April Gray is a payroll administrator for our Pneumatic Scale Angelus operation in Akron, Ohio. In the office next to hers, there’s a picture on the wall of a herd of sheep that often makes her stop and think. “The sheep all look alike, just indistinguishable members of a herd,” explained April. “At Pneumatic Scale, we are nothing like that herd of identical sheep. We’re all unique with different skills and abilities. We all know each other as people, not just co-workers. We know each other’s families. We know each other’s life stories. We care about each other personally.”
That must have been what retired three-star Marine General George Flynn sensed after spending a day there recently. He was visiting the operations with close friend and bestselling author Simon Sinek. Flynn interacted with a number of associates throughout the day and, after reflecting on what he heard, he said “Barry–Wehmiller is not LIKE a family. It IS a family.”
April feels the same way. The care and compassion she feels at work is what has kept her at Pneumatic Scale for almost 20 years and what makes leaving home each day a little easier. At home is April’s 30-year-old son who is autistic. “Everybody at work knows him,” she said. “They’re always asking about him. They all know how much my son likes potato chips. Every December, for his birthday, my team member Mark brings my son a garbage bag filled with all kinds of chips. It’s a highlight of my son’s year.
“When people come to visit Pneumatic Scale, they feel something different in the air,” April said. “But to us it’s normal everyday life. At work, I feel loved just like at home.”
Fostering an environment of care and love and compassion is a natural extension of Truly Human Leadership. When we, as business leaders, care about those lives entrusted to us, our team members in turn care about others. We’ve been on a journey to create this kind of culture for the 7,500+ members of the Barry-Wehmiller family for more than 13 years now. And we are encouraged that business leaders and academics are beginning to realize the need to move from managing to leading!
Recently, a Chicago Tribune article summarized a study about “companionate love” conducted by management professors Sigal Brasade of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Olivia O’Neill of George Mason University. “Companionate love” is the sense of warmth, affection and the friendly connections that bind us in the workplace. Ultimately, what Barsade and O’Neill found was that “people who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.”
In other words, expressing emotion is not only acceptable in the workplace, it should be nurtured and embraced. Showing care, kindness and compassion for our fellow team members should be as natural as the care we show to our families. As leaders we should strive to create work environments where our team members feel safe, loved and comfortable being their true selves.
“We spend almost as many hours at work as we do at home so it should be a place we want to be,” said April. “If I didn’t have to work, I would prefer to be at home with my son. But at least I know I am going to a place where people are looking out for me, accept me for who I am, and truly care about me. It’s not a big transition for me because work feels like home.”