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Interviews with Bob Greenberg, Part 3

In this video, Kevin Hancock speaks about how he became a champion for shared leadership and dispersed power. When Kevin lost the power of his voice, he turned to others for their ideas so he could speak less. He also speaks about how he found the Lakota tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and how he connected with them through the loss of voice. He speaks about his own personal learnings, specifically about shared leadership and dispersed power. He finishes by sharing how Hancock Lumber has flourished from this new business model.

Click here to watch the full video.




#37 | MISSION CLARITY

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”

—Buddha

Earlier this year I shared the following short message with everyone at Hancock Lumber:

Hello! I was doing some work with another company in another industry yesterday. The subject of their “mission statement” was on the agenda. The company has great values and a compelling mission, but their path to describing it was quite technical. As a result, it didn’t resonate on an emotional level.

I then experienced a moment of anxiety, hoping that I’m able to be fully human as a CEO in my communication of our shared mission.

So here I am.

For me, the first mission of our company is to help everyone feel trusted, respected, safe, valued, and heard – exactly as you are.  No change is necessary for you to be amazing.

Manufacturing lumber is important to our company, but it’s not the mission.

Logistics are also important, but they are not the core mission either.

Sharing leadership broadly, dispersing power to everyone, and respecting all voices—that’s the mission. Work should be meaningful for the people who do it.

A few moments after sending that e-mail, I began receiving messages back. Here was the first one to arrive in my in-box:

I think our mission and purpose is very clear and easy to understand for everyone. Many organizations’ missions become a long list of often difficult-to-understand statements that have little, if any, meaning to most employees. A GREAT mission is one which if you ask any randomly selected person within the organization to recite, they would be able to—ours fits that definition.

* * *

The mission an enterprise prioritizes matters, because most organizations achieve what they focus on. If a company wants to create a different set of outcomes, they may only need to examine what they are consistently prioritizing.

Additionally, I don’t believe in a singular corporate mission. A world-class company is highly dynamic and will create benefits that advance society on multiple levels. At Hancock Lumber, for example, we expect to be highly valuable to not just employees but also to customers, suppliers, stockholders, and the communities we serve.  We aspire to positively impact our industry, our state, and the nation—even humanity as a whole. That’s a whole lot of mission.

So the real question becomes, where is the critical first focal point that, when ignited, will fuel and drive value creation for the whole? This is the foundational mission, the one that paves the way for all the others. It’s the point on the fly-wheel where the energy must be applied.  For us that’s the employee experience.  All other experiences, we believe, are derived from that one.

A great mission must be personally and immediately actionable, accessible to everyone. No complex training is required. Magic missions are intuitive. The moment you meet one, you know what to do—and what not to do. When you have a mission worthy of pursuing, everybody wins, and the victory reverberates far beyond the boundaries of the company.

* * *

Here are some traditional corporate mission statements:

  • Our mission is to maximize shareholder value.
  • Our mission is to achieve peak production efficiency.
  • Our mission is to grow and become the number-one supplier in our market.
  • Our mission is to sacrifice whatever is required in service to our customers.

The problem with each of these objectives is that the benefits of achieving them can feel as though they are bypassing the people doing the work.  Workers should work first for their own joy, growth, advancement, challenge, fun, and financial benefit.  That’s a great set of goals and it’s not just ok, but actually desirable to pursue them.  Work should fill your own cup and when it does your performance will create great value for others.

Advancement of self should be front and center in any foundational mission. Shareholder value, corporate productivity, revenue growth, and customer care are all important but as the outcomes of a higher calling.

Humanity is always ultimately advanced on a local level, where humans reside. The place of work should be first and foremost for the humans that work there.  When the employees soar everyone is advanced.

Most companies get exactly what they ask for.

What’s yours asking for?

“I spend a tremendous amount of time carefully choosing the roles I wish to play so that I can run from the role I was born to play.”

—Craig Lounsbrough

 

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the thirty-seventh post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#34 | EIGHT BILLION ENTREPRENEURS

“All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in the human DNA.”

—Reid Hoffman

Entrepreneur is one of the least-understood words in business, and possibly the entire English language.

We tend to equate it with an elite and short list of icons. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton, to name a few.

I see the word differently.

To me, life on Earth forces entrepreneurship upon us all. There are eight billion people alive today, and all of them will be called upon to be entrepreneurs.

* * *

“An entrepreneur is someone who takes a risk to create something new.”

—Dan Sullivan

By that criterion, we are all entrepreneurs.

Life itself—the mere act of being born, coming of age, and then growing old—demands entrepreneurship.

My yearlong essay series is dedicated to the importance and potential of self-actualization. We are all born into a tribe. We each belong at birth to a specific family that lives within a defined culture at a set moment in time. That setting or backdrop pulls on us to speak a certain language, adopt a certain God, and acquire a certain worldview.

But within the social context of our birth tribe we are also here to individuate and learn to see the larger human and universal community to which we also belong. We are each in pursuit of our own true voice. That journey, which comes for us all, invariably requires entrepreneurship.

