211: Michael Werner, part 1: Dream job results from environmental leadership
Not everyone gets his or her dream job. Michael Werner did, on sustainable product design at Google and Apple. Since our conversation he’s become Google’s lead on circular economy. Whatever your thoughts on these companies, he is in a position to help lead them in areas of great importance.
How did he get those positions? By working up the ladder? On the contrary, by leading from the start, before people were following.
A major goal of this podcast is to show that if you want to lead, especially on the environment, a successful path is to start leading now with what you can. Waiting for a position to open doesn’t work as well. Acting creates opportunities and Michael is an example.
I’m glad to hear people within big companies with major inertia are working on sustainability, but they have challenges ahead. It’s also rare to find people who get what I described as reusing and recycling, or efficiency in general, is tactical. Reduction is strategic, as I spoke on in episode 183: Reusing and recycling are tactical. Reducing is strategic.
Most companies prefer recycling and efficiency because they drive growth, which makes people feel better, but is the opposite of reduction. I haven’t looked into Google’s practices.
Note, this was an early episode. I didn’t ask Michael first about what the environment meant to him, so I didn’t connect his challenge to something personal. I got lucky that he had something in mind at first. But I think leadership works far more effectively when the leader makes the person feel comfortable sharing their values, which makes it feel more meaningful. It wouldn’t have worked with someone less enthusiastic and didn’t lead him to find his project as meaningful.
Still, I think he’s doing it for himself. We’ll hear in his second episode.