The following story was described by Gary Cohen, a
Minneapolis-based managing partner of CO2 Partners,
Client: A small (25- to 30-employee) software value-added reseller.
Problem: The organization's employees had very little appreciation for each other, and regular backbiting and complaining had turned the office environment sour.
Cause: The company was growing very fast, and each employee was focused on himself, his own job, and his position in the organization. The employees did not see how they fit together as a team or how their actions affected others. They also had little gratitude for what they were doing to help each other.
Method/Tools: Cohen suggested that employees implement the "selfish compliment." At the beginning of each group meeting, each employee was asked to share with another employee how something he did positively impacted her and helped to make her job easier.
The purpose of this tool is for employees to share direct compliments with one another, rather than generic compliments. For example, a generic compliment says, "When John exceeded his sales goal, the company benefitted." An example of a direct—or selfish—compliment is, "Sue, as chairman of this organization, my life has been easy because of your work."
End Result/Solution: The outcome of the selfish compliment was transformational for the company. First, it helped employees to regularly think of how their actions helped each other, because they came to each meeting prepared with a compliment to share.
Second, it improved meeting efficiency, as it provided a flow of positive energy and interaction before the business-at-hand was broached. Finally, it caused employees to gain a deepened appreciation for each other and took the focus from backbiting or complaining.
Cohen explained that initial change took place at the very first meeting, as each employee was personally affected by receiving affirmation from her colleagues. Within a month, one could sense a difference in the energy of the office when she walked in. After several months of practicing the selfish compliment, the actual culture of the organization was transformed.