The Formula for Successful Manufacturing Leadership
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A while back, I asked my kids to “rake the leaves”. When I checked on them 2 hours later they had raked the leaves, but were now busily spreading raked leaves everywhere, diving into them with enthusiasm.  They were having a great time raking the leaves, but leaf pile jumping wasn’t my goal! Where had I gone wrong?

The Absentee Leader

I had taken the role of Absentee leader.  Have you ever heard a leader say, “I hire good people to do good work, and let them do their jobs”? This style might sound nice on the surface, but those who have worked under a ‘hands-off’ leader know that frequently, the only time you hear from these leaders is when they are upset. This is the no news is good news system.

The next time I asked my kids to “rake the leaves”, I knew a different approach was required.  I gave them each a rake and followed them to the yard. For the next two hours, I watched over them like a hawk, pointing out each leaf they missed, alternatively taking one of the rakes every few minutes to do it myself while muttering, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” I was miserable, my kids were even more miserable….but the job was done right. I was a good Micro-manager.

Neither of these leadership styles was very rewarding, but the Absentee and Micro-manager types are two of the most common ineffective leadership styles that I see in the companies I work with.

Most leaders agree that these styles are ineffective and not good for the employee or the employer, so why are they so common? In my experience, these two systems are common in organizations because most of the leaders using these styles don’t know any other way to lead.

Most leadership learning includes tools such as time management, team building, progressive discipline, and performance management.  While many of these may be useful tools in a manager’s tool box, they don’t provide an integrated approach that combines maximum accountability with maximum respect for people.

An Alternative Leadership Approach

How can a leader learn the complex task of engaging their workforce in a positive manner, while maximizing organizational performance?  A great place to start is with Clear Expectations.  Clear Performance Expectations are the first and most important part of The Conscious Leadership Performance Formula.

Clear Performance Expectations
Performance Measurement
Performance Feedback in the form of positive reinforcement or corrective action
Conscious Leader

Reflecting on my leadership experiences, it seems that when I have not gotten the performances I was looking for, expectations could have been more clear.

How to Set Clear Expectations

In a lean enterprise, visual management and standard work are a great start.  To arrive at mutually agreed upon expectation, two-way communication is a must. The pursuit of improving performance using this formula enables a leader to support a high level of performance while developing a great company culture.

Looking back, would the performance of my kids raking the leaves have been improved if I had said, “Rake the leaves, including the ones along the fence. Bag the leaves in lawn bag. Secure the bags by holding the top, spinning three times, and putting a green tie on top.  Do you have any questions about how to do this? I will check on you in an hour” I’m not sure if it would have been a perfect leaf raking job, but the odds of success would have improved.

Do I make it sound easy? It’s not. Other leadership styles are much easier, but also much less rewarding.  Wherever you stand today as a leader,  practicing what you preach is critical to a true lean enterprise. As a leader, you must be relentless in improving your own leadership performance. Everyone in your company will benefit.

Interested in learning more about leadership? Don’t miss our 2019 Oregon Manufacturers’ Summit in March

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  • Kleve Kee

    Kleve Kee brings over 25 years of experience in management and senior leadership positions to his work at OMEP. Kleve specializes in bringing a continuous improvement business operating philosophy to the companies he works with. Kleve has an industrial engineering background with an MBA; and is a Certified Leadership Trainer and Family Business Advisor. Working within all levels of companies Kleve focuses on operations, top line growth, financials enabling sound decision making, leadership and strategy. In a business world of limited resources and unlimited directions for improvement, Kleve helps companies concentrate their limited resources in the areas most impactful for their business.

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