Being Your Employees’ Wingman

with Joseph LaMarca, Vice President of Communications at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

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Joseph LaMarca

Episode 16

”’Check six’ in aviation means that when you’re flying in the lead, you know that your wingman has your back. Nobody’s going to come up from behind and knock you out of the sky. We do the same thing here. We have each other’s back.”

Joseph LaMarca is Vice President of Communications at Lockheed Martin Aeronatics. Lockheed Martin is a massive company with over 114,000 employees. And Joe leads a world-class communications team that’s responsible for employee executive communications, media relations, marketing, philanthropy and more. In this episode, Joe talks about how to build a supportive culture at work, communicate across silos, and be your employees’ wingman.

”One of the things I always end a conversation with is, ‘What feedback do you have for me? What can I do better or different that will make this experience better for you?’”

Listen in to hear

  • How to engage with employees when working remotely
  • Why fear and intimidation doesn’t work as a leadership style
  • About leading with a growth mindset

”When I hang up my spurs at some point, I think if I can look back and say, ‘I know that I had an impact on people and I helped them grow and develop and succeed in life,’ then to me, that’s the greatest experience I could ever have.”


Joe LaMarca

Joseph LaMarca

Vice President of Communications | Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

Joseph LaMarca is Vice President of Communications at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and has held the role since 2010. LaMarca joined Lockheed Martin from Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas, where he served as Vice President, Communications since June 2008. In this role, he was responsible for all internal and external communications, including community relations, advertising and trade shows.

Episode Transcript

Narrator: When you’re invested in being part of a team, you don’t just do your work, end of story. You’re working collaboratively, you’re communicating, you’re picking up slack and looking for ways to elevate your team. And you always have your teammates’ back. There’s a practice in aviation called “check six” that’s a perfect example of this. Joe LaMarca of Lockheed Martin will explain.

Joe LaMarca: Check six means that when you’re flying and you’re in the lead, you know that your wingman or the person flying beside you or behind you, they have your back. Nobody’s going to come up from behind and, and knock you out of the sky. Well, we do the same thing here. We have each other’s back. When somebody steps out to go do something, they need to take care of something. It’s personal It’s professional. Maybe they get another job and we have to back them. We have to wait to backfill that position. Everybody steps up and does what they have to do.

Narrator: Joe is the Vice President of Communications at the global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin. And it’s a massive company with over 114,000 employees. The employees know that they can check six. That he’ll be there as support in the toughest of times. That’s what he’s teaching us today: how to build a supportive culture at work, communicate across silos, and be your employees’ wingman.

On Cruising Altitude, we talk about employee experience lessons from leaders at companies with over 30k employees. A lot like reaching Cruising Altitude at 30k feet, things look a little different when you’re managing 30,000 people. On this podcast, we bring you insights from the leaders who inhabit that rarefied air. Today’s episode features an interview with Joe LaMarca.  But first, a word from our sponsor.

Joe LaMarca: My role here really is to lead a strategic and creative group of storytellers, uh, is how I would describe it. My function is really, how we help drive business priorities, influence stakeholders, um, uh, and take actions that are consistent, compelling, and create, uh, you know, integrated content that really tells our story. Uh, my role as the Vice President Communications for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics specifically, um, puts me in a position to lead, uh, a fairly large team, uh, have over almost 200 employees on my team. Um, we support employee executive communications, media relations, marketing. Uh, communications, line of business, program communications, career relations and philanthropy. Um, I also have a highly talented group of, uh, visual communicators as well. If you think about, uh, people who create compelling, uh, photography or videography, um, graphics, conceptual drawings, animation, things like that. Um, and then I, I’m a little bit of an enigma, not normal for a communications leader, but I also lead, um, our services organization within Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. And that’s think about people who, uh, impact employees. Reaper graphics, our libraries, our postal service, our food services. These are really tangible things that I’m, I’m also responsible for, uh, that that help our employees across the board. So, uh, in a nutshell, that’s my job. Um, our organization as a whole is, uh, over 30,000 employees for Lockheed Martin air aeronautics. And we, we really supported global business where we design, develop and sustain aircraft, um, across the globe and, and provide the services to keep them flying.

Narrator: Before we take off, let’s take an overall look at the aerospace industry in The Flight Plan.

