Mistakes Can’t Be Found in Our Company Dictionary

March 12, 2014
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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I never dreamed I could find a job and a company like this straight out of college. I can tell that this company really cares about ME and is committed to helping ME become a better person.

These are the words Sean Blair, a young mechanical engineer with our BW Integrated Systems subsidiary, said to me during a recent round-table discussion at the Loveland, CO facility.

Isn’t that what every parent hopes their children could say as they join the workforce?

When Sean came to the Barry-Wehmiller organization almost two years ago, he didn’t expect to be around for long. For years, he’d listened to his father, a carpenter, talk about how his company put speed and accuracy above its’ employees.  “My dad knew that if he screwed up or didn’t keep up, he’d be out the door.

IMG_0019“Being new and in my first professional role, I expected to make mistakes, which might cause me to lose a few jobs before I found one I could keep,” Sean said. He quickly realized that wasn’t the case at BW Integrated Systems. “Here, there are no such things as mistakes; they are considered learning opportunities. In fact, every day seems to provide opportunities for learning—whether related to the business or to help me personally.”

Through Truly Human Leadership, we have created a culture that fosters personal growth—opportunities for learning– for every team member. Much of Sean’s growth into Lead Engineer on the Bulk Palletizer line came from mentoring by Randy Cupp, a 33-year veteran of the company.

“My challenge was to relay what I have in my gray matter to Sean who didn’t even know what a palletizer was,” Randy shared. “For months we worked side by side, with me showing him step by step how I went about doing and researching projects. Eventually I sat back and let him do the thinking and the doing. I just took my time and slowly brought him up to speed, not like the old days where it was ‘Here is a job, now go do it’ and walk away.

“I knew mistakes were going to happen but we would learn from them and go on. I didn’t want him to fear them. I feel you do a much better job without that thought always on your mind. A partnership of trust grew between us,” Cupp said.

Sean appreciated Randy’s expertise, patience and his commitment to an environment of continuous improvement. “By asking ourselves ‘What can we learn from this?’ I am able to build a body of knowledge that I can reference throughout my entire career,” Sean said.

Sean feels fortunate to have found an organization committed to improving its associates. “What Randy and others have taught me has helped me be able to add value. I realize that also means doing my part to better the people around me.”

Randy was honored to mentor Sean. “He is the next generation to carry on my torch for the bulk palletizers. It has been a win/win on both sides—both his and mine.”

As business leaders, it is our responsibility to create environments in which the precious lives we are privileged to lead can thrive. It should be a win/win environment: a place where team members can add value while experiencing their own personal growth. In other words, it should be the kind of place we’d want our children to work.


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Need help in applying principles of Truly Human Leadership in your organization? Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute is Barry-Wehmiller's leadership consulting firm that partners with other companies to create strategic visions, engage employees, improve corporate culture and develop outstanding leaders through leadership training, assessments and workshops.

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