November 6, 2019

Griggs: Six manager skills I learned while at Intel Corp.

The plant manager warned, “Rick, you’re leaving gold on the table,” when I gave an extended six-week notice of my departure. No more stock options or annual junior executive stock grants as my business was ready to launch. My time at Intel Corp. had been quite rewarding and instructive. Based at Fab 2 in Santa Clara, California, the position started with operator skills training and grew into engineering and manager professional development.

Here are six lessons I recall from my time with this Silicon Valley pioneer:

Avoid feet of clay — Strive hard to get and keep a reputation. When I announced my move to the new job a director at my old company asked, “Are they really that good over there?” He followed up with, “Do we really have clay feet?” Not having started I couldn’t answer. What registered was the value of carving a good reputation and avoiding low or slow performance that the market or the industry might characterize as “clay feet.”

Don’t act the fool  One of my line employees knew and abused the human resources performance guidelines. Her tardiness and absenteeism went up to the limit. She had memorized the exact number of verbal and written warnings one could accrue without consequence — she took the company for a fool. Her boss, one of my subordinates, finally informed me that this employee had become expert at skirting the rules and that people were watching how I would manage the situation. With this knowledge, my usual patience and understanding wilted. When she actually crossed the line she lost her job.

Meet criticism with brilliance  The microprocessor fabrication plant held monthly manager-employee meetings at five in the morning and three in the afternoon. This allowed for communication with all shift workers. Less than a week on the job, I was publicly berated and ridiculed by an engineer for the training department’s poor service delivery. The problem occurred prior to my hiring yet, I was still to blame. This taught me to take the heat. I fixed the issue and made sure the engineering department received detailed notice.

Keep your stress to yourself  I made the mistake of letting my stress spill over onto someone else. A department intern was doing his work when I marched in and rattled off several questions about work in progress. My manner was abrupt and my tension was obvious. The overburdened intern snapped back at me with an exasperated outburst. With instant regret, he apologized (and continued for months). It was my fault. The lesson was to keep my stress to myself and interact with others in a calm and steady manner.

Jump on change  The new blue-gray IBM PC just showed up at my desk. During a tough financial squeeze, IBM had bailed us out ending up with a seat on the board and a nice sales order. Having other pressing issues, I dragged my feet and almost got thrown under the bus (they didn’t use that term back then). At that time, I saw no immediate benefits from the shiny box, I stalled and ended up making myself vulnerable to critique and complaints.

Feet off desk  — Appearances matter. The story was that two Intel engineers had worked most of the prior evening. During the next exhausting day, they put their feet up onto their office desks to take a short break — maybe a quick snooze. To the engineers’ dismay and everyone else’s shock, the company president happened to see them as he passed in the hallway — he fired them instantly.

The six-weeks’ notice was an amateur mistake — when you’re leaving, you’re already gone. Sure, I left some gold on the table, but I found riches in learning my lessons, defining my purpose and diligently persevering over the decades.

Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corp. training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. or 970-690-7327.

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