Joe LaMarca:  Lockheed Martin Aeronautics really we’re, you know, we’re part of a larger aerospace and defense company, uh, that has 114,000 employees broadly across Lockheed Martin for our division. We’re about 30,000 employees strong. Um, and, and our workforce really is comprised of engineers, scientists, technologists, you know, people who build a design and create, uh, aircraft for, uh, our military, our us military services and our allies. Uh, we’re a global company. So we provide, um, our products, uh, across the world really. Um, we’re, we’re focused on research, design development, manufacturing, um, and sustainment, and when I say sustainment, I’m talking about how do we sustain the aircraft that we build? Um, so really from cradle to grave operations, if you, if you want to look at it that way. Uh, we have a large, uh, touch labor force, uh, the folks who actually do the work to, to build our products. And these are, folks that most of them, I mean, the largest factory we have is actually in Fort Worth, Texas, where we build the F 35, uh, Lightning II aircraft. But we also have touch labor and manufacturing in, in Greenville, South Carolina and Marietta, Georgia, and also out in Palmdale, California. And we’re really, uh, when we think about our workforce, when I think about the persona, it’s really, it’s about a dedicated workforce. It’s a workforce who, uh, we know that the things that we build are going to be flown by, you know, our, our sons or daughters, our cousins are family members, our friends, our military, and we want to make sure what we build is right and perfect. So that every time they take off, they come home safely. So I really want to think about the persona of this place. I really think about that. And I know that’s how people think. 30% of our workforce is made up of veterans. I’m a veteran myself. Um, and so when you think about who we manufacture our airplanes and build our, technology solutions for it’s for thosemen and women who, who really protect our freedom in this country and around the world, really our allies as well. Lockheed Martin is, uh, the largest defense contractor in the world. Um, supporting aerospace and defense industry across the globe. And our focus really is to provide those, uh, integrated solutions for our customers that ensure 21st century security, the things that are going to help keep people free and, uh, and keep people safe around the world. And, and we’re very honored to do that. We’re proud to do that every single day. as I think back on the persona of our company and the people here, you know, everybody comes to work with that in mind. And, um, and I think it’s pretty exciting place to work.

Narrator: Lockheed Martin has been around a long time. It has grown out of the Glenn L. Martin Company that started in Los Angeles in 1912. And even for them, employee experience has its challenges.

Joe LaMarca: I think that trying to create that employee experience is a challenge for any, any large company, because you have so many different personalities and so many different people and people consume information and get their information in different ways. So I think what our job is in the communications team is really to create compelling storytelling and really share, uh, what people are doing and how they’re doing it. And, and we do that in a variety of ways. We have, as I mentioned, we have a world-class visual communications team. Um, I think to tell stories, um, visually is incredibly compelling and I think it really resonates with both our internal audience, our employees across the board, and then externally as well. It’s important to break things down in a way that people can understand, you know, a lot of our solutions are very complex and how do you position them or, or share information in a way that’s easily understandable or digestible. And so I think we really, we really spent a lot of time doing that. Um, and then as a leader, you know, I think about how do I lead with a growth mindset, right? How do I incorporate new tools in how we do our business, whether it’s how we communicate during COVID or other times, um, and am I willing, and, am I enabling my team to again, have that kind of growth mindset to try different things and take some risk. And I think we do that and we do it really well. And then we’re also focused on digital transformation as a company, right? As we look at, how do we continue to move forward? We have to keep up pace, um, with the digital transformation that’s happening or, you know, globally. Uh, and, and how do we do that and, and what our employees need to do and how do they see that as helping them, uh, grow as well?

Narrator: And as we hear often, Joe isn’t the only person in charge of the employee experience.

Joe LaMarca: I think everybody owns the employee experience, right? I don’t think it’s one particular function. I think we all have a role and certainly as a leader, um, or as leaders, I think we all have a role in, in helping to drive that employee experience. It’s incredibly important when we think about, um, from start to finish when an employee first joins the company, as they work through the company, as they grow and develop. And then ultimately when they transition out of the company, you know, what is that experience that you’ve created for them along the way. And I think that takes everybody to do that.

Narrator: He says above all else, one thing is the most important part of the employee experience: how employees feel about work.

