CEO and President meet employees parents

Unbelievable Examples of How Leaders Showed Appreciation to Employees

April 15, 2023

When you take the time and effort to bring joy into your office, great things happen. It’s been estimated that you will spend roughly one-third of your life at work. Life is too short not to enjoy the workplace. It’s paramount for employers not only to accept a fun work environment but to create a fun work environment. At Blue Compass, we’ve planned many surprises to bring to to our team members over the years. Including one of the most elaborate: the time we secretly met our employees’ parents.

What Happens When a Company’s CEO and President Secretly Meet Their Employees’ Parents

After spending hours in the car, I turned off the interstate and onto a small country road surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans. I was on an important work trip, but not for a client meeting, industry conference, or business deal. The destination was the living room of one of our team member’s parents.

When I arrived, I was greeted with a hug from our employee’s mom and a handshake from her dad. We moved into the living room and sat down. I soon found myself listening to stories of her childhood.

While this certainly wasn’t a typical professional work meeting, it was an incredibly meaningful experience.

At Blue Compass, we love our team members. Our team is like a family, and we enjoy sharing stories together and learning more about each other. One of the goals of our leadership team is to always look for ways to encourage, surprise and delight our team members.

One afternoon, my business partner, Cary and I were discussing ways we could add a little joy to our office. It had been a particularly busy few months, and it seemed like a moral boost was in order. As we talked, it occurred to us that one of our team member’s parents were in from out of state. Wouldn’t it be interesting (and funny) if we interviewed them about their daughter? It sounded like a great idea, but then we took it a step farther. “Why only interview one employee’s parents? Why not every employee’s parents?”

So we decided to secretly meet our team members' parents.

Only our Office Manager, Laura, was aware of our plan. She contacted our team members’ parents (unfortunately, to make this endeavor possible, we had to scale down to about 10 sets of parents). She ensured this was comfortable for them and told them to keep our visit a secret. She scheduled the dates for us to arrive at their houses and put together a spreadsheet with directions, addresses, and exact times at which to arrive and leave each home.

leaders meeting employees parents

Cary and I booked our calendars with events we hoped wouldn’t sound too suspicious and drove to the parents' homes over the course of three days (and shout-out to my wife, Melíssa, who accompanied us and filmed everything). We visited parents in cities, suburbs, small towns and farms. Each time we arrived at a home, we were welcomed with open arms, smiles, and hugs.

We asked the parents what each employee was like in high school, what they thought their son or daughter would be when they grew up, and the qualities they loved most about their son or daughter. Our goal was to brag a bit about each person to their parents, then simply learn more about each team member (it was very surprising how forthcoming the parents were with embarrassing stories). Shortly after the trip, we edited the footage and excitedly looked for the perfect moment to share it with the team.

These three days were one of the most wonderful experiences of my professional career. To meet the parents and learn so much more about these team members, who I value so much, was extremely rewarding. My appreciation and gratitude for each of them grew. A few weeks later, at a gathering of our entire team, I said, “It’s incredibly important for all of us to appreciate and understand one another, and what better way for us to understand you than to meet your parents? So, that’s what we did.” I stepped aside and began to roll the video.

It’s certainly not unusual for us to do something unique and out-of-the-ordinary at Blue Compass, but it was evident the team wasn’t quite buying the idea that we actually went to visit their parents. As the video started, however, it became clear this was a reality.

meeting employees parents

Everyone gasped as we pulled up to the first parents’ house and entered. As the video continued, the look on each person’s face was absolutely priceless. It was a combination of fascination, joy, confusion and anticipation. With the reveal of each new home visit, everyone wondered if his or her parents were next. The team was absolutely ecstatic. We all laughed together as we discovered new stories about each other. Every team member whose parents we visited loved the experience. It was incredibly heart-warming (and yes, we did keep a slightly embarrassing story or two in the video, but they were well-received).

Was this a weird thing to do? Absolutely. Why did we take so much time away from our meetings and to-do lists to drive over 500 miles to secretly meet these parents?

Because we wanted to bring joy to our team!

The experience surprised and delighted our team. It helped us better understand and appreciate each other. And it showed our company’s leadership cared enough to take the time and effort to actually spend time with employees’ families. It has provided us with countless memories that we still laugh about today.

A Surprising Show of Gratitude for Coworkers

That’s just one of the many appreciation adventures we've experienced with our team at Blue Compass. Another favorite was the time that we surprised our team members with giant appreciation banners

The Surprise Gift Delivery for Employees

Another time, while our team members were working at home for COVID, we surprised everyone at their homes with gifts. 

How You Can Show Appreciation to Your Team

Do you have to perform a large-scale, crazy “meet the parents” style scenario like this to have a great workplace? Of course not. Little moments of joy can be just as powerful. In fact, regular small doses of fun lead to a strong company culture. Consider bringing a surprise coffee, sending a gift card or even simply saying "I appreciate you," to a worthy team member.

When you take the time and effort to bring joy into your office, great things happen.