Faces of Everybody Matters: Jenny Copanos

September 03, 2015
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

When Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family is released on Oct. 6, you’ll find many stories with a simple, powerful, transformative and testable idea: that every one of your team members is important and worthy of care.

In the next few weeks, we want to give you a preview of the book by focusing on some of the people whose stories ultimately became part of a bigger story at Barry-Wehmiller. Some of those we’ve told on this blog, but we want to use this space to deepen and expand on those individual experiences and show the ripple effect of what happens when everybody truly matters in an organization.

The closing line of our Guiding Principles of Leadership, Barry-Wehmiller’s cultural vision statement, reads: We are committed to our employees’ personal growth.

There’s a reason we ended with that aspirational statement. We wanted to ensure that everyone throughout the organization kept in focus one of our most important commitments: bringing forth the gifts and talents of those who contribute to our shared vision. When we help our team members flourish, amazing things can happen.

Jenny Copanos is a perfect example.

Jenny is the assistant controller for our BW Integrated Systems division in Romeoville, IL. In an earlier post, I wrote about the significant personal growth Jenny has experienced during her 12 years with us.

Thanks to mentors like Mike Morton, BWCS’s VP of finance, who early on encouraged her to try things she didn’t think she could handle, Jenny has grown from a young, somewhat shy and unassuming temporary employee into a confident, admired and forward-thinking leader throughout the BW Integrated Systems organization. Today, Jenny leads a team of six, teaches Communications Skills Training to dozens of team members each year, and gives presentations to help associates in other departments understand how their role contributes to the organization’s overall financial success.

“If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d confidently stand up in front of a roomful of people and make complex financial information seem relevant and interesting to the guys in the shop or engineering or shipping, I would have never believed it,” said Jenny. “Five years ago, I couldn’t have done it. Now I love the opportunity to share what I’ve learned to help others grow.”

Mike’s encouragement of Jenny’s leadership skills ultimately cascades to the members of her finance team, to those she teaches in Communications Skills classes, to those who attend her Financial Basics presentations, to the entire BW Integrated Systems organization.

But the impact of Jenny’s leadership doesn’t stop there.

Jenny’s good friend Sarah works for a Chicago-based trade association. Recently Sarah was promoted into her first formal “management” role, leading a team of five people. Several of those team members had been with the association for a long time.

“Sarah confided in me that she was struggling with the people on the team who had been there awhile,” Jenny said. “They didn’t seem willing to listen to her ideas or care about making changes in order to tackle the heavy workload.”

After Sarah described the situation, Jenny saw an opportunity—Sarah’s team was ready for her to be a coach, not a manager. “People need to be given the chance to put their own ideas into practice, otherwise they won’t take ownership. So many leaders think they are there to give all the answers. But, given the opportunity, the team members will find their own answers. That’s not to say there won’t be kinks and curves along the way, but that’s part of the team’s journey to discover the best answers.”

Jenny suggested that Sarah spend one-on-one time with her team, getting to know them individually, asking them for ideas to improve the team dynamic. Sarah did that—and more. “She took them each to lunch and listened to their ideas but she also asked each of them where they wanted to go in the organization and what she could do to help them get there.”

Sarah’s lunchtime sessions made her realize her team didn’t feel recognized for their efforts. So she implemented a quarterly reward program to honor small but crucial wins within the team. “The last time I talked to Sarah she was very excited about how things were going on the team. Her one-on-one sessions helped establish mutual trust and respect,” said Jenny.

Sarah considers Jenny her “regular sounding board. She is genuinely interested in my day-to-day goals and challenges, always asking lots of questions,” Sarah said. “Her questions really help me reflect on how I’m feeling about things and on my performance as a leader.”

Friends for 15 years, Sarah has watched Jenny transform into a leader who sincerely cares about mentoring others. “I learn from her all the time,” Sarah shared. “As a working mom, she has taught me how to identify and balance my priorities. As a professional, she has taught me that I should always challenge myself. As a leader, she has taught me to focus on helping the people on my team grow and develop, and give them everything I can to do so.”

From Mike to Jenny, to Jenny’s team and the many co-workers she teaches throughout BW Integrated Systems, to Sarah who is now passing the lessons learned from Jenny on to her team at her organization. Who will be next in that chain? The ripple effect of good leadership is boundless.

Who is in your chain? Who will be your next ripple?

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