Safety is front and center for Phill Jones, a Caterpillar program manager and leader of the Caterpillar Lambda Network, a group for LGBTIQ employees and allies.
Phill works in a highly specialized technical field – delivering a single MineStar Office L6 subsystem to meet the needs of surface and underground mining customers. The evolving MineStar capabilities allow customers to autonomously control their machines and enhance mine site safety.
Phill’s passion for safety includes both physical AND emotional safety; he advocates on behalf of LGBTIQ employees, as well as all employees who feel like they can’t contribute at their greatest level because they feel different.
“Our differences are what helps us innovate. Diversity of thought is absolutely critical to the products we develop and the value we deliver to our customers,” said Phill, who notes that building trust among team members is key.
“For my first 14 years working with Caterpillar, as a contractor and then as an employee, I kept every aspect of my private life very private. One of the implications of that is that the team that I was managing couldn’t really get to know me very well,” he said. Now, “I’ve been much more successful building trust since I’ve not had to worry about sharing who I really am in the workplace.”
Phill chairs a meeting each week for the MineStar solutions team, members of which are located in Canada, the U.S., India and New Zealand. The group has not only geographical diversity; team members have different native languages, cultures, ages and levels of experience – a mix that helps contribute to innovation.
Phill orchestrates collaboration among the team by communicating clearly and regularly, distributing meeting minutes and seeking input outside of the meeting as well, so introverts who may not feel comfortable speaking up in a large call can still share their ideas. This process has enabled successful twice-yearly software releases, which many teams across the organization depend on as an increasing number of Caterpillar equipment styles run MineStar.
“Getting the engagement of our people is very important, and by building trusting relationships, people feel comfortable speaking up,” Phill said. “It all comes back to our values at Caterpillar – the respect that we have for one another, the way we articulate, listen and are prepared to have our ideas discussed and improved.”