When I was starting out in the workforce, I had this idea that I had to be the smartest person in the room. I had to know the most so the people around me would know I was in charge, I had it all together and they knew I could handle anything that came up.
Anytime I found myself not having the answer, I’d be off researching and working out the best solution. I spent many hours reading up on finance or warehousing stuff finding the answer to how I could save the day for my area.
Learning in isolation, by myself, not asking for help.
This served me well initially and I moved up the ladder from small warehouses to a role as Operations Manager in a national distribution centre. It was a big, important job - a warehouse with a capacity of 60,000 pallets of fast-moving consumer product, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operation with all sorts of automation and equipment and over 45 people in my charge.
I was responsible for the smooth running of the operation, deliveries to customers, inventory management, as well as the health and safety of the guys and girls on forklifts.
The smarts I had developed through to that point in my career enabled me to handle anything the operation could throw at me. Or so I thought.
I had the IQ but lacked the EQ.
It was in this environment that I realised that success, in life and in business, is based on relationships, character and emotion. It’s not about me being the smartest or taking all the recognition.
I discovered that it’s better to surround myself with a team of people, each a passionate specialist, who I support and champion and rallying to achieve a goal.
It also means you have more people to celebrate with when you achieve the goal.
Maya Angelou once remarked,
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This is so true for my experience in this particular role.
Teams rally around missions, not directives. People take on all manner of challenges because of passion, not logic.
Even in a warehouse full of toilet paper, hand towel and tampons.
It was in this role that I discovered the value of developing my EQ, of expanding my emotional capacity, being vulnerable and transparent.
I began to be OK with not knowing it all.
This role allowed me to discover the magic that happened when I became a less directive manager who issued orders and more of a supportive sounding board for innovation and ideas.
I became a champion of those who wanted to learn more and do more.
I stopped needing to be the one who kicked all the goals or the hero who saved the day in a crisis. And I was getting so much from watching and cheering my team on from the sidelines as a coach and mentor. I felt proud like I never had before.
And, man, was my team kicking goals.
Safety records tumbled, delivery on time targets were smashed and the culture was the envy of the organisation.
It was at this point that I became known as someone the team could also trust with their private and personal challenges too.
I became known for being an empathetic and non-judgemental listener as grown men poured their hearts out to me. They trusted me and I supported them through daughters with anorexia, marriage and relationship breakdowns and other personal issues, injuries and illness.
What they got from me was transparency in communication, clear direction, respect and trust – we had a no surprises rules. They also got perspective and ways of thinking that they took home.
What I got from them was loyalty, engagement and dedication to the task. They trusted that I had them on my mind with every change I implemented, or rather, any change they helped me implement.
The way I looked at it was that the better they felt about themselves, the better fathers, brother and mates they’d become.
The reason I share this today is that I recently had an opportunity to chat with one of the guys from this warehouse.
He told me how all of the standards, two-way lines of trust and communication have disappeared. The warehouse team no longer have clear leadership direction and there’s a real sense of not knowing what’s coming.
In his words, “The heart has gone out of the place”.
And that makes me sad.
Not coz all the work I did over so many years has been undone but sad because those guys and girls on forklifts deserve more. They deserve to feel seen, heard and to know that what they do each day is valued and moves the business closer to a goal.
And they deserve to have an opportunity to know what that goal is.
So they can celebrate it when they get there.
I have a strong belief that developing people-focused businesses is the only way to create real business success, with growth and profits that are sustainable in the long term.
When you invest in your people’s EQ, self-awareness and resilience you give them a huge, life-altering gift.
That they take into their own lives.
Thanks for reading this.
Emma Taberner is a qualified Leadership Coach, Speaker, Facilitator, author and self-confessed Human Behaviour nerd. With over 20 years Supply Chain industry experience and 10 years coaching and mentoring frontline leaders, she is passionate about helping small business owners and their teams to understand how their behaviour determines the quality of leadership and effectiveness in business, relationships and in life. Emma works One to One, with groups, both face 2 face and online.
When she’s not building future leaders you can find her flying small planes, being in the outdoors, growing her own food and hanging out with her husband of over 20 years.
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