By Anne Quiello
TLG Senior Consultant & 2021 Women in Leadership Coordinator
Excerpts from 12-11-2020 Women in Leadership Fireside Chat Speaker Kathleen Edge- EVP Ops Southwire
The following are excerpts from our last Women In Leadership Seminar, featuring Kathleen Edge, EVP of Operations for Southwire. She was asked to speak on the topic of Disruption. Little did she know when her topic was chosen a year ago, how much this topic would mean. Kathleen did a supreme job demonstrating what it means to be resilient during disruption in how she and her team recognize and seize opportunities even during crises. Enjoy her “hard-earned wisdom,” adapted from her acclaimed fireside chat with Susan Hitchcock, TLG Board of Advisors and WIL Founder.
“I was going to talk about disruption of technology. Well, that’s not the disruption we’re going to talk about today. It’s called COVID-19. I can tell you, Southwire would have taken 10 years to have a flexible workforce that only took three months. None of us could do this without Zoom and MS Teams. We are an essential business and operating our plants and warehouses, with janitorial protocols, temperature screenings, Rombit Wear devices for social distancing, and onsite PCR Test centers. We also have 1,100 people working remotely. So, when I look at how quickly we’ve been able to overcome a lot of the challenges, I look at those as COVID opportunities .
We will forever be changed as a company in how we engage with our workforce, for the better. People don’t have to commute for two hours and be in bumper-to-bumper traffic, five days a week, and may only come to the office two days a week. The Rombit Wear devices enhance vehicle pedestrian safety in our operations. I look at those as COVID opportunities.”
“Disruption? I think as a leader, in my perspective, I come back to the eye of the hurricane. There’s always disruption. You’ve got civil unrest, you’ve got social unrest, political divide. You’ve got COVID-19 swirling around us. But when you go into the hurricane, the safest place to be is in the eye of the storm; it’s calm and it’s quiet. If you’re still and calm through all the disruption, you’re going to see things differently… In the midst of all the COVID, I can tell you the day that I was not in the eye of the storm in April. We had to shut down our Denton, Texas plant. We had to shut down our Tecate, Mexico plant. And I sat in my living room and I was questioning. What are we doing? I’ve got to get these emotions out and I meditated.
I woke up the next morning and in my email was a typed letter that was anonymous. It was from an employee who had slipped it in under the office doors in El Paso, Texas. And it was a letter of gratitude. All these (employees) wanted to do was to come to work and Southwire was making it a safe place with all our precautions. They were able to come in (to work) and provide for their family. Now I know what I’m doing. And I think that’s important for all of us as leaders to know what your true mission is. And so, since April, our mission has been to put our employees first and everything else will work out.”
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Anne Quiello AQuiello@turknett.com 770-270-1723