Personality in the Working Force

George H. Barbonr in System October 1 1907

Personality in the Working Force

George H. Barbonr in System October 1 1907

Personality in the Working Force


George H. Barbonr in System

PERSONALITY in business! Those three words spell, to my mind, the most powerful factor in business to-day. Financial resource, of course, is necessary in the business field; foresight and the ability to grasp opportunities as they arise achieve much. But, it is only when these elements are combined with that peculiar characteristic of the individual which we call personality—that faculty of personal power, personal impression and personal understanding—that they attain the best and most permanent results.

Personality is the chief factor in building a business, because personal power is the strongest bond between men, and a unified organization in a business establishment is chiefly the result of that same power—personality.

The successful founders of business have been those men who have radiated their personalities through the structures of trade which they built. Their policies and their methods thus were given additional momentum and their personal magnetism became an instrument unifying employes and attracting customers. This power has caused every employe in such an establishment to give to the business and to his particular work the best there was in him. And the man who can secure that individual effort, general team work and loyalty from those he employs is the man who wins. For a great machine is the more nearly perfect as its every part, even the smallest wheel or rod, moves

in unison and with the least possible friction.

I believe the business man can well devote much of his time to developing personal quality in those he employs. Many years ago, before I became a manufacturer, I conducted a general store in Connecticut. I made it a point to * impress on my clerks that careful attendance and personal treatment must be accorded every visitor to that store, no matter what the amount of a purchase or even if no purchase at all was made. I insisted that a customer who spent ten cents should be given just as close attention and as patient attendance as the customer who spent ten dollars ; for very often the ten-cent customer of to-day develops into the buyer of the morrow whose every bill totals far more than that of the ten-dollar purchaser of the present. Now, the clerk who had that idea inately—who did not need to be told—was the man with personality. He was the employe who could attract customers and hold them.

Every business needs to develop the personality of its men, for that means individualism, originality, growth and progress. But to develop individualism in the organization demands the injection of the personal touch into the relations between the management and the rank and file. We have always sought to develop the individualism of the worker, from the man who toils in the molding sand in the foundry to the salesman who disposes of the finished product to the customer. In that way the workman, no matter

how small the portion of the general task that may fall to him, is made to feel that he is a factor in the business. Whatever the place he may occupy he must feel that he is a necessary link in the execution of a certain phase of the work—that his efforts are needed in keeping in motion that chain of production which runs from the factory to consumers through the world.

To secure this result the management must keep in close personal touch with workmen in all departments. From the foundry to shipping room this principle has been followed. Even with almost 2,000 workmen in a manufacturing plant it is surprising to find how easily and how pleasantly this personal relationship may be continued, once it is established. The employer may be somewhat amazed to find with what interest he absorbs knowledge of the affairs of the various employes and the eagerness he feels in seeing each man attain the success he desires. And this personal interest, which becomes wholly unselfish and one of the pleasures of business management, is the element which, more than any other one thing perhaps, brings out loyalty and produces a unified organization.

In our works there has been but one slight disturbance since 1871. That lasted but a few days. Some of the men complained that inspections were too rigid. They were shown that quality always had been the keystone of the business. The discord was quickly adjusted and the most rigid inspection continued/ I believe this long period of constant accord has been made possible chiefly through this personal relationship, loyalty of organization and that consequent mutual knowledge of actual conditions which makes for the fairest of dealing between employer and employe.

It is this personal power which makes men refer to the house or factory with which they are connected as “we.” Their individualism is not crushed out. They feel that they are a living, working unit of that great

business machine to which they are attached.

This policy also begets long-time service—and permanent employes are a money-saver to a business. I believe the chief element in continuing long-term periods of service of skilled men has been personality, recognition of individualism when it is deserving because it encourages the man.

Another result of the absorption of this feeling by employes is the many suggestions that come from their brains. They give their best thought to their work. They plan to aid their employer ; to extend the scope and power of the business to which they refer as “we.” These suggestions, which often yield new mechanical improvements or new clerical methods that save time and expense, should be received with encouraging proof of their acceptability. That, too, will serve to further whet the brain of the worker and further inspire his loyalty and effort.

Granted that personality is of much value to the manufacturer in handling the men in his plant, how shall this be made a part of his policy? It must begin at the top. This quality should be one of the prime possessions of the factory superintendent’s —or whatever title that official may bear who has direct charge of the men, wherever he may be employed. Here this personal power, accompanied by thorough practical knowledge of the work in hand, is a first requisite. For, where thousands of men are employed, all of varying temperament, friction is bound to come now and then. But the superintendent, or the foreman of the department, who treats every man on the personal plane soon abates any of the little differences that arise. And he exercises this personal power in treating every worker fairly. He keeps every promise made to an employe. In this way only is individualism nourished and the man in the ranks made to feel that his personality —his personal force and work—is a factor in the roar and rush of the factory.

To this same end any practice of tactless or violent assertion of authority—the “calling down” of an inferior by a superior in the presence of the former’s working associates—should be adjured, unless a fault or offiense really merits the severest censure. That practice of showing authority merely for authority’s sake always hurts rather than helps. It sears the sensitive workman. It acts, too, as a muscle-binder and, with the brake of resentment set, that man’s quality and quantity of work depreciates. It is a sure cause of the “don’t-care” feeling. And nothing is more injurious to a working force than the spread of that disposition. That practice is attended, as a rule, by a crushing out of individualism—the doing away with the personal power of the individual.

I have in mind one man who worked his way upward from the ranks to a superintendency. At one time in his advance he was appointed an inspector. His duties required him to inspect the product of men with whom he had worked side by side at the bench. He had even been “best man” at the marriages of three or four.

