The Power of Smiling in Leadership

Today’s article was written by Mona Reiser, a guest contributor and one of my former managers.  (You can see more about her at the end of the article.) She is one of the smartest leaders that I know and I am so honored that she is sharing one of her stories on my blog.  I was a part of the organization that is discussed in her article. I took many lessons from such a great management team and applied them when I became a leader of my own organization.  I still count it as one of the best experiences that taught me so much about the business and one of the best examples of working hard, but having fun at the same time.   

The Power of Smiling in Leadership!  You might scoff at this adage.  But it is an invaluable lesson that I learned fairly early in my career as I was beginning to rise up through the rungs of management and leadership. 

Harken back to the early 90’s when quarter ends were still a part of business activities, and add to it a start-up operation in a warehouse environment.  What could go wrong was happening all around us:  trucks in the yard that could not be found; product all over the warehouse but not in the slots that the system had assigned or where it was supposed to be; taking forever to unload trucks and forever to re-load trucks; employees working 18hr+ shifts and a bit testy; and enuff said!

And here our General Manager is doing management by walking around with a smile on his face and a greeting and kind word for everyone along the way.  I am thinking to myself:  “Does he not see what is going on…the sky is literally (ok maybe not literally!) falling all around us and is he so blissfully unawares?!?” And this went on for the days of the quarter end.  It took us a few months to recover, but recover we ultimately did.  We went on to have a well-respected and run Regional Warehouse that was a model which was replicated 7 more times across the country.

The lesson I carried with me from that time forward:  A leader must not show defeat to their organization, as the organization will take their cue from the leader!  What conversations and operational discussions were carried on by the General Manager and his team, we received through our respective managers and what our directions were to be.  But I knew that all was not lost as I saw that smile throughout those days and long nights!  There were many times afterward when I ran start-ups or other organizations, that I made sure I had my ‘smile face on’ as soon as I would step out of my car or office so that my organizations would know that all was at least OK during times of major change.  

Mona Reiser is a retired supply chain professional with 25 years at Kraft Foods, managing/directing warehouse operations, warehouse start-ups, transportation and customer service. She is currently co-partner/owner in three Beauty & Wellness schools in Georgia, Kansas, and Virginia. You can reach her at mreiser74@gmail.com.

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