As I circulate throughout the facility I generally have three objectives in mind…find and call out any visible safety concerns, coordinate with the managers to understand potential operational barriers and to engage with as many associates as time allows. Of the three - associate engagement can be the most rewarding and by far can be the most difficult. It is the ever-present art amongst the science of the technical work that is expected of an Amazon leader. And if there is a question on what the most important part of my day might be let me answer it for you…associate engagement, and it is not even close.
As a site we have a robust safety team and multiple layers of management to ensure redundancy in the operation. But I recognized early on that they only have one of me or you if you are reading this in the first person and see yourself through my mediocre writing. The genesis of this blog stemmed from one of my most recent engagements that still has me somewhat emotional and very thankful that my routine is what it is…!
I simply said hello, smiled and shot out my trademarked finger point, and for the sake of this article “David” stopped and was visibly shaken by the encounter. I immediately knew that there was something deeper going on and that our brief interaction was not the reason for his response. So, I circled back to have a conversation with David. He told me and I am embarrassed to say that no one had talked to him all day. No one had taken the time to recognize that he was not ok.
David’s dad had passed the night before and he decided to come to work as opposed to staying at home alone. He wanted to connect with something and be around people.
David like all of our associates and employees have lives outside of Amazon. Some are just getting started and others have rich work, life and educational histories that we can tie into if we would only take the time to engage and connect. All are worthy of a hello, a smile and at the very least a finger point of acknowledgement. David thanked “me” for the most basic form of connection on what was one of the worst days of his life. In my mind I am falling short and have 100% failed countless Davids.
Get your head up, close your laptops and stop texting and walking. Our associates need us to be present as much as time permits. You want to improve the culture of your site…? Start with hello…!!
Lee Flemming is a retired Army Colonel currently working at Austin 2 (AUS2) Fulfillment Center in Pflugerville, Texas as an Assistant General Manager. Lee is a 28-year Army Veteran with extensive operations and management experience. The Boots2Amazon series includes regular installments meant to inform and educate Service Members and the public about life after the military and transitioning into employment at Amazon.