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Joy, Not Fear

Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act.

– Buddha

A couple years ago, I heard about a remarkable company, Menlo Innovations, created by a remarkable leader, Richard Sheridan. Gemba Academy sent a video team to talk to him and see his company in action, and what we learned was truly inspirational. Sheridan built the company on a unique foundation: to create joy. Although it is a software design firm, everything the company does is done to add joy to the lives of its customers and employees. Menlo’s mission is to “end human suffering as it relates to software.”

According to Sheridan, the key to create joy for your customers is to create joy for your employees. To create joy for your employees, you must lead without creating fear. Fear comes from a lack of trust, which can be a problem when information isn’t available, when job expectations are not clear, when there isn’t enough time or support to be able to do a good job. Fear reduces a person’s ability to access the brain’s prefrontal cortex, rendering the person unable to take full advantage of creativity, innovation, and rational thought.

Menlo Innovations works to remove the sources of fear. First and foremost, the company’s leaders are authentic and trusted. The hiring process is lengthy and grueling to ensure new team members will support and thrive in the Menlo culture. Financial and other business information is openly shared, posted, and discussed, to a depth that would easily scare the traditional CFO. The company eliminated most meetings, and those that remain must add significant value. The objectives, responsibilities, and status of every project are also posted—clarity created by visual management. Employees work in teams of two, allowing them to provide mutual support, relief, and coaching. The transparency about the status of the company and current projects eliminates ambiguity and thereby reduces the fear of uncertainty

Work to create joy, not fear, by being open, authentic, and trustworthy. Support your team members by providing the time, resources, training, and expectations necessary for them to do their jobs. Your customers will thank you.