2 Leadership Lessons Learned From My Grandmother

Having grown up in the mid to late ‘40s I was fortunate to have a very close relationship with my maternal grandparents. Back in those days things were very different than they are today and the relationship I had with my grandparents was a thing of joy. We lived in different communities, there were no cell phones or the Internet and travel was somewhat restricted. My grandparents were farmers and wildcat oil well drillers. They worked extremely hard for what they had, but never once did I hear them complain about anything. Every summer from the age of 8, I would visit the farm for two weeks and it was the most enjoyable time of the summer. During those visits I helped my grandparents do the chores and in doing so, I was able to observe how they did things. At the time I did not realize that I was being coached. They didn’t sit me down, drill me, or make me take notes. They just allowed me to observe them, their behaviors and attitudes. This helped develop my values.

Grandma would always tell me:

“Don’t put off till tomorrow the weeding of the garden. It might rain tomorrow and then we can’t get our work done.” 

Leadership Lesson #1: Don’t procrastinate. Tomorrow will always come and it will be filled with lots of challenges, but we must take care of today.

How many times do we put off that important sales call, or the necessary discussion with an employee about safety or quality? Many times when we put things off till tomorrow (if we’re lucky), the sale is lost to a competitor, or an injury occurs because of a careless act. It is very important for our employees to have a sense of urgency. As their leader you must demonstrate a sense of urgency. Your employees will see this and know it is important. Clearly state and demonstrate the importance of taking care of today.

“Talk with the rural route mailman every day.”

Leadership Lesson #2: Good communication is a tool for learning, connecting, and improving employee engagement.

My grandmother would always wait for the mailman to stop by the mailbox. It happened every day around 12:30pm. It was the time when Grandmother would be able to catch up on all the news from the area. The mailman talked to all the people on his rural route. He knew who was under the weather, who was going to get married, or whose son was shipping out to Germany. If someone down the road needed something, my grandparents could take a pie or lend a hand. Communication with others was their lifeblood. It was instant news, or at least within a couple of hours (not bad considering the lack of cellphone and/or Internet). That brief 2-3 minutes helped my grandparents feel like they were connected to all the others in the area.

One of the important keys of getting employees engaged is to help them feel like they are “in the know”. Let everyone know about the important history stories of the company. Let employees know about the new customer that is coming on board, or the new technology that is being considered. The more information people have, the better their decision-making capabilities. Great leaders must be excellent communicators.

These simple lessons have stood the test of time. After all, I use them everyday. Even in today’s information-rich world, it’s still important to adhere to these basic principles. Failing to follow through on your commitments will cause you to miss important goals. This ultimately makes or breaks the future of your organization. Let’s not forget all the men and women you count on day after day – your employees. Keeping them in the dark stops them from doing their jobs, but more importantly, this leads to disengaged workforce.

Now get out there and lead by example. Looking to learn a little more from my wise grandmother? Join me next time as I share two more leadership tips on operations and improving company culture.

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Roger has spent his entire 49-year career working with and growing people on all levels. His experiences have made him an expert in the Operations Management and Human Resources fields. Connect with Roger on LinkedIn and follow PPI on Twitter for weekly news, trends, and insider insight. For this and other great articles visit the PPI Columbus Blog.

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