Most of the small and big acts of our lives are entrepreneurial. In school, when you write an essay, you are creating something new. In chorus, when you lend your voice to a performance, the music changes. On the athletic field the team you join is instantly altered by your presence. Everything around you changes when you engage with it, and engaging with the world around you involves risk.

This is true in the world of work as well. Our company, Hancock Lumber, has six hundred employees, and every one of them is an entrepreneur.

* * *

Conventional thinking around multigenerational businesses is another example of misunderstanding entrepreneurship. For example, I am the sixth generation of my family to serve as CEO of our company. By a limited definition of entrepreneurship, only my great-grandfather’s grandfather was the entrepreneur, since he started the company. But the truth is, every subsequent generation must be entrepreneurial or perish.

During the Great Depression my great-grandfather built lakeside cottages to keep people employed and to keep the business alive. My own father built a brand-new sawmill, was the first to expand our retail business to multiple sites, and created a unique ownership structure to recruit and retail top leadership talent.

As for me, well—my favorite approach is to describe that which we have survived. In my thirty years with the company I was told more than once that each of the following events would mean the decline or demise of our business:

  • The transitioning from a fifth to a sixth generation of family management.
  • The emergence of Walmart, Home Depot, and other big-box stores.
  • The dawning age of globalization and the importing of manufactured goods from a worldwide marketplace.
  • The age of Amazon, e-commerce, and online sales.
  • The near-complete collapse of the national mortgage and housing markets in 2007.
  • The partial loss of my voice to a rare neurological speaking disorder.

And yet across the thirty years that have been defined by these events, our company has grown tenfold.

What created and enabled not just our survival, but our growth and expansion? The answer is entrepreneurship.

By whom? The answer is by everyone connected to our company—employees, managers, owners, customers, and suppliers. And should the company one day fade away, then we’ll all have to be entrepreneurs all over again—moving on and creating something new. In the absence of that, I will one day retire. This will require entrepreneurship, as well, for me to reinvent myself once again, and for the company to do the same.

The death of one thing is the entrepreneurial beginning of another. The Universe itself is entrepreneurial, and humans are manifestations of that universal energy.

Every day on Earth is an entrepreneurial day.

Every life on Earth is an entrepreneurial life.

You are an entrepreneur.

 

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

—Winston Churchill

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Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the thirty-fourth post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#27 | THE DIVERSE POTENTIAL OF SHARED LEADERSHIP

“Do not wait for the green light. You are the green light.”

—Dr. Jacinta Mpalyenkana

Shortly after participating in the Leadership Learning Exchange for Equity sponsored by the Maine Community Foundation, I received a poignant question from one of my favorite global citizens within our company:

What are we doing to bring more underrepresented groups into our company?

I had barely finished reading the query when I quickly began typing a response. I was halfway through a hasty diatribe listing the “actions” I had taken, or would soon take, when I caught myself on the brink of breaking all of my most cherished rules of shared leadership and dispersed power.

I was one of nearly six hundred people working at our company across sixteen sites. That company was woven into the fabric of many communities and supported by thousands of customers and supply partners. Yet here I was preparing to talk about what I alone would do. Ha!

Thankfully I caught myself in time and regrouped. What I could do was important, especially as CEO, but it paled in comparison to what we could do together on the subject of expanding sexual, racial, and ethnic diversity within our company, specifically, and, more broadly, the lumber industry as a whole.

So I dragged that first e-mail over to the recycle bin, let it go, and started again. Here is a segment of the new message I composed and sent.

Thank you for bringing this question forth. First, I always maintain that our core accomplishment is to have a highly successful company that is sustaining more jobs, better jobs, and higher pay. I like making the overall economic pie bigger. We pay close attention to average and median wage earnings within our company, and we want them to grow FASTER than the national average and FASTER than inflation. For close to a decade now we have been able to do that. That’s the economic part.

Then there is the social part, and specifically the goal of broadening the diversity of who contributes to and benefits from our company’s success. In keeping with my personal value system of shared leadership, I think the ultimate solution is for all individuals who work at Hancock Lumber to expand their own personal networks in diverse ways AND then recommend, connect, and refer people from those enlarged communities to career opportunities within our company and industry. If every individual in our company were to engage with the subject of diversity on a personal level, that alone would move the needle you speak of. As the people within our company change (myself included, of course), our company will become something different.

Before sending that message I talked with our HR team and asked what percentage of our new hires came from internal referrals. The answer was about 50 percent. This data seemed to mathematically support shared leadership. If everyone in our company expanded the diversity of their personal network, this would invariably translate into more diversity within our company.

The traditional, centralized model of hierarchical leadership would put the responsibility for crafting a “corporate diversity initiative” in the hands of a tiny, select group of individuals. That approach in itself is antithetical to broad inclusion. Conversely, everyone in the company could take up the cause and become a personal agent of change. At Hancock Lumber we have found time and again that when everyone owns the responsibilities of leadership, the outcomes are far more effective, dynamic, and sustainable.

