The founder of Appletree Answers, John Ratliff’s take on leadership is refreshing. He says “Anyone that’s a principle in a company should wake up everyday with so much gratitude for all people that have said ‘Hey, I believe in your vision. I believe in your mantras. I believe in your style and your strategy and where you’re going.’ And when they show up and get behind you, we need to honor that.”
Being in an industry with average annual turnover rate of 150 percent, John and his team are determined to set a new gold standard.One day, John met with his executives at a quarterly meeting to discuss employee engagement. Under his mantra “We take care of each other” won’t cut it.
To fix the high turnover problem, one of the management team members pitched the idea to create a program that inspired the Make-A-Wish charity model. Make-A-Wish is a non-profit organization in the US that grants life-changing wishes for children who are critically ill. In Appletree they would call it “Dream On” and they wouldn’t do it for customers, but for their own employees.
To kick off the program, John and his management team sent a heartfelt email to every employee. They expressed how the company wanted to support fellow employees to achieve their life aspirations. They also asked workers to share their dreams, and the board would grant a series of wishes. No strings attached.
Initially no one seemed to care. That’s how bad the trust level was at the company between employees and senior management. No one believed the offer was real. For them, it sounded like another corporate gimmick.
John however pressed on. His team sent a follow up email. This time they received a reply from a desperate employee who had fallen on seriously difficult times. Her husband just left her and she was sleeping in her car with two small children.
Appletree’s management immediately booked a hotel room on a corporate credit card. They also helped her negotiate a lease for a new apartment. They even granted her paid leaves so she could work out her personal affairs and get back on her feet. Needless to say, the employee was amazed. She told others and soon words spread the entire company.
It turned out there were many more employees like her. ONe wrote about being tight on cash for diapers. Although these types of requests are immediately granted, management followed up on asking for a real dream. Basic commodities aren’t dreams. Dreams are personal and passion-driven requests that come out of the realm of the seemingly impossible.
“Whether you run a business or organization, coach or a sports team or teach at school, you’re a member of a team. Get invested. It’s everyone’s responsibility to treat people like the rounded individuals they are versus one-dimensional characters.” – Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mind Valley
Appletree’s Dream On program really connects with us all. We shouldn’t just ask people to be engaged in the organizational vision. We should be equally engaged in an employee’s vision for their own lives beyond the nine-to-five. Doing so creates a remarkable transformation in our organization culture across many levels.