Culture is one of those weird things that can mean everything and nothing all at the same time. We can’t always see it but can definitely feel it. And, the impact of a healthy culture is sometimes more complicated to describe than a toxic culture.

So, how and where can we gauge the health of our organizations’ cultures? A chat with my husband a couple of weeks ago reminded me that a simple observation can give a quick pulse on it.

My husband borrowed my car for the day. He arrived a little early and waited for me in the parking lot. When I opened the door, he had a puzzled look on his face. He asked, “what in the world happens in there all day?!”

My response was something like, “uhh, work…” Nothing from the scene around me seemed surprising because it was just the norm.

But, to him, it was something surprising. He went on to describe the stark difference in the end-of-the-day parking lot experiences from business to business. At other places, he’s seen a stream of people rushing from the building at 5:00:01 pm, unable to get out of the building and into their cars fast enough. Almost like they’re running from a fire!

What he noticed was that this particular parking lot scene was much different. As people trickled out from the building, they strolled through their cars, and numerous people lingered to chat at other team member’s cars. They had smiles on their faces and weren’t in any particular rush to leave.

While there are many different ways to gauge the health of your organization’s culture, remember that sometimes just taking note of what’s happening around us, like “the end of the day (parking lot) experience,” can tell us so much! I can’t encourage you enough to step back and watch your surroundings. Observe the scenes at the end of a shift as people clock out head to the parking lot at the end of the day. Watch how they interact with each other as they walk through the hallways. Is it warm and connected or cold and distant?

And, from there, the work begins! Ask yourself, what kind of a leader am I that my team is ______________? Sometimes we get so caught up in the big things when the little things significantly impact our culture. The smiles, the laughs, the passing conversations, the humanness!

Let’s work together to build places where people thrive in connection to one another.

Cheers to setting positive cultures that lead to happy parking lots!

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