February 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 9 
Cover Story

'This is what leadership is all about'

A team leader talks about his experience

Greg CottonGreg Cotton joined Boeing in 1979 as a utility worker. But for the past eight-plus years, he's been a High Performance Work Organization team leader and facilitator in St. Louis. Cotton shared with Boeing Frontiers his experiences in this role and what it's meant for his career, the teams he's worked on and the company.

Q: What process did you go through to become a team leader?

A: Team leaders are selected by the team members. The group first asks for volunteers to take the team leader role, and then the group decides who the team leader will be. There must be a consensus among all team members on who the leader will be. Once the teams choose their leaders, team leaders go through 28 hours of training to learn how to perform the role. [Employees in HPWOs get] 16 hours of basic team-member training, so the training team leaders get is in addition to that.

Q: What have you learned since you began the team leader role?

A: I've learned that I have the ability to impact the bottom line. I've learned to put agendas together, how to interact effectively with other team members, how to coach people, and how to get to the root causes of problems or issues in a group. By helping facilitate other HPWO teams, I've seen them begin to understand the business and how their improvements can lead to things like Atlas, Shingo and Baldrige awards. The teams form, storm and perform. It's powerful, and it's amazing to see the transition as other employees demonstrate abilities beyond drilling holes and other such duties.

Q: What kinds of things does your team focus on?

A: Facilitators' full-time jobs are to facilitate HPWO teams, ensuring they're able to meet their goals, by coaching team members and managing conflict. Our team of facilitators also meets to discuss our goals as a group. We focus on and measure team participation and deployment, employee satisfaction and costs. We also deliver training: We train the union population, management and other levels of leadership.

Q: Has the team leader role changed the way you view your career at Boeing?

A: Yes. I've seen an evolution-a growth process-in what I've been doing over the past eight years. I began my career as a utility worker, cleaning and sweeping, and I didn't have much interaction with other people. But I believe that if you're meant to be a leader, the job won't stop you. I started as a team leader in 1996 and became a facilitator for HPWO teams in 1998. Now I'm a team leader of the HPWO group facilitators, and I love it. This is what leadership is all about.

-Debby Arkell


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