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Book Review: Everybody Matters

Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia Book Review by Bob Schoultz All American Leadership

To Read More Book Reviews by Bob Schoultz, click here.

Why this Book: It was selected by my All American Leadership reading group for our bi-monthly reading group.

Summary in 3 Sentences: Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, a $2+ billion company tells the story of his conversion from traditional management practices – using people as resources to help the company profit – to believing that the purpose of his company is to enhance the lives of the people the company touches, beginning with employees. Under his leadership his company began to “measure success by the way we touch the lives of people,” and as that became embedded in the culture of the 10+ companies in the Barry Wehmiller portfolio, profits grew to significantly exceed the Dow Jones an S&P averages. In the second half of the book, he describes the specifics of how they have turned companies and people around, and changed leaders from manipulative supervisors and bosses to practitioners of their people-centric “Truly Human Leadership” philosophy.

My Impressions: I really liked this book. Though his thesis sounded awfully mushy and feel-good to me initially, as I read his story, I became more impressed with what I read. The co-author Raj Sisodia, is also John Mackay’s co-author in Conscious Capitalism and it is no surprise that there are many similarities between the two books. I was skeptical of his vision of treating employees as family, as I suspect most would be, but reading his story and of the successes they’ve had, I’m impressed not only with the idealism of his vision, but also with the the practical manner with which he set about to realize it, and the success with which he’s implemented it.

Everybody Matters is about caring for and treating people in your organization as if they were, (and in a sense they are) your family. He emphasizes that true leaders realize that all of their people are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers with lives that matter. They are not merely employees to help an organization succeed, or to use to help the leader succeed. He says that “caring” is the key difference between leading and supervising, whereas most people in leadership positions are merely supervising.

This is very consistent with one of the key moral imperatives I used to teach in ethics – never treat people as mere means to your ends, but also always as an end unto themselves. Bob Chapman is advocating that as a fundamental principle for business leaders as well.

In Everybody Matters, Bob Chapman tells us how Barry Wehmiller develops leaders with a profound sense of responsibility for the lives entrusts to them.

Some of what I saw as highlights of the book :

During the 2008-09 economic downturn, they did not lay anyone off. They found creative ways to share the burden of keeping people on, when revenue shrunk. Salaries were cut across the board and Chapman took almost no pay, in order that no one was forced into unemployment in a bad economy.

The importance of purpose and vision was highlighted, as they are in many business books, but his description of the visioning process BW used was very useful. HOW can organization creates a vision is more important than the vision itself – to get buy in and tap into the ideas and collective wisdom of the whole organization.

They created a leadership training program to instill their people-centric values into those who wanted it. It was not mandatory – all people could apply and criteria were established intending that only those who truly wanted to be there were accepted. Floor workers worked with senior managers. Rank was not a criteria, nor given special consideration (at least theoretically.)

Their focus on communications skills was impressive. The focus on deep listening as a key leadership skill was highlighted.

The Leadership Checklist is reminiscent of Marshall Goldsmith’s daily accountability checklist.

The metaphor of family is powerful. How would you treat your family member? How would a family react to this situation? On page 101 he asks, “What would a caring family do when faced with such a crisis?”

He spoke of his triad of priorities as People, Purpose, Performance in that order ,for creating a great company.

Possible Shortcoming: Chapman focuses on the good in people – which is a KEY piece of his leadership philosophy. For me, his case and the book would have been stronger had he given us more insights into the challenges and setbacks they HAD TO HAVE experienced in implementing this very idealistic approach to business, which runs so counter to what most people have grown up with and experienced at work. When asked how they dealt with people who “don’t get it,” he responds that they focus on the people who DO get it, and their approach is to continue to shine the light on the good that exists in everyone. He makes the point that every company they took over, they left the team in place and spent the time and resources to convert them to the Barry Wehmiller way of doing things, to great effect. OK, great response BUT this is the real world – they must have encountered some situations where the “ethics of necessity” forced them to let some people go – who wouldn’t cooperate with their approach. Given his triad of People, Purpose, Performance, I just have to ask myself how they dealt with the people who couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their standards of purpose and performance.

