I think it’s important to be willing to hear all comments and concerns, even if they come from a different perspective than your own. We learn and grow the most when surrounded by those who share different opinions, mindsets and cultural viewpoints.

Quiet quitting is the emerging phenomenon of employee disengagement, essentially quitting on the job. What strategies do high-impact leaders deploy to motivate themselves and those around them to move from quiet quitting to quiet committing? Because, at its core, there is no change without commitment. Commitment to change ideas. Change beliefs. Change perspectives. Change routines, rituals and boundaries. Organizations change one commitment at a time. One leader at a time. As part of our series about “Quiet Committing: The Top Five Commitments High Impact Leaders Make & Keep To Themselves Daily”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Fred Caldwell.

Fred Caldwell created Caldwell Companies in 1990 as a fully integrated real estate firm specializing in commercial and residential investment and development, as well as commercial brokerage and management services. Since then, Caldwell Companies has grown to nearly 200 associates in the last 33 years with 10 award winning communities that span across the Houston metroplex and house over 30,000 residents.

Thank you for making time for our visit. What was the first job you had, and how did that job shape the leader you are today?

My first job was at a winery in Del Rio, Texas and it taught me a lot about the power of hard work and manual labor. I worked for a family originally from Italy that founded Texas’ first winery in the 1800’s. I spent many days in the fields working to care for the vines, harvest grapes and haul to the press to be turned into juice. They never shied away from hard work and that’s something that has stuck with me for decades.

We’re talking about quiet quitting in this series. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from a job you decided to quit?

Back in 1990, I left my job at a previous organization to start Caldwell Companies. It was one of the hardest decisions to leave because I felt loyalty and love for that company, but also for the man who led the organization. I learned valuable things from the company’s founder and organization but sometimes God calls you to a new chapter and season and you must let go of the past in order to do so. I wanted to do something different and so I said ‘yes’ to what was next.

Employee Engagement is top of mind for most organizations. How do you define an engaged employee?

At Caldwell Companies, we call our employees ‘associates’ to truly emphasize the role that each person plays in the success of our organization. We love to see associates using their God-given talents and gifts each day while simultaneously being challenged and growing by the work that they are doing. In my opinion, boredom is never a good thing. We strive for our team members to never be bored, but rather be excited about what they are doing at the crossroads of challenge and accountability.

I think one of the reasons we have been consistently named as one of Houston Business Journal’s top places to work for more than ten years is because we are dedicated to our associates’ personal and professional growth — a concept that extends to our communities. We offer clear career growth paths for our associates, leadership and mentorship programs with guest speakers, one on one meetings and training to prepare our team members for the next level of leadership. Additionally, we offer resources to help our associates become the best version of themselves, such as monthly lunch-and-learns, LinkedIn Learning, a culture club offering community-building events, workplace ministries that provide weekly in-person Spiritual care, and generous benefits packages that encourage work-life balance.

Say more about your Employee Engagement portfolio. What’s working? What’s not working? And what are you piloting now to address the Quiet Committing trend?

I think that a lot of the “quiet quitting” trend stems from company mindset. Many organizations have a mindset that is focused on titles, money and worldly status. However, we prioritize mission and vision — helping our people see a greater purpose in work and life form which we see higher team buy-in and retention. This is something that we cultivate at Caldwell so that our associates feel valued and prioritized beyond title and salary.

As goes the leadership, so goes the team. How do you hold leaders accountable for their own level of engagement?

I think there is a high level of accountability that comes from regular meetings and check-ins with our leadership. Most people do not yearn for more meetings, however well-run meetings significantly drive accountability. Not only do we check in professionally, but also personally to make sure that each member of our team is feeling fulfilled, challenged and that those qualities are extended to the members of their individual teams as well.

The first phase of the pandemic ushered in the phenomenon called The Great Resignation, where employees left organizations to pursue greater meaning and purpose. Then came The Great Reshuffle, where employees left organizations to pursue promotions, pay and perks. Now we’ve entered a third phase, Quiet Quitting, where employees are deeply disengaged. What do you believe to be the key drivers of Quiet Quitting?

I believe that social media has cultivated this idea of individual identities or a unique brand. When individuals have their own brand and self-focused enterprise, it creates a challenge for companies to develop a collaborative and community-focused environment. You lose a sense of collective purpose and vision which, in my opinion, is what helps drive an organization’s success and associate retention.

What do you predict will be the next phase in the evolution of the employer / employee landscape?

As I noted previously, I believe most companies will have to develop a culture that is focused on more than simply providing wages for people. Every company and leadership team has to create a vision that is compelling in terms of how the product or service helps people and makes life better. The old days of simply paying people enough money to stay are about over.

What leadership behaviors need to evolve to improve employee engagement in a sustainable way?

Our people are our greatest assets and each one is uniquely created, wired and gifted. I feel passionately that if you get to know your team beyond the work that they do — get to know their God-given talents, passions, family life, goals and more — you not only create a heightened sense of community within your team, but you make that person feel seen and valued as less of a tool and more as someone who is perfectly created by the Lord.

Change requires commitment and happens one choice at a time. What are the top five commitments you make and keep to yourself daily that have a material impact on those you lead?

1 . Each morning, I start my day in Scripture. This helps keep me centered on how I should lead and reminds me of a greater purpose and calling that the Lord has laid on my life. Scripture is constantly reminding us to love people well and by focusing on that each morning, that flows out into how I lead.

2 . I like to apply a people-first mindset and put people above any objective. If one of our associates has a baseball game for their child and they need to miss a meeting or company event, we prioritize their family in that situation. We work together to backfill that role and need so that our people can prioritize the things that are most important.

3 . I think it’s important to be willing to hear all comments and concerns, even if they come from a different perspective than your own. We learn and grow the most when surrounded by those who share different opinions, mindsets and cultural viewpoints.

4 . In the same vein, I love to provide a space for associates to share their opinions and perspectives. Our meetings and checkpoints are conducted in a way to provide open communication and empathetic listening to all ideas, concerns and areas for growth.

5 . I have the privilege of living in one of our communities and it is the highest joy for me to walk my dog each day and see families playing in their yards, moms pushing strollers along trails we have constructed and our residents taking advantage of the aspects of Caldwell Communities that allow them to ‘LiveWell.” For me, that’s one of the highest returns on investment I see.

What’s the most effective strategy you’ve discovered to get back on track when you break a commitment you’ve made?

The powerful simplicity of confessing that you’ve made a mistake and apologizing is often overlooked in our society. I think it’s incredibly important to be able to say, “what I did was wrong and I ask for your forgiveness.” In my opinion, confession is the only way to healing and pride only holds onto something that creates division. Great leaders walk in humility and will admit when they are wrong. How can you expect your associates to do the same if you are unable to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness?

Thank you for sharing these important insights. How can our readers further follow your work?

You can learn more about Caldwell Communities at www.CaldwellCos.com. Additionally, you can follow us on social media at @CaldwellCompanies.

We wish you continued success and good health!