Words That Work: Hunger
In this post on building a high performance culture I’m adding the word “hunger” to the “words that work” category. Hungry cultures are those that regularly change, risk, and stretch—even while things are going well and all the seas appear calm.
I’ll dig deeper into hunger below; but first, quickly review the strong and weak cultural words below so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards, as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.
Words that work and must be woven into culture
Earn: to acquire through merit.
Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.
Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.
Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.
Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.
Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.
Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.
Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.
Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.
Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.
Commit: to pledge oneself to something.
Prune: to remove what is undesirable.
Wise: having or showing good judgement.
Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.
Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture
Fault: responsibility for failure.
Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.
Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.
Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.
Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.
Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.
Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.
Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.
Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.
Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.
Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).
Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.
Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.
Hunger is defined as an intense desire, a compelling craving.
Note that the definition isn’t limited to merely a “desire or a craving;” intense and compelling are the keys. If something is intense and compelling it moves you, which brings up the key point to this post: you can’t have a hungry culture without hungry people at all levels moving it forward. The challenge is that while you can motivate people—stoke embers that already exist—you cannot make someone hungry by putting the embers of desire within them. Thus, your team members must bring hunger to the table; they must give you something to work with. Hungry people normally have the following traits that make them easier to identify during an interview, or to evaluate the people already within your culture:
- Hungry people have compelling reasons—their “why”—that drives them to excel. Their why may include a range of motivations from buying a nicer car, moving into a bigger home, sending their kids to a private school, helping a sick parent, making a difference in the lives of others, to supporting orphans. People tend to lose their way when they lose their why, and wind up going through the motions as they miss their potential by a mile.
One purpose of an interview is determine just how specific and compelling a job candidate’s why is. This will give keen insight into how self-motivated you can expect them to be.
- Hungry people are rarely stuck in their ways. They change before they have to, enjoy learning and sharing new things, and would rather take a mature risk than defend a safe status quo.
- Hungry people want new responsibilities. They want an opportunity to learn and grow and to expand their skills. They also want increased latitude and discretion to make decisions without having to always check with a higher-up.
- Hungry people are more prone to seek out feedback. They know they need fast, honest, specific feedback to grow.
- Hungry people don’t need as many pep talks. Of course like anyone they appreciate pats on the back, but aren’t dependent on them in order to stay motivated and work hard to reach their goals.
Final note: A culture is in big trouble when the leaders have let complacency nudge out their hunger and begin leading more from the rear, than from the trenches; maintaining, presiding and administering but not having a stretch impact on the team. Frankly, lethargic leaders create lethargic cultures. Hungry leaders build hungry cultures, and more naturally attract those with the like levels of internal motivation necessary to build a great organization.