Chocolate Milk Mondays

16 Oct

photoAs I seek to be an adaptive leader, I often think that the best ideas emerge when you listen to your team.

This is the story of how one such new FTC tradition began. It’s called Chocolate Milk Mondays.

When I came on as CEO of FTC, I asked HR to place a suggestion box in the break room for employees to suggest ideas that they felt would make their experience at FTC a better one.

However, when our head of HR kept telling me that there were countless suggestions for “chocolate milk Mondays” in the suggestion box, I wondered what I had gotten into. As much as I wanted to honor (within reason) what employees suggested, I wasn’t sure about this idea. Surely it was just one person stuffing the box with the same idea over and over again?

But then, one evening last February I worked late. My wife and I had just hosted an all-staff Valentine’s party where we gave each member of the team in Oklahoma a heart-shaped cookie. I wanted to be the one who took the cookies to our night crew in the call center so that they wouldn’t feel left out.

As I spent some time chatting with them, it was soon apparent that it wasn’t one person who stuffed the box with the chocolate milk idea but an entire team: the night-time call center team.

They told me that their crew had asked for chocolate milk Mondays– knowing that it was a silly idea, but something they thought would brighten their day– just to see if I was listening. They wanted to know if it was really true that they could suggest anything and be heard?

The following Monday, I knew what was next. I drove to the local 7-11 and purchased several gallons of chocolate milk. I took it to the call center, and we sat down and drank chocolate milk together as a group.

The joy that followed overwhelmed me.

I heard from several employees that this act was the first time in their experience at Feed The Children that they had felt heard and cared for in such a specific way.

I heard a lot of “I’m so glad I work in an organization where the CEO knows my name.” I left that evening feeling uplifted and encouraged about the workplace culture I’m helping to create.

And so the tradition of chocolate milk Mondays lives on. Once a month, like I did this week (in the picture above), I spend some time with the evening call center thanking them for all they do for us each day at FTC with chocolate milk in hand. I don’t even mind staying late on these days because I always leave encouraged and empowered. I am surrounded by so many incredible people at FTC each day!

Who would have known chocolate milk could do all of this?

To the rest of the FTC team: don’t be afraid to suggest ideas. Who knows what might happen next? I’m listening to you.

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