Develop Differently-Abled Employees: No-Excuses Leadership

Sandra, the factory employee I’m observing, works tirelessly and methodically at her station.

Reaching into a large cardboard box filled with hundreds of teabags, Sandra pulls out enough bags to fill tea-bag-sized indentations in a tray situated in front of her on the workbench. Once she fills each indentation—15 for this job — she carefully transfers the teabags from the tray into a smaller box destined for supermarket shelves.

Over and over during her shift, Sandra accurately fills the smaller boxes with the consistency and reliability of a computer-controlled robot … yet she is blind, cannot hear, and cannot count.

Sandra is blessed to work for an organization called Pride Industries. Founded in a church basement in 1966 in Auburn, California, Pride Industries hires and trains people with a variety of physical and mental challenges, the “differently-abled” in our society.  Using massively creative training programs, Pride Industries helps turn an often ignored group of people into purpose-driven, contributing members of society. 

The overwhelming success of PRIDE has proven what its founding leadership team suspected all along: When people are nourished by the power of purpose, and set up for success via well-designed training, their spirits soar, their talents blossom … and their disabilities disappear.

So, you can only imagine how I recently responded to a complaint voiced by an owner of multiple restaurants across the United States: “These young kids today can’t count change for our customers.” Look in the mirror, buddy, your lack of leadership is where the problem resides.

Business owners, leaders, managers and supervisors need to stop playing the victim card. It’s time to move from the excuses-laden, creativity-killing position of, “No, we can’t do that because,” to the possibilities-rich mindset of “Yes, If.”

Sandra would be the first to agree.