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Building Top-Rated Leaders

It’s never too early to start developing a new leader — but if you aren’t properly prepared, it can be too late. As millions of baby boomers get set to retire, many of them are among the industry’s top leaders and those future vacancies must be filled. Today’s manufacturing company must be future-focused and begin the process of writing its next chapter.

It’s never too early to start developing a new leader — but if you aren’t properly prepared, it can be too late. As millions of baby boomers get set to retire, many of them are among the industry’s top leaders and those future vacancies must be filled. Today’s manufacturing company must be future-focused and begin the process of writing its next chapter.

How do you begin training your next leader? How do you even identify them?

There’s a secret to training a good leader: Even the best leadership candidate will fail if the resources and processes are wrong.

Ask yourself — are you failing them before you even hired them?

Consider utilizing a three-step approach:

  1. Be upfront and ask questions
  2. Maximize your resources and track progress

Identify the Skills of Your Ideal Leader

No two manufacturing leaders are exactly alike, however all leaders share similar traits that keep their business competitive. Many of the skills of leadership can be taught or improved over time, but not every trait will be a top priority for your business. Before you identify who could lead your business, be sure you know what traits a potential leader at your company must have.

“It’s important to find individuals who can think on their feet, understand processes and communicate their ideas when problem solving,” says Annette Crandall, president of Lawrence-based Quality Assured Plastics, Inc.

Leaders may vary in age, experience, gender, or interest, but each will have a desire to be more than they currently are — to progress to a new level of responsibility.

“I look for good listeners, someone who is coachable and eager to learn,” says Beth Thieme, CEO of Bridgeport-based Amigo Mobility International. “I didn’t finish college. I had to push myself to learn through doing and to learn through working with others. There’s no one right way to learn, but the eagerness to learn has to be there.”

As you work with your team each day, look for the talent that embodies the skills you want in a future leader. Don’t worry if they don’t perfectly possess every trait you want, but make sure you can see that with time, training and resources, the person could become the leader your business needs.

Be Upfront and Ask Questions

Once you’ve identified the traits of your ideal leader and found your next generation talent, remember two important keys to leadership development:

  • Not everyone wants to be a leader
  • People perform better when they know what is expected of them

Be sure to ask them about their long-term goals with your company. Some common self-discovery questions you could ask to delve deeper include:

  • What do you want to be doing next year? In five years? In 10?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What areas do you most want to improve in?
  • Are there current responsibilities of yours you find especially challenging?
  • Are there projects or areas of the business you’d like to be more involved in? Less involved in?
  • Can you see yourself advancing in this company? Why or why not?
  • What type of people do you admire? Who do you see as the ideal future you?

Let them know you see leadership potential in them and be up front in asking if they are interested in a future leadership role.

“Today’s younger generation sees their job as an extension of their daily life and wants to know there is a value and purpose behind what they do at work,” says Lorraine Medici, director of training and development for Express Employment Professionals in Grand Rapids. “If an employee expects to spend 40 percent of their waking hours at work then it becomes important to show that their time is spent being engaged and motivated to work.”

Start questioning them more in-depth about how they learn, how they like to be managed and other areas that will help you groom them to take on more responsibilities. Common self-improvement questions you can ask are:

  • How do you prefer to receive feedback?
  • What additional training or education would you like?
  • What do you see as the key skills needed for a leadership role here?
  • How would you rate yourself on each of those skills?
  • Tell me about a recent situation that you wish you had handled differently.

It’s important they know leadership development is a process — often a long one — and advancement won’t happen overnight. A successful manufacturer will have leadership development plans set long in advance of actually needing new leadership in place. The skills required of the position can be arduous and many of the industry’s best leaders held many roles within a company before being trusted with its future.

“It is difficult being a leader in manufacturing,” says Crandall. “As more young men, and many more young women, advance to leadership roles, they’ll discover how challenging it can be to analyze trends, develop strategic plans and set a long-term course for a company even when the speed of our changing industry can cause you to second guess every decision.”

Leading a business can place a heavy burden on a person. The more your new talent knows about the challenges of leadership, the more prepared they will be to overcome these difficulties when confronted with them.

Most people don’t just leave a job. There’s a reason behind it. More often than not, those reasons include a level of dissatisfaction with their manager or supervisor. A recent Gallup poll of more than 7,000 companies indicated that the direct relationship between an employee and their immediate manager determines the employee’s length of stay with a company.

