LRN LAF LUV LIV and Barry-Wehmiller

LRN LAF LUV LIV and Barry-Wehmiller

It’s always helpful to see examples of organizations that have successfully implemented LRN LAF LUV LIV concepts in their culture, actions, and purpose.

One such organization is Barry-Wehmiller, a successful, 10,000-plus-employee-strong, $3 billion global supplier of manufacturing technology and services.

Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why, recently conducted an interview with Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller. The interview shared some of the company’s philosophy on leadership and business culture that has helped it be successful in the 21st century, including through the 2008-2009 recession.

Bob is also co-author of the 2015 book Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, which provides a high-level playbook for any organization wanting to implement this business philosophy and “truly human” leadership approach.

Many of the thoughts shared in the interview and the book align with the Philosophy for LYF and with LRN LAF LUV LIV for Organizations.

Let’s examine the Barry-Wehmiller approach through the lens of the LRN LAF LUV LIV framework.

LRN LAF LUV LIV for Organizations

As a refresher, LRN LAF LUV LIV provides a framework for bettering your life. Its foundational element is goodness. It defines your core values (the way to live your life), strategy (how), mission (what), and a vision (why). A successful pursuit elevates your life.

Concepts - Philosophy - learn laugh love live life LRN LAF LUV LIV LYF

LRN LAF LUV LIV for Organizations uses the same framework to elevate organizations. Meaningful organizations, after all, are simply groups of people organized for a common purpose. If you elevate the lives of people within a company, you have provided the most important ingredient needed to elevate the organization itself. In addition, values, strategies, missions, and visions are essential within organizations to focus its people on a common purpose.

An organization can embrace the LRN LAF LUV LIV framework in two primary ways:

  1. The organization can actively support individuals who want to better their lives through LRN LAF LUV LIV for LYF. This is an excellent first step—and should be a minimum for all organizations—if an organization cannot commit to changing its culture and processes to elevate itself.
  2. The organization can apply the concepts of LRN LAF LUV LIV to itself to create and sustain an elevated organization.


Before using the LRN LAF LUV LIV framework to discuss which concepts Barry-Wehmiller has implemented, let’s summarize some key drivers of the company’s philosophy.

Bob mentions four epiphanies that helped him on the journey to elevate the company.

  • While watching employees before work having fun, only to see their enthusiasm and joy deflate as they went to start work, he thought, “Why can’t work be fun?”
  • While watching a father give away his precious daughter at a wedding, he thought, “Each of our team members is somebody’s precious child, so shouldn’t we as a company be responsible stewards of their precious children’s lives while at work?”
  • After attending an inspirational sermon at his church, he thought, “While the priest only has us for less than one hour a week, we have our team members for 40 hours a week that we can inspire and uplift.”
  • After asking an employee how the good work on a continuous improvement project made him feel and hearing the employee respond that it improved his relationship at home because he feels more valued and better about himself, he thought, “Shouldn’t we measure our company’s performance by its impact on people’s lives?”

The resulting business philosophy is that people truly are first. In 2002, the company established its Guiding Principles of Leadership (GPL), which it calls a manifesto for the way its employees are called to work and live each day. The GPL starts with “We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.” It ends with “We are committed to our employees’ personal growth.”

Barry-Wehmiller has a proven track record of implementing their people-first approach for about 20 years now. During that time, it has acquired floundering companies in the U.S. and abroad and made them successful, not through cost-cutting and layoffs, but by implementing their “truly human” leadership.

LRN LAF LUV LIV and Barry-Wehmiller

Now let’s explore Barry-Wehmiller through the lens of the LRN LAF LUV LIV framework.

The Foundational Core Value of Goodness

Your core values are the most critical and influential values that are the very core of the way you are. They drive your thoughts and actions.

Goodness is the single all-encompassing foundational core value of LRN LAF LUV LIV. Goodness has a quality that infuses your life’s actions with outcomes that are truly valuable and elevating.

Concepts - Philosophy - Values - learn laugh love live life LRN LAF LUV LIV LYF

Barry-Wehmiller has implemented a formal program to recognize and celebrate goodness. It literally looks for goodness throughout the organization, shines a light to it, and says to its team members, “Thank you for sharing your goodness.”

Each year the company picks a winner of its version of a “shine a light on goodness” award (the SSR Award program).  There may be dozens of people nominated for their goodness across the organization. The company interviews each of them and sends personal notes that go home to their families about their goodness.

The CEO believes businesses with a caring conscience can be the biggest catalyst for goodness in society. “Business could be the most powerful force for good in the world if it simply genuinely cared about the people it had the privilege to lead.”

The Four Supporting Core Values

The four supporting core values in LRN LAF LUV LIV are open-mindedness, gratefulness, respectfulness, and courageousness.

Barry-Wehmiller does not publish a list of values, but it has its Guiding Principles of Leadership which serves as its moral compass. So while the company does not use these precise value words, it touches upon each of these values at some level in its GPL or in its actions.

We see open-mindedness in being open to suggestions for improvement at all levels of the organization, not just leadership. The company was open-minded enough to pursue a non-traditional business approach.

