These are some companies where my unique approach brought major improvement to morale, productivity, safety, and profitability. You don’t have to take my word for it – refer to “What Others Say”!
Working with a medium-sized plumbing and heating contractor, we identified inefficiencies in their dispatch function. The technicians working in the field were getting insufficient and/or inaccurate information from the dispatcher. As a result, they spent unnecessary time chasing tools and supplies they could have taken with them when they left the shop if they’d had good information at the outset. We corrected that.
More generally, I worked with the members of the group to help them see the value of more positive approaches to their relationships with each other. With that insight, they gradually became a more cohesive team, ready to move on to greater accomplishments.
After 4 years as Assistant Chief Pilot, preceded by 2 years as a line pilot, I was asked to take on the leadership, as Chief Pilot, of a group of pilots who were seriously demoralized. They felt they had no voice and were mere cogs in a machine, and their unenthusiastic performance reflected that. My boss and I began a program of personally visiting each of them (logistically challenging, since they were widely scattered geographically, and flew widely varying schedules). We listened to their concerns, updated their information on the company’s progress, and followed up with individual positive comments whenever we could find an excuse to.
Within a few months they began to understand that each of them was important to the performance of the company. With that mindset, they began to take their performance much more seriously – productivity, safety, and on-time delivery improved markedly. There was a palpable improvement in camaraderie and morale.
Another factor in helping these people feel more “loved” was my rigor in timely returning phone calls, emails, etc. When someone leaves a message, it’s hard to overemphasize the importance of recognizing it, or the folly in ignoring it. This is hugely important in helping people recognize that they matter as individuals!
A union-organizing effort simply disappeared. Who needs a union when you, as an individual, have direct access to your leaders, and they respond?
At VICO Indonesia, I was responsible for oversight and coordination of Drilling, Production, Pipeline, Field Engineering, and Field Geology Departments in our large gas and oil exploration and production operation. While I was there we were producing 1.3 – 1.5 BCFD (Billion Cubic Feet/Day) of gas (about 20% of Japan’s total supply) and 50,000 – 60,000 BPD (Barrels per Day) of petroleum liquids. We had 8 – 11 drilling and workover rigs operating to explore and continue development in our large concession area. These five departments included about 600 employees and thousands of contractors. In particular the Drilling and Production Departments (central to the operations), with culturally very different leaders, were often at odds with each other. By working with the Department Managers and their key people I succeeded in helping them see each others’ issues and understand the value of cooperating with each other. The result was much improved production, cost efficiency, and safety.
During the year prior to this assignment, I served as Vice President, Technical Services, where we developed the programs for the exploration and production operations described above. There, I reorganized the engineers and geologists into multidisciplinary teams, each team assigned to a field. This improved the communication among the disciplines and led to far better designs of our exploitation programs.
Here are a few examples of situations where I was able to improve morale and retain employees we might have otherwise lost, in the company I described above where I was Chief Pilot.
A few months into my Chief Pilot assignment, a several-year very satisfactory-performing pilot sends me a resignation letter – a total surprise to me. This pilot has been a reliable, mostly uncomplaining, competent performer and I think he’s an important asset to the company. I call him and ask what prompted his proposed resignation. He explains that he feels he was, in several instances, unjustly passed over for consideration of a base assignment he very much wants and that he has decided to pursue other business interests which will suit him better geographically. In my investigation of his allegation, two predecessors in the Chief Pilot position and this pilot relate a series of discussions which present a very clouded picture as to exactly what promises were made and what considerations applied in the decisions that were made.
I explain to him that I can’t judge the validity of the various claims (and we can’t undo anything anyway). Also I mention that I am very impressed with his performance and reliability, and ask what I could do that would make his continuing service a workable option for him. Tellingly, his response is, “Nobody ever talked that way to me or asked me that before. Let me think about it and get back to you.”
During the next few days, he and I discuss his situation and, although the assignment we currently have for him is less than totally satisfactory to him, he agrees to continue based on my assurance that I will respectfully consider any concerns he has, and that he is an important and respected member of our team.
In the ensuing years, we have one circumstance where he interprets that the base assignment he wants should be given him. His interpretation of that is, in my assessment, incorrect and respectfully I explain to him why we can’t displace a pilot for his benefit. He accepts that and, a few months later, accepts an assignment to replace a departed pilot in another location which suits him very well. He continues as a productive, dedicated, and happy member of the Wiggins team.
Without this careful attention to respecting an employee’s legitimate concerns, the company would have lost a very valuable asset.
We hire a pilot with quite varied experience, but none in the aircraft types we operate. During his initial training he seems very slow to gain facility in the aircraft we operate. When I call for a conference with him and the instructor he’s working with (they both report that they are compatible personalities, but the instructor reports considerable frustration with the slow progress) the new pilot states very confidently that he learns slowly but thoroughly. Could we be patient and allow him a few more hours to get “up to speed”?
During his initial ground school, which I had conducted, I gained an appreciation for this gentleman’s sincerity and professionalism. I decide, despite some resistance from Company management, that we should continue with his flight training. We do, and he becomes an invaluable team member who bails us out of many “sticky” situations with last minute sick calls, maintenance rescue missions to inconvenient places at inconvenient times, and the like. His pilot performance is impeccable. When he is called to do something, he invariably shows up with a smile and quietly does whatever needs to be done. After a couple of years, he qualifies on a second aircraft type and, with that, becomes even more valuable. He becomes a top-performing team member we could have lost had we insisted on qualification in some arbitrary training time.