Sarah Walor photo
Leadership in Action 11 of 12
Michael J. Morecroft, 67, moved from England to Virginia to work for Hamilton Beach & Proctor-Silex, based in Glen Allen. He served as senior vice president of engineering and product development until 2001, when he became the company's president and chief executive officer. This year, he started a creativity-in-business pilot program for the headquarters' 220 employees. He has been married to Joan, whom he describes as a brave and tolerant wife, since 1966. Both of them are originally from Britain but are now American citizens. They have a son living in the United States and a married daughter residing in London
Q: Why did you decide to get the company involved in this yearlong pilot program?
A: I had several inspirational inputs, finalized by an article in the British press, "Drawing Inspiration from Your Workplace." The article focused on how art can inspire people in their work environments and can encourage employees to be more creative, better thinkers. I sensed [that] as a company, art and creativity in the workplace could help us stand out — could inspire every employee to look at their job from a different perspective, thus helping our "Good Thinking" ethos.
Another inspiration came from members of our Industrial Design team, who are creative thinkers – and very artistic in their own right. They were really inspired by a retro design BMW Cruiser motorcycle that I owned. They wanted me to park it in their department for creative inspiration.
Q: How did you find out about the creativity in the workplace aspect of the regional Cultural Action Plan?
A: We were looking for local artists and sculptures to get ideas. In that process we met John Bryan, who helped us put our program together, including giving one presentation himself [Oct. 13] entitled, "Why Good Things Happen to Bad Art" or "Your Easy-Step Method for Understanding any Artwork at any Place at any Time, or Not," which was one of the higher-attended presentations. John is the new president of CultureWorks.
Q: What activities have been offered to employees?
A: So far, we have had four presentations — Paul DiPasquale, internationally renowned sculptor; Bob Hallahan, master jazz keyboardist and longtime principal with VCU JazzMasters; Rebecca Jones, playwright and author; and John Bryan.
Q: What is planned for the rest of the year?
A: Today was our last presentation for 2009, as the fourth quarter for Hamilton Beach is our busiest time of the year. However, we do plan to continue the program into 2010.
Q: If you were to assemble a creative business brain trust, who are people you'd like to have at the table and why?
A: I am actually not particularly artistic, though the print on my office wall is from MoMA. However, it is a view of the Jaguar E type, which I believe is a form of art. With that said, I'd ask both Buffets, Warren and Jimmy. And Richard Branson fascinates me.
Q: What are your particular interests in the arts?
A: I am not a particularly "artistic" person. My mother was convinced I would be a concert pianist. My piano teacher disagreed. The violin lessons proved the point for all time! My particular leanings are toward architecture, sculpture and painting. Last year, my wife and I went on the trip of a lifetime visiting Rome, Florence and Venice. The Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi in Florence are mind-opening.