Customer Leadership Mint #8: Tuning Up

This is the 8th of a 10-part series on Customer Leadership.

In this LEADERSHIP MINTS series, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Steelcase Inc. (founded March 16, 1912) and salute their Customer Leaders (a.k.a employees). Those highly motivated Customer Leaders have consistently helped the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company reign as the office-furniture industry leader for most of its 100 years in business. 

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an example of how Customer Leaders get in tune with each other.

          Proud Mary , the fabled riverboat queen immortalized in the foot-stomping, blood-pumping rock song that Creedence Clearwater Revival made famous, started “rollin, rollin, rollin down a river”during a  Steelcase company-wide meeting a few years back.

A Mississippi Riverboat like Proud Mary


Rollin', Rollin' , Rollin' down a river

          At least it seemed that way. Larry Sr. — a tool and die expert in the File Plant– made sure of that. So did his three sons — all Steelcase employees.

               They formed a singing group — Steelcase’s answer to  popular  rock groups of the late 60s to early 70s —from Creedence Clearater Revival to The Doors,  The AnimalsThe Beach Boys and Lovin’ Spoonful and so many more.

           Larry & Sons  impressed so many of their fellow employees with their rock and roll stage presence  that Steelcase management booked Family Traditions to perform at various company-wide meetings.

           Larry & Sons became Family Traditions — a must-see act at company-wide employee meetings. Their parodies of familiar television themes of the day –from Gilligan’s Island to the Brady Bunch to the Beverly Hillbillies –lit up the crowd. None more exhilarating that Proud Mary.

             I can feel the beat right now as I recall their rendition of Proud Mary, specially tailored to focus on a Teamwork theme at a company wide meeting.


Got a great mission at Steelcase:
Helpin’ people work more effectively.
Gonna take us all,
Let’s Move Ahead Together,
Committed to the team is
What we have to be

        Larry and sons –gave all Steelcase employees a lesson in teamwork –as they sang in tune with each other and worked for each other to generate  the rhythmic build of the song as the riverboat steams ahead:

                       “Big Wheel Keeps on Turnin’. Proud Mary keep on Burnin’. Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river.”

          And the more rhythmic the song, the greater its impact on the audience. You know what happens if you’re anywhere near a dance floor. You just can’t resist. You find yourself “rollin’, rollin’, rollin’  down a river.”   Building that kind of infectious enthusiasm is of course the essence of music. And that ‘s what Family Tradition did with  Larry Sr and his three sons :  Larry Jr., the builder in Desk Plant, Dennis, then a  Steelcase summer employee, and stepson Mike, then a superintendent in Chair Plant. They each worked in separate plants yet they came together as a group to perform together for the greater group.

          Indeed that kind of teamwork served as a symbol for all Steelcase employees, sparking continuous improvement in Steelcase’s quality production and on time shipments.

         Here’s a parody on Santa Claus is Coming to Town that Larry Sr and his sons performed during the ceremony that certified Steelcase as a ISO 9001 quality-driven manufacturer. The company had demonstrated its capability to adhere to 20 specific demands called “clauses” in the certification process:

ISO Claus is coming to town.
He knows the Standards backwards.
He audits on the move.
It’s really gonna help us.
So plan and do and prove.

         I’m glad I had a chance to see, hear and feel what employee morale really is like in a large company. Imagine all three sons following in their dad’s footsteps to work at same company. Then imagine all four of them coming together in their off time to sing about how much fun it is to work there.  I’d like to think that kind of spirit would make even Proud Mary —  proud.

Next: Customer Leadership Mint #9: An Altar on Wheels

Today’s ImproveMINT
Tune in to each other to stay better tuned to the customer and keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on Teamwork:

Beware of Spraying Praise Like Perfume

Gap Analysis of Another Kind

 Throw ’em a LIFE Line

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1 thought on “Customer Leadership Mint #8: Tuning Up

  1. Pingback: Taking Your Work Personally –On and Off the Job « LEADERSHIP MINTS

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