Armed with an interest in servant leadership as a concept and team of people to lead, I started implementing the mindset of a servant leader in my daily work as a manufacturing operations leader. I learned what servant leadership is "not" through the hard lessons of trial and error. Here are my learnings in hopes that you can avoid these same missteps. Here are the top 3 mistakes I made as I practiced servant leadership:
Do you ever feel like the disconnect between the leadership and the front-line workers is causing you to miss the mark on your most important goals? You aren’t alone. Nearly 4 out of every 5 front-line workers say that they aren’t held accountable for regular progress on the organization's goals. And almost 9 out of 10 front-line workers say they have “no clear idea what they should be doing to achieve the goal.” Sound familiar? The key to achieving your goals isn’t rocket science. The solution to fixing the leadership and front-line worker divide is simple to say, and difficult to execute.
You probably already have identified a few goals for 2021. How are you going to achieve them? Better yet, how are you going to motivate your team to achieve them?
I was reviewing the loss pareto with a customer over a zoom call, and when we pulled up the loss chart their immediate reaction was “hmph.” I asked them what they expected to see as the top loss for the department, and they pointed me toward a big issue that happened just last week. When we dove into that loss, we found out that while it was a big issue with a significant downtime, it was not the leading loss for the department.
At Ampogee, we often find ourselves in a manufacturing environment conducting a training session in person. When you are supporting an operation, the most effective trainings happen in person. For one, most of the operators don't have access to a computer on the floor, but even if a computer was present, they wouldn't be able to hear the zoom call due to the manufacturing ambient noise and quite frankly it’s tough to focus on a zoom call anywhere, much less on the factory shop floor.
If you are a leader in manufacturing right now, you are drinking from the firehose. Between the unexpected events of employees exposure or diagnosis with COVID, you are also managing material shortages and order changes at an unprecedented level. Your life right now feels especially chaotic, and there is no real antidote for that chaos.
We are starting to hear the communities think about "opening back up" after the first wave of extreme social distancing comes to a close. Employers have furloughed and laid off staff, and they are already thinking through who would be best to bring back on full time, part time, and who is a permanent departure from the team.
As you and your leadership team respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can think of this as an opportunity to improve your manufacturing team culture. Take this opportunity to invest in people, and you will have a stronger employee culture on the other side. “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
I’m always overwhelmed when I walk in a manufacturing plant and see miles of endless charts on the wall with red and green dots. Individually, I know that chart means something to one or a few people, but collectively my brain is blurred at answering the most basic questions: