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Finding nirvana in company culture

My local yoga studio owner is nothing short of a genius. People will gladly wipe up the sweat of aspiring yogis and mop locker rooms for the sheer pleasure of being around the positive, caring environment of her establishment. Whats more, is that they do it for free!

Well, maybe not free, but in exchange for a yoga class here and there. Think about the beauty of that scenario from the employer's point of view. Not only does she not have to worry about the pile of paperwork associated with payrolled staff, she is also sure to model the values of her business. Community is a big part of her mission; regardless of a client's ability to pay. Here is a cool, hip environment where the shared expectations involve treating each other like the enlightened human beings we are.

Melissa Smith, operating owner of Mantra Yoga and Juice Bar in Carlsbad, shared the secret of their success with me earlier this week. "I can tell pretty quickly if someone is the right fit for Mantra. Employees and clients either understand what we are trying to create here or they don't." It's clear that Melissa has a strong connection to the values of Mantra; Community, Excellence, Integrity, Joy, Learning, Mindfulness. Overall, though, she is not shy about talking about how leading a team with love and healing takes a lot of, well... work.

No matter what euphoria the rest of us may think exists in places of intense care and wellness promotion, yoga studios have their challenges. Egos, transitional workforce, interpersonal conflicts to name a few. Perhaps we can all take a cue from Melissa and her team when it comes to taking time to have difficult converstations or recalibrate our expectations of each other and the way we work together.

"I have had to forget the bad habits I learned in my corporate experience. Instead of focusing on the bottomline, I take time to value the individual employee." She says the mantra of Mantra is Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.

It gives me hope to see a successful small business exemplify such polished ideals in a way that employees, investors and community all benefit. You don't need to model your workplace on Google to show that you value your employees. Maybe the lesson is to spend less time crafting the perfect message-packagaing and more time actually living the values you wish your employees would embody.

"Living healthy, happy and free requires structure", Melissa says. If a yoga instructor desires to start their own venture, Melissa is happy to counsel and advise them. Likewise, if an instructor wants to make a change in their practice but is worried about how clients will react, Melissa encourages them to be authentic to themselves and the clients will come around. "People want a map; a direction. I try to lead and guide them effectively. Sometimes I don't have an agenda. If we all just show up and connect, it's clear where the priorities lie. Then you just need to take time to be human with each other."

Isn't that what we all complain we don't have enough of these days? Time? As Don Phin, Chair at Vistage Worldwide Inc suggested recently, "Consider the consequences of Mindlessness versus Mindfulness next time you want to address your employees. Make a list of what you could expect the outcome of each to be in the workplace."

That's not New Age hooey, that's just smart leadership. Take the time to create nirvana in your culture today--Namaste.

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