As part of a recent consulting engagement, I had the privilege to interview a number of employees from one of the world’s best managed companies. The company—both what they did and how they did it—was really impressive. They pushed their people—but not in a manipulative or punitive way. Employees had near-complete autonomy. The level of responsibility within the employee ranks was off-the-charts.
The intent of the interviews was to find out what the ‘employee experience’ was like. Virtually every employee said they ‘couldn’t go back’ to the types of jobs they once held before coming to their current employer. Despite the high expectations, morale was especially high. The way the company managed was not only admirable; it was a model to emulate.
For context, the company wasn’t solving world hunger. In fact, the company’s agriculturally-based products were arguably commodity-like. Nonetheless, employees found their work especially meaningful. Almost to a person (and regardless of where they served in the organization) each employee’s level of engagement was high—really high.
At the close of our session one of the more seasoned (yet reserved) employees quietly approached me on his way out of the conference room. He looked me straight in the eye, and said, “you know, I’m a better person for having worked here”. This gentleman had privately put a bow on the gift (think: feedback) that had been revealed through our ‘public’ employee meeting. With that, he went back to work. I was struck, not only by what he said, but by how he said it.
I thought to myself, ‘isn’t that the ultimate for employees…to feel that their work experience has made (or is making) them a better person?’ What a powerful indicator in assessing (among other things) organizational health. And if the company needed further validation that it was on the right track this gentleman gave it to them in spades.
Fast forward to last week…I received an email from a client; a tell-it-like-it-is, seasoned company president who has been integrating professional values into his organization for some time. (BTW: he was unaware of the experience I just shared.) After sharing some company updates and some personal niceties, he closed his note with, “…since reading your book and trying to live what it says has made me a much better person as well as an [much better] employer. Thank you.”
This president knows all-too-well that living up to professional ideals isn’t always a bed of roses. Yet he does what needs doing. Because of it he grows and becomes a better person as a result.
Personally, this is especially rewarding. Organizationally, it helps validate our approach. We’re on the right track. Onward!