How Cadences Create Your Culture


Despite the strain, I love the predictability of the events that mark this time of year:

  • Thanksgiving Day football and the family meal that follows
  • Faith holidays (For me it’s Advent, our annual tree cutting, the annual holiday card and Christmas.)
  • Year-end financials and planning for next year
  • The annual Dale Carnegie Convention

These and other predictable events anchor me culturally, spiritually, economically and strategically. Having them on my calendar ensures that I do the most important things to drive value and build relationships.

Perhaps as a result of having gone to college and church together—not to mention the fact that we married sisters—my business partner Scotty and I have developed a shared appreciation for these routines. We refer to them as “cadences.”

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We love publishing our annual document listing all of our company cadences. Besides company holidays, we commit to weekly team meetings, bi-weekly 1-1 meetings, monthly training meetings, quarterly strategy meetings and annual planning meetings.

Each of these meetings has key agenda items. Individual and small group meetings invariably include time to connect and build trust, while larger meetings make time for celebration and communication. There’s a tempo and a rhythm that build expectation. Our company has come to expect, for example, that we’ll go to dinner together on the second-to-last night of the annual Dale Carnegie Convention and try to do something raucous—our own improv comedy, karaoke, impromptu toasts, dancing.

Of course, all of these cadences can be straining. They cost time and money. And sometimes they become mundane and mechanical. So most aren’t etched in stone; they are fluid. For a while our team carved out weekly time to work “on” the business rather than “in” the business (we called it “Big Friday”). But now we integrate that strategic effort into other meetings.

The strain of cadences is real because life doesn’t want to stop for these predictable events. To keep up with ongoing demands, I’ll work in my hotel room in the evenings at the Dale Carnegie Convention. I’ll buy Christmas gifts on the Internet in spare moments. Dare I admit that I sometimes check email during team and company meetings?

The strain of ongoing demands tempts me to cancel or shorten 1-1 meetings, replace internal meetings with client meetings, and just rush into and out of the cadences.

But then moments happen like our bi-weekly virtual all-company huddle. In that meeting, we begin with spontaneous expressions of appreciation to one another, and we conclude with a few people answering a fun personal question. I often look at the webcam images of my teammates during these moments and think, “I really care about these people. And I’m grateful to be their teammate.”

Those moments define us, whether they are acknowledged consciously or subconsciously, whether they are thoroughly positive or mixed with frustration, whether they surface connection to people, process or strategy. They are the checkpoints of who we are.

In a busy, crazy world, we have to schedule our priorities. It’s so tempting to rush through the checklists and sacrifice connection to what matters most. In fact, sometimes we mindlessly rush through our schedules without realizing that some cadences don’t contribute to the culture/focus/alignment that we desire. Perhaps a resolution for the coming year could be a greater commitment to intentional cadences.

What cadences do you need to add, remove or modify to build the culture, focus and alignment that you desire?

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