Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2014

Vision: Mark James

Mark James

More About Mark James:

  • Leads 130,000 employees in over 100 countries
  • Graduate of Sky View High School in Cache Valley
  • Son of longtime USU employee Vern James

Don’t Forget About the Machinery

I was excited to be asked to offer thoughts on my vision of leadership. There are many books written on the topic but most of them focus on charisma and motivating people. There are three important areas leaders need to focus on and get right.

  1. Pick the right strategy. This is important because otherwise you can motivate them to follow you in the wrong direction. Sometimes it isn’t clear if you picked the right strategy until years have passed.
  2. Motivating people to pursue your strategy. Picking the right strategy isn’t enough if you can’t motivate anyone to pursue it. This is the most visible aspect of leadership and it gets plenty of attention.
  3. Understanding how the machinery works. This gets very little attention and yet is arguably the most important of the three. If you don’t understand how the machinery works, it doesn’t matter that you picked the right strategy and motivated people to pursue it – you will be continually disappointed with the results and will wonder why it’s not working like it should be. You may decide you haven’t motivated people sufficiently and put all of your effort there, only to get the same disappointing results.

Understanding how the machinery works means using business acumen to know how all the pieces fit together and how you can maximize the results by leveraging the machinery. You have to know which levers to pull and what happens when you pull them. You have to understand how things actually happen in the organization and where the levers are and how they work – and make sure they have been pulled versus trusting what people tell you without verification. How do you learn about the machinery? Put in the time and effort. Go see how the widgets are made and how the process works so that you thoroughly understand it instead of just saying, “I am strategic and don’t get involved in tactical things.” If you don’t understand how things work and how people think, you will continually be confused as to why they won’t execute your strategy effectively despite all of your motivational attempts to get them to do it. You need a strong Management Operating System (MOS) to ensure you know whether things are getting done the way you expect them to be done. You have to understand how things happen in the organization including human nature and the impact of culture.

One Honeywell

I also have been asked how culture is created and sustained within a large, diversified global company like Honeywell. It starts at the top. I have been fortunate to work for Dave Cote, a Chairman and CEO who has successfully transformed and led the company for over a decade. That strong, consistent leadership goes a long way. He picks the right strategies, motivates people to achieve them, and truly understands how the machinery works. We have a robust One Honeywell culture that allows us to do amazing things. We stay focused on great positions in good industries, and drive our Five Initiatives (growth, productivity, cash, people and enablers – big initiatives) and our 12 Behaviors – one of which is leadership impact – to succeed globally in a competitive world. Culture is a big part of our business model and really does make a difference. We strive to do two seemingly competing things well: have the flexibility of a small company but the efficiency of broad standardization. Over the last six years, more than 85 percent of our top 700 management hires have come from within. We provide opportunities that span businesses, functions, and geographies. This helps drive One Honeywell.

Be a Learner

As a leader, self-awareness and being a good learner go hand-in-hand. The more you know and understand about a wide variety of topics, the more effective you can be. I have found that the best ideas can come from outside your area of expertise. In HR, I’ve lifted best practices from Integrated Supply Chain, Engineering, and General Managers to improve our HR organization as opposed to getting those ideas from other HR organizations. Having the ability to recognize something that works really well in a group not related to your team – spotting the pattern that makes it successful – and lifting that into your area can be a tremendous competitive advantage. That thinking should never stop.