Before you read further, get your tissues out. I have had many memorable moments over the years at Quest for Excellence conferences. And I have never left an annual conference without some immediate action items and feeling inspired that excellence is achievable in every type of organization. But there is one experience that has stood out over the years. Let me share the experience and then the impact it had on me.
The year was 1993 and Graniterock, a 100-year old, family-owned construction materials provider in Watsonville, CA, was one of the Baldrige Award's most recent recipients, in the small business category. It was in the session on Workforce Focus, where a concrete truck driver was the presenter for Graniterock. In those days it was an unusual choice, since the head of Human Resources was the typical presenter. The driver relayed the experience he had negotiating his annual performance agreement a year earlier. Being a small company, all employees discussed their performance plans with Bruce Woolpert, the company's CEO. Our presenter had been avoiding Bruce because he had not had the time to draft his performance plan for the year. Growing impatient, Bruce finally said we are going to meet today, draft your plan. The driver could not draft his plan. In previous year's his wife had helped him and he had not gotten to discussing it with her.
When he arrived in Bruce's office, with a blank plan, (Get those tissues ready!) he had to admit to never having learned to read or write. Bruce then took it upon himself to get tutoring, in an adult environment, for the driver. After assessment, it turned out he had undiagnosed dyslexia. It was now a year later at the Quest for Excellence conference with hundreds of people in the room and he was reading a speech he had written about his own journey of learning and about Granterock's and its leadership's commitment to employees. There was not a dry eye in the room as he received a standing ovation. By the way, he was now working on getting a private pilot's license!
One of the three basic tenets behind the Baldrige Framework is a commitment to organizational and personal learning. Why? Because we have learned from role model organizations that ongoing learning is a key to employee motivation and engagement, and they, in turn, are drivers of organizational success.
While organizations still think of compensation as the primary employee motivator, we have learned the greater power of ongoing opportunities to learn and the benefits of a simple thank you from a supervisor or leader. Fair compensation is important, but the non-monetary opportunities and recognition are long-term engagement factors.
I left that meeting with a renewed and strengthened commitment to my colleagues. We are together with each other for more time each day than most employees and their families. We are a family. We need to treat each other with respect and love. This memory has guided my actions for the more than 20 years.
Do you want to be inspired? Do you want to hear from motivational leaders? Do you want to witness the power of an engaged workforce? Join us in April for the 27th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference; you will be better informed and glad you came!