"When we say our people matter but we don’t actually care for them, it can shatter trust and create a culture of paranoia, cynicism, and self-interest."
The concept in Everybody Matters is that treating our colleagues and staff like family will create an organisational climate that is conducive to employee and community well-being and delivers returns for the organisation.
Having learnt from early experiences, Bob Chapman has made it his life’s ambition to create workplaces where all people feel valued. He and Raj Sisodia recognise that this impacts positively on an organisation’s outputs, and they emphasise it is important to focus on individuals and their well-being as this creates ripples across the organisation and the community. This focus is necessary to ensure that caring for and having the right approach towards others is authentic and sustained. Bob and Raj argue that achieving this creates positive flow on effects for the organisation’s productivity and outputs, as all employees inherently want their organisation to succeed. Bob has an impressive track record of taking over struggling (often dying) companies and transforming them into market leaders. This book outlines how he achieves this, quite simply by treating individuals with respect and trusting them to have the answers.
It’s all about the leaders
"Leaders are responsible for overseeing the environment in which people are asked to work… and people will act in accordance with that culture."
Bob and Raj make it very clear that it’s about the leaders and how they behave that creates the workplace climate. Their leadership philosophy is firmly grounded in the responsibility that leaders, much as parents, have for role modelling and authentically demonstrating desired behaviours. Indeed, many of the actions identified for improving the workplace are seen as starting with the leader. Establishing the expectations of leadership and what it is to be an employee of Barry-Wehmiller (Bob’s organization) is the first step towards creating a strong and desirable workplace climate. Consistent with this approach, they developed a Leadership Checklist (see below) which outlines what is required of an individual assuming this responsibility.
I accept the awesome responsibility of leadership. The following statements describe my essential actions as a leader.
- I practice stewardship of the Guiding Principles of Leadership through my time, conversations, and personal development.
- I advocate safety and wellness through my actions and words.
- I reflect to lead my team in Achieving Principled Results on Purpose.
- I inspire passion, optimism and purpose.
- My personal communication cultivates fulfilling relationships.
- I foster a team community in which we are committed to each other and to the pursuit of common goals.
- I exercise responsible freedom, empowering each of us to achieve our potential.
- I proactively engage in the personal growth of individuals on my team.
- I facilitate meaningful group interactions.
- I set, coach to, and measure goals that define winning.
- I commit to daily continuous improvement.
To support embedding their culture, they have developed their own internal leadership development program which involves individuals considering “leadership as a conscious commitment rather than a title or a role description”. As a consequence, individuals decide when they are ready to attend the program and to be open to learning what this conscious commitment involves.
Believe in other people’s strengths and celebrate their skills
"Encourage and insist that each team member – every member of the family – play to his strengths so that each one has the opportunity to become great at what they’re good at."
There are some great examples of leadership that are not hierarchically based which links to this first GEM. Throughout the book, Bob and Raj emphasize the importance of giving others the space to grow. The book outlines the importance for leaders to have patience and provide their teams with the space to learn and grow based on their own experiences. A critical element for leaders is acknowledging staff when they do the right thing and helping them learn from experiences. This creates a positive environment and encourages people to think about the strengths of their colleagues which decreases the likelihood of gossiping about their foibles. A key aspect of this is seeking to recognize and acknowledge individual and team achievements which in turn demonstrates caring, and creates inspiration and joy through celebrations.
Achieve through ‘Responsible Freedom’
"Responsible Freedom encapsulates two ideas: freedom, the opportunity to exercise personal choice, to have ownership of the work that you do and the directions you make; and responsibility, ensuring that personal choice is exercised with care and concern for other people and the requirements of the organization, and it requires two-way trust."
As with many other aspects, Bob and Raj share their sources for some of their ideas with the concept of Responsible Freedom coming from the philosopher Peter Koestenbaum. For Bob and Raj, this involves three key behaviours:
- Share your gifts and talents (do not hide aspects of yourself at work),
- Be proactive and help create the organization’s vision, and
- Collaborate with others to create a better organization.
This requires having clear goals and ensuring that all individuals know and understand these goals so that they can use their strengths and work proactively and collaboratively to help make them happen. This empowers people and gives them the freedom to strive for success on behalf of, and with, their teams.
Throughout the book, the authors include anecdotes and quotes from other thought leaders, including Simon Sinek who lauds this approach, seeing it as something he wishes more companies would focus on. I loved many of the concepts in the book and will endeavor to create a desirable climate based on my takeaways. The book provides a lot of food for thought and did get me thinking and wondering what work would be like if we accepted each other’s foibles. I was left wondering what would happen in an organization where we genuinely view our staff, peers and leaders with the same sense of ‘blood is thicker than water’ as when we turn a blind eye to actions of family members that hit our buttons.
As a convert to the concept, I felt the authors spent a lot of time ‘convincing’ me of the benefits of their approach. Bob and his team undoubtedly encountered resistance and cynicism and as the ultimate leader I can see how he could influence this process. I would have valued more detailed steps for lower level leaders on how to encourage their leaders to enact some of these concepts, particularly those who may not be as ‘sold’ on the concepts. Having said that, Bob suggests that if nothing else, if you as a leader who consciously accepts the ‘awesome responsibility’, you can role model and exemplify the benefits. How could you do this from within your organization? What challenges would you face and are they outweighed by the benefits and opportunities that Bob and his team identify?