Tag Archives: Alan Mullaly

Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

Inspiration can come from anywhere. You just need to keep your eyes open. In honor of today’s anniversary of Ford putting the Model T car on the market for $825 in 1908, I wanted to share with you an “Opportunity Knocking” chapter sample of former Ford Chairman and CEO Alan Mulally. I chose Mulally for the third level of the Pyramid: Defining your Opportunity Strategy and Sticking with It because of his strategies for creating and seizing on Opportunity.

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His inspiration came from this ad written by Henry Ford himself:
Advertisement-Ford_Jan1925

Here is the chapter sample. I hope you enjoy it as much as I had in writing it. Be inspired 🙂

Unlocking Opportunity

When Mulally found out I was writing a book about opportunity, he
wanted to participate because of his passion for unlocking and tapping
into circumstances. His approach to weighing opportunity is very
pragmatic. Mulally looks at the concerns or worries facing the company
and turns them into positives. He explained it to me this way: “I like
the word ‘opportunity.’ I looked up the definition in the dictionary, and
one of the definitions is ‘a good chance for advancement or progress.’
Think about how cool that is! The word ‘opportunity’ is just fantastic.
You don’t wait for an opportunity. It doesn’t come to you when you are
just sitting in a room.”

Mulally uses the following three-part checklist to unlock opportunities:
• Weigh the risks of the opportunity.
• Be sure all opportunities support the vision.
• Be open to opportunistic gems.

Weigh the risks of the opportunity: Every Thursday, Mulally
meets with his team to discuss growth plans for Ford. They
look at the business environment: politics, economy, energy,
environment, customers, competition, technology trends, and
labor. They look for changes, risks, and opportunities in those
areas.

Mulally has a process in place that enables everyone at Ford
to identify opportunities: “It’s almost like an all-time continuous
improvement process on finding more and more opportunity.
Then we check that our strategy is appropriate with the business
environment, and we have a plan which is a normal business
plan of revenues and costs, cash and earnings.”

Be sure all opportunities support the vision: According to
Mulally, the concept of “opening the highways to all mankind” is
Ford’s true north. “That’s how we measure every opportunity,”
he says. “That’s what keeps us so focused on making the best
cars and trucks in the world. That’s why we divested all those
brands—Aston Martin, Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover—and
focused entirely on the Ford Motor Company.”

Be open to opportunistic gems: For Ford and other
automakers, this gem should be an emerald—I’m talking about
green technology. Innovation is the key to unlocking such gems.
One of these opportunistic gems is fuel mileage. Mulally
explained it to me this way: “If you are trying to improve the
mileage of an F-150 or a Fiesta, you have to come up with a
compelling road map of technology development.” From skilled
employees to technology, everyone and everything is part of
a company’s economic engine. Mulally continues, “There are a
lot of exciting innovations out there that can help make a car
green: you have our EcoBoost engine, lightweight auto-building
materials, integrated electronics, and navigation equipment.
Based on all these wonderful technological advances you have
the transformation of a hybrid vehicle, then all-electric vehicles,
and the use of natural gas and also hydrogen. Technologies
which are pretty neat are the ones that have multiple periods
of goals where you are improving both efficiency and safety.”

A great example of efficiency and safety is Ford’s integrated
electronics—how the different technologies talk to each other.
He returned to the motto of opening highways to everyone,
emphasizing that this is considered in any new advancement:
“We heed that statement with every decision we make.”

If you are inspired by what you read pls click here and order your copy of Opportunity Knocking for more leadership strategies on being the best YOU can be 🙂

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Alan Mulally’s Secret to Ford’s Success (Exclusive Book Excerpt)

I have been fortunate to interview some of the world’s top business leaders and everytime I write a book I ask myself who in my Rolodex should I include? What would my readers want to hear from? It was a no brainer to include Mulally the savior of Ford to talk about opportunity. With Mulally’s announcement of his retirement on July 1st (which surprised the street b/c they were expecting a retirement towards the end of the year), I wanted to post a piece of my Alan Mulally Chapter from Opportunity Knocking.

Alan Mulally of Ford

(this following is an excerpt of Opportunity Knocking)

When Mulally found out I was writing a book about opportunity, he wanted to participate because of his passion for unlocking and tap- ping into circumstances. His approach to weighing opportunity is very pragmatic. Mulally looks at the concerns or worries facing the company and turns them into positives. He explained it to me this way: “I like the word ‘opportunity.’ I looked up the definition in the dictionary, and one of the definitions is ‘a good chance for advancement or progress.’ Think about how cool that is! The word ‘opportunity’ is just fantastic. You don’t wait for an opportunity. It doesn’t come to you when you are just sitting in a room.”

Mulally uses the following three-part checklist to unlock opportunities:
• Weigh the risks of the opportunity.
• Be sure all opportunities support the vision.
• Be open to opportunistic gems.

Before I sat down with Mulally, his office emailed me the image shown on page 50—an ad from 1925, to which I immediately gravitated. The ad’s message is simple, yet powerful: “Opening the Highways to All Mankind.” Talk about a compelling vision. All good organizations have one—it is the beacon that guides a growing company. Some CEOs would have turned down the overwhelming challenge of restoring and revamping that vision, but for Mulally, coming from Boeing, it was a chance to contribute to another American icon.

