Leadership Lessons from My Time at GS1 Canada
Tuesday was my last working day at GS1, and it was bittersweet for me because while I am embarking on an awesome new challenge (one I am excited about). I have very fond memories of my time at GS1.
Here are a couple of things I learnt
Be grateful for the barcode; it literally holds the economy up and saves your life every time you go to the hospital.
Leadership isn’t what you say or even how you say it; it is what you do. I have a pretty acute corporate BS detector, and boy, it was going off like Christmas lights when the pandemic hit. There were many companies laying off staff in the first week while winning new contracts and raising investment then releasing cookie-cutter statements on Linkedin about how “our people are our best resources” & “we had to make the most difficult decisions of our lives….”.
I am a firm believer that authentic leadership is built on integrity, real integrity, not the posters on the walls nor the wallpapers, nor the compulsory “our Values” section on your website.
At GS1, I saw an authentic concern by executive leadership to support staff and teams through the Pandemic. I saw the power in saying, “I don’t have an answer, this is new for us, but we will do our best to find an answer,” and actually mean it. I believe people know when they are being gamed, and it is always best to say things as they are.
Build a culture around an aspirational mission: This seems trivial, but the implications are far-reaching. I got to work with some of the most passionate and driven individuals who were almost only focused on helping the collective achieve its goals.
This means office politics isn’t a factor as the goal is not to be a superstar. It means that the voice of the customer is what is most important. It means lively debates are about how to help ‘Us,’ which allows space for the best ideas to come from anywhere and anyone.
When in a crisis, it is better to over-communicate with your stakeholders & teams than the opposite: The human mind is a fantastic pattern-finding machine. So good that it sometimes creates links where none exist. If you look out your window long enough at night, you will see ghosts.
I believe rumours and conspiracy theories are artifacts of broken trust and a lack of information. Whatever the crisis is, never underestimate the power of frequent updates, town halls, fireside chats. Leadership is, after all, working for those you lead. Even though it is more work, there is value in holding your teams’ hands through a crisis, and I saw it pay off.
Sometimes the way to overcome inertia is to build a new boat: Organizations tend to become slower as they evolve. This ensures stability; however, in a quickly changing marketplace, disruption is always around the corner; you cannot afford to drown innovation in the waters of bureaucracy.
I worked on the team that worked on the crazy things that had too many unknowns and saw the change & impact that can be created by creating teams that essentially serve as consultants within the organization whose jobs are to ask ‘why? & why not?”.
Overall, working at GS1 was a fantastic growth experience for me, and I am grateful for the network I have built there and would be a proud member of the alumni club.