Ford Motor Co. executive Mark Fields will stop using the company plane to fly home to Florida on the weekends, the automaker confirmed today. Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, told employees about the change in a Thursday morning internal Web cast.
Automotive News reported that it was Fields' decision, not Alan Mulally's. While Mulally had recently publicly supported the use of the jet as being necessary to recruit top talent, such as Fields, there was significant “backlash” and the issue had come up in employee forums. Mulally, by the way, is reportedly moving his family from Seattle to the Detroit area, while Fields refuses to relocate.
From the article:
“He said he has made a decision to stop using the company aircraft for his personal use,” Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt said. “He doesn't want this or any other issue to distract the team from its main mission, which is to deliver the Way Forward plan and return our North American business to profitability.”
It was certainly Ford's right to give Fields this perk, it was a private employment agreement that the parties entered into freely. That doesn't mean it's right from a leadership standpoint, to send the signal that we “all need to sacrifice” for a money-losing company and then turnaround and spend a reported $900,000 a year on a perk like that. Leadership (with Lean or otherwise) means being in the fight with your employees, being on the same team, rather than holding yourself above the team in very visible ways.
From the Jan 4 WSJ article:
“It just looks bad and I'm sure Mark kind of regrets it himself,” said Tom Addis, a Ford dealer in Idaho and the departing chairman of the Ford Dealer Council. “Right or wrong, that's the perks executives get, I guess. Should it be suspended during times like these? Well, you've got a guy who's been saying to employees we all need to sacrifice. It's probably even more contentious with employees than dealers.”
Good for Fields. I promise I'll go at least 30 days without mentioning his mullet. Hold me to that, blog readers.
Update: To be fair, Fields isn't the only exec getting this type of perk these days, per a NY Times article.
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