experience and the latter's fresh eyes to build The Guard.
🛡️ The Guard: A team who works together while learning better ways of building things and trust with each other.
The Culture Creek
What is the company culture? It’s not a set of sentences or words someone decided to paint on the walls and in a group of slides. The culture is formed like a creek, parting from an initial set of conditions where the water starts flowing.
Everything that happens afterward is a result of its beginnings and evolves from there. When you put together a group of people, the culture is formed by the stories that matter to them, the stories that are told when similar situations arise.
As a leader, your mission is to be a guardian of the culture, to pay attention to and remove obstacles that prevent the water from flowing its course. You won’t be able to change the course of how the culture is defined, but you can help by keeping it clean.