Joe Hinrichs –– You’re The Man!

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
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David C. Lester

ATLANTA –– FROM THE DOME ––From the June 2024 Issue of Railway Track & Structures.

The phrase “You’re The Man!” is an outdated expression that used to be heard primarily at sporting events when a player completed an exceptional move. A Major League baseball player corks one over the left field fence to give his team the winning run; a golfer cracks a long drive straight down the middle of the fairway; or an NBA player hits a three pointer to tie or win the game for their team; often followed up with one or more fans screaming “You’re The Man!” Even though this old, hackneyed expression is, hopefully, gone with the wind, I couldn’t think of anything more expressive than this phrase to describe the work Joe Hinrichs has been doing as CEO of CSX around demonstrating that he truly cares about his employees and the culture they work in. 

CSX President & CEO Joe Hinrichs/Photo courtesy CSX

His latest move has been to award well-equipped Ford pickup trucks to six craft employees who have had at least six months of perfect attendance and entered their names in a raffle to win one of the trucks. As readers know, Hinrichs was formerly President of the Automotive Division of Ford Motor Company, so it was fitting that these trucks came from Ford. One employee, who knew of Hinrichs’ time at Ford, asked him to sign the glove box. I’m sure there have been programs like this in the past at other railroads and companies, but I’m not aware of any. Moreover, as one who occasionally rents one of these trucks for a long road trip, I can attest to their quality and utility. 

Now, I’m not hollering “You’re The Man!” because Joe Hinrichs is going around the system handing out pickup trucks. I’m giving him this distinguished honor because, in my view, he has done as much or more than any chief rail executive I can think of, in the 20th or 21st centuries, to focus on creating a positive culture for employees. Hinrichs has the following to say about the truck program and his overall interest in creating a great culture on his LinkedIn page: Another great example of how our ONE CSX team is working hard to appreciate and value all our employees. [Referring to pickup truck program]. Whether it is the great ONE CSX Family Days, the Drive To Succeed truck giveaways, changes to our attendance policies, the first railroad to reach Paid Sick Day agreements with our union employees, and so many other improvements … we are committed to creating a better environment for our employees so we can all work better together to improve safety, customer service, and the efficiency of our network. Thanks again to all our employees who were eligible. See you again in six months!  

Of course, I’m not naïve enough to think all of this is simple altruism on Hinrichs’ part. It is good public relations and if the company enjoys a positive culture, it should perform better since employees usually perform better in an environment where they believe their efforts are valued. Nevertheless, Hinrichs deserves kudos for appreciating and supporting his workforce, particularly after all the nasty mess that’s been going on over the past couple of years. So, next time you run into Joe Hinrichs, please be sure to yell –– “Joe, You’re The Man!”  

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