I lost a great friend and mentor yesterday. I lost a leader that played a huge role in my personal and professional development as a young supervisor. A family lost a husband, dad, grandfather and brother. Bob Harmon of Sherwood, AR passed away on January 13, 2016.
I was promoted from a telephone repairman to a supervisor in 1978. I’m so thankful a few months after my promotion, an attorney scared me when he said, “if it’s not written, it did not occur.” This began my 38 years and counting, habit of journaling. In 1980 I moved from Blytheville, AR to Fayetteville, AR and began working with Bob. Notice I said I worked WITH Bob. I never felt I worked FOR Bob. My journaling continued through this assignment and the remainder of my career.
A few years after retirement from Southwestern Bell, I was contacted to design a leadership development program. The material for this program was pulled from over two decades of journals. It was designed using both personal and witnessed successes, failures and what led to each.
As I look back on the course development process, it was amazing but not surprising, how many leadership and life lessons came out in the five year period I worked with Bob.
In 2015, I combined all the leadership and life lessons into a book titled, “Leading Like You Owned It-Why We Never Wax A Rental Car!” I called Bob when I began writing the book. He thought it was so funny when I told him “Bob’s Rules” would be a chapter. What I didn’t know until now is what a huge role Bob Harmon played in my leadership foundation.
This morning as I thought about this tribute, I did a word search for Bob in my book. It was no surprise that Bob’s name came up many times in my search. That is a reflection of the personal and professional impact Bob Harmon had on a young Greg Gilbert.
I’ve shared these lessons with thousands across the country and sold a few books in the process. The influence of Bob will live on through my programs and book. This fact was proven on December 8, 2016 as I received a text from Lin. Lin had attended one of my seminars years ago. The text read, “I need a Bobisam!” I had no idea what that meant. I called Lin and asked, “what in the world is a Bobisam?” She said, “no, I need a Bobism, a Bobism.” I guess autocorrect does not recognize the request for a Bobism….yet. My only regret is not calling Bob and letting him know there is still a demand for Bobisms.
I wanted to share with you just a few chapters where Bob Harmon influenced my life, my leadership and will hopefully continue to influence others through my programs and book.
Bob, thank you for investing in me so I could invest in others.
Chapter 24. Trust, Guts And The Benefit Of Both!
I share my leadership seminar in different cities around the country. I share this in two different manners. The first is I am invited to present “The Power Of Better!” on-site at leadership meetings and conferences.
The second method is by picking a location and notifying local industry of the seminar. I normally pick the smaller locations because they normally have limited access to leadership development. In many cases, I will partner with a SHRM group, Chamber or local college.
In 2014, while calling industries to notify them of an upcoming seminar, I ran into this response from a Human Resources Manager; “I can’t talk to you and you can’t talk to me. I can’t make any decisions. It all must go through corporate. They never ask for my two cents worth and there is absolutely no need to e-mail the information to me.” When I tried to give her the website of the seminar, she wouldn’t take it.
I finally got a laugh when I asked if she would give me her two cents worth if I offered a penny for her thoughts. She said, “not unless corporate approves it.” Do you think she felt valued? No or No? Do you think she felt empowered? No or No? Do you think she felt her leadership was “For her”, “Against her” or “For themselves?” She was unwilling to even hear the website and review the free tools for managers. I felt as if I was attempting to hand her a Bible on a busy street in Communist China.
This reminded me of a situation early in my management career when I became aware of outside leadership development courses. I was looking for new tools for my leadership tool box. This occurred over 30 years ago.
Note to my manager;
There is a manager seminar coming to Fayetteville. I heard about it on the radio. It is $85 and is four hours. I can handle my business that day and would like to attend with your permission.
Let me know so I can register. Seating is limited.
This is the note I received immediately from Bob.
