Building a Pollyanna Culture
I think you have all heard of the movie Pollyanna starring Haley Millis (1960). This positive movie about overcoming obstacles that are put in your way by life and circumstances has always had a special place in my heart. You see, although I was a hard core electronics retailer of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, I always thought that things could get better if you could keep a positive attitude. That mind set has served me well in overcoming the challenges that are simply part of life. I have always looked for that silver lining that Pollyanna looked for in her Glad books.
When we started discussion about Axcelora one of the things we determined was that we were going to be a Pollyanna Company. We were going to be that great place to work that people often talk about but never quite get there. In my mind that did not necessarily mean a place with lavish perks (after all, we had not sold anything yet) like Nap Rooms (that would be my first perk), massages every Friday, endless snacks, or free travel. It also did not mean that we would have to walk around the office singing Kumbaya and hugging each other. And, oh yes, it did not mean we would have to be politically correct.
What it did mean was we were going to completely tolerate and respect each other- gender, preferences, religion and all of the things that get folks excited would be accepted and respected at Axcelora. We would be able to talk politics, religion, world events, even work because we would be building a culture of knowledge and respect. To me these are the principals of Pollyanna.
What are they key principals to building this Pollyanna culture? I have thought long and hard about this and have come up with the three things that are working for us right now.
1) Have mutual respect with the people you associate with. I have known the people in the core of our company, the people that have come up with the ideas that are powering Axcelora, for many years. And, we have all come together in this venture/adventure because we respect each other. We come from all different backgrounds but we all have one thing in common; we are accepting and respectful of each other. Our values are all similar even though we may have differing religious and political backgrounds. We have three women and four men on our original team, giving us different points of view on varying subjects.
2) Communicate well. If one of us has done something that is dumb (usually me) the rest of the group is very comfortable expressing their opinion on the subject. This can be written (email, text, note), verbal, or just a look that usually says it all. We communicate well because we respect each other. This has allowed us to eliminate silos. It was established early that everyone could play in each other's sandboxes. We are trying to build a company and build it right. If we see something wrong, we stop and fix it. No one’s feelings get hurt because we respect each other's intelligence, commitment and attitude.
3) Only bring nice people to the party. We established, from the start, that the Axcelora brand is unique and has unique attributes. Since our only assets are the connections our Partners have, we knew we had to have only Partners that are nice. While there are many people that can bring connections to our project, some of them we cannot afford simply because they might think less of our Pollyanna culture. So we have vetted every single new Partner to our group (30 and counting).) We called references to insure our new Partners were nice. We know they are well connected, but we want to insure they are well thought of in their work and will fit in with what we are building. By making this a keystone to our strategy we are confident that Pollyanna will live in our culture.
So far, our plan seems to be working. The team we are building is helpful to me and to each other. The effort they have made in fulfilling our customer needs is more than I ever thought would happen. Time will tell how well this Pollyanna idea plays out, but we are off to a good start.
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Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.