5 things to know about mike rowe and alan mulally

By liz sheffield
Editor Picks

This year, Mike Rowe and Alan Mulally are teaming up to kick off the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference during the Opening General Session. Missing their presentation is just one of the many reasons I’m disappointed I won’t be in attendance at this year’s conference.

But for HR leaders who will be in Washington, D.C. in June, here are five things you need to know about these presenters before their keynote address:

1. Mulally is seen as a key player in the turnaround of Ford Motor Company.

In 2006, Mulally was named the president and CEO of Ford. This was a difficult time in Ford’s history—the car manufacturer was on the edge of bankruptcy, with a $12.7 billion loss for the year. But over the next eight years, Mulally and his leadership team put an end to the downward spiral and the company made an impressive recovery.

As CEO, Mulally acknowledged the important role HR played in Ford’s turnaround. He said that during the effort, HR was there every step of the way and that “it has played, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in enhancing and executing our mission.”

2. Mulally isn’t afraid of mistakes, and he expects the same of his team.

When Mulally took the helm at Ford, the company had just reported massive losses. But when he reviewed the status reports from his leadership team, he didn’t see any signs on paper of the issues they were experiencing. In fact, everything was marked “green”–indicating there were no issues to report. He asked the question and found that the team was afraid of bringing up any issues or mistakes. If the team wanted to turn things around at Ford, Mulally told them that avoiding the issues would no longer work.

“It has to be okay for people—and expected—for each of us to share where we really are. It has to be a safe environment, and the accountability that goes along with it…people embraced the new system because they got the visibility and the help they would never have gotten if they didn’t bring the issues forward,” he said. (View a video of Mulally talking about the incident here.)

3. Rowe’s first TV role was on the QVC Shopping Channel.

Rowe is a well-known TV host (in addition to being a writer, narrator, producer, actor and spokesman) whose journey in television began more than 20 years ago when QVC Shopping Channel hired him as a host. According to the bio on his website, Rowe wooed the QVC hiring team when he “talked about a pencil for nearly eight minutes.”

He’s been talking about a variety of topics on (and off) screen ever since.

4. Rowe has traveled to 50 states to highlight dirty jobs.

While working as a freelancer, Rowe pitched a TV special to the Discovery Channel that eventually became Dirty Jobs. The show premiered in November 2003, returned as a series in 2005, and ended in 2012. As the show’s host, Rowe signed up to perform more than 300 complicated, strange, and seriously dirty jobs, including but not limited to: Brewery Vat Cleaner, Charcoal Maker, Cactus Mover, Shark Repellant Tester, and Radio Tower Erector.

During the eight seasons, he traveled across the U.S. to highlight and work in trade jobs that don’t receive much exposure today. Now he’s actively working to revive interest in the skilled trades through PR campaigns and his foundation, mikeroweWORKS.

5. They have insights for every HR practitioner.

When it comes to HR topics, Rowe has plenty of insight to share. His Dirty Jobs works has given him firsthand experience and an in-depth understanding of the issues related to the workforce—including the widening skills gap, aging workforce, engagement, and unemployment. He understands the real dilemmas facing today’s workers.

After spending decades working in the transportation industry (with Boeing as well as Ford), Mulally also has a keen understanding and appreciation for the world of manufacturing, as well as what it takes to lead a successful business. He’s handled massive organizational change effectively, he’s been repeatedly recognized for his leadership abilities, including as the World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine (2015), World’s Best CEOs by Barron’s magazine (2012), and Chief Executive of the Year by Chief Executive magazine (2011).

One this is for certain: Mulally and Rowe are passionate about the need to make manufacturing a priority in the United States. Based on my research of watching at least 50 episodes of Rowe’s show Dirty Jobs, and reading about Mulally’s career, I’m willing to bet it’s going to be a very entertaining and inspirational Opening General Session presentation.

I’m also willing to bet that by the time the presentation is over, you’ll be a fan of both Mike Rowe and Alan Mulally—that is, if you weren’t already.

Categories: Editor Picks

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By liz sheffield