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The PEP CEO Challenge

Not too long ago, I attended a business networking function at which people were asked about what their company did — and what they did. Being an expert in emotional intelligence, I 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.

Not too long ago, I attended a business networking function at which people were asked about what their company did — and what they did. Being an expert in emotional intelligence, I 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.

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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,” I thought.

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, I met with a CEO of a 200-employee childrens’ book publishing company. I told him about my 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 following:

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 passion.

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

Next month, in the second part of this Feedback from the People series, Mark Goulston will provide a POP quiz that will enable you to determine what your company needs to do in order to get to where it wants to go.

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