The problem with waiting for the CEO to proclaim his or her diversity plan is that the creative potential of all the other amazing people in our company gets put on hold. In that model everyone else is relegated to the structured roles of spectator, evaluator, and “to-do list follower.”

Dispersed power is the key to expanding diversity within a company (or any community). Every person at Hancock Lumber has the capacity to broaden their network, reach out across traditionally divided lines, and make new friends in new places, starting today. If all 600 of us at Hancock Lumber each made 1 new friend from a previously unvisited community every ninety days, that would produce 2,400 new and diverse relationships in a year. A portion of those relationships would surely flow right into our company. All of those relationships would, more importantly, advance humanity.

There is no question that C-level leaders must prioritize diversity, but that’s best accomplished by inviting everyone within the organization to lead the new-friend-making and old-barrier-breaking work. Diversity, like everything else, expands one human at a time.

“Attempting to constantly control everyone and everything around you is not only exhausting . . . it is also futile. The only real power you can achieve in this life is being in control of yourself.”

—Anthon St. Maarten

 

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

__________

This is the twenty-seventh in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin Hancock to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021, in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To receive future posts from Kevin, simply click here. This will trigger an e-mail where you can confirm and subscribe. Thank you!



#26 | “TRUST IS THE COIN OF THE REALM”

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

—Ernest Hemingway

On December 13, 2020, former secretary of state George Shultz turned one hundred years old. On that day he published an essay musing over what he had learned across a century of living, and a career that included serving three US presidents. He concluded that in all of his varied experiences—businessman, diplomat, economist, professor, husband, father, athlete, and war veteran—one lesson surfaced above all others.

Put simply, Shultz wrote, trust is the coin of the realm. When trust was in the room—whatever room that was—the family room, the schoolroom, the coaches’ room, or the military room—good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is in the details.

* * *

I’ve pondered this well-earned piece of wisdom multiple times since reading Mr. Shultz’s reflections. When I reexamine my own life, his conclusion has held true in every circumstance. Trust, it seems, is the secret sauce in the recipe for high-performing leaders and teams.

So how do you build trust? And, equally as important, how is trust eroded?

I often write about my time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and my learnings there. Pine Ridge is a place where distrust in government runs deep. That distrust was earned by repeated acts of betrayal, broken promises, and a lack of follow-through on the part of American political leaders and their operational bureaucrats.

At Pine Ridge there is also an additional layer of historic distrust toward people who are white. This too was earned. For nearly a century white people from away came to reservation communities like this one with the intention of “remaking” Indians in their own image.

In both cases trust was broken by the group with the most influence, control, and power. Once broken, trust can take lifetimes—even generations—to restore.

Today, however, there are many people at Pine Ridge who trust me, and I trust them in return. How was that trust established in the wake of such a dubious trail?

The answer? Direct, personal, and sustained connectivity. I ate, slept, and hung out there over and over and over again. In return, people invested their time in me. Eventually, trust was established.

“I can see you have a good heart,” my now dear friend Catherine Grey Day said to me after our fourth visit together. Today she calls me “Misum,” or “little brother.”

Distance breeds unfamiliarity, and that can manifest as distrust. If I do not know you personally, I will likely default to the historical experiences of my community.

Perhaps the most intriguing yet debilitating aspect of trust and distrust is that you can almost always prove you are right.  There is almost always an available reason to be distrustful.

* * *

In the past ten years Hancock Lumber has been fortunate to experience sustained success. We’ve established new performance records and then reset them multiple times.

Beyond good fortune, what would I attribute this to?

Trust.

For seven years in a row we have been one of the Best Places to Work in Maine. In each of those years we broke our own records for sales, productivity, and profitability.

So which came first? Did the high performance create a best place to work, or did becoming a best place to work enable the high performance?

For those of us who have been there, the answer is clear: It was focusing first on the employee experience that subsequently created the corporate performance surge.  Trust within the organization among the people who worked there came first.   

In high-performing companies, employees do not expect everything to be perfect. Everyone knows there will always be new challenges to overcome and problems to work through. But they trust that through it all the company will prioritize them. They trust that the company will not put its own needs before theirs. In return, the employees lift up the company and teach it to soar.

So yes, upon reflection, George Shultz’s wisdom has proved to be true in my life. At both Pine Ridge and Hancock Lumber, trust has in fact been the coin of the realm, and a currency first forged from within.

We must learn to trust our authentic selves before we can be deemed trustworthy by others.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

—Maya Angelou

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

* * *

I have this picture of Sitting Bull in my home office. He, like many other Indian chiefs of his time, faced a series of impossible choices as America rushed to meet its Manifest Destiny. Putting the needs of certain groups below your own always destroys trust.

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”

—Sitting Bull

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This is the twenty-sixth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin Hancock to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021, in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To receive future posts from Kevin, simply click here. This will trigger an e-mail where you can confirm and subscribe. Thank you!



#18 | SAWING THROUGH COVID

“For it is dangerous to attach one’s self to the crowd in front, and so long as each one of us is more willing to trust another than to judge for himself, we never show any judgement in the matter of living, but always a blind trust, and a mistake that has been passed on from hand to hand finally involves us and works our destruction.”

—Seneca

* * *

On March 12, 2020, a US Navy reservist, returning from duty in Italy, became the first COVID-19 case in Maine. Three days later the governor declared a civil state of emergency. Businesses closed. Society froze.

Meanwhile, our company, Hancock Lumber, had hundreds of employees deployed across fourteen locations all asking the same question.

What does this mean for us?

* * *

It turns out that the people of Hancock Lumber would have a far different COVID-19 work experience than most Americans.

As a deemed “essential” industry, we never closed, and, due to the nature of our enterprise, we never worked remotely.

“We still haven’t figured out how to make lumber from our couch in sweatpants,” I frequently told inquirers in the months that followed.

Ours is an industry where you have to be there in person, or else, you’re closed—and you can’t take turns showing up. A sawmill backs up quickly if any single work station goes idle. The Hancock Lumber team of humans faced a pretty simple choice: We all work, or none of us works.

In overwhelming numbers, our people chose to keep going. At the core of this decision was an unspoken understanding that blue-collar employees across America intuitively recognize: My company needs to run in order for me to get paid. I need to show up not just for myself, but for my fellow workers and their families. There was no thought in that moment that anyone other than us was coming to the rescue.

So what was that like, working—every day, on location, next to each other—during COVID?

Well, it wasn’t simple, but it also wasn’t complicated. At that time there was no “guidance” from state or federal capitals, nor did we look for any. No one knew our business like we did. As is customary in our leadership model of dispersed power, we would keep the rules to a minimum. Trust in the judgment of individual humans would be our power source.

Working through COVID demands one great commitment: Everyone must lead. Viruses travel one human at a time.

So we went to work with four essential guideposts: Spread out; keep it clean; stay home if you’re sick, anxious, or caring for another; and trust everyone to implement these values in their respective corners of our company. We gave everyone extra sick days. Additionally we gave everyone quarantine days, should they be needed.

Over the next twelve months, we would collectively:

  • make 18,000 construction site deliveries
  • produce 90,000,000 board feet of lumber
  • design, build, and deliver 76,000 trusses
  • make over 20 miles of wall panels
  • execute 250,000 in-store customer experiences

Together we logged (no pun intended) 1,200,000 on-site work hours from March 2020 through February 2021.

And what were the COVID-19 results?

Our employees—565 people, sharing responsibility collaboratively at Hancock Lumber—acquired 30 known cases of the virus. Of those 30 cases, 29 were confirmed as “contracted at home” (meaning, in their personal life, away from work). A single case of COVID was confirmed as “contracted at work.” Our group was 29 times more likely to acquire COVID at home than at work.

* * *

Ultimately our state government would issue detailed rules for work during COVID. While well-intended, the problem with this approach is always the same. Out goes innovation, accountability, and continuous improvement made possible by the collective creativity that only surfaces when everyone leads.

I have a friend who runs a small hair salon. One day (with a sense of impending dread) I read the six pages of COVID regulations she had been issued. The mandatory guidance covered everything from appointment scheduling, store signage, and training requirements to capes, smocks, neck strips, soap use, and disinfectant spray—from gloves, drapes, linens, eye coverings, and laundry to tools, porous surfaces, Barbicide, and food stations. It also covered magazines, service menus, cash registers, cloth chairs, leather chairs, trash bins, credit cards, telephones, and parking lots. All of this represented a missed opportunity to empower and share leadership.

When crisis strikes, trust becomes more important, not less. Empowerment becomes more essential, not less reliable.

In dire times trust is paramount, and it only manifests through the willingness of established leaders to show restraint—not to write the entire script on what to do and how to do it.

* * *

One day during the early phase of the pandemic, a team leader at our Casco mill shared a video of an iconic moment of disaster defiance from the movie Forrest Gump.

In this scene Lieutenant Dan climbs atop the highest mast of their shrimp boat to stand before the hurricane’s wrath.

“You call this a storm?” Lieutenant Dan proclaims as the vessel is pounded by wind and rain. “I’m right here. Come and get me! You’ll never sink this boat.”

COVID decimated certain industries; we were simply fortunate enough not to be among them. But beyond luck, what got us through? It was trust. Trust that shared leadership held more potential in a storm than a set of rules from above.

 

“He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.”

—Lao Tzu

* * *

(Note: Here is a link to the scene where Lieutenant Dan and Forrest, alone and without hierarchical supervision, defy and defeat the storm. That’s the Seventh Power, and it lives within us all.)

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the eighteenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!

 




#9 | HENRY, MAMIE, EDDIE, AND BUTCH

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

“Your choices and efforts, be they small or grand, define who you are.”

