Right Work at Regal

“There are two fundamentally differing views of human nature and work. The ‘objective view’ sees work as a source of economic means.  The ‘subjective view’ is concerned with the effects of work on the person.  By the early twenty-first century, quality will become a commodity, and companies will be distinguished by the wholeness of their people.

Bill O’Brien, former CEO, Hanover Insurance Company


Why do we work?

The most obvious reason is for a paycheck.  Who among us would volunteer their time at Regal regardless of how much we love our job?  Indeed, most Regal employees weren’t particularly looking for a boat-building job when they started at Regal.  They were looking for a paycheck.

As a matter of fact, a paycheck and a safe working environment (a safe environment is a given and won’t be mentioned again) allows our team members to meet the first two levels of the pyramid on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as it relates to work.  While a paycheck is fundamental and without it you don’t move up the hierarchy, it meets only the basic needs.  A raise will not provide improved effort over time. However, if pay is perceived as unfair it saps energy and makes it almost impossible to get the discretionary effort from employees that an organization needs to survive in today’s economy.

Satisfying Work Takes More than a Paycheck

When God created us, He didn’t say, “Go forth and build boats”, except for maybe Noah.  He kept our job description pretty simple.

37 … “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  –Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)

We spend more waking hours with our co-workers than we do with our family members.  If all we’re coming to work for is a paycheck, we’re missing out on a large part of life.

We need to love and lift each other up at work.  Love is not just a sentiment; it’s the actual execution of it that matters.

That doesn’t mean we don’t disagree or have passionate debates around issues.  It does mean after the debate we come to a consensus and support each other regardless of where we stood on the issue.  It means we take pride in each other’s success and lend a helping hand when our co-workers need it.  Love means holding each other accountable when it’s uncomfortable.

This kind of love means being able to swallow pride and say “I was wrong, please forgive me”.  It also means you extend forgiveness without reservation.

Love in the workplace does not create a safe environment where one can “coast”.  It creates a safe environment where one dares to take the chances that are required for personal growth.  It generates an atmosphere that creates the kind of stress that produces exhilaration when we succeed and a craving to try again when we fail.

I believe without right relationships, no team or organization will ever reach its full potential.

However, to foster this kind of environment, as leaders we must first become aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and performance.  Unfortunately, scientific studies show the higher the leader in an organization, the more difficult this becomes.

Consider the conclusion drawn by Daniel Goleman in the book Primal Leadership when considering data from a study by Eric Harter on CEO’s of health-care companies: “The higher leaders were in an organization, the greater the inflation rate—that is, the number of times they saw themselves as doing better on a competence than did those around them.  A result of this misperception was that the gap between how the executives and managers saw themselves and how others saw them was greater for those higher in the organization.  Those at the highest levels had the least accurate view of how they acted with others.”

How can we create the proper environment for success if we’re not aware of our own performance and deep-seated paradigms?  To help become aware, try this exercise.

Imagine you’re about to get the most important job review of your life.  You’re standing before a great white throne and setting on that throne is an advocate for everyone you work with at Regal.  You realize that regardless of how you feel personally about your direct reports and those parallel and up the command chain, He loves them fiercely and unconditionally.  You realize He has plans for them and wants them to succeed.  He put you in your position in the company to help them grow and fulfill His purpose for them.  In short, your job description is to love them like He does.  These people include everyone you disagree with and those you’re upset with because you don’t think they are performing well. Suddenly your true motives and deepest-held feelings are laid bare.

Do you have deep-seated emotions harbored against them?  Do you see them as a commodity that can be replaced if they don’t perform well?  Are you even aware of the great responsibility that your position in leadership requires?

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”  –Matthew 20:25-28

At work, Right Pay and Right Relationships meet the first three levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  These needs must be met if we want our team members to have ownership and fully use their gifts and talents.

Pride in Workmanship

Relatively speaking, when people buy a Regal they’re not buying a Chevy or Ford.  The value they expect is in line with purchasing a BMW or Lexus.  Regal has won 6 JD Power Awards!  Indeed, we’re all proud of the product we build.

There is a certain satisfaction that is gained by sitting in a boat after it’s been cleaned, right before it’s wrapped and knowing you played a role in the final product.  It just feels good.

But how often does the guy doing the work get to set in a finished boat and reflect on his workmanship.  Normally, not at all unless he’s called to the front of the line to do re-work.

What kind of formal feedback do our employees get on a recurring basis?  Research tells us that the closer in time to the behavior, when the feedback is perceived as positive and the feedback (reinforcement) is certain; the more apt the behavior is to be repeated.  Not that it doesn’t spark conversation; a review every six months for an indeterminate raise does not do much to improve performance on a day-to-day basis.

Dan Ariely, economics professor and researcher at MIT, in a talk on what makes us feel good about our work (google Dan Ariely, What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work) discusses how important it is that work is acknowledged.  The good news is that acknowledgement doesn’t take much effort.  The bad news is how devastating the effects are when it’s not.  He also discusses how an individual’s perception of the worth of her work is increased with the effort it took to do the work.

