Part I: My Experiences in Leadership;
The Talk Then the Walk

When I was V-P and GM for Nucor at Nucor-Yamato Steel, our joint venture in Blytheville, Arkansas, I made a point of sitting down with every new teammate – over 600 during my nine years there – within 2-3 weeks of them joining our team. There might be one, or as many as 15 in this meeting and they were all still on their 90-day trial period. The purpose of these meetings was to introduce them to their new leader, each other, and to the expectations that we would have for them. To explain our Culture, our Goal(s), our focus, our direction and how we would be expected to work Together as a Team. I firmly believed then and today that it was critical to put all this on the table from the get-go and then reinforce it all, on how we worked together every day: how we “Walked the Talk”!

The meeting covered the following items:

  • Who each of us was, background, life experiences, why they wanted to work for Nucor, what their personal and professional goals were, etc.
  • This led to discussions on diversity, “two heads being better than one”, and how best to achieve their goals.
  • We discussed Safety in the workplace and how it was our first priority and why no matter how you looked at it, whether from the personal, business, and moral/ethical viewpoints, safety makes sense! How continued poor safety performance could be grounds for termination.
  • We discussed the critical role of Teamwork and our Pay for Performance system; not just theirs but for all levels in the company. We also discussed how working for Nucor was not for everyone. How it was critical that we hire the ‘right’ people. People who would take to and support the unique culture of the company. How people were not our most important resource, the ‘right people’ were, and what defined the “right” people
  • We discussed the “Chain of Communication” and how it was their right to go all the way to the CEO with their ideas, grievances, concerns or problems and that “NO ONE” could take that right away from them, no one! All we asked is that they use the “chain of communication” which included their supervisor, Department Mgr., General Mgr., before they took it to the CEO. I asked each and every one if this was a reasonable way to work together, as there was only four layers to get to the top, and the responses were always unanimously positive in tone and substance.
  • We talked about our Goal: “To Take Care of Our Customers” and discussed just who are customers were: our Shareholders, the people/companies who buy and use our products, and each and every one of them. I, as VP/GM, had over 800 customers in our plant (as CEO I would have over 22,000) and my goal was to “Take Care” of them and just what that meant, including the difference between ‘taking care of’ and satisfying’. How if I had 800+ customers in the plant then maybe, just maybe they did too!
  • We talked about “Continual Improvement” and how that was Nucor’s middle name, and just how and what we expected in that focus. The analogy of ‘climbing a mountain with no top’ and not the children’s game of ‘king on the hill’ would be our mantra and why!
  • We discussed how it was our focus to treat people the way we wanted to be treated and the tremendous responsibility that comes with that commitment. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
  • We discussed our ‘No Layoff Practice’ and how to this day we had never laid off a teammate for lack of work during any recession or downturn (now including the last two recessions, including the Great Recession)! And why we believed in this practice.

At each and every point above they were asked to “Commit” to being successful, and in each one they responded. I would help them understand in what way I was defining commitment by telling the story of the ‘Chicken and the Pig”. They always got the true meaning of how Nucor people, the Right people, understand their commitment to the above culture, the Nucor Culture.

All this was anywhere from 1-3 hours in duration for each meeting depending on the size of the group. I did this for over 600 new teammates as we grew our Division over 9 years. And this was the easy part. The hard part was the ‘Walking of the Talk’ each and every day.

I would always close my communications with the reminder Let’s Do It Together!