How do you create a culture of respect? What does a culture of authentic leadership look like in real life? Where do you start with organizational transformation?
I’m happy to host George Saiz as the next guest in my author interview series, and to talk about his new book We Started with Respect, which was released in mid-July 2023. I’ve had the privilege to help support George through the writing and publishing process by providing input from my own experience writing and publishing Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn, and reviewing an early version of the manuscript.
George and I initially met when he was the President of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) in 2017 when I was initially launching the AME San Francisco Bay Area Consortium.
In We Started with Respect, George demonstrates through stories how leaders can navigate and balance achieving business results with people-centric principles as a comprehensive blueprint for success. In this “business novel”, readers follow the story of a newly appointed President, who inherits a disconnected company that’s struggling from a lack of leadership, alignment, and direction, and by starting with respect, is able to foster a new culture and better outcomes.
Endorsement for We Started with Respect:
I had the pleasure of writing an endorsement for We Started with Respect, which graces the back cover of the book along with Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and author of the great book Everybody Matters. Here is my endorsement:
“In We Started with Respect, George Saiz shows what it really takes to lead with respect and how to create a high-functioning people learning organization that delivers results through engaging its people. Through an engaging story of leadership and organizational transformation, readers follow the journey from a struggling to flourishing organization and can draw lessons to apply to their own practice. Let We Started with Respect be your blueprint for how to create the alignment, processes, and skills you need to create meaningful impact for yourself, your team, and your organization.” – Katie Anderson
We Started with Respect Giveaway!
George generously agreed to gift three signed copies of his new book to three lucky winners anywhere in the United States and the lucky winners have been contacted.
This giveaway ended on July 24th at 11:45pm Pacific Time. To hear about my next giveaway, click here.
About George Saiz
George Saiz enjoys sharing leadership strategies from his 40 plus years of experience as a medical device executive with Johnson & Johnson, Zimmer-Biomet, DJO Global and MicroAire.
Combined with the best practices he observed as President & CEO of The Association for Manufacturing Excellence, he’s convinced of the importance of including people in all business equations.
As a writer, keynote speaker, and coach, he now promotes enterprise excellence through a people-centric culture to the next generation of business leaders.
Author Interview with George Saiz and Katie Anderson
Without further ado, dive into my discussion with George Saiz about his book We Started with Respect.
We discuss various topics including:
- important people-centric leadership principles
- the importance of having an intentional plan for your workplace culture
- how the book supports people’s learning and how to apply its lessons in real life
- the elements of building a culture of respect
- plus much more!
In addition to reading some of the highlights from our conversation, you can access the full interview by watching the video via YouTube or listening to the audio via downloading the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
We have timestamped the questions and lightly edited George’s answers below for your reading convenience.
Questions and Highlights from the Interview:
1. What inspired you to write a book and this book in particular? (2:00)
I’ve always been interested in culture. I think even back when I was first in leadership, I thought, “You can have a great plan that looks good up on the wall, but if you don’t have the right people in the right culture – it’s hard to execute it.” I always thought that culture was the vehicle to execute those plans.
Then if I fast forward many years later, when I was president of a medical advice company, I was invited to an AME leadership summit on people-centric leadership in trying to ignite a manufacturing renaissance and was hosted by Bob Chapman the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, and he said two words there that really impacted me.
The first one was the word “intentional,” and he talked about having an intentional plan for your culture. And I thought about it as president. We had values that we spent a lot of time crafting and had those posted, but we really didn’t have a plan to intentionally develop that culture. Values were there, but it wasn’t just like having a strategic plan aligns the organization. There wasn’t that intentional plan that Bob talked about for developing the culture. So that was one word.
The second one he used was “entrusted.” He talked about the lives of the folks who report to you, their lives are entrusted to us as leaders. And I thought about that, the thought as president of the company, certainly that meant everybody in the company, but I thought that’s an awesome responsibility to think about that what I say and what I do significantly impacts somebody’s life, both at home and at work.
I went to that meeting as a practitioner of people-centric leadership principles, but I left as a promoter and I began really writing and speaking about it a lot more, and I became a lot more active. And certainly then when I joined AME then my whole life was about promoting this.
So it was natural for me when I retired to write a book. I love writing, I have always enjoyed that. And so writing it on culture and leadership seemed natural.
2. What’s one thing that you’ve learned personally about leadership in a different way through the process of writing this story or this book? (7:00)
As leaders, it’s really easy to get trapped into trying to treat everybody equally. And I’ve realized in my career that it’s not best to treat everybody equally.
The things that inspired me were things like taking a Myers-Briggs test personality test or the disc profile, or even there’s a book out “The Five Love Languages” or The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” of how people like to be appreciated in realizing that what motivates and what rewards everybody is very different.
It’s important to build those individual relationships and actually not treat everybody equally. Because in doing so, you may not motivate or reward somebody in the way that works for them, and you’ve left with suboptimization and for that person they’re missing out on the opportunity to be fulfilled at work.
3. What is the significance of the title? And what are some of the key lessons or stories that come out of that? (9:00)
The book is about a medical device company that pioneered a new technology as a startup company. And then they really worked more through brute force to get all those products out and get themselves sold. And now that they’re sold, the products have aged out and the people who held the company’s principles have left.
The company that bought them wants to get something going that still has some brand equity in the name. So they bring in a new president to turn it around and revive the company. And this gentleman believes that culture is really that foundational system that’ll help propel the company forward and sustain it in the future.
