Battling Your Inner Scrooge

The story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been told so many times in so many different versions that it has become a staple of the holiday season.

Whether your favorite version stars George C. Scott, Bill Murray or Kermit the Frog, it’s easy to relate to this story of redemption. A miserly, greedy man is visited by three ghosts who show him the error of his ways and he re-emerges with a new look on life and a promise to be more generous and caring.

The story has endured over generations because it is so relatable. Everyone has had an Ebenezer Scrooge in their life at one point or another. Unfortunately, most people relate to the story because they’re reminded of a terrible “boss” or workplace environment where they were treated horribly. A few years ago, a Forbes article included the statistic that “65% of Americans say getting rid of their boss would make them happier than a salary increase.” I’m sure Bob Cratchit would be in that number as well.

But, have you ever stopped for a second to reflect and identify some of Mr. Scrooge’s characteristics in yourself?

I’ve often talked about my leadership journey and the “revelations” that led me on a path to Truly Human Leadership. I was a good husband and father and worked hard to be a good steward of the lives entrusted to me as a parent. But at work, I continued to view people largely as objects and functions. I considered myself a good person and an optimist, but when it came to business, I was very finance-oriented and totally focused on conventional measures of success: profits, money and power. I did what I felt I had to do to make money without worrying about the human consequences.

But eventually, gradually, I changed. In a sense, I was visited by my own three ghosts. I’ve written about these revelations before in blog posts: “The March Madness of Business?” “A Most Momentous Day” And “Heeding My Call.”

I wasn’t a bad person, and many would have said I was a nice guy and a good leader, but something fundamental was lacking. And as these “revelations” took hold in my heart and head, they began to transform our business and the people within.

You don’t have to be dramatically cruel in your interactions to recognize the Scrooge inside. Often, it’s the subtle things you do as a leader that hurts your people the most – sarcastic asides, a lack of trust demonstrated in the lack of empowerment of your people, not clearly communicating goals, not recognizing your team’s contributions.

During this holiday season, I would encourage you to reflect on your leadership and your interactions with those in your span of care. As you enter the new year, think about what changes you can make to help your people know they matter.

Hopefully, it won’t take the rattle of Marley’s chains or any “revelations” to help you live up to your potential as a Truly Human Leader.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $2+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 11,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

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