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 a business context is a little like eating pancakes for dinner. You can do it, but it feels misplaced. How can love and excellence even fit together in the first place? After all, 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 of the company – 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 company cultures where giving feedback is seen as traitorous, where attempts at honesty get rebuked, where egos bruise easily, and the customers consequently comes last. The business world, frankly, has tons of leaders who don’t live by leadership principles that inspire me.
So we took a risk.
We decided to plant our flag at Chewse as a love culture. Though we didn’t make this decision with all of the details firmly set in place, the idea was to respect the human behind the work and allow them 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.
Then, the road bump: the love culture we were aiming for didn’t seem to align with the other key attribute 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 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. As a service company that provides hospitality to our customers, I knew we needed 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. We’re here work towards our highest potential. 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 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 – they came to work every morning to grow, learn, and challenge themselves. 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.
In their book Encouraging the Heart, Posner and Kouozes found that 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, a Harvard Business Review study conducted across 3,201 people, researchers found 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 – love and excellence – 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. One main facet of this philosophy is to mold 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.
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 Careers page and apply!