In late 2007 I sat in a quiet auditorium on the Sprint campus. I had been to a handful of these “all-employee meetings” before but the anticipation in the room was palpable…a rough merger, AT&T had a new phone from Apple that was flying off of the shelves and Sprint had a brand new CEO.
Dan broke the tension in the room by taking his sport coat off and throwing it against the podium. He explained that he realized a sport coat was the expected dress code for someone in his position, but he didn’t want to wear it. We were in a tough spot and he had to rally the troops with the punchline centering around what he called the “Sprint Imperatives.”
Dan went through the list below and explained what each one meant to him and why they believed they were crucial to our success as a company.
- Do it now
- Delegate and empower
- Be accountable
- Focus on customers
- Demonstrate teamwork and camaraderie
- Compete like winners
- Act with integrity
- Have fun
While I couldn’t disagree with any of them, the last one stuck out in my head because of one more small gesture as he closed his comments for the day. Sprint had always been fairly rigid on the “business casual” dress code but he said that he was going to wear jeans tomorrow [Friday] and we were welcome to as well.
The tough thing about imperatives is that they’re just words unless you find ways to put them into practice. While Dan’s gesture of the change in dress code seemed small, it started to tip our culture in a brand new direction (that benefit was later extended to allow us to wear jeans any day of the week).
Today marked a brand new high point in the “Have Fun” cultural imperative…a block party to celebrate our Q2 earnings, marking another milestone in our turn-around story. At 3pm, directors and VP’s were tasked with serving cups of Boulevard Wheat beer and food to employees on the main courtyard in front of the executive building.
As I looked around, I saw pockets of employees talking and laughing, Dan was making his way around the crowd chatting up random employees, I even took the time to tie up some loose ends with a co-worker. Most importantly, there was an abundance of smiles and it felt good.
“Have Fun” is the most important of all the Sprint Imperatives and you should be taking it just as seriously in your workplace. You could spend a lot of time speeding up process, empowering employees, thinking about customers first or innovating….but if your employees aren’t having fun, EVERYTHING will fall flat.