The Ed Eppley Experience
The Ed Eppley Experience

Episode · 8 months ago

The Power of Keeping Things Simple

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Have you ever thought about the fact that what keeps you safe when you drive is an area on your tire about the size of the back of your fist. Chris Helsel is the Chief Technology Officer for Goodyear Tire & Rubber. His job is to lead his 2000 people around the world in finding new and better ways to make your driving better and safer. In this episode of the Ed Eppley Experience you'll hear how Chris continuously learns but judiciously chooses to limit how much change he asks of his team. And you are sure to benefit from hearing how Chris makes sure teams and individuals are more likely to be successful when you make things simple and clear. (A man after my own heart!)

...baby. Welcome to the Ed Epleyexperience. 20 minutes that simplifies the complex job of managing and leadingpeople and inspires you to take action on what you probably already know tobuild and sustain a smart and healthy business. Here's your host Ed athleteto introduce this week's guest and business leader. Welcome to the EdEpley experience. The podcast designed to help you identify at least oneproven practical approach to let you run, Um, or successful and sustainablebusiness or team, hopefully less than 30 minutes. And I think we'll probablyget it done pretty quickly with this gentleman we have with us today. He'sextremely curious. He is always looking at things from multiple perspectives.He is hungry. Toe learn. He's a voracious leader. If I want to knowabout the latest books to read, I can reach out to Chris and he'll say, Trythis one And chances are I have not read it because he's way ahead of thecurve on that. He's very much a family guy, loves his family and works hardtoe. Be a good dad and husband. He's a combination, very unusual combinationof being extremely precise and yet highly intuitive. And the thing that Ilike most about Chris's he loves golf. Maybe more than I do. So please help me.Welcome the chief technology officer from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company,Chris Helsel to the Epley experience. Good morning, Chris. Great to have youwith us. Thanks. Said, I hope Thio live up to that great introduction. Well,you made it easy. I had just cut the list off because I could have keptwriting. You know, I was looking at your background and something Idiscovered I did not know is you had started out in a construction company,right? That's right. Yeah. I have worked at a few companies beforeGoodyear, which is, of course, where I kind of made the name is chieftechnology officer. And in those experiences, I worked with refiningtechnology. 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. I havea lot 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, jeez,you're going to retire that there's nothing to it right? You basicallyinjection mold attire and you know they're round black and out the back ofthe factory, and that's it. And 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 Igot into the very emerging technology of virtual product development. And asthat tool made its way from industries to make things out of steel andaluminum ultimately made its ways in the tires. And that's where the tirecomplexity comes in. His number one is the nature of the materials. They'rewhat's called history Tick. They deflect enormously. The structureitself has compositing it to carry the load. You have contact with the road,which, you know, brings its own complexity. And lastly is the dynamicsof everything that happens in a tire and so you might think, Jeez, the tireversus nuclear reactor. But actually modeling and trying to design a tire isone of the most challenging things and in fact, part of what we do a goodyears. We collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories because they tryout their tools they use for their mission, which is readiness to thenuclear arsenal of the U. S. They try them out on tires we've had over a 25year partnership. Wow, in that because of the complexity of modeling tires.Wow, I did not know that. You know this...