We observe gratefulness when the company recognizes, thanks, and celebrates daily the goodness in its people.

We witness courageousness in its implementation of a people-first culture, even in poorly performing companies that it acquires. Bob has also referred to “courageous patience” in working with team members as they change during the implementation.

Respectfulness is alluded to with other words. “Treat people superbly and compensate them fairly” is an item in its GPL. “Trust” is also keyword used by Barry-Wehmiller. In its ten commandments of Truly Human Leadership, “Trust is the foundation of all relationships; act accordingly.” In LRN LAF LUV LIV, being respectful of others is the core value from which you can trust others and that allows others to trust you. As Bob says, “Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

The Strategy

In the Philosophy for LYF, your life’s strategy is to focus on doing four deeds of goodness: LRN, LAF, LUV, and LIV.  These four action-oriented, interconnected deeds of goodness specify how––through your actions––to both grow true wealth for yourself and give true worth to others. Each deed has an inward focus (goodness toward yourself) and an outward focus (goodness toward others).

Concepts - Philosophy - Strategy deeds of goodness - learn laugh love live life LRN LAF LUV LIV LYF

In LRN LAF LUV LIV for Organizations, the organization itself performs these same deeds.

Barry-Wehmiller shows examples of these deeds of goodness in action.

The LRN Deed of Goodness

LRN is about improving the goodness in yourself and empowering the goodness in others.

Barry-Wehmiller does this several ways. Its Leadership Checklist, used daily by its leaders, includes “I proactively engage in the personal growth of individuals on my team.” It created a Barry-Wehmiller University to not only teach strategies and skills to its employees, but to be “a transformational experience in the lives that take it…every course has an impact on people’s personal lives that is usually far more powerful and immediate than the impact it has on their professional lives.” This approach is more fruitful, as it improves the goodness of the individual beyond work.

The company also empowers its employees. It created an Organizational Empowerment team to oversee cultural initiatives. When it acquires a new company, it does not go in and tell them what to do; it empowers them to problem solve and make improvements. Its version of Lean is designed to empower its employees “to take charge of their own work and, by extension, their own lives.” Barry-Wehmiller refers to its brand of empowerment as “responsible freedom”.

Jenny Copanos, the assistant controller for one of Barry-Wehmiller’s divisions, said, “My leaders identified strengths I didn’t know I had. They offered me work and experiences that allowed me to grow in my role. They mentored me and help bring out my gifts and talents. Through the years, my leader has often told me that I’m worth my weight in gold. That’s very empowering to me.” This testimonial shows the power of LRN in the workplace when an organization provides meaningful work experiences, growth opportunities, and mentoring.

The LAF Deed of Goodness

LAF is about enjoying the goodness in yourself and uplifting the goodness in others.

One insight for Barry-Wehmiller was to make work fun for its team members. It has implemented games to make work more enjoyable, resulting in improved performance. “When people started having fun in their roles, we saw transformation in their customer service skills and growth in the product line…What we experienced was fun aligned to value creation for the individual, the team, the customer, and the company.”

The company celebrates the goodness in people and recognizes it. Instead of just noting mistakes, it calls out things done well. This creates a safer and happier place to work.

Barry-Wehmiller also uses continuous improvement projects to reduce frustrations in the workplace, making the job more enjoyable.

A key finding for the company was identified when it started asking a simple question to its employees when they accomplished something good or improved a process: How did it make you feel? The answers read like rewards from the LAF deed of goodness: a sense of joy, deep satisfaction, and pride in sharing their success with their family.

The LUV Deed of Goodness

LUV is about valuing the goodness in yourself and nurturing the goodness in others.

Barry-Wehmiller uses the word stewardship in referring to the company’s responsibility to its employees. It means “to truly care, to feel a deep sense of responsibility for the lives we touch through our leadership.” Its leadership approach is to create opportunities for its employees “to have a more meaningful life, a life of purpose in which they feel valued and get a chance to be what they were brought onto this earth to be.”

Being valued at work goes a long way in valuing yourself, because so much of your waking hours are spent at work. When you value yourself, you are in a better position to value and care for others. As Bob writes, “When so many people go home each night feeling not valued, it is no surprise that we see so much conflict in families and our communities today…People need to feel personally significant at work—to feel that they make a valuable contribution.”

Barry-Wehmiller shows employees their value through its High Five awards (which recognizes those team members that enable others to succeed), its recognition of goodness in its employees, and its sharing of goals and measures to let employees know how they contribute to the company’s success, and by giving employees meaningful roles.

One way Barry-Wehmiller expresses caring is through listening. The Barry-Wehmiller University teaches deep listening in its Communication Skills Training course, a prerequisite for many other courses at the company. When you deeply listen, you are genuinely present with someone, and you hear what the other person is feeling. When you deeply listen, you make the speaker feel valued.

One employee discussed in the book Everybody Matters “says that some of his greatest learnings have been to truly understand others, and to listen intensely and work harder on recognizing and celebrating individual accomplishments. Even more importantly, he says the experience has improved his 38 year marriage to his wife, Wendy.“ This is a great example of goodness that happens at work providing positive ripples outside of work. (See another example of ripples of goodness here.)

