Do You Know and LIKE Your People?
Updated: Nov 6, 2018
I visited the director of a mid-sized aerospace company recently. His group has over 200 employees and performs major maintenance, repair and overhaul on C-130s and helicopters.
I wanted to meet him and discuss the possibility of collaborating on some projects. He has only had the job two years and was a career Marine, so I expected a rough, gruff, order-barking guy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Unlike the guy before him, he is straight forward, but friendly. One of my friends was just hired there and he says the employees all talk about people smiling and laughing on the job for the first time in years. The line workers seem to really like him which is a big change for this operation. Absenteeism is way down and productivity is way up. When he first came aboard he personally reviewed each contract and renegotiated several of them that seemed unfair to his company. (These were put in place by the manager before him and were poorly written). He also personally reviewed every employee’s personnel jacket (record) and called them in to discuss the pay, what he expected from them and to ask what they needed from him. I’m also told this guy shows no favoritism among the staff or workers. Everybody gets a fair shake.
I enjoyed talking with him. His polite straightforwardness was refreshing. And we may do some work together later this year. But it was a couple of little things that really impressed me.
His office is not very large, doesn’t have a breath-taking view and is located above a hangar floor. It takes a good five minutes to walk there from the visitors’ parking spots in front of the building. This is a controlled area and most execs would simply have sent their secretary out to meet me and escort me to his office. But this fellow personally fetched me! He walked all the way from his office, met me at the car and escorted me all the way back in. (I remember a television journalist saying how impressed he was that King Hussein of Jordon walked him to his car after an interview in Amman and when thanked, the King explained “this is just common manners - - - I do this for visitors all the time.”
But even this was not the most impressive thing I saw that day. From the parking lot to his office and then back along that same route an hour later we probably passed a dozen people and without exception he called each by their first name and asked them something personal:
“ Sarah, how’s your son doing? Is he out of the hospital yet?
"Jane, I hear you are leaving us? Are you taking a better job with more money for your family? (Yes I am) Well then that is ok and let me know if there is anything I can do to make your transition easier."
"Bobby, how are you doing? Did your guys find that tool they were looking for?"
I suspect this fellow knows the first name of everybody who works there and that is impressive. Not just that he can memorize them but that he does. This is old-school leadership behavior and the people who work there will never forget it.
Do you know the first names of all the people who work for you and your colleagues, and their family situations? Why not?