Taking Your Work Personally –On and Off the Job

Leadership Mints salutes Steelcase Inc  today– Friday March 16, 2012– in celebrating its 100th anniversary as the world’s leader in office work design and furnishings. See Special Steelcase Customer Leadership Mints links at the end of this post to learn what it takes to lead effectively for a century. And read this post to discover a key leadership secret that Steelcase taught me —  PERSONALLY.

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to build long-term employee loyalty. Reading time 3:26

      “No, you’re not taking any vacation time then,” my boss told me. I was stunned. My wife was about to have a baby and I wanted to take a few days off after the baby was born. “No, no vacation time.”

Lily is what Baby Showers are all about.

      I was speechless.

      I had been working for him for two years.  Always earned good performance reviews. Seemed to get along just fine — even when a vendor that I managed –and who predated me at the company–lobbied my boss to have me fired for cutting their billable hours.

      Then my boss finally breaks the silence, saying he would give me a few PERSONAL days. He explained that I would still be paid but those few PERSONAL days would not count against my vacation time.

     “Take as many days as you need. The full week if you need it. All I ask is that you be available to come me on Thursday afternoon at 2 that week.  I want to get your ideas on programming for next fiscal year .”

     My daughter Laura was born. I later  took  three days off to help at home. Then I came into the office for the Thursday meeting. I walked into my boss’s office. He promptly escorted me to a nearby conference room. And I got the surprise of my life: A Surprise Party: a baby shower. For a male employee?

     Surprise!  Surprise!  Welcome Baby Laura

Laura is a mom these days with a daughter of her own (Lily). That's also Lily on the front page of this post wearing her blue bonnet three years ago.

        The entire department was there. Maybe 20 people or more. Not just the five or six people I worked with each day.

        There were balloons. There were presents.  And of course there was a spectacularly decorated huge cake with pink frosting that screamed: “Welcome Baby Laura.”  And mind you, I was supposed to be attending a stuffy budget meeting with my boss in a corporate headquarters conference room.

        Heck,  they even gave me another present — a navy cap–to take home for my only other child,  Amy, then 6-years-old. How thoughtful I remember thinking.

       At first I felt guilty. Aren’t baby showers for moms? And of course my wife was home that afternoon with the baby .

      Then I felt embarrassed, like I had inadvertently walked into the women’s bathroom. It was  as if I instinctively knew I wasn’t really supposed to be there. Until I saw the 10-12 guys or so  in that room–including my boss and his boss–cheering for my newborn Laura too. “Hey, anything for a party around here,” joked my boss.

       That was nearly three decades ago and I remember it like yesterday.

Steelcase Cares
About Its Employees and Customers  24/7

        In fact that baby shower for a guy  is the first memory I have in working there for almost 20 years. There’s no doubt in my mind that I worked even harder (and I hope smarter) to pay back those few PERSONAL days that I took off with pay and without it affecting my alotted vacation days.  I felt even more loyalty to my boss and to Steelcase after that baby shower. My teammates made me feel like I was part of the family even though I had been working there just two years.

     I have to think that one of the core principles of that company –one of the key leadership principles — to treat others with dignity and respect — is at the root of Steelcase’s success as an industry leader for most of its 100 years in business.  And today (Friday March 16) that company –– Steelcase Inc in Grand Rapids, Michigan — is celebrating its 100th birthday.  Click below to learn more how a company thrives for 100 years in the Steelcase Customer Leadership Series that ran recently on Leadership Mints:

Leadership Mint #1 : Customer-izing
Leadership Mint #2:  Brushing Up on the Art of Work
Leadership Mint #3: Perfect Attendance for 41 Years
Leadership Mint #4: Feting a Feat in Bare Feet
Leadership Mint #5: Recording a Record Performance
Leadership Mint #6: Completing the Order With Ardor
Leadership Mint #7: Bridging the Gap
Leadership Mint #8: Working in Harmony
Leadership Mint #9: Praying at the Altar on Wheels
Leadership Mint #10: Clutch Performance

Today’s ImproveMINT

Maintain dignity and respect for others to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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