Some of life’s best lessons emerge daily and seldom appear in textbooks. Look around, read the news, watch TV, and get online. They say “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!” Well, in this country, that can happen every day. Simply be ready.
Let me give you an example I found in today’s paper. The headline read: “Ford likely to show $8 billion annual profit — its biggest in a decade.”
That was the headline, but the lesson lies in the back-story and a little time on Google. The effort is certainly worth the small investment of your time as it can impact you and your organization in a very substantial way.
Let’s recognize a few facts here that make that headline REAL news.
- Ford Motor Company LOST $30 billion from 2006 to 2008!
- Less than two years ago, Ford was burning through several billion dollars of cash per quarter!
- Crosstown rivals, GM and Chrysler, went bankrupt during the Auto Industry crisis of 2008-2009. Ford was the only one of the Detroit Big Three that did not ask for a government loan!
- While GM and Chrysler expect to be dramatically downsized as a result of bankruptcy, Ford is poised to emerge as the largest U.S. automaker and shows signs of a remarkable recovery.
This sounds like a fairy tale which defies all conventional wisdom. How and why did it happen and how can YOU benefit from learning the answers to these questions. It’s actually very simple and basic. One might even say it’s common sense if not for the fact that common sense isn’t very common in today’s chaotic business environment.
Here’s how it happened.
In 2006, William Clay Ford stepped down from his responsibilities as President and CEO of Ford Motor Company. That must have been a very difficult decision for the great-grandson of the company’s founder Henry Ford.
William Clay Ford remained as Executive Chairman of the Board but named Alan Mulally to take on the leadership roles as President and CEO.
Mulally arrived in Detroit after serving several leadership roles at Boeing during his illustrious 37-year career, culminating with his role of President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Many people questioned the wisdom of bringing an “airplane guy” into the automotive world. He was asked how he was going to handle something as complex and unfamiliar as the auto business. He quickly replied: “An automobile has about 10,000 moving parts, right? An airplane has two million and it has to stay up in the air!”
Since his arrival in the Motor City, many astute observers have declared that Mulally’s success has had little or nothing to do with his knowledge of airplanes or cars but rather his unusual knowledge, respect and focus on people.
Granted, education and experience played key roles in the many crucial decisions he made in leading Ford out of a disastrous circumstance. They are all documented in great detail and will be religiously studied for decades in leadership and management annals worldwide.
However, probably overlooked, but just as critical to his success, has been his ability to inspire, lead, and communicate with people at every level of the business world.
Study his interactions with:
- Ford’s Board and leadership team.
- The United Auto Workers.
- Supervisors at every level.
- Front-line employees.
- Government officials.
- Current and future customers.
Allan Mulally is truly gifted with people skills which have turned around one of the largest organizations in the world while impacting a global industry, hundreds of thousands of employees and customers worldwide as well as a vast number of major cities around the globe.
Think about that as you strive to enhance your leadership skills to obtain future success for your organization as well as yourself. Focus on critical people skills as you train your future leaders. It’s quite evident that many organizations could benefit greatly from the valuable lessons learned at Ford. Have you?