“Create a great place where great people can do great work.”

That was how my best boss ever, Fred Rockwood, described how he saw his job as CEO during my interview to join his company back in 1987. Needless to say, as an HR leader, I was hooked. I knew with a leader like this, I would have an advocate for all my talent management initiatives. He turned out to be a dynamic and thoughtful leader always mindful of his role in facilitating a great culture and always open to ways of making it even better. He knew intuitively if he created the workplace he had articulated, the business would be wildly successful. And it was. Great people did amazing things in that company to scale our business successfully.

So simple was this concept, but implementation, which is always harder, was made easier by the clarity of his cultural vision. He kept saying it and acting upon it, so we all knew it real. It made it easier to recruit great people who only wanted to unleash their human capital in doing challenging and meaningful work in such an environment.

Now, we were not curing world hunger at the time. Our new company was selling and supporting funeral planning insurance!! We were in the funeral business. Please no jokes, I’ver heard all of them. This was not too many people’s ideal calling to say the least. However, we found and attracted great people nonetheless because our culture was infectious and compelling. There was genuine energy and passion to bring future business to our clients, the funeral homes, and genuine peace of mind to their clients, those planning their funeral ahead of the need. Fred was always painting and communicating word pictures of our company’s future. It always included the priority of us being a great place to work and being a place to grow your career. And, his actions and those of us on his team, worked consistently to bring that vision to reality.

This is not to say we didn’t have the normal growing pains or siloed thinking that distracted us from our goals from time to time. However, the mandate and momentum of that simple cultural vision kept corporate politics and self-interest to a minimum and allowed us to flourish and achieve some incredible results. Whenever we would swerve off our course because of politics or other distractions , Fred would bring us back to the simplicity of our vision. It made life as the HR leader much less challenging that it could have been.

I know now I was blessed to see true and engaging leadership in action during that thirteen year period of my work life. I have taken away and implemented many, many leadership lessons that Fred Rockwood taught me. He truly valued and cared for his people and his actions showed it consistently. It caused everyone to work a little harder in striving to achieve the best for the company but also for the best that was within them. When a leader can facilitate that type of energy, that type of genuine culture, the company can and will achieve great results, and truly enjoy the journey. Everyone wins: the employees, the company, the shareholders and the clients. All from an elegantly simple but powerful cultural vision consistently applied.

Our culture also allowed for We were excited to bring our clients al So attracting people into that business required be unleashed upon the business challenges