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Mindful : December 2013
December 2013 mindful 49 Clockwise from far left: Employees enjoy a minute of silence before meetings; an idea board at the offices of Eileen Fisher; massages are made available to all employees during working hours; a map of the world made of cloth remnants; quiet is worked right into this office’s design. also works here—like mother, like son.) Ma ny articles of clothing will be tagged and find their way to the Lab Store and two other outlets in Westchester. Some will be donated to shelters, and some are too threadbare for use. Their fate is under consideration. A second collection center in Seattle now supplies a Green Eileen store there, and more outlets are planned. “Sales increased almost 50% this year,” Campbell tells me. “It took 33 months for Green Eileen to ea rn its first million, a year for the second million, and we just hit the third million after eight months. That’s a lot of upcycling!” Eileen Fisher has known hard times. Hurricane Sandy inundated the com- pany’s headquarters, which is still being restored, but Fisher is philosoph- ical about what was lost in the flood. “It’s just stuff,” she said at the time. The company is not immune from the harsh world of the marketplace either. While the desig ns are timeless, the core Eileen Fisher customer is aging, and that’s challenging the company to find younger customers while still adher- ing to the “timeless desig n” principle. Fisher feels confident they can continue to “make desig n that belongs to this moment but transcends the moment” and appeal to a new generation of cus- tomers. There are early positive sig ns, but only time will tell. People who work at Eileen Fisher generally share the company’s values and often apply to work there for that reason, but as the company grows, changes, and adds new employees, it’s ma king a robust effort to foster the culture and help people work and live well. Yvette Ja rreau, director of leadership, learning and development, described to me the recent evolution of Eileen Fisher. “About a decade ago, we had roughly 400 people who had grown embryonically a round Eileen. People were doing multiple roles—when you’re small, you wear a lot of hats. Now there’s more complexity to manage.” As the company grew to a thousand employees, Susan Schor, the chief culture officer, star ted a program to create more orga nization while maintaining collabo- rative va lues and to help people develop the leadership skills they need to ma ke that work. While the conventional man- ager takes pride in knowing the answers, Fisher advocates not knowing, which “makes it easier to learn from others.” Leadership at Eileen Fisher is looser, more open to ambiguity and uncer- tainty. “It’s always moving and chang- ing.” Jarreau tells me. “ We say, ‘We’re in the river.’ “Managing ambiguity is a tough thing for many people, who tend to want things more black and white. We don’t rely on a lot of policies and rules here, which is challenging. Our thrust is to help →