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What if the workplace was a place of joy?

By Richard Sheridan

Richard Sheridan, author of Joy, Inc.: How we Built a Workplace People Love, explains his management style to Ricardo Semler

For most people, “joy” isn’t the word that springs to mind when they think of software development. But under CEO Richard Sheridan, it’s the guiding principle of Menlo Innovations, a US company with 50 staff who design and build custom software. For the Leading Wisely podcast season finale, Sheridan spoke to Ricardo Semler about his unique approach to leadership.

The difference between vision and mission

It’s not every CEO who would develop the company’s 10-year vision by asking all staff to imagine the party they’ll be throwing in 2027 to mark the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s birth. Sheridan posed questions like who was at the party and why, how many current and past staff were there, and what sort of conversations they were having – all designed as a way to get staff to describe their future vision for the company.

While Menlo Innovations has always had a strong mission statement that points them in the right direction, Sheridan says, the vision has another distinct purpose: it explicitly shows his team what they’re heading for, and how they’ll know if they’re taking the right steps to get there, and when they’ve arrived.

A company culture of joy

Sheridan sees his team as a tribe – they even call themselves Menlonians – and this is reinforced through a culture of storytelling.

The stories we tell are the stories of joy. What kind of joy are we trying to produce in the world and what impact does that joy produce? – Richard Sheridan CEO, Menlo Innovations

Learning from inspiring leaders

Sheridan believes it’s possible to create a corporate culture like Menlo Innovations’ in larger companies, pointing to Ricardo Semler’s joint venture firm Semco Partners; manufacturing company W. L. Gore; and the inspiring leadership of Alan Mulally and then Mark Fields, who led Ford Motor Company through a time of crisis.

At 59, Sheridan remains fascinated by the process of leadership and continues to read about and learn from other exceptional leaders.

I realize that I can’t read a book and go be like Ricardo Semler. I can’t read a book and go be like Alan Mulally. But, I can certainly learn from them and start to internalize it. Richard Sheridan CEO, Menlo Innovations

This article was originally published by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand in May 2017. You can read the article and see the full edition here.