Who is John Stevens?
What sets me apart from other business copywriters in discussing teamwork?
45 years in the petroleum, aviation, real estate,and coaching industries! My teams and I’ve seen, agonized over, and corrected the kinds of messes you find daily as a coach. Together with the teams I’ve worked with, we’ve improved teamwork, morale, productivity, safety, and profitability. We focused on building teams to bring competent people together to address a common objective.
For several years I was a coach myself, helping small business owners improve the efficiency of their operations. Together we worked to clearly communicate their mission to their employees and clients. Then we encouraged the employees to think about how their work relates to the company’s mission. Just like a good team of horses, when everyone pulls in the same direction, good things happen!
Throughout this career, I’ve written often about my observations and experiences. Much of my writing is here.
Teamwork in Indonesia
VICO Indonesia was a major independent gas and oil exploration and production company in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. I served as V. P., Technical Services there in 1990-91. We reorganized the technical groups into multi-disciplinary teams. These teams designed the exploitation of the company’s gas fields. Enhanced communication among the engineers and geologists resulted in improved efficiency in developing these complex fields.
Later, the Drilling, Production, Pipeline, and Engineering Departments came under my responsibility as Operations Manager. These departments handled the physical operation of these same fields. They included over 600 employees and hundreds of contract personnel.
It was a challenging assignment, to say the least. The experience is perhaps best related in a side story to this phase of my career.
Discovery for me!
Early in this assignment, I realized that my two largest departments were not working well with each other. The Drilling manager was a late-in-career, gruff, tough-talking Texan. The Production manager was a bright young Indonesian. So it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see the breakdown here. These two guys, naturally, were “on different sheets of music”. I looked at how work flowed, and realized that their mutual cooperation was vital for efficient operation. It wasn’t happening.
So what to do about it?
I invited the two managers to my office one afternoon. I explained to them that, in the Company’s sole purpose of putting gas in the pipeline:
- Each department is vitally important to the operation.
- Neither is more important than the other, and
- They must cooperate with each other and work as a team.
“We’re going to make that cooperation happen – understand?” was my mandate to them.
Those two managers and I worked with key people in their departments. We helped each group see the other’s issues. I coached them on communication and cooperation. Gradually things began to improve.
I woke up one morning a few months later and had an epiphany. I said to myself, “Wow! This is where I belong in the business world – helping teams act like teams.
Wiggins Airways is a small-aircraft “feeder” support contractor for major air freight companies. I was Chief Pilot for Wiggins for 2-1/2 years. Starting out, I was faced with a low-morale group of 55 pilots with a dismal performance record.
What’s a Manager to do?
How were we to build a team from this motley crew? Thinking this over, it came to me that, individually, most of these pilots were very capable. Since I’d flown with most of them as Check Airman, I had a good feel for this..
What was the common factor that caused their dejected attitude and poor performance? It seemed it had to be something in their work environment. The pilots flew from different bases to different destinations, so they didn’t interact a lot. It seemed the common factor had to be related to management.
I’d worked under that same management as line pilot and Assistant Chief Pilot for several years. As Assistant Chief Pilot, I’d probably had a little better communication with management than many of them. Nevertheless I knew the management they had to work with.
So now I’m management. What must we do differently to effect a change in the pilots’ attitudes and performance? I decided communication was likely the answer. I’d noted in other situations that communication is key to teamwork.
Well, it worked! I made a point of answering calls and emails promptly. I’d find reasons to send a complimentary message to somebody every day or two. We met with them Individually and in small groups. We talked with them about thinking of the successful completion of each mission, instead of “trying not to make mistakes”. Over time the pilots began to see that, through me, they had a voice. They mattered – something they hadn’t felt before.
Gradually they became a top-performing enthusiastic team. A union movement disappeared as a result of the morale improvement. The on-time performance and safety record of the pilot team improved greatly as communication and teamwork reigned.
Teams = More than the Sum of the Individuals
Most organizations lose much energy and resources from people working at cross purposes. I noticed this early in my career and began to do whatever I could to promote teamwork. This effort was somewhat subconscious in the beginning.
Since the Indonesian experience I described, enhancing teamwork has become almost an obsession. All of my recent work has been dedicated to practicing and studying leadership and teamwork. Now I’m inseparably linked with the business coaching industry.
Often I’ve written about my observations of human behavior. How people can improve their results in life and business is a fascinating topic for me. Check out some of my articles here. I publish a weekly newsletter on similar topics. To receive it, you can sign up here.
I’ve held various management positions spanning the aviation, oil and gas, and real estate industries. My focus has always been to bring people together in coordinated efforts. When this works, the team performance becomes greater than the sum of the individuals’ contributions.
Put this Experience to Work for You!
With this background, I’m ready to do your promotional copywriting. I understand the problems you face, and the work you do to help your clients improve their businesses. I’m passionate about improving relationships, teamwork and leadership in business.
So call me to discuss your writing project. Maybe it’s an e-newsletter (I specialize in writing those), white paper, case study, or blog. It could even be a book, which I’ll ghost-write for you. There will be no charge or obligation while you and I discuss your plans and see if it’s a good fit for us to work together. You won’t pay me a dime until you hire me to write something for you.
People are my Passion
In my personal pursuits, I enjoy people, golf, sports car racing, physical exercise, and pool. Of these, people are the most important part of each area of interest. Whom I play golf with is much more important to me than how well I play, or who wins, Winning is great, but it’s not what makes the experience. The social aspect of the game is much more important to me.
I remember thinking early in my career, “People are so difficult! Machines are much more predictable. Turn ’em on, turn ’em off, they mostly do what you tell them to do. I’d really rather not deal with people”. Now, 50 years later, people are the most important and enjoyable aspect of my life, and my work.