Joe LaMarca: Do people feel valued to come to work? Do they feel like, um, what they do matters? And I think that’s really important to us. We focus a lot at Lockheed Martin on culture and creating, uh, an experience for employees. That’s, uh, again, where they can bring their whole self to work. They don’t feel like they can’t, bring everything, um, with them every day. So we do that in a lot of different ways. We have, we call them business resource groups. where we’re really focused on, um, you know, diversity inclusion and how do we understand what, um, challenges people face depending on, on what their, what their experiences are, whether you’re a member of pride or our women’s impact network, it could be our black excellence council or Ola. As I mentioned, 30% of our employee base are veterans. We also have a military and veterans network, um, as part of our business resource groups. And that’s going to drive that employee experience and it’s going to be a positive employee experience. So again, getting people together that have similar experiences and then take those experiences and share them with each other. I’ve been in this role for more than a decade, and I’ve been involved with all of these different groups and, and I’ve learned so much, right. It’s made me a better leader. Um, and I think, collectively, it makes all of us stronger and it, it creates that environment where people want to come to work.

Narrator: So let’s get into how Lockheed Martin crafts an exceptional employee experience in First Class.

Joe LaMarca: When I think about best practices at Lockheed Martin, there’s, there’s a couple of things that come to mind right away and, it starts with engagement. Um, when I think about, um, where it begins in terms of best practices, you have to build strong relationships. Um, you have to be accessible as a leader. Um, and I think that’s really essential for creating a great employee experience. And so me personally, I know I’m, highly engaged. Um, I know something about everybody on my team, right. I have over 200 people and I get to know them. I try to know them. I don’t know everything, but I know a lot. And I’m engaged with them on a regular basis. And I think that’s really important when, um, you know, especially in this COVID environment, right. You, you have to understand what are some of the challenges that people may have and how do you try to help them with that, to work through those challenges? I think whether it’s my staff meetings or skip level meetings or all hands, um, you know, having on camera experience in the COVID environment is good because we get to see people, but there’s nothing that replaces that face-to-face, in my opinion, uh, where you can actually, um, you know, have a sit down and have a cup of coffee and do those kinds of things. So I would start best practice, engage right. That to me is where it all starts. And then as a leader, I think leading with empathy. Um, I think oftentimes that’s, uh, that’s overlooked, you know, we’re all driving hard in a business environment. Uh, we know we have to, create, um, growth and we know we have to, um, continue to, to drive our business, but you also have to maintain empathy, um, for your employees and the people you work with. Because not everybody’s going to have the same challenges and how do you address them is going to be incredibly important in the future. And then, for me, I’m kind of a dinosaur, right? I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve almost 40 years in the, PR or public relations type communications type industry. Since I graduated from college and, embracing new tools and technologies, right. I see that as a best practice for Lockheed Martin. I see that as a best practice for any good leader or a strong leader. You have to be willing to adapt I would have never thought to do a podcast years ago. And I have employees. Who pushed me and say, Hey, you gotta go learn this. You gotta go do this because this is where we’re going to work. Whether it’s Box or Slack, or now we’re using Air Table. And, these are tools I have to learn because my team uses them and they want to use them. And it helps us do our job better. Um, I I’ll tell you a quick story about embracing technology I had a young, uh, early career professional who came to me and said, you know, this was probably five years ago now, um, said, Hey, Joe, I’d like to do a podcast. And I said, a podcast. I said, who listens to podcasts? And she’s looked at me with a straight face at 22 years old. And she said, Joe smart people listen to podcasts. You know? And I’m like, wow, okay. I really need to understand this. And now I’m, I’m learning about podcasts. I’m here doing a podcast. And, uh, and so I’m excited about that. And so I do see that as a, as a best practice, really, um, being able to embrace new tools and technologies, um, as an, a leader, as an employee, right. I think we need to do it across the board.

Narrator: Joe says another best practice as a leader is showing empathy for employees.

