On Nov. 5, more than 300 students, alumni and friends gathered virtually to hear Ray Scott, president and CEO of Lear Corporation, speak as the executive guest of the 2020 Sylvan T. Warrington Visiting Lectureship in Ethics and Leadership. Through this annual event, esteemed Broad College alumni are invited back to their alma mater to speak on issues and topics in business that they feel most passionate about.
Scott, who earned an Executive MBA from Broad in 2002, joined Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean Sanjay Gupta in a “fireside chat.” Attendees heard about Lear’s response to COVID-19, how Scott is addressing issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion at the company and his words of wisdom for tomorrow’s business leaders.
Strong ties to Broad
Scott has built his career at Lear, holding various positions in program management and sales while rising through the ranks since 1988. He pointed out that the Detroit-based automotive technology company has strong ties to MSU — he’s one of many Broad Spartans at Lear.
“The Broad College continues to shape Lear’s leadership,” Scott said. “Many of our employees go through the program at MSU, like me. It’s part of who we are, and there’s a special honor that I take in participating today.”
As a proud and active alumnus, Scott also holds a place on the Broad College Alumni Board, serving as an ambassador to the wider business community.
Leading through the pandemic
When COVID-19 took the world by surprise, Lear emerged as a leader. From creating and publicly releasing its Safe Work Playbook to placing an emphasis on protecting people, the company’s response was inspiring.
“We established what I consider to be best-in-class procedures as we dealt with [the virus] spreading from our facilities in China across the world,” Scott said. “It was a tremendous amount of work to give our plant managers the tools to run plants with the same expectations and prepare them as pandemic relief managers, and do this consistently across 250 facilities.”
The Safe Work Playbook, which offers guidelines for factories to reopen safely and maintain safe working environments, was created to ensure the safety of Lear’s people. Scott said it was a no-brainer to publish the playbook because when it comes to safety, it helps to keep everyone on the same page.
“The playbook has been downloaded over 40,000 times, and the response we received back was overwhelming,” he said. “We’re trying to apply our knowledge to other industries as well, not just automotive. It’s been extremely satisfying and gratifying.”
On top of the playbook’s role in safety, Scott said it became something that Lear employees rallied around with a sense of pride. It helped usher in a new mindset for plant managers to develop safety guidelines further and feel energized about.
Empowering employees who drive change
Lear has also embraced diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in a significant way. From hosting interactive “Check Your Blind Spots” events to forming a global diversity roundtable to making financial commitments for organizations that address social inequality, Scott is leading Lear to make consistent efforts across the company.
“One important example is our employee resource groups. They’re like a grassroots effort where we’re able to allow employees to be successful,” he said. “We’ve empowered these groups with executive champions, but the groups’ passionate voices are what leads change.”
Through continuous investment and support, Lear’s employees set their own strategies and have exceeded Scott’s expectations of driving change.
Advice for today’s Spartans
The Warrington Lecture is designed to not only cover specific topics in an open discussion but also allow students and alumni in the audience to engage with the guest speaker. Scott answered questions and shared advice that illuminated how his time at MSU applies to his work today.
“Learning never stops. Continuous learning is critical,” he said. “You have to rely on others and continue to network … and acknowledge those around you for their role and support.
“I think the biggest thing is time and how precious it is. When you’re in the program, you’re trying to balance academics, work life, family life, personal issues — I learned how to balance things and prioritize what is important. When you’re done with the program, you’ll look back and realize that everything you’re going through is going to impact the rest of your life.”