In my 23 years of manufacturing, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what to do-and not to do-that have greatly impacted how I direct the Mainstay organization and how I approach the people I work with. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t have it all figured out. There are many areas that I must continue to grow. But here are some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my years of being an entrepreneur, business owner and strategic leader.
PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH
The right people
The people you surround yourself with—from vendors to customers to employees to investors—must align with your purpose and have the same character you’re enlisting. Obviously, you need people with skills, but ethics far outweigh experience. If the people you work with don’t align with your character, you must be fair to your ultimate goal and replace them.
After you find those right people, your job is to train them, learn what motivates them, put them in positions that are best for them, point them in a direction with a clear objective and support them along the way with whatever they need: tools, equipment, training, etc. This will take them and your business far.
I categorize three types of team members that I like to think of as my three-legged stool: people managers, process managers, and task executors. People managers can’t get anything done without a defined process; process managers can’t manage people; and task executors struggle to prioritize without a people manager. Sometimes it’s cloudy about which role people play, but the DNA exists to identify which they are predominantly. When that is discovered, they should be plugged in accordingly.
Sometimes it’s better to get going in any direction and be ready to alter the course than to spend too much time analyzing potential outcomes before you start. Admittedly, this can be very uncomfortable for those around you. When they are REALLY uncomfortable, they will push back hard enough to help uncover a concern that needs to be managed. Then it’s your job to be open-minded and listen.
It’s tough to carve out time to take a broader look at how your organization can get better because “I don’t have time!” The reality is that you can’t afford not to. Continuous improvement must be invested in for your company to thrive.
Part of your improvement strategy should include new technology. You can’t compete at the highest level without the right tools, and your team needs the most appropriate equipment to perform at the highest expected level. The right people with the right equipment with the right instructions is the right recipe for achieving one’s goal.
Be comfortable being wrong. This offers your team proof that you are just another person who sometimes messes up. I’ve witnessed decision makers, managers and bosses lose all control when plans go awry, which causes uncertainty, fear, and division. When that same person can experience the challenges and continue to lead the team in a new direction, it offers confidence and momentum. The result may still miss the goal, but the team is strong and will have faith in the next direction the leader offers.
A good leader supports, encourages, communicates, explains, and empathizes with the team. All of these actions motivates people to do things they don’t necessarily want to do and to achieve things they never thought they could. When they do, give all the credit to the team and don’t forget to take all the blame for the shortfalls.
As you navigate the waters of leadership regarding your business, have confidence in yourself, believe and work toward your goal at all costs. You will undoubtedly be headed in the right direction.