In the first review I covered the story about how Jaipur Rugs employs disadvantaged “lower-caste” women in India, and their business philosophy of serving with love and compassion to restore […]
In the first review I covered the story about how Jaipur Rugs employs disadvantaged “lower-caste” women in India, and their business philosophy of serving with love and compassion to restore the communities they rely on. In this review, I will discuss the strategies of another healing organization that I’ve found to be incredibly inspiring, and very similar to the situation we are all facing right now with COVID on the loose!
As a reminder, a healing organization is this: “Meeting genuine human needs, creating value, and being of service to one another… They operate from a higher purpose beyond just making money, they treat all their stakeholders with care… they operate in a way that generates engagement and fulfillment for their employees, delight and loyalty for their customers, positive contributions to their communities and to the environment, and excellent returns for their owners and investors”
The Utility of Love: How DTE Energy saved itself after the financial crisis and then helped save Detroit. Before they became a healing organization, customer satisfaction was the lowest of 18 companies in their peer group, employee engagement was consistently in the bottom quartile year over year, and shareholder returns were at the lowest range of their performance goals.
CEO Gerry Anderson initially attempted to employ top-down performance metrics, but employee engagement sank even further until he drastically changed the approach to a continuous improvement model based on “an unwavering commitment to the value and well-being of people. An antidote to our cultural ailment.”. That part was really exciting to read as a member of the Denver Peak Academy!
“I realized that I needed to genuinely show people that they would come first, that we really do treasure them and care about them.”
Gerry Anderson – DTE Energy CEO
To their credit, they stuck to this strategy even after they realized that their company would be losing in excess of $200 million dollars during the financial crisis of 2008 (eerily similar to City of Denver’s situation currently…). This next quote from their CEO is incredibly thoughtful, vulnerable and compassionate – exactly the sort of sentiment you’d expect from the leader of a Healing Organization. This is what he addressed his entire staff of 10,000+ with during the peak of the crisis:
“I can’t make promises about the ultimate outcome, but we will promise this: the last lever we will pull to keep this company healthy is a layoff. But for us to make good on this commitment, you are going to have to bring more energy, focus, and creativity to helping us fix this company and keeping it healthy than you’ve ever brought before. If you make good on that commitment… there is a very good chance that we can get through this together.”
Gerry Anderson – DTE Energy CEO – Crisis Call to Staff
Fast forward a couple years, they outlasted their peers and survived the crisis because of the amazing employee-driven commitment to keeping the company alive through innovation, creativity and an unwavering belief that they could win. DTE Energy was safe, but they soon realized that the surrounding community was in bad shape (Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013). They took action for that problem too. “What we need to do now is turn our people’s energies from saving ourselves to helping to save our community.”
“Gerry and his team realized that DTE Energy could be a powerful catalyst for revitalization and healing in Detroit… by promoting economic development in the framework of a people-centered, continuous improvement philosophy. DTE began developing and leading initiatives to improve the transit system, race relations, education, health care, and vocational training for the greater Detroit area.”
The Healing Organization – Raj Sisodia and Michael J. Gelb
This spurred DTE to re-develop their mission statement to be dual-purposed: “We serve with our energy, the lifeblood of communities, and the engine of progress.” As they became more settled into their new purpose and mission, their employee engagement surveys placed them in the top 5% of Gallup’s global database and they received Gallup’s Great Workplace Award for seven years straight. In 2017 they were rated number 1 by business customers, and second for residential customers in the entire Midwest. Shareholder returns had reached 275%, and 83% return for the S&P utility index.
I chose to write about this part of the book because of its similarity to the current crisis the world is facing. I believe that we can do better. We have done it before, and we will again. Love, compassion, unity, respect – these are non-traditional corporate values that have the power to change the world. Readers, this is a call to action. We can live and serve for a higher purpose; it’s a choice we all have the ability to make, all it takes is a first step. Let’s make it together!
Drew Brown is a Process Improvement Analyst for the City and County of Denver’s Peak Academy, with a background in sustainability and a business degree from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. He specializes in helping employees build trust on their teams, and facilitating departmental strategic planning and goal setting. His belief is that everyone’s voice matters and he strives to create opportunities for individuals to express their ideas and find productive ways to implement them. In college, he was a Division 1 athlete and received Academic and Athletic All-American honors, and he competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials. He grew up in Aurora, CO and currently lives in Denver with his amazing wife Megan and his cat and dog, Loki and Remus.
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