X-Box Story

today at work our staff was among the 80,000 some viewers who watched the Maximum Impact Simulcast. Maximum Impact is a program of prominent leaders (some Christian, some not) who share their perspectives on what makes a good leader. specifically, this year's topic was about what it means to provide a stimulating, and therefore positive and productive, work environment for employees.

tim sanders, a consultant for Yahoo!, focused his presentation on happiness--the kind of happiness that comes from a satisfying, meaningful job. our best work will not come from being a clockwatcher, he said, but from being encouraged and supported by our employer and fellow co-workers. he told us about a time once when a CEO once expressed his discontent with the social value at his office. the CEO said that he never spoke to employees face to face--it was always email. he never gave an employee more than a "satisfactory" remark regarding their work because of the fast turnover in the company. thanfully, the CEO had recognized the major problem and wanted to fix it.

sanders suggested a solution: refrain from emailing employees when they turn in work. instead, go directly to their flourescent-lit cubicle, touch them on the shoulder, and say one positive thing about their work and one positive thing about them personally. the CEO agreed and implemented the new plan immediately when he returned to the office.

the following week the CEO received a visit at his office from one of the employees. the employee handed him a brand new x-box and a game. it wasn't the CEO's b-day and he was very surprised, considering the expense of the gift. the employee's response:

"I traded it in for my 9 millimeter."

the CEO's hair stood up on the back of his neck.

with tears in his eyes, the employee explained that his mom had died two years before, and not having any other friends, he moved to Seattle hoping to start a new life. he did acquire a job, but no friends. in two years no one had made eye contact with him, talked to him, or touched him. his depression led him to suicide chat rooms about the three suicide stages, which involved buying a gun, getting used to holding it without shaking, taking off the safety, and teething: touching it to your teeth. it was while the employee was in the final stage, teething, that the CEO's face-to-face encouragement and human touch had occurred, and the employee had been so shocked that he couldn't even hold the gun anymore. he pawned his gun, and remembering that his CEO had been wanting an x-box, he used the money to buy it for his lifesaver.

i don't think i have to explain why the x-box story is powerful. it exemplifies a few truths our society is quickly forgetting. first, human touch cannot be replaced by electronic communication. i'm not suggesting that technology is the antichrist; it is important for its own purposes, but it does not replace skin-to-skin contact with another human being. second, encouragement and positive reinforcement is vital to a person's survival in work, in family, in community. we rely on each other to be reaffirmed. we can get so busy with our own life that we don't even recognize the dying soul of the man sitting next to our cubicle, or an acquaintance at church. we can become glued to our computers and forget the sound of our friend's voices.

it doesn't take much at all to save a life. but it does take a wake-up call and a realization that we are humans--not robots. how does the x-box story speak to your life?