Meet: Garry Ridge
Growing up, Garry Ridge, the current CEO of WD-40 Company, was surrounded by Trusted Adults. From his mom to Mrs. Peel, the neighbor down the street, each of the adults in Garry’s life who became trusted offered opportunities for him to learn, contribute, and grow as an individual, and as a member of a community. The sense of contribution that came from each opportunity stayed with Garry, influencing his own leadership style at WD-40 Company.
As a young person, Garry interacted with adults as he worked on a milk truck, in a hardware store, on his newspaper route and within the school environment. The adults in his life gave him opportunities to learn or opportunities to have a learning moment as he says. And through each learning moment, his trust grew because he knew that he was contributing to something greater than himself — that he had something to offer, to bring to the table, to contribute. Garry believes that trust between a young person and an adult can be fostered when young people are provided with opportunities to have learning moments.
The adults in Garry’s life gave him chances. One of those chances still resonates with Garry today. On his paper route, when he hand delivered the newspaper to Mrs. Peel, a neighbor down the street, she helped him understand that the newspaper was her connection to the outside world, and that he had the chance to directly impact her life in a far greater way than by just delivering the news of the day. The feeling of being of service, and having a purpose outside of himself, has stayed with Garry, influencing both his personal and professional life, and how he navigates the world and interacts with people around him. Garry continues to invest in his own growth by asking himself daily, “did I do my best to….? Did I bring my effort, did I live out my why?”
Garry incorporates his experiences as a young person within the many roles he has taken on over the 20 years he has been with WD-40 Company. He understands that every person has a need to feel needed, to have a just cause, to feel a sense of belonging, which Garry believes is often missing within the business world. Among the ways in which he ensures the people at WD-40 Company feel a sense of belonging is by calling them a tribe. The people in leadership positions are called coaches as opposed to managers. All of this helps to communicate that each person is part of a greater good, that they have something to contribute, to bring to the table, that they belong.
Garry wants every employee to see their places of work not simply as a means to make a living but instead as a space to which they belong. Garry’s unique definition of success, his way of living and his approach to leading, are all the product of Mrs. Peel on the newspaper route, Mr. Lambert at the hardware store, and other trusted adults who gave him a chance, expected him to be great, and took the time to get to know him. Now he pays that back by striving to be the “Mrs. Peel” for all those he encounters.