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How to Win Best Place to Work

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

There are probably dozens of reasons why Farmers Restaurant Group was named one of the Best Places to Work in the DC area by Washington Business Journal. I am thrilled for our entire team and especially psyched, of course, that people really like working with us. Honestly, there’s a lot I strive for yet often fall short. But I do know some of the things we get right. Below is a large part of our playbook to create a great place to work.

There is really no better ratio as a guideline than two ears and one mouth. Listen more. Talk less.

2. Break down taboos and stigmas around vulnerability.

Make it safe to be vulnerable by revealing your own vulnerabilities. Your team is far more likely to be genuinely inspired by you, and will be more invested and more motivated to work hard, when you have revealed your own fears and imperfections. Covering up weaknesses just creates distance between you and those you’re trying to lead.

3. Knowledge is not power. Sharing knowledge is power.

Teach your leaders how to teach. Promote teachers, not producers. You may have excellent producers, but if they can’t teach other people how to get results, don’t promote them.

4. Build a culture of lifelong learning.

In our company, no one is ever “done.” Our goals are clear: personal productivity and continuous improvement, continuous learning, continuous evolution.

5. Create equality and diversity in the workplace at all levels.

For real. You will never have equality unless you have diverse voices at the highest levels of authority. Begin with the fundamental belief that the status quo is not only unequal, but out of balance. Even if you can’t exactly see it, you must doggedly look for it. Continuously evaluate your company and your playbook. Take your EEO data and do the math. Establish ways to measure and re-measure your progress. Do you have gender parity in positions of power? Do you have pay parity by race? By gender? When folks are looking up the ladder, are there people that look like them at the top? Be honest with what is working and where much more needs to be done. In our company, we’re crushing it with gender parity through compensation, power, and several other measures, yet we have far more to accomplish with racial diversity at the executive level.

6. Rules are valuable, but the real magic is in the grey area, not the black & white.

Teach managers to apply rules through a situational lens that balances head with heart for the best possible decision-making and outcome.

7. Treat everyone who works for you as an indivisible whole.

Embrace the entire being, not just the pieces you want working for you. Prioritize success and mental well-being over performance. Never ask people to leave their problems at the door.

8. Recognize you are building a community, not a company.

Unaligned teams of individual achievers are never champions. Align individual winning with team winning. Never make it all about the company mission, but instead, make it about the collective mission. Document the company vision and mission, and hire team members who are a natural fit. This makes the march towards a goal a communal one, with upside for all. Diligently respect and appreciate employees, knowing that the burden is on the company to deserve the talent, rather than presume the talent is fortunate to have a job.


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