My career in leadership started in 1980 when I was asked to take on the role of the Lead Technical Support Analyst at a custom manufacturing company in the Midwest. My entre into Data Processing was by luck and I truly was feeling my way through it. I had only been in “Data Processing” for a little over three years. My current job was lead Computer Operator. I did not believe I was ready for a promotion. I was going to school for Computer Science, I was a mother to two very young children, a wife, and I worked nights to reduce the time away from the children. Talk about trying to do it all! I was the only female in our department and I was most often referred to as the “girl”. We have progressed!
The technical support role was new to the department. The responsibilities were mine to create in many ways. By accident I had formed the concept behind the role by assuming a leadership responsibilities without asking permission. I took on such responsibilities as creating the job schedule, instituting incident and change management (didn’t even know what to call it back then), asset management, and other ITSM like controls. We didn’t have processes predefined to pull from. It just made common sense.
I am getting of track here! Back to the point. My job was quite simple looking back. But at the time I was nothing less than scared. I lamented my concerns to a well-seasoned engineer who I often looked to for sage advice and counsel. His advice to me was this
“Take care of your people and they will take care of you.”
“Is it really that simple? I said, “How do I do that?” He said“
"You are not there to be their friend but that doesn’t mean you should not be friendly. If you show them you care about their well-being, they give back their best. It really is that simple.”
Over the years, his advice remained my mantra and cemented itself as one of my core personal principles. It yearned me the moniker of “Dragon Slayer”. More important it earned me the mutual respect of trusted team members who became good friends. I shared my story with those that I thought would understand, and kept it to myself in the presence of the few who I wasn’t sure would get it.
At the same time I never correlated it to anything outside of the office until I’ve read words from Bob Chapman.
I recently caught a tweet this morning sharing a blog written by Bob Chapman.
The Human Side of Leadership. What a fantastic concept! That tweet led me to discover more about Bob’s as his message resonated loudly.
Bob Chapman is the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller. Barry-Wehmiller is a $1.5b global manufacturing company of capital equipment and engineering consulting with about 7,000 employee. Really no big deal. Except for their corporate message is very different.
Their home page message is very unique. Front and center you see a slide show with the following messages:
“We build GREAT people who do EXTRAORDINARY things.”
“Our Leadership commitment begins and end with a focus on the impact we are making on the lives of people”
“Be recognizing and celebrating the goodness in others we let people know they matter.”
“At Barry-Wehmiller continuous improvement is a natural by-product of engaged people.”
“We believe that each of us has the ability to lead and inspire other through our actions.”
“Our challenge is to create great leadership in every dimension of our personal and professional lives – to move beyond ‘management’ to truly human leadership. “
Wow! Who could not see themselves moving mountains in a culture with these types of messages?
The company message does not talk about profits, results or income. It talks about leadership, it talks about people, and it talks about appreciation of individual team members and their families.
This direction was set and is continued to led by Bob at Barry-Wehmiller.
Somewhere in the l990’s Bob had an epiphany. He came to realize that the value of his company hinged on the people. He realized that as a leader he was responsible “to provide the care of nurturing employees to be all that they were meant to be?” and that “leadership calls us to be stewards of the special lives entrusted to us every day.”
I love how he ties the state of world back to leadership. How we treat employees, how they feel about themselves a results of our treatment has a direct influence to their relationships at home. How many people have arrived home after a bad day in the office and felt good about the interactions that evening with their spouse, family and even their pet? He goes on to correlate happiness in the home to the outlook we have in the rest of our lives. It makes sense to me.
I believe that stewardship of each other is the missing link to the success of our society, in our companies, and our families. We are not taught caring in school or our textbooks. We are taught the mechanics of the bottom line. We don’t hear about it in management or leadership training. We are not taught or told that we have the power to inspire, influence and positively impact employee or even other people in our lives. We don’t believe we need to take responsibility for the success of our employees. In fact the reverse is discussed. We are told the employee is the architects of their own career and success.
Do we believe that as leaders we responsible for our employee engagement. Do we commit to accountability for shaping the culture of that engagement? Do we have the power to refocus our energy on becoming a caring leader and society? What is the real reason we hold back?
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