All in the Family

November 23, 2021
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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The holiday season has arrived.

For the next month, plans will be made for (responsible) get-togethers with teammates, relatives and friends, to give thanks and celebrate. Many of these gatherings did not happen last year, so it will make this year even more meaningful.

It’s the season to be with family, however you define that word. It can inspire many different emotions based on a person’s experience.

The word “family” is used frequently in regard to Barry-Wehmiller. In fact, it’s in the title of my book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.

The concept of “Caring for Your People Like Family” is not intended to be paternalistic. That’s not the purpose at all. It is about changing the view of our workplaces in a relatable way.

The subtitle of my book comes from the experiences of many people inside of Barry-Wehmiller and visitors who have seen our culture firsthand and then describing it as a family. Not “like a family,” but as a family.

I believe – in our company’s language – family doesn’t mean blood-related. It means an environment or culture of unconditional care.

I always feel safe and valued with my family – my wife, our children and grandchildren – which is ideally a birthright. This holiday season, you may not find unconditional care in a gathering of relatives, but with longtime friends, neighbors, college pals, or fellow members of a church or other group.

In our workplaces, when people feel cared for by leaders who have the skills and courage to care, quite often people use the word “family” without even thinking about it – they are in an environment where people feel cared for by each other.

I didn’t understand the concept of unconditional love in my faith until I had kids. When you see a child born of your marriage, that is of you, you understand unconditional love. You don’t love your kids because they’re beautiful or smart or good, you love them because they’re your children.

And that’s one of the reasons why the most transformative concept within Truly Human Leadership is when we suggest, rather than viewing those you lead or work alongside through the lens of their role, you think of them instead as someone’s precious child.

Traditional leadership or management conditions us to view people as functions to get them to do what we want so we can be successful, not because we care about them. Thinking of the person next to us or the people within our span of care as someone’s precious child changes that dynamic. It helps to bring some of that unconditional care to the equation because we recognize their inherent dignity and humanity. They are not a function or a role. They are a person, cared for just like I am cared for and deserve to receive that care from others.

Caring is the most essential skill we can teach our leaders, one that is achieved through empathetic listening and recognizing and celebrating our people. But it also starts with teaching leaders to change their mindset and start seeing those within their span of care as someone’s precious child, not a replaceable function.

And maybe, as part of a family.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Steve Jones, a high school football coach at Kimberly High School in Kimberly, WI.

Steve led his teams to five consecutive state titles from 2013-2017 with an incredible run of 70 consecutive victories, a Wisconsin state record.

With those impressive credentials, when we met, I asked Steve what he taught his players about winning and losing. He said they didn’t. He said that they teach them to play their position well for their fellow team members. Do it as an act of respect for their fellow team members.

He said, “When people truly care for one another, it’s amazing how hard they will work for each other.”

What kind of culture does that thinking create? How do you think those players feel about the others on their team?

Leaders, if you create an environment of unconditional care, wouldn’t the people there want to “play their position well” for their teammates?

As you gather with whomever you consider family this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season, think about how you feel with the people around you. Now think about your teammates at work, or, if you are a leader, those within your span of care. Is there a difference? If so, what are they and why?

It may not be your home and your teammates may not be your family, but when you spend 40+ hours a week together, working toward the same purpose and goals, wouldn’t it be better if it were an environment where you felt unconditional care?

That’s The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.


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