Tag Archives: management

The Pamela Positive: “I want the whole person.” – D. J. DePree, founder of Herman Miller

“Henry Ford said, ‘bring us your hands, and you can leave everything else at home.’  D.J. rejected that idea and said completely the opposite: ‘I want all of you here.  I want the whole person.'”

 – J. Kermit Campbell, Former CEO of Herman Miller


Campbell continues, “If I can have 5,000 or 6,000 people who are passionate about what they do…solving problems and finding solutions to our customers’ problems, I’m going to be much better off than if I leave that to 10% of that population, who tell the other people what to do.  It’s like a sports team: you can have one or two guys who play well, but if you can get 50 guys on a team all playing at a very high level, you’re very tough to beat.  That’s always been our philosophy.”

D. J. DePree (1891–1990) began work as a clerk for the Michigan Star Furniture Company.  In 1914 he married Nellie Miller; they had seven children.  In 1923, D. J. bought the Michigan Star Furniture Company with help from a loan from his father-in-law.  D. J. renamed the company “Herman Miller” in his honor.  D. J. was CEO until 1961; after he stepped down, his two sons took over management of the company.  D. J. was also lay pastor of Ventura Baptist Church for eleven years.

The Pamela Positive: “UnConference Room” Your Meeting with a Peaceful Banyan Tree


There are many images that come to mind when we think of Asia, from dragons to beautiful beaches, spanning varied cultures. One of my favorite views is that of the banyan tree, for it must be strongly grounded in the earth, which also allows its larger branches and leaves to provide overreaching shade.

It was under a banyan tree where the Buddha felt his calling to a new level of enlightenment.  Under these same trees, Gujarati businessmen hold their meetings.  It is even used as a place for political meetings: recently in Malaysia, the state assembly met underneath the welcome atmosphere of the banyan tree.  So, for much of Asia, spirituality, entrepreneurship, politics are taking place in the outdoors.

The banyan tree represents solidity, rootedness, and strength.  At the same time, it also represents comfort, shade and welcome.  It is a source of power, balanced with peace.  It represents firmness, as well as welcome.

Is America’s Banyan Tree the Conference Room?

It is interesting how in America, and in many places across the world, most of our meetings take place in walled, sterile conference rooms.  Chairs are uniformly around the table.  The walls are usually plastered with notices about the company’s achievements.  Pens and pads are available so we can write and record and get our business done. Gosh darn it, I can hear the executives say, in this room we’re going to get to the solution, get down to business and ‘make it happen.’

Yet what if we looked at doing all of our business, or even holding all of our meetings, under a banyan tree?  This return to nature might help conversations flow more easily.

Perhaps this atmosphere would allow us to be more authentic. If we are surrounded by nature’s occasional stirring winds, visionary clouds floating across the sky, and brilliant beckoning sun, would we not also settle into a more authentic course of conversation? Could it lead to more natural, comfortable (and no less impactful, but rather moreso) solutions?   Within this reframing context of nature, we can discuss our goals and hopes and plans and perhaps achieve even greater goals.

Here’s a thought… We can replace the pen, paper and busy scribbling of notes, with more eye contact.  We supplant the flurried white board scrawls with more thoughtful listening. What a profound impact this has to have on any business relationship, business decision, and especially, with any personal matter.

Until we can “Unconference Room” your meeting space, perhaps we can imagine all of our conversations thoughtfully taking place under a Banyan tree.  A place where comfort, understanding, and right relationships result under its strong, rooted and peaceful presence.


The banyan tree originally received its name from the merchants who gathered beneath it to do business; in the Gujarati language, “banya” means “merchant/grocer.” Western visitors to India observed the merchants meeting beneath the tree, and the name evolved to refer to the tree itself.  The banyan trees are given great symbolism in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Banyan trees can grow to cover hundreds of feet, and live for over a thousand years.

The Classic Pamela Positive: Tell Your Team They Are Great and DON’T Give Them Anything To Do


One of the most powerful things you can do to recognize someone on your team is to call them, thank them and say “You’re doing a wonderful job today, and I wanted to thank you. That’s it. I just wanted you to know, and for you to take the time to recognize it. Please know how much I appreciate your consistent work and positive attitude.”  Do not add on a ‘to do.’ I know that’s tempting, for we as CEOs have a lot we want to accomplish!  But just let the conversation rest in genuine appreciation. It’s one of the best ways you can thank someone — without agenda.

The Classic Pamela Positive: “You Have to Be Able to Tell People ‘Great Job’ on Things That Didn’t Work”


“You have to be able to tell people ‘great job’ on things that didn’t work.”

— J. Kermit Campbell, former CEO of Herman Miller

Get inspired by an audio version of this blog!

Campbell has it right.  A CEO is not an expert except in one area: getting the right people. Actually, let’s add another area: values. You must be a leader who gets the best people and demonstrates the highest values.

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The Pamela Positive: “You Have to be Able to Tell People ‘Great Job’ on Things That Didn’t Work”


“You have to be able to tell people ‘great job’ on things that didn’t work.” 

— J. Kermit Campbell, former CEO of Herman Miller

Campbell has it right.  A CEO can be an expert in a lot of areas, but they can’t neglect this: getting the right people. Actually, let’s add another area: values. You must be a leader who gets the best people who demonstrate the highest values.

Your people are then free to think and lead.  They can chart a new course in their business unit and risk making mistakes. Some of those mistakes will turn into innovation.  A lesson learned on the pathway to creativity for your business is not a fault.  It’s a step in growth. So do celebrate the bumps in the road if you have the right people on the bus.

Even if you are a manager, you should still think this way. Empower your people to learn.  Hopefully you can hire them with a domain of expertise.  If they don’t have it, urge them to build it. Let’s learn from Campbell’s advice to us:

“I don’t believe that my job is to lead design at Herman Miller.  My job is to make sure we have great design leaders, continue to listen and try to learn from them…My job is not to be a creative guy, my job is to create a culture that allows and promotes creativity….

You’re going to have to take risks. It’s not all going to work.

You have to be able to tell people ‘great job’ on things that didn’t work.”

Kermit, thank you again for this wise advice.  Our job is to set vision, hire and encourage!  


J. Kermit Campbell is a former CEO of Herman Miller, and the current Lead Independent Director of SPX Corporation.  He is an investor or board member for a number of companies and charitable organizations.  Herman Miller is a leading furniture company, founded by D. J. DePree, with a more than 100-year history.  They focus on innovation, and designing products to create a better world.

Corporate Volunteering: Get the Community to See Beyond your Company’s Name


Volunteering as a Positive Return for All

Volunteering is such an important part of our culture, since the inception of our country. It’s in our blood to help, and a natural fit. And yet in order for it to be a win-win situation for everyone, we must think practically about how to make volunteering effective. In this way, nonprofits, corporations, and the corporate employees are inspired to not only start but also continue volunteering.

For each group, there are specific points to keep in mind. The following tips are insights I have gathered in leading (as founder and CEO) the nonprofit UniversalGiving, where we work with Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, both domestically and abroad.

We’ll start with the benefits of employee volunteering to the companies. Volunteering is a key part of any CSR program. First, it’s the most cost-effective. Your goal is simply to incentivize your employees to get involved as individuals. This is much cheaper than providing matching grants or company donations. In fact, about 46% of companies in Silicon Valley even provide time off for their employees to volunteer.1

To take it to the next level, you can also organize corporate team volunteer events. These events can be some of the highest forms of team building, and, cross-business unit collaboration. So if you are a CSR professional seeking an inexpensive, high leverage way to bolster a positive culture and team-building, this is the option for you. It’s interesting to note that 40% of Silicon Valley companies have 1-4 corporate sponsored events per year; and, even more impressive, 46% of companies hold 10 or more events per year.2

Additional benefits follow to the company. It helps them enhance their corporate brand image; the community sees your company’s presence in a positive light, and in numerous different situations.  Having a meaningful volunteer program in place also improves the recruitment process for new employees: They know your company cares by officially supporting this program as part of the culture. Most likely some new recruits have even met some of your current employees while volunteering themselves. An important plus is that it keeps employees with you; retention rates rise.

