Weyerhaeuser President and CEO, Doyle Simons, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on February 28th. Weyerhaeuser recently moved its headquarters to Pioneer Square, thus becoming neighbors with Seattle University. In its 117th year, Weyerhaeuser only lags SU by a few years, since we are celebrating our 125th anniversary this year!
Weyerhaeuser is now one of the world’s largest timber, land, and forest products companies, and Simons took over as CEO in 2013. Prior to that he was CEO of Temple-Inland, an Austin, TX based packaging and building products manufacturer, where he presided over the sale of the company to International Paper in 2012. He joined Temple-Inland in 1992 and before that practiced real estate and banking law.
Titling his talk, “Creating a Winning Company Vision and Culture,” Simons stressed the importance of vision for organizational success. The single most important thing for success, he said, is a clear, compelling vision.
He recalled that when he took over at Weyerhaeuser, he spent the first 50 days touring many company locations to listen to employee ideas on what the company did well and what could be improved. Based on those discussions, the vision for Weyerhaeuser became, “Working together to be the world’s premier timber, land, and forest products company.” Don’t underestimate the first four words – “working together” will be critical for success and “to be” means they don’t think they are there yet, but that will keep the company focused!
Simons has also set about changing the Weyerhaeuser culture. Urgency, accountability, courage (as in taking risk), keeping it simple, and innovation are the key behaviors he is trying to instill in the organization. Previously the company was known for moving slowly and being risk averse. At the same time, they want to retain the key values of Weyerhaeuser around safety, integrity, citizenship (supporting the communities they operate in), and sustainability (essential for a company in this space!).
To succeed in pushing the company vision, he said there are four keys to leadership”
- Listen to employees – they know what needs to be done differently
- Be action oriented – people look to see if you do what you say
- Keep it simple – so it is easy for people to understand
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – make sure people know what is going on and why
Weyerhaeuser recently completed a merger with fellow REIT, Plum Creek, and Simons noted that mergers frequently are unsuccessful because the leadership fails to successfully merge the company cultures. He recalled how he met with Plum Creek CEO, Rick Holley, to review the existing cultures and sort out the right culture for the new organization. He also noted the importance of communicating the vision for the merged organization and the importance of the new management team living the values and desired behaviors of Weyerhaeuser.
When asked what impacted Weyerhaeuser’s business the most, it was no surprise that Simons responded that the key driver for them is the US housing market, and to some degree housing markets abroad such as in Japan. He is also very proud of Weyerhaeuser’s new HQ building. It matches the company culture and heritage. “It feels like Weyerhaeuser,” he said, and if you have visited, you would have to agree, which is not something you could say about the previous HQ in recent years.
Doyle Simons gave an energetic and valuable presentation to SU students. The importance of vision and culture in organizational success, and how they need to work together, is something one must understand to be a successful leader. It’s happening at Weyerhaeuser under his watch!