I read a profound quote recently that stopped me dead in my tracks while I was doing some leadership research in the evening after dinner and it read something along the lines of … This orange blooded philosophy is never going to work!

Do I have your attention?

It was about a book – it was a book written by McKinsey. They did a study on six companies, and it was called The War for Talent. And it was run out of their Chicago office where their most senior partner from McKinsey in human resources was living.

For those that are not familiar – McKinsey & Company is an American worldwide management consulting firm, founded in 1926 by University of Chicago professor James O. McKinsey, that advises on strategic management to corporations, governments, and other organizations.

Arthur Blank, who’s a super stud by the way, he owns the Atlanta Falcons 🏈 , The Atlanta United ⚽️ was the last person that they interviewed in our company, at Home Depot. Oh and he founded that too. 🧰

And Arthur said that he remembers coming in, and the gentleman saying to Arthur, while sitting down, he said, “I have to tell you something.” And this gentleman was in his 70s then.

And he said, “I’ve done this my entire life, human resources and all this kind of stuff and connecting to associates.” He said, “We traveled all over, basically all of your stores.

We went to Mexico. We then Went to the United States, and im talking all over the United States. We Went to Canada. We even went down to South America.” At that point, we were running stores in Chile in case you didn’t know.

He said, “You know, we spoke to a hundred of your associates– from cashiers, a lot of engineers, assistant managers, store managers, presidents,” he said, “every single one of them.

And we asked them ‘tell us about this thing, what you call orange-blooded philosophy, these core values,’ every single one of them, every single person without exception, could describe them.

Now the words were a little bit different, but the essence of all these core values were described fully.” He said, “I don’t know how you could do that. I don’t know how you’re able to maintain that with a half a million associates.” 

And it really goes back to an earlier story that when Arthur and Bernie went public in September of ’81, Arthur had a visitor from Wall Street, Joe Ellis, who was the senior partner at Goldman Sachs at that time.

And Joe said, “You know, your culture in these Atlanta stores is really unique, but you’re not going to be able to maintain it.” He said that he didn’t even ask him his opinion.

Can you believe that? He just told him what was going to happen. He just told him that this orange blooded philosophy was never going to work.

Arthur was 37 years old, and this guy was like the King of Wall Street, and so Arthur says, “Oh, God.” So he went in to see his partner two weeks later, Bernie Marcus.

He says to him “Bernie, I had a visit. I had lunch with Joe Ellis and he follows the stock and all of this he said the he was assured that this culture that you and I both know is so critical, was never going to work.

And so the only way we could do this,” he said to him that time, “is that when we promote people, we promote first on the basis of: Do they understand the culture? Do they live the culture? Are they great examples of the culture? And then if they are, then we could consider them for promotions. And if they didn’t do that, we couldn’t consider them in any other opportunities.” 

Nothing else mattered.

Arthur said – Nothing else mattered as much. So, therefore, the people that were promoted, it created the leadership group in our company, and all of our existing companies today are people that understand what our core values are.

◦ Leaders, I tell that story in my values based leadership class and here to you today because I have always found that even after my 30 years of sales and leadership experience in business, today as a post pandemic leader, the great litmus test is to ask the associates… because if your associates can recite the core values, you’re onto something.

Why? Because that’s the place where many usually can’t. Senior managers know it; people who just onboarded know it, but the new associates don’t, and they’re really the key to getting things done.

YOU are the orange key to getting this done,

I am so proud to be orange blooded with you on our journey together. I’m so proud of you, now let’s do this Home Depot and go be better versions of ourselves.

If you got value out of this, hit me up on Twitter @ZarirMerwanji

Published by Zarir Merwanji

Empathy lives at the intersection of my family FIRST and my work space SECOND through influence, leadership, sales and technology.

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