Leadership Lesson: Tim Noonan

June 10, 2015
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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For most of his adult life, Tim Noonan dreamed of completing an Ironman triathlon. But that presented a problem. Actually two problems: Tim, a lifelong runner, never swam more than a few hundred yards and he did not own a bike.

Undeterred, he simply followed the same advice he often shares with the people he leads as VP of Boeing’s innovative Ventures initiative: Think big. Start small. Start.

Tim started by reading several books and then taught himself how to swim and cycle.  About a year later, he crossed the finish line of Ironman California having completed a lifelong dream.

Noonan is a new member of Barry-Wehmiller’s Board of Directors. Although we’re privately-held, we embrace the public-company tradition of assembling a sounding board of accomplished business leaders who can offer a big picture view and independent objective input as to the strategic direction of the company.

Tim brings a unique set of experiences to our Board. As VP of Ventures, part of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, he leads teams of Boeing entrepreneurs to validate, accelerate and commercialize promising business ideas. Noonan served as a US Marine Corps officer after graduating from the US Naval Academy. He has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founding board member of Friends of Soldiers Memorial in St. Louis and serves on the boards of The Mission Continues and Project FROG. Since 2008 Tim has been a Henry Crown Fellow of the prestigious leadership and policy organization, The Aspen Institute.

Because of his wide variety of roles and experiences, Tim will offer meaningful perspective to our value-creation strategies. Of equal importance, however, is Tim’s profound commitment to ensuring that Barry-Wehmiller’s people-first culture continues to strengthen across our growing global organization. He is a gifted leader with a lot to share.

“I strive to make one thing very clear to everybody I lead: I care about you before I care about the work that you do,” Noonan said.

In today’s team-focused work environments, Noonan says it’s important to strike the right balance between team success and personal success. “A team succeeds because of a mix of the diverse gifts and talents of every individual on the team. You want to maintain high levels of individual excellence to ensure team outcomes. Competition is good – for teams and for individuals.” It’s what drives some members of the team to think bigger or differently and take risks, a critical differentiator in today’s fast-paced world. “When you become afraid to fail, it’s all over,” said Noonan.

Tim applauds how Barry-Wehmiller University fosters both team and personal improvement through its classes. He’s participated in several of the leadership development and cultural transformation programs we now offer to people outside the organization through our recently-launched BW Leadership Institute (now Chapman & Co. Leadership Instituteread more here.)

The course on interpersonal communication, called Communications Skills Training, was most valuable in helping him see what he shouldn’t do. “Like many executives, I’ve recognized that the best way to deliver results and excellence is to give away some control and power.   It’s hard.  The course gave me a better understanding of the importance of empathy and listening. This new insight has wide application for me, from the people I lead at work, to the cab driver giving me a ride, to my children.”

In addition to what he personally gained from the classes, Tim says the experience gave him a valuable inside look at the organization. “The strength of any organization is measured at the foundation.  That’s where you look for alignment between the values and actions of leadership and those doing the work. It was a great glimpse below the hood into the operating system and values of Barry-Wehmiller.

“There’s something special about the culture of Barry-Wehmiller,” he continued. “It’s rare that a company invests in people in a way that is truly for that person and not simply for the results that are delivered.

“Over the last two decades, Barry-Wehmiller has built not only an enduring business that creates shareholder value but also an enduring culture that values all members of the team,” he said. “They’ve done a great job of establishing a vision that is shared by everyone throughout the organization.

“Any time you can connect people to their future, they’ll deliver great results.”

How can companies do that? As Tim says, think big, start small, start.

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