Helping People Win at Work

Last week I attended a local PMI chapter meeting. The speaker for the evening was Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, giving a talk on “Helping People Win at Work” and how he’s shaped the culture at WD-40 and inspired people to perform their very best. Garry was one of the best speakers I’ve heard in a long time; by the end I was ready to drop everything and go work for the guy, even if it meant pushing papers in the mail room.  During his talk you got the sense that you would never have a dull moment with Garry, and that he was loving life and wanted everyone around him to love theirs as well.

There were so many good sound bites out of the 60 minute talk, but I’ll try to share a few that I remember.  And I’ll completely butcher this, he was way more inspiring than I’ll be in my retelling.

Garry started off with an amusing anectode about an around-the-world trip capped off with what was suppose to be a quiet night in a London hotel room.  Alarm bells start going off, and after delaying for a bit,  Garry eventually finds himself in the cold night wearing only his underwear and slippers. The episode caused him to reevaluate his standing in the world; how many other ‘alarm bells’ were going off in his head that he was not paying attention to and that would leave him ill-prepared for the future?

I really liked his beliefs on mentoring and the proper context of the manager / subordinate relationship.  To paraphrase his analogy, the shepard is there on behalf the sheep; the sheep are not there on behalf of the shepard. The people you manage need your guidance and leadership to understand how to perform at a higher level, not your threats, criticism, and scorn. You are there to help them succeed; they are not there to do your bidding. This is also referred to as a Servant Leadership model.

There are no mistakes, only “learning moments”.   A learning moment occurs when you review an outcome, which may be positive or negative but never bad, and act on that to make yourself better. Of course, according to Garry, if you experience the same learning moment multiple times, “we’ll have to share you with a competitor”.

An organization needs a hierarchical set of values to drive behavior, otherwise people won’t know what to do when faced with difficult choices.

I haven’t had a chance to check out Garry’s book yet, but based on what I heard during the presentation, I’ll definitely pick it up soon.