I received your request to attend the leadership seminar. You are responsible for the Fayetteville Maintenance Center and have nearly a million dollar annual budget. If you can attend and your business not suffer, go. I have not been, nor do I plan on scrutinizing your hundred dollar decisions. In the future, I trust your judgment. We both benefit from your leadership development. Remember rule # 1; If I have to do your job, I don’t need you. Besides, if you pick up one idea to bring back, it’s worth it.
FYI me on these in the future because I may attend also. I will let you know if I hear of any similar courses in the area.
Pay close attention to this leadership lesson.
When I received this note, do you think I believed my leadership was willing to invest in my success?
Do you believe I felt trusted? Yes or Yes?
Do you think I felt empowered? Yes or Yes?
Do you think I felt he was:
When your team knows you are “For Them”, they will walk through walls for you. I would walk through walls for Bob over 30 years after receiving this note.
If they believe you are “Against Them” or “For Yourself”, they will do just enough to get by OR leave UNLESS they are the less than 5% that will do the right thing even in the absence of leadership. You cannot build a successful team with only that 5% AND they will eventually leave incompetent leadership.
Even though my company had internal training, every leader I worked with was open to outside perspectives.
Do you think Bob had the guts to make this decision on HIS own? You bet he did. He had a multi-million dollar budget and was not being scrutinized on HIS $100 decisions.
Are you willing to forward an e-mail of a $100 leadership development seminar to your leadership team and allow them to decide whether to attend or not? You would find out who sees the value of personal development. That is Leading Like You Own It.
While we are on the subject of trust, let me share something I wrote in my journal years ago. My high on trust, low on rules organization will always beat your high on rules low on trust organization.
I had also written in my journal this statement; Rules Minus A Relationship Equals Rebellion. I’m not positive, but there were probably two teenage daughters at home when I wrote this in my journal.
Upon recently revisiting my journal, I realized this applies to all ages. I’m not referring to the type of rebellion that overthrows a company. I’m referring to the type of rebellion that does just enough to get by and cost companies billions of dollars every year.
Chapter 47. Bob’s Rules.
In 1980, I reported to a new position in a the Fayetteville, Arkansas Test Center. My manager, Bob, took me to lunch on the first day. We ordered our meal and he said “I only have two rules”;
Rule Number One – “If I have to do your job, I don’t need you.”
Rule Number Two – “I will never jump in front of you in your organization to solve a problem. I will make you aware of the problem and always give you the opportunity to solve it first. You will probably like your way of solving the problem better than mine. Welcome to the Test Center.”
This was one of many great leaders that contributed to this book and my leadership seminar. I was held accountable. I’ve adopted “Bob’s Rules” and shared them with thousands, but they are never “Greg’s Rules”. They belong to Bob and are worth sharing.
Chapter 65. We Will Always Beat Me.
Early in my career, I was an enabler. If you had a problem, all you had to do was bring it to my office and I would take it. It was like I had a sign outside my office and was wearing a tee shirt that said “bring me your problems.” Eventually, I began to feel like a porta potty at a music festival; the recipient of what others did not want.
Something had to change. Bob’s Rule from 1980 resurfaced; “If I have to do your job, I don’t need you.” I began a new process. This was probably a suggestion of a mentor, leader, seminar or book. I would hate to go through life totally dependent on my original thoughts.
When someone shared a problem, I acknowledged the problem and requested they bring me two possible solutions. This opened the floodgates of ideas. Many were so much better than mine. Our creativity is amazing when challenged.
This drastically reduced my work load and stress level. This is a form of delegation and must be mastered to be successful at a higher level.
However, to reap the full benefit of this process, you must possess one trait. You must be willing to truthfully, honestly consider the ideas of others as sometimes better than yours. This process does not mix well with a large ego.
This is such a small sample of the influence Bob had on me and one of the true definitions of leadership is the ability to positively influence others.
I hope all of you are fortunate enough to have one or more Bobs in your life. If not, please allow books, videos, seminars and podcasts to become the Bob in your life. However, I do believe the only thing worse than not having a Bob in your life, is having a Bob in your life and not becoming a Bob to someone else.
Bob, thank you again for investing in me so I could invest in others,