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VOL. 126 | NO. 57 | Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Susan Drake

Going Deeper Than Teamwork

Susan Drake

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It’s difficult to write a column about employee engagement and customer satisfaction when it looks like the whole world has gone totally crazy.

I won’t recount all the headlines that we’re all too familiar with at the moment. Suffice it to say that the only piece of good news is that Charlie Sheen has lost his position as the drum major of the media parade.

One thing has struck me about the recent events: the superhuman reaction of the Japanese people. There’s been no looting. People are sharing gasoline. People who have nothing are trying to help others. We hear the Japanese talking about how they will rebuild things better than ever. Along with the evil wave that devastated their country has come a wave of good spirit about facing the tragedy and moving ahead. This is what culture is all about: applying your beliefs when it matters most.

Perhaps we can apply some of this wisdom to our workplace cultures. You can’t read any company’s brochure or website without bumping up against the word “teamwork.” It’s a noble concept and one that we all strive for. In fact, considering that my specialty is employee engagement I certainly have to believe it’s a topic worth addressing. But if we get honest, teamwork can be a superficial way of doing our jobs and a somewhat trite way of talking about how we go about it. It’s not teamwork that’s important; what’s truly important is having a sincere intention of helping others.

The same is true of customer satisfaction. Following protocol and saying “thank you” isn’t going to earn us any medals except perhaps in the hallowed halls of the Employee of the Month photo gallery. What will do some genuine good is having the deep-seated belief that it is important to be of assistance – to listen to what people need and try to help them out.

I know that when I feel really good about a job, the “really good” that permeates all the way down to my bones, it usually entails something beyond completing a project on time and budget, or getting kudos from a client. The jobs I’m most proud of include an element of doing something honestly unselfish or exceptionally helpful or that got done in spite of fearsome odds because people rose above their own wants for the higher good.

Can we put this kind of spirit to work in our jobs each day? Can we keep things in perspective even when Japan isn’t in tragic circumstances or people in war-torn countries aren’t suffering atrocities? Sure, it’s a bit of a stretch to think we’ll all be so high-minded all the time, but can we do it just some of the time? That’s one way each of us can help keep the whole world from going totally crazy.

Susan Drake is President of Spellbinders Internal and External Marketing. Contact her at


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