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Boeing Frontiers
March 2004
Volume 02, Issue 10
Boeing Frontiers
Commercial Airplanes

Lessons to remember

Conductor, ship commander help teach leadership in Everett


Lessons to rememberTarun Hazari and Wayne Berta don't command ships, but they're learning leadership techniques from Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff, former commander of the USS Benfold, a guided missile destroyer.

And while they've never played with a symphony, they are learning that everyone's participation is essential to make their organization a success. The person who taught them that lesson: Ben Zander, the world-renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

Hazari and Berta, engineering managers who work at the Boeing site in Everett, Wash., are two of about 600 managers who completed "Leading From Where You Are," a series of workshops offering ideas and tools to improve their leadership abilities.

"The tips and techniques they are learning are applicable whether you're leading a ship of sailors or conducting a symphony orchestra," said Cary Politte, a project sponsor.

The workshops were started on the 747 program in late 2001 as a tool to help managers become better communicators. When the three Everett-based airplane programs—747, 767 and 777—were combined under one management team, the workshops were expanded to include managers from all three programs as well as site and functional organizations.

A leadership syllabus

Hundreds of managers at the Boeing site in Everett, Wash., are taking advantage of a series of leadership workshops that provide ideas and information on how to lead from where you are. The agenda for the most recent series included the following topics.

Leadership: An Art of Possibility. Ben Zander, world-renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, shows how it takes everyone's participation to make an organization a success.

It’s Your Ship. Former Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff, author of the book "It’s Your Ship," discusses how he learned he had to change his leadership skills before he could improve his ship.

Awakening Greatness. Attendees work in groups to explore how they can leverage successful interactions with their teams to create a more productive work environment.

Leading in Adversity. Rob McKenna, a Seattle Pacific University professor, explores the tension leaders feel as they try to connect with their teams and peers in difficult times. His discussion is based on research done for the Waypoint Project, a study of the careers of 120 Boeing leaders over a decade.

"We mix up the participants so they meet each other and begin to develop relationships," Politte said. "With thousands of employees in Everett it is sometimes difficult to get to know each other, but we realize it is essential that our leaders develop relationships."

The workshops give participants the chance to "discuss real issues," Politte said. "We know that we don't communicate as well as we should, and that we tend to gloss over the issues. By pulling the managers together, we allow them to network and to start discussions.

"The managers tell us they struggle with credibility with their crews, so we provide them with information and tools that they need to be aware of when they manage and lead. They hear directly from our senior executives, who share our strategy and focus, and then answer any questions they may have," he said.

Berta, who leads a team of 17 employees in 747, 767 and 777 systems engineering, has taken advantage of six of the seven workshops.

"The experiences I take away from the workshops are worthwhile," he said. "While I can't say I enjoyed one more than another, what I can say when I walk away is, 'Did I get a nugget, a takeaway?' If I answer 'yes,' then it was good use of my time. Fortunately, I've found a nugget every time."

In September Berta began leading a new team that supports all three twin-aisle programs. Since only five of his original team's members are on his new team, it was a good opportunity to renew his commitment to put what he learns into practice.

"Now, I ask my team members regularly, 'What can I do to help you?' When I told my son, who recently graduated from college, that I do this, he looked at me like I was an alien life form. But I really believe this is why I am here and this is my purpose."

Hazari has applied the skills he's learned both at work and at home. As an assistant coach of his 10-year-old son's Little League team, he taught the boys how to visualize success and believe in themselves—a topic he learned in the workshops.

"I told them, 'Visualize the pitcher throwing a softie,'" he said. The boys who caught on first found success. Those who didn't get it right away saw how the others benefited and quickly got on board. The result was a winning team and, more importantly, a team that believed in itself.

Hazari said he takes elements from the different workshops and shares with his team. Berta said he shares ideas with team members individually and tries to emulate what he learns.

The bottom line is that the workshops work for them, and they are glad they are given this opportunity.

"Our message is we are committed to leadership," Politte said. "We often assume that someone else will step up to the leadership challenge. We tell them, 'What if we are the ones we have been waiting for?'"


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