In an era where career transitions are higher than ever before, manufacturing supervisors must be trained to engage their teams and increase worker retention. You can reduce the likelihood of losing someone special by discussing how they best respond to supervision, what they can expect of you and how to best blend a learning and training style. Look to ask these key questions about management styles:

  • What do you like about my management style? What do you dislike?
  • Do you prefer more or less daily direction?
  • How can I make your work on a project more enjoyable, easier and more likely to succeed?

As you pursue leadership training options, more on this in a moment, have regular team meetings and one-on-one discussions with your future talent about what their vision of the company’s long-term prospects is. Some common future-focused questions include:

  • What would be the first change you would make if you were in a leadership role?
  • What do you think of our company culture?
  • How would you rank us in terms of meeting customer needs? Maintaining employee satisfaction? Community involvement?
  • What should be the mission and values of our company?
  • How can the company become more innovative and more competitive?

By asking these questions throughout the leadership development process, you are building a better relationship with the person who could one day take over for you. You’ll discover more about how they learn and how they give advice.

“Success is driven by communication and a good leader has the ability to communicate, inspire and listen to their team,” says Thieme. “The more you feel challenged, the more important it is for you to be clear, concise and confident — exemplifying the leader within.”

Maximize Your Resources and Track Progress

Accountability is key in leadership development. Whether it’s you or the candidate, you are both accountable to the other. They need to show the progress of a developing leader and you must stay true to assisting them in that development.

“We are all challenged to win the respect of our associates and to continuously improve as a leader,” says Thieme. “All good leaders have the same shared goals — to be better and to grow our businesses.”

So how do you make a good worker into a great leader?

It depends on many things, including the size of your company, the resources you can devote to leadership development and the local community. You’re already mentoring your candidate, but now you need to provide him or her with adequate training.

First, you more than anyone else can sympathize that it can be lonely at the top. The higher you advance in a company, the smaller your support network becomes. This is why outside training and especially outside networking opportunities are so critical to the leadership development process.

Many local community colleges provide substantial skilled trades training option and urban areas are full of workforce development groups and employer-driven training initiatives. You can work with these groups to develop top-rated apprenticeship and internship programs or fund opportunities for your candidate to attend classes and further their education while working full-time.

Some companies go beyond what is expected and develop entire sections of the business devoted to leadership development. In 2009, the Holland-based manufacturer Haworth began to implement cultural shifts and opened the Haworth Leadership Institute to focus on creating a leadership culture and to locate future talents.

“The Institute allows us to internally encourage the behaviors and work styles that push our company where we believe it can go and highlight the leaders who will help us get there,” says Ann Harten, vice president of human resources for Haworth. “We are looking for the individuals who give that extra effort beyond what their job entails — that engagement is a good indicator of the type of leader a person will be.”

For opportunities to network, connect with local associations like the Michigan Manufacturers Association. Groups like MMA provide tremendous professional development seminars and high-level networking events where your future leaders can grow their skills, become more confident and build a network with other young leaders who, together, will lead the manufacturing industry forward.

“Networking is an essential part of any leader’s growth,” says Elyse Kopietz, MMA director of communications, marketing and events. “Whether it’s large-scale or small, MMA and other leadership-focused associations offer leaders of all ages the chance to learn new things and connect with more people — you can build your valued partnerships while developing your future leaders.”

Finally, remember that the success of these leadership initiatives are only evident when you track the progress and regularly connect with the candidate to see what is working, what challenges they face, and how you can help further their growth. Your company is making a long-term commitment to them — justify that commitment by remaining as involved in the process as possible.

---

Remember, manufacturing is FUN! You made a career in the industry so ask yourself what drove you to choose manufacturing over some other field.

“I LIKE manufacturing,” says Crandall. “I have always loved to make things and manufacturing lets me make A LOT of things. Beyond creating a product, I like to be innovative and make an existing product better. Manufacturing is one of the best fields to see the start-to-finish process — you see the results of your work in a very tangible way.”

As you look to mentor future leaders, be sure to vocalize why you love it. If you’re passionate about it, they’ll see it and it may push them to work twice as hard to first follow your footsteps and then lead the business to even greater success.

Contact Brett Gerrish

Brett GerrishCommunications Coordinator
Call 517-487-8533
E-mail gerrish@mimfg.org

It’s never too early to start developing a new leader — but if you aren’t properly prepared, it can be too late. As millions of baby boomers get set to retire, many of them are among the industry’s top leaders and those future vacancies must be filled. Today’s manufacturing company must be future-focused and begin the process of writing its next chapter.

It’s never too early to start developing a new leader — but if you aren’t properly prepared, it can be too late. As millions of baby boomers get set to retire, many of them are among the industry’s top leaders and those future vacancies must be filled. Today’s manufacturing company must be future-focused and begin the process of writing its next chapter.

How do you begin training your next leader? How do you even identify them?

There’s a secret to training a good leader: Even the best leadership candidate will fail if the resources and processes are wrong.

Ask yourself — are you failing them before you even hired them?

Consider utilizing a three-step approach:

  1. Be upfront and ask questions
  2. Maximize your resources and track progress

Identify the Skills of Your Ideal Leader

No two manufacturing leaders are exactly alike, however all leaders share similar traits that keep their business competitive. Many of the skills of leadership can be taught or improved over time, but not every trait will be a top priority for your business. Before you identify who could lead your business, be sure you know what traits a potential leader at your company must have.

“It’s important to find individuals who can think on their feet, understand processes and communicate their ideas when problem solving,” says Annette Crandall, president of Lawrence-based Quality Assured Plastics, Inc.

Leaders may vary in age, experience, gender, or interest, but each will have a desire to be more than they currently are — to progress to a new level of responsibility.

“I look for good listeners, someone who is coachable and eager to learn,” says Beth Thieme, CEO of Bridgeport-based Amigo Mobility International. “I didn’t finish college. I had to push myself to learn through doing and to learn through working with others. There’s no one right way to learn, but the eagerness to learn has to be there.”

As you work with your team each day, look for the talent that embodies the skills you want in a future leader. Don’t worry if they don’t perfectly possess every trait you want, but make sure you can see that with time, training and resources, the person could become the leader your business needs.

Be Upfront and Ask Questions

Once you’ve identified the traits of your ideal leader and found your next generation talent, remember two important keys to leadership development:

  • Not everyone wants to be a leader
  • People perform better when they know what is expected of them

Be sure to ask them about their long-term goals with your company. Some common self-discovery questions you could ask to delve deeper include:

  • What do you want to be doing next year? In five years? In 10?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What areas do you most want to improve in?
  • Are there current responsibilities of yours you find especially challenging?
  • Are there projects or areas of the business you’d like to be more involved in? Less involved in?
  • Can you see yourself advancing in this company? Why or why not?
  • What type of people do you admire? Who do you see as the ideal future you?

Let them know you see leadership potential in them and be up front in asking if they are interested in a future leadership role.

“Today’s younger generation sees their job as an extension of their daily life and wants to know there is a value and purpose behind what they do at work,” says Lorraine Medici, director of training and development for Express Employment Professionals in Grand Rapids. “If an employee expects to spend 40 percent of their waking hours at work then it becomes important to show that their time is spent being engaged and motivated to work.”

Start questioning them more in-depth about how they learn, how they like to be managed and other areas that will help you groom them to take on more responsibilities. Common self-improvement questions you can ask are:

  • How do you prefer to receive feedback?
  • What additional training or education would you like?
  • What do you see as the key skills needed for a leadership role here?
  • How would you rate yourself on each of those skills?
  • Tell me about a recent situation that you wish you had handled differently.

It’s important they know leadership development is a process — often a long one — and advancement won’t happen overnight. A successful manufacturer will have leadership development plans set long in advance of actually needing new leadership in place. The skills required of the position can be arduous and many of the industry’s best leaders held many roles within a company before being trusted with its future.

“It is difficult being a leader in manufacturing,” says Crandall. “As more young men, and many more young women, advance to leadership roles, they’ll discover how challenging it can be to analyze trends, develop strategic plans and set a long-term course for a company even when the speed of our changing industry can cause you to second guess every decision.”

Leading a business can place a heavy burden on a person. The more your new talent knows about the challenges of leadership, the more prepared they will be to overcome these difficulties when confronted with them.

Most people don’t just leave a job. There’s a reason behind it. More often than not, those reasons include a level of dissatisfaction with their manager or supervisor. A recent Gallup poll of more than 7,000 companies indicated that the direct relationship between an employee and their immediate manager determines the employee’s length of stay with a company.

