Eradicating Cancer In Your Business Culture

October 6, 2015

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This past weekend I attended the Strategies Team Based Pay Conference in Chicago. It was a rare treat for me because this time, I was able to attend as a participant which allowed me to soak up all the great content created by my Strategies’ colleagues and mentors.
While all the presentations had powerful messages, one presentation given by Certified Strategies Coach Kristin Stutz titled “Eradicating The Cancer In Your Culture” really had an impact on me. What was especially insightful was when she asked the audience what cancer looks like in their company. For me, my brain went straight to people. You know, the team members in your culture who are the “cancers”. The ones that spew negativity and cause problems and create an incredible amount of drag instead of lift. As I looked around the room to see how others would answer Kristin’s question, I heard people say things like “Too Much Debt!”, “Low Productivity!”, “No systems!” and “Staff Turnover!”.
That’s when it hit me. Just like there are many types of cancers that invade different parts of your body, there are different types of cancers that invade different parts of your company. Hashtag “Light Bulb”! While the theme of Kristin’s presentation centered around culture, I couldn’t help but think about the areas in my own company that are under attack from cancer. With three locations, each of my locations have different types of cancers that need treatment. In one location it’s productivity, in another it’s definitely a negative team member, in another its lower rebooking. Kristin’s use of the cancer and treatment metaphor and the similarities of dealing with challenges in our business was genius.


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Shit happens. We all have problems in our business. As leaders, the first thing we have to recognize is that if we don’t like whatever it is going on in our company, guess what, it happened on our watch. Kristin challenged the conference attendees to think about how fast their companies could grow if their biggest compromise wasn’t in the way. The longer we compromise, the farther the cancer spreads. Negative behaviors can get out of hand real quick, and so can debt. It really doesn’t matter what kind of cancer you’re dealing with. If left alone, it can intoxicate your company fast. Kristin reminded us that change starts at the top.  For me, this was a strong message. It was my signal to wake up and pay attention to all the things I don’t like that is happening in my company. Just like with human life, you have to choose a treatment type. In business, that decision is ultimately for the leader to decide. Does the problem require drastic surgery to remove the cancer or can you apply small doses of chemotherapy over time in hopes of eradicating it?  What are you going to do about the negative team member that is gossiping in the break room? Are you going to schedule a meeting and address the problem head on? What about that credit card balance that just seems to grow. What’s it going to take before you finally sit down and put together your cash flow plan? (If you need help, Strategies can help. Visit Is staff turnover your problem? How are you going to face the music and start working on your culture? What will it take to finally accept that you need to work on a plan to create an environment where people want to stay? These are the decisions that have to start at the top and work their way down throughout the organization.
Lastly, Kristin addressed the issue of prevention. Once we’ve eradicated the cancer, how do we ensure it doesn’t come back? When we become more focused on prevention in our companies, the more difficult task of eradicating it disappears. Practicing No Compromise leadership is the best form of prevention. If your company is sending you distress signals, as the leader you must listen and you must act, and you must act swiftly. Letting things slide only allows the cancer to grow and then ultimately spread across the entire organization. As with human life, waiting too long can be the kiss of death.
So what about you? Are you dealing with cancer in your business right now? If so, please share your thoughts about how you plan to heal your company from this dreadful disease.

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Located in Austin, Texas.

Chris Murphy