Leadership, EQ and Elon Musk
I wanted to share something I read recently, that I found fascinating. In response to an advocacy group report that Tesla's injury rate at one of its plants was higher than the industry average, as well as various initiatives and actions Tesla itself was taking to ensure safety was their number one priority, Elon Musk sent an internal memo to his staff to reiterate the point. Part of the memo read:
No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.
Going forward, I've asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I'm meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.
This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team's safety above their own.
There are a couple of interesting articles on this here and here, but I wanted to reiterate some important takeaways that we can all implement, especially if you're a leader (at any level) in your organization.
The first is the tone of the email, particularly the beginning, which is both sincere and empathetic.
Emotional vulnerability (that is sincere) is an essential trait of great leaders and they don't shy away from showing it. It's what engenders trust and allows people to accept and trust that "you" are with "them", as, of course, we strive to ensure they know that there is only "us". This type of real language must be there both verbally and in written communications.
(It's worth noting that this isn't something you can fake. Over time, your actions and behaviors will either reinforce your sincerity or belie it.)
The second is the commitment, not so much to have any injuries reported to him - sure, that's important - but rather that Musk would go down to the production line and perform the task himself. Assuming he delivers, it makes for a powerful statement, a substance behind his words and a signal for the rest of the company and, indeed the industry.
(A few trips to the production line and this becomes the stuff of lore, repeated by word of mouth down the years.)
The core message is one of action, and action that transcends the usual compartmentalized, bureaucratic, report-driven platitudes that are so often heard (and disbelieved) in management circles.
So, two things:
Speak clearly, honestly and from the heart. If that sounds corny, get over it.
And, when you say you'll do something, do it in a way that shows you're putting your money where your mouth is.
Otherwise, it'll be obvious that you're bullshitting, not only yourself but everyone else as well.