Auto Glass Week Seminars Offer Lessons for Leadership
September 21, 2012

by Megan Headley,

In sharing his dramatic story, Captain Richard Phillips offered his auto glass industry listeners lessons they could apply to improving their own leadership abilities.

Seminars and a keynote address on becoming a stronger, more effective leader have drawn in crowds at Auto Glass Week™, taking place this week in Louisville, Ky.

This morning, Captain Richard Phillips shared his remarkable story and lessons for strong leadership as the keynote speaker. In April 2009, the world watched and wondered at the ship captain who offered himself as a hostage to Somali pirates in order to protect the lives of his 20 crewmembers.

He began by highlighting to his rapt audience three key points he'd learned over the course of 33 years sailing, 23 years as captain:

  • You are much stronger than even you know;
  • The only time that all is lost is when you chose to give up; and
  • A dedicated professional team can overcome any obstacle.

He began with a lesson to which any auto glass business owner could relate, the importance of the adage: "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst."

Phillips always told his crew he expected it would at some point be attacked by pirates, but felt they could handle it if they were prepared. To improve that preparation, he went over the required quarterly security reports, springing a surprise drill on that voyage's crew. They found problems that they discussed, and then generated new safety ideas as well. "There was some grumbling about the drill ... but a few days later the crew was real glad we took sometime to prepare for the worst," he recalled.

That was when, on calm seas, a small ship with four armed pirates caught up to the ship, despite evasive maneuvers, and boarded Phillips' ship.

At that moment, he and the crew knew they were responsible for getting themselves safely out of this situation."At sea, you don't get to pass the buck," Phillips said. "At sea, you get to learn firsthand how strong you are."

From the start, he guessed that the pirates weren't as practiced in their task as his crew because his crew performed their safety procedures nearly flawlessly while the pirates lost their ladder and sank their boat in boarding.

That practice also meant that the crew stayed in the safe room when the captain was ordered to call them to the deck, because they didn't hear the safe word.

Ultimately, Phillips said, he knew the "best way to protect my crew, my ship and my cargo - and myself - was to get the pirates off my ship."

Phillips recounted the harrowing account of being held as hostage on a lifeboat with the four pirates, not expecting rescue but staying focused on keeping hope, and remaining the pirates' "adversary rather than a passenger," never becoming simply a hostage. As the pirates played mind games and withheld water, he remembered, "I don't think anyone solved their crises at sea by being panicked."

After four days as a hostage, Phillips was rescued by U.the S. Navy SEALs, who he calls the real heroes of the story.

He summarized his tale by sharing with his audience, "The one simple reason I'm here today ... a dedicated team of professionals who did what it took."

Yesterday's leadership speaker focused on a specific aspect of working with dedicated professionals. Auto glass business owners with a fleet of young techs found lots that made them nod when Garrison Wynn, author of The Real Truth About Success, took the stage with suggestions for how different generations can work better together.

Wynn, who at age 27 was the youngest department head in a Fortune 500 company, knows just how challenging it can be for people of different generations to communicate their ideas and values productively to one another. Wynn showed off his background as a stand-up comedian as he shared with his audience the importance of making employees feel like a valuable part of an organization. For starters, tell someone often enough that they're wrong and pretty soon nothing you say will be right.

Wynn explained that top-performing CEOs don't say "wrong," they say "I don't agree with you but I'm willing to listen." A request for information can be the start of trust building, a key for effective leadership.

As Wynn explained, your employees under 30 have been made to feel "heard" their entire lives, by schools, parents and friends, making it more important for this generation over others to feel that their ideas are being received.

"The pure power of making people feel heard," Wynn said, is part of why some employees will stay with the same company, the same products, the same industry, despite tangible results.

Wynn also touched on some of the skills that employees under 30 bring to the table. "People under 30 have a gift for reading your sincerity extremely well," he said, making it very important to communicated honestly to these employees. In addition, they believe that are multiple solutions for a single problem. The minute these youths hear "there's just one way" everybody under 30 stops listening. Finally, there is a desire for prestige. "Can you make your young people who work for you look good in front of a customer, in front of each other? Can you explain something so clear and easy they can turn around and explain that to a customer?" Wynn asked.

Wynn also pushed a positive point to these differing generational viewpoints. "The foundation of true agreement is disagreement," he advised, as this can get to the heart of problems and lead to better solutions.

"There's a big lesson in life, a big lesson in leadership, a big lesson in generational differences: everybody knows something you don't," Wynn said.

Auto Glass Week continues in Louisville, Ky., through Saturday, September 22, with more educational seminars, the opening of the Exhibition/Extravaganza and the Pilkington Clear Advantage Auto Glass Technician Olympics and the Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Olympics. Stay tuned to™ for updates straight from the show.

This story is an original story by AGRR™ magazine/™. Subscribe to AGRR™ Magazine.
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