Leaders must pass their values on to their workers

When I was a boy, the air of early August days were filled with the screams of the cicada and the wail of the katydids. Around football practices, our days were consumed with harvesting and selling sweet corn. Dad and we boys planted and cultivated about five acres of sweet corn. Several times a day a car pulled into our driveway and placed an order. We always had several dozen ears lying under an ancient maple tree for those in a hurry. However, many of our patrons wanted it freshly picked. In order to meet their request, Joe, Jack, or I grabbed a fruit basket and headed for the field. Sometimes they wanted a dozen and other times ten dozens.

In the summer, we seldom wore shirts, so the blades of corn leaves sometimes cut our arms. An even more painful event was the sting of a packsaddle caterpillar. This insect larva is green with a black spot on its back and is hard to see against the equally green corn blades. It has horns front and back laced with stinging hairs. If you come in contact with it, you will know it in seconds. The sting, which I experienced numerous times, feels as bad as a hornet sting. The wound definitely demands a yelp from its victim.

But the threat of packsaddle stings did not deter us from meeting the demands of our customers. We went down each row grabbing ears with the speed of confidence and pulling just those of optimal fullness. Too firm and the customer would complain they were too old. Softness told the story of an immature ear. The customer did not have to wait long because we had done this task so many times, we had the touch.

We returned with exactly the number of ears requested plus one extra for each dozen, a baker’s dozen. We collected our due, fifty cents a dozen, and stripped an ear to show the perfection of our selection. Year after year we repeated our process. Our reputation grew and people returned every season.

Once the picking was completed, we used a machete and cut the remaining stalks, placed them in a wheelbarrow, hauled them to the barn, and fed them to the cows. The stalks were like candy to my Jersey.

Dad in his attempt to make us capitalists divided the profits among the three of us based upon the time we spent in the field. We put the money in the bank and used it, along with money earned from the sale of eggs, cream, and livestock, for our first year of college.

Life is full of lessons. Dad was a teacher by profession and he took every opportunity to transfer his values and ethics to his boys. Values and ethics are important to leaders. They must realize that talking about values and ethics are helpful but demonstrating them are critical. Your employees must see you act upon the behaviors you want them to deliver each day. Saying without doing convinces people of nothing other than you are a good talker.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.