I had the opportunity to provide the keynote address at a client’s annual team meeting in New York. For most organizations these events are quite boring and, to be honest, attended only by those employees who couldn’t come up with a believable excuse not to attend. This organization, however, is different. Their employees are different, the leadership style is different, and their success and growth rates are different. Why? They believe in the power of their employees.
I started to get an idea that something was different when, a few weeks before the event, one of the branch managers shared that she and her entire team look forward to the annual meeting every year. Weird.
I also noticed a difference when, a few days before the event, I picked up the phone for a conference call with the senior management team. Nobody realized I was on the line and all I heard was laughing, giggling, and then the VP of Administration saying, “Hey, hey, now we have to behave. We’ll be talking to our speaker here shortly.” Laughing? Senior management? Surprising.
The difference almost stunned me when I walked into the presentation hall. All of the employees were there and they were smiling and laughing. Many were hugging their colleagues from the branch offices who had only just arrived. They were congratulating one another on specific accomplishments they’d achieved. They introduced themselves and each other to me. In doing so, they’d say things such as, “Liz, this is Terry. He is the manager of our Juno branch. He has completely turned that operation around. He’s done a great job for us.” And this introduction would be made by one of their peers—not one of their superiors! They appreciated each other as team members. Amazing.
Weird? Surprising? Amazing? Not really. Because when I asked how they’d achieved such a cooperative, collaborative, and positive environment, they answered: “Our people—we hire right, we train right, we retain the right people.”
Here’s how they really do it:
- First, they’ve learned over the years that having people with the right attitude is key. If their employees want to be there and want to learn, they can train them how to do just about anything necessary. Because of that, they have a 3-step hiring process: telephone interview, 3-person management team interview, and finally a 2-person interview with the candidate’s prospective peers. This has got to be an incredibly time-consuming and expensive process, right? Yes. But it’s amazing what will slip by the professional HR screeners and management team. Candidates often “let their guard down” when they talk to prospective peers.
- Second, they orient every prospective and new employee to the organization’s Corporate Values immediately and continuously. These “House Rules” are then used on a regular basis to help guide the employees’ personal and professional growth, development, and overall performance. The organization has made it very clear, what the expectations of behavior and performance are—and they stick to them. They’ve earned a reputation in the community for being a very “select” employer. But they’re the employer everyone wants to work for.
- Third, they work hard. They’ve got a strategic plan that’s shared with the entire employee population. Each employee knows how he or she fits in to the overall plan. Everyone has goals. Everyone is important and they know it.
- Fourth, they play hard. They relish challenges—and beating their challenges means they can celebrate them. Several employees had prepared a video that chronicled this past year’s celebrations. They celebrated reaching a set of goals with two managers shaving their heads, kicked off a new sales promotion with male managers dressing up as cheerleaders to “send the team off,” and for those employees who were celebrating their anniversaries, they had a group of employees sing a congratulatory song.
This organization is different. Its leadership style is different. It loves to play. It loves to work. It loves its people. It has worked hard to create an atmosphere that challenges yet rewards its employees. Because of that, the employees love it. Because of that, the organization is successful.
That’s the power of people.
Copyright MMIV – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching.