By Tonya Mott
Why am I hanging with Alaska Waste? A couple of reasons:
1. Servant Leadership – I’m on a mission to learn how to be the best leader I can be and help others do the same. As you read, you’ll find out why I would be learning this from employees at Alaska Waste.
2. Safety, from a risk management perspective – According to the 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries the garbage collection industry is the 5th most dangerous in America. Of course, that means I must go for a ride on a garbage truck, living on the edge!
The primary reason for my visit was to learn about Alaska Waste’s management style, Servant Leadership.
About a year and a half ago, I bribed my good friend Josh James to be a guinea pig and test our new process called the BHIQ (Business Health IQ Profile). The profile brings awareness to various operational risks and then in return business owners and leaders can come up with a plan to prioritize and tackle those risks.
The risk categories that we were focusing on with Josh was Human Resources, leadership, safety, compliance, employee benefits, productivity, and technology.
First, let me provide a little info about Josh’s background. I have to admit during our 20 years of friendship neither of us ever discussed in depth what we do for a living. I knew he worked for Alaska Waste for the last 14 years and was in a management position. I recently confirmed that he started as a roll-off driver, picking up the large open top containers you see at grocery stores and construction sites. The next 2 years he drove a rear load recycle truck, servicing roll-carts in residential areas. From there he moved on to driver dispatcher managing 2 channels, with 20 drivers on each channel. Then he was promoted to operations supervisor and finally, for the past 2 years served as operations manager. As operations manager he manages the operations supervisors and 74 operations employees.
I figured from a management perspective having him test the BHIQ would help us fine-tune our profile. I also did the unspeakable and made assumptions about his potential responses to the questions before we even got started. I stereotyped him based on the industry and this hilarious video clip that some of you may recognize, made many years ago by a previous Alaska Waste employee as a joke (45 seconds): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sByVwTHYkCE.
Back to the BHIQ – It’s a Saturday night, I bribed my friend with food and to get this job done. Even with my bribe the look on Josh’s face was less than enthusiastic about spending his Saturday night answering 50 or so work-related questions. At this point I’m thinking, he looks bored now, just wait until we start asking him these questions, we’re going to blow his mind, and get his wheels turning on how to make improvements and be a better manager. Well, it didn’t quite go that way, he proved me WRONG! We asked the first question, “Organizational clarity creates increased productivity. What do you have in place to maximize organizational clarity?”, Josh’s response nailed it. Without a doubt, his team, hands down has organizational clarity, they live and breathe clarity EVERY DAY. From there the rest is history; every response blew us away. We obviously had a lot to learn from him.
As we moved through the BHIQ, he kept saying, as a “Servant Leader….”. Finally, I asked, “Josh, what the heck is a servant leader”? Let me pause here for second and ask, have you ever met someone that talked about their job as if they were the owner, as if they built it from the ground up, and was so passionate about their job that they would do anything for the company and the employees that they manage in an effort to support their success? Notice how I said “THEIR” success, and not their own success. It’s sad to say but I’ve only met one person in my lifetime with this much passion about their job and that’s, Josh. Could you imagine a world where all employees felt this passionate about their jobs? Seemed unheard of, until I learned the term Servant Leadership.
I could write forever about my conversation with Josh, so I’ll leave you with this article to learn more about Servant Leadership and how it can help you become a respected leader: https://howwelead.org/2018/02/07/lets-clear-up-some-misunderstandings-about-servant-leadership/. After meeting with Josh we immediately adopted Servant Leadership. You can start as simple as turning your organizational chart upside down. We realized our team members on the front lines, closest to our clients, are the most important people in the company and we need to support them.
Bottom line, if you are looking to change up your leadership style or improve safety, reach out to Josh James at Alaska Waste (yes, Josh, I’m putting you on blast).
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I’ll write about my first-hand experience going for a ride along in a garbage truck. Learn how Alaska Waste’s management style ties in to the safety of their employees and the general public.