Rich Teerlink - Harley Davidson

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CLLC: Rich Teerlink
Rich Teerlink is the former CEO of Harley-Davidson spoke on People Driven Execution, based on his new book, More than a Motorcycle: The Leadership Journey at Harley-Davidson (with Lee Ozley). If you ever get the chance to hear Teerlink speak, go do it, even if you aren't particularly interested in motorcycles. He has an off-beat style, and he tells a great story about how Harley-Davidson went from being a laughingstock in the early 1980's to the high performing "lifestyle company" that it is today. He credits most of this turnaround with how Harley-Davidson treated its employees and its customers. In his talk he made reference to a graph (never displayed) that suggests employee moral (or involvement) and customer satisfaction have a direct impact on the bottom line of the company. In his talk he said something to the effect of "If you have happy employees and happy customers, profitability will take care of itself." He told the story of how Harley-Davidson went about making happy employees and happy customer, peppered with wonderful stories and examples. With respect to happy employees, he talked about the familiar idea that simply giving people (the right) information changes their behavior. Teerlink reflected a comment that one of the blogs in business panelists made: Make your employees passionate about what they are doing. Passionate people want to be there. They will take risks because they recognize there is always room for improvement. At the panel a few weeks ago, someone talked about giving blogs to passionate people within your organization and amazing things would happen. He talked about that "our people are the most important asset" mantra of many business leaders. Teerlink's complaint with this is that he doesn't believe most business leaders really believe this. "When was the last time you went surfing with an employee?" he asks. Yes, people are the only sustainable competitive advantage of any business. And until they are...
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