Stop being a boss (and start being a coach) - Part 1

Oct. 8, 2020
The most common barrier to getting the hearts and hands of your people is management. Yes, you read it right. Management.

In the last article, I talked about whether you're getting the hearts and minds of your people, or just their hands.

Are you treating them like a human with a brain and engaging them in creating solutions?

The most common barrier

The most common barrier to getting the hearts and hands of your people is management. Yes, you read it right. Management.

I had a boss that would often swoop in and tell us what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, without asking for any input. He always had the answers and probably thought he was doing the right thing by telling us what we needed to do.

Oftentimes as manufacturing leaders we feel like we need to have all the answers. But, that's not the case. In fact, sooner or later this approach backfires. That boss would tell us what to do to solve problems, but often it didn't work.

When things go wrong, you want your team to look in the mirror, not just point the finger back at whoever's idea it was (in this case, you, the boss). We need to stop being their boss and start being their coach.

Mr. Harada (my mentor from Toyota) used to say, "Everything is a management problem. If people aren't doing the right things, it's management's fault. If people can't be trusted, it's management's fault."

In my experience, there are four key leadership principles that will help you avoid the traps that management teams often fall into.

1) Don't micromanage

Don't micromanage your people. If you micromanage everything your people do, they will resent you. They don't feel like you trust or value them, which in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead of management taking the objective and coming up with the plan, management needs to give the objective to the team and allow them to be a part of creating the solution. Easier said than done, right? Oftentimes, yes, but still crucial.

If I come in and give the perfect plan that then doesn't end up working, I'm not going to trust you and you won't trust me.

2) Exercise trust

In order to gain trust, it's very important to exercise trust with your team especially when there is a lot at stake. When people realize that you rely on them, trust them, and believe in them, it puts them in a position where they don't want to let you down. This leads to them working with you, not against you.

3) Be ok with failure

Leaders need to be ok with failure. NO plan is ever perfect. Mr. Harada said, "Plan never equals actual." You have to embrace and accept that the plan won't be perfect and that you can't always plan your way out of your problems.

First, recognize what's not working. Then you have to have the space to try new things along the way and adapt to the abnormalities that occur, so failure is actually the path to improvement. If we learn from our failures and make changes accordingly, then we will improve.

4) Take the blame for failures and give the team credit for success

In the end, by setting the example of owning your mistakes (including your team's mistakes) it will go a long way toward gaining your team's trust. By giving them the credit for wins, you'll give them a great gift, a taste of success, and increased motivation to reach new heights of success. This will help you win their hearts and gain their trust.

Let me share with you a story from my past that is a perfect example of true leadership.

There was a snowstorm in Denver, and the roof of one of the buildings had collapsed onto the production equipment. The damage was so extensive that the city wouldn't allow anyone in the building, halting all production. However, customers needed products and these production lines were the only ones in the company that produced them.

The objective became very clear very fast. We needed to quickly find a way to start producing this product safely and in a way that would meet all customer quality requirements, and the products needed to be produced in 6 weeks. We also knew that the equipment would not be available soon enough to meet customer demands, so we had to find and retrofit equipment, and start producing.

Instead of management working in a vacuum to develop the perfect plan for us to execute, they called all the key players in the facility together and asked everyone to help figure out a strategy and plan to meet the objective. It typically took us a year to start up a new product line in our facility, which entailed months of planning, machine building, tests, and trials, etc. We didn't have that kind of time.

By pooling the minds and energy of the whole team, we were able to come up with the solution to build products at another location many miles away from where they built similar products and had the expertise needed to succeed. Soon we were building certified products by the deadline and saved the customer from running out of the product.

We joked about this afterward saying, "We need another emergency to keep the momentum we've created."

Of course, nobody wants to work in emergency mode every day, but we learned something very important during this experience, something that changed our culture and the management style for everyone involved forever: The value of creating trust.

Because we created trust, things moved faster, we had less finger-pointing, and much more success.

In part 2 of this series, we'll talk about methods for learning from failures and managing how to respond and close the loop on solutions to your biggest issues.

About the Author: Bob Argyle
Bob Argyle is chief customer officer at Leading2Lean. He is a 30-year veteran of the manufacturing industry, and an expert in lean manufacturing, operations, maintenance, quality and engineering. Bob has developed a philosophy and core belief that winners in the new era of manufacturing will be the companies that combine the power of new technologies with the insight and creativity of the human mind. You can email Bob at [email protected].

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