This blog post was co-authored with Mr. Bob Chapman, CEO of the Barry-Wehmiller Corporation.

The CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, Mr. Bob Chapman (and author Everybody Matters), thinks that every person at work is “someone’s precious child” — a person who should treated as you would want ‘your’ child treated. Family to most people means a place where they feel cared for and safe. Families are your most staunch supporters, the people who wish the best for us and who sacrifice, who cheer our accomplishments. Such is the case at Southwest Airlines, a place where employees are expected to have one another’s backs, to speak positively about their coworkers, and to practice people centered principles — e.g., going above and beyond to demonstrate good will to both customers and to their fellow employees: “When we get in the trenches with people to embrace difficulty or hardship, and we do it without complaining, we express our love for them.”

Like Mary Kay Ash (who believed that employees can be easily bruised with harsh criticism, and who practiced a developmental approach to feedback), and Herb Kelleher, Bob Chapman considers the people in his care his primary responsibility.

Many companies, when times are challenging, are the first ones to sacrifice employees to make the ‘numbers’ work. At Barry-Wehmiller (a family) everyone embraced the idea of ‘shared sacrifice’ during a 2009 downtown and went a month without pay so that all could retain employment. Some team members, in the spirit of caring, even offered to give up even more of their compensation so that others did not do without. And the CEO himself, as an example of what the initiative meant to him (and as an act of solidarity) took an $864,500-pay cut. Chapman and Sisodia argue that the experience of bonding during hardship validated the culture, and that the Company emerged from the economic crisis stronger than ever. Chapman reiterates the sentiment of treating people like ‘someone’s precious child’ in the International Business Times article “Building the Case for Caring in Business” where he states that in unexpected circumstances, “You have to care about your people, first.

In my conversation with Chapman he explains, “We need ‘leaders who have the skill and courage to care‘” which is Leadership.  Management, according to Chapman, is the manipulation of others for your success, and leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you. It is about People, Purpose and Performance. Research indicates that people who feel cared for are more satisfied with their jobs (and more committed to their team). Similarly, the perceived trustworthiness of one’s immediate supervisor is a prime indicator of the strength of the relationship.

Caring about people is in itself a form of competitive advantage.


Ash, M. K. (1984). Mary Kay on people management. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.

Chapman, B., & Sisodia, R. Everybody matters: The extraordinary power of caring for your PEOPLE like FAMILY. New York, NY: PORTFOLIO / PENGUIN.

Freiberg, K.  & Feiberg, J. NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ crazy recipe for success. Austin, TX: Bard Press.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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