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Posts Tagged ‘positive feedback’

One company’s quest to drive negativity from its corporate culture


Electric Motor Repair (EMR) is a Baltimore-based business. This third generation privately owned business is the pride and joy of the Kauffman family. Roger Kauffman, President, the son of the founder, and his daughter, General Manager and heir apparent, Caroline Kauffman-Kirschnick have joined forces in creating a unique corporate environment.

Approaching its 90th year, EMR is recognized throughout the Baltimore/Washington corridor and the Greater Delmarva region as a leader in servicing commercial cooking/refrigeration equipment and servicing and repairing industrial motors.

That is what their 200 plus employees do.

That is not who they are.

EMR is a values-driven corporate family dedicated to creating an environment of cooperation and appreciation where employees gang up on problems—not each other.

The genesis of this effort is a program I was privileged to help them develop called Eye Spy.

Herein lies the story:

I began working with Roger Kauffman over 15 years ago. During that time, I have assisted in all manner of corporate consulting: team building retreats, one-on-one executive coaching and succession planning.

As Roger prepared for his eventual exit from the company, it became more and more apparent that his eldest daughter, Caroline, was someone worth keeping an eye on.

She was hard working, eager to learn, and loved a challenge. The more responsibility she was given the more she seemed to strive.

By 2013 it was clear that Caroline was the logical choice to eventually lead the company, and Roger began working with her on creating a shared vision.

This shared vision required they both be able to effectively communicate differences.

To help them with this, I turned to the work of relationship therapist, Harville Hendrix,

author of Getting the Love You Want and co-author with his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt of Making Marriage Simple. Harville and Helen co-created Imago Relationship Therapy and with that a communication tool called Dialoguing (later renamed Safe Conversations). It is based on the premise that most couples communicate using parallel monologues—two people talking and no one listening. The dialogue involves people taking turns sending and receiving information and doing so in a structured manner. Dialogues consist of Mirroring to assure the message delivered is the message received (“So let me see if I got that.”), Validating to communicate that a different point of view is legitimate (“And you make sense.”) and Empathizing to connect with the emotions behind someone’s point of view (“And I can imagine you would have felt..”)

The question I asked myself was, “Could I somehow make these interpersonal tools applicable in a business context?” Unlike an interpersonal relationship where we choose our partner, coworkers are people we are connected to by chance.  In addition they are being paid to do a job or perform a function.

I thought about it very carefully and decided that whether or not the relationship was personal or professional it was still a relationship with another human being who had a separate reality. So the answer was “yes” it most likely would work.

Since the “‘fish’ always smells good or stinks from the head down,” it was clear that I needed to start teaching these skills at the top of the organizational food chain which meant getting Roger and Caroline on board.

It proved to be a workable strategy. Roger was already familiar with the Dialogue process and knew the steps, and Caroline was game to learn.

They were both eager students, and with some coaching they began to use the process when they were problem solving and/or trying to deal with a particularly touchy subject.

We next turned to the managers. Through a series of off-sight trainings using role-plays and discussions, we began to introduce the principles of creating a safe environment to exchange ideas.

What was needed now was a structure. We a needed a common language, and we achieved that with the creation of a Code of Conduct and a Customer Service Pledge.

This is what they created:


EMR Code of Conduct
Our goal is to create a happy family environment where people feel valued, safe, fulfilled, and enjoy coming to work.

As a member of the EMR family I will:

Trust and respect my work family members

Think outside of myself and my position

Be open minded and flexible to new ideas

Never criticize others

Always assume good intent

Communicate effectively

Share knowledge

Learn from others’ knowledge

Show empathy

Stay positive and optimistic

Support, inspire and encourage

Have fun and enjoy what I do!

I will hold myself accountable to this code.


The EMR Customer Service Pledge
We pledge to provide you with a professional and friendly service experience from start to finish.

Here at EMR we are a family.

You, as our customer, are important to our family.

Our goal is to exceed your expectations.

We will do this by:

  1. Listening to your needs and concerns
  1. Doing what we say we will do
  1. Maintaining a highly trained technical and administrative staff

Our Business is caring about your Business!

This is the EMR way.

Adhering to the Code of Conduct world creates a safe environment but we needed a way to involve the whole company.

Enter Eye Spy.

With the help of the Managers, Sales and Line workers, we created a program where employees would be rewarded for using the principles of the Code and the Customer Service Pledge.

The program is simple. Whenever an employee would observe a coworker using one of the principles of the Code or Pledge, they would “spy” on them and report the incident to a company link. At the end of the month, the person who was observed the most times (“Spied on”) adhering to the Code and Pledge and the person who reported the most incidents (“Spied”) would each receive $100.  At the end of the year, the individual who “spied” on the most people and the people who had been “spied on” the most will each receive $1,000.

What the organization had created was a creative way to begin sharing positive feedback and appreciations on a company-wide scale. Eye Spy is the vehicle to help people codify this behavior.

Behind it is a very important premise. When people are positively predictable, others feel safe and when they feel safe they connect and communication flows. Appreciations and recognition are two great ways to help people feel safe.

This was a way of countering the unsafe way people in organizations can often behave.

Unfortunately, people can sometimes be negative, critical or judgmental. This behavior causes others to feel unsafe, it ruptures connection and effective communication falls apart.

Eye Spy was in essence created to foster effective, safe communication and in doing so helping to systematically drive negativity from EMR’s culture.

The program has been in place since January 2016. To date almost 500 appreciations have been reported, and nearly 40 percent of the company has participated.

The program is a work in progress but so far this corporate/social experiment appears to be working.

Here are some of the reasons why:

It taps into a larger “why”
Giving appreciations (“spying”) is simply a way of reinforcing the corporate values contained in the Code of Conduct and the Customer Service Pledge.

It has a Champion
Caroline and Roger are both true believers, but Caroline has taken this concept and really runs with it. Having someone at the top supporting the idea is critical to its success.

It is kept new and fresh
New ideas are continually being introduced. Recently it was announced that rather than one company winner in each category a winner would now be named in each branch. There is also talk of having a contest to name the “Spy Guy.”

These new ideas help keep the concept fresh and retain people’s interest in the program.

Nothing moves in a straight line and EMR is by no means a perfect place to work. It is an organization inhabited by flawed people working with other flawed people.

What makes it different is that it has become an organization were people are learning to practice a form of “positive gotcha.”

It is a place where, when problems arise, they are handled in a healthy way.

It is an environment where what others do right is recognized and rewarded and in doing so criticism and negativity are being systematically driven out.

It is organizations dedicated to continually improving the way people interact.

And that’s something worth “spying” about.




CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488