AASHTO re:source Q & A Podcast

Lessons from Lenker

July 25, 2023 Steve Lenker, former Director of Construction Materials Reference Laboratories Season 4 Episode 9
Lessons from Lenker
AASHTO re:source Q & A Podcast
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AASHTO re:source Q & A Podcast
Lessons from Lenker
Jul 25, 2023 Season 4 Episode 9
Steve Lenker, former Director of Construction Materials Reference Laboratories

The outgoing Director of CMRL, Steve Lenker, joins us to discuss his career and some lessons he's learned along the way.  Plus, Brian shares some of the lessons he's learned from Steve.

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Show Notes Transcript

The outgoing Director of CMRL, Steve Lenker, joins us to discuss his career and some lessons he's learned along the way.  Plus, Brian shares some of the lessons he's learned from Steve.

Related information: 

AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript

Season 4, Episode 09: Lessons from Lenker

Recorded: July 14, 2023

Released: July 25, 2023 

Hosts: Brian Jonson, Director of AASHTO Accreditation Program; Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source 

Guest: Steve Lenker, former Director of Construction Materials Reference Laboratories

Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics. 

Transcription is auto-generated. 

[Theme music fades in.] 

00:00:02 ANNOUNCER: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials testing and inspection with people in the know.  From exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you. Now here’s our host, Brian Johnson.

00:00:22 BRIAN: Welcome to AASHTO Resource Q&A. I'm Brian Johnson.

00:00:25 KIM: And I'm Kim Swanson. Who do we have with us today, Brian?

00:00:29 BRIAN: Well, today we are doing a public exit interview for our outgoing director of the CMRL Construction Materials Reference Laboratories, Steve Lanker. Many of you who are in our program know that name or have met Steve over the years, but he is retiring today. As we record this on July 14th, 2023. So, we wanted to have a discussion with Steve on his way out and over some lessons learned and get some advice from him. Welcome to the podcast. 

00:01:04 STEVE: Thank you.

00:01:17 BRIAN: Let's give it just a brief overview of Steve's experience here with AASHTO and AASHTO resource. Steve has been with AASHTO off and on for 28 years. And he had a couple other experiences along the way with other employers, but he has been the CMRL director for 15 years, directing the activities of AASHTO Resource and CCRL collectively. Hey, Steve, you were with AASHTO and did a couple of different things and came back. Why did you come back?

00:01:39 STEVE: I liked working for AASHTO and it was at a point where I was kind of eager to get back, I had a long commute. I was working for the National Stone sand and Gravel Association, where I've been for eight years. And had a good run there. But this position came open and I found it very interesting and I tended to move toward things that I knew I would like doing. So, I decided to pursue the position and they were likewise interested in having me come.  So, it worked out and I don't regret it.

00:02:17 KIM: Well, I just want to take a step back. That's why you came back. But your very first position with AASHTO was as a laboratory inspector in 1985. And I just would like.

00:02:30 STEVE: Well, don't. Well, don't say it like that. 1985.

00:02:35 KIM: All the way back, but yeah, yeah. And it just it. I mean, you started as a laboratory inspector, which we would now call a laboratory assessor, and then you kind of work your way all the way up through the ranks of at AASHTO resource and so I think that's just really impressive and I wanted to give some context to that. And I just want to know if you could share your favorite story from your inspecting and assessing days - that's suitable for public consumption.

00:03:04 STEVE: Well, first of all, I mean one thing that's interesting. About that is when I interviewed for the position. At first, I wasn't hired. They hired somebody else who actually lived in my neighborhood. The guy that I knew. And played baseball with growing up and the and who I've obviously then worked with a few months later, but then they came back. Few months later and ask if I was still interested and I was. But it was very different. They did almost exclusively, just the central laboratories at the dot and my first trip. I'd never been West of Cleveland. OH, before this first trip, the trip began in San Francisco and ended up in Denver. Driving all that way, stopping at each state capital. So, it was an. Eye opener and it was an amazing, amazing. Trip love traveling out West.

00:04:07 BRIAN: And in that time, so you were an inspector for a while, and then you left and probably learned some lessons working for different types of organizations before you came back. What do you think the most important thing you learned after leaving AASHTO and then coming back was?