Some Quotes which I believe capture the essence of the book (with page numbers):

Question: “Does everyone here believe in the change that’s happening?” Response “No, but we’re focusing on those who do believe.” 13

The creative gifts of our people were being suppressed by classic “management” practices. 47

We simply asked, “Why can’t business be fun?” 51

But deeper insights had come from a simple question we had started asking people: “How did it make you feel?” 52

“I’m not about getting the best, I’m about enabling the people I have to be the best they can be.” 65

We’re not forcing or commanding followers, we’re inspiring and guiding them. 69

I believe the greatest charity is what we could do at work every day to take care of the people entrusted to us. 70

Truly human leadership means sending people home safe, healthy, and fulfilled. 71

Be patient with those who don’t “get it”: People may have been abused by other leaders. Give them time and space to heal. 73

..we have 7,000 people under the influence of our leadership for forty hours a week! We have a profoundly greater opportunity than the church to uplift and inspire people and to shape their lives by the way we lead them. 74

We give awards to people who achieve something that is important to our culture, not just to our bottom line. 76

Most corporate cultures are filled with fear, stress, gossip, and politics. 83

It’s easy to celebrate success when you’re successful. The real achievement is remembering your core beliefs when things get hard and when everyone else is moving in a different direction. 92

What might have been a challenging process became quite simple, given the wide acceptance of the idea of shared sacrifice. 101

Your values, beliefs, and culture don’t really get tested when times are good. 105

We are not running a company to maximize our profits for this quarter or this year or even this decade. We are striving to build an institution that will endure and create value for all stakeholders. 111

We believe, and have repeatedly experienced, that if you take care of your people, they will take care of the business. If you genuinely let them know that they matter, they will respond in kind. Trust is the foundation of leadership; if you trust people, they will trust you back. 116

The people you lead are primed; the real resistance is likely to come from your leadership team, who have never been taught this or experienced it. 117

The best time to transform a culture is when the business is healthy, when there is no crisis and it isn’t a matter of life or death – just as people should adopt healthier lifestyles when they aren’t already riddled with disease. 118

We can’t be good stewards of the team members in our organization if our business model is flawed. 120

Every single person in the organization should be aware of the vision and be inspired by it. 122

Having a vision is not a radical idea. But we have a specific point of view about vision, which is that it should be centered on people. 122

Most businesses use people to build products and make money; we use our products to build people. 123

We are not a nonprofit organization… If we don’t create sustainable business value, we can’t create a future for our people or give them opportunities to grow. 123

It’s not enough just to be a great place to work; people also want to be part of a winning team. 124

When we discarded traditional incremental thinking and started exploring together what might be possible, we opened up a new way of thinking and leading. 126

Eighty percent of the people in most companies report to front line leaders like Steve. Their way of leading is your culture. 138

At Barry-Wehmiller, we refer frequently to “the awesome responsibility of leadership.” This is an acknowledgement that being a leader means actively choosing to be a good steward of the lives entrusted to you. 141

We have found three master keys to our leadership culture – deep listening, authentic vulnerability, and courageous patience. 144

One great truth that we’ve learned is this: The people are just fine; it’s our leadership that’s lacking. 152

If leadership isn’t about fighting fires, what is it about? We believe it is about lighting fires. 178

In most organizations, people do the right thing most of the time, but most communication is about the things that go wrong. 190

We recognize and celebrate people simply to let them know they matter. 194

Here’s the cutting edge of common sense: organizations should recognize and celebrate the things they want more of. 195

Barry-Wehmiller University is not about getting more out of people or enhancing performance. It is not about improving productivity, and we don’t expect a particular return on investment. We go to great lengths to make sure that people understand that Barry-Wehmiller University exists to enhance their ability to touch people’s lives and equip them to be successful with others, both inside and outside Barry-Wehmiller. 207

We don’t focus on the people who don’t get it. We focus on those who do….None of our training is mandatory or automatic; everyone who takes a course must go through an application process. We are not in the conversion business; we want all participants to be intrinsically motivated. 209

There is no other KPI that you can have that is greater than people saying they are happy and they are fulfilled….Money obviously matters and profits are important. But it isn’s the only thing that matters. 230

We want to show everyone that business can be done in a better way, that when you pay people fairly and treat them superbly, you can not only compete globally but also enrich and elevate the lives of everyone the business touches. 231

Our cultural journey began with the simple idea of making work more fun. 236

A spread sheet can’t show you how to treat people. 242

We have paid people for their hands and they would have given us their heads and hearts for free, if we had only known how to ask. 243


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