Ever wonder what it takes to have a great company—the kind that accomplishes not just great things, but exponentially more great things than other companies year after year? It just seems like those companies have the magical ingredient, and I would argue, they do. They have executed on a simple rule that guarantees success. Yes, guarantees it. Here’s the rule: In every chair, people who care.
Can it really be that simple? Of course it is. The hard part is actually creating an environment where people care. But read on because this article is your pathway to a caring—winning—culture within your company.
A Real Life Story of Big Time Caring
The most important event of the year was five months away. It was the Annual Franchisee Meeting where nearly two thousand business owners converge with higher than high expectations and a year’s worth of issues they want solved and questions they want answered. On one hand our team felt like we had all the time in the world to plan. On the other, we were seasoned in this game, so we knew that time was short. Soon these franchisees would be expecting a stage production that was entertaining, informative and inspiring all wrapped up in a meeting that provided answers and didn’t miss a beat. It was up to us to make it happen.
By nine a.m., our team was present and accounted for: the graphic designer, the videographer, the video editor, the lighting designer, the audio designer, the technical director, two producers, the project manager, the writers and the set designer. We were all assembled in our chairs, pads of paper, markers and a rather large tray of bagels and cream cheese all within reach. Creativity requires fuel and particularly carbs, after all!
I always found it remarkable how effective these meeting were. How everyone contributed, listened, got inspired, contributed some more, laughed, shared experiences, contributed again and ultimately agreed on a path at the end of the three-hour session. A path that once executed as a full stage production, changed the lives of everyone who experienced it and achieved all the business objectives of the company.
This meeting would be no different. We began our discussion and within no time at all, each person was sharing his or her vision for the production. “I’m envisioning a giant hundred-foot-wide screen as our back drop for the stage,” the producer said, arms outstretching in a wide arc.
“We could strategically place set elements in front of the screen that would be luminous when we wanted them to be, yet transparent when the screen was carrying video.” That came from the set designer who always seemed to be able to do the impossible.
“And we could up-light them so that they would appear to glow from the ground up,” our inspired lighting designer said, drawing a diagram for his own reference.
This is how the meeting would progress and by the end of all the fun and the laughter and the “can we afford that?” reality checks, we’d emerge with a plan and a set of next steps that everyone was fully empowered to perform. And most important, they did.
It sounds ideal, and it was. But before you quit what you currently do to become part of a creative team that develops stage productions, know that this magic has less to do with the kind of team we were and everything to do with the culture that every company and every team within it can foster. Even this team didn’t start out this caring and cohesive. It took time and a leader who understood the only way to achieve greatness—without killing herself or someone else in the process—was to ensure that in every chair sat someone who cared.
The Pathway to a Caring Culture
A week before the meeting, the leader defined our mission and to her, that was easy. Our mission was to create a life-changing, meaningful event for the attendees. Our goal: Create “moments” that our attendees will never forget. After that, it took having the right people on the team. Not all made the cut, but in the end, the following ensured a person who cared was in every chair:
Each person was open to learning. No one was practicing here, on the contrary everyone was highly accomplished. But that did not mean any of us was through learning. We were all open-minded sponges because we were creating something that had never been done before. We knew it would take learning new things to solve problems, overcome barriers and make our collective vision come to life.
Each person respected the talents of the others. In fact we looked at each other in awe of our collective talents and never felt threatened. That meant there was no gossip and no backstabbing. We all needed each other to be successful, and we trusted in each others’ abilities.
No one’s creative DNA was any better than anyone else’s. Egos were left at the door. None of us was better than all of us. We talked in terms of “we’s” not “I’s” and enhanced each others’ creative gifts by playing off each other, not competing.
Everyone was a leader. Anyone whose ego or self interest was getting in the way of achieving the goal or building the effectiveness of the group was called on it. If it happened again, the leader would privately ask the person to either get on board or be cut loose. It only happened once the first year and never again.
Everyone loved their craft and loved the cause. This was not about the money for any of us. It was about doing what we loved and loving the higher purpose we were called to achieve. We were helping people, and that was much more important than any one of us.
I can talk about the outcome, but I’m sure you can guess. We achieved our goal and our mission: “moments” were everywhere. Lives changed and clients were insanely happy. We gave and got a lot of hugs and high-fives. We recognized many personal bests, but like any good team after achieving a big success, we bonded even more and knew that next time we’d care just as much about the project and the goal and the mission. But we’d care a whole lot more about each other, too. And at that moment, caring got exponentially more powerful…because caring became personal.
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.