Industrial General Manager – VP – President
Is it possible to increase prices and gain market share… at the same time? Raise production yet make the work safer? Build inventories and still put more cash in the bank?
Who does things like that?
As a recruiter, and as a Small Business guy, I’ve heard plenty of Turn Around stories. They usually feature some high wire act – and no net.
In particular, no net profit.
And there’s always some dramatic mix of tension, resourcefulness, and massive will power. All of it pitted against failure, depression, and futility. Honestly, with all this, why does anyone read fiction? Real life is so much more exciting.
How Did He Do It?
I had a chance to sit down with a good friend of mine.
He’s a fabrication guy who took over a grey iron castings operation.
It was bleeding money. Customers were grumpy. Employees were sleep-walking or edgy. And ownership was shocked and amazed that such misfortune could befall them.
Leaders who pull off recoveries in these situations always impress me. They never get all the important information, going in. There’s no certainty regarding who’s for ’em and who’s agin ’em. And brute force is rarely an option.
There’s always some kind of finesse going on.
Each in his own way, the most effective leaders I’ve met are both inspirational and calming… at the same time.
I find that incredible. How do you get people revved up and calmed down, all at the same time?
Now, most employees will tell you their work is quite challenging enough, thank you very much.
So, we can assume, if they start spending their days watching for a financial asteroid to hit the business, they’ll become, pretty much, neurotic and useless.
Corporate Triage requires that the leader rescue the team. Without the team, you’ve got nothing.
A leader has to capture the hearts and minds of as many people as possible. Rebuild their confidence, and focus their efforts on productive activities that they believe will lead from victory to victory.
That’s what my friend did.
He prescribed some minor surgery, early on. He removed a few tumors.
And then he set about rebuilding his team, by rebuilding the people in it.
He quickly found a way to plant his flag. To establish an early victory.
He demonstrated – proved – that he had done his homework. That he could be trusted.
And he insisted that the people around him be trustworthy, too.
Now, I’ve read plenty about analytical and organizational skills. I’m sure you have, too.
It may have included some kind of interpersonal hoo-haw. It was inserted right about where you might have started asking about how all this was supposed to be implemented.
Knowing the score is one thing.
Getting your players on the field is another.
I’ve met a lot of tough-guy managers over the years. I’m sure I can find you a bunch of them, if that’s what you want for your company.
The approachable manager, however. He’s a whole different proposition.
I asked my friend how in the world he could assemble a team, when all he had was freaked out people?
How could he cause people to do things this year, that they wouldn’t do last year?
How could he get people to think, to be self-reliant, and to share?
And as he answered, I realized, that what he did with his team, he was just then doing to me.
He listened. He acted like my opinions mattered. He asked questions. He shared information. And he thanked me.
Now, you might think these are pretty basic conversational skills; but I would suggest to you they are a bit on the short supply, most days.
And the manager who has the social sense to adjust his style to manage all types of personalities… that’s just gold.
Does it save you time and money if your primary leader can diffuse stressful situations? I would think. I listened to story after story about how he did exactly that.
God bless the manager who can resolve issues before they flare up into full out fire fights.
Building It Back
This is how he pulled his team back together. He established himself, he helped others establish themselves, and he encouraged them to help each other.
As the strength and the life came back into the organization, he lead them – together – to achieve things that this company hadn’t seen in its finest years.
He shared stories of front line men by-passing their supervisors, so they could share insights with him. In keeping with his real, live open door policy, he let them bring him valuable information. And he showed respect when they did it.
I asked him about the supervisors. Did they complain?
“Some did,” he said. Sometimes, he arranged for the supervisor to be present in the same meeting. The idea wasn’t control. The idea was to encourage employees to make important contributions with no threat of retaliation.
When that trust was established, some very good things happened.
In celebration of that, the first ever employee recognition event was held. And in that event, everything this manager stood for became a part of what they all stood for.
Very impressive stuff.
Those Darned Customers
We shared war stories about customer relationships.
This manager made more sales-sense than many full time reps I’ve known.
Clearly, he establishes a personal rapport very quickly and on that rapport, he builds trust.
With trust established, he has the ability to address tough issues. Issues like quality, price, delivery, product returns, and slow payments.
In fact, I would suggest that without trust, there is no good solution to any of those problems.
Take a look at his numbers, if he’ll share them with you.
On a percentage basis, it’s amazing. The fact that we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars is, well, stunning.
When I heard the Lean Manufacturing story coming around, I fought off my immediate bad attitude.
To me, lean doesn’t mean efficient or economical, like it was originally intended. It means cheap. And in the wrong hands, it sometimes doesn’t end well.
Want to guess how my friend describes Lean Manufacturing? Yeah. It’s the real deal.
He studied it. Did the exercises. Used it. Proved it. Then he went into the lion’s den.
In the turn around, he lived the principles. He taught the principles. Everybody had to read a particular book.
Heck, even I bought the book.
The book says you can’t fake it. It says you need to understand the whole concept.
OK. He held regular classes. Regular exercises. The group not only bought in. They got excited.
Can you believe this? The whole company got excited.
People who weren’t even in the program wanted in.
That, to me is leadership…
A manager who can simultaneously attack failure on all fronts, using his knowledge of industry, his strength of character, and his ability to bring out the best in those around him.
Minimum stress. Maximum results.
That’s what makes this newly available manager our Featured Candidate of the month.