President of Magnetrol International discusses values-driven company culture

first_imgJohn Heiser, president and chief operating officer of Magnetrol International, Inc., discussed his leadership journey and creating a values-driven organizational culture during his lecture Wednesday night in the Mendoza College of Business’ Jordan Auditorium. The talk was the second lecture of the 2017 Berges Lecture Series in Business Ethics.Heiser began his career as a maritime litigator after graduating from Tulane University’s law school. His decided that law was not the right career choice during one case where he listened to a four-hour debate on the definition of “perishable” when he was waiting to obtain a motion for his client’s case.“At that point, I had this intervention that said I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing this,” he said.Upon the realization, Heiser decided to move to the chemical production company DuPont. His career move led him to his first lesson in leadership, which was being open-minded about taking new paths.“You’ve got to be open to exploring new opportunities,” he said. “You’ve got to be open to saying, ‘You know what, this isn’t want I expected. Maybe I should try this; maybe I should try that.’”Here, Heiser realized his second lesson of leadership, which was the power of stakeholder engagement.At DuPont, Heiser was responsible for launching a product to help people affected by HIV and AIDS. Heiser described how the activist community at the time spoke against pharmaceutical companies producing the HIV and AIDS drug products due to pricing and other concerns, so he wanted to take steps to embrace this community, including by hiring several activists.“We were not only going to understand the patient community that we were dealing with, but we were going to work with the activist community and engage them in how we were going to price this product and go to market,” he said. “… This is when I first realized and learned the concept of shared value where we could do things that would maximize profit for the organization. … But we also recognized that we could actually make a different for society.”Other lessons Heiser learned during his leadership journey included the powers of perseverance, resilience and internal and external feedback.“As a leader, I would tell you there’s nothing more important than your ability to receive feedback from others and process it, and more importantly, for me, to do self-reflection,” he said.Heiser also talked about his time at Magnetrol, which is a company that manufactures radar and radar equipment to measure levels of fluid. Though the company had grown considerably from its roots in a garage, Heiser said it had lost its way by 2015 when he took over as president. He attributed this deterioration to the fact that the company rewarded employees based on years of service and attendance as opposed to merit.Heiser said he sought to fix the problem with a more values-driven approach.“We had to change the culture, and we had to start at the senior level,” he said.Today, Heiser said Magnetrol has several core values including the idea of “performance [and] no excuses,” which Heiser said means the company needs to be action-oriented, especially with the commitments it made to its stakeholders.Heiser said another core value is “everybody deserves special treatment.”“What that means is we don’t leave the human condition at the door,” he said.The final Magnetrol value, according to Heiser, is that business is a social institution, which means Magnetrol has an obligation to multiple stakeholders and that it will deliver on those obligations.Magnetrol’s culture change has not been without its struggles, Heiser explained. Under Heiser, Magnetrol implemented a “Giving Voice to Values” program, which had the lowest participation rate company-wide with the U.S. management team.“How am I going to get a culture change in the U.S. if I’ve got a management team that [has the lowest participation numbers]?” he said. “… That’s actually been one of our biggest problems is getting managers out of this command and control situation.”Tags: Berges Lecture Series, Inc., Magnetrol International, mendoza college of businesslast_img read more

