A story of how you can do good. The CEO of a multimillion dollar company was in the office building elevator going down to lunch from his executive suite on level 77. Several floors down three employees stepped into the same elevator all very engaged in a conversation. They paid no attention to him – the CEO – standing in the elevator.
As the elevator door closed with its three new occupants, he quickly became aware, their conversation was a series of complaints and grievances about the company of which he was CEO and founder.
Airing Grievances in Public
This company had become a global company through a number of recent mergers, and the three employees in the elevator were complaining about workloads, their bosses, slow systems, impossible volume of work and complaining customers.
They were airing their grievances in a public place without consideration of who else was listening, or even paying attention to who else might be in the elevator with them.
When the elevator reached the the ground floor, the CEO stepped forward to introduce himself, and express concerns that their experiences were very upsetting to him. He stressed he wanted to hear more of their experiences. He asked them to reach out to his assistant and get on his calendar that afternoon.
From your own world view, how do you think this story might continue? From your own experience, if this had been you in the elevator and your CEO had been standing at the back, how might this story continue in your organization?
Being in Service – Tea and Much More
Here’s what happened. They arrived in his office a few hours later. He welcomed them to his office and served tea. He personally served tea. He was was a gracious host and was comfortable welcoming everyone into his executive suite.
- He said how grateful to hear their reality – how they were experiencing this challenging situation.
- He appreciated the differences that everyone brings to a situation – they are not all the same.
- He saw the value in understanding their perspectives.
- He admitted shock and he admitted he partly owned it.
- He sought their and every employee's ownership in taking up their part in shaping the culture of the organization.
- He said he needed them and every member of the organization to be part of a future that he saw and knew could happen.
- He promised to address their concerns and sought their commitment in making positive changes happen.
Do Good – Model What you Want to See
He acted immediately. He took full responsibility and realized it was time to re-focus and align the corporate culture after such a number of mergers and acquisitions.
Those three employees left the CEO’s office that day so grateful and relieved that their leader had been open to hear their stories. They were converted to fans and they wanted to do the best they could to support the changes they themselves wanted, and now had the commitment of the CEO to enact.
What might have happened had those three people had a different leader, who did not seek to hear their perspectives. Imagine if they had been made to feel bad, how would that have moved toward a solution? If the CEO had lain blame and made them feel bad, how might they have walked out of his office that afternoon? I still wonder if they would have had belief and trust things could change for the better.
Contagion Effect of Positivity
So a key positivity strategy is when you do good, you feel good; and by extension, when you feel good, you do good.
This positive principle of one of the five foundational principles of Appreciative Inquiry. The above example shows how how good doses of positivity have a contagion effect in an organizational culture.