I have an early Christmas gift for you. Bina Briggs from Plain Talking HR has written a super post about an inspiring leader named Frank Pullman. This post fits wonderfully with our Heroes series, and I’m grateful to Bina for taking the time to write such a motivating piece. Take it away Bina, and thanks very much:
Over the last few days, a very popular personality of the Twitter HR Community @NeilMorrison said something like how many Execs REALLY want to know what people think? I think Neil also said something about responsibility and trust between the Employer and Employee in a Tweet discussion last week. That actually got me thinking about Employer Engagement.
In this age of keeping the Share holders happy and having business efficiencies at every level, it seems that the Senior Management expects a lot from their employees; however, often there is no engagement from the Employer. In the words of a man I admire greatly, “I think that one of the greatest weaknesses of the UK is that we focus on short term profit to the detriment of long term and deep rooted commitment that gives a greater return.” Leading by example has almost become a cliché. Not many Senior Execs command genuine respect and affection/admiration from their employees.
However, there is always an exception to the rule and I and a great number of us working at a small airport called “Luton International Airport” were very fortunate and privileged on the day a new Operations Director came into our lives. On 6th February 1992, Francis Simon Pullman (Frank to all of us) walked on to the airport and charmed us all! Over the next few years, Frank became the Chief Executive of the Airport.
Frank’s tall stature belied his gentle, human, compassionate and genuinely warm nature. He wasn’t Mr Pullman, but Frank. What made Frank unique was that he connected with people at all levels, he listened and he acted on it.
Frank was in work by 0730 hrs every morning and by 0800 hrs, he started his round of the airport departments from the Air Traffic Control to the Airfield Operations, the Fire Service, the Terminal Building, Baggage Handling to the Cargo Centre to name a few. Frank visited all the departments scattered across the airport complex, listening to what employees had to say about every day business, he engaged people into conversation. Frank knew 800 odd employees by name and oddly enough everyone knew who Frank was! People genuinely would wave and call out to Frank as he walked round the airport.
On Christmas day, in those days, the airport wasn’t fully operational, however, it had to be staffed and so Frank used to travel up from North London to Luton, especially to visit every single department and wish everyone who was on duty a Merry Christmas. People looked forward to his visit. On one such day, my hubby was driving down on the M1 a Christmas prezzie for me when having been to the airport, along came Frank in his car in the next lane, smiled, waved, gave him a thumbs up sign as he drove away! Well, that is another Christmas story!
Frank left the airport some 12 years ago and yet to this day, people remember him with such fondness! Many people cried openly the day Frank left the airport for pastures new.
This Christmas tale has a happy ending. I had been in touch with Frank only a couple of times in the last 12 years, and because I wanted to dedicate this blog to him, I made contact with him last Friday and I received a lovely e-mail from Frank today. The e-mail had all the compassion and warmth I remembered of the past, so here’s to Frank who knows all about Employer Engagement! Merry Christmas everyone! xx
6 thoughts on “Employer Engagement”
Super post Bina! Neil is right when he asks how many Execs really want to know what people think – not many. And thats because they are the wrong type of leaders. If only they knew the POWER of knowing what people in the organisation think! But ego etc gets in the way – its the cancer of organisations and is what will hold this country and probably the US back from pulling out of the recessionary times – the answer lies under your very nose but they just cant see it.
Unfortunately, Franks style – open, warm, honest and in touch – is often seen as a ‘weaker’ form of management and as such people like him rarely make it through to the top table which is a crime.
I relate very closely to his style – its how i like to run the organisations and functions i have been privileged to be responsible for. But its not been easy. someone once said that to me of my management style – “you cant lead the troops and be in the trenches with them at the same time”. Total cobblers!
Great post and thanks for sharing.
PS you can post stuff like this on Connectinghr.org anytime 😉
I know what you mean about what the current concept of being a strong leader is, however, I’m pleased to inform you that Frank is still commanding a very large Group of Companies in the aviation sector and so his style of management is as valid and in vogue now as it was nearly 20 years ago!
Thank you for your supportive words, let me see what I can write over the Festive Season!
Hi Bina – I googled your man Frank, and he does indeed seem to be still going strong. Nice to see eh.
Nice feedback Gareth, loving the total cobblers 🙂
Oh – and stop trying to pinch my best guest bloggers 😉 Just kidding – Bina your insight would go down v well over at connectinghr I’m sure.
Great article and again like Gareth, I totally agree that engagement, empathy and even just listening is key to connecting within organisations.
Interesting enough I was at a presentation last week on Management versus Leadership (and over and above some very interesting feedback from the attendees), the one thing that struck me was that it was identified that Management had “subordinates” (Leaders had “followers”)…
Hmm, and that is when I totally disagreed – it is not about management having subordinates – it is about management having “supporters”. And it seems to me that is exactly what Frank had. People supported him because he connected with them. And in turn they felt they were important and made a difference, and supported him right back. And he left a legacy that people still relate to and promote with pride. Both internally and externally.
But then again it comes down to hiring the right people in the first place. It is the very behaviours of such people like Frank (clearly qualified for the job) but who was able to bring so much more to the table by knowing how to touch and empower through the little things that make the difference.
So maybe we need to go back to the beginning of the whole process recruitment process. A Bina says “were very fortunate and privileged on the day a new Operations Director came into our lives” – she does not say joined the company but came into our lives. And in my mind that says it all.
Thank you for sharing.
OraRuth Rother (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fantastic post Bina!
Leaders and stories like these make my day start with a bang! The curious thing is that I believe this ability is actually within all of us … if you’re lucky enough to see it, watch how some of those “not so good leaders” are in situations that don’t require them to be a version of the leader they think they need to be. Situations that require them to be in a place of heart and consideration. In the wise words of Harry Potter
We each have a dark and light side … it’s the side that we choose to act on which defines us ……
Thanks for sharing Bina and great hosting Doug. Strikes me as the perfect post for What Goes Around Comes Around