—Richelle Goodrich

Henry and Mamie Wilson migrated north from South Carolina to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1921.

“I believe he was about the first black man they ever hired at US Steel,” his son Tim would tell me nearly one hundred years later as we sat together at the Yordprom Coffee Co. on the uphill side of Congress Street in Portland, Maine. “He was the janitor there for forty-three years.

“My mom was just as sharp as my dad,” Tim continues. “Her name was Mamie Mobley Wilson. She was the cleaning lady at Suburban General Hospital. Everybody loved her too.”

Now well into his seventies, Tim is wearing a black sweat suit and a Tuskegee Airmen cap, leaning back comfortably in his chair.

As I listen to Tim reflect on his parents’ influence on his life, I contemplate whether Henry and Mamie could have imagined the social contributions that their son would go on to make. Today Tim Wilson is one of the most respected racial equity leaders in the State of Maine, and the legendary (now retired) director of the internationally recognized Seeds of Peace Camp dedicated to eliminating Arab–Israeli conflict, one teenager at a time.

Can we ever really know what impact we will have on the world simply by doing the little things right, one day at a time?

Two young black janitors from the Jim Crow South were positively impacting the world long after their own deaths through the values and skills they instilled in their son.

Henry and Mamie Wilson’s son, Tim (center, in white) at the Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine.

*          *          *

Henry, Mamie, and Tim’s personal story reminds me of two seemingly disconnected tales that my friend Angus King recently shared with me.

Tale #1

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually ruled Chicago. Capone owed much of his position and freewheeling lifestyle to his exceptional lawyer, known locally as “Easy Eddie.”

To show his appreciation, Capone paid Easy Eddie very well. Eddie and his family lived on an estate so large that it filled a city block. Eddie enjoyed the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocities that went on around him.

But Eddie had a soft spot for his son, whom he loved dearly. And despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie tried to teach his son right from wrong.

Even with all his wealth and influence there were two things Eddie couldn’t give his son: a good name, and a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. He wanted to rectify his wrongs.

He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about his boss, Al Capone, in hopes of cleaning up his tarnished name and offering his son some integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against the Chicago mob.

Within a year, Eddie’s life would end in a blaze of gunfire.

Tale #2

World War II produced many heroes, and one such man was Butch O’Hare.

Butch was a fighter pilot in the South Pacific assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington.  

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. En route Butch realized his fuel levels were unexpectedly low and his flight leader ordered him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, Butch dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

On his return he spotted a previously undetected squadron of Japanese aircraft speeding toward the American fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, Butch dove into the Japanese formation. His wing-mounted .50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane after another. He continued the solo assault until all of his ammunition was spent. Undaunted, he pressed the confrontation until the Japanese planes veered off in another direction. Butch and his tattered fighter then limped back to the carrier, having destroyed five enemy aircraft. The date was February 20, 1942.

For his actions Butch became the US Navy’s first ace of World War II, and the first naval aviator to win the Medal of Honor. Later that year, at the age of twenty-nine, he was killed in aerial combat. Today Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is named in his honor.

So what do these two seemingly disparate stories have in common?

Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.

*          *          *

We don’t know the full impact we will have on this world. What you do today counts, no matter how marginalized or small you might feel. A stone cast into the water ripples long after we’ve moved on from watching it expand. Humanity is anchored and defined by those who never considered themselves famous or extraordinary.

“Ordinary people do great things every day.”

—Jim Valvano

 

* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the ninth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



#8 | THE GOOSE AND THE APPLE

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.”

—Wayne Dyer

The Charles River Esplanade is a meandering urban green space separating Boston’s Back Bay neighborhoods from the Charles River. Filled with hardwood trees, playing fields, and exercise paths, the Esplanade traverses more than three miles, from the Museum of Science to Boston University. On any given day this scenic byway is filled with walkers, joggers, bikers, bench sitters, and geese—lots of geese.

I was walking on the Esplanade one January morning when I witnessed a short sequence starring the geese that caused me to pause and reflect.

I was crossing an arched stone bridge. Beneath me ran a shallow stream partially covered by patches of thin ice. In a pool of open water twelve geese were casually drifting about when one of them spotted a half-eaten apple on an ice sheet nearby. As that goose moved with intention toward the apple the others began to take notice. Soon a race was on. Wings and feathers were set in motion as a cacophony of honking spontaneously erupted.

The original goose was first to the apple, but he knew time was of the essence. He slid across the ice, neck extended, trying to gather the entire prize in his mouth. But the apple would not cooperate. It slid and bounced its way back into the water where multiple geese fought for control. Moments earlier this flock had been peacefully gathered together for safety in a display of tribal unity. The presence of a single apple had been enough to make them turn on each other.

