What Amazon (And Every Company) Should Learn from Robin Williams

Unwelcome noise shatters the silence and the fog is slowly lifted as the eyes and brain reengage to bring context that the night is over, sleep is done and a new day awaits. From that first moment of consciousness the routines may differ, but the result is the same. We dress, physically and emotionally, and enter the new day.

The office beckons. Emails demand attention. Priorities shift and re-sort. The problems of yesterday are one day more urgent. Goals to be met, people to be satisfied, wages to be earned, dreams to be lived... hopefully.

An hour, a day, a week earlier, the news came. Mom fell. Again. The divorce papers were filed. The baby was lost. The cancer returned. Yet in the halls of corporate America, life goes on. The battle for progress and profit rages. The competition relentless.

It's been a little over a year since the death of Robin Williams. Brilliantly funny. Tragically broken. The world was stunned to find out that the comedic genius with the warm smile was a hopelessly sad and lonely man.

There is a valuable lesson that employees, managers and companies can learn from the life and death of Robin Williams. For even the most positive-minded and optimistic people, real life happens. Acknowledged or not, we work among the walking wounded. Everyone -- the rich, the beautiful, the intelligent, the powerful -- is dealing with some difficult and shitty bits of life. Some just hide it better than others.

The realities and messiness of life are oftentimes expected to be tucked away, neatly out of sight, the fragility of life hidden behind a smile. After all, the personal and messy parts of life can make people feel uncomfortable and awkward. So we keep things professional and leave the personal at the door.

In the never-ending quest to improve employee retention, morale and engagement, I wonder... could it all be improved if we let a bit more real (and messy) life make its way into the halls and conference rooms of the workplace? More of our personal lives, not less. What would happen to the bottom line if employees truly felt that they were known and valued? If their injured souls were welcomed and cared for by the people with whom they work every day?