Leadership - Gratitude and Recognition
It’s the 2017 holiday season. A time for Christmas, a time for friends, a time for family and a time for reflection. It is also a great time to take a breather and take note of the greatest lessons you have learned and the teachers who gave you that gift of education. As you visit with family reminiscing the same old stories year after year, recognize the opportunity to energize new meaning into those great tales. Although every family’s traditions are different, there is often a lesson to be learned from the process of reminiscing and history. My 2017 gift of the year was realizing I have been in leadership development since birth.
My dad and his brothers were blue-collar business owners of a retail tire shop in rural Pennsylvania. I grew up in that shop and every few years it seemed to grow into another room or addition on to the main building. Tires were stacked from floor to ceiling and my favorite times were when the business was closed and my dad would take me and my sisters to the shop to finish some work. He always left us in the office or customer lounge telling us to ‘stay in here’, not wanting us on the shop floor because it was dangerous.
It never took us more than five minutes to sneak out and start playing hide and seek. We loved climbing on the stacks and eventually down through the center of four tires high X four rows deep x four columns wide. He would have to summon us over the PA system or eventually find us covered head to toe in dirt and rubber dust.
Even though they have retired and sold their business, they always seem to deliver one new story each year. It’s like finding a $20 in your jacket haven’t worn since last year! I have come to the realization that there wasn’t a separation between work and home when it came to my family’s leadership characteristics.
1.) Strength & Integrity – I heard countless times, how they hired outstanding employees and had to fire them because they refused to follow OSHA or safety regulations. It took strength and integrity to fire a hard-working, high producing employee. They refused to compromise on the safety and well-being of those employed and in their care for the sake of a few extra dollars.
2.) Compassion – A rather new employee parked a brand- new service truck on the hill next to the shop without the parking brake engaged –twice—in two days. Each time, the truck fell out of gear and rolled down the hill into the deep valley. Thankfully, no one was hurt except my dad’s ego for having to call the tow truck operator twice in two days to retrieve the same service truck! I was surprised to learn the employee was not fired. My dad said the employee happened to make the same mistake – twice – but in the end learned a valuable lesson about the leadership/employee relationship. He was hard on himself, carrying guilt and humiliation and certainly a lot of jokes over the years, however, he was fiercely loyal and an incredible worker from that point on.
3.) Humility – A common theme intertwined between each story has always been recognition and gratitude. There was a very large number of people whom they were thankful for throughout the years. Statements like “We could have never accomplished anything without ________.” or “If _______ wouldn’t have helped us when they did our business would have failed.”
4.) Risk Adversity & Optimism– Their biggest struggle was with the Finance department. They had a tough as nails accountant. Most conflicts were about extending credit terms to customers, especially during holidays or in years of economic downturn. During those tough times, they used Emotional Intelligence, (without realizing it) to determine the credit worthiness for customers. A risk where sometimes they got burned, but for the most part, got reward. Most customers eventually paid off the credit and once again, were fiercely loyal to the company as a result.
5.) Responsibility – They both agonized over having to lay-off employees. They felt responsible when business was down, often blaming themselves for not scaling properly. They lived by the expression, “if you take care of your employees they will take care of you.”
6.) Accountability – Upon retirement of their office accountant, my mom stepped in to handle the day to day bookkeeping. She is a bit of a perfectionist and could stand no less than 100% accuracy when closing the month-end books. She was rarely off however, when she was, she would take dollars or coins out of her purse to balance the books. Her motto “It was my responsibility to account for every penny, so I should be accountable if they are off!”
This year I interrupted the natural flow of annual conversation and asked my dad and uncle what were their greatest accomplishment during their years in business? They responded with 3 statements, all of which were in true leadership form:
1.) “Knowing we did something right in touching the lives of others” <-- Noble Goal
2.) “Lucky to have the love of family”; and <-- Community
3.) “The loyalty of dedicated employees, some of which who have believed and trusted in them for over 30+ years.”<-- Loyalty & Trust
Not bad for brothers who lost their father as a teen, grew up poor in a patch of company housing and with no more than a high school education!
Wishing you and your family time to reminisce and recognize all each and every one of you have accomplished in your lifetimes. Gratitude and recognition are incredible gifts that remain with you for a lifetime.