In March of 2020 it became clear our customer service model was going to need an update. COVID-19 was here, and while our objectives weren’t out the window, the way we delivered them was directly being challenged. We talked a lot about James Clear’s quote,
You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
But the quote mostly focuses on individuals. It takes the lofty, “I want to eat better,” and transforms it into the pragmatic, “I will buy these healthy foods and not those unhealthy foods to keep in my cabinets.” It reminds us how systems ultimately drive outcomes, not the goals we hope to achieve.
What I wish we’d have had at the time was this Brené Brown variation. It makes the “at-work” application so much clearer:
You don’t rise to the level of your aspirational courage, you fall to the level of the systems you have in place that make your culture brave.
Brown puts the aspiration aspect back into each member of the organization’s hands. She implies the systems support the values that support the behaviors. This is a HUGE point.
At the onset of the pandemic, we struggled with “what I have to do” relative to “what WE have to do.” While the goals were the goals, the processes to get there needed a boost. Her quote gives it.
Aspirational courage, to me, means the courage to bring a tough topic to anyone on the org chart. It means giving others space and making sure everyone is heard. It means whatever difficulties we’re wrestling with are assumed valid until proven otherwise.
A brave culture can face a changing world. A less than brave culture will stick to old goals and processes without tackling what makes the new environment… new.
Our organizational systems are as important as our goals. When we are tested, we will fall to the level of the systems we have in place. If those systems give everyone a voice and a way to improve the experience for all involved, crises can become opportunities.
And that’s what we’re here for. To build brave cultures, with smart systems, that enable aspirational and courageous teammates.