What defines an organization’s success? Does it take a great team, irresistible products, achieving long-and short-term goals? Or does it take something more? According to Michael Loggins, VP of IT at SMC Corporation, the global leader in manufacturing pneumatic technology for industrial automation that supports customers in every industrialized nation, his view is inherently different. Michael shares with his staff and colleagues that the key to a successful organization is about creating an “awesome” workplace culture.
In the book, School Culture Rewired, authors, Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker assert that “the culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” As organizational culture continues to evolve during the pandemic and recent unrest over racial inequality, these factors greatly influence the type of behavior a leader is willing to tolerate in their organization. What kind of behavior is Michael willing to tolerate? In this leadership article series, How Great Leaders Lead their Organizations during Uncertain times, Michael shares his approach to create a culture of awesomeness. He discusses his plans to strategically implement this type of culture across the 60 plus SMC offices worldwide as he leads the initiative to unify these offices under one umbrella. It’s no easy task, and there’s a lot of pressure—but his leadership style and commitment to creating an awesome culture proves he is not only up for the challenge — he is prepared for it.
Michael’s awesomeness is centered around his three values: 1 innovation-find new ways of doing things so they can design the product better. 2 productivity -stay ahead of the issues and ahead of the curve and be trendsetters to mitigate and remove barriers that are in the way. 3 community-the people he works with are not just employees, they are family. At the end of the day, Michael believes that the people you work with are family and we should always have their back.
He was known as the easy going one growing up third eldest in a household of nine siblings. His easy-going mentality prepared him for his leadership role and the challenges that come along with it. He learned to roll with the punches and not take things too seriously when faced with challenges or “high emotional, high impacting issues that cause a lot of headaches”. When addressing these types of conflicts in the workplace, Michael’s approach is to focus on solving the problem without the emotional drama. His team adopts this type of behavior and it enables them to focus on solving the problem and adding value. When he or his team faces conflict, he encourages them to first find a common ground and address the issues at hand. “As soon as everyone calms down, it’s amazing what gets done.”
What does it mean to make people on your team awesome?
My goal has always been to make people Awesome. Not just IT people but anyone I interact with. You become awesome by adding value to the people you work with and serve. When you approach situations with a value first approach, it enables you to leverage your unique perspective to solving problems and meeting the customer’s needs.
How do you get your team to buy in to your awesome philosophy?
It’s about the team understanding the “why” of what we are trying to accomplish. Understanding the “why” and sharing the philosophy about what we do, provides the team with transparency and honesty. By creating this open communication environment, it makes people feel safe. Team members can lower their guards and communicate with their colleagues and management. This open communication allows me to listen and make sure they have what they need to achieve their long- and short-term goals.
What do your employees value the most?
Employees want to be treated like regular people. People have a misconception that people who work in IT are nerds without a personality. That could not be farther from the truth. They value trust, respect, and engaged leadership. They want to be valued for who they are and what they bring to the table. When staff report to work, they are not punching a clock and sitting in front of a computer screen to do work. They are solving problems and figuring out how they can innovate and meet the customer’s needs. But it is more than that, they work at SMC because they want to be part of something great.
What is the biggest factor to your success?
Continuous forward motion and having the mindset that learning never stops and you should always strive for more. You must stay hungry to live up to your full potential. There is no finish line when providing value to the customer. Continue to strive because there is always something to do. There is always more value to add. It is about making progress and making existing products better. Success is not about focusing on numbers and goals; it’s about learning from mistakes and experiences. When you make a mistake, focus on how you can learn from that mistake, so you do not repeat it. Reflect on your experiences and determine how you can learn from them and help others learn from them as well.
What are the challenges or obstacles with creating an awesome workplace culture?
My current priority is focused on unifying the SMC company globally. What makes unifying SMC challenging is that this type of unification has never been done at such a large scale before. In fact, SMC has 65 plus companies that have spent the last 61 years running independently. SMC customers are global and do not conform to geographic boundaries and the SMC employees must adapt to that environment. This type of unification and culture shift requires scaling SMC’s current systems, processes, and initiatives. My responsibility is to get people prepared to change for this globalization. The IT part at the end of the day is the easy part. When we start talking about how the business is going to run that’s how things get more complex and complicated. If we can get them started on the change journey now, it can go faster with unnecessary obstacles.
This unification will be a major culture change that will require 65 autonomous companies working together as one. This culture change represents an opportunity for SMC employees to be a part of something bigger than just their siloed company.
What advice would you give to people to building an awesome workplace culture?
Have a sense of urgency when it comes to building a stronger workplace culture. It is possible to create a sense of urgency without being a mandate or forced. Focus on how to get everyone to realize what we are trying to accomplish and why it’s so critical to do it.
Also, be honest! Employees can smell when you are not honest. If you do not tell them the candid raw truth, you lose credibility when things get hard. You need to provide truth despite discomfort.
Michael’s unique leadership style is highly effective and proves that it is possible to create an awesome workplace culture in today’s environment of uncertainty and disruption. His leadership style is not about ego or checking a box. It is about creating a culture of awesomeness. This culture he has cultivated has boosted workplace morale, helped his team achieve the short- and long-term goals, and has created happy, awesome employees. His devotion to people has helped his team overcome the various workplace challenges many of us have experienced over the past year and continue to experience now. Despite his many successes and achievements, it is no surprise that he believes there is still more work to do. As he embarks on his journey to unify the SMC offices, the best is yet to come.