Make a Mark; Don’t Leave One

In my 20 years in industry, I’ve had lots of bosses. LOTS. Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of those bosses who were good at their jobs, and only a select few of those actually taught me anything about being a better employee/person/leader myself (see my blog post about one of those guys here). To say I am grateful is an understatement. At their cores, the interactions I had with these people forever changed who I was and who I eventually became. I am a better leader, a better husband and father, and ultimately a better person for what those people taught me. How can I, or anyone, put a value on that?

mark1In too many cases, organizations promote folks who aren’t necessarily the best leaders. Companies do this for a bunch of the wrong reasons. The employee may be the best buyer, the best engineer, the best customer service rep and by that virtue the organization “rewards” their talents with a charge of people. Or, perhaps the promoted is an “up and comer” that an executive wants to get some experience in a certain area they have no knowledge of or training in.

Regardless of the reason, we’ve all seen it happen. People have leadership positions that have absolutely no idea how to actually lead people. These people are destined to fail, and often do. The bigger problem is the wake of disaster that they leave behind them on the way down.

In any business, problems arise. Parts get mis-machined. Orders get entered wrong. The true test of any leader is what he or she does during those times. Do they rally the troops, or start looking to pin the blame on someone? Many leaders, in the face of adversity, start to circle the wagons and look for ways to deflect blame from themselves and their inner circle. This may win battles, but it loses wars. The problem at hand may get solved, but the hurt feelings associated with the method employed will linger long after. Given enough time, people will forget about the specifics of the issue. They won’t remember the order number that got messed up or the part number that got scrapped; they will never forget how they were treated or how they were made to feel as they moved through solving the problem. So then, what do you suppose happens the next time that leader needs something from that person? Will they get that employee’s best effort, or just enough to not get yelled at again? If you are a leader, which would you want?

This week, whether you are leading a Lean event or problem solving an issue, look for ways to encourage someone in a way that they won’t ever forget. It takes a little more time and emotional investment to make this kind of mark, but the rewards you reap over the long term will ensure your legacy much better than if you simply leave a mark along the way.

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