00:04:27 STEVE: I had many different views. The organization I mean, I don't know if it's the most important lesson, but it gave me very good perspective first. Of all I. And I was at the Association Headquarters Office downtown. That was a very different view. Of AASHTO and a different view of what AASHTO resource was about. Then I was a customer. I was working for an accredited lab. Fugro South was the laboratory in Houston, TX where I. Head assessors come to the. Story and we were accredited, so I know what it was like to be a customer and to be in the industry, you know, and to be to be in a commercial laboratory and that's a different environment. But it was a very good perspective and helped me understand the customers and then, you know, I had eight.

00:05:25 STEVE: Years with the National Stone Sand and Gravel Association, so it was very heavily involved with producers of materials. And again, that's a different view and so gave me a good view of an appreciation of why what we do here is important. For both AASHTO resource and CCRL, and I also saw that people very much appreciated the work of AASHTO Resource and CCRL from those different you know, just being able to view it from those different perspectives.

00:06:00 BRIAN: Now, speaking of things that you've learned, what did you learn here in your last 15 years? I mean, I know you've probably learned a lot over those years, even in a senior position, understanding what we do, obviously. But what? What things did you learn about yourself? Well, and more importantly at that higher level in the organization.

00:06:23 STEVE: Being a manager, you're continually learning like I do not manage the same way now that I did. You know even. When I came here in 2008, because you learn how to work with people and you learn you know how much you enjoy people and that you know it's working not just with the staff but with the customers. So, I think you continually just learn. How to do that? How to work with people in a professional way and in a way that they enjoy, and you enjoy, I hope. And somebody here was telling me stories about when I was training them in 1990 and, you know, some of those things would never do now that I did that.

00:07:09 STEVE: It's just continually learning, so I've been managing in one form or another since 1989. Since you know, four years into the 38-year career, whether it's managing employees or groups of members or customers, so. So that's what you learn, I think is the. Working with people ends up being probably the most important thing to learn in any career.

00:07:36 BRIAN: I was giving Kim some space to see if she wanted to jump in with a question before I get to the next one, but she looked content.

00:07:42 KIM: Well, you seem to have a good logical order of things, so I'll pepper in something if I need to, but your order seems to work better than mine.

00:07:50 STEVE: She was hoping that I would say that, you know, the most important thing I learned was to keep the Communications Manager happy and.

00:07:58 KIM: A very important part. I'm glad you finally learned that, Steve.

00:08:03 BRIAN: Well, I want, you know, I asked these questions about. What you've learned, because I I really was just trying to segue and a question about myself. I want to talk about what I've learned from you over the years. So, I'm going to embarrass you a little bit here. Well, maybe I don't know. Maybe you won't. Maybe you won't. Be embarrassed but.

00:08:22 STEVE: And not easily embarrassed at this.

00:08:24 BRIAN: Here is the first. The first thing I've got quite a few things and we can cut whatever doesn't make it lesson number one that I learned from Steve. Is the safety comes first, so I would say I don't know how you rank these things and I will ask you this after I go through what I've learned from you, how you would rank these things in order of your accomplishments and what you're most proud of, but. I would say that you have drastically changed the safety culture here in a positive way over the years. It was immediately apparent. That was one of your highest priorities coming in. And I think that it was significant and meaningful improvement for everybody who was working there at the time and continues to work there because it was a long-lasting change that I don't see, I cannot imagine foreseeing that changing in the future. Because it is such a, it was a a hard change to make. Believe it or not, for those of you listening to make such an impact. But we've got systems in place now to keep it going.

00:09:33 KIM: Part of what Steve's commitment to safety is really how I envision it, of really putting employees first and people first and really caring about individuals and the people that are working with you and for you and it's not something he takes lightly and I've. I've seen that, you know, in my 13 years of working with Steve. That, you know, safety is important because people are important to him and I think that it goes to one of your points there, Brian, about Steve, about it's not just safety is just a part of it. I think the bigger thing is that he cares about the people and safety is a big part of that.

00:10:12 BRIAN: That takes me the lesson too, is to care about everyone because Steve does care about everybody in the organization. He cares about our customers; he cares about the people and it's more the people. It's not the category of people or category of. Customers or you know your customer, you're a sponsor. a member. Whatever it is, it's he cares about people individually and the way he manages and the way he directs the organization is it's really obvious that that's one of the most important things to him. Lesson #3. So, we're going to light it up a little bit. Thinking out loud is probably not very effective. One of the things that Steve likes to say. Is that I'm thinking out loud, probably not very effectively and. I don't know. Usually it's fine, but he always thinks it's not effective. So, I'd say that is something that is a lesson that I've learned from. Steve #4 is, let's stick to the facts. So, there are a lot of complicated things that we deal with and sometimes it can get emotional for people.

