Using the Words “Around Here” Can Help Create a Vibe

My first boss was fond of saying this: “Most days, we have fun around here.”

The first time I heard him say this was in my job interview. He followed it up with “…and you can’t say that about most jobs.”

It was my first job, so I took his word for it.

He was right, but I think it was due to

the consistency and relentlessness of his message, and the subtle lifting up of our situation.

By using the words “around here”, he was painting a picture of the organization’s atmosphere, culture, or vibe all the time.

This was also a way of controlling the organization’s atmosphere/culture/vibe.

Smart. And, like all smart ideas, worthy of using in other situations.

At the time of this writing, I am the director of the Winterset Senior High School band program.

About six years ago, I started saying variations on “The most important thing we do around here is treat each other with kindness and respect.”

I said it a lot, put it on written communication from time to time, and eventually it stuck.

It caught on for two reasons:

1) It was basically true most of the time for most people.

2) It was a worthy goal that spoke to the needs of the people in the group.

Now, if you visit with any members of the band and ask, “what’s the most important thing we do in band?”, you will always get the answer, “treat each other with kindness and respect.”

It’s not just a slogan;

It’s a touchstone for enforcing community standards, and has a positive impact on our culture.

For example, if Tina lets her rough day get the best of her, and she snaps at Laura, I can say to her, “Hey, Tina – I’m sorry you’re having a bad day, but that’s not how we treat each other around here, no matter what. Is there anything I can do to help you?”

When you add that last part, mean it.

If Tina says, “I need time away from everybody,” give it to her.

This is assuming that it is an isolated behavior. Repeated infractions of “what we do around here” call for a different course of action.

Even things as simple as punctuality or accountability can be put into the culture:

“Say, Dylan, around here, we show up on time. Any reason that you’re late that I need to know about? Are you okay?”

Asking those last two questions indicates that I have faith in Dylan, and I regard his behavior as the exception, not the rule — I’m assuming the best about him.

“Hey Tom, when I ask for a report by noon on Thursday, I usually get it by noon on Thursday. I don’t know about your other experiences, but around here, we respect deadlines. Anything wrong? Anything I need to know about why you didn’t get it in? I want to help…”

So, how do you want things to be done around here?

Voicing those expectations, using those words, can help bring it to life. Try it.

I’ve seen it work. Call, write, or comment if you have a specific situation, and you can’t visualize how this would apply — I’d love to help.

5 Responses

  1. Goldielocks
    | Reply

    The most important thing we do around here, in band, and in general IS treat everyone with kindness and respect

  2. Michael Albarracin
    | Reply

    I am struggling to figure out what my tendencies are get in the way. It is the second semester and the students are “checking out” and not displaying the same level of respect and drive as the first semester. I have been trying to be understanding with their workload and schedules, mixed up rehearsal orders and provided such a wide variety of music so we are not stuck on one or two difficult pieces. I wonder the effect of the overall school community and how much of a lasting difference can be made in one room? It feels like the school population takes a bit of a dive this time of year and I cannot figure out what I am doing or can do to not lose my cool this time of the school year. Help!

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Have you clarified the answer to the question “What is the most important thing we do around here?” If you could sum that up into 2 or 3 phrases, what would they be? That might give direction — sounds like direction is lacking for leader AND others. You get to set it! Once you’ve decided on the “most important thing(s)” – let that guide your words and actions. If it’s about respect and kindness, make sure every word out of your mouth is kind and respectful. Tolerate nothing less from the others in the room. Let it guide all tough decisions.
      And, the easiest way to not lose your cool is this: don’t lose your cool! 🙂 But seriously, talk less, listen more, never speak when angry; tends to help!

  3. Kelly Woodard
    | Reply

    What if you aren’t the boss, and in fact the lowest in the corporate chain? How can you improve moral in other employees, besides setting an example? Can I use “around here” with other cashiers at Hy-Vee?

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Great question! Do start by setting an example. Then, forge a comfortable relationship. A shortcut to this is to always operate at the top two levels of maturity (in another post you’ve likely seen). Then, you can use the phrase.

      Warning: use of the phrase too soon when at the “bottom of the chain” may make you seem bossy, or “too big for your britches.”. Best to sit back and be the best team member possible and surround others with the “way we do things around here.”.

      Thanks for weighing in, Kelly… Good luck.

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