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Knowing you’ve got great company culture – how a janitor helped put a man on the moon

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A Gallup poll once claimed what the world’s populace wanted more than anything –even food, shelter, safety and peace – was a good job. “Almost no leader in the world knows this,” it said. “It is a sociological shift of great significance. People want a good job; they don’t want informal jobs or self-employment out of necessity.”

Given its global impact, it’s no surprise the issue has found itself the topic of numerous movies – all of which, in their own way, strive to inspire entrepreneurs to get and stay motivated.

While Jerry Maguire is primarily a romantic comedy, Maguire’s mission statement perfectly captures the importance of having a vision and sticking with it, even if nobody else sees it that way. You roll with the punches and, more importantly according to the movie, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

But while many have stuck with the inspirational high-notes of success, the movie Office Space taps into that ever-present issue of having a lack of motivation. Its main character, Peter Gibbons, visits a hypnotherapist to help him with his hatred toward his job. In the scene, he says: “I was sitting in my cubicle and realised, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. It means that every day you see me, that’s the worst day of my life. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”

These words surely hit home for many and serves to highlight a concept that many bosses still remain ignorant of: a good job isn’t just about the paycheck and insurance benefits. They want their workplaces to be fun and not miserably stressful given how many hours of their lives they will spend there.

But how do you build an amazing company culture that will hook staff from the get-go? Trolling through the internet we picked some of the best examples of what happens when you’ve got that magic culture vibe – as well as advice from business leaders on how it could be improved.

Image: Shutterstock

(1) Building on a vision

One of the best examples of this hails from the era of Apollo 11. It’s important to note that president Kennedy set the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by the end of 1960s. “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon.”  That’s exactly how NASA staff felt. This was highlighted in 1969 during a briefing in NASA’s command centre, where the president noticed a janitor. He approached him and said: “Hi. I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

“Well, mr. president,” the janitor said, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” This man felt as if he were making history, contributing to the larger story unfolding within the business. Could it get any better than that, to have all levels of a company have a unified commitment to a mission – in this case literally?

It’s not the first time a round of questions to staff heralded such an understanding of the company’s vision. In a book on “respectable quotes,” author Louise Bush-Brown tells the story of how English architect Christopher Wren walked unrecognised to the men under his employ working on St. Paul’s cathedral.

“‘What are you doing?’ he inquired of one of the workmen, who replied, ‘I am cutting stone.’ He put the same question to another man, who said: ‘I am earning five shillings twopence a day.’ The third man he addressed answered: ‘I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.’ That man had vision. He could see beyond the cutting of the stone, beyond the earning of his daily wage, to the creation of a great cathedral. And in your life it is important for you to strive to attain a vision of the larger whole.”

Continue on to see how the Ritz-Carlton and Zappos are leading an employee empowerment revolution.

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