The Main Thing, is to Keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing.

Posted on January 13, 2015

OK, I did it. I posted an overused motivational quote in a cheap attempt to capture your attention. I am sure you have one of those inspirational posters in your head now….oh the shame, I feel so cheesy.

The fact is, truth exists within these statements. As we prepared for 2015, our leadership group went through the process of establishing our Top 5. These are the items that should align our calendar with our Company Vision, Mission and 2015 goals and should be where we are spending the majority of our day. These are the main things.

Establishing your own Top 5 is a tremendous exercise for everyone to go through personally and professionally. The process helps illuminate gaps in your life, creates a very high level of accountability and fosters teamwork (now you see the poster with the Crew team in their scull don’t you).

Teamwork Banner

During our town halls, we will share with you more in depth the details around these goals but I wanted to touch base on the priority that I have established as my #1 effort, our culture.

Frankly, even as I think about it, it is somewhat of a daunting priority to establish. How does one affect the culture, how do you measure success? In fact, even attempting to measure it diminishes it somewhat doesn’t it?

“This month, I am pleased to report we said thank you 900 times, up 15% from last month, great job everyone…Thank You (901).”

Certainly there are tactical items we need to accomplish as part of our culture. Our town halls, these blogs, our updates and internal communications. These are critical to our effort as we communicate the main things, but ultimately, and I unashamedly steal this from a note I received from our newest partner, “the culture must be experienced to truly understand it”. CEO’s and leaders all talk about great cultures. There isn’t a company on the planet that says “come join us, you will make a lot of money and our culture really stinks.” They all establish it as a top priority but you can tell when it is out of sync can’t you? We have all worked for or been a part of organizations or sports teams when what they hold up as their truest value doesn’t jive with what happens day to day. Those groups don’t last, they lose, or they are vacant places to be a part of.

I believe that in order for us to accomplish our goals annually, to achieve our mission of making the world a better place, and to see our 2020 Vision become a reality, our culture has to thrive, it has to grow, it has to be the main thing.

Think about it this way in terms of alignment. If our culture is one that honors customer service and treating the needs of others as our own, than that is what we will do. If it honors performance and entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity in the pursuit of new business and serving our clients, than that is what we will do. If we openly talk about grace and growing from our mistakes and we practice a culture of forgiveness while we pursue excellence, then that is a place that will develop a character that we will all be proud of.

But what about a culture that thinks about what it looks like when we fail.

For instance -

What about when as leaders we lose perspective or have a bad day.

What about when we treat each other poorly.

What about when we treat subordinates, vendors, or our service providers like their needs don’t matter because we are the customer.

Well the fact is, that is the human condition.

“Don’t say “nobody is perfect” and then act shocked when nobody is perfect!”

This does not change the fact, nor is it out of alignment, that we must create an organization that does not accept that type of behavior, it is just naïve to think it won’t occur. I know that I have violated each one of these at some point in my career.

But I want to go on record, the caring for and communicating of our culture will be my top priority. We will know if it is successful if our company is wildly successful on all levels this year. We need to be frank about this as well, we can’t have a fantastic culture and not perform, in fact, as we think back to our Mission and Vision, extraordinary performance is the key aspect.

So as we all think about our culture as our top priority, I am laying down the gauntlet.

I will be playing close attention to our culture but I will be looking in the mirror first and longest.

We will have to put in the effort this year, but our leaders should lead the way.

We have to be resolute, and disciplined, and open to constructive counsel and we must get better, but grace should abound and effort penalties are OK. We can't accept fatal flaws like breaching our fiduciary responsibility or habitual poor behavior.

Our customers, investors and owners needs must be our own needs, but they will respond to us if we have fun while we outwork the competition.

A measurement, a test of authenticity in any belief that I believe is important is my family. If the elements of our culture that are important to us are worthy they should be applicable in all phases of my life. I know they are right because I want to teach them to my children. I know they are right because when I have failed my family, when I have reached the apex of hypocrisy, I have usually violated one of them. I know they are right because I know what it feels like when I experience them.

So here is to the Main Thing. Put some time into figuring out your main thing within your personal life and within your work life. If you get it right it is amazing how everything else falls into place.

Postscript Thought: Over the weekend, the notion of our main thing “making the needs of others (customers, associates, partners, owners) our own” followed me into my home life. I was shaken by how hard this can be, that even with my family I can be very selfish with my own needs, even when pursuing good things. “Why” we must do this is the motivation and the subject of a future blog but the pursuit of the needs of others is a worthy pursuit and it is a hard one. More to discuss later.

Paul Ellis
Written by Paul Ellis
Group President of CNL Commercial Real Estate 

CNL Commercial Real Estate is comprised of passionate individuals that love what they do. While our blog will primarily be directed towards our internal team, we hope that it gives those that we care about most, our customers, associates, partners and friends a look inside our culture and will give everyone a better understanding why we do what we do.