Do You Have A Kudzu Kulture?

In  the southeast US, there is a lot of green on a drive through the countryside this time of year.

Lots of crops. Tobacco in Kentucky, cotton in the deep south, corn and soy everywhere. There are pine trees lining many highways, beautiful old live oaks along the gulf coast, and crepe myrtle decorating highways and homes all over.

And then there is kudzu.

The kudzu vine overtakes everything. What lies beneath?

The picture in this post is an example of what kudzu looks like when it takes over other growth, which is exactly what it does. It competes for nutrients in the soil like all plants do, but kudzu also competes for sunlight by overtaking all the surrounding vegetation and leaving them in the dark. It’s green and lush and it makes for interesting shapes along the highway, but it smothers everything underneath.

In the workplace, I consider some cultures to be kudzu cultures. These are the environments where the owner or the leadership take so much control over everything that it stifles innovation. Employees must look like them, act like them and think like them. Then they lose all the capability underneath this shroud they build around them.

A friend I know was in one of these cultures. He led the customer service unit of a family owned business of about 50 people. He asked me how he could let them know he was willing to do more, that he could add more value to the organization. We talked about establishing call center metrics. How quickly problems were solved, how many solved on the first call, and other basics. He then went to his boss about how he was going to look at that as a way to improve productivity on his team. The response: We’re not in the customer service business.

In the kudzu environment they knew he could do more but wanted him to stay under their blanket, because if he started to grow on his own, he would likely leave. Which, of course, he did.

Does your culture shield employees in the name of family,only to stifle their growth? Do you know what lies within?

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