How do you celebrate the anniversary of your social contract?
With cake, of course.
Today, we celebrate that important milestone at our Monday morning team meeting with cake – and conversation. Unlike some big-picture documents that linger under dust once completed (mission-vision-values-crisis plans, we’re looking at you), our social contract gets talked about a lot.
Today, it is being celebrated.
Our team formalized our social contract during our January 2018 strategic planning session under the guidance of Warner Norcross + Judd labor attorneys Lou Rabaut and Kelsey Dame. As Lou points out, every ongoing relationship, be it a marriage or a business, abides under a set of rules, whether spoken or implied. In business, these rules guide how a team operates – and how it interacts with clients and community.
I must admit, having sat through countless sessions with clients trying to distill their mission-vision-values, I was a bit skeptical when Lou started talking about a social contract. “Do we really need this?” I wondered. “Is it going to be a waste of time?”
With a year under our belts, I can confidently say that developing our social contract was one of the best things we did last year. I’m such a believer in the process, I’ve referred Lou and Kelsey to multiple clients – and they have worked their social contract magic for one of our nonprofits and one of our municipalities, with a second municipality slated to go through the process later this week.
The benefits have been many – and a few have been surprising:
- Ah-ha moments for the current team: During that first session, as we whittled down the 15 or so principles into a more manageable 10, I saw light bulbs come on around the table. One team member confided afterward of being unaware of how actions impacted the team as a whole – and wound up making improvements.
- Recruiting tool: Lou recommended we interview against our social contract, letting prospective employees know this is who we are and how we operate. It’s been great advice – we’ve used it in each new hiring situation to set expectations. In fact, when candidates are doing their online due diligence, our social contracts gets highlighted – a lot.
- Yardstick for tough conversations: If we all agree to abide by the social contract, it can – and should – be brought out when a teammate’s behavior falls below the agreement. It can take some of the difficulty out of the inevitable tough conversations, either teammate to teammate or employer to employee.
- Transparency for clients: When we’re pitching new business, we share our social contract with clients. It gives them an important peek behind the curtains of our agency. Cultural fit with a prospective client is just as important as it is with a new team member.
We refer to our social contract almost daily, most typically with jokes about roller skates – or ice skates, as one of our team quipped during the last two weeks of frigid weather. It also comes up as the final question of most days: What can I do to help you get out of here? It’s become an organic ritual that punctuates the closure of most every work day – and never fails to make me smile.
We’re in process of getting quotes to have our social contract stenciled on a conference room wall in our new office. It was a topic of discussion at Friday’s agency tour as we greeted eight up-and-coming PR professionals from Grand Valley State University. I made sure to take a copy with me on Sunday when I met a potential job candidate for coffee.
And today, as a team, we’ll celebrate the first anniversary of our social contract with conversation – and a little cake.