Let me give you a little background about myself.
For another 5 days, I serve as the Sr. Vice-President of MSA Safety and President of MSA International. In this role, I have full P&L responsibility for all MSA businesses outside of the Americas. I’ve lived in 3 countries, done business on six continents, and can order a beer and apologize in at least 5 languages.
Prior to this role, I was President of MSA Europe and the Middle East, living in both Berlin, Germany and Zurich Switzerland. And prior to that role, I ran engineering and marketing on a global basis, with our largest R&D centers being here in Pittsburgh, Berlin, and in Suzhou China, where we opened a new engineering center, from Scratch.
I mentioned the 5 days, since I am retiring, effective October 1st after almost 35 years of service with MSA. I feel blessed to have found MSA so early in my career. The value structures I found at MSA were similar to mine. As I enter the next chapter in my life and career, I will always be seeking similar attributes in any organization I choose. You see, my values came from a combination of those I learned from my grandparents and parents, as well as those I learned in Scouts.
I gave a talk to a business class once, and the question was asked: Who was the greatest influence in your life? I encourage of you to think about that yourselves. That person should be real, tangible, and demonstrative. For me, it was my Grandmother.
Anna Svensson, was born in 1902 in southern Sweden. When she reached the age of 18, and was not married, her parents encouraged her out of the house. And as an 18 year old, in 1920, she immigrated, by herself to the United States, to work on a farm in the grand metropolis of North Dakota. There she raised the children of her sponsors, the Nielsson family (hence, my middle name Nelson). Somewhere, in the long hours that she worked on the farm, she educated herself at a business school, which in time allowed her the opportunity to move to Washington DC to work for the Census Bureau.
She married a US Marine, and they had one child, my father. He was not much of a husband or father, so at a time when it did not happen much, this 5ft 3 in Swedish woman divorced him and raised my father as a single mother.
Scouts were a lifeline to both her and my Father, as they are to many families today. And they both internalized the Scout values as defined in the Scout Law. Don’t get me wrong, she was a very strong woman. She had worked hard her whole life, and expected the same from us. When we went to visit her, my brother and I would stay at her house, and my sisters would go to our other grandparents. In the eyes of an 8 year old, I was sent to hard labor, and they went to the land of Oz. My brother and I mended fences, fixed roofs, replaced hot water heaters while my sisters seemed to go to toy stores and candy shops. (remember, this is from the eyes of an 8 year old.)
My grandmother also had a very strong value structure. I remember once when we went to a diner in the area. You see, I have a sweet tooth. So during breakfast, I pocketed one of the packages of sugar that were at the table, thinking that later I would do some good finger dipping. Well later, as I took it out of my pocket, my Grandmother saw it and asked me ‘where did you get that?”
I said, I took it from the diner.
She asked: “did some one give it to you?’
Did you pay for it?
Did you do something to earn it?
Then it is not yours.
She dragged me to the diner, where I had to apologize for taking the sugar. But the lesson learned was: If you have not earned it, it is not yours.
Interestingly, in my 35 years at MSA, we have gone through 2 or 3 exercises of identifying the core values of our company. It is not that they had changed, it was more about clarity. I am sure many of your organizations have had similar experiences. In fact, I am sure that on a global level, countless hours and dollars are spent every year doing the same.
I took the liberty of researching some of the value statements of the organizations in this room. Here are some of the ones I found:
- Performance, Customer Focus, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, Teamwork, Quality of Life
- Integrity, Outstanding value to markets and clients, Commitment to each other, strength from cultural diversity.
- Integrity, Customer Focus, Speed and Agility, Innovation and Change, Diversity and Inclusion, Team work, and Engagement
- Lead by example, work together, respect the individual , seek the facts and provide insight, open and honest communication and above all act with integrity
- People, service innovation, integrity, responsibility, loyalty, safety
- Quality and Safety, dignity and respect, caring and listening, responsibility and integrity, excellence and innovation
- People matter, stewardship, trust integrity, customer focused collaboration, courage, innovation and excellence
Now, I have the answer key, but without it, it would be difficult to determine whether these are consultants, banks, manufacturers, health care organizations, or sports teams.
These stated values are fantastic, though. And in today’s world, our ability to fulfill them is more important every day.
Recently, we recognized the 16th anniversary of 9-11. It is a particularly sad day for me, since I lost my very first neighbor that day, Dan Marher. It is also very personal, since I am a registered recovery worker. I spent several weeks on site, helping to set up a training center for the construction workers on site. One of the outcomes of events such as 9-11 is that for a brief period of time, we are all family, and we all live by a common set of values that define us as good citizens of the world.
More recently, we saw it during Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Jose. Where people from all walks of life, banded together to help, assist and protect those in need. They all became good citizens of the world.
We are all seeking value structures that assure that we are good citizens of the world. And in today’s job market, we are all competing for good citizens of the world to fill our ranks.
And that is why the values of Eagles can be so important to your organizations. As I stated, in my 35 years at MSA, we have updated the values 2-3 times. But in the 40 years, that I have been an Eagle Scout, the Scout values have never changed. Being trusty, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean and reverent is time tested and as relevant today as it was 4 decades ago. And quite honestly, could easily be cut and pasted into any of our organizations and be as effective as the values we spent so much time defining.
I’ll tell you, when we moved to Pittsburgh, from New Jersey, and my wife and I decided to get our boys involved in Scouts. It was not because I was an Eagle Scout. Quite honestly, the Scouting culture was very foreign to my wife, Nancy. It wasn’t because my father was a Scout, or that my nephews were scouts. It was because I felt it was the one organization, that taught boys and young men, how to be good citizens of the world.
It is these characteristics, the characteristics defined in the scout law, that make good citizens, that diverse candidates seek to work with. It is these characteristics that the millennials seek to attach to, and it is the Value of Eagle Scout Values, the values that have been earned and are owned by Eagle Scouts, that we at NESA feel can help take your organizations to the next level.