Barbara Tulipane | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Barbara Tulipane

Background:  

The National Recreation and Park Association is a leading organization dedicated to public parks, recreation and conservation.

The Mistake:

One of my first jobs, after I had kids, I worked for a very oppressive military association. They were very stuffy and if I was late, I would have to stand up in front of my entire department and apologize. It was a very humiliating experience.

The whole atmosphere of that organization was about rules and I vowed to myself that if I had the opportunity to head an organization, I would create a culture where people wanted to work.

 

I realized you're only half of the equation and the employees themselves are the other half. 

 

The Lesson:

My first CEO job I thought I could make everybody happy if I put a nice environment together. And that was a little naïve.

I realized you're only half of the equation and the employees themselves are the other half. I thought if I just put an environment together, one all about results and less about rules, that everything would fall into place. I thought, "All I need to do is create this great environment and I would have these really driven, results-oriented people." But that didn’t turn out to be the case.

However, what I have at NRPA is ideal. There really is no hierarchy, we have a very horizontal organization. It's very family oriented, you can bring your kid in, your dog in or your cat in. Whatever you need to do in order to make work, work for you.