Just a few weeks after joining SoundExchange in November of 2020 as its chief marketing and communications officer, I tested positive for COVID-19. There is never a good time to get COVID, but this felt catastrophic.
The battle that ensued landed me in the hospital twice for long stretches of time. I almost did not make it. It was truly a fight for my life.
During this harrowing experience, my SoundExchange team sent flowers to my home, toys to my toddler, and our CEO checked in regularly with my family with genuine and unconditional concern for my health and my life. Even as a new employee with no dues paid yet to the company, the focus was on me as a fellow human being and how I was doing in those really dark days.
The kindness, support, and sheer humanity of it all is a refreshing version of a people-first culture that could be possible in all organizations. I already believed I made a stellar move by joining the band at SoundExchange, and how I was treated in those terrifying moments created an even deeper sense of pride, commitment and trust in our company, our team, our leadership, and our vision forward.
Company culture can make or break an organization, and if done right—authentically, sincerely, transparently—a strong culture is the differentiator between success and failure. Better work culture leads to engaged, hardworking, and loyal employees, regardless of rank or seniority, and therefore better work product, increased ROI and more success all around. Shouldn’t that be a goal?
If we have learned anything at all in the year 2020 which has upended so much of what we grew to call “normal,” it should be that we are each other’s keepers and that nothing can succeed without teamwork. We are people before we are employees, colleagues or bosses.
I call on all my fellow business leaders to be the agents of change that humanize our workforce, not just because it’s the nice thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. As it turns out, it actually pays to be kind. Also, your karma will thank you (if you believe in that kind of thing).
Esther-Mireya Tejeda is chief marketing & communications officer for SoundExchange.