Mary Tyler Moor to use

This is a tribute to co-workers. They’re the cast of characters that mold us, move us, humor us, and help us grow. They’re part of our lives for the better part of every day. We depend on each other because we’re a team and because what we do matters.

Television portrays those relationships in very colorful lights. What’s real about those images is that each co-worker brings their own unique personality and skills to the table – and into our lives.

I’ve been blessed to work with people who inspire me. Through their example, they’ve made me better, both personally and professionally.

This is what they taught me:

Judy is a successful entrepreneur. She owns five restaurant stores and operates a territory for the international chain. She was practicing “employee engagement” long before they became buzz words. Her managers are actively engaged in many ways in store operations, including regional meetings and annual corporate conferences. And they have remained with her for many years. Lesson #1 A culture of commitment begins with engaged employees.

Roileen is an executive assistant. She’s revered and respected by employees as someone who knows the business inside and out. That’s because she’s walked in their shoes – from the counter to becoming a cake decorator to now working in store and territory operations. She’s dedicated and is above all, trusted. Lesson #2 – Respect and trust are earned. 

Tammy is a restaurant store manager. Let’s put it this way…If my ship was going down, I’d want her to be the captain. She, in fact, does run a tight restaurant ship and her calm and in-control demeanor is perfect for it. She’s kind, tough when she needs to be, and always fair. Lesson #3 – The best managers lead by example.    

Barb is the executive director of a non-profit. She begins her days at 4:30 a.m. with a walk of more than three miles followed by a workout and a healthy breakfast. I’ve learned so many lessons from Barb. But for now, this director has taught me that leadership begins from within. Lesson #4 – When you take care of yourself, you can take care of everything and everyone else.       

Karen is a finance director. She’s probably the calmest person I know. She’s also a triathlete. Biking hundreds of miles at a time is what she does for fun. Lesson #5 – Go the distance, quietly and without excuses. 

Anna is the communications manager. On her first day on the job, several of us visited our new office space. In this empty room, she had the vision to see how the staff and electronics could be best positioned for efficiency. Many times since then, Anna has taken the initiative to find solutions to challenges. Lesson #6 – Be the solution.

Mark is a program manager. He stays educated on the industries we serve and he shares that information with staff. Lesson #7 – Be focused not only on your goals, but the goals of the entire team. 

Charlie is a project coordinator and is among the newest and youngest members of the team. While he’s learning the ropes, he’s also taught me a few things too. He leads our efforts to measure program outcomes. He’s also well versed on a variety subjects and has the ability to converse with constituents of every age and background. Lesson #8 – Success can be measured by how well you know and respond to the needs of your customers.   

Kayla is a communications specialist and is recently out of graduate school. She’s a gifted writer and just returned from living and working in Peru. Lesson #9 – Embrace opportunities to grow, no matter where they may be.

Larry is a retired high school math teacher who happens to also be a master calligraphist. He brought his creativity to the classroom every day with special room décor, lighting, games, and songs. In doing so, he created a learning environment that made students eager to learn calculus and trigonometry. Lesson #10 – View your work from every angle and think outside the box.

Thomasine is a dean of students and high school math teacher. Her boundless energy can be felt throughout the school community. She is welcoming and is always opening doors for students to learn more and to grow. Thomasine is a runner and her contagious enthusiasm makes you want to run with her in supporting the goals of the school. Lesson #11 – Enthusiasm is contagious.

Johanna is a business manager. She exudes confidence and has a charisma that draws people in. And while she’s a people person, a quiet space is how she gets it done every day. Lesson #12 – Find a quiet place to work, stay focused on the task at hand – and be sure to make time for friends.

Lou Ann was the school bookkeeper. She’s one of those people that, it seems, could do any job. She’s versatile in her skills and can get a lot done in short order because she’ so efficient. Lesson #13 – Work smarter, not harder.

Mr. Whoolery was the school janitor. He was the first person to arrive and the last person to turn off the lights. His floors shined and you’d be hard pressed to find a crumpled piece of paper in the hallways. He was good at what he did. And he was dedicated. Lesson #14 – No matter the job, take pride in what you do.

Tomorrow, when you go to work, notice the people around you. What lessons of leadership are they teaching you? The fifteenth co-worker is you. What lessons are you teaching them?

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