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Book Review: Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan (4/5)

29 Sep

I went to an HR conference last winter where Sheridan was the keynote speaker. His company, Menlo Industries, is located about 30 minutes from me in Ann Arbor, MI. I really liked what he had to say about making work joyful and as much as his speech was geared toward the HR community, his book was geared toward any leader and talked about how to implement his success in other organizations. I listened to this one as an audiobook even though I bought a copy at the conference. I didn’t get the chance to have him sign it, though.

Cover image via Amazon

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan

Summary from Amazon:

Every year, thousands of visitors come from around the world to visit Menlo Innovations, a small software company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They make the trek not to learn about technology but to witness a radically different approach to company culture.

CEO Rich Sheridan removed the fear and ambiguity that typically make a workplace miserable. With joy as the explicit goal, he and his team changed everything about how the company was run. The results blew away all expectations. Menlo has won numerous growth awards and was named an Inc. magazine “audacious small company.”

Joy, Inc. offers an inside look at how Menlo created its culture, and shows how any organization can follow their methods for a more passionate team and sustainable, profitable results.

Sheridan’s approach really boils down to letting people’s lives not be overrun by work and getting rid of the fear of failure at work. One of the most memorable things Sheridan talked about in his presentation was parents being able to bring their babies into the office if they had childcare problems. This blew me away. It started when an employee was ready to come back to work after maternity leave and her childcare fell through. Since then, other parents have been able to have their babies ‘work’ at Melo as well. As far as eliminating fear, Sheridan has found ways to let his teammates be honest about the problems they are running into so they’re not afraid to say something’s behind or more difficult than anticipated. This creates better feedback for customers and a better understanding of their timelines and gives the teams adequate time to work on their work.

Sheridan was the only real ‘character’ in the book. If I hadn’t heard him speak, I might not have believed he really was as open as he describes himself in the book. He is a curious person and always eager to improve and try new things. He really believes in letting people be more than just employees and finding ways to integrate life with work without work taking over. He recognizes that he’s employing people, not robots.

I understood a lot of the concerns that his employees shared during the book. One of the more memorable moments was when the company sold a venture capital investment and was able to distribute the earnings amongst employees. Rich asked an employee how much the money meant to her and she was honestly not very moved by it but was enjoying the fact that she’d recently received a peer-supported promotion. She was so happy with this promotion that she wasn’t able to really articulate the impact of the money because it was minimal compared to the promotion.

Richard Sheridan
Image via Twitter

I liked how Sheridan described the ways his team overcame difficulties and how there were problems he was still working to solve. It started to seem like his company was nearly perfect. At the end, he addressed this and talked about how the company overcomes them methodically and in a way that lets them not be afraid when something new comes up.

Sheridan talked about how other companies would visit Menlo and how they can implement their ways in other industries. However, the only example he gave of this being affectivly done was in the IT group of an insurance company. I wish he’d given more examples of how parts of his model had been adopted for other industries and types of work. How would it work in manufacturing, where I am?

The audiobook was ready by Tim Andres Pabon and I felt he captured Sheridan’s tone well. He got excited at things Sheridan would get excited about and had a similarlly upbeat attitude about any issue that came about. Honestly, I’m putting Pabon’s voice to Sheridan’s face and it’s lining up well for me, I think he was a good pick.

In a time when technology is having people work what seems like 24/7, Sheridan’s message is a breath of fresh air. People are dreading work time and long hours to meet deadlines, especially in tech industries. Sheridan shows how small changes can make people happier and how to experiment and try new things to see how they go. Bringing Joy to work seems like a crazy concept until he explains in this book.

Writer’s Takeaway: Sheridan knew he had something great with his company and he knew he wanted to share it in a book. He writes how he planned to write three books before he finished his first. I think knowing when you have something worthwhile to say is important and Sheridan sure did. He was straightforward about what worked in his book and how he implemented it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be someone with something to say about business and a book to write, but I liked his determination and conviction that he had something unique to share.

A solid book and a great example of work culture. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts: 
Book Review: Joy, Inc. | Lily Snyder 
Meno Innovations’ Business Value of Joy Workshop | Michigan Tech 

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