Black Belt Leader: Lessons Learned

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” 

— Bob Dylan

      It was late in the day. I had been working with nine supervisors at a manufacturing plant outside of Chicago — first as a group in the morning and then with each person individually in the afternoon. I was exhausted and yet I had one more individual session to do. Marci had just taken a seat in front of me. 

     “How are you?” I asked.

     “Fat and ugly,” she replied. Marci had a smile on her face.

     “Was I supposed to laugh at that?”

     “Well, most people do,” she told me, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. 

     “I don’t think it’s funny,” I told her. “I think it’s sad.”

     I had remembered how during the group session that morning Marci had remained silent. She had sat next to me at the conference table with her arms crossed in an oppositional stance. It didn’t take long during our individual session before I discovered the source of her resistance. She told me she was retiring within the next year and that she didn’t feel valued at work anymore. She saw herself as just a “body” that filled a position.
“Would you like to feel that there’s some purpose to your coming to work every day?” I asked her.

     She gazed at me as if she had suddenly awakened from a long afternoon nap. “Yes, very much,” she said, her eyes brightening.

     In the weeks that followed, Marci learned to value herself more. “Thinking beyond her job description,” she recognized that she had something priceless to contribute to her company: she could as an “elder” share the wealth of her professional knowledge with those at the manufacturing plant who were younger, less experienced than she was. Marci now had a new role to play, which her company wisely encouraged.


     Imagine what a loss it would have been — for herself and her colleagues — if Marci had continued to show up at work as she had formally done!