The Ed Eppley Experience
The Ed Eppley Experience

Episode · 2 months ago

Are You Self-Aware? Most Executives Aren't!!

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Most executives don't understand the size or kind of "shadow" that they cast on the organization or their team. As a result, they don't always understand the impact of their words and behavior on others. The great news is these "blind spots" can be uncovered. Chris Helsel, the Chief Technology Officer and SVP of Global Ops for Goodyear is this week's guest. He shares how he's learned how to create a feedback loop from the "truth teller" in your organization is indispensable to your ability to know what's really happening. This episode is filled with practical and proven tips that can make you an even better exec!

Welcome to the Ed Epley Experience 20minutes that simplifies the complex job of managing and leading people andinspires you to take action on what you probably already know to build andsustain a smart and healthy business. Here's your host, Ed F Lee to introducethis week's guest and business Leader. Welcome to the Ed Epley experience, thepodcast designed to help you identify at least one proven practical approachto let you run a more successful and sustainable business or team, hopefullyless than 30 minutes and I think we'll probably get it done pretty quicklywith this gentleman we have with us today. He's extremely curious. He isalways looking at things from multiple perspectives. He is hungry to learn.He's a voracious leader. If I want to know about the latest books to read, Ican reach out to chris and he'll say try this one and chances are I have notread it because he's way ahead of the curve on that. He's very much a familyguy, loves his family and works hard to be a good dad and husband. He's acombination, very unusual combination of being extremely precise and yethighly intuitive and the thing that I like most about chris's, he loves golf.Maybe more than I do. So please help me welcome the chief technology officerfrom Goodyear tire and rubber company chris Helsel to the employee experience,Good morning chris, great to have you with us. Thanks said, I hope to live upto that great introduction. Well you made it easy. I just cut the list offbecause I could have kept writing, you know, I was looking at your backgroundand something I discovered I did not know. As you started out in aconstruction company. Right, that's right, yeah. I have worked at a fewcompanies before Goodyear which is of course where I kind of made the name aschief technology officer and uh in those experiences, I worked withrefining technology. So basically the construction and how you put together arefinery for petrochemicals as well as for babcock and Wilcox, albeit there,it was mainly around the nuclear power plants for submarines, aircraftcarriers. Okay, so I had those experiences before coming to tires. Idon't know that this is fair, but it seems like nuclear power plants have alot more complexity than a tire. Is that a mischaracterization by yourstruly when I say that actually funny you say that, but when I said to myfriends, I was leaving that industry to come to tires, they said, well, jeezyou're going to retire that there's nothing to it, right? You basicallyinjection molded tire and you know the round, black and out the back of afactory and that's it. And yeah, what you really find quite honestly is atire is one of the most complex engineered products. There is andactually the thing that strung together all those experiences was I got intothe very emerging technology of virtual product development and as that toolmade its way from industries to make things out of steel and aluminum.Ultimately, it made its ways into tires and that's where the tire complexitycomes in. His number one is the nature of the materials, they're what's calledhistory tick. They deflect enormously. The structure itself has composites init to carry the load you have contact with the road, which brings its owncomplexity and lastly, is the dynamics of everything that happens in a tire.And so you might think, jeez the tire versus nuclear reactor, but actuallymodeling and trying to design a tire is one of the most challenging things. Andin fact, part of what we do a good years, we collaborate with SandiaNational Laboratories because they try out their tools they use for theirmission, which is readiness of the nuclear arsenal of the U. S. They trythem out on tires. We've had over a 25 year partnership, wow! In that becauseof the complexity of modeling tires,...

