When we started Root more than 30 years ago, we really didn’t know where our adventure would take us. Our future was a work in progress. The journey took many twists and turns. However, what we did know is what we stood for and why it mattered to us. We were clear about our soul, our emotional or intellectual energy. People even told us that when they entered our building, they could feel that energy. It was palpable.
With our initial values of Servant Leadership, Fun, and Creative Dissatisfaction, we had a strong sense of how we wanted to do things. These values captured what we most cared about. They embodied the nobility of serving another human being, having a blast doing it, and passionately pioneering for a better way to engage people to be active players in their organizations. It wasn’t a job – it was a calling. We proudly proclaimed, “We don’t do business, we do life!”
What we realized then and continue to realize today is that we want to create a culture where people come as they are and join us in changing the way businesses do business. How? We envision the power of people being unleashed in organizations by shifting from the direct tell-and-sell of PowerPoint presentations, emails, pep rallies, and sterile press releases to the authentic collaboration and involvement of all people.
We strive to create places where engagement just happens because people’s insights and ideas are sought after and truly valued; where leaders initiate conversations with their people that ignite their imaginations and creativity.
In this environment, everybody wants to contribute their best.
To do this, we want to create a movement both at Root and with our partner organizations in which every person feels like they are a part of a team and have the chance to contribute. They feel they could learn more, fail safely, grow their capabilities, say what they truly think and feel, and, most importantly, know they are valued for their diverse, unique, and uncommon skills. We celebrate human variability versus trying to eliminate it. We are passionate about our aspiration to awaken the sleeping giant of human capability that exists in most organizations around the corner and around the world. We recognize it is critical to change us before we change the world with a culture that seeks to engage people to think more critically rather than accept what others are telling them to think.
Realize the Possibility of Your People
From our own experiences, we know that the most successful companies, organizations, and communities have a culture where every person, no matter their position, feel they are valued and have a chance to make a difference. We have witnessed firsthand that when you appeal to the highest level of thinking in people, you get the highest level response. We believe in the latent and untapped talent of people and see employees, team members, and associates as a giant wave of human possibility just waiting to be set free. When they are invited to fully step into the critical challenges their businesses face, their untapped intelligence, amazing curiosity, and authentic care shines.
At the core of our beliefs, we feel strongly about the fact that people want to do more, be more, commit more, innovate more, and contribute more.
We want to help people get off the bench and into the game of their business-day life to become part of something bigger than themselves and to create exceptional results.
We often talk about unleashing the dormant human capital in organizations – or, making a stand for people that don’t have a recognized, respected, or sought-out voice. One of the most memorable experiences was when we saw people at a well-known Fortune 500 company engage in robust dialogue about the future of their business and looked to identify actions that could create a better experience for the customers they served. A leader whispered to us at the back of a room, “Welcome to the church.” What she was highlighting was the spiritual experience that occurs when taking a stand for people, revealing how much they have to offer, and how powerful unleashing that voice could be for the organization.
Why You Need a Healthy Culture
In our rearview mirror, we see the disruption of a global health pandemic and the “Great Resignation” which has triggered permanent shifts in how and where people work. It is the right time to reiterate what many organizations stand for, or to rediscover the soul of the organization and connect to the soul of every person. This cultural reboot with values and purpose at the core is one of the most critical elements of renewal.
It is also an opportunity to rediscover peak performance. Today, over one-third of U.S. workers are willing to skip the perfect job if the culture isn’t right. Almost three-quarters of all people see culture as more important than pay and benefits.
Companies with healthy cultures also outperform those that don’t. McKinsey’s report on Culture and Change reveals that total return to shareholders is three times greater for companies with top quartile healthy cultures. These same healthy cultures are 3.8 times more likely to achieve successful transformations and have an 18% increase in EBITDA after one year of active work on organizational health.
Inspiration for Rediscovering Your Soul
These eight lessons are backed by our purpose of invigorating the power of human beings to make a difference and reminds us of who we are, what we help people (and much greater – the world) do, and how we want to make people feel along the way. These lessons helped pave the way to where we are today.
- To lead is to serve people. It is both a privilege and a noble act to truly serve another human being. Serving begins with listening to people, and usually leads to insight on how to support one another by stepping back so they can step up with confidence. Being selfless is one of the hardest things you will ever do as a leader, and it requires constant, conscious competence.
- Appeal to people’s highest level of thinking. Treat people with the belief that they are only contributing 50% of their capabilities and it is your responsibility to appeal to their highest level of thinking to unlock what they are not contributing. You will never know how good someone is until they stop improving – and what if they never stop improving?
- One person can change the world. It can be difficult to feel like one individual or small group can make a difference. Our minds and our hearts are in the right places, but what can one individual do? As it turns out, quite a lot. Each person has the power to set an example and inspire others, and that may affect the outcome of any and every situation. Change has always started with one person taking a stand for a better way.
- Invite people to co-think. The greatest respect you can have for another person is to care what they think. Dignity and respect for another human being flows from inviting others to co-think, rather than telling or suggesting to them what to think. Being curious about what others think and seeing them as creators of new and better ideas is at the core of valuing the creative abilities of other people.
- Stand up for people that don’t have a voice. There is a paraphrased quote about human potential that reads something like, “Born a man, died a grocer.” It is sad how often people get stereotyped based on what they do and not who they are or what they are capable of. People have an amazing array of talents, skills, and capabilities. Leaders that advocate for people to have a voice create a culture that is constantly finding new ways to honor and value people for the amazing talents they can offer to any organization.
- Value each person for who they are. When a child is born, we use words like invaluable, priceless, precious, and irreplaceable. An aura of “awe and wonder” surrounds each child as they develop. A culture of dignity and respect is one where someone is valued for who they are, and it is assumed that the next reveal of their awe and wonder is just around the corner.
- Make truth-telling safe. Most people don’t feel that it is safe to speak truth to power, which prevents leaders, teams, and organizations from benefiting from what people truly think and feel. This includes better ways to serve customers, deliver services, innovate, improve efficiency, collaborate, and eliminate unnecessary time and resources. Truth leads to trust, and trust is the fuel of high performance.
- Democratizing strategic information. Value the translation and transparency of turning a strategy into a common language so that everyone can benefit from a direct line of sight “from the marketplace to me.” People without this strategic information can’t take responsibility for it, and people with it can’t avoid responsibility.
We hope our story and the lessons we’ve learned along the way from partnering with other organizations inspire you to rediscover the soul of your business and your people.