Walter Scherr was invited to be a guest blogger in the CEO Magazine website in August, 2015. he shares insights and thoughts on life, business, and obstacles.
He starts off the post explaining the “Two invaluable lessons that I learned early in my career:
1. No one cared how much I knew until they knew I cared.
2. Finding common ground with my employees encouraged a desire to work with me toward the same goal.
He recounts his days in London as the Managing Director of the British division at Sperry Ltd. in 1960. With an agenda to increase the profits and turn the company around, he found himself an outsider in a very culturally defined city. How would he bridge the cultural gap, gain the trust and respect of his employees there?
In one story he says “One evening, soon after I arrived in London, I was walking down London’s Great West Road, thinking about what I wanted to say when I met for the first time with Sperry Ltd.’s group of different management levels. As was usual, I was surrounded by a thick curtain of fog. The acrid smell of coal smoke reminded me of a key moment from my youth in Ozone Park, New York – the day my father made me responsible for the chore known as ‘banking the furnace.’
The coal we used to warm our homes was expensive, so we had to do a daily “banking”; we’d shift the coal around in order to keep the fire simmering overnight so we didn’t wake up to a freezing house. But we didn’t want to burn the house down, so banking demanded a certain technique. It required skill, the right touch, patience – a lot of the same virtues necessary to run a successful business.
This recollection became my “ah-ha” moment and enabled me to give the most memorable speech of my career. Before the meeting, I told the senior managers that we were going to sit among our co-workers rather than up on a dais. I wanted to immediately send the message that we were all working together as a team.”