I am excited to bring you the second story in our “Leaders Who Inspire Us” series. In these candid one-on-one interviews, we will feature senior leaders who have had a lasting impact on their teams and their organizations. We will share stories that are about more than doing a job or building a career. They are about fulfilling a personal mission to drive change.
Today, we’re sharing Scott Ray’s story. Scott is the Senior Vice President of Operations at FedEx Ground. His journey started almost three decades ago when he joined the organization as a package handler. What followed is a remarkable and storied career about finding purpose, building a shared vision for the future, and creating an environment where everyone plays a role in the success of the organization. We hope that sharing Scott’s words of wisdom will inspire you to think about your purpose and where you can have the greatest impact. Enjoy! —Ed.
As a college student, Ohio native Scott Ray was a Finance major who wanted to be a stock broker—but the idea of sitting behind a desk all day didn’t appeal to him. “I’ve always had a competitive nature and loved physical activity,” Scott said with a smile.
During college, he started a part-time job with FedEx Ground as a package handler to help pay the bills. He genuinely enjoyed the job and took his responsibilities seriously. His hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed. Early in his tenure, he was asked to take on a supervisory role. He didn’t hesitate to take on more responsibility and recalls thinking: “If I can try to make the environment better for those around me, then yes!”
Scott reflects back on his early days with FedEx Ground with appreciation and gratitude. He had the opportunity to move to different states, experience new cultures, and take on new assignments, including opening a new hub in Champaign, IL, where thousands of packages are sorted on a daily basis. As the Champaign hub senior manager, he successfully recruited and hired 400 people from frontline personnel to administrators. This was no small feat for a young manager just starting out. Looking back, it’s apparent that he is most proud of the work that he did to create a service-oriented culture of mutual respect and shared commitment—by building one relationship at a time.
Scott discovered early on that he could learn from observing the leaders around him—and that with each added responsibility, he was getting a bigger platform to make a difference. Since starting out, he has assumed several different roles and has continued to add leadership responsibilities to his plate. In talking with him, it is apparent that he has used each new opportunity for self-learning, reflection, and personal growth. Currently, he oversees 60,000 people in operations throughout the entire country and Canada.
Paying It Forward
“I have been given an opportunity to make a difference that others don’t often get—and I don’t want to waste it,” says Scott. Over time, Scott has gotten really clear on his own value system—and his purpose as a leader. A few themes have emerged, which have helped shape his legacy. For one, he has an unwavering commitment to creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued. He also believes that each individual, regardless of their role, should be given the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the business. This includes ensuring that employees holding operational positions are involved in the business strategy.
“Build a team around you that understands the vision; keep yourself grounded; you are here to help your team be successful,” he says.
Scott is a relentless advocate for developing the high-potential men and women at FedEx Ground. He serves as a mentor to many with a particular focus on enhancing business acumen and increasing their visibility through strategic projects and mission-critical roles. He advocates for the creation of grassroots women’s development and networking groups throughout the company. He also travels to local events and speaks on the importance of advancing women leaders and including men as partners in the process.
“As a leader, your greatest responsibility is to understand that people are always learning from you and watching you,” says Scott. “You can either provide a great experience or not. We can do a lot on our own, but when we are a part of a larger system, we have the opportunity to create a meaningful vision for the future—and to make our team feel valued in the process.”
To get there, think about your own purpose, here and now—and realize that it may change over time. Create an environment that motivates your team to give your customers an unforgettable experience. Value the diverse opinions around you. Have open dialogue and candid conversations about how the mission and vision of the organization impacts each individual on your team and help them establish a clear purpose. Purpose will ultimately help you lead your team to a successful and fulfilling future.
It’s clear that Scott has found and is fulfilling his purpose. He has made it his mission to create success for others wherever he can—and there is no doubt that he is leveraging his platform to make a difference—one leader at a time.