How do love and excellence fit together?

People often ask what a love and excellence company means. The idea of love feels reserved for family or romance, so seeing it in the context of business is a little like eating pancakes for dinner. You can do it, but it feels misplaced, and how do love and excellence fit together? Isn’t love unconditional and independent of goal achievement?

Over the course of running Chewse for eight years, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews through all levels up and down and across functions from operations to engineering to sales to finance. What has utterly shocked me is the consistency of stories about prior managers and leaders who were either thoughtless or downright abusive to their employees. I’ve learned of many cultures where giving feedback is seen as traitorous, where being honest gets rebuked, where egos bruise easily, and the customers consequently come last. The business world, frankly, has tons of leaders who don’t live by leadership principles that inspire me.

So we took a risk.

So we took a risk and decided to plant our flag at Chewse as a love culture. Though details were ill-defined when it started, the idea was to respect the human behind the work and allow her or him to show up fully. That means that we care about our people. We check in on how they are doing emotionally—not to play therapist, but rather to give their feelings space to breathe and allow them to be more productive than if they bottled them up.

The love culture didn’t seem to correspond with the other aspect of the talented people we were hiring: their drive, performance, and excellence. People began asking how a love company could hold people to high standards and accountability. Isn’t that mean? Isn’t that the opposite of caring for someone?

Love or excellence?

This problem vexed me. I personally didn’t want to back down from building a company that treats our people with dignity and respect. In a business world littered with leaders who don’t give a crap about their people, we need to stand boldly. We are a service company that provides hospitality to our customers, which means that we need to invest in our people, so they can invest in our customer experience.

However, at our foundation, we are a business, and a venture-backed one. Our growth trajectory challenges and excites me and our team, and being pushed to our highest potential is why we’re all here. How on earth was I going to reconcile the two visions?

I went on a campaign and reached out across the company. I spoke to meal hosts and Drivers about why they loved working at Chewse. They spoke to me about taking great pride in doing great work and taking care of our customers. I spoke to our office team about what drove them every day. They told me they loved their coworkers and being challenged to grow and learn. They loved that their managers checked in not only on their performance but also their well-being. Great work and care. Team and growth. Love and excellence.

That’s when it hit me: Why does it have to be love or excellence? It has to be love and excellence! One can’t exist without the other. You can’t truly care for someone if you aren’t holding her to her highest potential. And you can’t expect someone to perform with excellence if he doesn’t think you care about him.

Performance and care are linked.

There’s a powerful study from Encouraging the Heart across thousands of employees that shows that “the single factor distinguishing top quartile managers from bottom quartile managers was the strength of affection.” In Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study across 3,201 people shows that employees who felt they worked in a loving environment report higher levels of job satisfaction, commitment to the organization, and accountability for their performance. We’re humans. It’s a no-brainer to me now (after much banging my head against the wall) that performance and care are linked.

A few months ago, we rolled out our new cultural philosophy to our 200+ employees. It has our two pillars of Love and Excellence with three values under each of them. We use this philosophy to hire, train, and reward our team at all levels, from meal hosts to account executives to VPs. It’s molding our thinking around offering feedback, as we hold each other to the “be direct with kindness.” My teammates know they are cared for when I offer them feedback because I’m pushing them to be their greatest. The philosophy also unites and rallies us around our customer experience, the pinnacle of great care and high performance. We are proud of this culture and excited to see how it evolves as we scale to an organization of thousands.

Join us!

Here at Chewse, we boldly challenge the notion that work has to be a place of shallow connection and low care. We embrace the vision of a company, where our love for others is expressed by pushing them to be excellent. And in doing so, we strengthen our bonds and deliver an exceptional customer experience that impacts thousands daily.

If you’re interested in taking a peek at our culture, head on over to our Chewse careers page and apply!