Campbell’s Critical Criteria – For Success

In late 1989, I was given responsibility for a Corporate Services Group that included a diverse group of functions.  We had Corporate aircraft including operations and maintenance and our own hangar at the main airport; an in-house travel agency; a creative services department that, developed promotional material for a marketing department, and included a sizable print shop;  we owned and managed office and lab space in Tulsa that totaled over a million square feet and included two cafeterias.  We also did office layout and design, had a communication group that handled our in-house telephone system as well as dealing with field radio systems.  Office services included mail services, furniture, office equipment and supplies.  We also had responsibility for real estate for all of the U.S. operations.

My new assignment was part of an overall corporate reorganization, and so I thought it would be good to have an employee meeting to give them information on why the company was going through these changes and what was happening generally.  I think I had someone from HR who had been directly involved in the overall changes to talk about the status and future plans.  But I also thought I should open the meeting and make a few remarks since this would be their first meeting with their new general manager.  My manager of administration had been with the group for a while and seemed to be plugged into our group, so she offered to give me some help with what our folks might want to hear from me.  In a day or two, after she visited with several people, she said that she thought what they would like to hear was what I thought they needed to do to be successful.

At first I was a little overwhelmed with this idea.  Our group was very diverse and each function had its own requirements and challenges.  Some functions dealt with outsiders and had P&L responsibility and some that were pure internal service functions.  Most of them were not related to each other.  If  I talked about what was important in each function, we would be there all day and most would probably be bored to death most of the time.

After some period of agony, I was blessed with an inspiration that seemed fit everyone and could be done in a relatively short period of time.  The feedback after the meeting was better than I had hoped.  It seemed to be meaningful and appreciated by all who heard it. So I’d like to share my thoughts – which I titled “Campbell’s Critical Criteria” for success.

Have Honesty and Integrity

    • Misappropriation of property or misuse of company property is a firing offense – no 2nd chances
    • But beyond that:
      • Be honest and open with customers, subordinates, superiors, and fellow workers.
      • Deal forthrightly with suppliers and contractors and
      • Give the company it’s 8 hours and follow a good work ethic

Have Respect for Individuals

    • Maintain a mature attitude and conduct ones self in a professional manner
    • Know and remember that each individual has something to contribute.  We all have different backgrounds, experience, knowledge and abilities which can be good if we can work together effectively.
    • So show respect for all individuals, co-workers, suppliers, customers, etc.

Be Good at What You Do – Provide quality Services

    • Be friendly and professional – take time to understand what the customer is trying to accomplish and take some ownership in helping him.  We’re here to help the customer solve his problem.
    • Operate with a team spirit (we’re all in this together).  We can all help each other provide service and solve problems.
    • The customer is “always right” in terms of defining his problem, and judging whether whatever we may do is helpful or not, but
    • “No” is an acceptable answer under some conditions.  If what we are being asked to do is illegal or immoral – “no” is the only acceptable answer.
    • The “friendly no” and the alternate suggestion:  If we are asked to do something that we can’t or shouldn’t do, “no” maybe an appropriate answer but if we have taken time to understand the customer’s problem and objective, then we can usually suggest an alternative that will do what he needs done.  Sometimes we may be asked to provide something less than best solution to the problem – after all, we may often have more knowledge of alternative solutions than he does – in which case an alternative suggestion could be helpful.  But in this case remember it’s the customer’s decision.
    • Do it right the first time.  No one likes to do it over.
    • Do it to the best of your ability.  All you can do is your best.  If your best is not good enough, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you do your best to hold up your end or admit that you need help, everyone will appreciate your efforts.  If you need additional training, ask for it!

 Have Fun – Work Should be Fun if…

    • You are good at what you do and you work with people who respect each other, then work should be fun.
    • So have fun and keep your sense of humor – we should remember not to take things – or ourselves – too seriously

The last  thing I reminded them of is Campbell’s Law – “Nothings easy, but you can make it if you persevere”.  I thought Murphy had a point with his law that things often go wrong, but he was too pessimistic.  If we don’t give up, we can accomplish more than we often think we can.   

A couple of years after I did this I was introduced to Stephen Covey’s best seller, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.  Covey stressed the need for good character and pointed out that in the work world (and maybe everywhere), the people we trust are those that have both good moral character and are competent at what they do.  Covey’s book was very well written and covered much more ground than my 15 minute talk, but I felt we were on the same wave length.  More recently, I was reminded of this by U.S. Naval Admiral William H. McRaven’s address to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas.  His address entitled – “10 Lessons Learned From Naval Seal Training for Success in Life” – is available on several different web sites.  If you like this blog post, you can thank Admiral McRaven.  If you don’t, it’s all on me.





About tjc13

BE - Chem Engineering, Vanderbilt Univ, MBA, University of Tulsa - Worked for an energy and chemical company for many years and then started a management consulting business working for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
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