In honor of Women’s History Month, LMI is sharing stories and perspectives from impactful women at LMI. Deb Hagstrom, Director for LMI’s Midwest Regional Office, was gracious enough to share stories of her experiences throughout her career and life in general.
Let me share a story about why telling people the truth is the best way to help them grow, even if it is difficult for them to hear what you are saying. I had an employee with great qualifications and he was a nice young man. However, our contract stated that everyone needed to be in the office from 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. every day, and he was showing up at 8:30 or 9:00 a.m.
I initially asked if he had read the contract, and he responded, “Yes.” I respectfully corrected his “Yes” with a “Yes, ma’am,” and he quickly adjusted his response. I then asked if he was having car troubles or other issues that were causing him to be late, and he said “No, ma’am, that’s just really early and I can do my work later.” I explained that he must not want the job because the contract was clear about the hours. I told him to be in my office every morning at 7:28 a.m. and the first time he was late, he would be fired. He showed up at 7:28 every single day for 6 months.
When I eventually left that role, he told me, “Ms. Deb, I want to thank you for helping me be a better person. If it hadn’t been for you, I probably would have gotten fired. I wouldn’t have learned about my potential and the difference I could make in the world.”
Conflict and confrontation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s all in how it is done. Sometimes no one takes the time to work with people so they can be better at what they do. I have heard people complain about other people’s behavior and I say, “Have you gone over to say what is wrong?”
I enable my team members. I see their potential. I accept them for who they are, and maybe there is one little thing that is hindering them and nobody is taking the time to tell them so they can get past it.
For example, I had another employee who came across as having a very aggressive personality. He was, however, not an aggressive person, just passionate. I was the first person to tell him how to improve his communication skills. Again, when I left that position, he said, “I just want to thank you, Ms. Deb, for telling me that. All these years, no one took the time to tell me. Now I have friends—I was doing it to myself all along.”
Always Be Kind, Do No Harm
When I wake up every morning, the first thing I think to myself is, “Always be kind and do no harm.” If it isn’t going to be helpful, don’t do it or say it. I also tell myself, “I have to find one thing I can do today to help someone else’s life be better. What am I going to do today?” It might be smiling or listening. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them or cry with them.
You don’t always have to agree with others, you just have to listen. People may have different opinions because of the environment where they were raised. Maybe they haven’t been told, “If you want people to listen to you, maybe you can approach it a little differently.” It means giving everyone a chance. Communicating clearly and honestly is like getting shots for your kids—it hurts, but it is the right thing to do. Sometimes saying the really hard stuff is the kind thing to do.
If you are talking to somebody and you are formulating your answer before they finish talking, you are not listening. Let it soak in. There may or may not be a response that is needed. Don’t have an agenda.
When I put someone in charge, I expect that person to be in charge. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. Be decisive. Be an overcomer and don’t get caught up in the small stuff. I’m going to make sure you have what you need to succeed.
A lot of my approach is inspired by my dad, David Hinton. He enabled his team as well, and is extremely honest and giving. He is patriotic and highly valued service to country as evidenced in his prior role as chief of staff at the United States Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) first Chief of Staff. When I started my career, I didn’t tell anyone I was his daughter because I didn’t want it to color anyone’s view of me. I wanted to stand on my own. Now sometimes he is asked if he is Deb Hagstrom’s father!
Building in Work-Life Balance
In my very first job, my employer would give me tasks and I would get it done. I didn’t know about work-life balance, and by the time I left, I was working 20 hour days. I learned the hard way about making work-life balance a priority.
Now I work from 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. unless there is something really pressing or somebody is hurting or needs to talk. There are times with proposals when extra hours are needed, and it doesn’t bother me at all to work extra hours—I just have learned to build in time to breathe.
I love competition shooting with pistols. I like mixed martial arts, motorcycles, running, and scuba diving. I’d love to jump out of an airplane someday. I work out every day at least an hour and a half. I haven’t been sick in years. I believe working out improves your immune system.
I have learned how to work hard, play hard, and stop to smell the roses.