Cambridgeport Whole Foods, The Saga Continues…

One of our core beliefs centers on the ability of words to create change. Long before we became Sirocco Blue, our lead facilitator was writing about words and action. Words, in a Yoruba and Yoruba Atlantic conception of the cosmos, possess ashé, which the great art historian, philosopher, and linguist Robert Farris Thompson translates as ‘the power to make things happen.’ In future writing, our lead facilitator will share excerpts from his dissertation and essays on this very topic. For now, we’d like to recognize, once again, the Whole Foods management on River Street, for allowing our words to translate into action and recognition.

We were more than pleased when we learned that senior management at Whole Foods greater-Boston publicly recognized the staff members we listed in our recent article that positioned the River Street location as a model for community building through language use (in addition to excellent customer service). There was cake and praise and other kind gestures that meant a great deal to the staff.

If our written words can do that, we’re happy, and the way of recognizing made us reflect on a management principle that seems so basic yet remains somehow contentious, even at mission-driven non-profits. When one of the Whole Foods staff members wrote us to share their gratitude, one of the Fab Five (as footnote to newcomers, that name comes from our Springfield revival through the arts article) had a flashback to a warning: “Look, you really shouldn’t thank people for doing what is in their job description; you shouldn’t recognize them for doing something they’re supposed to be doing.” That, he recalls, was one of the moments that defined the top-down, non-science/sense of management that did not embody any aspect of constructivism that he embraced. So perhaps for this reason, and certainly for others, we’d like to reinforce that recognizing work is an important aspect of team building and enhances productivity.

And that takes us to another point. While covering a story on the road this past weekend, we had the chance to do some comparative inter-state analysis of different Whole Foods locations from the customer perspective. Difference in customer service quality across locations may have to do with the larger flow of patrons in NYC, granted. But when we returned to River Street to see Gloria, Dulce, Losang, Abdal, and Adriana work  with hundreds of (demanding) customers in-store and still engaging professionally and efficiently will all, we realized that something unique is happening at the River Street location.

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