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THE CASE FOR WASTING TIME AND OTHER MANAGEMENT HERESIES
By HOWARD PINES
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013Howard Pines
All rights reserved.
ON "WASTING TIME"
What many people call "wasting time" is not only crucial to building relationships and trust, but many times helps you uncover opportunities you might have otherwise missed. I learned the importance of developing relationships and trust early in my career. I discovered that with people who shared similar interests and objectives it was easy for me to develop relationships, because it was so easy to spend quality time together. However, it was much more difficult to do so when our interests and/or objectives were not similar. I realized, though, that particularly if I wanted to achieve difficult objectives, these were the people who really counted. The key is to show them that, while you may have issues with their objectives and/or approach, you are supportive of them personally. And spending time discussing issues and listening to their point of view is one way to bring this about. So while all of this may look like "wasting time" to someone else, to my mind its potential value is immeasurable.
One of my first experiences along these lines occurred in 1967 when I was working as the benefits manager for P. Ballantine & Sons, the famous New York brewery. We had close to 4,000 employees and ten unions, so doing something about controlling workers' compensation costs was considered important. It wasn't until after I was hired, though, that I learned this area of my department was very dependent on the company's medical doctor. I also learned that the doctor, who was thirty-five years my senior and spoke better Russian than English, did not have any use for the management of the industrial relations department, and that he and my boss did not speak to each other. When I called my boss to discuss the issue, he admitted it was a problem, but he stated it was not "his" problem. "Someone has to make this work," he said, "and I have chosen you." What to do? The doctor wouldn't set up regular meetings with me, and I was not only becoming frustrated but worried, because my boss had told me that if the doctor failed to cooperate I rather than the doctor would be in trouble. I'd also heard that the doctor was close to the Badenhausen family, which owned the company, and was therefore untouchable.
Finally, I learned that the doctor came to the office on Saturdays to catch up on his paper work. I decided this might be my best opportunity to develop a relationship with him, so one Saturday I went to the office. No one else was there, but the light was on in his office. Around lunchtime I knocked on his door and asked if he wanted to share a sandwich and a soda. He said okay and invited me in. He immediately began to vent about the company's failures and how the industrial relations department was a disaster. I listened for almost three hours, asking some questions about the situation and the key players. While he obviously had a slanted view, especially about the department's management, some of his insights about the union leaders proved helpful.
The next few Saturdays, and many other times over the five years I remained at P. Ballantine & Sons, I would stop in and visit the "good doctor." Most of what we discussed was not substantive, nor did it usually add to the company's bottom line. However, he began to cooperate with me and my department, and we actually began to reduce our workers' compensation costs. To many executives these meetings would be construed as "wasting time." However, to me, this relationship made my job much easier to perform. In addition, the fact that I was able to pull it off impressed not only my boss and some of the company's senior executives, but also the union executives who found the doctor irritating.
This success also made an impression on me, leading me to the realization that most people, regardless of their status, need people around them who they feel are supportive. And this, in turn, led to another success. Ballantine had three different Teamsters Union locals and seven craft unions, and the Teamsters had a reputation for being extremely tough negotiators. Because of that, it was said that the breweries agreed to a forty-hour-week even before the railroads and automobile companies. So the unions had a big effect on our business. In fact, because of all of the burdensome seniority rules, overtime clauses, and working condition restrictions, the overall effect of the unions on Ballantine was a killer financially.
Four breweries—Anheuser-Busch, Pabst Brewing Company, P. Ballantine & Sons, and Rheingold Beer—negotiated together with all of the unions every three years. By 1970, when the contracts were due to be negotiated, I had been promoted to director of benefits. Just as the negotiations began, Ballantine's president, Steve Haymes, and the VP of industrial relations, Bob Geiger, decided that I should take on more responsibility, including becoming involved in labor relations. My role during most of the negotiation was limited to carrying Bob's bag and learning. However, at the end of the negotiation, when we were discussing how to pay for the agreement, I came up with an idea in the health insurance area that saved each of the breweries about $100,000 annually. This impressed Charlie LaMotta, who was the strongest of the Teamster leaders, and something of a scourge to Ballantine's senior management. He was so tough, in fact, that he intimidated the managers at all four breweries. They felt he was unreasonable, but because of his strength and aggressive behavior they were afraid to take him on, which only made him more powerful. Fortunately, Charlie now reached out to me and we began to meet regularly—often for lunch or dinner—to discuss the issues affecting the breweries. Many of the older department heads couldn't believe I would "waste time" and money eating out with him, believing there would be no benefit. And indeed, if all I got was good advice, one could have made an argument that I had wasted my time and the company's money.
But a year later, when my boss left unexpectedly, at the young age of twenty-nine I was promoted to VP of industrial relations. Truthfully, I was not experienced enough to take over this very difficult role, and I felt my relationship with Charlie might be the key to my success or failure. And to a great extent it was. While he continued to be difficult to negotiate with, he always provided me with valuable insights about negotiating, as well as about the other union leaders. This was particularly helpful when, in 1972, Investors Funding, which had bought Ballantine two years earlier, realized they could not make it work financially. Steve Haymes came to me and asked if I thought we could get major givebacks from the unions so that we could develop a better picture to attract buyers. At the time, though, there was no precedent for unions providing a company with this kind of help. The union line was "If they can't make it, someone else will take their place." I asked for a week and shopped the idea to all the major Teamster leaders who were involved. The conversations were frank and interesting, but none of the leaders would guarantee that they would even allow their members to vote on giving us a break.
Charlie became the key. He realized that if we went down, our employees would not be absorbed by the other breweries, and there would be major issues to contend with, including the funding of their pension plan. We spent two long nights discussing the issue. Finally, he told me that because he trusted me he would support us if we did three things. First, we had to make a convincing case to the unions. Second, we would have to open our books to the unions' accountants. And, third, our management would have to take the same percentage cut in wages that the unions' employees took. Our executive team resisted
Excerpted from THE CASE FOR WASTING TIME AND OTHER MANAGEMENT HERESIES by HOWARD PINES. Copyright © 2013 by Howard Pines. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
1 On "Wasting Time".................... 1
2 On Adding Executives.................... 11
3 On Negotiations.................... 17
4 On Anticipating Change.................... 25
5 On Assumptions.................... 31
6 On Acting Tough.................... 39
7 On Being Supportive.................... 47
8 On Price.................... 57
9 On Coaching.................... 65
10 On Finding the Right Place.................... 75
11 On Evaluating Future Leaders.................... 81
12 On Risk and Surprise.................... 91
13 On Communications.................... 99
14 On Hard Workers.................... 107
15 On Having Successful Meetings.................... 113
16 On Controlling Leaders.................... 121
17 On Unions.................... 127
18 On Investors.................... 133
19 On Leaving When It's Time to Go.................... 141
20 On Credibility.................... 147
21 On Teams.................... 157
22 On Successful Leaders.................... 165
23 Some Closing Thoughts.................... 175
About the Author.................... 181