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The Crucible is a Marine training event during Basic Training – a 96-hour grind that challenges you mentally, physically, and that tests your ability to perform under pressure. When you complete the Crucible, there is no doubt you are ready to become a Marine. I relate that experience with the 96-month grind that building Cardinal Group has been and how our Culture was tested under pressure. Similarly, there is now no doubt Cardinal is ready to be an industry leader.

A Culture Forged Under Fire

The true strength of Cardinal’s Culture is that it was there in the Beginning and has strengthened over the years. Our Culture has been tested time and again in difficult situations that required tough decisions, rapid growth, and constant change. It has survived business pressures, leadership turnover, and competition for attention and priority among other initiatives.

Today, 10 years later, the Cardinal Culture has been forged under fire. It is resilient, it is strong, and it is ready for the next 10 years of challenge. Our Culture has slayed dragons, conquered beasts, and today is the driving force that brings us all together as a Team. It serves as the bedrock we stand upon for support. It survives. It wins. And it is ready for more!

In All Situations, The Core Values Matter

It is easy to have fun and high-five and play ping-pong and clink glasses when life (and business) are great. From my observations of most companies, “Culture” is a word that is thrown around when describing bean bag chairs and bring-your-dog-to-work days. When life is good, culture is strong. But what about when life is not great? What about the hard days, or when people are being laid off? What about when you lose a big client? Does Culture go away then?

Recently, this idea – that our Core Values need to matter more during hard times than easy – is something I’ve been obsessing over, and I wanted to present a few of Cardinal’s Core Values to illustrate:

Be Humble

Humble in victory… and gracious in defeat. It is easy to be Humble when you are losing – hell, it’s almost a Silver Lining to the fact that you Lost! However, humility in victory is tricky. Our Core Values call for a focus on Team over Self – in all situations. When we lose, a Team Member can take accountability for his or her actions and commit to not let the Team down again. When we win, we point to the Team. We do not boast, unless such boasting is about the men and women we are lucky enough to lead.

Bring Your Best Each Day and Create Fun

This Core Value is the bedrock of keeping Culture front in center each day. Accountability and Excellence hinge on consistency. Day-in, Day-out, we bring it. And as Leaders, the tone and mood we set are absorbed by those around us. If we act shitty, a black cloud will form. If we are engaged, a positive energy will fill the room.

Most importantly, we are not relieved of our responsibility to “Create Fun” because leasing is lagging, or we are behind on CNOI, or the Client is unhappy with something. At these tough times, it’s even more important to Create Fun for the people executing it. Positive energy is the key to overcoming challenge and to keeping the team engaged (and together!). We Bring our best every day – not just on easy days!

Embrace Change and New Ideas…

Embrace new ideas… when you agree with them!?! Embrace Change when it is something that makes your job easier? No. This Value is simple: Embrace Change and New Ideas in allsituations. The new measure of leadership in business is greatly defined by an ability to navigate the unexpected and to embrace change. That requires a Team willing to row in the same direction as it enters stormy waters. I get that change sucks. I’m encouraging each of you to Embrace the Suck. We need Leaders who brave the unknown and we need Team Members who embrace it.

Change sucks. Embrace the Suck.

Do the Right Thing, All The Time

We do the right thing, all the time. In all situations. Not when it benefits the Company. Not when it helps the bottom-line. At all times. As my partner and friend, Del de Windt, inked over 10 years ago:
“Give a mile, take an inch. Doing the right thing, every time, with everyone we come into contact with will pay the largest long-term dividends for what we set out to achieve. This is not always the easiest or most profitable course but it’s the one we expect you to take.”

Bravery in Absence of Fear

Can a woman still be brave if she is afraid?… That is the only time she can be. I have always loved this thought and the quote by Mark Twain to the effect. And just as fear necessitates bravery, challenge and change are necessary for a strong Culture to exist. Culture grows by overcoming adversity, as does each individual. So, when times suck and you are only seconds into the “unforgiving minute,” let our Culture thrive. Overcome challenges, slay Dragons and be forged under Fire. Your Team will be better because of it when the sunny days return.

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