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Black History Month: Q&A with GM Jeff S.

Tackling problems is not just a managerial concept to General Manager Jeff S., it’s a fundamental building block to success. Jeff’s career spans over 40 years in a variety of complex environments, including service in the United States Marine Corps. Thank you to Jeff for taking time to sit down with Blue Nation during Black History Month to tell us about his amazing journey.

Your professional career has been extensive, from serving in the United States Marine Corps to various positions in the transportation industry to now being the General Manager of our Cincinnati BU; what lesson(s) helped you along the way?

In my 25 years in the Marine Corps, I was taught to never give up. There is no such thing as “I cannot do it.” We were taught, “What if?“ Always have plan A, B, C.  Train and run drills on all three plans because you will use them one day. Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome. Morals and integrity come first. Be true to yourself and everyone in your life.

My time in the Marine Corps Reserve granted me the opportunity to expand my leadership skillset in business. While doing combat drills on the weekend, I spent the work week at UPS. In my 38 years with UPS, I was taught structure and accountability. How to train and trust your employees to be the best they can be. Give them responsibility and let them use their ideas to improve the situation. This provides the employee with ownership in the company because it is their idea, and they want to make it work for you.

All my success in the Marine Corps and at UPS came from me making my Marines and employees successful in their jobs.

Who are your role models, and how did they help lay the foundation for your success?

Muhammad Ali – this man has done it all! The greatest heavyweight boxer of all time – a great Activist – Entertainer – Poet – Philanthropist. He taught me never to stop learning something new – do not stop growing your knowledge.

Another of my role models is General Colin Powell. People say I look like him. He was born in Harlem and his parents were immigrants from Jamaica. From humble beginnings to one of our most outstanding leaders and statesmen. He proved that your beginning does not dictate your future. I got to meet him during the first Gulf War in Saudi Arabia where I was on the maintenance staff for the 3rd Marine Aviation Wing and since then, I desired to learn his leadership skills. The most important one that I stand by is, “Being fair but be firm.” There will always be someone who will not like your leadership style, but if they trust your leadership, they will respect you.

Being a leader presents an everchanging set of challenges to overcome. What is your strongest leadership trait, and how do you use it daily?

Listening to your employees and understanding what they need to be successful. Also be transparent about everything and keep them in the loop. An educated workforce that knows what’s going on will go through a brick wall for you.

What would you recommend to young leaders that you wished you knew coming up?

Be patient, take your time to learn everything in your present job, and become a subject matter expert. Then move on to the next subject you want to know about. Never stop Training – never stop learning. It keeps you young like me at 63 years of age. I feel like I’m 33 years old because I never stop growing my mind.

We are Committed to Serve, and you’ve lived by that trait most of your life. How do you continue to contribute to the community, and what do you enjoy most about it?

Never forget where you come from and always give a hand up to someone else – this is your legacy.

I want to be remembered as someone who made leaders go on to be greater than me. I help Veterans get back on their feet through the Easterseals Veterans program in Cincinnati. I also help out the Boy Scouts – I am an Eagle Scout (1973) and Order Of The Arrow. This was my start in leadership.

Throughout the month of February, we encourage you to visit the Day of Reflection and Connection SharePoint site. We also invite you to take a few moments each day to participate in our 21 Day Reflection and Connection Challenge and check out the videos from this year’s MLK Reflection and Connection virtual event. Stay tuned for more Black History Month features later this month!