...things. You describe it that way andthe product that virtually all of us use a tire, right? The vast majority ofpeople have some form of transportation, farm or do than don't let's put it thatway. And it just occurred to me. I wonder, for example, what's the rangeof temperatures that a truck tire goes through? You know, you got to go allthe way back to where it it starts its life, which is in a factory, and youhave to cure the tire. So the first thing that has to happen and actuallywhy were named Goodyear was after Child's Goodyear, who have invented theconcept of balkanization of rubber. Basically, it's when you put sulfur inwith the natural River. It takes on a hardened property because without that,you know the tire would wear so quickly. So you get, you know, up there into theseveral 100 degrees, and and then when you get out into the actualapplications, you know, and truck tires etcetera, you know you don't get tothat point, but you get significant temperature into a tire. And and if youjust think about the operating temperature outside and then you couldeasily add another, you know, 50 to 100 degrees to it and get the concept. Atone time, I worked in open wheel racing at Goodyear, and actually, when a tireswould do their laps, let's say IndyCar actually take a probe and measure youget up into the 250 degrees Fahrenheit. You know, in that tire, you could beburned. You could burn. Yeah, you don't wanna put your hand on it. Leave itthere. Wow. So the the operating temperatures are significant. Yeah,well, I would like to talk more about the technology aspects of your product.But I know our audience wants to know more about leadership in the running, ateam and an organization, so we're gonna deflect to that. But I don'tbelieve I've ever had anybody on the program who's been part of such aniconic brand. Such a name brand for so long. What, 120 years? Almost at thispoint for the company? That's correct. A bit over 120 years. I'm thinking thatthe doing things the Goodyear Way must be evident from the time you startinterviewing. I mean, the culture must be in a good way. Heavy. It must beintense. There must be a tremendous amount of inertia or momentum to dothings their way. Yeah, I think you got to 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 thatthrough basically palm sized patches at four locations on your vehicle, youknow, you're gonna just fly off into the, you know, in your field somewhereyou're making me a little nervous about getting into my car right now. justthinking about that. I never thought about it. Just four palm sized patchesof contact. Okay, that is it. And all the forces of a vehicle go through that.So you got to start with Look, it's extremely important that it's a safetyproduct. It's predictable, reliable and up for the task and no offense to yourfollowers here. The chances are they abuse him because they don't keepenough air in them. Right? And if you start with that, we had a slogan thatwas always protect our good name. So it starts with you always have to do theright thing by that safety culture. But from there you have to understand it'sa highly competitive industry and one that's going to undergo a lot oftransformation that we will probably get to later in the discussion. Butmobility is really changing. So so as much as we have to keep things the same,you know and repeatable, we have to prepare ourselves for some real changecoming, Yeah, and I think that's that duality of leadership that reallyforces you to raise the game right. You're immediately making me think ofthe need to get better at something at the same time. You gotta be willing toabandon it to go to something else. That's correct. And those choices arehard. You know, You you said it. You've been around 100 20 years doing thingsthat way. But you know, it's the typical. And you mentioned books, right?What got you here Won't get you there. Marshall Goldsmith, right? Yeah, Ithink it's the author, right? Yeah. Let's talk about your need to read. Idon't think it's a want. I think it is...

...a need. I think you'd almost give upair before you would give up learning eso. Where did that come from? Is thatjust in your DNA or was that something that was nurtured in you by your family?How did that happen? You know, I don't ever remember my father reading he wasa machinist and worked really hard. But my mom was a huge reader. I don't knowthat I ever remember never seeing book in her hand, although I'd say they weremainly at that time Harlequin romances. That's not my style, but it's stillthat reader, you know, seeing people and being able to model that peoplehave a book in their hand. I also found going through, you know, my educationand university. I learned best by reading. I could sit in a lecture and Iwas interested, but it didn't soak in until I can actually take a look at theattacks myself. So is that why you roll your eyes when I'm facilitating asession with the team? Uh, I'm gonna plead the fifth on that edge. I got him,folks. He wasn't prepared for that. I'll go back to my comment, and I'malways entertained. How's that? There you go. That's good. Do you think in arole where you study leadership like yours, where you work really hard to bethe very best leader and manager for the team that you could be exposed totoo many ideas? You know, I do. I was gonna say there's the quote, you know,leaders to readers. But, you know, you only learn to be a leader by doing soYou got to be careful that it doesn't just paralyze you like. Oh, well,there's gotta be even a better idea. Better idea. Better idea. I think thatyou know, you read something you say Well, I'm gonna try that. Then try it.Then you might look for something to enhance that learning, but, you know,that has to go hand in hand. You can't just read, read, read. Knowledge ispower when combined with action. Right? Right, Right. I'm curious about thebalance that you have to strike between what needs to get done and what couldbe done and what the markets willing to accept. Because, as you mentioned it,people want safety. And maybe now, more than ever, safety becomes on people'sminds for a variety of reasons. How do you decide how much how fast to pushfor change? You know, I think you got to start with number one. What?Yourself. I feel like I have a very high change, an aptitude, And I almosthad have to be careful, especially because making my way into more of anexecutive role that I'm not hitting the team with too much. And in fact, that'sone of the things that I've gotten some great coaching on. Is situationalawareness around? What am I doing to my team? Which is really probably one ofthe most important things that I probably learned is you cast a bigshadow and and so I used to come in on Mondays after reading on the weekend.And hey, I saw this. I saw that and I do that over and over and a couple ofthem who were probably the most bold said to me, What the hell you want meto do with this eventually? And I was like, Well, nothing. I just thoughtyou'd be interested. Well, they don't know that. And so I was probably yo yoand my team around e. I think the number one thing is toe look in themirror and say, You know, am I being clear and my helping bring clarity tomy team and my helping bringing focus or might actually becoming adistraction and so sticking with one of the ideas and doing it and doing itreally well is probably more important than having the ultimate idea. A goodexamples. We did some work recently with the playing to win framework oflaugh Lee Martin, and it took us nearly, you know, half a year to come up withjust step one, which is our aspirations. And it was a real learning of howpowerful it is to do something and do it really well. And that includes thecommunication and alignment. And and that was more important than probablybringing another new idea, you know? So I think that's a learning in terms ofwhere I should draw the line. Yeah, and...

