Kevin Parker: Confidence as an attribute of good management

“What I look for is confidence, in people and in countries,” says Paul Orzeske, who, as general manager, EMEA, hires talent and makes investment decisions, among other things, for his employer, Honeywell Process Solutions, which in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) includes more than 2,800 Honeywell employees.


“What I look for is confidence, in people and in countries,” says Paul Orzeske, who, as general manager, EMEA, hires talent and makes investment decisions, among other things, for his employer, Honeywell Process Solutions, which in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) includes more than 2,800 Honeywell employees.

In the days prior to our meeting, Orzeske had been skipping around the Arabian Peninsula, devoting as he does in his job about “70 percent of the time to touching the customer, but having to balance that with developing people and ensuring repeatable processes across countries.”

Only twenty-five years ago, Orzeske was an intern from I.I.T.—and this editor a technical writer—in the engineering department of Lindberg, a unit of General Signal that makes heat treat furnaces. It was obvious even then that Paul would do well in his career. He was—and is—a genuinely empathetic person, with time for others, and a concern to do the right thing.

Meeting again was an opportunity to find out how Orzeske's ideas about management changed after he left Lindberg and began to rise through the ranks at Honeywell. It didn't seem a coincidence that he immediately focused on “confidence” as a key attribute of success.

As is well known, heat treat furnaces are used to imbue metal parts with favored metallurgical properties, e.g., keeping bearings hard inside but ductile and less prone to crack outside. Above a certain temperature, the furnace's heat chamber is filled with a cracked hydrocarbon-based gas to keep oxygen away from the load. Use of the gas poses a hazard, particularly when first introduced into the chamber, as a mistake in procedure could lead to an explosion.

The senior engineers at Lindberg had the confidence in Orzeske before any of his peers to have him operate furnaces in the R&D lab and in the field. A small point perhaps, but remarked upon at the time.

“A country is confident,” says Orzeske today, “when its people don't resist change, when they embrace change. In that regard, Eastern Europe is a breath of fresh air. You can see it as soon as the airplane lands.”

Honeywell Process Solutions has always been “international.” The difference is that now it's a global business, says Orzeske, and factors including shortages of trained personnel and a country's cultural milieu influence investment decisions necessarily constrained by finite resources.

After that, says Orzeske, “You have to hire the right people and motivate them. I don't think I realized how much power there is in that, and I've learned that it's possible to have real influence two or three layers down by delivering a performance culture based on openness and honesty.”

Pressed on this point, Orzeske says, “I try to speak the truth and it hasn't hurt me yet, though I have seen other company cultures where that's not the case.”

“Assuming that you're not lying to yourself,” he concludes, “it really is all about confidence. If that justified confidence is accompanied by a work ethic and integrity, you can then start to have some fun with it.”

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