00:11:15 BRIAN: You know, either internally or externally, that somebody could be upset about a certain decision, but the important thing. Is if you stick to the facts and you document what is important, what is critical, what are the bare minimum facts that you're dealing with. It helps you boil down those complications. Into what is actually critical and what is actually important, and then you can make a better decision. That's something that I think you learn overtime and Steve was always good about talking to me about those things and working through complicated issues to get down to the most essential parts of whatever was going on. All right, Steve, I'm going to give you a moment to comment. On that one.

00:11:59 STEVE: Well, there's a lot you. Which one do you want me to comment a lot?

00:12:03 BRIAN: Any of them.

00:12:04 STEVE: I think as far as. You know, thinking my career. And it's important the people are very important and the. It matters what type of people you have and like things like I know people have appreciated that life happens a lot of different things happen in life and it's very important that you allow people to live their lives and understand that in some ways the more important parts of their lives. With family and dealing with these things that happen, you know, to them or to family members and those are the types of people we want here. They're people who care about other people, because if they care about their families and the people outside of work, then they're going to care more about the people here. So, I found that very important to do that and so we've always made that a priority we you know, we don't want people here saying ohh you know the most important thing is I come in at work.

00:13:05 STEVE: You know, 18 hours a day or something. No, we don't want that. So, in the end it comes down to the people thinking a lot of I I don't necessarily rank anything as far as you know, like even looking at you know what have the accomplishments been. It's one big thing. I'm not a task person, you know. I don't have lists that I go down the list. I probably should be. And it's probably been a frustration to people. I just don't have it my head. And it's all there at once. It's all important in its own way. So, I try to do that safely. You know, I've tried to be very careful not to criticize my predecessors in this position because they did what they felt was best at the time. And when I started here. Again, we carried through many of the safety features that were already in place.

00:14:08 STEVE: But what we learned was they weren't good enough. And that wasn't the right approach. And but our predecessors did what they felt was best and what they were being advised was best. But I'm not critical of them. But what I learned was we had to do a lot more. And we did a lot more, and we especially had the opportunity here to do a lot more because we moved the whole organization from Gaithersburg to Frederick and we had done a lot of work even when we were in Gaithersburg to improve safety. But it was actually a real blessing. All that work we had. Because we had all that in mind when we moved here and it's a much safer place, it comes down to again to people. You know, I don't, I don't want to. I'm at the end of. My career now, so I can say.

00:15:00 STEVE: You know unless. Something Brian has a problem. He trips on something on the way out the door today. Haven't had any employees that. Have gotten seriously hurt here. I've never had to have the meeting with. Employees family to say I'm sorry, but because your loved one worked for me, they're no longer with us or they're injured for life. Never had to have one of those meetings and I'm glad because I never want wanted to or want to have one of those. And so, it was very important that. This place be environmentally healthy as possible because it matters. You know, people matter.

00:15:43 KIM: I think I want. To put that into perspective for some of our listeners that. You're not managing people that only have desk jobs, where that would be kind of like, well, of course you're not going to have that conversation like you are responsible for staff. Those traveling the world to do their job and that we also have an industrial area where we package proficiency samples like we're dealing with tons of material, and it can be a big thing. I don't want people to think that that you know what you just said was ohh well, you know, why would you? It's an office job or it's just whatever. It's more than that. So, it is definite. You know, saying something you have had such a good track record in that way. So, I just wanted to point that out to our listeners because I think it could be overlooked.

00:16:28 STEVE: Well, another thing I'll point out to them is that many of these things were done at great cost. You know, we installed a dust abatement system. You know, dust collectors. Whole system that made our environment so safe. I mean, we went from a very. Hazy look at NIST at times when we were down in Gaithersburg. Having no material in there. You know, when we've been here, it's been nothing. You don't see anything when we're working on varied. Sometimes you know we're working on soil. We're working on. You know, sometimes sands and aggregates that do have dust that raises up. But we've come a long way and we've been willing to spend the money. To make it a safer place and a lot of money. But again, it is worth it to do that. So, I, you know, we've never had. I've never hesitated during my time here to do that.

