By Matt Reese
We all have recent experience with “hard.” It’s doubtful 2020 was anyone’s favorite year, and for many of us it was very difficult. So where do people turn when life is hard and they need a listening ear, or help working out of a difficult situation, or a new way to look at a problem?
These were the questions that Kalmbach Feeds was asking on behalf of their team members in 2017. Fortunately, a great solution presented itself. Kalmbach welcomed Bob Belohlavek to their team as a “life coach” available to all of the company’s 700+ employees. Better known as “Coach Belo,” Belohlavek has spent his entire life dedicated to helping people. Since 2017, he has worked one-on-one with hundreds of Kalmbach team members on dozens of different topics and issues. Any issue that is important to that person is important to Coach Belo. Kalmbach understood the difficulty of trying to discuss tough situations, especially personal ones, with a boss or co-worker. However, everyone at some point in their life, needs somebody they can trust who truly cares about them. This is where Coach Belo comes in.
“One individual was having an increasingly difficult time with anger. He had been angry since he was a young man. We were able to create a way of conversation that he totally understood. He felt safe. He developed a word picture to deal with his anger. I could see it in his face in one particular session. He said, ‘I get it.’ He could finally see what was going on at the deepest level,” Belohlavek said. “His face lit up like a light bulb. He mapped out how he would choose to correct himself when triggered in the future. This was not only influencing him at work but also in his family. His face went to total peace and calm.”
Belohlavek’s work has not only made a difference in the lives of individuals, but also in the culture at Kalmbach Feeds.
“Coach Belo has provided a service to our team members enabling them to have a resource to seek guidance in a safe, unbiased atmosphere, encouraging a culture of growth and stability,” said Jeff Siefker, Director of Human Resources for Kalmbach Feeds. “Coach Belo brings a faith-based approach that resonates with many at Kalmbach Feeds. He has helped many as they deal with mental health challenges, work through difficult decisions or relationship struggles, and many other challenges. His work is important to our business because it helps our team members. It creates a wonderful cycle. When people are doing well at work, they are more successful at home, and when they are doing well at home, they do better at work — it’s an upward spiral of success.”
Every new hire at Kalmbach has an orientation with the opportunity to fill out a body, mind, and spirit assessment tool. If the team member wishes, Coach Belo processes and summarizes those results and discusses the findings in an initial phone call after they are hired.
“I am actually paid to love people and care for people. It is why I am here and what I do. They wanted someone who would do life coaching and who would help in the work and non-work dimension of a person’s life. That was important corporately. Now we work in the areas of body, mind and spirit. I cover all three of those categories. I am here for any team member who would wish to speak with me, at any time of day or night, about any personal or professional topic they would wish. When the invitation from a team member takes place, I set up a time to meet and then have multiple conversations to help them get to a preferred outcome from our time together. It is 100% voluntary on the part of every person,” he said. “Very quickly, people find through that phone call that they feel safe and that I’m listening and that anything they say is confidential. They feel secure. By design, I am not an employee of Kalmbach. I do not technically represent the company or the team member. That builds in elevated security and confidence in my confidentiality. Not only for personal topics that I cover, but I also talk with people a lot about professional struggles. I do not report about anyone to anyone.”
Even Belohlavek has been surprised how quickly people open up.
“I have been stunned and shocked at the speed at which people feel a trust to open up with me, even during the first session. Before our first meeting, I have no idea why the person has come to talk to me. I don’t know what they are looking for, or what their expectation is. Frankly, I have never experienced a greater speed of trust from people who want to go to the deepest of struggles, frustrations and life burdens they have encountered,” he said. “I have documented 38 distinct categories I have addressed here since 2017. I continue to be amazed at how deeply people want to talk and how transparent they are willing to be. I am also stunned by the substantive change of life that they have chosen to make in many cases, with stuff the individual has struggled with their entire life. They have found freedom, change, and hope. They have translated confusion and chaos into peace, a changed mindset, a calming of emotions, and a radical change in behavior. I have never experienced this in any other setting that I have ever worked in. People have all kinds of struggles in the spiritual, unseen part of life. There is a lot in life that is difficult to understand. People do not know who to talk to about these things. I have literally had individuals reveal things to me that they have told to no other human being prior to this opportunity at Kalmbach.”
Beyond serving as a life coach, Belohlavek also serves as a mentor.
“Many of the team members are younger and, with the ongoing deterioration of families, many children simply are not getting what they need to prepare themselves for life in practical ways,” Belohlavek said. “I walk around the plants and talk with individuals. People see my presence. I pursue people. I write them personal notes for birthdays or if someone loses a loved one. I am more than just a life coach. They need somebody who cares for them.”
A key component of the success taking place at Kalmbach is the corporate openness to matters of faith.
“This would not happen without the top level of executive leadership to believe in this, approve it and permit it. The faith part of this is core and foundational. I do not represent any faith-specific flavor of Christianity,” Belohlavek said. “We don’t push or press faith, but we allow for its expression to be pertinent, present and an important part of working with one another. It is a beautiful balance and practical blend that makes all the difference in the world.”