...wow, I did not know that, you know,listening to you describe it that way and the product that virtually all ofus use a tire, right? The vast majority of people have some form oftransportation far more do than don't let's put it that way. And it justoccurred to me, I wonder, for example, what's the range of temperatures that atruck tire goes through. You know, you gotta go all the way back to where itstarts its life, which is in a factory and you have to cure the tire. So thefirst thing that has to happen and actually why were named Goodyear wasafter Child's Goodyear, who invented the concept of balkanization of rubber.And basically it's when you put sulfur in with the natural river, it takes ona hardened property because without that, you know, the tire would wear soquickly. So you get, you know, up there into the several 100 degrees and, andthen when you get out into the actual applications, You know, and truck tires,et cetera, you know, you don't get to that point, but you get significanttemperature into a tire. And, and if you just think about the operatingtemperature outside and then you can easily add another, you know, 50-100°to it and get a concept. At one time, I worked in open wheel racing at Goodyearand actually when the tires would do their laps, let's say on an Indy car,actually take a probe and measure. You get up into the 250 degrees. Fahrenheit,you know, in that tire you could be burned, you can burn, Yeah, you don'twant to put your hand on it, leave it there, wow. So the operatingtemperatures are significant. Well, I would like to talk more about thetechnology aspects of your product, but I know our audience wants to know moreabout leadership and the running a team and an organization. So we're gonnadeflect to that. But I don't believe I've ever had anybody on the programwho's been part of such an iconic brand, Such a name brand for so long. What?120 years almost at this point for the company. That's correct. A bit over 120years. I'm thinking that the doing things, the Goodyear way must beevident from the time you start interviewing. I mean the culture mustbe in a good way heavy. It must be intense. There must be a tremendousamount of inertia or momentum to do things their way. Yeah, I think you gotto start just with the understanding. We talked a little bit about tires,tires, a safety product and you know, without your connection to the road,which is the only thing doing that through basically palm sized patches atfour locations on your vehicle. You know, you're going to just fly off intothe, you know, into a field somewhere. You're making me a little nervous aboutgetting into my car right now. Just thinking about that. I never thoughtabout it. Just four palm sized patches of contact that is it and all theforces of a vehicle go through that. So you got to start with, look, it'sextremely important that it's a safety product. It's predictable, reliable andup for the task and no offense to your followers here. The chances are theyabuse them because they don't keep enough air in them. Right? And if youstart with that we had a slogan that was always protect our good name. So itstarts with you always have to do the right thing by that safety culture. Butfrom there you have to understand it's a highly competitive industry and onethat's going to undergo a lot of transformation that we will probablyget to later in the discussion. But mobility is really changing. So as muchas we have to keep things the same, you know and repeatable, we have to prepareourselves for some real change coming. Yeah. And I think that's that dualityof leadership that really forces you to raise the game, right? You'reimmediately making me think of the need to get better at something at the sametime. You gotta be willing to abandon it to go to something else. That'scorrect. And those choices are hard. You know you you said it you've beenaround 100 and 20 years doing things that way. But you know it's the typicaland you mentioned books right? What got you here. Won't get you there MarshallGoldsmith. Right? Yeah. I think it's the author, right? Yeah. Let's talkabout your need to read. I don't think...

...it's a want I think it is a need. Ithink you'd almost give up air before you would give up learning. So wheredid that come from? Is that just in your D. N. A. Or was that somethingthat was nurtured in you by your family. How did that happen? You know I don'tever remember my father reading. He was a machinist and worked really hard. Butmy mom was a huge reader. I don't know that I ever remembered never seeing abook in her hand. Although I'd say they were mainly at that time Harlequinromances. That's not my style. But it's still that reader, you know seeingpeople and being able to model that people have a book in their hand. Ialso found going through my education and university, I learned best byreading. I can sit in a lecture and I was interested but it didn't soak inuntil I can actually take a look at the tax myself. So is that why you rollyour eyes when I'm facilitating a session with the team? Uh I'm gonnaplead the fifth on that edge. I got him folks. He wasn't prepared for that.I'll go back to my comment and I'm always entertained. How's that? Thereyou go. That's good. Do you think in a role where you study leadership likeyours where you work really hard to be the very best leader and manager forthe team that you can be exposed to too many ideas? You know I do I was gonnasay there's the quote, you know leaders to readers but you know you only learnto be a leader by doing so you got to be careful that it doesn't justparalyze you like, oh well there's got to be even a better idea, a better ideaof better idea. I think that, you know, you read something, you say, well I'mgonna try that then try it. Then you might look for something to enhancethat learning. But you know, that has to go hand in hand, you can't just readread, read, knowledge is power when combined with action. Right, Right,right. I'm curious about the balance that you have to strike between whatneeds to get done and what could be done and what the market is willing toaccept because as you mentioned it, people want safety and maybe now morethan ever safety becomes on people's minds for a variety of reasons. How doyou decide how much, how fast to push for change? You know, I think you'vegot to start with number one what yourself, I feel like I have a veryhigh change aptitude and I almost had to have to be careful, especiallybecause making my way into more of an executive role that I'm not hitting theteam with too much. And in fact that's one of the things that I've gotten somegreat coaching on is situational awareness around what am I doing to myteam, which is really probably one of the most important things that Iprobably learned is you cast a big shadow. And so I used to come in onmonday's after reading on the weekend and hey I saw this, I saw that and I dothat over and over and in a couple of them who were probably the most boldsaid to me what the hell you want me to do with this right eventually, and Iwas like, well nothing, I just thought you'd be interested, well, they don'tknow that and so I was probably yo yo and my team around, so I think thenumber one thing is to look in the mirror and say, you know, am I beingclear and my helping bring clarity to my team and my helping, bringing focusor am I actually becoming a distraction and so sticking with one of the ideasand doing it and doing it really well is probably more important than havingthe ultimate idea, good examples, we did some work recently with the playingto win framework of lastly martin and it took us nearly, you know, half ayear to come up with just step one which is our aspirations and it was areal learning of how powerful it is to do something and do it really well andthat includes the communication and alignment and and that was moreimportant than probably bringing another new idea, you know, so I thinkthat's a learning in terms of where I...

