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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

The 16 Executive Lessons I Learned Bagging Groceries

Summary of Executive Leadership Lessons

I really enjoyed writing this series of posts, and I could have easily continued cataloging my experiences for several more months. This was a bit different than my normal focus on project related issues, but I received a lot of positive feedback and I appreciate your kind words!

Since this series went over course of several months, I thought it made sense to do a summary of the sixteen lessons I shared. If you want to read any of the individual posts, you can access them directly from my home blogs page.

Lesson 1: Whatever the job is, try to be the best at it. People notice, and it matters.

Lesson 2: Give 100% commitment to your organization, but make sure you take advantage of what the organization offers you. All the organization owes you is what is in your benefits package, so don’t be a patsy!

Lesson 3: Master basic math skills and be able to do simple equations in your head quickly! It is surprising how many times that gives you an edge.

Lesson 4: You must clearly communicate with subordinates about their performance. No one should ever be surprised by a disciplinary action. It is the cornerstone of good leadership, and you owe it to them.

Lesson 5: Work colleagues are not friends. Find out who your true friends are and keep your mouth shut in front of everyone else.

Lesson 6: Everyone fails. How you react to that failure is what people will remember.

Lesson 7: You get what you measure. Leaders will do the right thing and get good results. Managers will focus on “the numbers” leading to counterproductive behaviors.

Lesson 8: You get what you measure, and most organizations measure what they can see. This can lead to management focusing on all the wrong things.

Lesson 9. High performers are often difficult to manage, but if you want the best for your team you need to figure out how! Having a team of “manageable” people should not be the goal.

Lesson 10: Leaders fail because they want to be liked when they need to be respected. Treat people fairly, do the right things for the right reasons, and respect will be earned over time.

Lesson 11: All organizations have “masterminds” who believe that they are running things because they are smarter and better. They usually aren’t. If someone doesn’t challenge them, the entire organization suffers.

Lesson 12. Large organizations can be schizophrenic. What was accepted and widely practiced can suddenly become a problem. You must be loyal and protect your employees from the organization itself when necessary.

Lesson 13. Leaders must be authentic. If you’re not authentic, your people won’t trust you and won’t be inspired to do their best.

Lesson 14. Relationships matter. Issues come and go, but everyone needs a core of people that they trust and rely on when things go badly. And eventually things always go badly...

Lesson 15. Don’t let your ego overrule your common sense.

Lesson 16. Look deep inside yourself and find that part of you that really doesn’t care. Never let that go!


This has been a fantastic walk down "memory lane". It has been over 35 years since I worked at Piggly Wiggly, but I can remember many of the people I worked with like it was yesterday. Thinking through these lessons also triggered me to recall people that I haven't heard from in years, and I a bit ashamed to say that I have no idea what happened to many of the people that I counted among my friends. One of the benefits of social media is that time and space are easily overcome and you can find and stay in touch with people who were important to you years ago. Now if only people would stop using Facebook for political commentary.... But perhaps that is a topic for another day!


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