Work your ethics. With special guest, Joel Colbert

 This post is in continuation of the interviews I’m conducting with project managers from a wide variety of industries and fields. See my first guest speaker post for a more detailed description.

In this post I had the pleasure if interviewing Joel Colbert, a driver for UPS but more than that, he and his wife Mandy are the parents of three boys and a girl and from a project manager’s standpoint, is there any greater project to manage than raising a family? I met with Joel in his backyard and we talked about some key team components that can be found in his family’s interaction and how those components relate to leadership and project management. Some of those components are work ethic, accountability and the goal oriented team. Let’s get into the interview.


Elton: “How does work ethic translate to interaction with your boys and your daughter? How does that work in your family dynamic?”

Joel: “That’s one of the main tenants me and my wife really push. That one’s work ethic really bleeds over into every other aspect of one’s life. Whether or not our kids know exactly what they’re going to be doing when they grow up, work ethic is the core of what they’re going use to apply to whatever it is that they do pick. That’s something we really push, strong work ethic, follow through, getting the job done.”

Elton: “How best do you show that to them?”

Joel: “Through modeling, staying on top of it myself. It’s what dad does and it’s what mom does. You can’t sleep on it, we really try and follow through with everything we do. They’re always watching, you don’t have to worry about that. I know that when we talk, when we say it, it’s in one ear out the other. But when they see it, that’s when it makes an impression. That’s my biggest tool, my biggest delivery system”


Elton: “Another thing we were talking about is accountability around the house. As a family and a team how does that come into play?”

Joel: “We really push the good roommate philosophy. That they’re not only a good roommate to us but to whomever they choose to live with down the road when they grow up. That’s accountability and follow though. You have to be able to trust people to do what you know they can do while you’re away.”


Elton: “How do you feel success relates to that work ethic you were talking about? As far as academics go and how you want them to grow as they become young men and a young lady?”

Joel: “They’re all different, some of them respond to the scholastic thing and some don’t. That’s never been a battle I want to have with them because I don’t feel that I can force that onto them. That’s something that me and my old man went back and forth on when I was young and he didn’t win, and I didn’t win. Neither one of us got anything good out of it. So, instead of swimming upstream, for me, I just want to give them to tools, a solid work ethic and try to play to their strengths. Give them the core tenants of what I think have made me able to make it, those fundamentals, then they can apply those to any field and scratch it out.”

INTEGRITYJoel & Elton Interview

Elton: Do you think that the strong work ethic we were talking about, that they can apply that to anything they want to do to succeed?”

Joel: “Sure, absolutely. Even if they are just using that to get through the jobs they don’t want to do. I try and show them that even if you don’t like the job, a hard worker still does a good job in a job he doesn’t like. They get sick of hearing it but that’s my biggest thing. I tell them it doesn’t matter if you like it or not, it’s about when no one’s looking and you hate the job and you still kick-ass at it. That’s when you’re going to prove yourself as a hard worker with a good work ethic.


Elton: “Another thing we were talking about is that you have a family goal not to remain here in this house, that there’s the possibility of a ranch or a farm. Can you tell me how the rest of the family has bought into that idea, or contributing to the success of that idea?

Joel: “Well, they are all on board. They all know that’s the fundamental goal to get some property somewhere and either it’s going to be running a few cows or maybe a little one acre sustainable deal for me and the wife to retire on. I try to always keep it on their minds, they see that I’m preparing for it by working with my friends cattle outfit, garnering experience now so that I’m not fifty years old still learning the ropes when the time comes. Everything contributes to it like building the house we’re in now up so that we can sell it, or rent it out. The kids see their contribution towards the upkeep so we’re all working with this (the house), and this ultimately equals that (the ranch).

Elton: “That’s a great way to put it, we do this, these are the results and we’re going to get that.”

Joel: “Exactly.”

Outside Expert’s Input: For this post, there is one expert’s input I would like to share. In How Does it Benefit the Team If the Team Leader Has Great Work Ethics? by Brian Hill says: “A team leader who consistently demonstrates great ethical standards of his own builds a more cohesive, harmonious organization with higher job satisfaction.” He then goes on to outline benefits that stem from that work ethic, a few are listed below along with how they pertain to Joel and his family.

  • Clarity: “The team members know exactly what they should do from an ethical standpoint in all situations they will encounter at work.” – It sure sounds like Joel’s family is working with a sense of unified clarity.
  • Improved Staff Morale: “Team members who do not adhere to the highest ethical standards when dealing with each other may cause conflict that results in lower morale among team members.” – Is Joel’s family always happy? Probably not but when they are unified as a team, I’m sure spirits are higher as is quality of life.
  • Organizational Pride: “The ethical standards exhibited by members of an organization become part of the company’s image in the marketplace.” – Does Joel’s family take pride in being a Colbert? If you asked each member I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Sharing in Success: “A team leader with great ethics generously shares the rewards of the company’s success with her team members.” – When that goal is realized and they do get to that ranch or farm will they all benefit? Absolutely!


It’s easy to forget that a lot of the same principles needed for leadership and project management you already grew up with learning from your own parents. And you are probably trying to instill in your own children now. So, it’s not a job title or an industry position that makes you a leader or a project manager, it’s about putting into practice the principles that make us quality human beings. It’s in how we interact with people on a day-to-day basis and how we handle those interactions. Work ethic, accountability, diversity, integrity and collective goals are just a few of the many qualities that make for an effective leader resulting in a productive team.

I want to thank Joel (who is also my brother) for his time and insight into how there are so many different ways we can be an effective leader in amazing teams, like Joel’s family.

Image Credit: Photo by author


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