When Jim Donald became CEO of Extended Stay America, he noticed immediately that employees at the hotel chain constantly feared losing their jobs.
This made sense because the company had recently emerged from bankruptcy and the staff was aware of financial pressures and potential layoffs.
Donald, former CEO of Starbucks, told Leslie Kwoh at The Wall Street Journal that this fear restricted employees from creative, thinking-outside-the-box tactics that are needed to get Extended Stay out of financial worries. Instead, the company needs employees with " daring ideas and calculated gambles," so Donald gave his staff of 9,000 copies of "Get Out of Jail, Free" cards — a crucial game piece in the board game "Monopoly" — which would allow them to take big risks on behalf of the company without any questions or penalty.
So far, he tells Kwoh that the cards have been "trickling in since last summer, a sign that the staff's risk-averse mentality may be dissipating." In fact, one of the company's managers decided to call a movie production company when she heard they would be filming in the area and ended up bringing in $250,000 when the crew decided to stay at the hotel.
Although employers may want to shy away from workers deemed too risky, because they're known to be " loose cannon[s]" or "hard case[s] for management," these people are needed in order to generate new ideas. In fact, safe employees — the ones you can count on every day to produce the same, good work — are needed because they're reliable, but they aren't the ones you should count on to spring the company into greatness.
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