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How meditation, ice hockey help Ford chairman face crises

Yoga and mindfulness have replaced two-martini lunches, big bellies and cigars at Ford, thanks to its chairman Bill Ford

January 03, 2021 / 12:40 PM IST
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat performs yoga.(Image: ANI)

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat performs yoga.(Image: ANI)

You expect a new-age CEO to extol the virtues of yoga and meditation. But not the boss of Ford Motor Company, an organisation spanning eras when bosses were ruthless and unwinding meant raucous consumption of red meat and alcohol.

However, Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford and the company’s current chairman, does things differently. In a recent interview with The New York Times, he reiterated his belief in meditation, which he embraced when the company became almost bankrupt after the 2008 recession.

“It [meditation] gets you out of your own head. If I’m really stressed about something, or I can’t see something clearly, I have a couple of ways of clearing my head. One is to play ice hockey. The other is to meditate,” Ford said. “When you’re in a position like mine for a long time, I’ve seen so many people whose egos have just run away with them. Meditating brings you back to the fact that at the end of the day, you’re no different than anybody else. The minute you start believing any of the kind of hype around yourself, you’re in real trouble.”

Ford, 63, joined the company in 1979. He has witnessed the transformation of its culture over the decades. If people are surprised about spiritual activities in a workplace associated with oil-stained overalls, he understands why.

“You see things now you never would've seen,” Ford said in another interview a few years ago. “We have meditation sessions, mindfulness sessions and yoga classes. Our executives all had foot-long cigars back in the day and their stomachs hanging out like this and, you know, two-martini lunches. It’s a very, very different culture [now].”

Ford has often spoken about the challenge of the 2008-2010 period, when the financial crisis pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy. Meditation helped him face the situation better, he said. “The practice of mindfulness kept me going during the darkest days,” Ford said.
first published: Jan 3, 2021 12:40 pm
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