Monthly Archives: October 2016

Caught in the Whirlwind

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE NORTHWEST ARKANSAS BUSINESS JOURNAL March 24, 2016

How do you sustain your vision? I often have the privilege of coaching executives who are having trouble sustaining their effectiveness. While the following three stories are not identical, their response was similar, and that response is what was contributing to their diminishing results.

In one case, the executive was leading his department through a large-scale reorganization resulting in a significant downsizing of his team. Any of us would agree that this is a tough situation. In addition, this was his first big opportunity to shine after a career set back that almost derailed him. Talk about stress.

In another case, the executive was facing numerous pressures at work and at home. She was managing a rebellious, insubordinate employee whom she had been handling with kid gloves for fear of a lawsuit, and was almost single-handedly managing the care for a very ill parent who required a significant portion of her time and energy away from work. All of this distraction caused her to lose confidence in her capacity for leading effectively.

In another case, the executive was faced with new customers who had new demands, and home office that had even higher expectations of him to secure these new relationships. He classified himself as an engineer who would prefer managing operations than building and leading his team to create an environment where operations can thrive.

In an effort to be effective in these stressful conditions each of these executives allowed themselves to become buried in “whirlwind of operations” such that they have lost their focus on their vision for leading, if they ever really had one in the first place.

In his timeless classic, “The Effective Executive,” Peter Drucker said, “If the executive lets the flow of events determine what he or she works on, and what he or she takes seriously, he will fritter himself away operating.”

This is what these leaders were doing, and they didn’t realize it until they stepped back to gather a more objective perspective.

Each of these leaders utilized the time with their executive coach to step back from this whirlwind to renew their vision for their organization and their leadership, and to develop a strategy to ensure that vision becomes a reality.

They were asking themselves the big questions about why their teams existed, and what was the team’s purpose, mission and vision. They were asking about the values and behaviors they wanted to see exhibited in their team, i.e. the things that would lead to the highest levels of performance and execution. They started evaluating their talent and discussing team members’ development needs. They began to ask themselves what team members needed most from them, and how they could create the environment that would allow these to come to life. They were redefining their role and their priorities. They were setting aside time to work on these things, and to ensure that they did not let themselves be overwhelmed by constant “whirlwind of operations” that would consume them if they allow it.

Once they began to develop the plan for bringing these things to life, it was evident that their fire and passion for leadership was reignited.

What are you doing to keep the whirlwind of daily operations from snuffing out your vision?

Great Companies DO Great Things

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE NORTHWEST ARKANSAS BUSINESS JOURNAL October 20, 2016

I remember what it was like to grow up in a small town and be unaware of the career fields available ResourceForLeading-FBProfileto me.  At the time I, my teachers, nor my parents considered me to be college material.   At the time I really didn’t know my options.  Today, I am glad to know that there are efforts underway to change this.

One of my clients is a leading manufacturing company with multiple facilities throughout North America whose success can unequivocally be attributed to the strength of their leadership, quality and engagement of their employees, their values based culture, the quality of their products, and their commitment to their customers.  However, like so many manufacturers in this country, they are facing a significant challenge. And they don’t usually get much air time. Thus this article.

With the rapid retirement of the Boomers, and the emphasis on a “college education” as the only (or coolest) post school option, they and America are experiencing a “skills gap”, i.e. a disparity between the number of technical jobs available versus the number of qualified candidates prepared for them. Currently there are an estimated 600,000 open manufacturing positions in America, a number that is estimated to increase to 2,000,000 by 2025.

The technological advances within manufacturing require more advanced skills than ever, especially in the fields of engineering, robotics, automation and technical maintenance.  Unfortunately, too many young people and their parents believe the “myth” that trade skill jobs are a dead end.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Students with these technical skills are more valuable than ever, allowing them to achieve higher wages and more rapid career growth than many of their peers.  A two year associates degree in a manufacturing technology can generate a $40K to $50K annual starting salary.

Companies like my client are doing several things to shift this perception:

  • Sponsoring Manufacturing Day for 7th to 12th grade students to tour their plants and talk to people who have chosen manufacturing as a career field. My client had over 1,100 students participate last year.
  • Stepping up the training and development of their current workforce.  These companies are investing heavily in building their own training and career-pathing programs.
  • Many are offering tuition reimbursement programs to ensure their employees have every opportunity to develop the skills for the current and future needs of the business
  • Taking advantage of State and Federal workforce development grants that focus on specific skills development.
  • Offering college scholarships to high school students interested in a career in manufacturing technology. My client is offering twenty $1,000 scholarships to qualified students this year to students within a commutable distance to that plant.
  • Partnering with other area manufacturers, local high schools, community colleges, technical schools, and state agencies to bring industry certifications to the companies in those communities.
  • Development initiatives to stimulate interest and support the efforts to offer the training that will prepare students for some of these great careers.
  • Lobbying politicians to support programs to grow the local talent needed to keep these jobs here in America.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of great career opportunities in manufacturing and skilled trades across the nation that get little attention from our High Schools, Colleges and Universities.  But there are some great American companies committed to doing some great things to turn that around.  I am proud to have the privilege of working with one of them.