Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Positive Reinforcement in Delivering Happiness

I have two chapters of the book left and I'm trying to stretch out my time virginal time with it. Just can't believe I'm flying thru the pages of this book! And somehow able to retain moving tidbits as I read along.

One thing struck me today and it's all integrated with Zappos' company culture and 10 core values: Deliver the WOW. Although it's just one of the 10 core values of a company I knew nothing about before I picked up the book by their CEO, I feel that in these three simple words, you can build up a principle you can live by for life.

It also got me thinking about positive reinforcement. Years ago, when I was a newbie employee, a former superior cornered me and told me flat out, "If you're not going to do your best, best you don't do anything at all." Okay, so it means the same as Do everything you do with the power of WOW, except for the delivery of it. Zappos' sentence structure gives the receiver of the message a positive outlook. It encourages you to do everything at the very highest of your efforts. The way my former superior put her words out was full of negative contempt.

Granted it was said after a Christmas performance (I was forced to sing in front of my colleagues) and granted that there was prize money in the end (a thousand bucks I think, but due to my "unbest" performance, I didn't even get to place), but I kind of took the way she told me off against her. I think that's the problem with many slightly older, overwhelming, I-do-my-work-by-the-book upper management. They don't know how to WOW their rank and file. They even think it's our job to suck up and WOW them. Much like parents are to their kids: "You better have good grades.", "You better learn this piano piece by tomorrow.", "You better get in the Math team." Too much pressure, too many demands, too much of a power trip.

I think the success of Zappos also comes from the merging of like-minds. And that's not just of the people uptop. The way their HR Recruitment makes sure that each new hire is a culture fit in the company ensures that everyone is on the same page in terms of direction, positivity and WOW-ness. The presence of an ever-changing culture book shows the dynamism accepted by the entire team, that nothing is ever set in stone and that it's okay to make mistakes, so long as you learn from them. The company's 10 core values apply not just in work of the employees, but also in their daily beyond-work lives. It's how they're a family unit, not just a company.

Very few communities get to establish this kind of familial love for non-blood-related individuals. And even fewer act as a giant tribal leader that strives to inspire the other communities to do the same. And I think this all started with the positive reinforcement the community leaders instilled into everyone else. Kudos to Tony Hsieh and his gang of geniuses.

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