In an era where career transitions are higher than ever before, manufacturing supervisors must be trained to engage their teams and increase worker retention. You can reduce the likelihood of losing someone special by discussing how they best respond to supervision, what they can expect of you and how to best blend a learning and training style. Look to ask these key questions about management styles:

  • What do you like about my management style? What do you dislike?
  • Do you prefer more or less daily direction?
  • How can I make your work on a project more enjoyable, easier and more likely to succeed?

As you pursue leadership training options, more on this in a moment, have regular team meetings and one-on-one discussions with your future talent about what their vision of the company’s long-term prospects is. Some common future-focused questions include:

  • What would be the first change you would make if you were in a leadership role?
  • What do you think of our company culture?
  • How would you rank us in terms of meeting customer needs? Maintaining employee satisfaction? Community involvement?
  • What should be the mission and values of our company?
  • How can the company become more innovative and more competitive?

By asking these questions throughout the leadership development process, you are building a better relationship with the person who could one day take over for you. You’ll discover more about how they learn and how they give advice.

“Success is driven by communication and a good leader has the ability to communicate, inspire and listen to their team,” says Thieme. “The more you feel challenged, the more important it is for you to be clear, concise and confident — exemplifying the leader within.”

Maximize Your Resources and Track Progress

Accountability is key in leadership development. Whether it’s you or the candidate, you are both accountable to the other. They need to show the progress of a developing leader and you must stay true to assisting them in that development.

“We are all challenged to win the respect of our associates and to continuously improve as a leader,” says Thieme. “All good leaders have the same shared goals — to be better and to grow our businesses.”

So how do you make a good worker into a great leader?

It depends on many things, including the size of your company, the resources you can devote to leadership development and the local community. You’re already mentoring your candidate, but now you need to provide him or her with adequate training.

First, you more than anyone else can sympathize that it can be lonely at the top. The higher you advance in a company, the smaller your support network becomes. This is why outside training and especially outside networking opportunities are so critical to the leadership development process.

Many local community colleges provide substantial skilled trades training option and urban areas are full of workforce development groups and employer-driven training initiatives. You can work with these groups to develop top-rated apprenticeship and internship programs or fund opportunities for your candidate to attend classes and further their education while working full-time.

Some companies go beyond what is expected and develop entire sections of the business devoted to leadership development. In 2009, the Holland-based manufacturer Haworth began to implement cultural shifts and opened the Haworth Leadership Institute to focus on creating a leadership culture and to locate future talents.

“The Institute allows us to internally encourage the behaviors and work styles that push our company where we believe it can go and highlight the leaders who will help us get there,” says Ann Harten, vice president of human resources for Haworth. “We are looking for the individuals who give that extra effort beyond what their job entails — that engagement is a good indicator of the type of leader a person will be.”

For opportunities to network, connect with local associations like the Michigan Manufacturers Association. Groups like MMA provide tremendous professional development seminars and high-level networking events where your future leaders can grow their skills, become more confident and build a network with other young leaders who, together, will lead the manufacturing industry forward.

“Networking is an essential part of any leader’s growth,” says Elyse Kopietz, MMA director of communications, marketing and events. “Whether it’s large-scale or small, MMA and other leadership-focused associations offer leaders of all ages the chance to learn new things and connect with more people — you can build your valued partnerships while developing your future leaders.”

Finally, remember that the success of these leadership initiatives are only evident when you track the progress and regularly connect with the candidate to see what is working, what challenges they face, and how you can help further their growth. Your company is making a long-term commitment to them — justify that commitment by remaining as involved in the process as possible.

---

Remember, manufacturing is FUN! You made a career in the industry so ask yourself what drove you to choose manufacturing over some other field.

“I LIKE manufacturing,” says Crandall. “I have always loved to make things and manufacturing lets me make A LOT of things. Beyond creating a product, I like to be innovative and make an existing product better. Manufacturing is one of the best fields to see the start-to-finish process — you see the results of your work in a very tangible way.”

As you look to mentor future leaders, be sure to vocalize why you love it. If you’re passionate about it, they’ll see it and it may push them to work twice as hard to first follow your footsteps and then lead the business to even greater success.

Contact Brett Gerrish

Brett GerrishCommunications Coordinator
Call 517-487-8533
E-mail gerrish@mimfg.org
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