On more than a few occasions lately, I’ve caught myself standing in the middle of our kitchen, pondering the totality of the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty of how much longer it will be until our lives return to normal is hard to digest.
As I lapsed into my thoughts this morning, I happened to glance up and notice my wife’s tin collection. She has dozens of Hershey’s Chocolate tins on display on the top of our kitchen cabinets. She’s been collecting them since she was in middle school.
I pass through our kitchen several times every day, and rarely do I even notice these tins anymore. They usually blend into the background like wallpaper. But this morning, the tins caught my eye. They reminded me of one of my favorite “good teammate” stories.
During the Great Depression, Milton S. Hershey—the founder of the Hershey;s Chocolate Company—used his fortune to create jobs and keep the residents of his town from suffering the same economic hardships as the rest of the country. Most of the jobs he created stemmed from the multiple building projects his company had initiated, despite having no need for expansion.
The projects weren’t part of a strategy to pursue growth amid an opportune juncture. Expansion of any kind was financially ill-advised. Hershey took on the projects for the sole purpose of creating jobs for his townspeople.
Among the building projects launched during this period was the luxurious Hotel Hershey. My wife and I stayed at this hotel a few years ago. It was a chocoholic’s paradise. The staff placed Hershey Kisses on guests’ pillows at night. A chocolate aroma permeated the hotel’s hallways. The featured channel on the rooms’ televisions looped a Hershey’s history documentary.
A story in the documentary about Milton S. Hershey visiting the hotel’s construction site left an impression on me. While standing on a hill overlooking the project, a foreman pointed out to Hershey a new mechanical wonder known as a “steam shovel.” The foreman told Hershey the machine was able to do the work of forty men.
Though impressed with machine, Hershey promptly replied with explicit instructions for the foreman to get rid of it and hire forty men.
Hershey’s construction projects weren’t about efficiency or profit margins. The projects were about jobs. They were about taking care of his people—his teammates.
I share this story because I know there are leaders and persons of influence who read this blog. The best leaders always see themselves as part of the team. They might have a different role than others on the team, but they must still be committed to having the mindset of a good teammate (care, share, and listen). Milton S. Hershey exemplified this concept.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity for social distancing will eventually pass. But the economic hardships caused by the quarantine will probably linger long after their passage. If that is to be the case, may Hershey’s example inspire us all to serve our fellow teammates and adopt a get-rid-of-it-and-hire-forty-men mentality.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.