says, “I would tell you it was a difficult decision, and in other respects I would tell you it was scary how easy it was.”
Early in her career, Adriane M. Brown learned a valuable lesson: results always matter. Fresh out of college, the 22-year-old was about to face her first management challenge: shift supervisor for a 50-employee Raleigh, North Carolina, plant that was part of Corning Inc.’s Electronic Division. “I took off my class ring because I knew the first thing I would get asked was [my age]. And I did. I responded, ‘Where I grew up it’s impolite to ask a lady her age.'”
Young and inexperienced, the Richmond, Virginia, native was savvy enough to figure out that a galvanized workforce was critical for success. “I realized I’d be better off asking, not telling,” says Brown, who also worked as quality control sectional supervisor during her four-year tenure. “From that first job I have always tried to treat people like I want to be treated.” Her style — a mixture of results-based collegiality and intelligent risk-taking — enabled her to connect with her crew and increase the plant’s efficiency and output. When she left the plant to take another position at Corning, the union employees threw her a big party — a rare send-off for a salaried manager.
With 26 years of corporate experience, Brown’s philosophies have driven her to the top. Today, the 48-year-old dynamo serves as president and CEO of Honeywell International Inc.’s Transportation Systems, the auto products division that manufactures turbochargers, oil filters, antifreeze, and more. In her first year in the position, the unit grossed a whopping $4.5 billion in revenues and produ
ced $557 million in operating profits.
After holding a number of high-powered positions at Corning over 19 years, Brown joined Honeywell in 1999, where she developed an impressive track record. As vice president and general manager of Honeywell Aerospace’s Aircraft Landing Systems in South Bend, Indiana, she oversaw all operations and commercial activity for a $400 million unit and managed more than 1,200 employees. Just one week after 9-11, she was tapped as vice president and general manager of Engine Systems & Accessories, another Honeywell aerospace division that generated $1.3 billion in revenues. At a time when the airline industry — the unit’s primary customer base — was devastated by the terrorist attacks, Brown maintained profitability by reducing costs, boosting productivity, and rallying its 2,500 employees.
EMBRACING NEW CHALLENGES
Thriving in Honeywell’s performance-based culture, Brown is always up for a challenge, facing them as a woman, an African American, and an industry outsider. She asserts: “All leaders are forced to prove themselves in whatever new role they take. Being an outsider to Honeywell and the aerospace business made earning that credibility more difficult — and at the same time, more important.”
To win support from the rank and file, Brown held a series of town hall meetings related to people and procedures. “I was honest with them about what I didn’t know about the industry. But I told them what I did know, [such