On Being A Leader


Do you ever sit back and wonder what kind of leader you are? Are the people who work for you inspired by you or are they there with you because you are the only game in town? Would they stay with you if another very similar company opened up across the street? Think about that, would they? How about if they could earn a dollar more an hour by moving across the street to that new company? Have you inspired them enough that they would follow you through hell or have you beaten them up so badly that they would not follow you across the room to a free buffet?

Things today are not like what they were in 2008, things have gotten much better when it comes to employment in this country and now people have choices. With the new wage laws, some people might find better pay at McDonald’s than in your plating shop, they might do better working at a day care center than in your inspection department. So, what are you going to do about that?

And those are the line workers, we all realize what the situation is when it comes to managers and engineers, they just aren’t there any longer. Many of them have retired…or died sorry to say, and the ones that are left can be very choosy about where they work and of course what they get paid. Many of the companies I work with are on the constant lookout for engineering managers and engineers, production managers and supervisors and forget about Quality managers, every company I talk to is looking for a good Quality manager.

Then there is competition from the great new ere companies like Google and Zappos where the people are treated and respected like family members, where they are hired for their brains and their enthusiasm and yes, their passion and once hired they never want to leave because of the work environment; everything from free gourmet food to exercise centers to nap times to just plain productive fun. These are the companies that are drawing in our young smart people. How are we going to compete with them?

We’re going to have to change our ways. We are going to have to emulate these companies. We are going to have to develop our own vision about what we do. In our business for example most of our line workers don’t really know what they are building. To them they are just putting together these “green things that go into computers”, that’s all they know (maybe that’s why the most prevalent defects in any circuit board shop is a result of poor handling of the product).

We have to create the story around how important our product is. Because of the very nature of what our products go into it should not be that difficult. We build boards that go into products that are changing the world, exciting products like rocket ships that are going into space and launching satellites, those satellites themselves that are going to deliver internet to every single corner of the world in the future never mind what they are doing today. Our boards go into medical devices that are saving thousands of lives all over the world. Our boards go into electric cars and wind turbines and underwater exploration vehicles. Our boards took is to the moon. If you talk about the great companies like Microsoft and Apple, you can’t do it without mentioning the printed circuit board. So, it should not be difficult to remind our people of the important work they are doing. We just have to get them to understand that instead of just laying bricks they are helping to build a beautiful cathedral.

And that’s just the first step. What about your own leadership skills? What are they like? Here is a list of ten of the most important things that a leader should be doing, check them out and ask yourself how many apply to you? Ask yourself if these things represent the way you are leading your own people. As a great leader you have to:

  1. Develop and communicate the company vision and do it clearly and concisely and do it repeatedly until everyone in the company knows it
  2. Be the shining example for the rest of the team. Whatever you do can be multiplied by ten as seen by your employees so it had better be all good.
  3. Treat everyone equally from your top managers to the people cleaning your place clean. They are all an important part of your team
  4. Enjoy what you are doing and make sure that your team does as well.
  5. Care about the company’s reputation, it’s your most important asset.
  6. Hire people better and smarter than you, they are your future
  7. Develop people, they are your future
  8. Hire for passion the rest can be learned, but passion, not so much
  9. Be ready to grow, be ready to change, be ready to learn to adapt to the future and the changes that it brings.
  10. Worship your customers, yes “worship” them. Don’t even think about ever bad mouthing a customer. Remember what you do is multiplied tenfold in the eyes of your employees.

And one more in the spirit of under promise and over deliver Be a good person, a person with intelligent humility and unswerving generosity of spirit. The best compliment you want to hear from one of your employees is that you are a good and fair person and they have the ultimate about of respect for you.

If you see yourself in all of the things mentioned about, then good for you. I am sure that it is reflected in your company’s success. But if not, if you could not find yourself represented here, then you’d better get to work because it’s later than you think. It’s only common sense.

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