GETTING BACK TO BASICS

When Mulally took over, Ford was a $16-billion company but may as well have been a dozen small businesses. The company had no unifor- mity and was not “best in class” for quality, fuel efficiency, or safety. There was no real synergy. Ford was losing money and market share. It was sinking—fast. Mulally seized the opportunity he saw in this dire situation, even though it meant taking bold steps.
How did Mulally define opportunity in this situation? He decided to narrow the company’s focus to the original Ford brand alone. This was a huge decision, and not one he took lightly, as it meant gutting the company of many of its iconic brands.

Mulally and his team went back to basics, defining a vision and then sticking with it. First, they needed to define opportunity by decid- ing what Ford was. What kind of brands would it offer? They decided to offer a full family of vehicles: small, medium and large cars, utilities and trucks. Second, Ford focused on being best in class for all of its vehicles. Third, Ford ensured its vehicles would be accepted—and adapted—by consumers around the globe. If a model was developed for the US mar- ket, it needed to be adaptable to car buyers in other countries.

Using this three-pronged approach has enabled Mulally to lever- age all of the company’s assets to serve the different needs of Ford’s global consumers: “We realized that although our cars may be the same overall, it’s the subtle nuances of taste of our consumers throughout the world that would enhance them. Eighty-five percent of our vehicles are the same but they are customized to the unique tastes and require- ments of every country and every culture around the world.”

When Mulally was initially trying to figure things out and prioritize what needed to happen, he recalls asking a question of his team: “Guys, how are we doing?” Looking back, this was a pivotal moment. At that time, Ford was losing $17 billion a year and Mulally knew the answers were not going to be easy.6 But he had the courage to shine the spotlight on the ugly reality instead of letting it fester in the shadows. By asking this question, Mulally forced his team to acknowledge they had to make some serious—and extremely painful—decisions if the company was to survive. He said to me, “We needed a plan to build a cathedral.”

Making tough decisions like these is where having a clearly defined vision and sticking to it becomes crucial. For many, the changes at Ford were devastating. But from shutting down facilities and laying off workers to eliminating brands, the actions Mulally and his team took would help boost profitability and create a stronger company over the long term.
When we spoke about these difficult decisions, Mulally told me, “No matter what industry, we want our leaders to be looking through clear glasses and have a clear plan. The situation is not good or bad. The situation is just the way it is. We get to decide what to do about it. We ask ourselves, what is the real situation and what will we do to really prosper? It’s all about people.”

From the boardroom to the showroom, Mulally emphasizes the symbiotic relationship Ford executives need to have with employees in order to succeed. If workers don’t share the same vision and enthusiasm they are let go or they leave on their own. When developing cars the company looks at the wants and needs of its global consumers. In many ways, human capital is even more valuable than monetary capital. The dynamics of an organization are key. Mulally has the personality, pas- sion, and drive—he looks for people like himself because he knows that the success of his company depends on it.

If you are inspired by what you read pls click here and order your copy of Opportunity Knocking.

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Leading Through Listening

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We have all heard about the power of the written word, but what about the power of listening? We have all had “conversations” with individuals who are so preoccupied on what they are going to say next in response to you that they literally do not listen to your part of the discussion at all. This lack of connection greatly impacts their productivity and contribution because they are so wrapped up in themselves, they don’t know how they can contribute.

Listening is crucial in connecting with someone.

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For example Ralph Schlosstein’s ability to read people has enabled him to become a powerhouse recruiter for Evercore, specializing in the firm’s hiring of senior-level management.

All good leaders will tell you they lead by listening.
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That’s how Ron Kruszewski of Stifel Financial fixed the problems of the company when he was hired. He sat there in a meeting, had his team tell him what was wrong and then he empowered them to fix the problems.

Lisa Stone, Jory Des Jardins, Elisa Camahort Page
Lisa Stone, Jory DesJardins and Elisa Camahort Page of BlogHer all stress they lead by listening to their community members so they evolve the BlogHer environment based on the needs of the community. Schlosstein listens to his team and then evaluates information he receives to see if it makes sense to make a particular investment

The relationship between company and customer is critical not only for success and longevity, but also for the company to stay adaptable and innovative. In the end it’s the consumers who dictate what they need, want, and purchase. It’s imperative for companies like Ford to listen to what consumers want so they can build a product that meets demand.

Listening is also necessary to effectively service customers. How can you fulfill the needs of your customers if you don’t know what they want? Or, to consider it from a different perspective, do employees want to work for someone who doesn’t take the time to hear what they are saying? Taking the time to listen is a huge morale booster. Nothing is worse than working for someone who doesn’t listen to you because they think they already know everything. The same goes for the employee- if you are not listening to your boss how can you deliver? You can’t.

Listening is an essential ingredient for anyone who wants to succeed.

For more inspiration, leadership strategies and lessons? Please order
a hard copy or Kindle version of my book Opportunity Knocking Lessons from Business Leaders.

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