As many of you know, Pool & Spa News is owned by Hanley Wood, a company with offices all over the country. And as many of you also know, I recently moved to Texas and began working from the Dallas location, which houses the exhibitions division — the people who put on our trade shows.
Exhibitions has about 90 employees, and almost every one of them works hard and is highly efficient. They also are cheerful. Not that people don’t complain occasionally, but overall, I’ve been struck by the upbeat attitude and generosity of spirit found in this office.
Why do these employees have such great morale? I wondered. Is it something in the coffee?
Over the five months I’ve spent in this office, I’ve more or less figured it out. Exhibitions’ management team has created a company culture that consistently generates good will among employees. If I’m ever privileged enough to run a business, I will pattern my own style after theirs.
For starters, rather than sequestering themselves in fancy offices with the doors closed, the managers truly are part of the company’s day-to-day world. They are approachable, informal, kind and collaborative. Yet these managers also are leaders, unmistakably so, which means that while everyone enjoys having them around, there are still clear performance expectations to be met. Those goals keep the staff focused and on-task.
Next comes the fun. Exhibitions hosts frequent gatherings, from happy hours to multiple holiday parties. There are elaborate costumes, hilarious skits, chili cook-offs and lots of laughter. This regular dose of levity makes the next day’s daunting workload and deadlines more manageable. It also helps staff feel seen and appreciated.
Finally, there’s the investment. I get the sense that it’s not hard to acquire training and education paid for by the company, and promotions from within are common. And there’s another type of investment as well. Last night I attended the company Christmas party, where the yearly Award of Excellence was given to an employee. The prize is $1,000 and division members are allowed to nominate anyone else on staff.
This year there were 12 nominees and as each name was read, a huge cheer went up for every contender. But then came the twist. The management team had decided that rather than one, there were actually two individuals who deserved the award, and each of them had their photo taken with a hugely oversized check. One of the winners is facing some tough challenges in her personal life, and as she accepted her check, the people on either side of me were smiling, clapping and crying.
There’s a lesson behind all of this: If you stand with, and for, your employees and foster a creative, fun and challenging environment they will respond by rising to meet every goal you set before them. I hope each of you has the opportunity to apply them in 2014.
Wishing you a healthy and joyous new year.