Joe LaMarca: I believe that empathy is really about understanding, um, that everybody has unique experiences, unique beliefs, um, unique, um, opportunities and challenges. Right. And so trying to understand what those are for each individual and what makes them tick, um, I think is highly important. When somebody is having a challenge in, and I’ll just use COVID again, as we’re in this COVID environment still, we’re not out of it. Um, I might have a, uh, an employee who has, childcare issues because childcare is closed down and, and I have to be empathetic to that. I have to say, Hey, I need you to bring your full self to work. But if it means that you can’t come to work until after your spouse or your significant other comes home and can help you with the children, then I have to be understanding about that. I can’t drive. It’s so hard to say, no, you absolutely have to be here. Now you got to come up with another solution because in the heat of COVID, there weren’t any other solutions. You couldn’t have grandma and grandpa come and visit. There were just so many challenges that people face. So, so childcare has been a big issue right across the board what about people who had elderly parents that live with them they needed to make sure that they weren’t exposing themselves because then they would expose maybe their elderly parent that lived with them. And then you had situations where people who are isolated, somebody who lived alone, maybe didn’t have a dog or a cat to keep them company. And all of a sudden now they had that feeling of isolation and you can do zoom calls all day, or you can be on video chats all day, but it’s not the same as a human interaction or even that interaction with a pet. Um, and so you had to think about those people as well. What did they need? Um, did they need me to pick up the phone and call them and say hi, do they need me to send them. Um, a little care package to say, Hey, you know, have dinner on me tonight. Um, and I think those are the kinds of things that go through my mind. Um, when I think about being an empathetic leader, um, how do I understand what those challenges are and how do I embrace them? I have an employee right now  she’s one of my senior leaders in my organization and she and her husband have been trying to adopt a baby for a long time. And they got the call on a Wednesday and said, Hey, we have a baby for you. And you got to go here to get the baby and you gotta be there in 24 hours. And we were in the middle of some really big things going on in the business. And I knew that she had been trying to adopt, she and her husband had been trying to adopt a baby and, and, you know, my response. Hey, do you need help getting a plane ticket? Right? How do I help you get there and do that? And don’t worry about anything else. Shut down. We’ve got this. That to me is being an empathetic leader. It starts with knowing your people. You know, you don’t want to get so far into everybody’s personal business, but you need to know enough to know what’s important to them. Um, and then what you can do to make it a better experience for them. I guarantee that she knows, and her husband knows that I care and that we’re gonna, do everything we can to make this easy. And, to share the, the great part of the story they got the baby, they got matched. They’re back in Texas now, and they’re bonding. They’re doing the bonding thing. So we have at Lockheed Martin again, um, I’m proud of this company because we think about those kinds of things. Even where we have normal maternity leave and paternity leave. We also have bonding time for adoptions in our company, which is really awesome. And, and, you know, you can take some personal time, but there’s also company paid time to bond with your new child regardless of what the age is and what the circumstances are. So that’s pretty awesome. I think

Narrator: It is pretty awesome. Another awesome thing Joe does at Lockheed Martin is support their employees with creating that balance between work and life.

Joe LaMarca: We take those things very seriously, um, in terms of, of making sure people have time for their families, that work-life balance, that’s really critical. And I think we’re all struggling with that and the COVID environment. We’ve gone to, Hey, if you have an open time on your calendar, man, put in a zoom call or, or fill that time. Right. And, and it’s not, I think we S we squeezed so much more into a day now than we ever did. And we have to make people feel like they can be off. Right. Because we’re so well connected. Now it’s hard to feel that way. It’s seven, eight o’clock at night. You see something come in and you’re like, oh, do I need to respond? And I mean, I have a role on my team that they know if, my work hours are normally seven to seven. Okay. That’s my personal work hours. I don’t require that on my team. I require them to do their eight or 10 hours a day or whatever the requirement is, depending on their work schedule. Um, if I need them after seven o’clock at night or before seven o’clock in the morning, I will call them because it better be an emergency. Otherwise, if I send a note later or earlier, it’s because that’s the time I have to do that. But I do not expect a response. And my team knows that I tell them that all the time. Um, just so they don’t feel compelled. Oh my gosh. The VP is sending me a note and it’s eight o’clock at night. I better respond. No, no, that’s your time. If I need you, I’ll pick up the phone and I will call you because it’s an emergency truly.

Narrator: And Joe is always tracking how engaged employees are, first by having in-person conversations with them.