...recognizing your own bias, which areyou? Be biased, Take on too much or too little. I think it would help theaudience toe get some appreciation for the complexity of the organization thatyou lied. Eso how many locations, how many people You might even trydifferent time zones. So explain that for the audience, because that willhelp them have some appreciation for the challenges that you haven't leadingand managing that orig. Okay, so it's a bit over 2000 associates you mightimagine. I have location where we do a lot of new mobility innovation. We callit our Innovation Lab in market type testing trial Building of Digitalsolutions. That's in San Francisco in Texas. I've got proving grounds fortesting products also in in Brazil, Latin America. You then moved to Akron,where we've got one of our two largest innovation centers. You then go over toLuxembourg and hand out Germany for another time zone and Merivel, France,for another large proving ground. We also do some some winter testing in innorthern Europe. Then you move your way over to China, where we have asignificant development center to support all the emerging new O escoming in China. So you might almost argue the sun rarely sets on what wehave to manage. Fortunately, I'm blessed with a very talented team ofleaders across that geography. How maney direct reports do you have? I'mrunning about 12 at the moment, and if you understand 88 of them are truly inga technical leaders. The other four support functions which you know, if Iwere to say, you know, the the thing one of the one of my biggest learningshas been how important those support functions really are and what you'retrying to get done, you know, of being able to connect it and make everythingwork right. What's your thoughts about a team that big? That's a big team. Iwouldn't want any bigger, but I think it does force, you know, and I knowthere's a lot of debate about those spans of control. It forces, you know,I got to give them a lot more ownership. I can't be in their details. And so, inone sense, that probably drives to me to be a little better leader and not adirector, So I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. I think if itgot too much bigger, you just can't even help. You can't maintaincontinuity with each one and what they're dealing with, but it does forceyou to give them a little more keys to their kingdom right, which is goodunder normal conditions when no pandemic is going on, How often wouldyou have that group together? Physically, Physically, we'd betogether at least twice to four times a year. Physically, we meet absolutelyweekly as a team as well as I have one by ones with each one every single week.And, you know, I pulled that from high output management and to grow AndyGrove. Yeah, you got me really just a ton of questions going on structurallyabout that. But I think in fairness to the audience, I don't wanna take usdown that rathole, but it's a very interesting dynamic that you have withthat with all those time zones and whatnot. I'm even thinking that nomatter when you meet now, virtually somebody's very much inconvenienced,aren't they? Yeah. Typically, it's Asia because most any other shift you makeput somebody in the middle of the night, you know, so you don't get them atseven at night with the seven in the morning Us. Now what I do, though, isall my one by ones with Asia. I do extremely early in the morning here,six like 6 a.m. And to at least give them something, you know? Oh, yeah,those poor folks, they'll tend to do their normal day, and then they haveanother 34 hours when Akron wakes up, right? So that's it's a tough road tohoe. To be in that region, you've got to give them a lot of respect for that.When you started out in management, I assume that was maybe a Babcock andWilcox or one of your first jobs. You...