...should draw the line Yeah, andrecognizing your own bias, which are you be biased and take on too much ortoo little, I think it would help the audience to get some appreciation forthe complexity of the organization that you lied. So How many locations? Howmany people you might even try different time zones? So explain thatfor the audience because that will help them have some appreciation for thechallenges that you have in leading and managing that organ. Okay, so it's abit over 2000 associates you might imagine. I have a location where we doa lot of new mobility innovation, we called our innovation lab in markettype testing, trial building of digital solutions that's in san Francisco intexas. I've got proving grounds for testing products also in in brazillatin America. You then moved to Akron where we've got one of our two largestinnovation centers. You then go over to Luxembourg and Hanau Germany foranother time zone and Merivel France for another large proving ground. Wealso do some some winter testing in in northern europe. Then you move your wayover to china where we have a significant development center tosupport all the emerging new o ES coming in china. So you might almostargue the sun rarely sets on what we have to manage. Fortunately I'm blessedwith a very talented team of leaders across that geography. How many directreports do you have? I'm running about 12 at the moment. And if you understand88 of them are truly being a technical leaders, the other four supportfunctions, which, you know, if I were to say, you know, the thing, one of the,one of my biggest learnings has been, how important those support functionsreally are and what you're trying to get done, you know, of being able toconnect it and make everything work right? What's your thoughts about ateam that big? That's a big team, I wouldn't want any bigger, but I thinkit does force, you know, and I know there's a lot of debate about thosefans of control it forces, you know, I got to give them a lot more ownership.I can't be in their details. And so in one sense that probably drives me to bea little better leader and not a director. So I'm not sure that'snecessarily a bad thing. I think if it got too much bigger, you just can'teven help, you can't maintain continuity with each one and whatthey're dealing with. But it does force you to give them a little more keys totheir kingdom, right. Which is good. Under normal conditions when nopandemic is going on, how often would you have that group together?Physically, physically we'd be together at least twice to four times a year.Physically we meet absolutely weekly as a team as well as I have one by oneswith each one every single week. And, you know, I pulled that from highoutput management and grow and grow via you got me really just a ton ofquestions going on structurally about that? But I think in fairness to theaudience, I don't want to take us down that rat hole, but it's a veryinteresting dynamic that you have with that with all those time zones andwhatnot. I'm even thinking that no matter when you meet now virtuallysomebody is very much inconvenienced, aren't they? Yeah, and typically it'sAsia because most any other shift you make put somebody in the middle of thenight, you know, so you don't get them at seven at night with a seven in themorning in the US. Now, what I do though is all my one by ones with Asia,I do extremely early in the morning here 68, like six a.m. And to at leastgive them something, you know? Oh yeah, those poor folks, they'll tend to dotheir normal day and then they have another 34 hours when Akron wakes up.Right, So that's, it's a tough road to hoe to be in that region. You've got togive them a lot of respect for that. When you started out in management. Iassume that was maybe a babcock and Wilcox or one of your first jobs, youprobably got your first taste of...