A final note for companies is local buy-in. It’s important that local communities see beyond the company’s office buildings, its logo and it marketing. Company employees volunteering in the community lends a new light of visibility to companies. One that instills a sense of trust and engagement. It highlights your company’s presence. All of these warm factors help a company’s bottom line while also serving the community.

One of the toughest issues companies face in implementing a top-quality CSR strategy, and volunteer program, is with which NGO Partners they decide to partner. Establishing and maintaining these partnerships should be made with care, and for the long term. You can read more about how Fortune 500 companies can protect themselves and their brand as they expand their international giving and volunteer programs worldwide in my blog post: “Top 4 International Insights for Fortune 500 Companies.” 

Employees, just like the companies they work for, must also be diligent about choosing the right nonprofit with which to work. In order to maximize the return on their volunteer experience, employees should look for a nonprofit whose mission addresses the issues about which they are most passionate.

In addition, employees also need to look at the governance and type of organization. They need to make sure the leadership and organizational structure of that nonprofit are a good fit. Is the vision clearly articulated and followed? Is the leadership compelling and trustworthy? Is the specific opportunity allowing them to make the biggest impact using their current skills while also providing them the opportunity to learn new skills? I recently wrote an article for TILE Financial’s Spend Grow Give program, and although it is directed at volunteers in their teens, it is nonetheless an excellent resource for volunteers of any age.

Nonprofits, in turn, can benefit most from corporate volunteers by establishing clear roles and communications with them. Nonprofits need to craft individual volunteer positions that serve both their goals and the company’s interests. Nonprofits can also do due diligence on a particular employee to find out how he or she might want to grow and contribute. Then determine how it can fit with the nonprofit’s mission and vision. Does it help with a specific program, outreach services, marketing, operations, accounting? Be sure you are specific about the value to you.

As in the corporate world, “a return” on your volunteering and time spent should be achieved for everyone. Individuals should feel they are growing and contributing significantly and with defined impact. Companies and their employees should feel their skills are being leveraged while reinforcing a strong culture and brand. And nonprofits should ensure their organization’s assets, in this case, its volunteers, are purposefully engaged. With this type of thoughtful planning, volunteering is a positive win for all.

1, 2: 2010 Corporate Citizenship in Silicon Valley

“Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”


“I was trying to get ahead by correcting others when I should have been trying to connect with others”

– Jim Collins, Good to Great, pg. 29.

If you are a busy leader… you might fall into this trap.

We need to get things done. And with a significant proposal or partnership, you might need to correct someone working for you.

Connect with them first. Try to slow down, or tell them that the deadline is next week. You can tell them how much you enjoy their work, or even make them laugh.

Then the work flows so much easier, so much more naturally. And life and work is more enjoyable too!

Connect… then correct.

Or perhaps even better…

          Connect and recommend, adjust, ask… for their advice… work with them.

Kindhearted teamwork (even when we are under significant pressure) is the right way to go.

This quote is from “Good to Great,” a best-selling book published in 2001 by James C. Collins. This book aims to help readers understand why and how some companies go from being good to being great as was a tremendous success. He has published many well-known books that deal with successful companies, sustainability, and leadership.
Aside from being a respected writer, James Collins is an American businessman and consultant advising firms in the profit and nonprofit sectors, such as The Girl Scouts of the USA and the US Marine Corps. He is married to Ironman winner and accomplished triathlete, Joanne Ernst. He believes that “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” Click here to be redirected to the “Good to Great Diagnostic Tool” where you can learn about to how to start your personal path to greatness.