Unexpected Lessons from Dr. Temple Grandin

When I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Temple Grandin I didn’t know what to expect. To be totally honest, it wasn’t until 20 minutes prior to recording that I discovered she was an Autism Activist and TED speaker.


Every single person I mentioned this to has to ply their jaw off the ground in disbelief.


Trust me, I’m is disbelief as well.


I connected Dr. Grandin her to complete a follow up episode on the animal welfare efforts she partnered with McDonald’s on in the 1970’s. I knew she was a leading animal welfare expert. It was because of her outside perspective and systematic scoring system that McDonald’s was able to gain credibility when working with the plants on improving animal welfare and implementing standards.


When I contacted Dr. Grandin to complete our interview, she immediately accepted. So immediate in fact, that we recorded three short hours after I asked. (Normally I schedule interviews weeks out).


That left me a small time frame to both navigate the technical side of recording a podcast interview through a landline and research her. The good news was that I will never again not be fully informed on a guest prior to reaching out.


In short, Dr. Grandin blew me away at every turn of the interview. While on the surface we were discussing simple measures that the plants needed to take to improve, really we were discussing leadership.


“Good equipment makes good handling possible, but you have to have the management to go along with it.” -Dr. Temple Grandin


Yes, we touched on animal welfare. There were fantastic measures she took to improve the overall well being of the livestock. The incredible point of the interview was where she recounted the defining moment during that process, the realization that all the equipment in the world wouldn’t replace quality management.


This changed her entire approach to work on leadership within the plants. A key element was focusing on measurable aspects, which brought her 5-point scoring system.


 “You manage things that you measure.”


This was her scoring points:

  1. Every animal needed to be dead on the rail;
  2. Shoot 95% of the cattle with a single shot;
  3. No more than 1% of the cattle falling down anywhere in the facility;
  4. Only 3% of animals bellowing in the stun box area;
  5. 75% through the facility without any electric prodding.


What hit me was the beauty of blending systematic measurable points with changing mindsets. Through this process she was able to empower managers who cared about the cause and hold those not supportive of the measures accountable against an impartial standard.


To say the results were incredible is an understatement.


What the facilities look like today are completely different. There was a pre McDonald’s era and a post McDonald’s era.


She shared several leadership lessons in our interview. Listen in to hear more of Dr. Grandin’s lessons on leadership. Listen in to this inspiring interview!


Photo Credit: Rosalie Winard