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Same Place, Different Experience

By Joey Havens

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My brother Mike and I host the Havens Beach Retreat in Perdido/Orange Beach, AL, every year. We bring our wives, Mom and Pop Joe, my sister Mitzi and her husband, the kids and their spouses, and the grandkids, all of who number around 43. It’s a great time to celebrate family, connect and enjoy so many blessings we have as a family.  

You don’t take 43 people out to dinner every night, so we have planned meals that Mike and I mostly prepare and serve. Tonight is our hamburger/hot dog social. I am grilling the hamburgers and hot dogs while and Mike appears to be socializing under the umbrella by the pool. (Just saying.) 

The grill is scorching hot, and I have about 20 burgers cooking. I know the smoke and divine smell of the burgers are killing the other people at the resort pool and the nearby beach. (That’s a secret pleasure of anyone who loves to grill — teasing the neighbors with the aroma.) 

I reach for my pan, sitting on the metal shelf connected to the big grill, to take off some of the burgers. As my fingers grasp the outer edge, I hear myself yell as the hot metal tells me to let go and quickly. At the same time, I hear a lady standing next to me screaming. My immediate panicked thought is that I have burned her, too. She is just five feet from me and drowned out my scream with hers.    

I soon realize she is coming off the beach and has turned on the water to wash off the sand. The water from the hose is so cold that it will take your breath away. Obviously, it caught her by surprise! We are standing so close we can shake hands, I screamed when I burned myself, and she screamed louder because of the cold water.  

Two very different experiences, literally standing within five feet of each other. What leadership lesson do we find today besides the humor of my panicked thought and my absent-minded cooking skills?   

This reminds me of many of our workplace cultures today. Team members live very different work experiences even though they may work in the same office, on the same floor, or the same team. These differences come from a variety of reasons and sources.  

In my book, Leading with Significance, I share where some team members, particularly women and other under-represented groups, had different workplace experiences than many others. Our surveys and team member discussions revealed these different and inconsistent experiences were more than sex and race. Other differences included generation and age, which specific office they worked in, and what team they were on. The most inconsistent experience was who their immediate leader was.  

Any workplace culture that wants to be great, be magnetic, and support high performance must start with understanding and embracing the reality of the consistencies and inconsistencies of the actual experiences of team members. 

We can never assume that we are having the same experience because we are working closely together. Our story today shows how different our experiences can be.

It’s not about how good we are; it’s all about how good we can be. #beBetter

CeCe, the burgers are ready! Please ask Mike to come over and help serve.     

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