Today I want to share another example of the transformation that can happen when a business leader swims against the tide and employs the “soft values” of love, compassion and kindness in the workplace.
Let’s go back to 1972, to the Pittron Steel mill in Glassport PA, a massive foundry that covered seven blocks along the shores of the Monongahela River. This was well before business analysts started measuring “employee engagement,” when workers toiled in an authority-driven management structure.
That year, Pittron was racked by labor strikes, fueled by generations of deeply engrained disdain between management and labor unions. It was ugly and there was no end in sight. A man named Wayne Alderson – a decorated WWII veteran who was badly injured in the war – worked in the mill’s finance department until he became VP of Operations and was called to lead the organization during an 84-day bitter strike.
Alderson took on the challenge and presented his plan to the mill’s owner, who replied, “No, I don’t think your plan will work.” His response: “Well, look, nothing else has worked. Let me try it, and if it doesn’t work you can fire me.”
Alderson’s approach was simply to demonstrate to the people at the plant that he cared about them … that he valued them. His mantra was that he would treat them with “love, dignity and respect” and he did some very simple things to show it.