What Does Leadership Mean To Me?

By Franklin Solorzano,
nGroup Vice President of Implementation

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 10.40.21 AM
picture from http://www.stylegerms.com/

As management teams, we too often confuse the roles of managing and leading.  The reality of our job requirements is that we are to oversee processes and not people. So instead of thinking we manage people,  we need to understand that we are actually leading them.  We need to ask ourselves, “What does leadership mean to me?” To help us arrive at an answer, here are a few of my favorite definitions of leadership:

 “Leadership is the art of influencing and directing people in such a way that will win their obedience, confidence, respect and loyal cooperation in achieving common objectives.” — U. S. Air Force

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

Leadership is a privilege, not a right, and we need to treat it as such. Leadership means encouraging people to live up to their fullest potential and find the path they love. That, and only that, will create a strong culture and sustainable levels of innovation”-Forbes

Forbes is telling us that the title we hold in our organization does not guarantee us a leadership position. The ‘Leader” label is an earned from your fellow employees by example you set and the way you treat others.  I suggest everyone in a management position start a never-ending focus on developing leadership skills  because they are they key to unlock an employees  full potential and open the door of success for any organization.

‘Leading by Principles’ is the set of truths that drive an organization to meet client and stake holder expectations. I will give some examples of principles to help us reflect:

In business to business sales, our goal is not to rely on a specific process for success but to find a solution to a problemWe must understand client needs and requirements, identify the appropriate solutions aligned with their goals, develop a value added proposition, and adapt to the changing demand of the costumer.  In other words, there is no business guide book for certain success, we are simply here to create the best solution to a problem within a company.

To offer further insight, let me use what Lou Gerstner defined about human resources in his outstanding turn around of IBM:

Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly when they work together as a team.” This is a principle that all companies should embrace. In my career, I have been part of companies with incredibly talented leaders who have driven their performance by their egos instead of company goals.  I have discovered that talent without teamwork does not meet client expectation.  Leaders must make sure that they are working with their unit to accomplish goals as a team every single day.

If we want to be considered a high-performance company, we must be leaders of principles not process.  We need to be encouraging each other to make decisions based on the key drivers of success and be participants in problem-solving.  Let’s go beyond meetings to start actively digging into the details, taking business day by day, setting an example, and keeping it simple.

These are a few of my personal thoughts on leadership. Now answer for yourself, “What does leadership mean to me?”

A Better Culture On The Production Floor

By Ryan Cates,
nGroup VP, National Sales and South East Region

IMG_1517

Years ago I worked with two 3PL’s that had cross-docking operations in the Southeastern US.  On paper, the businesses were strikingly similar.  Both supported big box retailers with highly manual processes.   They had dramatic fluctuations in volume and frequent interruptions to production planning due to upstream supply chain issues.  The companies paid market competitive, but relatively meager wages, and had a workforce primarily made up of minorities.

However, their cultures were as different as night and day.  So, what made these two similar operations so different?

  • Facility condition: Facility A was well kept, brightly lit, a strict 5S policy was in place, and it had a nice break room for the associates with TV’s (typically playing ESPN) and games (foosball, air hockey, etc.).  Facility B was perpetually messy, proper equipment was frequently in short supply, and the break room was way too small with nothing that would make it a desirable place to be.  Care to guess which operation had more turnover?  The work was tough and the pay wasn’t exceptional, but Facility A was a place where employees were  generally happy to be.  The good will shown by the management team at Facility A transferred into a camaraderie amongst the workforce that sustained a productive culture.

For the record, if you’re thinking “That sounds expensive”, we’re not talking about anything opulent here.  Just basic maintenance with a little extra effort and an eye for the people working on the floor.

  • Personal discipline:  The GM at Facility A was a former ship captain and he ran his building like a well-run ship.  Everything went in its place at the end of each shift, daily production meetings were succinct, and people were expected to be prompt.  The expectation was that problems would be handled at the lowest level possible and genuine crisis were few and far between.  He typically walked the floor no more than once per shift with a heads up to management and interacted with the workers and made it a point to know most of their names.

