“Your team and department are the happiest places in the organization,” said the CEO of this Fortune 100 company, as he walked through our call center and marketing teams.  “I love to visit your floor,” he continued.

A surge of pride and gratitude welled in my heart, knowing this team had come from the brink of breaking just a few months ago. Being handed this team with an engagement score below 40% and a failing score in nearly every metric, we had work to do.

We could have jumped to average handle time, call queues, first call resolution, etc. but first of all, we had to build a team; a community of workers who cared about each other and had each other’s back. The leadership previous and above this team was all about $$ and were not afraid to threaten, demean, and demoralize them as “the lowest paid and least essential team” in the organization.

Au contraire. The call center is one of the MOST important teams. The marketing and outreach team is often the only face the customer knows in our organization. Their role was not just important, it was vital to the success and profitability of this company.

Shielding these humans (and myself) from the less than respectful view of our importance was my first priority. Instead, we set off to improve teamwork, processes, morale, retention, impact, and pride in our work. We demonstrated and expected compassion for each other and for our customers.

We started by including them in the change planning and management. We got their feedback – what worked, didn’t, what could we do better, what did they need to love their job? We lavished thanks and authentic gratitude for their herculean efforts every day….for the efforts and service to our members and customers. We reminded them and everyone across the organization (yes, and all the execs at the top) about the stories of customer’s lives impacted, improvement, successes, and growth.

Gratitude and compassion were the primary antidotes to the toxicity they had experienced. We built an internal thanks and celebration culture of wins – of impact – of great work. And the team began to compete with themselves to do better – because they cared and saw it mattered. They celebrated each other and the team. Once they believed it, the toxic voices elsewhere did not have the impact it once held.

What started as an underperforming team with high turnover and quality scores in the 70% range, became the “happiest place in the organization”, frustrated with themselves for a 96% when they could have had a better score.  They became their own champions of growth, of care, of excellent customer experience. They began to love their job again.

Dozens of research studies show that “gratitude and appreciation” are more powerful than more money – why? Because we are all human and want to know and believe the work we do makes a difference. Regardless of what style of leader you are under, you can build a positive culture in your team. Start with a little thanks.

The leadership short here? 

Don’t ever lost sight of the impact of gratitude and compassion. Lead your teams well and they will love what they do.




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