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eBay CEO Shares Lessons from His First Job as a Teamster

eBay CEO John Donahoe is continuing his monthly essays on the LinkedIn business social-networking site. Again, he chose to talk about something personal – this time, his first job after high school working for his friend’s father’s beer distribution company.

Donahoe spent the summer before college as a Teamster, helping the company’s truck drivers unload the beer. The job taught him two great leadership lessons, he said.

The first lesson was getting along with many different types of people. “Today, when I meet people, I routinely ask: “What is this person’s good qualities and what can I learn?” That helps him create “followership,” he said.

The second lesson was the value of trust. He recounted an instance in which a driver took responsibility for a mistake he (Donahoe) had made (accidentally slamming a truck into the doorway of the warehouse).

He has spent much of his life exploring leadership, he wrote in a previous post, “trying to be the best leader I can be… while also trying to be the best person I can be. And for me, the challenges of being a good leader and leading a full life are deeply intertwined.”

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In other essays, Donahoe revealed that he takes time away from daily work for undisturbed days of thinking, and in another, he opened up about his marriage, offering advice and talking about family obligations.

In Tuesday’s essay, many of the readers who commented on the post hailed a concept Donahoe advocated, that of presumed trust.

“People think you have to earn trust, but that mindset reduces team effectiveness,” Donahoe wrote. “Instead, why not presume trust until someone does something untrustworthy? In doing so, you approach colleagues with the understanding that we are all on the same team. Presuming trust communicates support, motivates everyone and ultimately makes everyone more successful. This practice can be scaled. It works one on one, with a team, and across an organization. I believe this is how you build a strong team, and it’s a lesson I first learned from Harry that summer on the beer truck.”

You can find the essay on LinkedIn and can find all of his posts on this LinkedIn page.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.