 On the other hand, Facility B didn’t have daily production meetings because the belief was that they were pointless.  We tried to have them a couple of times and sure enough, they were.  Everything was handled as it came up and , unfortunately, not much got handled.

There’s a lot more that goes into creating great company culture but, if you’re looking for improvement, creating a good facility environment and enforcing personal discipline are perfect places to start.

7 Hidden Management Mistakes: Part 1

Written by Jim Rossini,
Executive Vice President of nGROUP

Within the past decade, I have assessed, managed or implemented engineered workforce management programs that utilize a large concentration of workers at over 100 facilities. Many of these facilities are within the Fortune 100 arena. The most common objectives we collaboratively agree upon prior to implementing our engineered labor solution are reduce labor cost, improve facility throughput and reduce risk associated with labor. The majority of companies have already addressed the common management mistakes: communication, culture, recognition, goal setting, etc…. However, there are seven hidden management mistakes that are not so obvious and just as significant. Here is an overview of the Seven Hidden Management Mistakes (SHMM).

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 2.46.14 PM

1. The Jefferson’s: Moving on Up
Every supervisor wants to move up to that apartment in the sky.  The one with the corner office and their name written outside of the door. The hidden mistake here is that managers migrate the best and brightest away from the place where everything happens, the production floor. The production floor* is the bank that produces the money to pay for everything in that corner office:  the administrative team, the lights, the pencils, etc…. Taking your key employees away from the hub of your companies production leaves the $12 / hour employees to manage tens of millions of dollars.

2. Walk Bombs
The GM or management daily walk through is very common and typically required by upper management to insure employees are engaged with the business. Too often these walks turn into “walk bombs.” The tiniest observation is blown out of proportion. Management blows up on the employees and dictates the team to concentrate an over-abundance of tactical issues with negative impact to performance.

3. First Responder
The first responder is probably the most common of the SHMM. A piece of information is delivered and acted upon immediately without funneling through a resolution process. Therefore, the issue is never fixed and additional problems began to affect operation. The first person to surface the issue is protected from blame and a “hot potato” dynamic develops.  The blame is passed around from person to person based on jaded points of view or partial information.

4. The Tortoise nor the Hare
Many managers subscribe to the tortoise production pace. This very slow, steady approach insures quality is always delivered above the established requirements. When pace picks up, these managers become uncomfortable and do not think the hare can win the race. They believe increased pace leads to quality errors and sloppy finished goods. The reality is neither the tortoise nor the hare is the answer. A cheetah-like approach is the answer. The cheetah’s objectives are to attack without being hurt. They can utilize blazing speed because of their ability to balance.

5. Allen Iverson
It is easy to fall into the mistake of promoting personnel based on their contributions as individuals. Allen Iverson was an NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA number one draft pick, eleven time NBA All Star, NBA League scoring champion four times, and a two time All Star MVP. While Iverson’s credentials were outstanding as an individual,  he was not a good leader and never delivered his team a NBA championship.

6. The Orphan
Everyone has heard the axiom, “success has many Fathers and failure is an orphan.” I have witnessed a repetitive tendency in management to pin a failure on an individual or one distinct area operation. They are publicly humiliated or even terminated as a result and the issue is never resolved. Silos quickly form and personnel concentrate on covering their exposure instead of driving performance improvements.

7. General Patton
Everyone has experienced some level of the General Patton.  Your good idea was plagiarized by a higher level manager and they get credit upon implementation.  The notion that “good idea’s only come from the top brass” is certainly one of the most frequent SHMM’s. The fact is, a good idea stands on its own merit and it shouldn’t matter if it comes from a minimum wage employee or General Patton himself.

My next article in the series will discuss the “The Jefferson’s: Moving on Up” in more depth and provide solid solutions to eliminate this costly mistake from your business.

*production floor could mean distribution floor, manufacturing floor, processing floor, office floor or any floor within a business. It is too cumbersome to list each floor every time.