00:17:35 BRIAN: One thing you allude to is the move from our old offices in Gaithersburg at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to the offices that we have now in Frederick, MD. That was a really significant and. Just a tremendous change. That you drove and I think pretty effectively considering what a nice space we have, what a useful space we have for the type of work we do and it's not, it is complicated. We've got laboratory space, warehouse space, office space smaller. Style conference space as well, but it really came together nicely and it's suited us well for all these years, so that. Lot of effort and I think you did a. Great job with it.

00:18:29 STEVE: That was a good opportunity. It was. I came into the position here in 2008 and that was the big issue was should we stay at nest or? Should we go? You know, as the song says, should I stay, or should I go? I won't sing it. You'll be happy. To know but. So, I came into the position. I got to look at all the factors involved and pretty quickly determine that it's time to go. And it was the right thing to do. I was willing to stay if that was the right thing to do. I think that was important to my bosses that they've expressed. Well, I'd like nested a good place to be, and I'm willing to stay, but it was the right time to go and the project was not easy. But I found it. Tremendously rewarding.  I mean, I was the key. Man on all of that. From the time that I determined. That we should go.

00:19:29 STEVE: And convinced others with the money that we should do that, it probably took about three years. To find a place and then to execute the move and. It was very satisfying and I, despite the frustrations along the way, which any major project you have, that it was. I really enjoyed that quite a bit for me. It was a chance to be a leader here. And fortunately for me, it was something where I knew it was the right thing to do, so I was not hesitant to do it. And the groups worked very well together. Execute that move and don't regret it at all. It was tremendous fun really as a manager to do that.

00:20:14 KIM: I think you just were enjoyed it so much is because now you have such a great office, it's your last day in the office with some windows and a good, you know, like the good setup there. So, I'm thinking that might have something to do with it. I'm not. Sure. Though.

00:20:28 STEVE: I got out Of the basement. Where in the basement that missed but didn't have a lot to do with it?

00:20:35 KIM: No, not the windows and daylight. You didn't want this, OK?

00:20:39 STEVE: No, not really. I didn't care as much about that. But what I did care about was OK, where are we moving? Is it a good place for people to be in the whole design of the building and the environment would be a good place. To work and. And those are the parts that I care about. I couldn't care less whether I have an office to myself or whether it was out on the floor somewhere.

00:21:06 KIM: I appreciate you moving to Frederick, MD. So, my commute time got cut drastically. I think Brian's commute got longer, but mine got cut way short, so I appreciate that.

00:21:16 BRIAN: Yeah, I wasn't thrilled with the move initially, but I had come to appreciate the facility and the area that the new office is in and why. We needed to do it. You know another thing that I'd say, Steve, is confirmed for me and it is always been a positive experience. I've had working with Steve is that he understands, and he takes action to do the right thing even when it's difficult. You know, he may upset people. Because of whatever it is that he wants to do, or it may take some cajoling of different people to bring them along to get it done. Or it may put him in a potential. Tough situation because he has to report something to an agency because of some wrongdoing that has been reported to him, but he always does the right thing and it's good for me to see somebody who's gone through all these stages in their career and they still.

00:22:18 BRIAN: Are able to stick to that because it seems a lot of times people over time they get lacks about that and they say no one cares. No one cares what's the point, right? And sometimes that's true. Like we found that to be the case. Sometimes Steve will follow through on something and get nothing back from whoever he reports it back to. But I I think that that's been a really important lesson for everybody on staff to see that Steve does the right thing no matter what. And I want to thank you for that, Steve.

00:22:49 STEVE: They appreciate that and it's not always easy to determine. You know, it's not always easy. It's not always like a black and white thing. So, you have to spend some time to determine what the right thing is. Sometimes it is. Pretty obvious. You know, we need to be pursuing. That and you know there been sometimes when no, it isn't easy sometimes when. It may appear not to be in our best interest to do this. That or maybe you're calling a customer with words they don't want to hear or you're telling them something about art, somebody who works for. For us that, you know, we're not proud of. That's pretty rare. But we would acknowledge when we hired also and treat the customer well, it wasn't just about you know, hey your customers not treating us well. It was working with people and being willing to admit when you make mistakes.

