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TDIndustries and Defeating the Peter Principle

Jan. 30, 2020
It’s a profound change of mind-set to see yourself, as a leader, through the eyes of your employees.

For those who have never heard of it, the Peter Principle is a concept in management developed by Dr. Laurence J. Peter which basically states that people are promoted in a company organization until they reach their “level of incompetence.” An employee gets promoted based on their success at a job until they reach a position where they (paradoxically) are no longer good at the job; where the knowledge and skills that made them successful at their former position are just not what is required for success at their new position.

It took business management leaders in America a long time to recognize this was happening (the book that introduced the principle to the world, The Peter Principle by Dr. Peter and Raymond Hull wasn’t published until 1969) and still longer to address it, which is why the embrace of servant leadership by our Contractor of the Year, TDIndustries all the way back in 1972 is just one of the many remarkable things about the company. (You can read our full feature here.)

On the company web site you can find a video that features Jack Lowe, Jr., son of company founder Jack Lowe, Sr. In it he talks about the company’s turn to servant leadership, which came about after a series of company-wide, small-group meetings.

In it he says, “We discovered we were doing a lots of technical training, in plumbing or engineering or accounting or whatever it was, and no training in leadership. And as complicated as plumbing or accounting is, it’s nowhere near as complicated as people. So we were having people promoted to plumbing foreman because they were the best plumber or accounting manager because they were the best accountant, and they were failing, or having trouble. So we started leadership development built around servant leadership in the early seventies.”

It’s a profound change of mind-set to see yourself, as a leader, through the eyes of your employees. To manage not as a disciplinarian or even really as a director, but as a teacher, a source of knowledge and experience, and above all as a role model; to have your success as a leader be more than the numbers on a spreadsheet, but instead be the growth and development of the people on your team—and hopefully setting them on the path as servant leaders in their own right.

And it’s the perfect approach for an employee-owned company like TD, where everyone is a partner, all sharing in one another's successes which in aggregate become the company’s success. The quality of the work TD performs for its clients is really a reflection of that company culture.

It’s a business model that extends outward, beyond TDIndustries to the wider community. With their work first to integrate and later support the local schools, with their work fighting homelessness in the Dallas area, with the time company partners spend volunteering, you can see how they have embraced the idea of community leadership through community service.

The best part of working in the trade press is being able to shine a spotlight on those companies and individuals that are really doing amazing things for their clients, their employees, and their community. In that spirit, we are very proud to name TDIndustries our Contractor of the Year.

About the Author

Steve Spaulding | Editor-inChief - CONTRACTOR

Steve Spaulding is Editor-in-Chief for CONTRACTOR Magazine. He has been with the magazine since 1996, and has contributed to Radiant Living, NATE Magazine, and other Endeavor Media properties.

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