Joe LaMarca: We use data, we’re an engineering company, right? So data is really critical to us. And that’s what we use. We look at where people are getting their information, how are they getting their information? Can we make some adjustments? You know, we, we call it check and adjust. We look at, at what are the things that are working and what are things that aren’t working. And as I talked earlier about visual communication, right? The need to have photos and video and really do that great compelling storytelling is so important, but you got to find the right levels and the best way to reach people. And so I think we use data to do that. We really are a data-driven organization. You know, how do we create our craft and continue to craft that great employee experience really it’s about driving that, that company culture. one of the things I always end with, or we end with as a whole really is at the end of a conversation or end of a discussion, you know, what feedback do you have for me? what can I do better, um, or different that will make this experience better for you? and you know, it’s not, looking for criticism. It’s not looking for anything like that. It’s truly, I want to know how do I make this better and not always, can I do the things that you want me to do? Right. Um, but I, I certainly try.

Narrator: He’s also collecting data en masse digitally.

Joe LaMarca: We have cultural surveys, like most companies, you know, we spend a lot of time in that space. We’ll do pulse surveys, different types of mechanisms that we use to understand. Um, what’s on people’s minds and what are the things that we can affect the change with in order to again, have that engaged workforce? Because when you have an engaged workforce, there’s nothing that’s not insurmountable, right? I mean, you can do anything when your employees, if their heart and soul are into it, um, your work product is going to be better. Your quality is going to be better. Um, your on-time delivery is going to be better. All of those things are just going to be better. Um, and so we really work hard to do that. Um, here at Lockheed Martin,

Narrator: But being at Lockheed Martin – and being a veteran – Joe says it would be easy to use military terms in their communications. But he actually tries to use plain language so that all employees understand, no matter what silo they’re in.

Joe LaMarca: First of all, we use way too many acronyms. Okay. I think that’s, that’s inherent to the military to defense contractors in general. I’ve worked for other defense contractors as well. It seems like we just, we speak in tongues. I dunno. And I’ve been doing this almost 40 years and there’s acronyms. I still don’t know. And we actually have an acronym, um, dictionary. Right. Because there are so many acronyms and, I’m just kind of joking about that, but that is something that we all do. Um, it’s terrible. And as a communication professional, I tell people all the time don’t use acronyms, right. Say what you want to say, like instead of BRGs business resource groups. Okay. And so somebody that doesn’t know knows,

Narrator: Joe has described his team as a group of storytellers. And they love to highlight individual employee stories. It’s a way they celebrate each team member, show them they’re valued, personalize the employee experience and create a sense of community.

Joe LaMarca: There’s a million stories out there. So we have an internal, an intranet, if you will. And that’s one of the ways we tell the stories of our employees. We have a special section that’s just about employees, employee highlights. And so what we do as a communications team is we, we seek those stories out, right? When we hear about a great story, um, we have a lot of legacy I’ll use legacy as an example, we have, when I say legacy, I mean, generations of people families who work at Lockheed Martin, you know, we’ve been around for over a hundred years. And so, um, for instance, my daughter works at Lockheed Martin. So now we have two generations of LaMarcas working at Lockheed Martin, but we have four and five generations that have worked at Lockheed Martin. You think about all the different generations that are in the workforce today from traditional to baby boomers, all the way to gen X, gen Y gen Z so when you, when you have that legacy and you have that, um, that’s a great story to tell, right? When you think about, yeah, my grandfather worked here, my grandmother was Rosie the Riveter, then now I’m out here and I’m helping to build airplanes, for the next generation. Um, I’m doing that. So those are really compelling stories. We have stories about what people do in their off time. We’ll go out, we’ll send a photographer. I think of one, uh, young, one of our young professionals who, she was really into yoga, right. It was her thing. And, one of the photographers went with her and actually photographed her doing, you know, her different positions and yoga positions. And then she explained it all in an article, in a first person article. Cause she was one of my communicators and the photos were dynamic. Right. They were just awesome. And then she explained the different terms and what yoga really means and what’s it for help for the mind and the body. And it was one of the number one read stories and commented on stories that we’ve ever seen. Um, and again, who knew that everybody would be interested in somebody who did yoga, uh, but it was the way she told the story. Um, the photographs that supported it. Um, just one example, we have throwback Thursday, right? We’ll have, uh, opportunities to go back and, and tell stories of our history, things that have happened at Lockheed Martin or, or aircraft that we’ve built, or, um, you know, we go into the history through the archives and we tell some really compelling stories about, um, the history of our company and some of the characters that we’ve had in our company over time. That are truly, um, legendary in the A and D industry. Um, there I go use an app acronyms in the aerospace and defense industry. You think of our, our infamous skunkworks are out in Palmdale, California, and some of the great things that they’ve created and developed over time that, um, stealth technology is a great example of that from the F1 17 stealth fighter to the F 22 to the F 35 today. I mean, that’s technology that, you know, we’re the experts at it. Nobody does it better than Lockheed Martin. And, and so those are the kind of compelling stories I think that we tell about our people and our products. And, and it’s, uh, uh, that’s, that’s what we see people want to read the most of, right. Are those people’s stories. It could be about a pet. It could be about a trip you took. I mean, it’s, it’s all over the place and, uh, and it’s very cool.

