a. You’re implementing some form of change in your manufacturing organisation and you would like to be a more supportive leader.
b. You understand that the people in your team need to take the reins and be more responsible for delivering results, but you find it hard to take a step back.
c. You get too involved, can be too bossy and you think the team cannot function without your input.
I guess a) sounds familiar otherwise you wouldn’t be reading the post, b) because you see taking a more supportive role will allow you to take a step back and c) well maybe this is you?
When you are working with diverse groups of people that have varying levels of skills and experience, it can have an adverse effect when you get involved and start telling your team what to do. They may either:
· Stop thinking for themselves and just wait for your solutions (you’re going to get involved anyway so why bother)
· Do it your way even though they know it’s not the most effective solution
· Do it half-heartedly and start to show signs of being disengaged
· Smile, do it and then talk behind your back with the rest of the team
If we want to see improvement, we need to change something. Right? If we leave things as they are, make no changes and expect to see an improvement, well that would be crazy. Surely? So the ideas below are all subtle changes that will help you to become a more supportive leader and will lead your team towards achieving more positive results.
You may be working on implementing lean manufacturing, continuous improvement activities or just wanting to see better performance in your manufacturing organisation. Whatever you are striving to achieve with your manufacturing team these 20 ideas will help you make the transition to becoming a more supportive leader.
1. Start with why: If you haven’t read the book "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek then you should. Don’t do reading? Try the video instead. ‘Why’ am I starting with this idea? Because it’s important you can clearly explain ‘why’ you are asking someone to perform a particular task. If I asked you politely to do something but couldn’t explain why, would you do it? Maybe? What if I said… I would like you to finish reading this post because each one of these ideas will increase your team’s effectiveness by at least 1%? 20 x 1%! You need to send out a big enough ‘why’ to your team to keep them motivated.
2. Set a clear vision that will stretch your team: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. Is the end result you are looking to achieve clear? Doe's it stretch your team enough so that they remain motivated? Too far and people burn out. Too little and people get bored. Check with your team. Ask them. What is the end result you are trying to achieve? Here is a great article on the Mind Tools website to help you set Stretch Goals: Using Stretch Goals With Your Team
3. Understand Lean Manufacturing: Whether it’s lean manufacturing or another form of improvement activity, make sure you understand it. So many times I’ve seen people recruit Lean Consultants, introduce them to the management team and then provide the brief… do lean to them! It usually ends in tears because the CEO, Managing Director or Program Leader does not understand lean. The best question to ask if you are working with external support would be ‘what can I expect to see in my organisation in 5 years’ time?’ This will provide you with enough of an insight into whether these people are taking your organisation in the direction you are planning. We have lots of other blogs on lean manufacturing if you would like to read up at bedtime.
5. Appreciate the importance of values: Values are at the core of who we are and act as our compass when decision making, therefore our values are what drive our behaviour. When you meet someone who shares you values, you just know. You don’t need to ask them what their values are. You can tell by the way they behave. At Futurestate one of our values is ‘Being the Best’. When you have people in your team that genuinely want to be the best version of themselves they can be, they approach all tasks in the same way. Important to us and to our customers. Reading our list of values may help you put this into context.
6. Decide who your key people are: Who are the key people in your team that will make this happen? Focus on the top 20% who are providing 80% of the results. Not the bottom 20%. The top 20% are your allies and will go the extra mile. Trust them. Really trust them. Get out of the way and let them decide how to realise the plan.
7. Build cross functional teams: Cross functional teams will break down the invisible walls between departments and stop the organisation working in silos. Cross functional teams will offer a natural diversity and ensure changes are aligned with overall business performance, not just local targets and initiatives.
8. Define the rules of engagement: When working in teams we need rules. Not a charter, just a list of 5-6 rules on how we intend to work together. This is best created by the team working on the task. The discussion around creating the rules is very powerful. People gain an understanding of what is important to other people in the team and what makes them tick. They will also hold each other accountable once the rules have been created and agreed.
9. Provide a budget: When delegating a task to another person in your team, or to a whole team, provide them with a budget. I have seen a number of improvements ideas fall by the wayside because it was perceived no budget was available. Someone may have said to them in the past that we are not spending and this may have been received as never, rather than not at the moment. Managers in manufacturing are usually pretty resourceful so they will ensure they get the most from any cash available.
