Reflecting on the positive culture at the facility, Lisa Telfer, director of business planning, told us, “You might ask why would anyone want to settle down for sixteen years in one place, but when you talk with people here you get it. You are treated well, there’s an amazing level of care and concern. And when employees are happy, that translates to customers.” Charles Johnson, the center’s HR relationship leader, said, “This is not a utopia. But if you have to work, it doesn’t get much better than this.”
In the six years this leadership team has run this facility, it has certainly been a wildly productive environment but also a hopeful and happy place. And while each of the leaders admits they are not perfect as managers, these executives have about three thousand followers who love working here — three thousand people who truly believe in the mission and the values they’re asked to follow through on.
If all this esprit de corps seems a bit overwhelming to achieve in your workplace — in your lifetime — realize that you wouldn’t be the first manager we’ve worked with to push back about undertaking a culture shift with this level of dedication. It wouldn’t work here, you might think. That’s okay. Not every manager has to go to these lengths to inject life into their culture. But there are lessons for us all to learn in Fort Lauderdale. For instance, Doria Camaraza has come to understand that being a manager doesn’t mean knowing products and services, it means knowing your people. “I don’t have much business being in this role. I don’t have the right technical background. But the role of a manager isn’t about being technically proficient. It’s about people.”
Another lesson? The culture starts at the top, said Telfer. “Everyone has a Doria story; there are three thousand stories. People don’t know how she remembers so much about them, but she literally works at making people feel welcomed and wonderful. Despite her insane body of responsibilities, she’s in touch with her people. Not to mention she goes to Zumba and cardio kickboxing classes with employees here on the campus. Who does that?”
This culture is very strong, very positive, and most important, is leading to very real results for a very large and complex organization. And Camaraza and her leadership team have kept up this kind of productivity and energy through the worst financial meltdown in our lifetime. How do they engender that kind of loyalty and commitment? This American Express call center is a case study in developing a culture of belief, with managers who are benefiting from E + E + E in action. They have achieved world-class levels of efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction because their employees are:
Engaged. They understand how their work benefits the larger organization and have a clear understanding of how they are responsible and accountable for real results. And they can see the value of their contributions to the company’s larger mission.
Enabled. The company supports employees with the right tools and training, and leaders spend 75 percent of their time coaching and walking the floor to ensure that workers can navigate the demands of their jobs.
Energized. Leaders at this facility maintain feelings of well-being and high levels of energy through daily productivity contests, helping employees balance work and home life, and recognizing individual contributions. In fact, at American Express, nearly 20,000 times a month employees are praised for effort or rewarded for results via the RewardBlue system.
— Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton