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Once you solicit input, pounce on it

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

To showcase your leadership, make bold decisions that send a message. That approach works for Bob Chapman.

Chapman is chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a $2 billion capital equipment and engineering consulting firm based in St. Louis. Chapman became the company’s CEO in 1975 at age 30 after the death of his father.

In 2002, Chapman sought to instill what he calls “guiding principles of leadership” in his workforce. He met with employees to solicit their input on how to enhance the culture.

Chatting with Ron Campbell, a 27-year veteran of the company, Chapman had an epiphany. Campbell, a machine tester, had just returned from three months installing equipment for a client in Puerto Rico.

Chapman’s draft of the guiding principles focused on trust. But Campbell told the CEO, “It seems you trust me a lot more when you can’t see me than when I’m right here.”

Campbell explained that in Puerto Rico, he had an expense account with lots of freedom to do his work. But in the manufacturing plant, he had to punch a time clock.

After listening to Campbell, Chapman thanked him for opening up. Then he turned to his HR manager and said, “Please take out the time clocks.”

Chapman’s decisive move demonstrated his commitment to earning em­ployees’ trust. Managers warned Chapman that abruptly removing time clocks would create chaos, but it turned into a huge morale-booster.

— Adapted from Everybody Matters, Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia, Portfolio/Penguin.

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