When the very first employee was hired at The Greentree Group, Travis Greenwood (now President & CEO of the strategic technology consulting firm), talked to his wife about how to bring the new team member onboard.

His wife, Lisa, said, “Let’s send him something to welcome him, like a fruit basket.”

So they did, and after 25 years, the tradition has stuck. “Ever since that day, we’ve sent out fruit baskets to team members’ homes when they join us.”

The welcome basket also has a note on it that says, “Welcome to our family.”

“It sets everything off on such a great note for us. They can now see what we talked about during the interview process. It’s just one step to show how much we are going to enjoy having them on the team with us,” says Travis.

“It was my wife’s idea and something that we’re very proud of,” says Travis. It’s one small, but intentional gesture that helps to build mutual respect in the workplace.

Language Shapes Your Culture

Mari Wenrick, Chief Champion of Culture at Value Added Packaging (VAP) also looks to foster a culture of mutual respect and care for all team members.

VAP is a custom corrugated box manufacturer located in Clayton, Ohio that believes in changing the way customers buy packaging, helping them to improve their internal processes and reduce their total costs.

One example of how VAP builds respect: through conscious choices about the language they use. “Our language is so important because it presents an image—a feeling,” says Mari.

Rather than using words like “manager” or “boss,” VAP uses “leader,” “coach,” “trainer,” “mentor” or “supporter.”

Doing so breaks down barriers in the company and adds to the collaborative, caring culture. “That’s the atmosphere you have in our organization…There’s no wall between office and plant,” explains Mari. “Even our team leaders are held accountable to what they say and how they say things. It’s so important, the language that we speak,” she says.

Teams Based on Care & Trust

Many new people come to The Greentree Group from organizations where they had an employee ID number. People will come in and ask, “What’s my ID number?”

Despite having more than 100 employees, The Greentree Group intentionally chooses not to use employee ID numbers.

“We tell them, ‘We don’t have any of those. What’s your name?’” says Travis.

“And every business has employees or contract workers. For us, those ‘titles’ are driven by administrative reporting and budgets. It’s about how you treat the person when working with them, it’s not about a ‘title’ or label,” adds Travis.

“At the end of the day, it’s what you are doing with that individual. It’s about trust. And it’s about how you treat one another in the company.”

Extending Respect Across All Relationships

One of Greentree’s values is partnering with clients. “We want to work with clients as a valued part of their team.”

This, too, has to involve mutual respect.

“Over the years, we have had [clients] that did not know how to treat others right. Maybe they were on the phone, yelling at our people, for no reason, for example,” says Travis.

When a client repeatedly shows a lack of caring and respect, leaders at Greentree will tell them there is an issue. “In those cases, we would say, ‘Would you please be careful about how you speak with our folks? I’m demanding that they do the same to your folks.’”

But Travis says they’ve had to stop working with clients because of how they habitually treated Greentree team members. “We just do not tolerate any type of lack of respect to one another,” he says.

Travis says the same lens is what his people use on a daily basis.

“They use values in their decision-making. They can say, ‘If I do this, is this aligned with our values? Does this violate any of our values?’” he says.

“And I have found over the last 25 years in this business, that whenever we have failed, it’s because we didn’t uphold the values that we have.”

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