I reflected upon the implications of what I had witnessed for humanity. The instinctive wiring of life on Earth is grounded in a scarcity mind-set—the fear that there are not enough apples for everyone. Long before white men ventured onto the American plains, Indians fought, killed, and tortured other Indians for control of critical natural resources and hunting grounds. To be sure, like the geese, Indian tribes also came together and cooperated with each other as well. That’s really the point: Humanity, like all life on Earth, has always maintained a delicate balance between competition and cooperation.

How do our primal instincts advance or hinder social harmony and human collaboration in the twenty-first century? Might those instincts at times prevent us from seeing clearly, even keeping us fixated on the wrong problems?

The World Health Organization estimates there is 1.5 times enough food presently available to feed everyone on the planet. This would suggest that distribution, not scarcity, is the problem. Digging deeper in search of root causes, humanity has radically uneven economic productivity. The average household income in the United States is approximately $66,000, compared to $13,000 in Venezuela, $7,500 in Cuba, $3,400 in Ukraine, and $530 in the Congo. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not optimal.

Why is this so? And what’s the solution?

One remediating strategy would be to take most of the money from places like the United States and send it to places like Cuba. That’s the scarcity mind-set model, and it wouldn’t work. Within a generation the income would be unevenly distributed again back in places like America. There is no net global benefit to lowering income in America. By the same reasoning, there is no net benefit to lowering income levels in Colorado ($77,000) in order to grow them in Mississippi ($46,000). (As an interesting aside, the highest average income levels in America are in the District of Columbia, $92,000.)

An abundance mind-set would recognize that there are massive opportunities for productivity growth around the world. Getting there would require leaping two hurdles. First, we would need to initially over-invest in communities that have historically been exploited. Second, we would need to expand the conditions of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law to all the peoples of the world. Freedom for all is the solution, and that includes economic freedom. Corruption prevails wherever democracy and free markets are restricted. In America, for example, the historic problem has been the exclusion of some from the full rights of our democracy. We don’t need less freedom for some; we need full access to freedom for everyone.

My favorite current example of annual income disparity is that of Hong Kong and China. The annual household income in Hong Kong is $50,800, compared to $10,410 in China. So what is the Chinese Communist government’s strategic response to this discrepancy? It’s to make Hong Kong more like China. How do you think that’s going to work out?

Primal man, like the geese on the pond, fought over the scarcity of apples.

Modern man has the potential to grow more than enough apples for everyone.

A mind-set of abundance, not scarcity, is the path toward more apples for all. We need more freedom and democracy, fully accessible and evenly applied. Rising up does not require a corresponding volume of pulling down.

“The idea that political freedom can be preserved in the absence of economic freedom, and vice versa, is an illusion. Political freedom is the corollary of economic freedom.”

—Ludwig von Mises

* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

Sources:

https://foodfirst.org/publication/we-already-grow-enough-food-for-10-billion-people-and-still-cant-end-hunger/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Food%20and,world’s%202050%20projected%20population%20peak.

https://www.worlddata.info/average-income.php

https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/median-annual-income/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

____________________

This is the eighth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



Keep it Local Maine: Episode 29

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks with Keep It Local Maine hosts Kimberly and Todd Regoulinsky about his shared leadership philosophy and creating an employee-centric business model for Hancock Lumber. He shares the journey that brought him to this understanding and how important he feels investing in your employees is for the business and for the employee. He has created a culture where the leadership responsibilities are shared among everyone, meaning that solutions are coming from the people working inside the situations and not just upper management. Kevin can see the confidence that it helps build when everyone’s voice is respected, heard, and valued.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • But essentially what happened was I had to quite quickly come up with a new approach to leading that involved not talking very much. And that led me down a simple trail at that point. If you’re not going to talk a lot, you’re going to listen a lot. And so I really ended up kind of flipping my approach leadership, from talking to listening, and from being on that stage, to sharing the stage. (04:06-04:40)
  • It’s about leaders or managers actually doing less, not more. And really focusing more on the culture of the organization. And creating a platform for a truth that authenticity to surface. Because you know, you think about it. In any organization, if people feel safe, safe to just be their authentic selves, say what they think, be who they are, be at peace as they are, just think about how transformational that one template can be. It really changes everything. (07:02-07:46)
  • Like our performance as a company has improved pretty dramatically in the year following this approach. But that’s, to me, the outcome of something bigger and more important. Which is really just celebrating – I mean, I don’t want to overdo it – but humanity. The sacredness of each person honoring everybody as they are. It’s actually kind of getting back to a simpler approach. And when you just honor everybody as they are and don’t feel like you have to fix, control, change, regulate, direct everybody, think about how much easier life gets. (11:27-12:14)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Finding Center and Voice Through All the Noise

