82: How to Lead with Grit and Grace Featuring Ashleigh Walters, Author and President of Onex

Ashleigh Walters is the President of Onex and author of the book Leading with Grit and Grace. Onex is a more than half-century-old industrial furnace manufacturing and service company based in Pennsylvania. When Ashleigh became the leader of the company, she truly changed the company’s culture for the better. Hence the title of her book and the main theme for this episode.

In this episode, Ashleigh discusses the many perils of a command-and-control leadership style as well as how she aided Onex’s steady transition to a more flexible work environment. She also shares a few handy pointers on how to build trust in the workplace and help employees with problem-solving.

Ashleigh also shares the inspiration behind her book and some important lessons she learned during the publishing process.


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3 Quick Things from this Episode

  1. While Onex doesn’t disclose the entire company’s financials to employees, they talk openly about sales and costs to educate the employees on why decisions are made.
  2. Each time you experiment, you just get a little bit incrementally closer to your targets.
  3. Not thinking about transitioning your business for the future is what shuts most organizations down.

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Tweetable Quotes

  • “You need to go to the plant floor and interact with the people closest to the problem.”
  • “Once you get used to changing things, it gets addictive.”
  • “We realized that we had to teach problem-solving skills —we had a command-and-control leadership, so people’s problem-solving skills weren’t as sharp as they once were.”

Please Scroll Down for Recommended Resources from this Episode

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What We Discuss with Ashleigh

  • What it means to lead with both grit and grace
  • Ashleigh shares a little insight into what her company does
  • How Ashleigh created a more inclusive work environment
  • How to make change more fun
  • Ashleigh explains what freedom to fail is
  • Ashleigh talks about Onex’s Employee Stock Option Program (ESOP)
  • How Ashleigh is preparing Onex for the future

Recommended Resources

  • Leading with Grit and Grace, A Journey of Organizational Culture Change, by Ashleigh Walters
  • Onex, Inc., here to help with your refractory, combustion, raw materials, and precast needs; designing and manufacturing custom equipment for heat-intensive industries – including forge, heat-treat, aluminum, and zinc furnaces

Connect with Ashleigh and Onex

LinkedIn | Twitter | Onex