Mr T., the Wall Street Journal, and Leadership

Earlier this year, I saw an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about how the American worker continues to be ignored by upper management and owners. Ironically, I read this article on a Saturday morning after an awful night’s sleep; I had been up since 3 a.m. thinking about the announcement we’d made that we were pausing wage increases due to slowing business conditions. 

“Slowing business conditions” is the exact kind of phrase this editorial would probably take issue with. But how else should a leader describe things when that is occurring?

**Allow me to be clear on one thing at the start of this post: I was up at 3 a.m. because while “slowing business conditions” was our reality, it was MY job to co-lead the business in and during, those conditions. NO EXCUSES. I was not blaming Obama, Trump, Biden, or anyone else — and I’ll never understand why business leaders blame the President for their crappy performance? I was up at 3 a.m. because I care about the people on our team. I think about their financial needs and the reality of inflation, and I want to be all-in on helping them win. After all, our mission is to be all-in for people first.** 

Leaders Bring People Together

Fast forward to today. This morning, I made the mistake of turning on YouTube TV while finishing my cereal. I listened to some “posers” talk about how business owners do not care about the American worker. I call the people spouting these ideas “posers” because they are “posing” as leaders. They might have positional authority (or what leadership coach John Maxwell describes as Level 1 Leadership – the lowest kind), but outside of their authority, no one would follow them to Dairy Queen for free ice cream. 

Here’s what I think: Anyone who sows discontent between one group and another is not someone worth following. And at the risk of alienating my readers, there is far too much of this kind of behavior being displayed on television by political leaders on both sides of the aisle. “Us vs. Them” sayings do nothing but add to the vitriol most people feel these days. Leaders are worth following because of how they bring diverse groups of people together. 

The next thing I did was turn off the TV, pour some coffee, and head to work. I listened to worship music on my ten-minute commute to recenter my mind. I was reminded that these people “posing” as leaders are treasured children of the most High God. Feel free to disagree, but I re-centered my thinking on their value in Jesus. He died for them and for me. So, as much as I disagreed with their viewpoints, as much as I would like to take them through our facility to show them the specific actions we are taking to help people (even, and especially in, seasons when business conditions are slow), I must remember their worth. The next time they say that plastic is evil and all business owners are in it for themselves, I have to go back to this position of remembering their worth and praying for their best. 

Making the Connection

After getting to work, I did what I try to do at least once a week by walking our night shift before that team left. It was 7 a.m., and I connected with one lady who was celebrating 26 years with the company. Then, I connected with a foreman who was celebrating 43 years. 

Finally, I talked with another team member who always gives it to me straight: “Alex, when are wage increases coming?” After explaining to her where we currently are and sharing some exciting new business that is almost here, she put her hand on my shoulder. She looked at me and thanked me for the explanation. 

I’ll be honest, I almost broke down.  

I am all-in to helping these people. 

I am all-in on helping our customers. 

That’s my why.

That’s my purpose. 

I usually don’t get this blunt, but let me be clear. 

To quote the philosopher Mr. T.: 

I pity the fool who says I don’t care about the American worker. 

Those are fighting words to me. 

Following His Calling

I originally ended the post with the previous line. But now, a week later, I will finish it with this: Despite our revenue and run hours being down, my sisters and I are issuing a cost-of-living increase for every person in the company except ourselves. I am not sharing this to get a bunch of accolades. I am sharing this to point to the true Giver, and publicly say that I trust in His provision. So do my sisters! 

All praise and glory to Him. We unashamedly believe God will provide, so we will be obedient to what we sense He is calling us to do.