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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Don't let the message die too.

It is so hard to lean into what we know to be right but simultaneously goes against the popular approach. Are you brave enough to stand your ground?

Saturday​,​ November 29th Tony Hsieh died. Tony was the co-founder of Zappos, a company built on happiness, customer satisfaction, employee empowerment, and… they sold shoes. If you are not familiar with Tony’s approach which, while seemingly unconventional, led him to be one of the youngest and most successful businessmen in the country.

Bold Business wrote a great article on Hsieh’s approach, leading through the lens of happiness and empowerment. He also embraced the concept of “holacracy” in which management and governance are decentralized. Authority and decision-making occurs through organized teams rather than a management hierarchy.

We can call him bold, unconventional, and visionary but I would say he went with his gut. He invested in what many of us know but are too afraid to act upon.

He understood human nature and what drives us to connect and perform. He put blinders on and became laser​-​focused on creating ​​connections and the feeling of being valued. Tony put these two ideas to the test and did not hold back.

The focus was shifted from “product” to “person”.

Each decision was customer or employee​-​focused and there was no hierarchical structure within the company. Everyone was valued equally.and individual talents were leveraged. Despite many financial challenges and temptations to convert to “normal business practices”, he never gave up.

“We believe that inside every employee is more potential than even the employee himself/ herself realizes”-

Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh

Some fun facts:

  • Tony, the CEO worked in a cubicle alongside all others.

  • The phone operators have no scripts and are encouraged to spend as much time with each customer as needed. (The longest call was 10 hours!)

  • Employees are empowered and given the discretion to do what they want to to make a customer happy. (A customer has suffered a loss? Send flowers!)

  • Zappos workspace is full of color, celebration, games, and offers opportunities to connect and play.

  • Zappos has offered employees $3000 to quit to make sure the ones that stay are there for the right reasons.

  • Despite incredible wealth, Tony lived in a trailer park and shared a laundry and community space. Again, connecting with others was paramount.

Here is what is amazing, we see this approach in other prominent companies like the Ritz Carlton, Virgin Atlantic, Hilton Hotels, Stryker and, many more, yet most companies do not adopt this strategy despite its proven success. Why not?

Review the common themes from the 2019 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and you will see - “employee-focused changes, surprise days off, magical moments for guests, Mindfulness Zones, mentorship programs, focus on culture, counseling, and coaching, diversity, educational opportunities” the list goes on and on.

What was not listed was​,​ “a big corner office and a whopping salary.”

Can you se​e​? People are motivated and feel committed and inspired when we invest in THEM. In turn, they will go beyond the call of duty, they will lead with professionalism, integrity, creativity, and hard work. Why are we so afraid to do this?

Instead of pulling employees and creating rules and walls, try standing behind them and supporting them. Ask them what they need to succeed.

My Challenge to You:

  • Critically look at how decisions are made, is the primary focus your product or the person?

  • Can you trust your team and loosen the reigns? Ask for and support creativity and individualism. Tight control will not allow for inspiration and loyalty.

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