Carolyn quickly realized when her company was getting in over its head. As controller of a box-manufacturing company, she sees P&Ls as well as new orders coming in. And though the business wasn’t profitable, the sales team was on fire, and new orders were escalating more quickly than the company’s limited production staff could fill them. Carolyn knew the company needed creative ways to save money and, more importantly, honor commitments to customers. “We needed to pull together as a team,” she told me. “If we hired temporary help to get the job done, we would have strayed further from reaching our financial targets, and no one would have gotten a bonus.”

Carolyn immediately called the head of production and offered her entire team of accountants to work the machines for a day. He graciously accepted. And the sales team appreciated the gesture as well, knowing customers whose orders are filled on time become repeat business, helping them meet revenue targets. 

When Carolyn and I calculated the actual savings as a result of her team’s effort, the amount was miniscule in comparison to the company’s income. She seemed disappointed at first. But then I asked about other results of the effort. “The orders were delivered on time, maintaining positive relationships with existing customers … and perhaps setting us up for new business,” she said. “And the camaraderie helped build a sense of community within our entire company. People felt connected to each other.” Her final thought was my favorite: “Our collective commitment to serving our customers was evident.” 

While most people are complaining right now about extra work or fear of layoffs, Carolyn stepped up and demonstrated exceptional leadership. Instead of keeping her head down and hoping someone else would fix the problem, she looked for ways to support the team, serve the customer with integrity and, perhaps, get the bonuses she and her team deserve.

Thank you, Carolyn, for your outstanding leadership! 

Misti Burmeister, author, from Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations