January 15, 2014
Interviews: Thinker in Residence: Richard Sheridan
"Yet at the midpoint of this career rise, I wanted out. My chosen field had betrayed me. I was in a trough of disillusionment, trapped in a career that had no joy, and I couldn't leave."
Recommending Joy, Inc. -- our Jack Covert Selects review:Depending on whom you ask, joy in the workplace may or may not be considered crucial to an organization’s bottom line. More traditional workplace strategies first focus on what’s “best for the company,” with benefits to employees seen as peripheral. Joy can be had, certainly, but it’s not often considered the company’s responsibility to provide it to employees because it’s not considered profitable. But, what if increased joy actually led to higher productivity, increased quality, and greater profitability? This is exactly what Richard Sheridan describes in Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love.
At forty years old, Richard Sheridan exhibited the benchmarks of what many consider success. From the outsider’s perspective, things were going very well: newly minted VP of R&D at one of Michigan’s premier publicly-traded software companies, excellent salary, and generous stock options. But Rich was not happy stepping into his new role as VP. His programmers couldn’t communicate with end users and clients, the frequent bugs were always someone else’s problem, and missing a deadline was status quo. In short, work wasn’t fun and it wasn’t anything to take pride in. For several years, Rich was increasingly unhappy—often even taking long, scenic drives to work simply to spend less time in the office. Sheridan’s new role precipitated a serious crisis of being. In his words:
There had to be a better way to do things, a better way to work and manage a team. Though I had no firm idea of what I was looking for, I was convinced there was a solution out there for my existential crisis and that I’d know it when I saw it.What follows is Sheridan’s tale of rediscovery, especially unique because his journey starts with joy—the same joy that struck him at the age of 13 after writing his first two simple lines of code. Joy, Inc. takes us through a wide array of organizational aspects in which Sheridan’s company, Menlo Innovations, has thrown out the industry SOPs and simply recreated systems that work, keeping their people happy and their output excellent. From the completely open workspace (literally no walls aside from the perimeter) to the simple-yet-clear strategies for communication and work, Joy Inc. offers up Menlo Innovations as an engrossing case study on workplace structure and operations.
Even though Joy, Inc. is born from the story of a software company, the lessons inside can transfer to almost any workplace. And, even though creating software is Rich Sheridan’s original joy, Joy, Inc. is written by a manager for other managers. Echoing Simon Sinek’s famous sentiment, Sheridan echoes the importance of finding your why. Starting with why is an easy step, and if you’re reading this, you’ve likely already agreed. What Joy, Inc. does is remind us that our why—whether personal or organizational—shares close kinship with a need for joy.
“This journey to joy at work is personal. It has to be. You want a job or an organization that brings you joy. You want to enjoy that "good kind of tired" at the end of each day, knowing you make your life just a little bit better today. Along the way, you transform into the person you've always dreamed you could be. You get in touch with what makes your heart sing and you draw others to your flame.”
Next:Check in with us tomorrow as we continue our Thinker in Residence series on Richard Sheridan with his Q&A interview on Joy, Inc..
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.