When I recently started some restructuring work for a client, I saw a sign posted on the wall. As shown in the image [see PDF or View in Full Issue], it took a sad approach to giving 100% at work.
How many of the associates on our teams show up to work on Monday with this attitude and energy level to start the week? When we try to make changes for the better, associates with this attitude are most likely to get side tracked because they think “why should I modify or improve my ways now, the situation at the company will never change.”
I always coach managers and supervisors that our associates want change, they want to see change, but if we are not giving them the tools, or giving them the ability to initiate change, then their view of the company will not change. If you want to succeed, or want your company to succeed, the first thing you need to understand is that your success depends on their success.
The more you empower your employees, the more they will grow and thrive. Here are some tools you can use in your lean journey that will assist in empowering your associates:
Give employees generous boundaries. Contrary to conventional wisdom, boundaries don’t restrict team members; they empower them. Define the boundaries within which an employee can make his or her own decisions. In doing so, you give them freedom to act. For example, if you encourage your forklift operator to also review orders with a customer and solve problems without always consulting a manager, you empower them act without consulting a manager all the time and show your customer that your team is not only looking out for the customer but the company too.
Listen intently. Too many managers try to get employees to say what they want to hear. “Tell me we will hit our production target.” This is nonsense. It is far wiser to listen carefully for the truth... and then make the appropriate changes needed in response to that truth.
Believe in your employees. The best managers get outstanding performance from ordinary human beings. If you wait for a team of superstars, you will be waiting forever. Discover what each associate does best and find better ways for your teams to support each other. Bring people together to support and encourage each other. Then believe 100% in these partnerships and collaborations.
Forgive mistakes. If your team isn’t making mistakes, then you aren’t reaching high enough. But if you punish mistakes, you will encourage overly-conservative behavior. Establish clear differences between acceptable mistakes versus mission-critical offenses.
Provide growth paths. Everything in life—including people—changes. If you don't give people room to grow, you will force them to either leave your business or grow stagnant. Even if it is inconvenient for you or your business, you must provide robust ways for your employees to grow. Some of this growth can be within the position they have, such as drivers who have learned the systems well and you now empower them to be your representative in the field instead of calling back to the office or bringing a question/issue back to the office.
Praise effort. Don’t focus on talent; focus on effort. Over the long run, effort is far more important than talent. Also, by praising effort you will encourage people to learn and grow, rather than to simply stay focused on the one or two things that come easy to them. In companies that have become stagnant or are not growing, this is one of the common problems/opportunities; we do not praise the efforts of those on our team.
Ask powerful questions. Instead of making rash demands or constantly telling employees how to do something, try talking less and observing more. Then, when you start to actually understand what’s happening, express your observation in the form of a powerful question. Remember this question, and wait as long as necessary for a good answer. For example: “How could we sell against our competitor who might be 5% less expensive?” Many times when working with a customer, I find that if employees are empowered and feel they are contributing, this is when they come up with new ideas/services that help solve a customer’s real need.
Earn trust. It’s easy to be there for an employee in good times, but will you be there in bad times? How many times do our managers hire someone in the operation only to isolate them and say “this person is not working out.” Never hire a person unless you are willing to support and train that person through thick and thin. In earning trust, you also foster remarkable loyalty and tenacity in your employees.
Give employees time. You can’t always give each employee as much money as they would like, but you generally can give them time. This includes time to learn, time to experiment, and time to manage their personal affairs. Time produces better results.
Set your own ego aside. Too many managers want to be the smartest person in the room, but if this is always true you have utterly failed as a leader and manager. Avoid pontification and bluster. Talk less and listen more. Celebrate your team members, not yourself.
Over the next few months, I challenge you to take even a few of these tips, implement them in your operation, and see the effects. The 4Ward Consulting team has helped several hundred operations effectively increase lean efficiency while also mentoring/coaching leaders to empower their employees to lead them to success. If we can be of assistance to you and your team, please give us a call.
Best Practice Tip
We celebrated Memorial Day last week, remembering those who gave their lives for our country, our freedoms, and the blessings we have as a nation. Though we remember those who gave their lives, it is also important to remember and RECRUIT those who have served. There are many opportunities to hire Veterans in our businesses. One of the best practices in starting to recruit veterans is to use the tools SBCA has to offer through the Workforce Development Program. I encourage you to reach out to the team at SBCA and let them help you in putting a program together to recruit and hire our veterans. There are numerous tools that we as an association have developed for our members to use to make the process as easy as possible.
Ben Hershey is CEO of the 4Ward Consulting Group, LLC team. When the industry needs an actual expert, they turn to 4Ward Consulting Group team with more than 100 years of experience. 4Ward Consulting Group is the leading provider of Management and Manufacturing Consulting to the Structural Component and Lumber Industry. A Past President of SBCA, Ben has owned and managed several manufacturing and distribution companies and is Six Sigma Black Belt Certified. Ben has provided consulting to hundreds of Component Manufacturers, Lumber Dealers, and Millwork Operations in the past seven years. You can reach Ben at ben@4WardConsult.com or 623-512-6770.
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