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The Cacophony of Corporate Cadence

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/11/2015 Jeffrey Hayzlett
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Every company has a beat, a pulse, a rhythm called a cadence. Defining that cadence is something I talk about in great detail in my book, "Think Big, Act Bigger." What is the "pulse" of your business? I define cadence as your company's river - its culture and systems. Basically, it is the energy of your business, and just like energy, you can draw on different and alternate resources to power your business; however, you must draw on your own power source. Inspiration can come from a wide number of sources, but don't bother looking through someone else's eyes when it comes to addressing your cadence. When I ask c-suite executives what their companies' cadence is, I get very different responses -- from having pool tables in the office, to being as silent as a library when you walk into an office.
In our company, our cadence is clearly reflected in the way we work. We arrive early, we stay late, we do whatever it takes to get the job done right. Our cadence is reflected in our process, the way we organize our work. We believe in process, ownership and delivering on time - completing what we call the circle of promises. This is our drumbeat.
You Set The Tone
In business, and in life, it's relatively easy to point out our differences, but if you bother to look further, and deeper, we're not all that different. If you can take the nature and name of your company out of your strategic plan, drop someone else's in, and it works the same, what's your difference?
Regardless of what industry you come from, how large or small your company is or how long you've been in business, every business has three points of difference when it comes to its look and feel and thinking and acting bigger: you, your people and your cadence. Of these three, cadence - and the systems and culture that stem from it - gets the shortest shrift but has a deep and disproportionate effect on your employees' morale. Most people leave a company because of a poisonous cadence involving ineffective systems, a culture that makes employees feel undervalued and bad relationships with fellow employees, both peers and superiors. All of these stem from the cadence created and one enormous reason why focusing on this is essential to your company. If your business' cadence isn't entirely reflective of what matters to you, your employees will fail to forge a connection with it and in the end they will leave to seek it elsewhere. You have to set the tone!

Different Doesn't Equal Bad
A company's cadence is different across the board; however, different doesn't mean bad. Sometimes, different is just different - no more, no less. Companies have a diverse look and feel to them and that is obvious the moment you walk into someone else's workplace. For example, the day I interviewed Greg Glassman, Founder and CEO of CrossFit at their Santa Cruz, California headquarters, he came in wearing a t-shirt with a Pablo Picasso drawing of a naked woman. That said everything about his personality, reflected his status as a rebel within the fitness industry, and captured the cadence of the company. CrossFit may not be traditional in its thinking, but a company does not have to be contrarian to have a genuine cadence that reflects the brand. I was blown-away, not only because it was so different from everything I had previously experienced in the c-suite, but because it reaffirmed the reward of a company's individuality that made them think and act bigger.
Another example is Dunkin Donuts, a $9 billion company that felt familiar to me in the way they looked and felt. It was the kind of culture I was used to as a member of the c-suite, but what set it apart from all the other companies I had encountered was their realization they were in the business of growing their franchisees' businesses, which generated the majority of the brand's income. As a result, their corporate officers arrived bright and early, just like their bakers and franchisees and long before the morning rush, to crunch numbers from the day before in order to get up to speed with the needs of their franchisees. Their cadence clearly reflected the look and feel of the brand. So whatever your company's cadence is, just remember that it has to reflect your values and culture and it's perfectly OK to be radically different from everyone else out there.

Develop Your Own Flow
Every business draws its energy from its cadence. You must develop and focus this flow as it supports and guides you through the process of thinking big and acting bigger. To develop the right cadence, start by ensuring your look and feel is genuinely yours. Here are some key concepts of how you can use your own cadence:
•You don't need a particular feel for something to work - as long as it works for who you are and you are in control
•Everyone who works for you must feel and buy into your cadence - including you as a leader
•Your systems are connected to your authenticity in thinking and acting bigger because they keep your company accountable and authentic
Keep in mind that cadence doesn't happen overnight. You must start by defining yourself first. You can't define your business if you don't know what you're all about. No business is unique so you have to find out what works for you. Looking elsewhere for inspiration is OK, but don't get caught up in what others are doing. In order to think big and act bigger, you need to believe first that you CAN in fact think big and act bigger. It all starts at the top, if you believe you can, your team will follow and believe that they can, too. In this instance, you dance to the beat of your own drum, just make sure there's a rhythm to your beat, otherwise, you're just making noise. I already told you what my company's cadence is, what's yours?

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