by Brent Maugel
What if your organization focused on employee empowerment and aspirations? Not only in their career, but in every aspect of their life? What if your organization coached, mentored, and provided a safe haven for the important things in life: family, friends, faith, finances, health, and career?
Creating greatness with a culture of empowerment
In 2008, amidst a precipitous industry downturn, Maugel Architects took a long, hard look at ourselves and changed our view of the world and our place in it. We decided to disregard the poor economic conditions and the negativity in the industry. We focused on the future and took a proactive, impassioned commitment to be exceptional in all aspects of our business, from employee empowerment to the bottom line.
We embarked on a journey to transform from a good company to an exceptional one. Along the way, we discovered that becoming exceptional is born from the empowerment of people: Hire self-motivated people aligned with the vision, mission, and values of the organization, give them authority, promote habit change, convert disciplined thinking into disciplined action, and, most importantly, dream big. Nothing is impossible with a positive attitude and a team of purpose-driven collaborators.
When circumstances challenge our dreams, I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 talk with a group of Philadelphia junior high school students, in which he was asked about his life’s blueprint. He said: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures . . . Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” Notice he did not say a good street sweeper; he said a great street sweeper. That’s what we strive to be — exceptional. Always.
What we believe
We are big believers in measurables and metrics — they serve as a baseline from which we launch ambitious goals and measure our progress. But we are wary of industry standards because they are the blueprints of mediocrity. Imagine a company whose highest aspiration is to be “as good” as their competition. We do not want to act as the industry expects. Our approach is to do what is right, innovative, disruptive, challenging — and again, big and bold. Clients need, want, and deserve advisors who bring something bold to the table.
A best-self philosophy
In 2017, we made a commitment to empowering our people to become their best selves by offering a myriad of wellness, enrichment, and educational programs: work force training, lunch-and-learns, social offsites, company retreats, charity activities, generous benefits, fitness experts, financial consultants, life coaching, and relationship and team building. As a result, many employees changed their lifestyles to include more meaningful and impactful activities.
In the 2018 Boston Globe “Top Places to Work” issue, office manager Maureen Hopper and COO John Lawlor were featured in an article highlighting Maugel’s best-self program. The article focused on how Maureen prioritized time to help her son prepare for college, joined a Pilates class, and improved her diet. She is now less stressed, with more energy and a renewed enthusiasm for her career.
Take the long view
It takes a significant investment of time and resources to build a culture of empowerment — and even more effort to sustain one — but it is essential. To stay the same is to fall behind. There is no avoiding change, and organizational sustainability can only be achieved by embracing change in the context of the vision, mission, and values of the organization. If you never lose sight of your core values, making the right decision is easy. Just ask: Is the considered path taking the company toward the dream or away from it? Once answered, the direction is clear.
Sustainability is all about embracing positive change and thirsting for constant improvement toward the dream and perfection, as a team. I was a Green Bay Packer fan growing up in Ohio and remember the famous Packer coach Vince Lombardi being a big proponent of sacrificing individuality for the team. One of his many popular quotes is: “Perfection is not attainable, but if you chase perfection we will catch excellence.” In our business, we shape excellence in our designs, but only when we sustain the desire to improve.
We continue to prove that creating an exceptional organization starts with empowering others to be their best self. We have enjoyed this journey and look forward to the winding path ahead. As you evaluate your path, consider the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Brent Maugel is the founder and president of Maugel Architects, a Harvard, Mass. firm that recently celebrated its 25th year.