Narrator: And looking back on his career, Joe says he’s had some unbelievable experinces himself.

Joe LaMarca: I’ve spent more than two decades in the air force and now almost two decades in industry and with that has come a tremendous amount of travel and, uh, meeting new people and, and just going to places that I would have never had a chance to see or be part of. There was a time we were doing some peacekeeping operations in, uh, in central Asia think Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, places like that. And I had a young officer who was working for me there. You know, and he was kind of one of my mentees, right. Somebody that I had brought along. And when we were going on this deployment, I specifically asked for him to come with because I wanted him to have that experience. And during that employee, that deployment, we were running what was called a joint information bureau. So we were responsible for all the communications for the exercise that was part of this peacekeeping operation. And I had a family emergency where the red cross contacted me. Uh, and I had to come back from central Asia for a family emergency. My dad had a heart attack and they didn’t think he was going to make it fortunately he did. Um, but it was one of those harrowing times in my life. And I knew that I could hand the reins off to this young officer. And now I was supporting a four-star general. And this young officer had not supported a four-star general, but you know what? I had the faith and confidence that this person could handle that. And I could walk away knowing that everything would be handled, and it was. Um, and, and it’s one of those, one of those moments when you know that you’ve had an impact on somebody’s career, where you’ve helped develop them, you’ve helped teach them. And then they were able to just pick up and run with it. You know, that’s just a simple example of, of what I think I’ve seen throughout my career. You know, opportunities, you create opportunities for people to grow and develop. And that’s probably, for me, that’s the best experience I can have as a leader, um, is how, how well do people, um, step in when you’re not there, right? Sign of a great leader is when people can step in and nobody misses you. Then, you know, that, that you’ve got the right people in place with the right training, the right experiences and they can step in and do that. Um, so I’m really proud of that. Um, part of my career again, I could tell you stories all day about me personally, and the things that I’ve done, but, but I think it’s more important to talk about the people that I feel like I’ve had an impact on in my career to me, that’s going to be what I walk away with When I hang up my spurs, I live in Texas. Right. So when I hang up my spurs, um, at some point, um, I think if I can look back and say, Hey, I know that I had an impact on people and I helped them grow and develop and, succeed in life. Then to me, that’s the greatest experience I could ever have. When I think about the team that I have today and the teams that I’ve had in the past, I think really it’s about, we all have each other’s back, right? There’s a saying in the, in the aerospace or in the aviation world, it’s called check six and check six means that when you’re flying and you’re in the lead, you know that your wingman or the person flying beside you or behind you, they have your back. Nobody’s going to come up from behind and knock you out of the sky. Well, we do the same thing here. We have each other’s back. When somebody steps out to go do something, they need to take care of something. It’s personal, it’s professional. Maybe they get another job and we have to back them. We have to wait to backfill that position. Everybody steps up and does what they have to do. And I think that’s the kind of organization that I have. They understand and they say, Hey, I know I gotta do a little bit more here because so-and-so had this happen. I think that’s really the sign of, of a world-class team. Um, uh, have a highly engaged workforce and, uh, and a growth mindset for a leadership team. And that’s what I try to drive. We’re all pretty good at it.

Narrator: We’ve been cruising right along here, but we’re headed into some turbulence. Let’s get into the challenges of cultivating a positive employee experience.