00:23:49 STEVE: And also, just be willing to handle things and not just let them faster and sit no matter what it is, there's a lot of options. And you know, getting to that takes a lot of communication with people to make sure you understand and see the full view of it. If we have an issue with the customer or let's say a customer complaint about, we try to understand thoroughly from their perspective what is. Your viewpoint of this. and also present what our viewpoint is so that people get the full picture a lot of time that resolves it alone. When people understand what the what they're saying. Ultimately, I mean what helps is I like people I like dealing with people. And even in a something that's difficult situation, that helps a lot so. I find those some of those things very interesting. Yeah, it's not real easy sometimes to figure. Out what the right thing is.

00:24:49 STEVE: And nobody's perfect. But uh, yeah, we do our best with it. Really, I try to make sure I'm seeing the full picture. I’m not a judgmental person. Don't seek to judge people, but it's very important to get the full view of what's going on. For you.

00:25:07 KIM: Taking action in the parting e-mail you did allude to that of making the best decision you can with the information you have available at the time and that resonated with me because I tried to live my life that way as well with not really regrets. Just knowing that I've made the best decision or best course of action I could with the. Information I had. And when you get new information, then you make a different decision. But yeah, I thought that really resonated with me. You, you know, I have paraphrased you in your in your e-mail to that to that effect though, but it goes to you know, you really do embody Steve, our organizational values and principles that we have and integrity is one of them which Brian was talking about of we do. The right thing. Even if it's difficult. And so, I think that was. You know you've embodied. All of our organizational principles. For staff and for customers and for members and it's just been. Great to see. That in a leader within our organization.

00:26:06 STEVE: For the customers, I mean, sometimes the right thing involves something where we as an organization don't make as much money as we would have a lot of decisions, but. It's the right thing to. Do and maybe it's something where? If we were pure. Profit driven business, maybe we would. Well, we'll keep doing this even though you know it's not the right thing to do, but. We're willing to do that. Sometimes the right thing is to, you know, drop this program or that program, or to change something that maybe it's not as profitable for us. And that's OK if it's the right. Thing that's alright if it's serving the customers better and accomplishing what we're trying to accomplish. Together, because you know as customer and an organization does what we do. As long as that's the case. That's OK to do that.

00:27:06 STEVE: That's alright. And that's what we know we would do this case is. It's also helped. That at a higher level, both AASHTO and ASTM again be the people that do care about the people that work for them, do care about their customers. You know, sometimes people don't get the full view. Of how decisions are made, but at a higher level than mine. Again, if people are acting with integrity and care and they care about the people that work for them and they care very much about the customer. So that's a good thing, it's not just me.

00:27:42 BRIAN: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that because it I think a lot of times people don't realize that even in an institution like AASHTO and you know the AASHTO accreditation program, we're still having these discussions about. Are our services useful? Are we doing our best? Are we serving a need and we? We are not afraid to say, OK, well, this isn't working out. Let's stop doing this. Maybe we should be doing something else instead. That's more useful. So, those kinds of discussions actually do take place and it does take a leader like Steve to help. Make sure that those things are important and are carried out so that you can continue to be a useful organization.

00:28:24 STEVE: Yeah, we've always tried to avoid the well. Why do we do this? Well, because we've always done it, you know, and every organization has some of that, but sometime. Was when it was started, there were very good reasons to do what would do it that way, but that in it of itself, meaning we do it because that's the way we've always done. It isn't a good reason, so I've never responded well to that as a response to, well, why are we doing? This why are we? You know, producing these widgets well, because we've always done. Nobody wants them anymore, though. Well, it doesn't. Matter, you know. We've always done it this way, so we're going to do it. But again, it might be OK if there was a good reason to produce the widgets originally, and that reason still holds. That's fine to do it the way it's always been done, so there's a lot that goes into these things.

00:29:18 BRIAN: And that's another lesson I learned is that the widget business is not what it used. Would be, so that's so. Thanks for that. I I know not to go into the widget business.

00:29:28 STEVE: People involved in the widget program. I know like to hear this podcast.

00:29:32 BRIAN: Yeah, that's true. Getting a nasty letter from the widget Association. I think you know, this also leads me to another lesson learned, and this is one that is been learned the last couple of years. Is that it's really important to try new things, push yourself beyond your comfort level, and as a human being, it is important to stretch that and I guess advance your own. Life in doing so and your enjoyment of life so takes me a little outside of what we typically talk about for work. And I, Steve, if you don't mind sharing some of the things that you have been trying that's new to you over the last like 6 to 8 years. That is giving you some personal enjoyment.

