Once a month, I write here, to the left of Chris Cooke. Every other day, I manage his graphics department at First Monday’s parent company, Huron Web Offset Printing and Graphics.
There are 30-plus colourful characters in my charge – a curious band of brothers and sisters who span forty decades in age and experience and who each bring something to the table. I value each and every one of them, for very different reasons.
I lead, we travel together. I listen, we all learn. I gather information, we problem solve and alter a plan for the best possible result for the greatest number. Sometimes it works and we triumph. Sometimes it fails and we commiserate. But we are in it together.
This didn’t happen on August 11, 2003 when I first arrived at the company. There were tough years. Rough characters. Many have moved on. That was best for them. It allowed the rest of us to get on with the real work of business. Building “us”, finding our strengths, auditioning players in specific roles, and making changes where it made sense for people and profitability.
That was the beginning. The practical stuff of making the company work efficiently and effectively.
The building of relationships, the investment in people and their talent, the corporate decisions that allowed people to manage the demands of a sick spouse, or the need for a second job, or a troubled child – all that came later. We were loyal to our people, and they were loyal to us. Not entirely, and not always, but those are the risks we take when we do business with humans. Sometimes with people – many times – you lose. But when the risk pays off in operations, you hit the Human Capital Jackpot. You have a team.
My team – the one I manage, and am very much a part of – decided to celebrate Christmas this year, with a decorating contest. They divided themselves into three teams, and very quickly the good-spirited, though painfully competitive, games had begun.
A rather shabby mannequin Santa greets me at the door each day. A ladder is decorated to rival the tinsel-iest Christmas tree in Lambton County. Upstairs, tire-sized snowflakes dangle from a dropped ceiling dripping with twinkle lights and stars.
It looks like Christmas elves vomited cheer.
And my staff did it all themselves. Teamed up. Organized. Attended impromptu meetings where they schemed to make the best even better. They are contributing. Contributors. They do it for many reasons, but some I’d wager, has to do with feeling empowered, valued, part of the group. Because any time people are made to feel valuable, they want to invest.
Turn west up the 402, and you’ll find Sarnia City Hall is investing $300 taxpayer dollars from the Special Projects Account to create a video for the holidays.
Taxpayer money also funded the consultant who came up with the groundbreaking idea that City Hall needed to create a culture of One Team to unify employees. And so city hall staffers were memo-ed and advised to show up late last month to appear in the final scene of the video, shouting Happy Holidays.
No cheer-vomit there.
Huron Web is a tough environment. We face deadline pressures hourly, everyday. We work with some of the toughest characters in parts of the U.S. that many people are afraid to drive in. Our days can be filled with challenges that appear as insurmountable walls.
But we are in this together. We scale walls because others allow us to stand on their shoulders. We work through harsh words and pressures of the clock.
And we celebrate Christmas without memos or videos, or corporate costs. We do it with decorations brought it from dozens of homes across Lambton County.
Because we are all on the same team. One team.
And because we want to win.