thriveThis is the last in a five-part series covering the five corporate values of my company, Humana:

Today’s subject: Thrive Together.  What does that mean and how can we live that value?

If we consider the word “thrive,” it brings to mind definitions such as growing, prospering, making progress, and flourishing.  It’s more than just maintaining one’s current state.  It is reaching one’s potential – the fullness of one’s capacity.  It suggests that such growth and prosperity happens in an environment that nourishes and allows room for growth, one that does not unnecessarily and unnaturally constrict such progress.

Most of us hope to thrive in many areas of our lives.  By combining the word thrive with the word together, however, the picture shifts from individuals focused on their own prosperity to one in which the whole group moves in a united direction for the good of all.  It is not a select few doing what is in their own self-interest; it is working in tandem with others in mutually beneficial ways to accomplish more together than we can separately.

To quote a small booklet from my company, to thrive together means that “we focus on shared success by breaking down silos, inviting collaboration and mentoring others.  We believe in, and act with, positive intention to create an environment of trust and integrity.”

So where do I fit in this picture?

It is vital that my personal way of working with others daily needs to include being trustworthy and demonstrating integrity.  I can’t just talk about a value; I have to model it.  I need to reach out to others to include them in decision-making, as well as be responsive to them when they reach out to me.  I must collaborate and cooperate with others willingly because I understand that each person involved has something important he/she brings to the table to help accomplish our business objectives.  I can’t horde areas of responsibility and lord over them like a king in a castle.  Even “my” role at the company isn’t truly “mine.”  It is the company’s and I am a temporary steward of that role and its responsibilities, beholden to the company to do what is in the best interests of the organization and not my own self-interests.

Fortunately, I am in a perfect role at work to help foster the breaking down of silos and building in their place a culture of communication, collaboration and cooperation through my role as the community manager of our enterprise social network.  Thriving together requires open, continuous, honest, and transparent communication.  There is no better way of facilitating that among our company’s associates than through our enterprise social platform.  That is the place where everyone is equal, where everyone’s voice can be heard, where anyone can strike up a conversation with anyone else at any level of the organization at any time about any subject.  That is the place where issues can be addressed, problems and roadblocks called out, model behavior praised, questions asked and answered, and business solutions crafted from thoughtful conversation held by engaged associates throughout the company.  As of our latest upgrade last week of the Socialcast software we use, it is even the place where projects can now be planned, managed, tracked, discussed and documented by the teams involved.  I stated at a conference in 2010 that my goal for our enterprise social network was to change the way communication happens at our company, and three years after the launch of that platform (to the very day today, May 10), we have made much progress in that direction.

I have worked with enough people personally at my company over nearly ten years to be absolutely convinced that the vast majority are dedicated, thoughtful, caring, hard-working people who want to do the right thing in the right way.  Sure, I’ve run into some that don’t fit that description and some who seem to be more concerned with thriving individually than thriving together, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule.  So I believe it is possible that we can live out this value of Thrive Together successfully in the years ahead, especially given the current example and focus of leadership.

Most people eagerly mimic the positive examples of their leaders and others they admire.  When top leaders model such values on a daily basis, the values become more than buzzwords.  Being value-focused can and should become a way of life that shapes our company’s future.  It requires moving from the awkward beginning of talking about values and learning about them to actually living them naturally because they become a part of who you are personally and corporately.  That takes time, but it can and will happen.  It requires that the values be broadly understood and accepted, not just handed down from above.  It requires regularly interjecting into discussions simple reminder questions like “How does this fit with our value of …?” so that we stay on track to make good values-based decisions.

I’m proud of the direction of my company.  I’m thankful for our excellent top leadership and for the countless great colleagues I have the pleasure to work with every day.  I’m genuinely excited about the significance of our focus on these five values and what they will mean to our culture over time – not just internally as employees but in the impact on the consumers we serve and the shareholders to whom we are accountable.

We can and we will Thrive Together.  It will take intentional, constant effort, but it will be worth it.

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