Dear Human: More Torn than Natalie Imbruglia

Dear Human,

I’m often wrestling with what seems to be an eternal question/challenge, where I’m torn between balancing the commercial demands of generating revenue or investment, and being a punching bag for a client/customer/investor who isn’t ‘culturally aligned’. 

In layman’s terms, how can I implement the no dickheads rule without sacrificing revenue and reputation in the process. Am I standing up for what’s important or just being a prima donna?  

More Torn than Natalie Imbruglia

Dear Torn, 

More torn, in fact, than even the plaintive pop pixie herself. Who was, I think it’s fair to say, damn near shredded in the late nineties on high rotation across every radio station from TripleMMM to 2CH Light & Easy.

So firstly thank you for making me laugh. I spluttered my coffee when I read your question, and even now as I write I’m still chuckling. More often than not it’s quite emotional labour writing Dear Human, as it indeed must be to write such personal questions. 

And not to diminish the weight of your question, Torn, but yes, thanks for the laugh. I wonder how torn you really are about this? We’ll explore what I read into the levity of your language later. 

Back to Natalie for a moment, since you took us there. 

Not many pop artists manage to cross over genres. Sure, her relationship with Daniel Johns gave her a bit of rock cred later on, but Natalie earned her own airwave dominance with Torn, if memory serves.

More often when you try to stand for all things, to please everyone, you end up leaving everyone mildly unsatisfied, and the best you can hope for is to be inoffensive across the board.

There’s something in that for us here. 

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years. Back with Vinomofo, we used to talk about it a lot with the customer team. We thought about it a lot when hiring, and certainly when firing. We agonised over it when looking for investors.

Here’s the thing. Culture is not what you want it to be, it’s the sum of the people and their behaviour. 

If you want to create a culture that stands for something, like “no dickheads”, it’s hard to pull off with dickheads, right? So simple. Don’t bring any dickheads on board. 

Except when they’re paying you. Or making you money. 

No. No exceptions. 

Sure, it might feel like you “sacrifice” a bit of revenue or investment in the short term, but you have to let go of that, it really does have to be absolute, because inviting that sort of rot into your culture not only costs you in the long term, you and your non-dickhead team deserve better. 

As for your reputation – I dare say that’s in more danger from culture rot than from someone getting upset because you’re not for them. 

You get to choose the kind of company you want to build. You get to choose the life you want. Doesn’t always work out, but you get to choose. 

And why would you choose to have to work with or deal with people you don’t respect or even like? I know many people do, and they chalk it up to “business, not personal”, but it is personal, of course it is! It’s human connection.

And it’s such a pleasure to be part of a good culture.

I do invite you to be human in your communication with these so-called “dickheads”. Often enough, they’ve got their filters up, and are hiding some sort of vulnerability or insecurity. Maybe they’re just looking for permission to be more human?

You never know.

But I can’t leave you without pointing out the fact that you seem to be waging a bit of a war with yourself. 

You want to stand up for what’s important, that’s clear. But you’re conditioned, like so many of us are, to think that you maybe should just harden up a bit and get on with business.

You have a front. It’s witty and it’s jovial, but I can’t help but feel that there’s a little plaintive pixie wail in there asking for permission to be more human. To be a better human. Your best human.

You seem like a good person. Don’t be afraid to lead in the right way. Don’t be afraid to stand by your values. There’s nothing prima donna about it. I think you’ll find if you’re open about all of this and you share it with your team, your customers and your investors, they’ll respect you for it. They’ll want to be part of it.

And you’ll be giving them permission to stand for the things they believe in.

I thought I saw a man brought to life

He was warm, he came around like he was dignified

He showed me what it was to cry

That’s leadership.

Human. x

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