Five Years Later
After five years separation, several former employees of a bankrupt company, which I was one of, decided to have a mini reunion. The main purpose of getting together was to find out how our coworkers survived their major life changes. We wanted to know if the others were happy in their new jobs or did they even have one? Unfortunately, some of us had had more than a couple positions in the five years following the company’s closure. We had worked together, more or less, for 20 years and we found that building relationships like we had was proving to be difficult to attain in our new positions.
What surprised me was the company’s failure was never discussed at this gathering. In fact, no one seemed to remember the difficulties we experienced, such as crews meeting production costs, budgets, or wage issues or even what drove the company to bankruptcy. What we remembered was the camaraderie and funny happenings. We talked about how coworkers were often more like family than their real relatives.
Like most families, we had our share of strange, fanatical, and outlandish people. I remember one year we had them all at once. Yet, in the center of the turmoil was a core group of individuals everyone else depended upon. It was guaranteed that these people would show up every day, ready to do their best, and answer any question that crossed their path.
What Makes an Organization Special
I guess what made the organization special in our memories was the fact that we were in it together. Whether the times were good, bad, hard, or easy, we stuck together, trying to do the best as possible for our clients. Oh yes, we had our idiosyncrasies that drove other team members crazy. Occasionally, one of us would complain as if we hated our jobs, throw a tantrum, or cause an uproar. But, we truly cared about each other and the business so we would over look the infringements. In the end, we were the ones who mourned the death of the company.
The Leadership Team
Looking back on it now, I realize that this feeling was due to our leadership team. They certainly weren’t the greatest or most objective of leaders. They didn’t always listen or communicate their wants and needs clearly. In fact, one supervisor often said about his team, “People are just no damn good.” Not that he really believed it; I think he just liked to say it. Their example set the tone for the organization. Leaders didn’t dictate but were team members, who worked hard to make a successful business. By the way, this leadership team wasn’t the cause of the bankruptcy, that’s another story. Gross negligence comes to mind.
The lesson here is leadership isn’t about perfection but about intention. It’s doing your best, continually trying to communicate with others, struggling to give your people the tools they need, and doing the right things (as much as possible). What holds loyalty from core team members is the loyalty given by the team leaders. Our leaders truly cared about their subordinates and the success both for each individual and the company. Yes, we were disappointed when some leaders let us down. However, collectively, the team stood for us and against outside forces intent on our failure. As such we stood with them to fight those forces as well. Sounds like a family, doesn’t it?