00:30:20 STEVE: Yeah, I've gotten involved a lot in comedy with the improv comedy. And the improv groups in Frederick and performing and lately standup comedy, which is a whole different animal. The improv comedy is actually something that is very useful for workplace relationships because. Contrary to what you might think, it only works if you work together with the other people. If you go out alone and decide you've got this funny thing that you're going to say. Matter what? It falls flat as it really is about working with people, so it has actually helped. What I do here and I think would help anyone working in. In the environment like this, the stand ups are a little different. That's a new thing. I don't know if I. Advise people to do. To go quite out like that, but. That again, it's fun. Some of us like that like to be out there and to.

00:31:24 STEVE: Willing to deal with it, come what may, and just enjoy the interaction with the audience and that kind of thing. But I'm learning, I'm learning it. I'm not anywhere near being good and just a few open mic sorts of things and I'll keep doing it. I've always been very involved in the arts. I grew up in a family of artists. And I've again, I've painted. And things like that haven't done it lately, but I might get back into some of the visual arts and things like that, or writing, or we'll say it kind. It's important it broadens you not to be focused on, you know, I'm going to think about accreditation all the time, you know, and. Home and what can I learn more about accreditation? No, it helps, whether it's accreditation or whatever business involved in it helps to be in thinking in different ways. And it does help your performance at work.

00:32:24 STEVE: To do that, you know you're involved in a lot of different things too. And it's brought. Yeah, it makes you better at what you do here.

00:32:32 BRIAN: Couldn't agree more. It's really important it builds skills that you couldn't otherwise build, and it gives you a unique opportunity to do that. And I and I, I can't imagine. Going to a training session on communication and then giving you an opportunity to do improv comedy. But you're right. I mean, there's the teamwork, the collaboration. You have to be on the same page thinking with your whoever is in your group.

00:33:02 STEVE: Well, what it? What it is about the foremost is really listening. To what the other people were saying, because that's what you play off of in improv comedy. And in the past, it's not true now, of course. Had been accused of. Sometimes you know, being a few steps ahead. And I'll be talking with somebody in the office here. And I'm already thinking about what I'm going to say and not. And then I don't listen to what they actually are saying. I've got the next point in mind or the next three points in mind. That’s not really the best way to do it. You really need to listen to. What people were saying? It was a joke. I was going to interrupt you with that point, but anyway, I've decided to listen instead.

00:33:56 BRIAN: That takes me to the last point that. I was going to make about a lessons learned from you. Steve is. No matter what goes on, no matter how important your job is or how many people depend on you, you're always more than your position. You're always more than your job. You’re more than what your work product is, and that's a good thing. And we're all replaceable in whatever role we serve. And it's important to never forget that because if you, if you think you're irreplaceable, you're going to make bad decisions about how you use your. Time, and it's also going to build up your ego to an unhealthy level in the office. So, I think like that it keeps you humble and even long before you were talking about retirement.

00:34:52 BRIAN: You made that clear that you know people come and go from workplaces and they need to remember that that they're more than just whatever they're. Doing at work. So, thank you for that lesson. I think that's an important one to learn and it's great for people to learn at a younger age.

00:35:08 STEVE: Well, one of the things that I'm very proud of that I haven't touched on. And you know, we've talked about my position and maybe people have seen my name and such as it used to be all over our correspondence. But I think one of the things I believe that I'm proudest of here is that people. It sounds counter intuitive to say this, but. When people think. Of AASHTO resource or CCRL. They don't necessarily think of me first. Maybe they think of you, Brian, or you camera. No, really. Or one of the they generally are not thinking of me and thinking of a lot of other people here that they've dealt with. And I think that's a very good thing and a very important thing that you allow somebody other than you.

00:36:02 STEVE: To be seen as the face of the organization, and that when people think of the organization, they're not thinking of, you know, or the grand leader, Grand Exalted leader who, you know, the President of the company or whoever. Is in the leadership position. But that they think of a lot of other people cause, you know, people are doing really good things. And that spotlight is spread out. I think we're a better organization for it if we're allowing other people to take leadership and which they do in many different ways in whatever position they're. You talked about the assessors, inspectors, OK? For any of our customers, that's the face of our organization leaders too. I've always taken great. Pride that you know I'm. Not necessarily the 1st. Mentioned if someone talks about extra resource.

