Gators Chuck and Margie Steinmetz, stars in their own careers, offer advice on success in work and life
There’s a reason Chuck and Margie Steinmetz have risen to the top of their chosen fields. Both have mastered the art of observation and thoughtful actions. And each, as is their nature, is committed to helping others reach their own potential.
This winter, the Steinmetzes were named to UF’s distinguished Academy of Golden Gators in recognition of their service to the university and their philanthropic support. Below are a handful of lessons the two have learned during their illustrious careers.
Chuck’s Lessons in Leadership:
Four Golden Rules to Team Management
Chuck Steinmetz (BSA ’61) knows a thing or two about leadership. The “retired” owner of two of the nation’s largest pest control companies wouldn’t be where he is now — a still-busy serial entrepreneur, a sought-after adviser and mentor, a philanthropist — if he didn’t.
For 45 years in business and another 20 in civic service at the University of Florida and in metropolitan Orlando, Steinmetz has used his leadership skills to nurture teams and grow enterprises. He credits a course for junior managers taken early in his career for much of that success. Principles learned there were carried forward into his pest control companies (Middleton and All American Termite), Orlando’s growing arts scene, UF advisory boards and committees, and most endeavors in between.
Here’s his advice:
1. Do right by the people who report to you
A good leader looks after his team. While the organization’s mission is center stage, it’s the players who make that mission a success. For the team to be its best, it needs to have the right tools and proper training. It’s a leader’s job to make sure that happens, Steinmetz says.
“You’ve got to be responsible for the people who work with you,” he says. “You’ve got to help them succeed.”
Case in point: When Steinmetz “retired” with a promise to himself to only give his time to not-for-profits, he became volunteer chair at the Orlando Science Center. Soon afterward, the center’s CEO resigned, leaving the place without a leader. Steinmetz stepped in, found the means to better support the center’s team, and turned a struggling organization into a flourishing one.
2. Respect the people on your team and create a culture that’s rewarding
Whether employees or volunteers, people want to feel good about what they’re doing and how they’re spending their time, Steinmetz says. For most of us, he says, money is just a piece of that. The bigger parts are often a feeling of ownership and appreciation, witnessing the successes of their efforts and enjoying a sense of accomplishment.
“At the end of the day, people want to feel good about their jobs. People want to feel like they’re being effective,” he says.
It’s like a stage show. For a production to succeed, actors, directors, writers, musicians, lighting and costume designers, set builders and so many others must work in unison, knowing each job is critical. It’s up to leaders to create that kind of environment, Steinmetz says.
3. Never stop innovating
Stop learning, stop exploring, stop looking for solutions — and a leader will fail, Steinmetz says. And a good leader will encourage others to be intellectually curious, too. The result, he says, is a more efficient and, ultimately, more productive team. In business, that translates into more profits and happier clients.
4. Share what you know
Passing on wisdom, whether learned through successes or failures, is one of the most important things a leader can do, Steinmetz says.
During his years as owner of Middleton Pest Control and All America Termite and Pest Control, Steinmetz trained hundreds of managers at his 120 branch offices in 10 states. A major part of helping those managers thrive was sharing his own insights gained along the way.
“That’s a big key in helping people become successful,” he says. “You can’t manage the end result, but you can manage the actual stuff that will become the end result.”
Margie’s Guide to Fulfillment:
Tips to Finding Balance in Life
Margery Pabst Steinmetz has spent much of her life helping people overcome challenges. She’s got a knack for it. So much so that organizations look to her for advice.
Her specialties are finding harmony in caregiving, adjusting to major life disruptions and realizing our human potential. She’s even written books on those subjects. It’s not unusual for doctors to call on her when treating caregivers who are struggling with their own emotional needs. Or for Fortune 100 companies to ask for her counsel to ease anxieties for families moving to new cities. Or for her to speak at national conferences about thriving amid challenges.
At UF, Steinmetz is especially interested in the Arts in Medicine program. She sees the arts as a direct path to healing — with music, painting and poetry offering a soothing interlude to life’s sometimes harried pace.
Here are some of her ideas:
1. Learn from your mistakes
Blunders are part of the human condition, Steinmetz says. The trick is to learn from them.
“It’s OK to say, ‘I did the wrong thing — I can see that. What can I do differently the next time?’” she says.
Moving on from those mistakes and turning the experiences into learning opportunities — steppingstones in life’s long journey — is important. It does no good to wallow in regret, Steinmetz says.
2. Be flexible
It’s fine to make plans, but we need to accept that those plans might change. Adapting — being “like water instead of a rock,” as she puts it — can help caregivers navigate their role.
“You might have made plans to cook a nice dinner, but if your loved one needs to go to the doctor you’ll need to make new plans,” she says. “It’s good to have plans in life. But we also need to be flexible.”
3. Think creatively
It’s easy to fall into the trap of routine.
“We need to allow ourselves to get outside that box,” she says.
That’s not easy, she admits. But if we aren’t actively looking for ways to improve, “we become dinosaurs.” The arts — music, dance, theater and the like — are a good opportunity to open ourselves to fresh thinking, she says. Even if it’s just to stop long enough to listen, really listen, to a song.
“To be successful, let art into your life, no matter the challenge. Look for new ways to try things,” Steinmetz says. “Be open.”
4. Don’t go it alone
It’s not necessary — or healthy — to carry all the burden, all the time.
“Ask for help from the team around you,” Steinmetz says.
A family, for instance, can be caregivers together, so all the chores don’t fall on one person. Even if that’s as simple as a teenage son emptying the dishwasher so his mother can change sheets on her own elderly father’s bed. That’s one less thing on that caregiver’s to-do list.
And don’t stress that the dishes aren’t placed in the cabinet in the precise manner you might want, Steinmetz advises. It really isn’t important. Just accept, happily, the help offered.
5. Little steps add up
Long-lasting changes take time.
“Don’t try to do it all at once,” Steinmetz says. “It’s better to do a few things really well, even slowly.”
She compares it to losing weight. A crash diet might show quick results, but it probably isn’t healthy and the weight will eventually come back. It’s far better to take long walks and eat more vegetables. Over time, the pounds will trickle off, and those small losses will add up to a huge one. The same slow-and-steady approach is a good rule of thumb for most of our life goals, she says.