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to Enlightenment of Change host Connie Whitman about his journey to finding a new business model and leadership style. Kevin firmly believes that developing people, listening to their ideas, and empowering them to make decisions is one of the most important things a workplace can do for their employees. He integrated an employee-centric business model at Hancock Lumber, allowing the leadership responsibilities to be shared by every employee. He fosters a safe and respectful place for ideas and solutions to be made at the employee level instead of consolidating power at the top. He shares how this has affected the business and the engagement and satisfaction levels of his employees, and finishes by sharing that this practice is for any community, not just the workplace.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • At Pine Ridge, I met an entire community that felt marginalized, pushed to the side and not really authentically heard. And that really made me realize that there are lots of ways for humans to lose a piece of their voice in this world. (5:50-6:11)
  • What is indigenous wisdom? Well, in my view, it’s available to us all, but to acquire it, you have to live intimately with nature. When you look at communities that lived intimately with nature, the sun, the moon, the sky, the resources, you end up becoming in sync with nature’s most fundamental rules. That, in my view, is the essence of indigenous wisdom. (19:54-20:25)
  • So I did feel like, well, if someone from a bit of a higher profile position of leadership was willing to dump their entire soul out and share it, that might help give permission and safety for others to do the same. That for me is the real essence of that journey and this book. (32:36-33:02)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Interview with Kevin Hancock, President & CEO of Hancock Lumber

In this video, Kevin speaks to The Inventions Show host Tack Lee about how he reinvented the way leadership is dispersed and shared at Hancock Lumber. Kevin and Tack discuss how he came to this leadership model in depth, as well as what it means for the employees, the customers, and the company. By dispersing leadership and power to everyone in the company, Kevin aims to enhance employee engagement and facilitate finding self-actualization. He also discusses how the company has handled this change and the path he sees for the future.

Click here to watch the full video.




The Power of Shared Leadership in Business

In this video series, Kevin Hancock speaks to Fire It Up With CJ host CJ Liu about his journey to a business culture where everybody leads, managing a business through the COVID pandemic, and his new book The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership. They discuss the sustainability of an employee-centric business model and how a company of Hancock Lumber’s size fares in this environment. Kevin finishes their discussion by sharing that empowering the voices of others and listening to their authentic voice is not just for business, but it is a movement that can happen in any community.

Click here to watch the video series.




The Day That Changed Everything

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to MaineBiz publisher Donna Brassard about how losing his voice changed everything in a day. He shares how he overcame this challenge and created a fruitful new leadership style from the lessons he learned. Kevin began sharing the leadership role with everyone at Hancock Lumber and found that great ideas were everywhere and people knew how to solve the problems in their daily lives. By empowering them to make the changes they needed, employee engagement and job satisfaction spiked. Kevin shares how he hopes other business and communities can learn from his new leadership style and more authentic voices can be brought into the light.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • The idea is to put more power and control in the hands of the very people on the front lines of the business, who are doing the work and who know their area of the business best. So in that approach, management’s job really becomes a function of learning how to listen and making it safe for people to say what they actually think. My biggest wish for any organization would be that it’s safe for people to say what they think. 14:18-14:59
  • Leaders have done more to limit, restrict, intimidate or direct the voices of others than to free them. (17:59-18:12)
  • I think the purpose of work should be do advance the lives of the people who do it. Work should be meaningful to the people who do it. And if a company focuses on creating an exceptional work experience, one of the outcomes will be the employees will take great care of the company. So this approach will actually improve corporate performance. (23:06-23:34)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Dispersing Power and Strengthening the Voices of Others

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to Human Capital Innovations host Jonathan H. Westover, PhD about his new book The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership. They discuss how the work culture Kevin has fostered at Hancock Lumber has created an environment where every voice is heard, trusted, and respected. By doing so, this empowers the voices of others and creates a heightened level of employee engagement and job satisfaction. Kevin also talks about how this can be used in any community setting, and discusses how it would change the future to see more areas where everybody leads.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • In nature, power is dispersed. That secret sauce, that sacred energy of the universe, actually lives in all its parts and pieces. And humans, w ho are apart of nature not separate from it, I believe ultimately want to organize in this way. And in the 21st century, in the query and age, I think this is where you see the disconnect. So people are awakening to their own sacred power as individuals. But institutions are still often locked in this past-based approach to leadership, which is about collecting power to the center, having a few speak for the many, and taking a bureaucratic approach to get things done. And while that model might have been the dominant model for centuries looking backward, I do not believe it’s going to be the dominant model going forward. (08:55-10:08)
  • So if work becomes a place where everyone can kind of self-actualize, can test their skills, can come to know their own identity and can feel safe doing so, then work starts to become a really important social tool, not just an economic tool. I’ve really, to take that one step further, come to think very differently about the mission or purpose of work. I think that the economic results are an important outcome. Outcome, of a higher calling. And I think that higher calling is that work should be meaningful to the people who do it. (13:36-14:28)
  • But I had a gentlemen show me one day when I was at Pine Ridge, that the center of the wheel, those who know the old ways, he told me, know that seventh power also exists. And that seventh power is you. It’s me. It’s the individual human spirit. Which is of nature, of the universe, of the sacred spirit. However you want to think about it. And that every individual is a piece of the divine. So the real task in social justice and in rethinking organizational excellence, is about giving away from the bureaucracy, getting away from the monolith, getting away from the empire, and putting the focus back on the individual and helping individuals understand and tap into their own power.(28:34-29:39)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Ninety Days in the Heart of America

In this article, Kevin Hancock writes about how the COVID pandemic showed how American citizens unified, persevered, and took control of their safety measures. Instead of chaos, America unified and was able to work together to save lives and slow the spread. Kevin also touches on how the coronavirus was not the only sickness Americans battled in the spring of 2020. He notes that an old foe, racism, was also magnified. To truly repair, rebuild, and move from racist systems, people must become leaders.