French sport of pétanque finds a home in Blue Hill

first_img Hospice volunteers help families navigate grief and find hope – September 12, 2020 BLUE HILL — White hat on his head, Andre Strong pulls a steel ball roughly the size of a baseball from a nearby picnic table. He walks toward a rubber hoop no larger than 2 feet in diameter that lies on the other side of a rectangular patch of dirt. It’s a cool, breezy afternoon in late September at the Maine Boules Club, and it’s Strong’s turn to throw.He steps into the ring and positions his feet no more than a millimeter apart from one another as he arches his back at a slight angle. He’s focused on his shot, but he doesn’t take a deep breath. Instead, he stands completely still with his eyes locked in on a small, wooden jack that sits 10 meters away.Strong waits. Five seconds pass. Then 10. Then, he makes a flicking motion and sends the ball toward the jack. The ball spins around and around as it goes through the air, but he can tell it’s off target. As the ball sinks to the dirt, it makes slight contact with another steel ball and bounces away.“We got pretty lucky there, Marcia,” one of Strong’s opponents, Debbie Barry, tells teammate Marcia Henderson. “Maybe wind took that one a little.”This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textIn the 30 seconds since Strong first stepped toward the hoop, that wind here has picked up even more. The boules court, which lies between two massive yachts and a small group of trees behind Blue Hill’s Boatyard Grill, is already shaded from the sun, and the added breeze has made it even colder. Despite this fact, nobody moves. They’ve all waited a week for this Maine Boules Club meeting and aren’t about to stop playing one of their favorite games: pétanque.***The Boatyard Grill is tucked away off the beaten path in an overlooked area off Route 176 in this small Hancock County town. If you blink, you’ll be well past it before you even have time to notice. Even with a GPS, there’s a good chance you’ll drive right past the entrance the first time.Once here, a dirt road that seems as if it’s heading nowhere takes you to a small section of the Blue Hill Bay waterfront. Between the two aforementioned boats are several plots of dirt on which anywhere from 10 to 30 players play pétanque every Thursday afternoon.“Most of us here are people who just love to play all sorts of games,” club member Paula Hogan said. “Pétanque is fun to play, and anyone can play it.”Pétanque is a French game that’s been played in its current form for more than 100 years. It bears many similarities to the Italian game of bocce, a popular lawn game throughout the country and all over the world.The rules of the game are simple. Two teams get six balls that must be distributed evenly amongst two or three players. Like bocce, the goal is to have one of your team’s balls closest to the jack, which is thrown no more than 10 meters before the start of each round. One point is awarded for each ball your team throws that lies closer to the jack than the other team’s closest ball.Although the games are mostly similar, there are key differences. For example, pétanque balls are usually tossed toward the jack instead of rolled. Bocce balls are larger than those used in pétanque, which is played on a smaller court. Pétanque is also played to 13 instead of 12.“Pétanque is simple in some ways, but there’s plenty of strategy to it,” Strong said. “You have to know when to point, which means to get the ball close to the jack. You also have to know when to shoot your ball at an opponent’s ball. The terrain, that can also mess you up if you don’t know which way it will roll.”Each player has his or her own way of putting a ball in play. For Strong, it’s the underhand flick that leaves his hand no farther than an inch from his body. Hogan prefers the lob, which involves the ball being thrown above head height to prevent it from rolling once it hits the ground. Other players use a simple underhanded toss to get the job done.“There’s no best way to do it,” Strong said. “I wouldn’t even teach anyone my toss because it’s not really good form, but it’s always worked for me.”***The scene here isn’t what it was when Strong started the Maine Boules Club in 1983. Members have come and gone, and the location is one town over from Strong’s Penobscot home — the place where it all began.The club has since met in several locations throughout western Hancock County, and it has called Boatyard Grill home since 2012. The club members’ passion for pétanque has taken them to tournaments across the country and even France itself.Pétanque lacks the popularity in the United States that it has in other countries, and it’s even less popular in Maine than it is in other states. Many club members picked up the game on trips to France or former French colonies, and some have even spread word of the club’s existence to friends who also play.“I’ve always loved Boules but never really knew anyone in Maine who played it until I saw a friend of mine wearing a pétanque T-shirt when I was in Deer Isle one day,” Barry said. “She told me about this place, and I’ve been coming here constantly ever since. I think a lot of people here have had experiences like that.”Although Blue Hill is far from France, the Maine Boules Club at least provides a taste of it — brie, French bread and various French wines are commonly served during games. When the breeze blows, the aroma from those delicacies can be noticed all the way down at the waterfront. Combine that with Strong’s exquisite knowledge of the French language, and a boatyard that portrays the stereotypical Maine maritime environment instead feels like a positive draw.Despite the relaxed setting, pétanque games are often competitive environments. Conversations here are more focused on game situation and strategy than on small talk, and close games can often become intense and emotional. Some of the players here will be participating in the national tournament in Florida next month, and every ball offers an opportunity for improvement.“It’s not a wildly popular game here, but there’s definitely a niche for those of us who love playing it,” club member Kate Unkel said. “When you play the first time, you’re hooked, and you’ll keep coming back here.”***Kate Unkel prepares to throw during a pétanque game outside the Boatyard Grill in Blue Hill.As the breeze dies down a bit and a new round begins, Unkel crouches down and prepares to throw. Her tossing style is somewhat similar to Strong’s — an underhanded flick in which the wrist is positioned at a 90-degree angle from the forearm before straightening out as the ball is released.Just as she’s about to place her shot, something seems amiss. She pulls a gray cloth from her back pocket and begins wiping her ball down, a strategy that can be used to keep balls warm on colder days or to help player get a better release. It’s not necessarily a cold day by Maine standards, but Unkel’s grip just doesn’t feel right.After wiping her ball off, Unkel re-grips. She has her eyes set not on the jack but rather on another ball less than 2 inches next to it. That ball belongs to Strong, who bounced back from his mistake earlier to get his ball in the perfect position.Unkel thinks for a moment, cocks her wrist back and releases. Her shot is right on target, so much so that it knocks Strong’s ball out of play and replaces it in the exact same spot. It’s a strategy known as the “carreau,” and it’s considered the best — and the most difficult — one in the game.“That couldn’t have gone any better,” Unkel says.For Strong, it sure could have. Through no fault of his own, his redemption shot has been reduced to nothing in mere moments. As Unkel smiles and walks toward the picnic table to await her next turn, Strong lets out a shy smirk.Although it’s only one round of a game he’s played thousands of times throughout his life, it’s still worth a remark. Moments later, Strong sits down and starts to speak with a younger player who hasn’t been playing the sport very long.“I can teach you anything about pétanque you want to know, so just keep that in mind,” he says, smirk still on his face. “But unless you promise to never do to me what she just did, I won’t teach you that.” Latest Posts Mike MandellMike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. 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