...management who strongly influenced youand, and cause you to go, I want to be, not necessarily that person, but I wantto be like them, I want to be respected, I want to be effective like them. Canyou describe one or two people and I'm okay if you don't want to name names,but yeah, I'd be glad to. So one thing I'll just correct there is, I neverlead anybody until I was almost 11 years into my career and in fact when Iwas first approached to even be a first level team leader and it was here atGoodyear, I rejected the offer and said I had no interest in it. I wanted to bea technical professional my entire career and I was given a bit of the,well you should try it, right? But I'd say my first leader who reallyimpressed me was was that babcock and Wilcox, his name was Ray Resh had beensomebody there as the first level leader for a very long time and he justhad a very, very kind of a bit of, especially for new, a newer engineer,just a real approachable. You know, you could come in and talk about whateveryou needed to and I think the neatest thing I would say, he taught me was abit of the, you got to be humble and don't think you have all the answersyou might imagine you came out, I came out of school, latest technology ableto do these high powered calculations on computers. So, so I still rememberit right, because it was nuclear industry, you needed sign off by byyour leaders on your work and I walked in with this, you know, pages and pages,you know, you might have an inch dick of analysis, laid it out and you wantto have a discussion on, is this good enough, right? And I'm thinking tomyself, what's he gonna do? And he reached to his, his bookshelf andpulled out the most beat up copy of Rourke stress and strain goes to a page,scribbles something on the page and he says, well what did you get for suchand such a calculation? And I named it and he shows me his calculation whichwas in a couple percent that he did by hand in a matter of minutes, so thatwas really impressed upon me is if you're gonna lead technicalprofessionals, you better know your stuff, you know, there's a lot ofresponsibility here, but also it gives you that credibility as a leader fromthat day forward, you know, whatever race that went because I was like wow,how could somebody do that and yet be so personable, but yet so technical ontop of things. So that was really, really impactful. One other one waswhen I did start getting a taste for leadership, there was a leader here atGoodyear john Bauer and whenever an opening would come that I thought I wasinterested in, I would shoot john a note and explain what I thought he waslooking for in this role and why I was it. And actually my current EdmundCindy Griffin was his admin and she would, she called me up say come ondown and I used to call it my dear john meeting or john would explain to me whyI'm not going to get this particular one right and john gave me this advicewhich I thought was great, john would say, he said chris you just gottaremember every day you wake up when you're in a role you got to produce andso you've got to make sure what you think you want to do, you can really bemotivated to do because you know, to keep moving, you need to be head andshoulders. It's not yeah I did an okay job and check the box. So john's adviceof no role is checking the box. I thought that was another good reallyleader lesson early. I'm sure one of the benefits of being aroundorganizations, the size of the ones you have been part of is The opportunity tosee so many different kinds of styles of management and leadership gives youa better sense of what are my options and what are my choices? Has yourdefinition of what it means to be a great leader changed much in the last20 years? Oh yeah, I'm sure others who are listening to this can relate when Ithink back to what I was, I really stunk I mean I get it, it was 2,013that I really feel I learned and here a...

...good year. I've been blessed. They puttogether a really nice leadership program with Harvard sponsored by thecurrent Ceo Rich Kramer and his staff. Part of that was, you know, you gotinto a stretch roll and I was put into a stretch roll to lead of business andit was a business that when I went into it had some challenges. But despitethat it was very successful. It was highly profitable business, one of oursmaller ones, but you could lead it end to end. And the coach that I wasassigned, joe who's, who had some experience at GE he continues to dosome work with us here at Goodyear, joe said this could be a great assignmentfor you. He said because you're not going to be the smartest one in theroom with respect to exactly what it is you're leading. He says in fact, youdon't know anything about it. So you're going to need to learn to lead. I thinkthe number one thing I learned from that and that I've carried forward isyou gotta learn to ask questions and actually when I started that role, allI did was, you know, I asked for two names of people I should meet with thenI'd ask them well what you know, what do they think about the business, whatdo we need to do? And then I kept asking for, give me two more names anduntil the names repeated I did that and used it to build out basically theroadmap with the team on how we wanted to transform ourselves and uh use thatfor three years in that role. But it really came from just recognizing, Ican't tell anybody here what to do because I don't understand what they do.I had to learn it right? Has the pandemic caused you to be different orfocus on different things as a leader and a manager? Yeah, I think the thingactually is a leader team, it really impressed upon me, you know when we,they'd hit it, hit really hard and fast, like many companies in the middle ofMarch and both Ceo rich Cramer and CFO Darren Darren Wells, I really wasimpressed and came away with a learning of how they were able to just look, wegot to simplify what we do, what we focus on and we got to communicate theheck out of it right? And I would say, look, there's nothing, nothing rocketscience in there. But when you think about leading organizations, the moreyou can simplify the more you can align and focus and communicate, communicatecommunicate. I think it just reinforced how good you've got to be at that,right? And in a time like that, those skills really pay huge dividends andand so I'd say I walked away from that saying of course I knew those things,but man, I can never be good enough adam, how's that well, and I think it'sso easy to not want to spend time on those fundamentals when there's so muchelse you've got to get done and you can rationalize, I don't have time or Ican't in air quotes, waits time doing that when this other stuff that's realmost matters rather than saying that direction again or reinforcingsomething that we've talked about and going back to it again and again andagain and that most of us as executives really get bored quickly with doingthat. So I'm with you though, I think the need to over communicate in timeslike in an hour, it's a great reminder. Well, we always promised that theaudience is going to get at least one proven practical idea that will helpthem run a more effective and successful business. I know you've gota number of things you could offer and I'm going to ask you that one thing,but before we hear that one thing that you want to recommend, I want to comeback to two or three books that you would grab if the house was on fire ifyou could, what's at a minimum one book that you would say, man, I got to keepthat book because that's really good stuff. Yeah, the number one is theseven habits of highly effective people if there's one book and the reason Imentioned that one, it is I come back and I actually reread that book Onaverage every two years and so I think I've read that book six times my lasttrip to europe right before pandemic, I've read it again, it's just the onethat I think embodies so many of the...

