9 Corporate Lessons Reinforced in a Parking Lot
There I was, on a bright, sunny Saturday in September with a hammer and work gloves in hand, trying to look the part at the Park Ridge Presbyterian Church parking lot. I was there with Solid Rock Carpenters to build wall sections for 3 homes to be donated to those in need in Johnson City, Tennessee. Those of you who know me are probably thinking “Dude, what do you know about building houses?” Believe me, I asked myself the same question several times and when I saw the 85+ volunteers going at it, I seriously considered getting back in my car and heading home.
“Nobody would notice and I’ll save myself some embarrassment!” I thought. Somehow, urged by an inner voice and emboldened by the memory of the note I saw when I signed up that said “No prior experience necessary,” I marched to the registration desk.
I am so glad I did! What I experienced during the 4 hours I was there, were lessons in team building, mentoring, learning, teaching, leadership, executive sponsorship, believing in a cause, and feeling good about your work. These lessons were reinforced in a setting different from my normal workplace…which was profoundly refreshing and impactful.
- Extend a warm welcome. Having been in IT for a while, I had forgotten what it feels like to be new to the workforce. My hesitation in the parking lot reminded me how it felt! The welcome from my team and building the sections for the homes made me remember how important it is to make a new team member feel welcome (and kept me from running away!).
- A strong team leader is critical. When my team leader Dave walked me through the routine, the confidence he exuded in getting something done that was new to me reminded me of how important a team lead’s role really is.
- Mentoring makes the difference. When I was given the blueprint for the wall (yeah, like I understood it!), I was concerned. But when Liam, a seasoned veteran gently said, “Why don’t you watch me do a couple?” I heaved a sigh of relief. Mentoring of new team members by those who are more experienced is so important to onboarding and early success.
- Failure leads to learning. If you’re like me and don’t know you should avoid nailing directly into a knot of wood, this tip is for you. When I did that, Dave didn’t bat an eyelid, but instead, brought the nail-removing gun and yanked it out. Mistakes are important! Not only do we learn from them, but it feels great for a new team member to feel the guiding support from their manager while they learn new skills.
- Trust, but verify. Dave also made sure that I handled the next nail correctly. It’s not enough to assign a task and walk away, we must make sure the knowledge has been transferred and our teammates are set up for success.
- Be open to doing things differently. When the team was flummoxed about the wood pieces not fitting in a certain way based on the diagram, Bill the architect walked over, listened and agreed – giving the go ahead to proceed in a way that differed from the original plan. Yay for subject matter experts and the agile development in our IT work lives!
- Always have a purpose. Executive sponsorsScott and Jeff personally welcomed me to the team, allayed my hesitations, and communicated the bigger purpose in action. This was a lesson reinforced in leadership and sponsorship. Ensuring our team knows the “why” behind our work encourages commitment.
- Veteran team members provide inspiration. When we put the walls together and the home was shaping up, Gabriel, another veteran, talked about the impact this effort has on the lives of people, reminding me that it is important to have people who have been there and done that to inspire others in an organization.
- Make a difference together. When all the work was done and the home was put together, we added our signatures, shared prayers and good thoughts on the frames, took a group picture, and then celebrated our success. Celebrating success together is so important for a team’s nourishment and our own sense of accomplishment, but we don’t do it often enough. As we sat and ate lunch as a team – a group made up of strangers just a few hours earlier—I couldn’t help but feel good about the effort. I wanted to come back and be a part of that team again.
Isn’t that the feeling we want for ourselves and those who work with us?
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