...you probably got your first taste ofmanagement who strongly influenced you and and cause you to go. I wanna be notnecessarily that person, but I wanna be like them. I wanna be respected. Iwanna be effective like them. Can you describe one or two people that I'mOkay if you don't wanna name names, but yeah, I'd be glad. Thio. So one thing Ijust correct there is I never lead anybody until I was almost 11 yearsinto my career. Wow. And in fact, when I was first approached to even be afirst level team leader and it was here a good year, I rejected the offer andsaid I had no interest in it. I wanted to be a technical professional myentire career, and I was given a bit of the well, you should try it, right? ButI'd say my first leader who really impressed me was that Babcock andWilcox his name was Ray. Reche had been somebody there as the first levelleader for very long time. And he just had a very, very kind of Ah, a bit ofespecially for new, a newer engineer, just a real approachable, you know, youcould come in and talk about whatever you needed to, And I think the neatestthing I would say he taught me was a bit of the You gotta be humble. Anddon't think you have all the answers you might imagine you came out. I cameout of school. Latest technology able to do these high powered calculationson computers. So So I still remember it, right? Because it was nuclear industryyou needed. Sign off. Bye bye. Your leaders on your work and I walked inwith this, you know, pages and pages. You know, you might have an inch thickof analysis, laid it out, and you want to have a discussion on. Is this goodenough? Right? And I'm thinking myself, What's he gonna dio? And he reached tohis his bookshelf and pulled out the most beat up copy of Rourke. Stress andStrain goes to a page, scribbles something on the page, and he says,Well, what did you get for such and such a calculation? And I named it andhe shows me his calculation, which was in a couple percent that he did by handin a matter of minutes. So that was really impressed upon me, is if you'regonna lead technical professionals, you better know your stuff. You know,there's a lot of responsibility here. But also it gives you that credibilityas a leader from that day forward. You know, whatever rate that went, becauseI was like, Wow, how could somebody do that? And yet be so personable, but yetso technical on top of things. So that was really, really impactful. One otherone was when I did start getting a taste for leadership, there was aleader here, Goodyear, John Bower. And whenever an opening would come that Ithought I was interested in, I would shoot John a note and explain what Ithought he was looking for in this role in why I was it. And actually mycurrent Edmund, Cindy Griffin was his admin, and she would she call me up,say, Come on down. And I used to call it my dear John meeting where Johnwould explain to me why I'm not going to get this particular one right on.John gave me this advice, which I thought was great. John would say. Hesaid, Chris, you just got to remember every day you wake up when you're in arole, you got to produce, and so you gotta make sure what you think you wantto do, you could really be motivated to do because, you know, to keep moving,you need toe be head and shoulders. It's not. Yeah, I did an OK job andcheck the box. So John's advice of no role is checking the box. I thoughtthat was another good, really leader lesson early. Uh, I'm sure one of thebenefits of being around the organizations the size of the ones youhave been part of is the opportunity to see so many different kinds of stylesof management and leadership gives you a better sense of what are my optionsand what are my choices? Has your definition of what it means to be agreat leader changed much in the last 20 years? Oh, yeah, I'm sure others whoare listening this could relate. When I think back to what I was, I reallystunk, you know? I mean, I get it. It was 2013 that I really feel I learned.And here a good year, I've been blessed.

