Saturday, February 11, 2017

An Excellent Leader

When I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque during the early 1990s, I had an excellent leader and his name was Joseph Trujillo.

The Communications Squadron commander appointed Mr. Trujillo as the project manager for a large telecommunications installation project. The project’s mission was to transition the military base from an analog telephone switching system to a state-of-art digital telephone switching system. Joe had five core members of his team and many others providing support when needed.

Joe formerly worked at AT&T for many years as a manager before the breakup of the Bell Telephone System was mandated in 1982. Joe accepted the early retirement offered from AT&T and continued working, becoming a civilian employee of the USAF.

Joe created the culture for the team, developed team members and fostered productivity by:

·      Modeling Behavior - Joe created an atmosphere of working hard and being professional but also wanted the team to be loose and have fun doing such an important project. Joe was the first one in the office and would have the coffee ready. He modeled the behavior he wanted us to exhibit with internal and external stakeholders, customers and, engineers, senior leaders and work crews. Joe rarely showed the pressure he was under to have a flawless cut-over of the telephone switching system and his demeanor was followed by the entire project team.

·      Being Present and Visible – Joe did not separate himself from the team. In the beginning stages of the team Joe commandeered a large open office space. Each team member was provided a desk and Joe’s desk was not larger than anyone else’s desk. There were no partitions and we were encouraged to communicate directly with him and others on the team. Joe made us all feel that our individual contribution was important to the overall success of the project. 

·      Allowing New Approaches – Joe allowed me to come up with a unique way to dispose of the old telephone switching system. The usual process of disposing of old communications equipment was to just send it to the military base scrap yard. I suggested to Joe another alternative. I suggested that that we sell the switching equipment instead of just throwing it away. I figured that some organization would be able to cannibalize old parts for possible replacements parts. Joe was on-board with the idea straight away but it took me time to convince others of the idea. Joe delegated the entire process to me and I in coordinated the selling of the old switch. We were able earn U.S. taxpayers $34,000 from selling the old switch. I’m very proud of that accomplishment and all because Joe was willing to listen and take a different approach because of suggestions from one of his team members.

The new telephone switching system was installed on time, resources were wisely managed and the cut-over was seamless. It has been 20 years since I separated from them military in 1997 but I will always remember Joe – he was the best manager I ever had and an excellent leader.

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