Painting a Picture of Service

Almost every morning, Chris Wright is the first person to arrive at our BW Papersystems facility in Baltimore, Maryland.

When he arrives at 4 a.m. on Monday, he is the one to turn on the lights after the weekend.

Chris understands what it means when we say “TGIM!”

“I am motivated,” he said. “Coming to work every morning, I look forward to that.”

Anybody can be a customer. It could be your mom, your children, a team member, it could be anybody. You can brighten somebody’s day just by being of service. Click To TweetChris is a painter for our BW Papersystems company, which makes machines for the sheeting and packaging, stationery, book binding, security documents, and corrugating and finishing industries.

I recently spoke with Chris on the first of a series of virtual listening sessions we began to hold across our organization during the COVID-19 pandemic in lieu of my regular in-person visits. Staying connected to our people throughout the world during this time is a priority. Among a group of 10-15 team members, we discuss two simple questions: What are we doing well? What can we do better?

These sessions have been an incredible blessing. We have had inspiring discussions about how our people are doing and feeling during this difficult time. We have also had conversations about how we can improve. But what has filled my heart has been the stories of joy we have heard from team members.

When Chris spoke on the call featuring a cross-section of global BW Papersystems team members, I became very emotional when he told me, “I just want you to know, I love my job.”

Later, he expanded on that by saying, “The person I am today, I owe a lot to Barry-Wehmiller.

“I would describe this culture as a culture that helps and inspires people to do better.”

Chris came to us in 2007 through a technical training program he attended after deciding to change careers. He had previously spent 10 years as a dialysis technician.

Starting out, Chris was a machinist. Four years later, he moved into assembly and, two years after that, he jumped at the opportunity to paint, something he learned on the job and takes great pride in.

“I love painting,” Chris said. “You become one with that part and all your team members expect you to do a good job because I am the last person with that part or that machine before it goes out the door.

“Me, I hold myself accountable to do a good job. Because I know if I go to purchase a car, and I see a run or scratch, I wouldn’t like that. So, I understand that the customer, when they’re purchasing our products, they expect the best. And I expect the best out of myself, that’s why I wanted to paint.

“I just love – after my paint job – what it looks like.”

That attitude of accountability is taught in Barry-Wehmiller University’s Culture of Service Foundations class, one of our internal classes that Chris credits for broadening his perspectives.

In the Culture of Service course, we teach that responsibility is given, but accountability has to be taken. It’s not about holding someone’s feet to the fire, it’s about lighting a fire inside a person – helping to instill an intrinsic sense of ownership of a job or task and then the willingness to face the consequences of its success or failure.

The Culture of Service Foundations course works to shape new ideas around service – from re-defining a customer from an external person to your co-worker, your family, even someone you’ve never met. It teaches the idea that service is taking action to meet the needs of someone else. Therefore, a culture of service is a shared purpose where everyone is meeting the needs of others inside and outside the organization.

“It teaches you to be in service to others and, in the world today, we don’t have a lot of people who do that,” Chris said. “Giving to others, you can brighten somebody’s else’s day up. Somebody else who might be having a bad day. It makes you feel good because you’re giving back.

“Anybody can be a customer. It could be your mom, your children, a team member, it could be anybody. You can brighten somebody’s day just by being of service.”

We have learned that the way we lead impacts the way people live. When I heard Chris’ story, I was overwhelmed with pride. Not because he comes in early, works hard and gets the job done, but because we were able to touch his life in a positive way and he, in turn, is going out to the world to affect others in the same way.

Chris calls his teammates at BW Papersystems in Baltimore his family. That bond is created when organizations recognize that the people within their span of care are not functions or numbers on a spreadsheet showing profit and loss, but someone’s precious children and should be treated accordingly.

When those people feel valued and cared for, they go home to their loved ones and share that joy and fulfillment instead of the stress and bitterness of feeling unappreciated and insignificant. If people went home and into their communities – like Chris – with an attitude of service, can you imagine the difference it could make? If we tried to meet the needs of others, instead of our own, in each daily encounter, it would completely change the way we, as a society, interact.

“If the world was able to get some of that culture of service, it would help a lot of people, it really would,” Chris said.

You are absolutely right, my friend. And that is the message we are taking into the world together.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

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