What do companies celebrate? When looking up the word celebrate, here is what you find in the synonym section: Sanctify, Proclaim, Herald, Trumpet, Spread the Word, Praise, Laud, Glorify, Adore, Crown, Bless, Worship, and Pay Homage. But there is one that really stands out from all the rest – To Make Sacred. Through celebrating something in a consistent, heartfelt and ceremonial way, we make it sacred. That makes the decision of what to celebrate, or what to pay heightened attention to, seem even more important.
Unfortunately, it seems that too many companies make their problems sacred. They spend most of their time focused on competitive problems, operational problems, people problems and economic problems. Problems, it seems, have become the Holy Grail of management. They need to be identified, analyzed and solved so we can move on and identify and analyze yet another set of even thornier problems. On and on it goes until, at the end of our careers, we can look up and count the numbers of pelts hanging on our wall from all the problems we have slain. But there is no doubt what most commonly used problem solving approaches make sacred. They sanctify the problem and glorify the problem solver to such an extent that when many managers are given a blank sheet of paper and asked how to create something new, they too often don’t know where to begin. They’ll ask “What’s the problem I am trying to solve?” even in those white paper moments where there aren’t any problems yet.
By making problems sacred and deserving of most of our attention, we create more of them. There are historic problems, process problems, system problems, people problems, financial problems, unanticipated problems and yes, even potential problems. It’s no wonder that many leaders find their energy waning as their careers progress because there are always more squeaky wheels than there are cans of grease. Living in the world of what’s wrong, what’s about to go wrong and what is still !%&*?@# wrong is not really living at all. So, what are we to do, other than identifying our problem orientation as a problem we need to solve?
Maybe we could make the greatest moments in our company and in our lives sacred instead of the hardest ones. What if we put more time into storytelling than into problem solving? By focusing on those times when we have been great, when we have triumphed over long odds, when we have done the “impossible,” we create a kind of resilience that gives our vibrant cultures the meaning and inspiration needed to rise above problems. Rise all the way to possibility. We remind ourselves of what we have done before and what we will do again. Storytelling can transform the way we see ourselves, our work, and yes, even our problems. It gives us a new context and a vital energy that’s necessary for success even in the midst of failure. In the stories of triumph and success, those within your company can then remember the importance of what they do and why they do it and no matter what they are dealing with, it doesn’t seem nearly as hard anymore. It is in the retelling of our stories that we reconnect with our own sense of resilience, breathing a newfound strength and meaning into our cultures of vibrancy.
So, in this month of celebration, let us rejoice in the inspiring life-affirming stories that make our companies and our involvement in them what we most hoped for.
Let’s make that sacred.