I was in Cleveland, Ohio, facilitating a leadership program at the beautiful Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Although late October, the temperature outside was already lower than the numeric date on the calendar. One step into the frigid air, and I quickly decided that room service and a movie would be my entertainment for the evening.
Perusing the cable options, I happened upon August Rush at the precise moment the voice over states “all you have to do is open yourself up”.
Intrigued, I settled in to watch this movie about:
A young-orphaned boy (played by Freddie Highmore) who happens to be a musical prodigy, a savant-like genius. He dreams of finding his parents and believes that music is the intuitive connection that will bring them together.
He follows the music and runs away to New York City, where he meets Wizard (played by the late, but always magnificent Robin Williams), who bestows upon him the stage name of August Rush.
August becomes a street performer, enrolls in Julliard, composes a triumphant rhapsody, performs it in Central Park, where he is ultimately reunited with his mother and father (the stunningly beautiful Keri Russell and charming Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who also happen to be accomplished musicians.
Oops . . . spoiler alert. Sorry.
This was pure fantasy, an admitted fairy-tale from the opening note and I loved every minute of it. There I sat, surrounded by two glasses of Cabernet and a Grilled Chicken Sandwich, watching until the final credits rolled, wiping away the tears as day turned slowly into night.
A thought lingered hard.
There was an exchange between August and Wizard as they gazed into the night sky through the smashed atrium of what once was the Fillmore East Theatre . . . a fixture in musical lore from decades past.
August hears music in everything around him, the wind blowing through the tall grass, a basketball bouncing, the tinkling of ice in a glass. He begins to question where the music comes from.
Wizard shares his belief in music as an overtone, an invisible wavelength that you tune into, one you must “ride” or else you’ll never be able to hear it.
“So only some of us can hear it?’, asks August, referring to the music.
Wizard responds: “Only some of us are listening”.
Filtering on the Flight Home
I continued to chew on that exchange during my flight home. Perched in a window seat, with several hours of travel ahead of me, it was a perfect time for reflection.
There was something familiar in the description of an invisible overtone that you must be in tune with to hear and appreciate. Invisible, overtone, in tune . . . culture. That was it.
I quickly scratched out a definition for culture within an organization:
Originating from a Genesis Moment, Culture flows through an organization like an invisible wave, permeating an environment with a collective passion for, and belief in, a greater purpose.
Whew, nice. I then generated three insights to support that definition:
The Big Bang
Every organization has experienced its own “Big Bang”, a moment when one person, perhaps a group of individuals, had a collective thought, then created something amazing through their passions and beliefs. From this moment on, traces of that original spirit and enthusiasm continue to influence the growth, development, expansion, and overall functioning of the business and its people.
Witness the birth of an Organization’s Culture.
The overtones and harmonic qualities of music are represented through Core Values. These define how both an employee and customer experience should look, sound, and most important . . . feel. Not to be confused with “like-mindedness” within a Culture, everyone must remain aligned with and committed to the overall purpose, the holistic intent behind these Values.
To be truly “in tune”, it is critical to understand how you specifically and individually contribute to the ultimate aspirations of the team.
Successful Cultures embrace and encourage innovation, as practical applications will change over time.
Even in the movie, August started out banging on everyday household items to recreate the music he heard in his head. In the end, those sounds are recreated through the New York Philharmonic.
I took a deep breath. By the time the Captain announced our final decent, I was packing a Culture Model that applied to any business, large or small.
Your Passion Is All Around You
There is a familiar quality among artisans. As a Chef, you search for new depths of flavor. A musician will search for depth of sound and emotion. For a Learning and Development professional, yours is a constant, unwavering search for depth of expression; new, innovative ways to communicate and inspire.
So, although happy with my progress, I was far from content. My attention turned to a more practical description for the purpose Culture serves in an organization:
The Culture of an organization is a tool, a framework to guide strategic thought and direction. It provides an overall purpose capable of inspiring incredible levels of individual performance and achievement.
Better, perhaps even luscious. I continued along that path:
- A Culture is only as strong as the people who believe in it, who are living it day-to-day.
- The right people, with the right blend of knowledge, emotion, and desire, fulfill the promise of an organization.
- People are the passion behind the purpose.
Where are these people? Everywhere.
I began to understand what was in front of me. The words “only some of us can hear, only some of us are listening” resonated with my strong belief that there is passion within every human being on the planet. Some may express it differently, it may seem misguided at times, but it is still passion.
This renewed awareness led to paraphrasing a line from the movie:
Your passion is all around you. All you have to do is listen. Then follow it.Tweet
Passion speaks to us through intuition. It is an inner voice that transmits a harmonic blend of emotion and desire from your heart to your brain, bringing the subconscious into conscious, being capable of guiding actions . . . or not. There is an element of choice involved.
Our concept of hearing, then listening to that inner voice began to make more sense. I continued to seek clarity between connecting to your passion, and the purpose of a Culture within an organization. Having clicked some of the previous tumblers into place, unlocking this answer was easy:
When your inner voice and the culture of an organization speak the same language, a harmonic, loyal, and trusting relationship will result. You become the passion behind the purpose.
How can you identify the native language of an organization, to ensure it is one you are fluent in? A great place to begin is with their story, researching the history of the organization, their “Big Bang” that continues to influence business function and future development.
Other times, trusting your inner voice results in being in the right place, at the right time.
When I joined the Marriott organization, I had no intention of pursuing an extended career in the Hotel and Lodging Industry. My initial connection was to the impact of a new hotel on the community. Reading the press release, it was clear the project would be a game-changer, the foundation for development that would benefit everyone in the area.
Once on-board, I learned the story behind the organization. A husband and wife invested everything they owned in pursuit of a dream. I had lived that experience, too. As I listened to the founders describe a desire to make people feel welcome, and among friends, my jaw dropped open. When one of the Core Values was defined as service to the community, I got chills.
Mine was a clear and solid connection from Day One. We were speaking the same language, one which I continued to speak with passion and commitment for years. I never once grew tired of promoting the promise and potential of every associate, a perpetual source of encouragement to experience life to the fullest. Which included, if it was their choice, the benefits of the organization’s Culture and Core Values.
All because I sensed my passion, listened to it, and then followed it.
Following Your Passion
The current pandemic represents contradiction on the grandest scale.
On one hand, many of us have been granted the gift of time, an opportunity to slow down, listen to and connect with our true passion. Unfortunately, many positions across multiple industries have either been put on hold or eliminated altogether. Fulfilling the quest to follow your passion has become incredibly difficult.
This is a time when you gotta do what you gotta do. It tears me up to hear stories of individuals submitting hundreds of applications out of desperation. Take care of yourself, and your loved ones the best way you can.
Then, continue to look for the positives in the situation you are currently in. Adversity is opportunity, so you just might tap into something exciting and a great cultural fit for you. You may be speaking a common language already.
A final reference to our subject movie is that August Rush had a higher purpose in mind when wanting to play music. He thought if he played for as many people as possible, two would turn out to be his parents. Once they heard his music, they would know it was him.
Keep connected to the passions you have identified with a higher purpose. Listen to your intuition, that inner voice. Then take action. Have the courage to stretch, to capitalize on unique talents to justify your pursuit.
Remember your passions are all around you, “all you have to do is listen”.
Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!