December 2003 - Making Work Enjoyable
December 2003 - Changing corporate culture ó one person at a time
By Kenny Moore
The economyís tight. My company no longer has wads of money to throw at high priced consultants to transform our culture.
If change is to happen, itíll have to be done by ordinary employees and on a minuscule budget. And Iím discovering that I may need to get personally involved.
My two-part plan is presently underway. Itís cheap and itís fun: two clear signs that senior management wonít embrace it. But who cares?
With limited financial incentive from my company, Iím learning to look to small pleasures to keep me engaged in the business.
It Starts Small
The first part of the plan all started with Beverly. She works in accounting. Sheís not the department head. Sheís not even on our list of "High Potential" employees.
Fact is, Beverlyís a union worker. And, sheís wonderful. When I have an accounting problem, I go to Bev. When I fall short in following the most recent financial procedure, I go to Bev.
On the days I canít get to her, itís often because there are other befuddled employees seeking out her practical wisdom.
Does my company need to reengineer accounting practices to make them more user-friendly and efficient? You bet! However, based on my limited experience in dealing with accountants, itís unlikely to happen in my lifetime. So in the interim, I rely on Beverly.
A Serendipitous Moment
I was in the local dollar store the other day looking for a cheap nightlight for my sonís bedroom. Wandering down the aisles, I saw a coffee mug engraved with a heart that read: "Youíre the Greatest." Even though it was hand-painted in China, this oriental work of art was available for a mere $1. The sign said the supply was limited, but I think they still had a few cases in the back room.
The cup reminded me of Beverly so I bought it. On the way back to my office, I passed her desk. "I got you a small gift, Bev Ö a present for all the help you give me" and took the cup out and gave it to her.
She smiled. "Even though I donít drink coffee," Bev said, "I still love it. I can use it to keep my pens and pencils in."
But more than her words, it was the look in her eyes that captivated me. It was a glint of appreciation. A sparkle of affection. A tinge of some positive primordial emotion tethered to the womanís sacred soul. It was one of those rare moments of Divine Revelation in the workplace.
Something more was going on here than the exchange of porcelain. Something, I suspect, that was only loosely connected to the fact that the cup was hand-painted in the Orient. It was a small moment of acknowledgement for the talent of a lone employee who was making a difference.
It represented an undersized deposit into the overdrawn account of employee passion that daily gets bestowed for the sake of the corporate common good. My single regret from the encounter was that there was no high priced consultant nearby to witness the event.
I now regularly find myself visiting the dollar store and using my small budget to keep the tectonic plates of culture change in steady movement.
It Ends Small
The second part to my grand, but cheap, change plan is to take fellow employees out for a cup of coffee. Not Starbuckís, since I no longer have the budget for such luxury.
We go down to the company cafeteria. It costs me 80 cents. If they want a juice, itís a dime more.
I tend to invite folks who other employees are drawn towards. They represent a type of "heliotropic leadership" in the rugged jungle of business life. They radiate a natural luminescence that coworkers gravitate towards and are nurtured by. With these folks around, corporate toxicity is keep to a minimum and a form of workplace photosynthesis takes place.
I spend the first part of these caffeine-laden meetings expressing my appreciation and thanks. Itís odd how seldom people share a personal "thank you" in a corporate setting.
The rest of the time is spent in a whimsical conversation about how we might make the company a better place to work in. I seldom walk away with a detailed action plan. Most of the time, I merely enjoy taking a few minutes out of an otherwise hectic day squandering it on a person I admire.
Iím also darkly reminded how seldom I detach myself from petty complaining and give some though to creating a positive future. Itís common that these conversations wind up changing me more than the culture.
But Iím learning that maybe that is exactly whatís needed in these tight financial times. I believe Alan Greenspan would be proud of me.
About the Author
Kenny says, "If youíre thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation. I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say. Please E-mail me at kennythemonk [at] yahoo.com."
Kenny Moore is
co-author of ďThe
CEO and the Monk: One Companyís Journey to Profit and PurposeĒ
(John Wiley and Sons, 2004), rated as one of the Top Ten best-selling business
books on Amazon.com. He has over 20 years experience with change
management, leadership development and healing the corporate community.
Prior to his work in corporate America, Kenny spent 15 years in a monastic
community as a Catholic priest Ė doing a very similar kind of work, but
getting paid a lot less.
Copyright (c) 2003 Kenneth Moore. Used with permission of the author. Thanks, Kenny!
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated ... William James (1842 - 1910), American psychologist and philosopher
Treat employees like partners and they act like partners ... Fred Allen, chairman, Pitney-Bowes Company
I get quiet joy from the observation of anyone who does their job well ... William Feather (1889 - 1981), American author and publisher
Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse ... Walt Disney (1901 - 1966)
You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality ... Walt Disney (1901 - 1966)
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Page updated: March 31, 2014
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