Joe LaMarca: You know, we’ve all had challenges. Um, but I think for me, it’s, what’s, what’s important is what you learned from it. Right. Don’t dwell on it. How do you get past it? How do you move on? What does that look like? I mean, one example comes to mind right away. When I had a, um, I had a boss who, um, called me into his office one day and, um, and he just started yelling at me and I was 50 years old. I had been to war. Right. And I, I’m not going to have somebody stand across the desk and yell at me. I’m not a child. Um, and I was very offended by that. And so I, I feel like that was one of those times when you say, okay, you know, people say all the time, you know, what are you gonna fall on your sword? This was something I would fall on my sword over. Right. And so my response was, Hey, you need to treat me with respect. Okay. If you’re going to stand here and yell at me, then I’m going to go pack my stuff and I’ll leave. And you can hire somebody else because it’s disrespectful, it’s not professional. It’s not the way you get things done. And so for me, that was one of those experiences where, I confronted him immediately and he calmed down and he apologized and said, no, you’re no, I don’t want you to go. But here. And then he went on to describe what he was concerned about instead of yelling. Right. Um, so what I took away from that experiences as a leader, you know, I’ve always known to yell at people. I don’t, I don’t see that as an effective form of leadership. Right? Fear and intimidation. That’s not an effective form of leadership. You’re not creating an experience that’s positive or an experience that people can learn from. We’re all gonna make mistakes. We’re all gonna have challenges, but how do you help people grow from that? And it goes back to being an empathetic leader. Um, you know, when you see somebody who makes a mistake, you’ve got to give them some space. I mean, in almost all instances, you can say, Hey, you can pick up from that mistake and let’s move on. Now. If they make the same mistake a second time, they’re probably not listening or they’re not paying attention to it, or they don’t care the third time. For sure. Then we’ll have maybe a little different conversation. But again it’s what do you learn from that? So for me, um, that was just one of those worst employee experiences that I’ve ever had where somebody yelled at me. I will never put up with that and I will never expect anybody to have to do that. Right. I just don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s good. And it’s not a, uh, it’s not a way to lead. He was one of those kinds of leaders that, that that’s how he led. And he led by fear and intimidation and I. I’m never going to be led by that I’ve been led by, you know, senior officers who, um, you know, are great leaders. He was the only one that I can remember that really, he was successful to a point because people were afraid, but he ultimately failed and he didn’t last long. I wouldn’t even call that leadership. Right. I would call it fear and intimidation and you can’t lead that way in my opinion.


Narrator: And just like any company, Lockheed Martin has been affected by the pandemic too. Joe says he has tried to learn from the past two years.

Joe LaMarca: I mean, I’ve taken a lot of things away from the last two years. I mean, the first thing I would say is I’ve learned to embrace new things. Um, I, when the pandemic started or before the pandemic started, I was not a big, um, advocate for virtual work with what we do, because I grew up thinking that, well, Hey, you have to live it. You have to breathe it. You have to, you have to go out and see where the airplanes are made. You have to know the people that you work with there’s just something about being together and working with other people side by side, that I felt was just essential for success. Um, I wouldn’t say that I’m totally away from that, but I also understand how you can be successful working virtually too. So I’ll say it that way. I mean, we’ve hired a lot of people during COVID, right? Some people who have never actually stepped foot in our factory in two years and they’ve been successful. In my mind early on in the pandemic. I don’t know how you could do that. Right. I don’t know how you could possibly be successful that way, but, but people are, but it’s a generational thing. People who have grown up this way can operate this way for somebody like me to come in cold at my age and my experience level, I’m like, Ooh, that would scare me to death to think I don’t, I can’t go into an office or I can’t, you know, see somebody I can’t talk to in person face to face, you know, those kinds of things. So, so I think that’s one of the things that I’ve I’ve learned is really how to adapt, um, and, and utilize those tools and the technology and that it can be effective. Right. Uh, and the, my team who will ever listen to this podcast and they’ll hear that they will recognize that, right. They will say right away. Yup. Joe definitely has changed, you know? And, and so I see that as a good thing. Um, so I, I think, um, engaged employees that continues to be vital to our business. Right. And you gotta have that. And I think COVID taught us how important having and maintaining that engagement really is on a day-to-day basis. Um, and then, and, you know, I think I’ve always been transparent, but I’m even more transparent now because I think it’s important that everybody understands, what are the challenges? What are the things we need to do and how do we do it? Um, and how do we do it better and more collectively,

Narrator: Joe says during difficult times, he leans back on the core values at Lockheed Martin.

