The PEP CEO Challenge

If you asked your people how much Pride, Enthusiasm and Passion they speak with when they describe your company, what would they say?


Not too long ago, we attended a business networking function at which
people were asked about what their company did–and what they did.
Being experts in emotional intelligence, we could identify the people
who spoke from their hearts, the ones who may have been selling too
hard, and the ones who were painfully shy and didn’t know what to do
with themselves (shades of the days of junior-high dances). You didn’t
need to be an emotional intelligence expert, however, to observe that
the people who spoke with heartfelt and grateful (vs. boastful) pride,
enthusiasm, and passion attracted the most positive attention.

That PEP–pride, enthusiasm, and passion–attracted something else, as well. It became clear that the people who did not
feel the same level of pride, enthusiasm, and passion as those who did,
felt envious. The avid listeners were much more interested in finding
out about the companies–including their products and services–that
produced so many more positive feelings than their own companies
inspired in them. “What a great advertisement for their company,” we

Contrast that effect with how you respond to people who talk about
their job and their company with little pride, enthusiasm, and passion,
and any of three things are happening. Either someone is painfully shy
and unable to manifest their feelings, they are burned out after staying
in their role for too long–or they work for a lousy company.

The next day, we met with a CEO of a 200-employee childrens’ book
publishing company. We told him about our observations and asked him how his employees talk about their jobs and his company. He replied, “Why don’t we ask them?”

Together we created what we call the PEP CEO Challenge. The
CEO distributed a memo to all of his team members stating the

I need your help in making this a better company. Anything you say
will be totally anonymous. If you were to attend a dinner party and
someone who was asked to describe his job and his company and on a scale
of 1 (totally lacking) to 10 (overflowing) scored 10-10-10 in the areas
of pride, enthusiasm, and passion, how would you feel if you scored
your feelings about our company lower? If it were me, I know I’d feel envious and think less about where I worked.

If I were to ask you to score on that same scale where your level of
pride, enthusiasm, and passion was in regard to your job and our
company, what would you write down?

If you wrote down anything less than 10-10-10, what things have to
change in order to raise your pride, enthusiasm, and passion scores?

Please give me your answers anonymously–and do not use this as an
opportunity to single out individuals that you have a grievance against.
There are other avenues to address those, and any mention of specific
people will cause us to remove your answers from the input we receive.

As an expression of gratitude for your doing this, we will identify
the most commonly reported suggestions for change, tell you what they
are, indicate what we are going to do in order to improve upon them, and
give you a time line for doing so.

Thanks for helping us to turn this company into a place we can all feel pride, enthusiasm, and passion about.

Once people responded, the results were tallied. The most commonly reported suggestions included

  • Developing a system for rewarding merit rather than people who could play politics to their advantage
  • Stopping gossip and talking about people behind their backs
  • Delivering on the mission statement to create childrens’ books that
    help parents teach their children how to succeed in a competitive world
    — and be happy in a cynical world

The company’s CEO made the commitment to correct these matters–and
increased his company’s results and bottom line 40 % in the next year.
He was also able to ferret out negative people who wouldn’t change. And
perhaps most importantly, he doubled his own pride, enthusiasm and

Usable Insight: If you build a company where everyone feels pride, enthusiasm, and passion, people will come–and stay.


About the author

Mark Goulston, M.D. is the Co-Fonder of Heartfelt Leadership a global community whose Mission of Daring to Care it dedicated to identifying, celebrating, developing and supporting heartfelt leaders who are as committed to making a difference as they are to making a profit