Today, December 4, I’m searching for the perfect TRUE North for my business we call Heart Matters, Inc. In other words, what’s my bottom line? So, real time, let’s test the idea that writing accelerates thinking and, second, that we learn from stories.
Have you ever had one of those “aha” moments that defied your immediate understanding? It just happened? Here’s one of mine. About 15 years ago in the freshman year(s) of this enterprise I took on a fairly pedestrian task of creating a cost-effective memento to help Zachry Industrial Inc. honor craft workers for the annual achievement of safety metrics and procedure excellence; it was for their company Division that provided contract maintenance and small turnaround projects, principally in the power and chemical industries.
Here’s where the “aha” comes into play. The request description that was communicated from my Zachry contacts inspired a response in my mind that moved the solution from honoring safety metrics to preserving life. So we created a graphic that featured a symbolic heart in the palm of a welder’s glove and proposed a theme, the Heart of Zachry. The Division president, Tom Hannigan (retired), penned a poetic eloquent tribute that expressed his heartfelt admiration for the craft person who works in constant danger … in difficult environments … and always under the man-hour productivity radar gun. The resulting twin elements of artistry and expression were produced as a high relief cast pewter medallion that cost about $9 each.
And the “aha”?! About five years into the Heart of Zachry program we assumed the craft workers might be bored with the multiple issues of medallions. To the contrary, we learned the medallions were treasured collectibles, mementos of the earned excellence. I believe the validation of performance by Hannigan elevated esprit de corps in a manner similar to the earned collaborative achievements of military elites, Olympians or championship athletic teams. My conclusion: corporate fiscal bottom lines follow fulfilled personal “bottom lines”.
The Heart of Zachry program, still in effect today, continues to confirm my gut feeling that personal heartfelt validation from the top inspires us when three levels of universal human needs are met. People choose to perform and I think their degree of engagement is a reflection of the depth of respectful expression ( validation ) from the CEO. I admire Kenneth W. Thomas’ work in his book Intrinsic Motivation at Work when he writes “engagement is the outcome of meaningful work”.
So where does work get its meaning? There are three conduits to inspiration available to any organization in their communication from the president/CEO:
- commemorate achievement; needs met: ownership
- honor collaboration- team wins; needs met: belonging
- extol work higher purpose; needs met: meaning
At Zachry we know now that the program met the employee at all three levels of innate human desires that we all crave … ownership, belonging and meaning. Those are similarly hierarchical in a fashion resembling Maslow.
Long term high performing organizations run on inspiration; inspiration is reciprocated to the leader’s TRUE North … their heart, if you will.