The LIV Deed of Goodness

LIV is about realizing the goodness in yourself and inspiring the goodness in others.

John Stroup, a board member of Barry-Wehmiller, said that Bob’s approach with staffing is “I’m not about getting the best, I’m about enabling the people I have to be the best they can be.”

Barry-Wehmiller’s GPL states leadership should “challenge individuals and teams.” It’s not done by putting people in positions to fail. It’s done with goodness to give people the opportunity to stretch and realize their talents and gifts.

One employee, Ken, said he discovered his gift is to inspire and facilitate change. “Years ago someone dismissed my dream of becoming a teacher, so I did too,” he said. He is now a professor at the Barry-Wehmiller University teaching team members around the world. “This organization has given me so much opportunity, and I feel this incredible sense of being unchained. It’s given me a new life.” Ken is an example of an employee who, through the organization’s actions, realizes his potential (LIV inward) and inspires others through his teachings (LIV outward).

Barry-Wehmiller’s Leadership Checklist includes “I inspire passion, optimism, and purpose.” Jay Deitz was instrumental in ensuring this was in the checklist. “In my life experiences, I had found nothing to be more important than inspiration…My personal inspiration comes from serving our people and living up to our principles.”

The company inspires goodness by shining a light on goodness. It continues to build a culture in which employees are delighted to recognize others and celebrate them as beacons of goodness.

By giving team members the ability to live to their potential, Barry-Wehmiller realizes more of its own potential. And through its business philosophy and success, it inspires its staff and other organizations to be better stewards on this planet.

The Mission

Your life’s mission is twofold: grow true wealth for yourself and give true worth to others.  Your mission, in essence, creates true value throughout your life, both for yourself and for others. From your true value comes success.

True wealth is the goodness of your true self, stripped of all monetary and material possessions you may have.  It is the value you carry around within you.  Your true wealth includes valuables such as your wisdom, your skills, your belief in yourself, and your joys.

True worth is the goodness you give to others.  True worth is given in many ways, such as the wisdom you share, the kindness you show, and the lending of a hand to someone in need.  Giving true worth is what makes your life truly worthy.

Wealth-Worth Win-Win is the insight that growing true wealth and giving true worth can feed each other, and neither diminishes the other’s value.

Concepts - Philosophy - Mission - learn laugh love live life LRN LAF LUV LIV LYF

So how do these mission concepts align with Barry-Wehmiller?

Just like any other organization, money is important to Barry-Wehmiller. It must be sustainable, and if it is not sustainable, it would no longer exist to make a positive difference in the lives of its employees. But Barry-Wehmiller also understands that money is a means to an end, not the end goal itself.

Most acquisitions are made to extract value from the bought company, often through layoffs and cost-cutting, usually a zero-sum game. Barry-Wehmiller looks at acquisitions to create value. It grows its own true wealth by tapping into the new acquisition’s potential to create value, and it gives true worth to its newly-acquired employees. It is a win-win for all involved. Bob says the company “is resolutely focused on building value rather than extracting value.”

In the book Everybody Matters, Bob describes a desire to bring back an ethical foundation to capitalism.  “We must never sacrifice a higher value for a lower value, and the highest value of all is human flourishing. Our message is about morality ahead of money, people and purpose ahead of profits, the primacy of human flourishing over all else.”

The Vision

Your life’s vision in LRN LAF LUV LIV is an elevated life. An elevated life is a life full of growth, enjoyment, purpose, and actualization for both yourself and others. It’s active, not passive. It’s full of goodness. An elevated life rewards yourself and helps elevate the world.

Concepts - Philosophy - Vision - learn laugh love live life LRN LAF LUV LIV LYF

Barry-Wehmiller performs cultural visioning and business visioning. The cultural vision is the “why” for the company, and it answers “how should we treat each other so we can all go home truly fulfilled?” The business vision dreams about the business future. Both visioning processes focus on the impact on its people; profits will follow. This people focus gives the company an opportunity to envision elevating its employees lives. The book gives several examples of how employees have been personally elevated both inside work and outside of work.

Barry-Wehmiller’s tagline is “Building a better world through business.” This tagline is powerful, confirming its aspiration is not only to elevate its employees and company, but to also elevate the world.

Bob feels the journey of his company has elevated himself and given him the opportunity to help elevate the world. “How could I possibly be so blessed as to have the opportunity to leave the world so significantly different?” he asked himself. In an interview with Conscious Company Magazine, he said that William Ury, a world peace negotiator who started Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, came to visit Barry-Wehmiller, and “at the end of his first day, he said, ‘What I see here is the answer to world peace.’ Because a world in which people feel valued and care for each other is a world of peace. That gives me hope.”

Final Thoughts

The introduction to LRN LAF LUV LIV for Organizations concludes with the following encouragement:

There are benefits for organizations to think beyond “good to great” and instead embrace the even better “good to goodness”.

Barry-Wehmiller is one company that gets it and has embraced it.

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