Last October, we gathered together our very remote team for a week-long event in Chicago we call All Hands. We had a number of activities during the week that were designed to build relationships among our Formstack employees and create alignment in our vision going forward. We used one afternoon that week to take our team out to volunteer. Since our company is an online form and data-collection platform with team-members dispersed across 75 cities around the globe, we’ve never been able to volunteer together. That made this event really special.
“More is caught than taught.” ~Chris Byers
One of the areas of alignment in our vision we are trying to target is to become pillars in all of our communities. That’s a pretty novel idea when we cover so much geography. The idea is that we will be known for our product, our people, and our ability to give back to the community no matter where we live.
While that vision may sound daunting—to have a meaningful impact that goes beyond the product we sell in communities around the world—we have a unique company poised for just that. Just here at our home base in Indianapolis, we became aware that a few of our employees and local business partners shared a common thread of having family members who were suffering with ALS. Our Formstackers love ping pong, so we had a ping pong tournament and invited community partners, customers, and friends to help us raise money to support the ALS Association through the tournament.
Now take that example and consider that not only do we have 100+ team members across the world, we have 60,000 people using our product in 100+ countries. Imagine if we similarly figured out a way to combine the passions of our team in, say, Krakow, Poland with the passions of our customers in that same city. All of a sudden we have the beginnings of something significant. And as we build those deeper customer relationships, the benefit is two-fold as we aid in the transformation of communities and are also able to build a better product because we have personally gotten to know the needs of our customers.
Movements, though, don’t just start. We have to model behavior. The saying goes that more is caught than taught. There are times when we can share our vision with others and they immediately take action, but this is rare. More often we need to teach the vision, share how to get started, and model for them taking the first step.
And so last fall in those afternoon hours in the Windy City, we took our team to a forest preserve. Our job for just a few hours was to collect seeds from hundreds of different types of plants. While this may have been the first time some of our employees had ever volunteered, most of them left the experience having laughed together, gotten only a little bit dirty, and enjoyed being outside on a beautiful fall day. And in those three short hours, we collected enough seeds to plant ten new acres of preserve.
The fact that we harvested seeds turns out to be an unexpected illustration. As a good Westerner, I am impatient. Even as I write this, I’ve just left a few voicemails and messages because I’m frustrated with the speed of one of the projects I’m working on. And so the idea of planting a seed and waiting around for who knows how long for ten acres to grow sounds painfully slow. I prefer results tomorrow. We want to see revival-style responses in everything we do.
Planting seeds though is very different. We drop the seed on the ground. It is only then that we can start the waiting process. Watering. Waiting. Weeding. Waiting. Until life begins to show. And that is when the new journey begins.
If we want our team to think about becoming Community Pillars, we needed to start by modeling through an easy volunteer opportunity. We needed to start by planting a seed. Our hope from here is that they will choose to explore new opportunities to give back and be a part of the community they are planted in. This is the start to our vision taking root and multiplying impact. i
Chris will discuss leadership and how to develop movements at The Multiply Conference this November 8 & 9. Register now at multiply2018.com.