The value alignment of our employees over time is very similar to water skiing. When skiing within the wake zone, the boat breaks most of the waves making the water really smooth. But once outside the wake zone, you are out on your own feeling the full impact of every single wave in your legs. 


When in alignment with our values, there is very little friction; the work is still hard and demanding, but all the energy is used for forward motion.


When out of alignment, there is so much friction with the process of work, that when piled on top of the actual work, it is extremely exhausting and burn out is inevitable. 


We continue to find as our company grows and evolves, the expression of our values is also growing and evolving. When combined with the continued development of our teammates, at times we can easily find ourselves growing apart and becoming somewhat misaligned. 


When this happens, there is a smallish window of time for courageous communication to get the skier back inside the wake zone before the slippery slope of burnout, performance issues, and frustration ensues ultimately leading to a change of employment.


As the driver of our boat, I have some (ok…a lot) of the responsibility of keeping the skiers inside the wake zone. I grew up going to my grandparents’ lake house with a lot of time out behind the boat. There was nothing more than my Grandpa liked to do, after I may have trash talked just a bit (my family is just a liiittttle competitive), than to hit the turn just right sling-shotting me outside the wake at what seemed like warp speed all the way past the front of the boat…he especially liked to time the turn as some big waves collided with our path…often sending me skipping across the water like a stone. Insert more trash talking, rinse and repeat.


The point being, our actions (or lack thereof) as the driver of our companies and culture, have a very large impact on who stays in alignment cruising along, and who ends up crashing and burning.


We put a huge emphasis on alignment, because we see the impact it has on the productivity and fulfillment of our team. We’ve added, subtracted, and modified many, many things over the years to help keep our skiers inside the wake zone. 


Here are some of the most impactful ways we find to keep our skiers inside the wake zone:

  • Monday Morning Huddle: Wins and Open Book Management KPIs
  • Quarterly All Team Off-Site Retreats: theme, content, and location all connected to drive home the feeling and message we want that quarter
  • Quarterly Lunches: my partner and I meet individually with each employee
  • Consistent Value References: injected into stories and situations the team faces in real-time
  • New Employee Onboarding: Mission/Vision/Value Lunch, develop their go!-Statement
  • After Action Reports: for every major project to identify what went well, what could be even better
  • Monthly Leadership Team Design Days: whole leadership team off-site to work on the business
  • Rock-Star Analyzer: A-players want to work with other A-players; this tool we created holds our leadership team accountable to make sure that happens while highlighting early indicators of misalignment to address before it’s too late
  • Semi-Annual Reviews: each employee completes a pre-review form that includes value-embodiment; the discussion is focused on where they want to go, where we can go together, and what performance it will take to get there…with the constructive feedback and courageous communications happening continually throughout the year
  • Consistency in Words & Actions: we always do our best to say what we are going to do and do what we say we are going to do and use our culture values, and strategy as filtering criteria to make the subjective decisions objective.


Do you have any skiers holding on for dear life as the waves are pounding away on them?

What can you do today to try to guide them back inside the wake zone? 

What rhythms can you establish into your company to prevent them from getting outside as easily/often? 


These are the sorts of questions our leadership team asks ourselves every month during our Design Days, because it takes consistent and constant work to maintain alignment, but the speed and impact generated is definitely worth it.

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