Rick, a relief Newsmill Shift Coordinator for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"My 'pearl' is an individual who works in the Steam department as a shift Steam Engineer. As the relief Newsmill Shift Coordinator, I do the relief on all four crews. I don't work with any of the same people on a permanent basis. I was informed that this particular employee, my 'pearl', always looked mad, seemed to be very negative, and had a poor attitude.
One morning this individual was early for our morning meeting, and there were just the two of us in the room. I started the conversation by asking how he was and he replied, 'Okay'; short and sweet. I had heard that he was a diehard fan of the Montreal Canadians hockey team, so I went on to ask him how his hockey team was doing since they were in the first round of the playoffs. He started to talk with passion about his favorite hockey team right up until the start of the meeting. In our morning and night meetings we discuss issues as a part of our round table forum. From what I had heard, he barely said anything at these morning meetings. Well on this morning, he spoke about what was happening in the Steam department today, which was positive. During the meeting I asked him for some information I needed. He told me he would get the information for me and did so without any negativity, and I thanked him for it.
On another occasion, he was called on by the machine tender to turn on some equipment on a PM4
start up, which he did, but in the meantime, the head machine tender (HMT) called him through the pager system to perform the same task that the machine tender had already called him for but the HMT didn't know that at the time of the call. When he got on the phone with the HMT, he kind of blasted him for disrupting him. About 15 minutes later he walked into the machine tenders shack where the HMT and I were talking. He then proceeded to apologize to the HMT for his behavior. Wow! I couldn't believe it! He actually apologized after all the negative things I had heard about him from other people. I praised him for his good work and the orderly fashion in which it was done. I also acknowledged the effort he was giving us on the start up of PM4. I thanked him for coming forward with his frustration about the incident with the HMT and how things were resolved with his sincere apology.
The lesson I learned from this experience is 'not to judge a book by its cover'. I need to take the time to get to know my fellow workers, not listen to negative comments about people, and not be too quick to judge. I also learned that by talking with associates one-on-one about outside interests, I can get them to open up to me.
The action I call you to take is to not listen to gossip about others because you may never find out what kind of person they really are. By giving each person the time of day, you will get to know them better and may find out their strengths and weaknesses.
The benefit you will gain is they will respect you and make a real contribution to your company goals."