In his mind, he knows exactly where to start and that his starting point is to start with respect and start with respect for the individual.
In the book, we’ll follow this as he reconstitutes the leadership team, gets new product development going, and they’re off to the races but in the process, they’re rebuilding their culture from scratch. We follow the team as they go through that.
But many times through the book we’ll look back and see how respect was the center of everything we did. And, he’ll say later that it becomes the glue that holds it all together.
And I really believe that’s very true. You can have a great company, you can have a good or great company, but an extraordinary company is something we’re really treating people with respect and thinking about how we can fulfill and engage them each day.
4. What are some ways that leaders can demonstrate respect and how does that play through some elements of your book? (11:00)
Ask! Ask folks what they think, and what they’d like.
When we talk about building the elements of a culture I think there’s many ways you can go about it. The CEO can say, “This is how we’re going to do it,” you know, based on either how they did it in the past or what they think is best. Or maybe they want to control the environment. It could be you put together a small group of peers that are going to decide for everybody what our culture’s going to look like and what those elements will be. Or you could bring in outside consultants to decide and say, here’s the latest thinking in culture.
But I think the most respectful and original way is to ask the employees what they think would be motivating and engaging in the elements of a culture that they want to come to work in each day. And if you ask them and then listen and use it, you’ve already got a great support base for the kind of foundation that you’re going to build.
That’s where it starts – asking your employees, then listening and using that input. You’re finding out then what’s really going to work for them and so you’re already halfway home.
5. What are some challenges you’ve experienced in your own career or observed in others that have been barriers to creating cultures founded on respect? (12:30)
I think I can share that in the context of an aha moment that I had after I wrote the book. I sent it out once it was completed to three different beta groups of readers with about eight people in each group and they gave me their feedback.
The interesting thing was, there’s a gentleman that I worked with in the 1980s that said, “Wow, George, you wrote all about us.” And then another guy that I worked with, from a different company in the 1990s said, “You wrote all about our company, didn’t you?” And then somebody in the 2000s from another company said the same thing. Then lastly Dick Ryan said, “I love the book, but, I thought you told the story of the wire mold transformation.”
What really hit me then was that we’ve had all this culture and leadership approaches evolving. If you think back to post World War II, we were very much business centric, and the leadership style was command and control. Then by the 1980s, we went to team ideas, so quality circles and self-directed work teams. By the 2000s, we went into servant leadership and people-centric leadership where everybody feels valued. So we’ve been evolving in this culture approach all this time, and I think doing very good things. But what I realized from what those folks said to me was that the real issue and the real culprit isn’t which one of those models you embrace.
The real issue is that most people don’t have an intentional culture. And that’s what was missing at each one of those companies – was having any formalized intentional culture. We had a culture by default, based on whatever your supervisor wants to do, and then it’s different depending on which door you open.
So I recognize that when I was president of the company, I could espouse people-centric leadership principles, but the real culture for every employee was whatever their supervisor advocated and supported practice. And, if they supported a people-centric culture, then great. But if they were a tyrant, then the culture to that employee was tyrannical. And so that was my big aha in realizing that the biggest culprit is that most companies have a set of values, but they don’t have a way to take those values and make them actionable and make them part of what they do on an everyday part of the business. That’s not part of their strategic plan.
And that’s what made me realize that we don’t have any way of putting those into play in our business unless we have an intentional plan with actual tactics and measurable goals.
6. How can people best learn from your book? (18:00)
At the back of the book, there’s a section called “Reflections” where I have a list of questions that the reader or their team or their book club can go through at the end of each chapter. It’ll take them through some of the same situations that the team is going through in the book, and ask them to take that situation and reflect. “What does that look like in your company? How have you approached it? How would you approach it? Do you agree or, or, or disagree?”
It gives them an opportunity to say, “That would work for us, or that would work for us, and here’s why, but here’s how we would approach it.” But I think it would help them examine all those same situations about how to implement a transformational com culture that would be based on respect.
7. Is there a workbook available? (19:30)
Not yet. I was thinking about doing a workbook and then decided to put the questions at the back of the book and just give it away. So it’s all part and parcel.
8. When you were writing the book, who did you consider your target audience? (20:00)
Anybody in a leadership role or aspiring to be a leader – for those that are new in leadership or increasing roles in a company – and thinking about culture.
I would hope people that are thinking about it for the future would consider thoughtfully: How do I go about this? And what would that look like if I had that opportunity to be a leader?
9. What’s one lesson that stood out that you didn’t expect to learn, or that’s changed your perspective? (24:30)
There’s a lot of things I’ve learned. I’ll say one thing that hit me right away was if you’re going to write a book, you better grow some thick skin because everyone’s going to poke at it… and what makes sense to you doesn’t always convey to everybody else.
So as I started working my way through it, I became very comfortable with, “Okay, I’m going to do my best, and then you guys give me the feedback and it’s going to get better.” And I have to say, by doing that, I think the book was so much better because of the input that I got and then was able to listen.
10. What’s a question that I have not asked you about the book that you would like to answer? What is that question and what’s your answer? (29:00)
Question: When is We Started with Respect coming out into the world?
Answer: It will be released on July 11th, 2023.
Note: The book is now out and available. Go to George’s website for links on all the ways to get your own copy.
Free Copy of We Started with Respect – Giveaway!
Right after the release of George’s book, he gifted three signed copies to some lucky readers in the US.
This giveaway ended on July 24th at 11:45 pm Pacific, but if you would like to hear about my upcoming giveaways, enter here.