The Undivided Life Blog


Every Little Push Matters in Culture Building

company culture leadership mindset personal development undivided life Mar 11, 2024
The Undivided Life Team

It's easy to get excited about the intentional culture-building concepts we share at Undivided Life, only to be brought back down to the reality of your lack of status or feelings of insignificance at work. You’d love to build the type of personal trust and excitement for shared success that turns your business into a team-based sport and not just a place to get a paycheck, but you haven’t been there very long, or you’re too new to the team, or you don’t believe that upper management shares your desire to humanize the workplace.

Don’t let that voice in your head get in the way of making daily improvements in the small circle of influence that you reach every day. Instead, be inspired by the flywheel concept from Jim Collins’ must-read leadership playbook Good to Great.

Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now, imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing, and after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns ... four ... five ... six ... the flywheel builds up speed ... seven ... eight ... you keep pushing ... nine ... ten ... it builds momentum ... eleven ... twelve ... moving faster with each turn ... twenty ... thirty ... fifty ... a hundred.

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn ... whoosh! ... its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge, heavy disk flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum.

Now, suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?” You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel.

Now, bring this same view of progress into your human relationships. The smallest gestures, the unseen acts of kindness, and the desire to support and promote the good of others all become pushes on the flywheel of your daily life. And to Collins’ point, you won’t likely notice the forward momentum of any single act, but you will begin to see a marked improvement over time. The more dynamic and engaging the team becomes, the more others in your organization will notice the difference and seek to emulate what you have built. The scoreboard becomes the magnet for more momentum forward.

Just as we are called to live an undivided life, these same principles apply to every step of our personal stories. My wife and I were moved to tears in our kitchen this weekend by the words of a stranger who had delivered dinner to our family as part of the meal train that had been set up for our family after our son’s recent brain surgery. In addition to the feast she had prepared, she also attached a note that read:

Dear Schiefelbein Family,

I hope your sweet family is on the mend and you’re able to enjoy baby snuggles in your beautiful new home.

We met several years ago when I was at Mass in the courtyard with my toddler and my newborn. My husband was sick at home, and I was determined to go to mass with the kids. A few months postpartum, I was carrying chairs, a diaper bag, my toddler, who wasn’t walking yet, and pushing my newborn - - trying to get to Mass at a decent time. When I arrived in the courtyard, albeit late, you helped me set up my chairs, you pushed my newborn back and forth in his stroller to calm him down, you let my daughter play with your children’s toys, and you told me that this is a hard season but that it gets so much better. You made the most profound impression on me – an exhausted, maybe even delusional, mom who just needed some Jesus.

Thank you for being His hands and feet for me. Thank you for extending grace and encouragement when I desperately needed it. Thank you for your kindness toward our family.

My wife and I honestly could not recall helping this woman and her children in the courtyard several years ago. However, we were also not surprised by the story she shared because it describes the way in which we seek to live each day and in each encounter. We have been intentional with every push of the flywheel as we attempt to humanize life’s most mundane moments, and the results speak for themselves.

You, too, regardless of your status, title, or tenure, can bring about positive change and humanize your workplace by pushing the flywheel with every act of kindness, large or small.

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