Turn Missed Targets into Better Results with Feedback.

It was a typical day in high-volume manufacturing. Our $100 million+, 300-person operation had a new task at hand, one that needed to be completed right away. To get it done, I gathered the leadership team together and explained the task that we needed to accomplish. I even gave members of the team a simple spreadsheet to fill out, plus some high-level description of how to accomplish the task. Once it looked like everyone understood, I went back to my office, feeling good about my leadership skills.

It didn’t take long before my assistant, a straight shooter with a high level of emotional intelligence, came into my office. “Hey, Boss,” she said. “Looks like you really pissed the team off!” 

Two positive things were already happening here. First, I had a trusted advisor who gave me the priceless gift of feedback. Second, I did not argue with her or defend my actions (at least not out loud). As a result, I was able to see a blind spot and get curious enough to take action. I went back to the leaders to ask for some feedback, and quickly realized that I needed to bring them back in. They basically let me know I had turned their day upside down. In turn, that was going to affect the rest of the team and probably mean lower production for the shift. Priorities had suddenly changed, without any regard for the other things going on that day.

My focus initially had been on getting the information out. However, there was no involvement from them, hence no engagement. No exploring what else they had going on, no collaboration of how to get the job done, no realistic discussions of what support they would need. Essentially, there was no team concept of what “done” would look like and how it would actually get accomplished.

Through some great discussion, we decided to dedicate a couple of the leaders to the task. At the end of the day, the task was not completely done. This was okay, because as we walked through the plant, we identified the stations having the greatest impact on our cycle time and came up with a prioritized list to use in the future.

“Showing Up” is the difference between how we think and how we act. In this example, there were good intentions. However, my actions did not represent how I wanted to come across. I had a big gap here and was grateful someone had the courage to let me know.

Intentions vs. Perception

I recently interviewed 15 manufacturing leaders on the topic of Showing Up. Then, I incorporated their responses into a simple framework I call the Manufacturing Leadership Model. In this framework, the person at the top of the organization desires to have an impact on their organization. Most people in these high-level positions are pretty smart, but my interviews with them revealed that their actions did not always convey what they were thinking.

We may be inspired for the right reasons and think in a logical manner about a positive output, but the gap lies in how we actually appear to the team. If you can close this gap between intentions and perception—and the systems and structure are in place to hold things together—look out. This is where the magic can happen, with results in safety, quality, and production all driving a positive cost model.

You, Not They

How many times have or said to yourself that “they” need to be more engaged and motivated to get a particular task accomplished? But how are you showing up? How do you know? When is the last time you asked for feedback from your team, peers, or boss? You need input from all three to clearly identify those blind spots.

I was blessed with the feedback I received that day—and thankful that I let myself be vulnerable enough accept it, which led to the courage to act on it. Do your team a favor today and go find one of your blind spots. We all have those gaps between how we “show up” and how we think we appear.

A couple of tips on how to do this: First, do you have someone that is around you often during meetings or discussions on important topics? If you do, approach them to let them know you need some help. Describe how you want to be perceived and ask whether they perceive you this way or not. For example, if you want the team to be innovative and feel they are in a safe environment, do you as the leader actually make them feel this way? Remember, the first step is self-awareness. If you don’t know where your gaps are, it’s difficult to get better. 

If you don’t have that go-to person, here is another strategy. You know how you have that member of your team who is trusted and works hard, but sometimes does not deliver the task at hand the way you expected it? Ask yourself “What do I own in this?” This is not as easy as it sounds, as you need to dig deep and reflect on what would have made this person more successful. When you are ready, approach the person with curiosity—and it has to be really genuine here—on what you could have done differently. If you are fortunate, you may get some crucial information about yourself. If you do, you need to thank this person sincerely and see how you can apply their insight moving forward. The hard work is so worth it. It feels great showing up as a better person!

And probably the most important tip: please do not be one of those people who say they are good with feedback, then immediately defend yourself. That is a surefire way never to get feedback again, even when you ask. The key here is that you are asking for feedback. It is your time to listen and process. If you are curious and want to ask some deeper questions, that is great. When others begin to trust that they really do want to know there is a gap, it is amazing how constructive information about yourself will flow naturally, because people love people who are sincere and open!

To get the results you have not achieved before, you need to do something you have never done before. Will you choose to take action?

Written by Trevor Blondeel, originally published May 07, 2019 in Industryweek.com


Meet Trevor and learn how he can help your leaders identify and overcome their Showing Up Gaps.