Don’t Be A Howser

Back in the dark ages when I started in this business, management styles were, well shall we say, a bit different. As a young employee at Maine Electronics, a Rockwell International board house, primarily focused on Rockwell’s own products such as the Minuteman Missile program, the F-111 fighter, the B-1 Bomber and the Space Shuttle, delivery dates were critical, actually more than critical. They were all that mattered. We also had some non-Rockwell customers, but they took a backseat to mother Rockwell. The saying was if you were late on an outsides customer’s boards you got yelled at…if you were late on Rockwell boards, you got fired.

One time in particular, like all board shops, we got into a bind. We had installed a new plating line which was not up and running yet, and the old plating line has broken down, so we found ourselves in a world of hurt with catch back schedules, and milestone charts (remember those fun days? I shudder just remembering) As you all know you just cannot build boards without a plating line. Finally the new line came on board and we were back in business which was good. But the problem was that we were now really behind the proverbial eight ball, when it came to working through our backlog of late PCBs. So much so, that our Minuteman boards were so late that Rockwell’s lines in Anaheim went down. And, that’s when the real trouble began. And that’s when  the powers-that-be, sent us one of their “torpedoes” (no pun intended) to straighten us and get back on track.

The guy they sent, a little red-faced guy by the name of Howser, obviously had some clout, because his very name, struck terror in the hearts of the very guys  who could themselves, strike terror in our hearts – our bosses! This guy answered right to the big guy, a guy who was so big, that his last name was actually Rockwell.

And that’s when I learned what a “war room’ was. Apparently, Howser snuck into town late one night and the next morning, when we went to work, everything had changed. He had transformed a small square office into what he called the “war room”.  And we were soon to find out exactly what the term “war is hell” meant. All the furniture was removed from the office and the walls were covered with floor to ceiling whiteboards.

As we walked in that first morning, between seven thirty and eight as usual, we were ordered to the war room. All of us, expeditors, supervisors, managers, directors, even the facilities manager. By the time everyone arrived, there were at least thirty people lined up against the walls, with Howser standing in the center glaring at all of us.

The first clue that this was not going to be business as usual. was when one of the supervisors turned to another and whispered something and Howser heard her.  He jumped at her. putting his finger in her face and yelled “Shut up, nobody talks, I talk you listen!” Except that, he managed to insert more profanities than I had ever heard in my life, between those few words. And it went downhill from there.

After we were all assembled, and Howser got to scream at and humiliate the late comers, we got started. Or I should say he got started, with a rant about how we were a complete bunch of losers and that he was asked by Mr. Big to come out here and straighten us out, and get us back on track. He then went into all the things he was going to do to our rear ends (from chewing them, to frying them, to kicking them, to making even making us new ones) if we did not step it up. He was making sure that everyone got the message that there was a new sheriff in town, and the screwing up and goofing off was over!

For the next two weeks we met at five every morning, attendance mandatory of course, and we had our final meeting of the day at six in the evening. With all of us getting screamed at and humiliated, twice daily. Did it do any good? No not really, the problems were already on their way to being solved anyway, and they only guy who seemed to have any fun was Howser himself berating us twice a day and mostly getting in our way.

So why, you ask, am I talking about these bad old days? Simply to point out that this old style management by humiliation, does not work, nor has it ever worked. All it did was create such resentment among the workforce that they wouldn’t have followed Howser across the street for a free buffet. Hate might not a strong enough word for what we felt about the guy. Let’s just say there were no going away parties when he slunk out of town.

A true leader would never act like Howser. A great leader inspires others to greatness. A great leader is an encourager who can get people do things so amazing that they didn’t know they could do them in the first place. A great leader treats his team with the utmost respect, the respect that he will get back in return. It’s as simple as that. A great leader will do whatever she can to make sure that her team succeeds

No matter what you’re the leader of, from a sales team to a boy scout troop to a major corporation, always make sure that you’re a great leader and not a Howser. It’s only common sense

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