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Commentary: How to pay it forward

BY Joe Scarlett

When we see a professional peer who is behind the eight ball, our natural inclination is to steer clear. I suggest the opposite approach: Get engaged to help. When you help others become more successful everyone wins: you’ll feel better about yourself; the person you helped will be grateful; and others will admire your behavior.

Better yet, they might even pay it forward. 

I have spent a big portion of my career helping, teaching and coaching others. Sometimes I was teaching leadership principles—and a few illustrative stories—in front of a class. In Tractor Supply stores, I connected with retail workers by sharing stories that showed I’d encountered the very same issues in my career. Even at mealtimes I coached by asking questions, encouraging conversation and relating universal truths in business.  

Today I continue to try to help others by giving speeches on leadership, regularly coaching several local business leaders and spending time with younger business and community leaders working their way up the ladder.

However, through these many iterations, I’ve found that real leadership takes place when more serious issues are at stake. If you see someone who is having trouble professionally or even personally—from a basic performance shortfall to a serious relationship conflict—take the initiative to help. Here’s how to jump in effectively:

1. Engage a friend in need.

Spend time to let a friend know that you are ready to help. Be proactive. You might share a similar past experience to show the person that you are sympathetic and concerned.


2. Learn as much as you can.

Ask for an overview of the situation. Listen and learn. Try to assess your friend’s current emotional status and begin to think about some appropriate ways that you can help.


3. Facilitate the right skills.

If the issue is basic performance, some simple coaching might be in order. You could enlist someone else in the organization who already possesses the right skills or seek an outside coach. Hard work, diligence and getting coached on the right skills can usually help an individual rebound from a shortfall in workplace performance.


4. Coach through conflict.

A more difficult situation may arise when your friend has a personal conflict with a peer or boss. In this case, it’s time to listen, probe and challenge, reopening the conversation in a calm fashion in a neutral location. Sometimes a simple apology can put the issue to rest quickly. If not, you may want to enlist an HR professional to work toward mutual resolution.


The challenge is to take the initiative to help someone who you know needs it. You’ll feel empowered, you’ll earn the respect of others and you might just become a cultural hero in your company.

Helping others become successful is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your career—and life. 

# # #

Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company. For more on leadership see joescarlett.com.

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Western fires pose huge housing risk

BY HBSDealer Staff

According to a CoreLogic hazard risk analysis, a total of 172,117 homes with a combined reconstruction cost value of more than $65 billion are at some level of risk from the wildfires in the Napa and Santa Rosa metropolitan areas.

CoreLogic is a property information company. It released its analysis Tuesday morning. 

The analysis is calculated based on homes within these two Core Based Statistical Areas and on five active fires — three in Napa (Patrick, Atlas and Tubbs) and two in Santa Rosa (Nuns and Pocket). Statewide, a total of 9.1 million homes with a combined RCV of $3.1 trillion are at some level of risk from wildfires in California. 

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