One time when a layoff seemed the only way out, the head of manufacturing and I got together. Our company was better then a layoff. Our people were better than that. Thank God for the right people at the right time. We looked at keeping the folks until the booked business came in , which was an anticipated 6 months later. We compared that with the cost of severance and COBRA and administration and the survivor's guilt and the "next shoe" syndrome. I truly don't believe you can save yourself to success. We studied to see how much would we have spent on the "layoff" and what the expended and projected costs were. We knew we could make 6 months but then our business case weakened if the work did not come in. We bet on our folks.
That wonderful CEO believed in our business case. He spoke to all the employees in a town meeting and confirmed their thoughts-we were running out of manufacturing work until October--six months away. Eyes welled up with water, foots tapped and heads were hanging lower. Some lips were terse on some and the silence was SO LOUD!
But the next was a surprise to those with their heads down. "With your help, we won't have a layoff. We won't have a layoff but I need your help to do things we need done. Things that may not be in your job description. For this summer, we will pull back the landscapers and painters. I need you to do those things. I need help in the technical library; so if you will learn something new in that arena-I need you. Help us spruce up this place and your pay will continue and your benefits will continue and as the manufacturing needs pick up-you will be back to your other positions. Of course, who knows you may learn a new career (BTW- in the technical library position that happened.)
The applause and the tears and the smiles and unexpected hugs were SO WARM. It was real. Weeks later, I was grocery shopping and one of the wives of our employees hugged me in the aisle. The stress level was lower in their family. Leadership in a company affects a family and a community and the attitude of school age children.
So, the business went about its business and in 4 months, the work was in the factory. It came in early because something unexpected happened. Leadership lead and communicated the vision in simple terms. But there was still a surprise.
See, the marketing folks and all the others who could bring in the business saw the factory employees working outside their jobs everyday. The reminders were real-over coffee, in the parking lot, with paint cans and as the trash cans were emptied. The sense of urgency was there so it happened. It was not a layoff and a week later it was business as usual.
It was the whole company. It was an innovative leadership team not settling, a CEO who believed in the staff and a workforce who trusted the leader. It was all of us working together towards an end we trusted.
So, as I attend the ALDS and have my hotdog with mustard and ketchup-despite the words of "Dirty Harry, " I will study the leadership and the emotions of the leaders. And I will believe in the simple vision 9=4.