Connecting diverse disciplines like architecture, engineering, and surveying across multiple locations in Benton Harbor, Portage, and Allegan has proven to be a unique challenge for Wightman and Associates. However, over the years this dynamic has bonded its employees together creating a special culture that invigorates the professional and private lives of everyone involved. “We have a lot of resources in our firm, and they all have to learn how to work in a collaborative team environment. We need to know our coworkers and be able to call them up to get stuff done. It’s been critical to our continuity as a team across offices and specializations to be able to do that,” says Alan Smaka, director of the Portage office.
About Ron Kitchens
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Entries by Ron Kitchens
Regular cookouts, gift exchanges, football tailgates, and charity walks are all a way of life for an employee at Consumer’s Credit Union. “The best part about working here is definitely the atmosphere—and our CEO’s grilled chicken, which really is amazing,” says Shawn Premer, Chief Human Resources Officer.
What could be more rewarding, or more delicious, than creating the latest flavor of ice cream? The experts at National Flavors aim to do just that by blending enticing essences that go into everything from baked goods to confections. Similarly, as an organization, National Flavors has been able to perfect its recipe for wellness in the workplace. “Continuous improvement is a big deal here. Anytime we have something that we think we can make better, we own it together and changes happens fast,” says Katie Harmon, quality control supervisor.
A vision of excellence has enabled Kal-Blue to thrive since opening its doors in 1960, building a large and loyal customer base. Over the years, the print and technology specialist has evolved to meet the changing needs of both its customers and workforce at its Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids locations. “It is important to make sure you come up with ways to make everyone, especially a younger generation of workers, feel like they are part of a team,” says owner Kip Young.
When CSM Group, a corporation specializing in revolutionary construction projects, was invited by Kalamazoo-based developer Treyster to reimagine an abandoned plot of land just outside Kalamazoo it jumped at the chance. What was once an antique metal foundry has been reopened as an open-office hive of operations that melds a vintage industrial aesthetic with cutting-edge office design. Claiming a spot of its own in this urban office space, CSM has developed an optimal workspace intended to maximize the productivity and overall wellness of its employees.
At Special-Lite’s headquarters in Decatur, Michigan, CEO Henry L. Upjohn II is a regular sight on the production floor. A visionary in both leadership and engineering, he has played a pivotal role in the history of this entryway manufacturer. Not only has Upjohn personally designed many of the specialty machines and unique manufacturing methods that give Special-Lite doors their unshakeable quality, but he has also engineered the positive work culture that sustains his staff.
Catalyst Development Group, responsible for constructing and maintaining many striking structures across Michigan, knows that it takes the whole team to get a project off the ground. They have therefore created a scaffolding of strong values and a positive culture to support every employee. “We build buildings that will be around for 100 years or more,” says Patti Owens, managing director and vice president. “We build our culture in the same way—everything we do is very intentional.”
Workplace diversity no longer merely denotes the color of one’s skin in the workplace, but rather implies the range of differences belonging to the people of an organization. Differences in race, gender, ethnicity, age, education, place of birth, tenure, position within the organization, religion, family background, sexual orientation, cognitive style, and more affect how individuals perceive themselves and others. When individuals come together on a team, these perceptions influence interactions and propose a challenge to organizational communications, performance, and ability to adapt to change.
While one might assume that a homogeneous team would consistently outperform one filled with diversity, it is quite the opposite. In fact, McKinsey & Company found in their 2015 Diversity Matters project that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median, and the companies in the top quartile for racial (and) ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely.”
WHAT DOES A DIRECTOR OF DESIGN DO?
At a high level, my job is to build and maintain the competencies of design within the Medical division of Stryker. By developing talents of our people and leveraging design methods and tools, I assure that the disciplines of design add value to our company. Design is key to getting the most out of our product development efforts, creating meaningful experiences for our customers and differentiating Stryker from our competition. It’s my job to make sure we leverage design for the fullest benefit to Stryker.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
My day is a mix of strategic and tactical discussions with our R&D leadership team, project teams, and design professionals. Projects are mostly focused on defining our future products and services or making sure the products we are currently developing are going to meet the needs of our customers for the next few decades.
If you don’t have self-awareness, you can’t lead other people.
Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
I’ve learned great things from the many leaders who I’ve encountered. I’ve worked for Kraft and Newell Brands, and I had a short stint at the Kellogg Company. While I was able to take things from great leaders at each of those places, I’ve learned that I want to manage in my own way which may be different.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
One of the things that I do for business development marketing is to help teams and other executives craft how we’re going to market back to somebody whether it’s a proposal, qualification packet, or whatever. I decide where my team is going to spend their time and that dictates where the whole group is going to be directing their energies.
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