Living and Giving

The Pamela Positive: \”You Have to be Able to Tell People \’Great Job\’ on Things That Didn\’t Work\”

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\”You have to be able to tell people \’great job\’ on things that didn\’t work.\”

— J. Kermit Campbell, former CEO of Herman Miller

Campbell has it right.  A CEO can be an expert in a lot of areas, but they can\’t neglect this: getting the right people. Actually, let\’s add another area: values. You must be a leader who gets the best people who demonstrate the highest values.

Your people are then free to think and lead.  They can chart a new course in their business unit, and risk making mistakes. Some of those mistakes will turn into innovation.  A lesson learned on the pathway to creativity for your business is not a fault.  It\’s a step in growth. So do celebrate the bumps in the road if you have the right people on the bus.

Even if you are a manager, you should still think this way. Empower your people to learn.  Hopefully you can hire them with a domain of expertise.  If they don\’t have it, urge them to build it. Let\’s learn from Campbell\’s advice to us:

\”I don\’t believe that my job is to lead design at Herman Miller.  My job is to make sure we have great design leaders, continue to listen and try to learn from them…My job is not to be a creative guy, my job is to create a culture that allows and promotes creativity…

You\’re going to have to take risks. It\’s not all going to work.

You have to be able to tell people \’great job\’ on things that didn\’t work.\”

Kermit, thank you again for this wise advice.  Our job is to set vision, hire and encourage!  


J. Kermit Campbell is a former CEO of Herman Miller, and the current Lead Independent Director of SPX Corporation.  He is an investor or board member for a number of companies and charitable organizations.  Herman Miller is a leading furniture company, founded by D. J. DePree, with a more than 100-year history.  They focus on innovation, and designing products to create a better world.