Back in the late 90s [full disclosure] I used to work for GTI, Gordon Training International. I was tasked with compiling and publishing case studies of companies who use L.E.T. One longstanding client (continues to be a client of GTI’s), is a large, private manufacturing firm that is well known for its vibrant, healthy, engaged workforce. In interviewing them, they freely admitted to me that they consider L.E.T. their “secret weapon,” their “competitive advantage.” Boom! I had the quote I needed. They then quickly added: “You can’t mention that, though.”
Bummer! I did end up publishing my piece about them, but missing was that most valuable little nugget of information. Though I can say that they are legendary on the Fortune Magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Fast forward to present day: My wife and I own a 14-store chain of clothing boutiques that we started back in 2006, in Maui, Hawaii. It’s our company this time around so I can unreservedly say that L.E.T. is our competitive advantage.
So how exactly is it our competitive advantage? I think of my company as a very complex engine that requires hundreds of parts to run; adding to the complexity, in this engine the parts have feelings and needs and minds of their own. Opportunities for conflicts and misunderstandings and resentments abound. What L.E.T. does for us is give us tools for dealing with sticky people issues so that the parts don’t grind against each other and break down, slowing down the entire operation.
As an extra-added bonus, my business partner is also my wife. That means our personal and business lives often blur together and so there’s an ever-present risk that we can burn each other out. L.E.T. gives us the tools we need to solve problems and not get on each others’ nerves. Being able to work together is an advantage. Being able to solve conflicts with employees is an advantage. Giving them the tools so they solve their own conflicts and don’t come to us to play judge and jury is an advantage. Being able to solve conflicts with customer and vendors and maintaining healthy relationships with them is an advantage. Being able to actually enjoy working and not live in worry about people problems is an advantage.
This year I took the plunge and dove deeper into L.E.T. Land—I became our company’s in-house trainer. It’s a testament to our belief in the value of L.E.T. that I’ve decided to take the time to personally teach the workshop to our employees. By doing so we hoping the message is clear: We really value this. And that everyone, at all levels, is on board.