Some thoughts on leadership

A colleague was writing a presentation on staff morale, and asked for some thoughts.  Here they are:

“Management By Walking Around (MBWA)”
When I’ve been a team lead, I made it my business to find out about the people I lead.  Why?  Because it makes darn good business sense to show interest in the staff you lead.
It demonstrates to your staff that you care about them, which is your responsibility as a leader.
It builds up an “emotional deposit”
My staff knew I would back them when required.

Q: How did you maintain the support of Continental employees when you had to lay off workers after 9/11?
“We were the only carrier that didn’t use (emergency contract clauses) to not pay the severance pay. (Mistreating) your employees is not the answer. When we laid people off, we treated them very fairly. Our people actually like coming to work.

How do you do that? Trust and confidence. Never lie. Even after 9/11, while we were the first to stand up and say we’ve got to cut employees, we didn’t treat them like children either. They understand it, but you’ve got to treat them fairly. I used to be an (Navy) airplane mechanic. Do you know how much faster I could fix an airplane if I wanted to fix it?

The Navy sometimes would have officers, just like we have executives today, who think, “Well, I’m a bigshot, so you do what I tell you and you’re nobody.”

The next time the airplane’s broke, and the guy says, “—– it Bethune, is that airplane ready?” And I’d say, “You know, sir, we (fixed) the wires, we changed the brakes, we changed the starter. But every time we engage it, the breakers pop. I’ll call you when it’s ready.” And I let (it) sit there for three hours.

At $30 a hour, times the three extra hours I let it sit there, it cost $90. Or if I want to fix this airplane for you, I could do it for $15.”
– Gordon Bethune, (former) CEO Continental Airlines

“Catch People Doing Something Right”
While the downside of what I would suggest is “all shall have prizes”:

  • there should be a monthly % of staff quota for Reward & Recognition.
  • the R&R should be tiered, ie. where an employee receives more than more one reward in a year, the 2nd/3rd/4th award should be higher than the 1st.
    otherwise it becomes devalued.
  • As part of keeping workers in the loop, announce these awards to all staff.  <A particular manager> used to do this when they led our division.

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