Raising the level of your leadership

Who's Number One?

My first encounter with Lloyd Shoppa was coaching 5th and 6th grade boys in basketball. My team was the Red Raiders. I don’t remember the name of his team, but I do remember they wore black uniforms and beat our brains out. He was a good coach. He was also a good production control director at Bell Helicopter where we both worked.

My second encounter with Lloyd came soon after I escaped the engineering bullpen and was promoted (my first promotion) to project engineer on the Advanced Attack Helicopter project team. I thought I was now special, and for sure our project was special , because the company president had anointed it as the company’s highest priority. To make sure everyone knew, we printed AAH #1 stickers and put them everywhere; not a popular move with all the other project teams.

It takes about three zillion parts to make a helicopter. Making sure each part is available when needed is a huge and critical task because a shortage can shut down a production line. Not cool. One of my tasks was to attend the daily all-projects part shortage meeting — chaired by Lloyd Shoppa. All the part shortages on all the different projects were discussed. For reasons I cannot now remember, I was not satisfied with the priority being given to the AAH shortages and felt obligated to remind everyone that according to our company president, the AAH was #1. My little speech was about as popular as the stickers.

Lloyd looked directly at me and said, “Dick, in this room, everything is #1.” In that one simple statement, Lloyd sent a message to everyone in the room, especially to me. He brought me down a bit, and lifted everyone else a bit. Something I needed, and something they needed.

That was about thirty-five years ago, but it was a lesson I have never forgotten. Rankings may be fine for college football, but when it comes to people, customers, project teams, etc., a high level leader is going to make everyone feel like they are #1. If you expect #1 level commitment and performance, don’t ever make people feel like they are #2.

So, who’s #1? Everyone!

(By the way, Lloyd finished his long successful career at Bell as the company president.)

7 responses to “Who's Number One?”

  1. Roger Conner says:

    Hi Dick,

    I liked your blog and appreciate being on your email list. Keep it up!


  2. Mike Brennan says:

    It’s amazing how many times I’ve been put into situations where staff have never been listened to and only been told what to do and things are not going well. Almost always those same staff have been able to tell me what to do to make the situation better. Making them feel like they are part of the solution (making them feel like they’re #1) has always helped. In some cases, those same staff were part of the problem. By making them feel better, they became part of the solution.

  3. Tim R says:

    A dose of humility once in a while is a necessary and healthy thing. Our softball team got one last night. Fortunately for us, we have an opportunity tonight to get the taste out of our mouth. It will be interesting to see what lessons were learned.

  4. Scott Layden says:

    Right on the money. It’s so easy to fall into the “this is a primary person” and “this is a secondary person” when one has a tight timeframe pressures and dealing with people, especially “lower ranking” employees.
    It’s never good to let that even slip into one’s thoughts.

  5. Matt Austin says:

    It’s hard to get to a point where people don’t think their area of responsibility is #1. Good reminder, Dick.

  6. Seth Davis says:

    Dick, this reminds me of Southwest Airlines internal HR Mantra that their customers are always first. They go on to define their customers as each of the valued employees that makes up their team. Hmm, I wonder if that kind of investment in employees is what makes their customer service second to none. Now, if we could just get them to stop singing upon take off and landing. The blog content is great! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Shelia says:

    Dick, it was good seeing you tonight. I like the blog. I suppose our interactions have always been live and in person. I never knew you could write. 🙂 Nicely done.

    This one is my favorite thus far. It is a rare leader who can make each individual on the team feel like they matter and are absolutely critical to the mission. And even more rare is the leader who can create an atmosphere where all rejoice at the success of a fellow. But these are goals all should pursue.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights.

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