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The Passing of An Inspiring and Caring Business Leader – Donald Hastings

December 30th, 2016
 “The only way we’ll have any kind of widespread job security in today’s business environment is if we change our thinking as to what makes good management. Instead of praising corporations that downsize, we need to look at their actions as admissions of failure. We don’t need layoffs – we need creativity.”
 Don Hastings, the man who wrote these inspiring words, died this week.
 I will miss him a great deal.
 For over 40 years, Don worked at Lincoln Electric, ending up as President and Chairman of the great Cleveland-based multinational manufacturing company that from its founding in 1895 to the present day, has embraced the values in Don’s words; the firm conviction that people matter as much as profits and the only way for any organization to ensure the latter is to honour the former, every day.
 Lincoln Electric remains a beacon of hope in these hard economic times for its formal corporate no-layoff promise to its employees. A policy that remains unbroken for nearly three-quarters of a century and in no small part because of that, the company remains a global success story.
 Don was also a gentle and friendly man and he changed my life.
 22 years ago, when I was a journalist at CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,) I happened to catch a speech of Don’s on radio where he talked about Lincoln Electric and its amazing no-layoff policy. It took only a couple of phone calls for me to find myself deep in a long and fascinating conversation with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Don didn’t have to do that – I was calling from another country! – and believe me, very few others at his rarefied level of the business world would ever consider talking to a journalist at the drop of a hat.
 A few years later I moved to Washington as a foreign correspondent for CBC, where I often needed help in covering business and economic stories. I took a gamble one day in calling Don – who had just retired – about some story I was stuck on, and again, he answered in a flash and soon became an invaluable resource for me.
 10 years ago, the idea of writing a book about the devastating social and economic effects of layoffs entered my mind and I decided to use Lincoln Electric as the spine of the narrative. Once again it was Don to the rescue, not only through sharing more insights and stories from his years with the company, but even more importantly, Don introduced me to his successor at the helm of Lincoln Electric. I will never forget walking with Don into his old boardroom to meet the new senior management team and hear him tell them “you should listen to this guy from Canada!”
 My book SPARK, which was published 2 years later, would never have happened without Don Hastings and I will always remember him with gratitude and great fondness.
 I’ll leave the last words to Don … “People are important as people and jobs are important to their families’ well-being, and that’s important for the long-term success of a company. That’s why we don’t lay people off.”

One Response to “The Passing of An Inspiring and Caring Business Leader – Donald Hastings”

  1. Dr. Gerald D. Klein says:

    Frank,

    A great tribute to Don, his predecessors, successors, and the company. Mostly everyone has models and enablers and it was good to read about an important one of yours. Were more leaders in all kinds of organizations to embrace his view and values concerning people and work.

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