...ideas, you know, being a learner, Irecommend that one to anybody who asked number one and if you've read itprobably you need to spend time with it again. Whenever I read it again, I sayman, I still stink at that, you know, so mine is probably how to win friendsand influence people. Same thing. The second book I would say would beprobably whatever I was almost currently reading, I just finished the14 principles I believe of Jeff Bezos via Anderson boy clarity, simplicity interms of principles I mentioned, we we did work as a team on our aspirations,bold goals, we're working now on what are the principles in terms of how weshould have our minds and behaviours behind that and I think, you know, theclarity of how amazon did that with their principles and then drive that tome is right now the top of my list of one of the things I'm trying to do, sowould be one that I would grab because man, I'm working with it right at themoment. Well and you get to see firsthand, day after day the impact offocusing on those principles, what they've done for an organization likeamazon and how they've touched so many people. Yeah, and maybe the last onebecause I don't want to just sound like I'm a business geek, although I amwould be the Theodore Roosevelt biography trilogy. They're big thick. Ireally enjoyed those and as a leader, some of the things he tried to do, thepragmatic nature of Theodore Roosevelt, you know, I mean, he was a democrat, hewas a republican, he was, he embraced some diversity. He was going throughtimes in the country that they were dealing with a lot of all geez, what is,what is some of these things mean about the environment and yet he was very probusiness and how do you balance all of those and just the adventure, thelearner, it's a very inspirational leader for me. I would probably grabthose but I think my arms are pretty full now because those are pretty threebig volume. I think they are too. The journey that teddy Roosevelt wentthrough to become who he was, he could have easily died as a child and then hecould have easily died several times in the journeys that he took to testhimself and push himself further. It is a fascinating story, I've read a lotabout him, I would recommend him to the audience as well, chris what's that onething that I've got to do and if I do this, I'm much more likely to besuccessful in managing and leading others. I think the thing that hasstruck me and again, I'll go back to the simplicity focus community is, I'mgonna throw out the idea of make things explicit and let me, let me give just alittle color behind this. We went in recently, one of my leaders talked tosome of his first line leaders asking him what's the purpose of your job? Andwe were really surprised at the answers we got back and what that really saidto us was, man, are we doing a poor job being clear? Because if you just thinkabout, if you want to get results out of an organization, you need everybodyto understand what their part is, right? Imagine a football team where the guarddoesn't understand, they have to block, Right? And so that to me this is reallyforcing me to think about where all the areas, I assume everybody knows right,knows what they're supposed to do, what the role is, what we're trying toaccomplish. And it probably comes down to being better. And once again at thatsimplify focus, communicate. But I would encourage everybody go out andtest some of your assumptions, you know, just ask people, hey, you know, what doyou think the number one thing that you gotta, you know, your role has todeliver to us as an organization and make sure that those answers line upwith how you think your construct is put together. It told us we've got workto do, right. And, and that's okay. But you know, it tells you where to startrather than sometimes it's too easy to...

...start with. Well, of course I needbetter people. You know, I don't have the right people, well, heck, if you'renot aligned on what you expect and you haven't given them some opportunity todevelop their capability to do it, it's pretty hard to jump to that thirdconclusion. Right? I would agree. So. So I would say make things explicit.He's chris tell so he's the chief technology officer for Goodyear, tireand rubber. He's a person that I think all of us could learn something fromabout how to do our jobs more effectively, chris if somebody wantedto reach out to you to learn a little bit more or to ask a question, what'sthe best way for them to do that? I'd say email chris underscore Helsel atGoodyear dot com or I'm on linkedin and he's a great communicator as you cantell from the conversation we've had today chris, thanks so much for takingsome of your precious time to share with our listeners here on the deputyexperience. Well, hey, I appreciate, I always love connecting with you. I loveit all the more when we're chasing a white ball. So we'll find sometimes todo that. I'm sure. Thanks chris. Take care. Yeah. Thank you for listening to the Ed EpleyExperience. For more information on building a more sustainable, smarterand healthier business, visit www. The Epley Group dot com for resources, tipsand Ed's latest blogs. That's the Eppley e p p l e Y group dot com. Plustake a free assessment at the FBI group dot com slash assessment to find outhow you measure up as a highly skilled and accomplished manager and where tofocus on improving your skills.

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