Joe LaMarca: Do what’s right. Respect others perform with excellence. You know, those are core values. I’ve had my whole life, whether it be for, I was in the military, I was raised that way. They’re basically the same core values of the United States air force and what I grew to love and respect. And then I come to a company like Lockheed Martin and they, embrace the same types of core values that I think are central to everything. And I think that helped us get through the pandemic. I mean, as a company, we’re, we’re a very strong company and we, we didn’t have layoffs. Now what we do is vital to national defense. I understand. And so we were able to work through some of that because of that. But I would say we were also loyal to our workforce. Right. We were committed to them to, to safety. Uh, and their wellbeing and understanding what, again, some of those challenges are. So I think those are the kinds of things that those are my lessons learned.

Narrator: Speaking of lessons learned during the pandemic, there were some things that Joe tried that didn’t go as well.

Joe LaMarca: You know, we’ve tried lots of different things, we tried to have happy hours on Zoom, so, you know, try to give people a break from, you know, okay. We working hard and, you know, we send little, everybody gets a, you know, a adult beverage of their choice or not, or, you know, and we get into a chat room and a zoom and you know, what I found out people are like, Hey man, I’ve been on zoom all day. Last thing I want to do is get now on another chat. Right. And so I don’t think that really worked that well. In the beginning, maybe. It had more effect and more when we were really locked down, I guess, um, I think it was more effective, but you realized over time, people. They felt obligated that they had to be there. And, uh, and then they weren’t right. They’re like, yeah, no, I don’t want to do that anymore. So I use that as a, just a simple example of, of what, uh, what we could have done, you know, I don’t know what you would have done different, but, um, it doesn’t work anymore. I don’t do it anymore. Right. Um, and now of course, we’re seeing people and we’re able to engage and go out of our homes and we have been for some time now. So, so it’s just a different environment, but, but I’d say that was one of those things that just didn’t work. In my opinion.

Narrator: Joe says that every hard experience from his past has helped him develop resiliency. They’ve prepared him to lead in times of difficulty or change.

Joe LaMarca: I lead from the front. Um, I set the example. I think, uh, I’ve gone through a lot of crises in my life. I’ve worked airplane crashes, I’ve, um, you know, difficult, um, humanitarian crises, and you know, I’ve gone to war. Um, and, and so those are really difficult things and times in your life. Um, and for me as a leader, and I’ve always been in a leadership position, that’s one of the things as a young officer, when you join the military, you, you, you’re thrust right into leadership when you walk in the door. Um, and so I think I learned early, you have to have respect and trust for your people then, and understand that there’s people who know more than you do. Um, I think that’s really important. Um, I think being a good listener and I don’t always listen, well, I have to, I’ve had to work at it because I’m one of those type a kind of people. So, um, I’m always trying to lean into it and all right, I know the answer and that’s not true. And so I think over, over time, I’ve become a better listener. Um, But I’ve always respected and trusted the people that I work with. And, and, you know, you build that up over time and when you do, you can, you can lead through anything. And, and any kind of difficult situation is how do you elevate the team? How do you get everybody. More focused in a positive direction and all going toward the same objective and it’s not easy. Um, and, and I’ve failed as well. Right? I’ve not always had success because not always, can you get everybody moving in the same direction, but, again, I just hope when I’m done someday and I look in the rear view mirror, this is kinda my measure of success. Um, did I leave it better than I found it?

Narrator: So lead from the front, leave work better than you found it, and make sure you always have your employees’ back.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Cruising Altitude. This episode is brought to you by Firstup, the company that is redefining the digital employee experience to put people first and lift companies up by connecting every worker, everywhere with the information that helps them do their best work. Firstup has helped over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies like Amazon, AB InBev, Ford and Pfizer stay agile and keep transforming. Learn more at

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Cruising Altitude

Lessons from companies over 30,000 employees

Conversations with leaders who are designing the best digital employee experiences in the world – from the front lines to the back office. Life is different over 30,000. Welcome to Cruising Altitude.

Hosted by Firstup Founder and CEO, Nicole Alvino.

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