June 4, 2013

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Rules of the Game – When Doing What’s Right Isn’t Most Important

Kids playing tennisThis past weekend I was watching a tennis academy class populated by a group rambunctious 6 year olds; my son being one of them.

This particular day, I had no fires, no pressing emails to answer and was caught up on my reading. It was just a quiet Saturday morning and I was paying attention to what was going on in the class.

Before the kids got started, one of the instructors started asking questions about the rules of the game, keeping your eye on the ball, how to shuffle to get good position, etc…etc… Then, Lenny, the director, who’s been running the program longer than anyone can remember, stepped in and asked the kids his favorite question “What is integrity?”

You see tennis is a very unique game in one respect: You are often asked to call a shot for the benefit of your opponent. Without integrity, the game cannot exist and when you are playing to win, it’s tough to make the right call, especially when it’s not in your favor. Without much thought, all but a few the kids rattled off in unison “Integrity is what you do when other people aren’t looking.” Obviously, not the first time they’ve had the lesson and a very simple concept for them. The few that didn’t were new but they heard the message. Then they all happily went off to play making decisions for their opponents as to which balls were in or out. Lenny grinned proudly, and went back to scribbling notes on his clipboard. I found it very curious that in the last year of attending, I had never actually heard Lenny recite the definition.

Just a few days later, I was excited to see this concept in action at Edge.

A customer called in looking for a highly scalable cloud hybrid cluster of web and database servers combined with compliance services, global CDN caching and DDoS protection (for the non-technical folks that last sentence is read as blah blah blah – never goes down – blah blah blah – very secure). We ran our standard process, engineering, design, review, and while it sounds complex it’s a run of the mill build for our engineers.

The order was coordinated by a new member of our team who accidently forgot to remove a few items on the order totaling a few hundred dollars a month. He approached his manager and asked what to do? After all, no one was looking, nor would anyone ever know.

Anyone who has worked with or for Edge, knows there’s no question here. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Of course, they did the right thing; they wouldn’t write this post if they didn’t. And now, they want to pat themselves on the back about it; well damn straight, but that’s not the point. I happened to overhear the conversation between the new employee, his manager, and another employee that was nearby.

I finally realized why good ol’ Lenny smiled each week without ever having to give the kids the answer. Doing the right thing when no-one was looking actually isn’t the most important thing. So what is? Creating the right culture. Learning the meaning from your peers makes it a natural part of who we are rather than procedure in a policy document. Around the corner, I grinned as proudly as Lenny and went back to scribbling notes in my iPad.

While this may seem to be contrary to our best interests, Edge’s average customer lifetime is trending over 5+ years and that doesn’t happen by accident.

So I’m curious, what are you actively doing to create a culture that encourages people to do the right thing when no one else is looking?

From the desk of Vlad Friedman, CEO @ Edge


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