What’s Your Cutting Fluid?

Maybe you’ve seen a CNC machine transforming a block of metal into custom rims, robotic arms or works of art. CNC machines are comprised of a lot of parts; the big arm moves the head that houses the bit that whittles away the material sliver by sliver.

That constant work of metal versus metal creates friction and generates an enormous amount of heat. So engineers added another part to the machine. Cutting fluid.

Cutting fluid creates an environment where friction can happen. It keeps all the moving parts cool enough for the real work to happen. Without cutting fluid, the machine parts would easily overheat and no work would be done.

As a part of a team of leaders, heat and friction should be expected. There should be a healthy desire to disturb, unearth, evaluate and refine. But in the midst of all that, what keeps the idea machine from overheating and destroying itself in the process?

Culture is the cutting fluid of any organization. It’s the way that hard work and heavy lifting gets done without disastrous results of hurt feelings, fatigue and disrespect.

Culture makes the tough choices easier to swallow.

Culture makes long hours make sense.

Culture makes opposing views not equate to opposition.

Any place where collaboration happens, the cutting fluid of a healthy culture is essential. So what is the path to a healthy culture? Here’s a short list of things that anyone can do to help pave the way.

  • Critique never becomes critical.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.
  • Laugh louder than you argue.
  • Welcome disagreement. Avoid being disagreeable.
  • Challenges are met with encouragement.
  • Be real about your shortcomings.
  • Be humble with your strengths.

What is your cutting fluid? How do you keep collaboration and the challenge of leading others positive, optimistic and in the context of a healthy culture? Figure this out and you will be able to do the tough stuff without it all blowing up in your face.

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