Joy. Inc. – Leadership Lessons and inspirations

Joy. Inc. – Leadership Lessons and inspirations

Interview with Rich Sheridan, Author of Joy, Inc. – How We Built a Workplace People Love and CEO of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over 3,000 annual visitors flock to Ann Arbor to tour Menlo and be inspired by the unique Menlo way. Among them are Lean experts and companies like Toyota.

This conversation is part of an Interview series on Lean Transformation & Lean Culture, created by Noventa Consulting. The conversation with Rich is split into four parts.

Part 1: Joy, Inc. – Learning Organization

Part 2: Joy, Inc. – Business Value of Joy

Part 3: Joy, Inc. – Leadership Lessons and Inspirations

Part 4: Joy, Inc. – Cultural Transformation

What did your kids teach you in leadership?

In the United States there is a program where you bring your kids to work for a day to show them a typical workday. One day I took my 8-year daughter to work. What would an 8-year old do, but fill their backpack full of coloring books, crayons, and stickers and spend all day at dad’s task table coloring away, while I did VP-work.

At the end of the day, I started packing up my briefcase, and she took the cue, and she started packing up her backpack. Since she’d been here all day; I thought I should ask her about lessons learned. “So, Sarah, what did you learn today?” She looks at me “What I learned, dad, is that you’re really important.” I thought, “what on earth could she possibly could have seen that would ever come to that conclusion?” I set my briefcase down, I grabbed the chair across from her, I sat down, and I looked her in the eye, and I said, “Tell me more. What did you see?” She said, “Dad, what I saw is nobody here can decide without asking you first.” I realized that she was very proud. I was mortified because my youngest daughter taught me that my team couldn’t move faster than me. Moreover, it doesn’t scale unless they scale me and the only way to scale me is with over time, and I don’t want that because I don’t want to lose connection with my family and my children. I don’t want to become that guy. That was an epiphany moment that set the tone for building Menlo Innovations.

Who are your sources of inspiration on the journey?

 My parents inspired me in so many different ways. My dad was a great storyteller, and I always admired that about him. I always assumed I’d never been able to tell stories, as well as my father, does. First of all, I won’t have any compelling stories as he does and even if I did, I’d never been able to tell them as well as him. He was also an avid reader, and he would put many books in my hands.

I had a great first couple of bosses who taught me so much. At such a young age I was very impressionable. I got my first job as a programmer before I was 16 years old. I was working for these two guys, Bill Banach and Tom Hartsig. Bill took me under his wing, and the taught me how to do public speaking. He put me in front of crowds even before as 18 years. I was too young to realize that this was unusual. I remember a speech I gave in Washington DC in front of a crowd of three-hundred people.

Tom Hartsig was teaching me about technology. He was showing me about its power and what the promise was in it. That was very inspiring for me. Early on I got to see a visionary leader.

My last CEO at Interface Systems before we started Menlo was a guy by the name of Bob Nero. He was such a great mentor to me that when I started making these significant changes at Interface Systems, he had my back. Anytime I slowed down, anytime I doubted, anytime I felt frustrated, anytime I felt too tired, he would put his gentle hand on my shoulder and whisper in my ear, “Rich, you’re doing the right thing. I got you covered. Keep going.” I don’t think Menlo wouldn’t exist without his influence in my life. It would have been too hard, and I would have given up, had he not supported me. I’ve been blessed with a lot of great mentors. [part three of four – Interview will be continued]