00:37:02 STEVE: I've seen other companies where you only hear about the leader. I think that's. I think so. I take great pride that we've allowed. People to leave here. And not, you know, hogged all the leadership into one spot. So, I'd probably leave is probably of that as a any of the other things.

00:37:25 BRIAN: So, what is next for you? So, you have hobbies, you have things that you're interested in. What are you going to do next? Are you going to keep working on some capacity?

00:37:34 STEVE: I'm not sure it's possible. Going to some other job on Monday. Such and not for a while I'm sure. But I'm not ruling it out. And I'm not. thing this is necessarily the end of career in the industry. If I see something that I find interesting, then I'll do it. Or if I find something that you know makes life a little better for my family, I'll, I'll do it. So, I don't. Know to answer your question in the immediate future, you know, do the things I do at home, whatever that is, whatever that entails. But I'm still working on that. And I mean, I announced a long time ago I was going to retire, so I probably should know that. By now. But uh. No, it's pretty wide open. And I haven't really decided yet when all I'm going to do.

00:38:24 KIM: I'm expecting to see on social media that you're doing a standup comedy tour of the US within the next year or two? I expect that you're going to be all over my feeds and little clips of of your standup comedy. I think you're going to go viral. It's going to be big. That's my projection for you there, Steve.

00:38:44 STEVE: Ohh yeah, I'm sure that will happen. Yeah, I. I you know, I'll take it as it. You know, nothing happens instantly, but there's a lot out there. I think that's probably a bit unlikely, but there are a lot of things to get involved in and you know, I'll figure it out whether it's going back to a. Nine to five job or doing something as weird as comedy, but. You know, there's a lot of opportunity. They'll just have to figure it out.

00:39:20 BRIAN: Steve, I have to ask you one last question before you go and we've talked a lot about your philosophies about different things. But is there any final advice that you would like to give to the future leaders here or leaders in whatever their organizations are, who might be listening? Before you go.

00:39:40 STEVE: I don't know. I'm always hesitant to do so, but I will say, you know, people matter. You want the kind of people that care about people that your employees. So, I think ultimately. What determines whether a manager is successful and not limited to managers? How will you deal with people and you know, and that the parts of that that can be developed? mean, I'm not, there's not that outgoing a kid, you know and. Despite the standup comedy and all that. Pretty much an introvert. Believe it or not. So, I'm dealing with people has been developed, but you find if you can find that you enjoy them, it helps an awful lot caring about the people you know in your context of whatever your management role is. Matters an awful lot.

00:40:41 STEVE: And it feeds into all these different areas. You know, a lot of the decisions we've talked about here. I mean it comes down to what's best for the people and. What's best for? The people can be what's best for the company too, and usually is. We work for the company; we don't lose sight of that. But you know, as a manager, I think you really have to work with people. And like I said, as far as the things that I think will continue on are. Yeah, I'm very proud that there are a lot of leaders here and it's not. People in a panic because I'm not here. That would be a very bad thing, you know. Ideally you have enough people that. There is no void when one leader leaves. And I guess that's my advice. Is to really work on people and developing the people as leaders, no matter what their position.

00:41:39 BRIAN: Well, thanks, Steve. And if you do end up coming back to the industry in some capacity and you're working for some place that needs to get accredited, uh, just know because of all the great lessons that I've learned from you, you'll get no special consideration and no deference paid whatsoever. So, thank you for all those great lessons.

00:41:59 STEVE: That's good to know. That's good to know, but I've been through that already. I won't be expecting any, but I will call and annoy you with picky questions that.

00:42:08 BRIAN: Of course, I would expect nothing less.

00:42:09 STEVE: And we'll and I'll try to take a lot. Of time doing it.

00:42:13 BRIAN: Yeah, really drag it out so I can't get anything accomplished that would be great. Well, thanks for being on the on the podcast also this was a lot of fun and it was, it was nice going down memory lane with you today.

00:42:25 STEVE: Well, thank you. And I you know, I hope that some of what we've said is helpful to people and I've made a lot of really. Good people. In the industry people I work with, people or customers and a lot of. So, I appreciate it.

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