These latter felt that, because of this close friendship, he should be lenient in inspection when they were concerned and allow any of their work which was below standard to pass as up to the chalk-line. He refused, however. His factory prided itself on the constant quality of its product. He was loyal to that rule of quality. He inspected their work just as rigidly as that of the newcomer who had taken his bench but the week before.

He lost their friendship, but he kept his course. And the time came when they voluntarily assured him that they were convinced he was in the right. Now, it was that man’s personal power which carried him through that experience without creating a storm of trouble. He found himself implanted more strongly than ever in the regard of the men under him. His fairness, his square-deal methods, had won out. He dealt with all the men on the same personal plane. He upheld

individualism. And a better handler of men I never saw.

If personality is a power in dealing with men in the factory, the shop or the store, it is a superlative power in dealing with the customer in the selling end of the business. The business man, to succeed, must keep in personal touch with his customers. Letters which have the personal quality stamped in their type-written lines do much. Frequent circulars that are drafted along personal lines and have the personal element carried in the ink form another bond that ties. But, best of all, is the personal contact between the seller and the consumer.

Many a business man could not execute a more effective stroke of business-getting than by packing his grip, making a tour of the houses of his customers and announcing at each place he called that “ I have come just to shake hands.” I have seen ample proof of that. Its value has been demonstrated many times. Our sales manager some time ago made such a trip through a section of the country. Its results were immediate. It toned up business all along the line. It acted as a powerful supplementary influence to the efforts of the salesmen in the field. In one city this official called at the offices of a very prominent and very busy man. The corporation over which this man presides as the executive head had not been one of our constant customers. To the visitor’s card the busy executive sent back word that he was too deluged with business affairs to receive a call. The visitor merely said to the clerk:

“Very well. Kindly tell Mr. Soand-so that I do not want to bother him by soliciting orders. I merely came in to shake hands. I shall call again at io o’clock to-morrow morning. If he is not too busy then I should much desire the pleasure of meeting him.”

The next morning our sales manager was promptly received. He was met by this corporation head with: “I am very glad to meet you. You displayed such a kindly and gentlemanly disposition yesterday when I

was burdened with a mass of affairs that I have looked forward to endeavoring to make full amend to-day for my inability to see you yesterday.” That visit meant very, very much to us.

And to what must this result be attributed? To personality; nothing else. It shows what personal power will do. I wish it were possible to extend this personal contact to every customer. I know of no way in which I could do greater service to the house with which I am associated than to tour our selling field and just shake hands with those thousand and more of customers who have been sending in orders for years and have known the directing forces only through our traveling salesmen—all men of personal power, too—and the personal letters and circulars of the kind I have mentioned.

That business house or manufacturing establishment which makes a constant practice of extending a personal welcome to the customers who come to its doors has learned one lesson in the success-book. Proper personality, even in the busiest retail house, radiates that atmosphere of welcome. In the great retail commercial house there may be no actual hand-shaking, but the customers feel that air of welcome almost unconsciously. For business houses, when rightly directed, have personalities as well as individuals. With manufacturing establishments there is opportunity to extend personal welcome to visiting customers. Let them know that they are at home. We are anxious that our customers who visit us should have full opportunity to observe every detail of the business. And that means that they are welcome to start at the pattern-making branch and visit every other department up to the general offices. We have no mysteries about our bookkeeping. We are glad to know that our customers are so interested in us that it is possible to establish such close personal relationship.

In putting the test of the power of personality to individual proof there

is one case particularly that occurs c

to me. Twenty-three years ago there was a young man at Detroit’s telephone exchange. He handled the line that ran to my desk. He showed his ability to adapt himself to circumstances. He had that personal quality which fits itself to environment. And no telephone service was better than that segment of service which came under his control. Within a short time he was given a place with us— a very small place, that of a messenger boy. But he insisted that he was quite willing to take the opening that afforded.

That man now is one of the leading department heads. And his sole capital at the outset was personality. But that capital, to him, was better than money without personality. Men like that always are wanted. There always is a place for them. Just such men are needed for other departments, but they are hard to find. This man has continued a firm believer in the power of personal force in business. He has sought to develop that personal factor in the men under him. He has sought to train young men and develop their individual abilities so as to fit them for positions higher up which may be available for them if they prove worthy.

So I believe a young man of character and personal power can be developed into almost anything desired. Ability differs in each man, of course. But the business man can profit by training young men and placing them in those positions for which their abilities best fit them. Many a great business-builder in this way has been enabled to lay the foundations heavy enough and build his organization broad enough to meet promptly and most effectively every demand which ensuing years of leaping growth laid upon that industry. Many of the largest business houses of the country have attained their present magnitude because their organization structures were built on these lines. Personality thus was made the dominant power throughout the business structure. And it was that element, backed by system and careful business methods, which achieved.

Thus the personal element, when properly developed and rightly directed, permeates the entire business establishment. It attracts and holds the customer. The clerical force and the entire working body by an unconscious process of absorption it may be, comes under the spell of this personal force.

I do not set myself up as a business mentor. I have stated only facts and deductions that have fallen to years of practical business experience and observation. But—get personality into your business.

Let your employes understand that

they have a personal value, that there is a personal interest attaching to them, that personal force counts in every branch of the business. In return you will secure that personal interest which means loyalty and the best effort with which each employe has been endowed.

Let your customer know that a personal interest attaches to him—a real personal interest that is not measured wholly by his orders and his dollars —and you will win in return that close, personal association and active support that builds up business.

It is personality—personal force— that counts.