I pray this letter finds you in good spirits. I am reaching out to you regarding the Extra Support Walk that the 1971 Simi Valley Store will be having on September 6th. I have no doubt that you have read my previous letters I submitted to Communications so it should come as no surprise that I have been scheduled off the day of the walk, as have many of my fellow associates who have within them the courage to speak out. Though I will not be present for the walk, I figured that, if anything is to be heard that day, let it be this. I know that you are a busy man so allow me to humbly thank you for taking the time to read my simple words and know that I will do my best to not waste any of your time.
Our store is currently operating at an EOS score of 47. How such a score is allowable without repercussions is beyond me. Steven, the Area HR, in his own demeaning way, did his best to explain the math behind the score, yet it only served to highlight everything wrong with what we are doing here at Lowe’s. The short, and ironically, complicated answer to the difficulties we face is that we are failing our associates. Pure and simple. Were you to walk in to our store, at this very moment, I could have you meet several associates that are unaware of the fact that we offer stock options or 401k plans. The root of this begins in the shoddy training that we offer. New hires are so far from being qualified to be on the floor that they become the very reason we have dissatisfied customers. This is not because they do not care; most of the new hires I have met in my years are quite capable of incredible things, yet we do not provide them with the knowledge needed to care for our guests. Back in my father’s day, they were trained by contractors so each and every associates knew how to set tile, or how to make a concrete slabs, or how to paint a house. Today, in an effort to save money, we have watered down and stripped just about every valuable resource to its most base form which has resulted in our new associates, our lifeblood, to become nothing more than dim-witted zombies. We cannot expect great things from our associates if we do not give them the tools that inspire them to be just that, and without being qualified experts in their field, we are doomed to shun customers with our ineptitude.
I am sure you have heard the phrase “You get what you put into it.” I could not agree more, so how about we practice what we preach and put into our associates what we hope to get from them? What we unfortunately see, at least at 1971, is associates being viewed as nothing more than expendable labor, and believe me when I say that there exists no more disheartening a face than an associate who believes that. This is a direct result of a management team that does not truly value their family.
I was made a Mentor in Building and Lumber and I have yet to mentor anyone, though I can say with a large degree of confidence that I am knowledgeable in that department, thankfully in part of an incredible Department Head I had back when I worked at The Home Depot. I received next to no training when I got hired. I, and many associates before and after me, did not attend any kind of Orientation. I still, to this day, have yet to see the inside of the LP’s office. What exists here is a team (if you could call it that) that is more than willing to submit papers saying they did something than actually doing it. This sort of negligence is rampant at 1971. I was transferred to Appliances because I wanted to learn a Specialist’s role in the hopes of becoming a Pro Desk Specialist. John Botkin asked me to learn Genesis so that I could polish my skills on the ordering side of things. I was promised solid training, even him going so far as to say that I would not be able to go out on the floor until I had passed my training. I have, so far, recieved zero training. No classes, no learning, not even Red Vest Ready certified. I thank the gods that be for Nanci and Russ and Veronica for their patience in training me, not only on entirely new products that I had zero experience with, but also their diligence in making sure I knew the in’s and out’s of Genesis. There is no intention on putting me at the Pro Desk. There never was. What they needed was a body, someone to balance the hours, and they saw the fact that I wanted to further my career at Lowe’s as some sort of malicious opportunity to prevent that from happening.
When we set this kind of status quo we create a work force that has no intention of bettering themselves, and why should they? Why should they when their needs and wants are mere trifles to our alleged leaders? Where is any incentive to do better, to be better, when we have managers that will tell associates that they are not cut out to be managers directly to their face? Or when we have managers that will tell veterans of our Armed forces, with decades of leading others in the face of death, that they do not possess enough experience in managing others? What we have is a management team that has become comfortable with mediocrity, with never going above and beyond, and why should they? Why should they exert any more resources into our associates when it will be less they will receive in their next bonus? I am sure you are well aware of the investigation between certain managers that were forcing our cashiers to add EPP’s to our guest’s transactions without telling them, as well as using other associates log-ins to avoid hurting the numbers of the front. What became of this investigation? They are clearly still employed, and we both know that if an associate was caught utilizing such a dishonest and underhanded business tactic, they would be fired on the spot. What kind of precedent does allowing this set? We cannot dare talk to our associates about accountability when we fail to hold management to any.
If we are to attempt to fix any of this mess, we must first start by setting standards. We simply cannot continue to operate like this. We cannot accept an EOS score of 47 to be passable. There is no more clear an indication of failure than this, and we must be willing do stand up and see the problem for what it truly is. If we are going to be in business, and truthfully and genuinely be about helping our guests love where they live, then we must be willing to do things the right way. We cannot accept dishonesty. We cannot accept hypocrisy. We must hold our managers to the same level of accountability as we do our loaders. There simply is no other way.
What we need, John, are leaders. Passionate people that are not satisfied with mediocrity, who thrive in thinking outside the box. Dedicated individuals who can inspire the greatness that exists within every associates here at Lowe’s. When we can put the right people in the right places, we can watch miracle after miracle after miracle occur. It is my sincere belief that a true leader does so from behind, not the front. They do not use intimidation or bullying to complete meaningless goals, but rather, subtly ignite the spark that spurs their team to fly to untold heights. A book I know describes leadership in what I believe to be the most pure expression of the term. It is this,
“The best leaders are those their people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised …
The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
When they have accomplished their task,
the people say, “Amazing!
We did it, all by ourselves!”
Allow me to be clear, John. I am not calling for people to lose their jobs. However, when we allow ourselves to revel in mediocrity, we breed conflict. What I humbly ask, as both an associate and a human being, is a severly critical look at 1971. We need unannounced walks. Stop by in plains cloths and say nothing. Merely observe how things are. What you all see when you announce your walks is merely a facade, a miserable illusion, only to return to ruin the moment you leave the store. This is your chance to make things better, not just for yourself, but for the countless beautiful lives that work under you. We are tireless, passionate, dedicated, and courageous, but we can only give so much to a team that undervalues our work and ultimately, ourselves. Listen to us, John. We are the voice of Lowe’s. When guests walk through those doors, they don’t come in to see you. They don’t come in to see Marvin. Maybe a handful come in to see Mike. However, the vast majority come in to see us. We are the front line, the middle men and women between the guest and the product, and the last smile they see before they leave us. Knowing this, does it not make the most sense that when we provide for our associates, truly enable them to love where they work, we can get that much closer to helping each unique and wonderful person that walks through our doors love where they live? Isn’t this what we claim to be about?
Help me help these people, John. We might be the only ones that will.
Simi Valley Store#1971