In part 1 of this blogpost, I suggested some initial things that executives that are new to a company could do to avoid alienating him or herself from the rest of the company. This included deploying a third-party collaborator to get honest feedback from employees at all levels. I also discussed how the executive could get some coaching from other company executives and cultivate a cross-functional feedback team.
The team should rotate or change often. You don’t want to become too cohesive because you might leave out better or newer solutions that would benefit the company more.
Talk to everyone from the worker that’s been there 40+ years to the new worker generation. Surveys are great as a start, but face-to-face contact is better. Once you develop a rapport, people will tell you not only what’s wrong and what the real challenges are; but provide their thoughts on how to fix the problems. Following through on honest team feedback approach often yields great results.
Get a 360-degree assessment. You might not like some of the feedback, but if you really want an honest assessment, read between the lines and try to reach an understanding and help to solve problems and make improvements.
Everyone’s opinion counts. Even if you don’t like it or think it’s dead wrong – there’ usually some value to be found in everything. Don’t discount anyone. And, most of all, don’t be afraid to go into the field and talk to the workers, technology folks, and the engineers. Learn about their challenges and enable them to feel comfortable telling you.
Consensus is great, but not always accurate. Once you’ve made up your mind, you should do due diligence – maybe work with a third party for help. Get a team of outside collaborators – even other leaders that you meet with on a regular basis. Attend events (such as ARC’s Industry Forums) that provide opportunities for you to have frank discussions with like-minded professionals from the same or similar industries. Speak publicly about your directions and get feedback. I always get feedback from every presentation I do. Some good, some bad, but always telling.
In manufacturing, companies have been collecting data for a long time. Use this data wisely. Develop or work with third parties for new tools and analytics that can enable you to make sense of the data. This helps to eliminate bias and gives you another view.
The absolute best managers are not afraid to ask, and not afraid to enable their employees. more the executive enables and motivates his/her people, the more productive they will be.
Also, don’t be afraid to step outside your organization and form an external team to help you collaborate to solve issues and problems.
Be approachable and let employees know that they can count on you. If you don’t feel comfortable having them contact/you directly - have an open suggestion box and have someone review weekly. And try to implement the better suggestions and even reward the individuals (who leave their name) for suggestions that lead to measurable improvements. These days, employing internal social media technology mechanisms could be very effective too.