If everyone in an organization actually believed in helping each other, what would that look like?
On Monday, July 25th, 2016, I was returning to my hotel in Reston, Virginia as I’d just begun my third week working with Appian. En route, I was attacked, robbed, and hurt. I was highly blessed and fortunate to make it to safety and eventually taken to the hospital for treatment.
Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t worse, considering the circumstances. I was alone and would likely have died from blood loss if I had lost consciousness from colliding with a tree while escaping. I was operated on within 2 hours of coming to the hospital by a plastic surgeon who was a pretty big deal in the area, and the work he did on me showed why: the difference between how I looked coming into the hospital, and how I looked leaving 2 days later, was miraculous.
However, this story is not about my injury and the circumstances leading up to it, since that is a story unto itself; it’s about how an organization lived up to the intended vision of its founders by helping me, a person suddenly in dire need of help.
“At Appian, we help each other: It’s who we are.” — Matt Calkins
Peter helped. Shortly after I arrived to the hospital, my wife called Peter (the instructor for my Appian beginner’s training) to let him know about my situation. She then called me: “Peter wants to see you.” I was still being operated on at the hospital ER, so I asked her to tell him to wait, as he wouldn’t be allowed in. Peter shared my situation with the rest of the class of 35 trainees and kept them updated throughout the week. He would work with me in the later weeks to help me with my project presentation. He also gave me feedback on my recorded presentation (since I couldn’t give it in person). He later filled me in on the topics of the exam that I could not take.
Rebecca helped. She and Fee visited me at the hospital while I was still hooked up to the mighty morphine dispenser. I don’t remember the details of our discussion, but what I do remember is feeling incredible comfort and reassurance that I’d previously lacked. I also remember smiling and laughing, and Rebecca’s pictures of Iceland. I still have the book of crossword puzzles they brought me.
Debbie helped. She spoke on the phone with my wife in great detail to ensure that all my hospital expenses and other details were covered. We were not sure at first that Workman’s Comp would cover it, but she did the homework and made the phone calls necessary so that we didn’t have to pay any expenses out of pocket.
Rick helped. He called me daily to check on my status and see how I was recovering. He told me to take my time coming back to work, even though I hated missing time (very good advice, in retrospect). He also found an Appian hat, which was amazingly kind, considering the location of my injury and my love of hats. He nearly canceled his business trip to Chicago that week to ensure I was taken care of.
Others helped. Throughout the week, I received cards, flowers, hugs, and other kind wishes from many colleagues at Appian. I was uniformly encouraged to take the time I needed to recover, both physically and emotionally.
Each of those who helped me didn’t do so because it was their job. They helped because they cared, and because it’s in them to do so. This is a residual product of the culture that Appian’s founders envisioned: we work hard, we challenge ourselves (and each other), and, primarily, we help each other.
Growing an organization is tough, and it’s even harder to maintain a uniform vision in the process of that growth. That requires a vision from the start, and extreme vigilance in making sure those you on-board into your group shares this vision. This in and of itself is a full time job, but one that is worth the effort.
From my perspective, Matt, Mike, Marc, and Bob have done this successfully. I want to say thanks for creating this culture.