They put together a really niceleadership program with Harvard sponsored by the current CEO, RichKramer, and his staff. Part of that was you know you got into a stretch roleand I was put into a stretch, rolled a lead of business, and it was a businessthat when I went into it, had some challenges. But despite that, it wasvery successful. It was highly profitable business, one of our smallerones. But you could lead it and the end And the coach that I was assigned JosSe, who had some experience a G. He continues to do some work with us here.Goodyear Joe said this could be a great assignment for you, he said, becauseyou're not gonna be the smartest one in the room with respect to exactly whatit is you're leading, he says, In fact, you don't know anything about it, soyou're gonna need to learn to lead. I think the number one thing I learnedfrom that and then have carried forward is you gotta learn to ask questions.And actually, when I started that role, all I did was you know, I asked for twonames of people I should meet with. Then I'd ask them well, what you know,what do they think about the business? What do we need to do And then I keptasking for Give me two more names and until the names repeated that I didthat and use it to build out basically the road map with the team on how wewanted to transform ourselves and, uh, use that for three years in that role.But it really came from just recognizing. I can't tell anybody herewhat to do, because I don't understand what they dio. I had to learn it right.Has the pandemic caused you to be different or focus on different things?As a leader and a manager? I think the thing actually is a leader team. Itreally impressed upon me. You know, when we they'd hit it hit really hardand fast. Like many companies in the middle of March and both CEO RichCramer and CFO Darren Darren Wells, I really was impressed and came away withalerting of how they were able to just look, We got to simplify what we do,what we focus on, and we got to communicate the heck out of it rightand I would say Look, there's nothing, nothing rocket science in there, Butwhen you think about leading organizations, the more you couldsimplify, the more you can align and focus and communicate, communicate,communicate. 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. And and soI'd say I walked away from that saying, Of course I knew those things. But man,I could never be good enough. Adam, How's that? Well, and I think it's soeasy. Thio not want to spend time on those fundamentals when there's so muchelse you got to get done and you can rationalize, I don't have time or Ican't in air quotes, weights time doing that when this other stuff that's riel,most 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 is, executives really get bored quicklywith doing that. So I'm with you, though I think the need to overcommunicate in times like in an hour. It's a great reminder. Well, we alwayspromised that the audience is going to get at least one proven practical ideathat will help them run amore effective and successful business. I know you'vegot a number of things you could offer, and I'm gonna ask you that one thing.But before we hear if that one thing that you want to recommend I wanna comeback toe two or three books that you would grab if the house was on fire, ifyou could What's the minimum? One book that you would say, Man, I gotta 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 Ed 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 it,probably you need to spend time with it again. Whenever I read it again, I saveman, I still think that you know, So mine is probably how to win friends andinfluence 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 by Anderson Boy. Clarity, simplicity.In terms of principles, I mentioned we we did work as a team on ouraspirations, bold goals We're working now on what are the principles in termsof how we should have our minds and behaviors behind that. And I think youknow, the clarity of how Amazon did that with their principles and thendrive that to me is right now top of my list of one of the things I'm trying todo So would be one that I would grab because, man, I'm working with it rightat the moment. Well, and you get to see first hand 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 one,because 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, whatis what is some of these things mean about the environment? And yet he wasvery pro business. And how do you balance all of those and just theadventure? The learner. It's a very inspirational leader for me. I wouldprobably grab those, but I think my arms were pretty full now because thosewere pretty three big volume e Think they are, too. The journey that TeddyRoosevelt went through to become who he was, he could have easily died as achild, and then he could have easily died several times in the journeys thathe took to test himself and push himself further. It is a fascinatingstory. I've read a lot about him. I would recommend him to the audience aswell. Chris, what's that one thing that I've got to do? And if I do this, I'mmuch more likely to be successful in managing and leading others. I thinkthe thing that has struck me and again I'll go back to the simplicity focuscommunicate is I'm gonna throw out the idea of make things explicit. And letme let me give just a little color behind this we went. And recently oneof my leaders talked to some of his first line leaders. Ask him What's thepurpose of your job? And we were really surprised at the answers we got backand what that really said to us. Waas man, are we doing a poor job beingclear? Because if you just think about, if you want to get results out of anorganization, you need everybody to understand what their part is, right.Imagine a football team where the guard doesn't understand. They have to blockright? And so that to me, this is really forcing me to think about whereall the areas I assume everybody knows right knows what they're supposed to do,what the role is, what we're trying to accomplish. And it probably comes downto being better once again that that simple if I focus, communicate but Iwould encourage everybody go out and test some of your assumptions. You know,just just ask people. Hey, you know, what do you think? The number one thingthat you gotta you know, your role has to deliver to us as an organization andmake sure that those answers lying up with how do you think your construct isput together? It told us we've got work to do, right? And and that's okay. Butyou know, it tells you where to start...

...rather than sometimes it's too easy tostart with. Well, of course, I need better people, right? You know, I don'thave the right people. Well, heck, if you're not a line on what you expectand you haven't given them some opportunity to develop their capabilityto do it, it's pretty hard to jump to that third conclusion, right? I wouldagree so so I would say, make things explicit. He's Chris tell. So he's thechief technology officer for Goodyear Tire and Rubber. He's a person that Ithink all of us could learn something from about how to do our jobs moreeffectively. Chris, if somebody wanted to reach out to you to learn a littlebit mawr or to ask a question, What's the best way for them to do that? I'dsay email Chris, underscore Helsel at Goodyear dot com or I'm on Lincoln andhe's a great communicator, As you can tell from the conversation we've hadtoday, Chris, thanks so much for taking some of your precious time to sharewith our listeners here on the adeptly experience. Well, hey, I appreciate it.I always love connecting with you. I love it all the more when we're chasinga white ball, so we'll find sometimes to do that, I'm sure. Thanks, Chris.Take care. Thank you for listening to the Ed Epleyexperience form or information on building a more sustainable, smarterand healthier business. Visit WWW theme Epley group dot com For Resource isTips and Ed's latest blog's. That's the Epley e p p L E y group dot com, plus.Take a free assessment at the Epley group dot com slash assessment to findout how you measure up as a highly skilled and accomplished manager andwhere to focus on improving your skills.

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