The Reign of Normal

Leadership Moment: Dancing in the Rain

I had the distinct experience this Saturday of taking four teenagers to see Taylor Swift at Gillette Stadium. If you’re a Swiftie, you probably already know it was a rain show. For everyone else, that probably evokes images of misery: driving in traffic in the rain, trudging from parking to the stadium in the rain, standing in long lines for merch in the rain, waiting through two opening acts in the rain, and then a three and a half hour show by an increasingly bedraggled Taylor Swift in the pouring rain. You’d imagine the value of this 13-hour experience to be lower in the rain — in Taylor Swift’s words: “This is the rainiest rain show that ever rain showed, ever, ever ever.”

And yet. Taylor Swift and her New England fans embrace the idea of a rain show. The experience was magnified. Wiping the rain off a piano became a moment of joy. A friend texted me, “Really?? I’m so jealous. Taylor is even better in the rain.” What could be a feedback loop of misery between fans and performer instead became a feedback loop of joy. Everyone gained more value from the whole experience, because the out-of-everyone’s-control weather wasn’t just ignored, or tolerated; it was, as a group, embraced collectively.


One Minute Pro Tip: Write the norms

You probably have unwritten “norms” within your organization, related to when people arrive to work, or appear on your chat system, or how they present in meetings. Sometimes, those norms are only loosely enforced, even if they’re causing you aggravation whenever someone (other than you) is violating them. The challenge with unwritten norms is that while you expect them, it isn’t always clear to others, especially if they are only communicated occasionally (and surprisingly).

Start writing them down, but don’t share them yet. After you write down those norms and expectations, ask yourself if they really matter, or if you’d like to take the opportunity to change them. Each one could be a conversation starter with your team, as you discuss things like when to officially start a meeting and whether or not subjects should have written summaries sent in advance of meetings.

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Chapter Cameo: Culture

When I wrote chapter 42 (Invest in maintaining a good culture if you want to keep it), I packed it with some negative anecdotes – the ways to kill off your culture by tolerating negative parts of it – but didn’t necessarily point out as many of the positive ways. A colleague noted that “culture is what you celebrate and what you tolerate,” which is a handy mental reference, and I think the rain show anecdote above is an outlier example … of taking something you had to tolerate (rain at a pre-planned show) and turning it into something you instead celebrate, which puts a more joyful spin on the culture.

Ask A Leader

Leader A asks, How might you suggest incorporating neurodivergent employees into the mix? How do you get work done mixing the likes of ADHD, high functioning geniuses whose people skills sometime fail saving throws, and neurotypicals (does this category still exist?) without serious drama?

Thanks A, and I’m going to start my answer, “With great care,” but that applies to every diverse organization.

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