Changing the culture, Pt. 1

Posted by jlubans on May 16, 2016

20160516-rsz_shoeshining_feature.jpg

My friend LaVerne Thornton is drafting a new book. It’ll be his third and will relate more life lessons from the work world.
He sent me an excerpt; a chapter of anecdotes about someone he worked with when LaVerne was plant engineer for a manufacturing concern in rural North Carolina. That someone was Burnis Beal, the plant’s janitor.
LaVerne tells of how his boss – the plant manager – would routinely bring in his dress shoes for Burnis to shine even while knowing Burnis, like himself, was a WWII veteran, indeed a decorated one.
While Burnis never complained about it, LaVerne found this to be a demeaning task.
Still, Burnis did all of his work in a quiet unassuming way.
I am going to let LaVerne take over at this point (I have his permission to use his words):
“In a couple of years I was named plant manager. After a few days as plant manager Burnis came in and said, “Hey, boss let me shine your shoes.” I said, “Burnis, I am ashamed that you would ask me to let you shine my shoes. You take that stuff home and never mention it again.”
The next morning I asked Burnis to come to the office with me. I told him to take a seat. He appeared to be wondering, ‘what is this about?’
I asked him to take off his shoes and hand them to me. He seemed to be reluctant to do so but complied. I reached into one of my drawers and took out a bag. I took our some shoe cleaning stuff and some shoe polish. I polished his shoes as he watched. I handed his shoes back and said “My Goodness Burnis, put your shoes on.” I followed up with, “I know you as a man and as a soldier, if I were to ever become close to being the hero that you are, then you can shine my shoes.”
“I did this as an act from my heart but the word spread and I believe it reversed the sour attitude our employees had towards the former plant manager.”
LaVerne was following his heart as illuminated by Jesus: “So, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” He sums it up: “Not bad as a management philosophy.”
My next blog will an excerpt from my lengthy interview with, Andris Vilks, the director of the National Library of Latvia and how as a young, newly appointed director – under Communist rule – took steps to change the predominant culture of fear at his institution.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016

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Comments

Posted by Eva Baughman on May 16, 2016  •  14:50:02

Excellent, John! The photo caught my eye and the content kept pace!

Posted by jlubans on May 17, 2016  •  05:09:03

Thanks, Ms E! If you have not read LaVerne's two books, I recommend them. J

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