I'd like to say that we're a diverse collection of mostly average people – almost a melting pot, if you will, of former retailers, housewives, college trainees, and just people from all walks of life. But the factor that has set us apart from the beginning are those qualities hidden inside for the most part in our associates that have seemed to confound the experts. One of those qualities I'm contending our people have had is a strong will to win. Our people want to win so badly that they just go out there and do it. Even though everybody has told them they can't succeed, they just go out there and succeed anyway! They have known instinctively that determination and perseverance are far more important than many of the technical and theoretical approaches often advocated by the "experts." Our folks don't expect something for nothing, and they don't expect things to come easy. Our method of success as I see it, is ACTION with a capital A, and a lot of hard work mixed in.
We've said through the years – Do it. Try it. Fix it. Not a bad approach, and it works. There are a lot of people out there who have some great ideas, but nothing in the world is cheaper than a good idea without any action behind it. The problem usually is finding someone who is willing to implement it. We must continue to urge our associates to be implementers – action oriented doers. A whole lot more fun, and accomplishes so much more. For instance, – we've got the "Yes. We Can!" – "Go For It!" spirit. Enough said – being action oriented is so important, and thank goodness our Wal-Mart team and associates have been, and are, geared to be action oriented. Let's not lose it.
I've just read a good book that I'd like to share with you. The title is "Pushing Up People" by A. L. Williams who has built one of the largest insurance businesses in the U.S. in just 10 short years. Many of the philosophies expressed parallel our own, so I suppose I'm prejudiced, but let me review with you some of the more important ingredients for developing our people – to be all they can be. This goal must continue to be our ultimate objective – and in order to accomplish it we must apply the principles of good leadership at all levels throughout our Company. As I've said so often through these articles – to be a good leader we first must be a servant and put the interests of our associates first.
In so many businesses, most managers lead by fear and intimidation. They think that being tough is being a leader. Nothing is further from the truth. A good leader will treat people "good" and add the human factors to all aspects of their business. I like this. "If you manage through fear, your people will be nervous around you after a while. They won't approach you with a problem, so the problem gets worse. They will be afraid to be creative or express a new idea. They don't feel like they can take a chance because they won't want to risk your disapproval. When this happens, the people suffer, and the success of the business suffers too."
So I guess what I'm saying is that in Wal-Mart we must treat our people with real genuine respect and courtesy. Your people aren't numbers on your own success chart. They're real people and deserve to be treated that way.
So, in summary, Management by intimidation is easy management. It's "chicken management." It is so easy to just fire somebody with a problem. It's easy to reprimand people. Let's make our "Positive Discipline" philosophy in dealing with our associates work. If done right, it will.
Build strong personal relationships with your people. Let's think for a moment about this seemingly controversial subject. To help your associates grow, develop and be all they can be, you must show that you really care. If you want to build any kind of a serious, lasting relationship with your people, you must become a master at communicating with them about all aspects of your business and their place in it. The only way you can let them know how much you value their contributions is to show them and tell them. And the best possible time and way in Wal-Mart is to do it one-on-one as we walk around the House "MBWA."
We've got to get to know our people – their families – their problems, their hopes and ambitions, if we are to help them grow and develop. We must appreciate and praise them as individuals. Show your concern daily.
Another very important principle for us is to live and stay with our people through the good times and the bad times. All of us know that sometimes the closest relationships with people or within our marriages are built during the bad times. The same is true with your people. You form personal relationships with your associates by sticking with them when things are going bad, as well as when everything is sunny. Life is a business of momentum: sometimes you are up; sometimes you are down. In "down times" your associates need your love and support more than at any other time. Unfortunately, many managers ignore people when there is trouble. They run from people rather than deal with their problem
Lastly, building lasting relationships requires "unconditional commitment." There will be problems – we are all just people with our varying strengths and weaknesses. So there will be those days, but the important thing is that you commit to stand by your associates for better or worse – until you win – and arrive at a satisfactory solution. So commitment, plus a generous portion of understanding and communication will certainly help to get this done. "Leaders really know their people – their families – their abilities and their dreams."
"Leaders always put their people before themselves." I really like this one. If you forget all else, that's been written here, remember the following: "If you want a successful business, your people must feel that you are working for them - not that they are working for you. And, it should really be that way. As a leader, your most important job is helping your people become the best they can be and reach the absolute peak of their potential. If you're able to do that, your business will take care of itself. No one can fail with a group of independent, motivated, excited and happy people working hard to reach their own individual goals.
All the above may be a little "heavy" but is so important long term to the continuing success of our Wal-Mart company. We are totally a "people" business. We must work to "push up" our associates, through sharing, caring, motivation, appreciation and serving until we allow each of us to be all we can be.
Thanks for letting me share my opinions with you on this early Monday morning, June 30.
Helen and I are taking off for vacation this week. Hope to get out to Idaho, Montana and into Canada. Will take our tent and sleeping bags and do some camping and cooking out along the way. Should be fun.
My good friends, you did good again in June. Our customers are appreciating you, and so do I!
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