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Teamwork Part 4: What does your work mean to you?


There’s a manufacturing company in Saint Louis called Barry-Wehmiller. They developed a purpose statement for what they call their Guiding Principles of Leadership. It says:

”We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.”

In 2008 during the housing crisis this was challenged. They lost a ton of business virtually overnight and were faced with a huge decision. Within 24 hours their CEO, Bob Chapman, announced that instead of laying off thousands of employees they decided it was better if everyone suffered a little instead of a few suffering a lot. They instituted a 4-week furlough for all employees. Shortly after the announcement a remarkable thing happened. Those who could afford to take more time off took weeks from those who couldn't afford it as much. By taking the opportunity to step into their guiding principle of truly human leadership the team became stronger than ever and saved millions.

If one of your family members was struggling would you lay them off?

Part of the work of leadership is to expand “meaning” for everyone. The team becomes stronger when we connect our passion with purpose and help others along the way.

Action Items

  • Facilitate discussions for greater understanding on how the work is meaningful for each team member
  • Begin time together with why actions are being taken & how they relate back to the overall purpose
  • Ask teammates what difference the work makes in the lives of those you are serving

"The people who are trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off, why should I?"
-Bob Marley

We shouldn't.

Connecting with the spark that brought us to the work we do keeps us in touch with its intrinsic value we see in it. It's the meaning that matters!

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The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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