Name: James Antal
Title: Global Chief Engineer - Retired
Organisation: GPS Solutions
In my 37 years of automotive engineering experience, I have a proven a track record of technical excellence and extensive global leadership experience. In the last 14 years of my career I led a global engineering team with hubs in US (250) Germany/England (100), Australia (50), China (50) and Brazil (35). My team was critical path in the progression to battery electric and electrified internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
I bring extensive vehicle and product development knowledge from product definition through global certification and launch. I specialize in structuring and building teams who are at the forefront of engineering technology and tool development focused on vehicle and engineering efficiency. I build strong partnership through a collaborative product development approach for integration and optimization of engineering, manufacturing and marketing & sales needs. I deliver for the customer at all points of the engagement cycle.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope James's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging part of leading in my experience is managing upward to get the next level of leadership to value the points of view of the teams they are responsible for.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
As a general salary role engineer I volunteered for a project with a group of other experienced engineers. During that project it became evident my peers were looking to me and treating me as the leader. Thats when I realized. Being chosen as the leader of people you greatly respect, gave me the confidence to attempt to lead. I found that each time I attempted to lead, people liked what I was doing and followed!
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
People, Product, Process. These are my priorities! I make my "Shower Plan" the things I think I want to accomplish in the day. Once at work, I write down what I think will make a successful day. Review my e-mails and phone messages and adjust the priorities accordingly. As a leader my time is dedicated to the team. So if they need me that is my priority. I fill the "down time" with my own projects.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
You can protect your team to much!! I learned that it was not always the best for the people I was leading to protect them from difficult encounters with other leadership. I learned that in my desire to shield them, I was taking away their opportunity to think on their feet, interact and grow as well as show their resiliency and ability to react and adjust to difficult situations!
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" IT taught me the importance of listening and understanding others. This ability and desire to HEAR what people were saying without judgement or without planning my response as they were talking made people really feel heard. This ability created a culture of contribution on my team. Everybody knew they would be heard, to they were not nervous to give their point of view. This resulted in tremendous input and good debate as a culture which drove GREAT ideas and team work.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Be Honest , Truthful and Trustworthy even when it is really really hard. Answer every question by either; Providing an answer, telling them you do not know the answer, or telling them you know the answer but cannot share and for what reason. As a leader you are often asked questions from your team members about things you are not allowed to talk about. Sometime the team just feels better that at least you know the answer to their question and they respect that you cannot share.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
A team members production and quality of work was declining. I called him in for a discussion to share with him that I had noticed, and asked if there was something we can do to get it back up. He said he would get it back up and went to leave. I asked him to stay and communicated to him that if there was something taking up his energy , that I may be able to help.
He confided in me that he was going through a very messy divorce and it was impacting his work. Through more conversation, I told him, that we all need help some time and that is why we have a team, so that we can rely on each other. I told him that I would move some work from him to some of the other team members whose work load at that time was down. He argued!
I insured him this was not punishment or a reflection, but how TEAMS operate and that my first priority as a leader was to make sure the team members were safe and able to have a fulfilling life. Sometime that means sharing burdens. He agreed, thanked me and 6 months later was producing a level higher than ever before! He shared that story others on the team. The teams commitment to the organization was raised to a level I never imagined. This showed my priorities of People, Product, Process was true!