Engage!: How WD-40 Company Built the Engine of Positive Culture

Stan Sewitch

Publisher: Trafford Pages: 232 Price: (paperback) $16.99 ISBN: 9781698714998 Reviewed: January, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

Serial entrepreneur Stan Sewitch wasn’t interested in reentering the corporate world — until Garry Ridge, former CEO of WD-40, brought him on board as a consultant and partner, where he spent nine years, with a starting title of VP Global Organizational Development. It was the company’s values that attracted him, he says, and those values — the push to achieve something other than profit — that form the backbone of this conversational debut.

Aimed at CEOs and company presidents, Sewitch’s half-memoir, half-leadership guide documents some of the lessons he learned during his tenure at WD-40, a company where, he writes, the oft-quoted Gallup poll about low engagement at work simply doesn’t apply; employees there are overwhelmingly engaged. The key, he notes, is building an emotional connection to work and encouraging optimism about the future.

Sewitch goes on to tender advice on measuring engagement, honing and communicating values, fostering accountability, utilizing hiring best practices, and building the “tribe,” a concept that Ridge, who is white, sourced from aboriginal peoples in his native Australia.

The author’s avuncular tone is well-intentioned and kindly. Unfortunately, his advice is ponderous and ultimately tries to accomplish too much, covering as many aspects of leadership as occur to him. Much of it feels outdated, missing the mark; for example, he boasts about widely soliciting employees to use their leave time to cover a staff member whose toddler had brain cancer—entirely skipping the idea that leadership might simply have given that employee the needed leave without docking others. While these ideas might have been revolutionary decades ago, they come across now as crusty and ungenerous.

While Sewitch’s family and colleagues at WD-40 will likely find this a familiar and fond roundup of his time there, other readers are likely to see this as a collection of thoughts that aren’t particularly fresh and have little narrative drive to distinguish them.

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