Click here to read the full article.




Rhett Power with Kevin Hancock

In this video, Kevin Hancock speaks with Power Lunch Live host Rhett Power about his book The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership. He shares the lessons he learned and how he implemented them into a new leadership style. By dispersing power and leadership throughout the company, Kevin found that employees became more engaged and had a higher level of job satisfaction. When employees became happier, they became better brand ambassadors for Hancock Lumber. Kevin describes how this had led to changes in the business and the personal lives of the employees.

Click here to watch the full video.




Guy’s Guy Radio: Marc Cameron & Kevin Hancock

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to Guy’s Guy Radio host Robert Manni about his newest book The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership. They discuss Kevin’s journey and how he came to find the philosophy that everybody should lead. At Hancock Lumber, Kevin works to create a safe and respectful environment for everyone to discuss their thoughts and lead the team to solutions. This not only increases the confidence in the decision-making process, but it also allows the leadership responsibilities to be spread across many minds and many people. Listening to others allows them to find their authentic voice, which leads to higher employee engagement and job satisfaction levels.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • And that’s what I really got excited about. The idea within our own company of creating a culture that gave everybody a voice and made it safe for everyone to say what they actually thought, and to share the responsibility for speaking for the company – because I couldn’t do it myself – and for leading the company. (39:10-39:39)
  • It’s a notion that essentially everyone is capable of leading, and everyone has a voice that’s worth being heard. And that the culture is really what separates organizations. Cultures either collect power to the center and put it in the hands of the few, or those cultures disperse power and strengthen the voices of others. (40:57-41:38)
  • Well, I think the one big thought is to make the employee experience a top priority. That sounds simple, but it’s powerful. Corporations are good at whatever they choose to focus on. So really, the simple act of making the employee experience a top corporate priority, will had a huge impact on improving the employee experience. (43:57-44:29)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Keep Dreaming, America

In this article, Kevin Hancock reflects on the notion that the American dream is dying. Kevin breaks down the pieces that make up the American dream and evaluates them based upon the previous generation. He compares how he has felt the employees at his company, Hancock Lumber, are achieving their American dream. Finally, he leaves a thought: to gain the American dream, we must win together, dream together, and achieve together.

Click here to read the full article.




Kevin Hancock of Hancock Lumber

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to The Grow Maine Show host Marty Grohman about his journey to finding the new employee-centric business model at Hancock Lumber. By dispersing the power of leadership to everyone in the company, Kevin found that employee engagement and job satisfaction are heightened to a new level. Employees are encouraged to find solutions to the problems they identify as important and given a safe space to solve them. This level of trust and respect between managers and employees has created a unique work culture. The company has thrived because of it, but Kevin notes that any and all communities are able to foster this type of relationship.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • But long story short, with my voice difficulty, I really ended up seeing, getting forced into initially, and then embracing an opportunity to essentially let everybody speak for the company and got really excited about this idea of, well, why can’t everybody lead? (5:26-5:50)
  • So I guess what I may say in summary is that I think the key is trying to create a culture at work where it’s safe for people to actually say what they think, including difficult times when we’re looking at a situation that didn’t go great. (14:29-14:55)
  • So, that’s one thing I’ve really learned across my career is that you can be really good within your own organization, but there are going to be forces that come to play or to bear that are bigger than you are, and you have got to be agile and change responsive and financially strong in order to constantly be readjusting and reinventing your business. (39:55-40:38)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




How Saying Less Can Empower Others to Say More

In this article, Kevin Hancock writes about how journey to finding that by saying less, he is empowering others to speak more. By sharing the leadership responsibility with many, instead of consolidating in one place, Kevin has seen tremendous growth in those around him and the business he runs, Hancock Lumber. Once employees became engaged and felt more confidence, they began flourishing. Kevin writes that this is the path for the future, not only for Hancock Lumber, but one he hopes will spread to other communities as well.

Click here to read the full article.




Not For Sale

In this podcast, Kevin speaks to Conscious Thought With Leo host Magdalena Winkler about his new book Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse. Kevin shares his story, his journey to Pine Ridge, and the lessons he learned along the way. He dives into the idea that power is meant to be dispersed, meaning leadership should be shared among the many instead of collected at a single entity. By practicing this at Hancock Lumber, Kevin shares his findings about the company’s performance and how his employees have been able to find their own true voices.

Click here to listen to the podcast.