Management by the book at AgustaWestland

William Hunt's AgustaWestland isn't the first company I've heard about has used a book to engender important discussions in the workforce. At the AgustaWestland helicopter factory in Northeast Philadelphia, the book is "The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything," by Stephen M.R. Covey. It was a must-read for the management team at AgustaWestland.

"Really, the essence of the book is that the more trust there is in the organization at every layer, the more the speed of the business is faster, because lack of trust is a stop in the process," Hunt, the chief executive, said in our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

William Hunt, left, talks to visitors at AgustaWestland's Northeast Philadelphia plant.

Hunt said he works hard to cultivate the trust of AgustaWestland's parent company in Italy, because that trust is key to the Philadelphia plant's viability. "Does our parent really trust  our ability to perform and manage what we had been given here?" he said. He said he was able to share an executive summary of the book with his Italian colleagues. (Click here to read my blog post on doing business Italian style.)

Trust is important. I once heard a Wharton professor of management explain that there are really only two cultures in a workplace -- the culture of trust, where managers trust employees to do their best work, and the culture of distrust, where companies believe they are being cheated by their employees and spend a lot of energy monitoring them. 

Hunt said he believes in trying to built a culture of trust, but that trust needs to be earned.

"My goal from the very beginning as a manager, [when] I was the first-line supervisor on the floor, all the way up to now being a CEO, has been to involve the employees in managing what we do, but managing it within that very specific accountability," he said. "`This is what I’m expected to do and I’m accountable for it.' That tends to build that level of trust [along with] every single time they are accomplishing what they are supposed to do, recognizing them.

"Then," he continued, "when they come forward and they say, ` Bill, I’m not going to be able to make this goal and here’s why,’ you are not throwing them out the door. You are saying, `how are we going to do this different the next time?' "

So what about required reading at work? Good? Bad? Is it a yet another unwelcome intrusion from the boss into an employee's time. Or is it an emotionally-neutral way to prompt important discussions at work?