In our Greenbelt training we learned that what gets measured, paid attention to (looked at by the supervisor), and stories get told about gets repeated, or in Lean speak, sustained.

There’s an old saying, “As a manager, if you want to improve something measure it.  If you want to improve something quickly, have your employee measure it.”  I believe individual score cards can be created that track efficiency, quality, and 5S without swamping our leadership.  One element of teamwork that needs to be tracked is how many Kaizens an employee participates in.

If we can pinpoint the results and behaviors needed for each job, the employee doesn’t have to depend on the skill of her manager to decipher her performance drawing on the manager’s gut and memory of her performance over the period of the review.  The employee gets feedback every day as she fills out her performance matrix.

Yes, we’re proud of the boats we build and it affects the discretionary effort of our employees.  But the discretionary effort we’re getting with the systems currently in place is only the tip of the iceberg.

As it relates to work; pay, love, and pride in workmanship covers four steps in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  But if we want a world-class organization, there is one more step we need to take.

Side bar [At some point in this discussion you may have begun to wonder about the talent at Regal.  Many came looking for a paycheck and little else.  What do we expect from an adult who is willing to come to work for less than $10 an hour?  If they had anything on the ball, they would be working somewhere else, the thinking goes.  Many believe we’re being unfair asking our front line leadership to build quality boats with these employees.

Carol S. Dweck in her book “Mindset, How We can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential”, shows how people in general and how parents, teachers, and managers in particular stifle potential with the mindset that people are born with innate abilities and not much can be done to change intelligence, artistic talent, sports ability, business (or boat building skills for that matter).  She shows how human qualities can be cultivated through effort.  It’s not innate ability that is the best indicator of success but experience, training, and personal effort that make the difference.  Scientific literature today is rife with studies that show people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than previously accepted.

Unfortunately, people tend to live up, or down in this case, to our expectations.  If we want our people to improve, we need to improve (Maxwell’s Law of the Lid).  We need to lead with a different mindset.  I believe this is part of what Toyota means when they talk about respect for the employee.]

What business is Regal really in?

“…What is our business? Is almost always a difficult question and the right answer is usually anything but obvious.”

The answer to the question, What is our business? is the first responsibility of top management.

…..Nicholas Dreystadt, the German-born service mechanic who took over Cadillac in the Great Depression years of the 1930’s, answered:  “Cadillac competes with diamonds and mink coats.  The Cadillac customer does not buy ‘transportation’ but ‘status’.  The answer saved Cadillac which was about to go under.  Within two years or so, it made it into a major growth business despite the depression”. — Peter Drucker,  The Purpose and Objective of a Business

In Gung Ho!, Sheldon Bowles and Ken Blanchard talk about worthwhile work.  “People have to understand how what they do contributes to the well-being of humankind…”  Another way they put it is people need to know “how their work makes the world a better place”.

What we build is luxury performance boats.  Why do people buy them?  For their value?  For their styling?  Because they go fast?  I think the answer goes much deeper than appearance and performance.  [Google Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action  for greater insight on why people buy a product]

Our customers sacrifice much to be able to earn enough money to buy a Regal.  The sacrifice I’m talking about is not writing the check.  It’s everything it took to get them to the place they could afford to write it.

I imagine the person buying a Regal started out much like my sons Luke and Zach. Today, Luke is a senior in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at our local high school.  IB classes are like advanced placement courses on steroids.  While his buddies are hanging out, he’s at home studying.  Zach is a sophomore at Georgia Tech and spends every spare moment studying.  Both kids are working their tails off.  When they finish their education I believe they will continue to work hard and contribute much to society.  Eventually they will start families.  They will be busy with careers and probably work a lot of hours.

The most precious time Luke and Zach spend will be with their families.  And if they continue to work hard and can afford a Regal, that most precious time will be spent on one of our boats.  We’re not just making boats; we’re creating opportunities for moms and dads to spend hassle-free hours reconnecting with their kids.  And when those kids are gone, we’re creating quality time for moms and dads to enjoy their golden years with friends on their Regals. We don’t just build boats, we build memories.  Our work does make the world a better place!

In the end it’s not about boats and it’s not about profit.  It’s about people.  It’s about our employees, our dealers, and our customers–the Lukes and Zachs of the world.  It’s about relationships and helping people reach their full potential.

It’s not entirely about a paycheck, or how we feel about and treat each other, or about the product we build although all these things are vitally important.  It’s the realization that when you tie all these things together it adds up to a higher purpose.

When we understand this as leaders and clearly communicate this to our employees and set up systems to support it; only then will we fulfill our purpose.  When we understand and begin to fulfill our purpose, all the other things we desire from the business will come.  And this fulfills the final step in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

We can’t do the things that make the world a better place without profit.  But in the end we can’t make a profit and stay in business unless we do the other things well, too.


The Good News

Considering our Lean effort and the help we’re getting from Lean Sensei and the work on Branding, I think we will lay out a strategy to accomplish all the things discussed above.  I think this will be a tipping point for Regal.

I believe our biggest challenge will be executing the strategy in the whirlwind of activity we experience every day.  May God grants us wisdom, strength, and patience as we journey through the next year.