Case: The belly growls
One of the best ways to learn is from experience. To gain experience you have to perform an action, and sometimes you may feel uncomfortable. Sometimes you decisions are winners and sometimes you just mess up. Its okay to fail, and its okay to not be happy with the results, but what’s not okay, is to not try. I’ve been called unconventional, and bold, but its how this passion for execution works with me. Breaking the rules have taught me more than toeing the line. Real event, real people, and real action!
The security guard opened the gate. The clock on the dashboard gazed back at me 4:15am. As I drove into the compound, there were 2 vehicles waiting, their drivers jumped out.
“Good morning Boss”, the first guy said as he approached my jeep.
“Hey, morning Boss, I was here first can I leave as soon as possible. Today its a long run.” The second man looks at me with a smile, getting closer.
“Good morning Diego, good morning Devin. Glad you guys are here. This morning I have a surprise. Please have some breakfast before you leave, there is a lot – so enjoy.” As I looked at the guys their shock and amazement is heart-breaking. “Here, can you give me a hand with those bags in the back and go easy with the trays.”
They both stand still, gazing at me as though they had seen a ghost.
Devin is the first to speak, “Boss, are you serious. You brought us breakfast. Wow, no one has ever done that before, and I’ve been here five years. You for real? But you are the Boss.”
Diego just stands, looking at me. As I look at him he looks away. We get into the building and the rest of the guys enter, and are all looking stunned by everything they see.
“Guys, you are my team. Every single one of you are part of my team. On my watch, you eat every morning before you go out there. If you can be sure of one thing every day, is breakfast from this company. It’s nothing fancy, just basic sandwich or cookies and coffee or juice every morning.” As I look around the rest of my team are there listening. Those faces don’t look as happy as I had hoped they would be. They looked shocked. Dumbfounded. Not happy.
Diego is the first to speak, ” Boss we are just surprised. You don’t know us. You’ve not been here long, and yet you are being good to us. I’m not ashamed to say, no one has ever woken up and made breakfast for me before I come to work, and I have a wife. No one really cares if I eat, because we just have to go and make the money for the company. Yes we are paid, but its sometimes not enough to live, and we’re hungry hoping someone will share their bread with us. Some customers share food with us sometimes. So we shocked. But thanks Boss. I appreciate it.”
One by one the others come up to me, with shy smiles, some with blank face and glassy eyes, trying not to show emotion. They have their pride and its important they don’t feel less as men because they have less. We go into the building and I lay the counter with coffee, tea, cocoa, milk, sugar. I’m trying not to look at them, because I’m not sure I want them to see how choked up I feel.
As I uncover the trays and turn on the kettle, a squeal erupts from another member of staff, “Look at how fantastic this all is. I could eat it all.”
Another voice jumps in, ” No, no Francis, you can take last, you are too greedy!” The guys are busy commenting, joking and laughing but no one comes forward to eat. To get the guys started I pray out loud, “Thank you God for this meal. Bless the food, the guys and the business. Amen. Get cracking guys, and take any extras for lunch. Your trucks need to be out by 4:45am latest!
Managing and the meal
There are many lessons learnt from managing this distribution team, but one big takeaway is how a simple act of kindness can impact of the lives of those we lead. It makes good business and human sense to know your staff and their environment. Expecting peak performance from team members who may be distracted by lack of the basic necessities is foolhardy. Observing the look of hunger on one of the guys was the beginning of awareness and a reality check. I asked a few questions discretely, reviewed their earnings and did the math myself.
While we cannot be responsible for all their basic needs, reviewing and evaluating remuneration packages to increase employee comfort to optimize performance is essential. Companies can increase the overall value package offered, which won’t break the bank. In many instances, when employees talk about their place of work, its the things that are not included in the pay package which are highlighted. A decent wage is deserved by those coming out to work,
Every time I think about those guys I smile. The genuine appreciation was worth much more than the thirty-five dollars to take care of my team daily. Later on when I needed them to do more they would never grumble, but step up!
I think leading with compassion and kindness won’t make you weak, but can inspire your team to want to be loyal and to enjoy coming to work. This team thought I was ‘dread’ ( means no nonsense and tough), but felt I was fair most times – based on feedback!
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. How you would deal with a similar situation?
First published as ‘Eating Anyone’ : September, 2016 by Dwordslayer & Donna-Luisa Eversley.