2 More Leadership Lessons Learned From My Grandmother

In last week’s article I shared two important lessons on leadership from my grandmother about procrastination and communication. If you missed the article, you can read it here, or visit our blog for this and other useful leadership tips. So let’s continue with a couple more nuggets of information from my grandmother…

“Tell Mr. Martin that you only want 5 chunks of cheese.”

Leadership Lesson #3: Avoid costly waste by running a lean business.

Mr. Martin was the owner of a small grocery store in the community.  He was also a farmer, so the store was only open at certain times of the day, or if you knocked on his door for emergency needs. My grandparents never needed to buy much because they provided most of their needs from their own efforts. However, when they did need something my Grandmother would send me to the store (about ½ mile away) with very specific instructions on how many slices, chunks or scoops of goods to buy. Grandmother used to say “waste not want not.” They did not have any of our modern conveniences so there was no excessive up front buying. She called it being thrifty, but in reality they were practicing the concepts of Lean Thinking.

They only bought exactly what they needed. There was no waste. They had no massive inventory of goods. Everything on their farm had a place, and that is exactly where you would find it if needed.

As a leader you must be teaching your teams about being lean. Share with others the cost of wasted inventory, wasted movement or damaged material that is being stored. Everyone must understand that these costs can’t be passed off to the customer anymore. Congratulate groups that practice lean processes and share success stories with the rest of the organization. Introduce the 5-S process (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain – more on this topic at a later date) in the office and the plant floor. Require planning and debriefing processes.  Discuss with the team the concept of value added activity. If you do, everyone will get better. It is your job, as a leader to do this. Everyone in the organization has a fiduciary responsibility to the company – everyone.


“It’s time for a picnic.”

Leadership Lesson #4: Develop a culture of community and celebrate the wins.

On the last Saturday evening before I would go home there was always a picnic. It was a big celebration for my family, relatives, my neighbors and me.  As I think back on it, food was always a big part of the life on the farm. The celebrations were always special, lots of jokes, stories, games and just good times. My grandparents knew the value of celebrations and the camaraderie that happened each time they built a bonfire. They did not call it team building, it was just a picnic or a wiener roast, but they were developing a sense of belonging in the family and the community.

As a Leader how do you build the sense of belonging in the organization? Abraham Maslow identified a sense of belonging to be one of the 5 levels of motivation that he stressed as being important in the hierarchy of motivation. If employees feel like they belong, they will feel engaged.

At every picnic as the fire died down and everyone was gathered around (young and old) there was always a history story about the community or some family member that had done something special. It was one of the ways that family and community values were passed down from one generation to another. As a leader you can share important stories about company heroes and those that have made it possible for everyone to have a job. Ask others to share their stories about the company, its heroes and heroines. Your company values are important to your employees and eventually to your customers. Your values are important pieces of the company culture.

As many authors have stated, Leadership is an Art, not a science. Create your own art by taking important pieces of people’s lives and use them to build a place where people want to work. Leadership is not easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding accomplishments in your life.

I hope these lessons learned from my Grandparents will help you be successful. These lessons take Leadership from being a noun, to Leadership being a verb. Get out and lead, it takes action.

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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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