When Leadership makes MAGIC G: We all have moments in our lives that inspire us to become better than we are, or at a minimum, behave differently. One such moment in my life happened in 1982. I had started a regional package delivery company, which competed with UPS and FedEx. We followed the UPS model of hiring students to work in the evenings, unloading the day’s shipments, sorting them to the various delivery terminals and then reloading them in the proper vehicles for next day delivery. Our intent was to give these students some income while giving them the opportunity to learn our business. D: They became a trained and experienced recruitment pool for future full-time employment. G: Exactly. Some of these students went on to become full-time delivery drivers, supervisors, managers and one of them went on to become our national sales director. Our philosophy was to promote from within, and our track record spoke for itself. D: Is this part of the Magic you speak of? G: In a way, yes. Some of our employees came to me with an idea to help some of the not-so-fortunate people in our community. One of the supervisors, an ex UPS manager, suggested that we give out turkeys to all of the employees, at Christmas, as a way of saying thanks for your contribution over the past year. D: Was this something that UPS did every year? And did it have the desired effect? G: Yes and no. UPS gave put turkeys to every employee at Christmas, for as long as I can remember and they still may. But the desired outcome was lost over the years. Employees became jaded and the delivery drivers saw it as “more work”. I remember my first turkey and the feelings that its message left me with. D: What was the feeling and what was the intended message? G: I really felt appreciated and valued by the organization. Their message of ”thanks” was clearly delivered. But at the same time, I noticed other, more experienced people, could not have cared less. They remarked that the turkey was an empty symbol and some even tossed theirs in the trash. D: That’s too bad. All that effort and no reward. What did you learn from that experience, and what did you do with that lesson? G: The learning was to make sure that my intentions, no matter what they were, had the impact I wanted. If I did something for someone, it had to be authentic and not false. My actions had to have a positive impact on those who worked with and for me. D: How does this relate to the turkey story? G: As I said earlier, one of my managers had the idea of giving out turkeys, so we had a meeting of the leadership team and came away with our own version of showing appreciation for the past year. Instead of giving out turkeys we decided to create a Christmas basket for some of the people in our community, who could not afford a Christmas dinner, let alone buy gifts for their children. D: That sounds like a good idea, but how did it show your appreciation for the employees, and how did they react to it? G: It was truly amazing what happened. Our office staff, along with some of the drivers and supervisors, contacted local organizations that worked with the poor and the disenfranchised. We talked with Catholic Charities, people in the Health and Welfare office, other church organizations and other organizations that could lead us to those most in need. We found hundreds of families who could use our help, but we could only do so much. So we determined the twenty-five or thirty families who needed our help the most. Then we collected food, toys and money from our employees. The office staff then filled baskets with all the fixings for a Christmas dinner, including the traditional turkey. We then asked for volunteer drivers to deliver these baskets on Christmas Eve. D: What was the response? I have a guess, but Christmas Eve is usually spent with family. G: You are right about that. We needed twenty-five drivers and ended up with more than we could use. Every driver volunteered and every supervisor and manager. In the end, some supervisors rode with drivers and some even took their own children with them. When asked, one of them told me that he wanted his own children to see how important it was to help others. He wanted his own children to appreciate the things they had and to learn to share what they had with others. It was truly inspiring. D: That is inspiring. Is that the magical moment you spoke of? G: It was magical, but the real magic for me came earlier in the process. We talked with every employee, and let him or her know what our plan was. We would collect from them whatever they wanted to contribute and the company would donate the rest. Everyone contributed in some way, even the students who worked part-time. One particular student, a sophomore in high school, endorsed his bi-weekly paycheck over to our Christmas Fund, and dropped it in the box. When I heard about this I told him how much I appreciated his gift and asked him why so much? He told me that it made him feel good to do something that would mean so much for a family, especially the children in that family. D: What a selfless act. And from someone so young. G: Right. He reinforced that leadership can come from anywhere and anyone. This was an example of magical leadership from the bottom. His gift inspired me. I instructed my controller to cut him another paycheck. The next day, another endorsed check was found in the Christmas Fund box. D: This young man was serious, wasn’t he? G: This young man was magical. When I saw him sorting packages that evening I simply nodded to him and gave him the thumbs-up sign. He smiled and continued with his work. Magical.