10. Agree milestones: If you are delegating a sizeable piece of work agree the milestones, the expected completion dates for each stage and how you would like to be kept in the loop. This may be a formal type of monthly reporting, presentations at milestone completion points or informally on a daily or weekly basis.
11. Help your team spot trends in performance: Your role as the leader is to help the team recognise performance and the associated trends with different types of performance. It may be that high performance in your market is short lead times and the ability to continually reduce lead times. This provides you with a competitive advantage and your customers are willing to pay a higher price for short lead times. What can work against lead times is machine optimisation in manufacturing. Over utilising machines can push out lead times and reduce market share. Your role is to help your team recognise these trends and guide them towards the best course of action, for the organisation as a whole.
12. Help to the remove the boulders in the road: Along the journey the best way in which you can support your team is to remove the boulders in the road. Not the tiny grains of sand, not the pebbles, or the rocks, let the team work through these. You focus on the road ahead and get involved when they are experiencing a potential show stopper. This can be a member of the team that is hindering progress, the need to purchase an important piece of plant equipment that is outside of the forecasted budget, or a customer that is causing mayhem for the team. Explain this to your team so they know they can call on your support when experiencing difficulty.
13. Communicate that change is good: Without change we cannot improve. If we carry on doing what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got. Today’s manufacturing organisations need to continually improve performance in order to maintain a competitive advantage and maintain/increase market share. It is important that you remain positive about change and always talk and behave in a way that suggests just that. If you become uncertain or negative your team will become sceptical and lose motivation. Read our blog "10 ideas that will break down the barriers to effective workplace communication" for further tips and advice.
14. Let people fail: This is the toughest one! Especially when you feel what someone is suggesting is not the way you would do it. You need to let go. You need to support your team by allowing them to make their own mistakes. Yes that’s right, making mistakes is a positive step forward because if people are making mistakes they are trying something new. The best way to approach failure, is to treat each step that does not take you in a positive direction, as a learning experience. Accept the lesson learnt and move on.
16. Make time to listen to your team: You have two ears and one mouth. Use this as a guide to how much talking to listening you should be doing. You should be supporting your team by spending 60-70% of your time listening to them. Not the kind of listening where you wait for a pause to interject with your idea. The kind of listening where you wait until they have finished talking and you offer praise and your help if they feel it’s required. Listening is an art and needs a lot of practise. Ask your team if they feel you are a good listener. If you are prepared to hear the truth that is.
17. Give feedback 3-1: People generally need three times more positive feedback than negative feedback to maintain their current emotional state. If you want to increase someone’s emotional state to something much higher. Guess what. You will need to provide more than a 3:1 ratio. Basically provide your team with lots of praise and avoid negative comments.
18. Be self-aware: To become more self-aware you must first accept that you are not perfect and you never will be. You are capable of becoming more effective. We all are, but perfection is not going to happen. You will need to be prepared to listen to feedback from others and accept that it may be and quite possibly is true. The journey of personal development and becoming a more effective leader starts with becoming more self-aware. There are a lot of behavioural changes suggested in this article that would provide you with some good material to ask your team, ‘How am I doing with…. ‘. Pointing the finger at others and suggested everyone else should improve is a little unfair and will not inspire your team to follow you.
19. Coach people: Learn to become a coach and help your team find their own answers by challenging their thinking. It helps if you have experienced being coached. When you understand what it is like to be a coached, you are more aware what your team are going through. Be aware when you are falling into tell mode and stop yourself. If you continue to tell people what to do they will be forever dependant on your for answers to their problems. When people do approach you with problems ask them, “What do you think we should do?” or “Show me the problem and let’s see if we can we fix this together”.
20. Hold people accountable: You can support the performers in your team by holding people accountable. Don’t shy away from the people who say one thing and do something else. A high performing team needs to be able to rely on all members to do their bit. You don’t need to behave like a tyrant, just hold people to their role and task commitments.
21. Make time to celebrate: Bonus idea! You don’t need to do anything too extravagant. You are recognising your team’s contributions and demonstrating your appreciation. Provide them with a written thank you letter, bars of chocolate, a day at the races or a day’s holiday. It’s your choice. The worst thing you could do is nothing.
Until we meet in the flesh, I wish you well on your journey.