What if someone tapped you on the shoulder and asked if you liked your job. Would you say you loved it? Today on the podcast we have Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and the author of Everybody Matters. We’re talking about the extraordinary power of caring: what happens to a workplace when people are cared for and care for others in return? What kind of impact will that make?
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Bob began his career the traditional way. He had a management degree, so thought his job was to manage people and tell them what to do in order to be successful. He was by no means oppressive, but he saw people as functions: operator, assembly worker, store clerk, engineer.
And then he asked himself: why can’t business be fun? Why do we call it work?
It occurred to him that we have people in our care for 40 hours a week. Everybody is somebody’s precious child placed in our care, and we are the most significant influence on their sense of purpose and self-worth.
If you can build a safe bus (your business model), and find drivers who can drive it safely (your leaders), then anybody who gets on that bus is going to be fine. Leadership is about allowing people to rise to the level of their ability and letting them feel appreciated for whatever that is. Business could be the most powerful force for good if we cared about the people we had the opportunity and privilege of leading.
Bob’s greatest fear is to create something great, but have people be too dependent upon him that if something were to happen to him, it would fall apart. So Barry-Wehmiller created a university to transform managers into leaders — because you can’t manage people. But you can care for them and make sure they succeed in the same way a parent would for their child. It’s stewardship of these precious lives that walk into our buildings every day; they simply want to know that who they are and what they do matters. It’s about sending people home fulfilled and cared for.
Care is contagious
Caring for people has a ripple effect that extends way beyond the office. When people don’t feel cared for, it’s hard for them to care for others. But when they do feel cared for, it’s contagious.
Bob shares the personal story of Steve, who said, “My wife is talking to me.” That’s the difference it made in his life. Because when Bob embraced these practices that made people feel like they were being listened to, and that they were contributing, Steve went home feeling better about himself. When he feels better about himself, he’s nicer to his wife. And when he’s nicer to his wife, she talks to him.
The way people are treated for 40 hours a week matters. It’s not about pumping fear out of the room — it’s not even thinking of fear in the first place, and leading out inspiration instead.
Treat people like you would like your son and daughter treated. Even if they’re not your son or daughter, they’re somebody’s son or daughter, and that should make no difference.
Someone once asked Bob how they can show a return on investment of caring for people. Incredulous, Bob asked back why they needed a return on investment to start caring for people: “What do you mean, how do you justify caring? How can you justify not caring?”
Bob’s greatest hope is that these leadership practices that have evolved in his organization become taught in our education system. So many issues that we face as a country — as the world — could be dramatically reduced if we simply learned to send people home feeling valued instead of used.
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