Leadership is Vital to Success

A Good Leader is Vital to Success

Roger Lee

Leadership (and a competent leader) is vital to the success of all companies. It is a journey that requires reference points to ensure leaders remain on course and continue to grow. Almost all companies need more deliberate and focused leadership development. They need leaders who inspire people to follow. This is especially true when implementing successful work processes. This article describes the needed steps, as well as the roles and responsibilities required, for implementing successful work processes and a leadership structure. 

Establishing a leadership structure starts with organizations setting expectations for their leaders. It is important for all leaders in an organization to understand and share a consistent message to all its employees from the top down. Employees need to see principle-based behaviors from their leaders. Leaders clarify key performance expectations and link them to training to ensure an understanding for exceeding compliance. 

Leaders must be ready to leverage moments of high influence that naturally occur every day to communicate their vision. This also allows them to connect their decisions to the organization’s established core values. Leaders must practice zero tolerance for deviations from these core values. 

In any organization, the people are the secret ingredient to its success. Leaders must have people making the right choices all the time. What they do or do not do determines the end of the game and the success or failure as leaders. With this fact in mind, leaders must be passionate about personal and process safety and positive behaviors to achieve the shared vision.

The Leader’s Roles and Responsibilities

Leaders must lead with a vision of the future. It is impossible to get your people where you want them to go if you do not know the final destination. You would never take your family on a vacation by loading up the car and then asking them where they want to go. Employees want to feel that their leader has clarity, confidence and optimism about the future and has a plan with enough details to show them the steps they will need to take.

As the leader, it is your job to maintain the focus and direction of your people while minimizing distractions. Lead with a can-do winning spirit to drive continual improvement while reinforcing step changes to sustain success. The leader must define consequences for their employees’ actions, with explanations for each to ensure positive participation. 

It is an honor and privilege to be selected as a leader. As a leader, you are to focus on others and care about them, as well as their ideas. But, you cannot do everything alone. Pick your team members wisely to have optimum success. Your leadership elements are critical to the creation and implementation of successful work processes.

Steps to Achieving Successful Work Processes

When it comes to work processes, organizations must allow time to do each job safely. They must keep plans and procedures up-to-date and accurate by incorporating real-time feedback from the field that proactively identify and eliminate hazards. 

Leaders are responsible for personally setting the tone for excellence, with operations and maintenance as true partners. Link all the systems and procedures, work processes, administrative techniques and tools used to conduct all your business. Create and coach a daily work process discipline that expects ownership by the operator, mechanic and all parties involved in the work processes. Guard against complacency and accepting the status quo as good enough. Lead by example, such as wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to show your employees that everyone should watch out for one another. All components must function like a winning race team to gain the victory everyone desires.

Leaders should be available and accessible as much as possible to provide guidance. They should communicate at a level that their people understand. When things get really tough, do not get discouraged, rather try to remember that this too shall pass.

Lead by storytelling to give personal examples of similar times when you were successful. Remember, providing positive reinforcement is the only way to improve performance. Negative reinforcement will only ensure compliance.

Build confidence in your employees by recognizing and rewarding good behaviors and results. A simple and sincere “Thank you” will go a long way. Address issues early to make needed corrections and show appreciation for improvements.

Coaching is your job wherever you are. You have to carve out time for coaching daily. Invest time to know your people. Coach for performance and lead with questions, not answers, to ensure your people understand. Coach your employees to think about the right thing to do (i.e., think, act, verify). Remove obstacles to their success. Ask for their input on what you can do or stop doing to help you be a more effective leader. Remember, you always get more of what you measure and reward. Intervene where appropriate in a timely manner by understanding what happened and what people were thinking. Redefine failure as something that happens to you, not something you are. All people have valuable contributions to make. Your employees will do what they are coached to do.

It is your job to support downward and challenge upward. You serve as your employees’ filter for all the things rolling downhill. Be a good buffer to keep them focused on the items within their control. Communicate a lot, up and down the organization. Employees need to sense optimism and confidence from you that there will be a better future, as well as clarity around actions to achieve it.

Measuring Leadership Performance

Your leadership performance is measured by what your followers do. It is insane to use the same coaching over and over and expect them to do something different. Help them solve problems and grow to ensure overall success and satisfaction. Seek to understand before being understood. Your success as a leader depends on your people. Commit to developing all your team members to their full potential through job assignments, coaching and training. Consider strengths and interests when making assignments. Your goal is to develop yourself and others in a continual learning environment. Seek and value feedback about yourself, team members and team performance. Instead of being a leader who gets work done through people (i.e., the end result is task completion), make it your job to get people done through work (i.e., the task helps achieve the end result of changing and improving people).

Establish clear expectations and then role model the desired behaviors to achieve them. Clear communication is key. Always verify understanding by the person being addressed. This question interaction will enhance your relationship, too.

Remember to inspect what you expect. This adds accountability for their performance. As you lead your people, be accountable for personal and organizational results, being careful to show them how they have made a positive impact on each. Your employees are always watching your actions, so everything you do (or don’t do) matters. Your example is the only thing that matters in influencing your people. Do what you say you are going to do.

Scoring Yourself as a Leader

How do you know if you are doing a good job? Positive feedback from your employees answering the following questions is a great indicator:

Do I know what is expected of me?

Do I have the materials, equipment and knowledge to do my job right?

Do I have the opportunity to do my best every day?

Have I received reinforcement for good work in the last week?

Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

It is healthy to routinely seek these answers from your circle of influence. To score yourself as a supervisor, answer these questions from your perspective and those who report to you.

Your employees will achieve self-motivation when they feel and believe that: I am heard; my ideas contribute to the business; I belong here; I receive recognition; I am competent at my job; I am learning; I have control over how safely I choose to work; I actively care about the safety of others; and I accept negative feedback and take actions to improve based on that feedback.

Being Part of the Leadership Structure

All leaders are part of many teams up and down the organization. To be successful, your role as a leader is most critical as a participant of the site leadership team (SLT). Each member of the SLT must be a champion for the organization’s core values, established processes and the safety and leadership of its people.

SLT members must focus on results, as well as leader/people capability development. They must be mindful of talent flow to build for the future (reward with growth opportunities). They have to take care of today and tomorrow.

SLT members also must:

  • Be a champion for change with proper prioritization to keep the organization’s limited resources focused. 
  • Encourage an “act like an owner” perspective and behavior from all employees.
  • Understand and leverage employees’ strengths and interests to help them grow and align their passion with career paths.
  • Clarify for employees how they fit into the strategies for the vision of the company and organization.
  • Confront the facts in a constructive and respectful discussion to learn from mistakes and grow for the future.
  • Replace bad behaviors with positive ones to make the bad ones go away. 
  • Establish trust through a relationship-focused environment.
  • Appreciate and leverage the diversity within the work group to ensure overall success.

Conclusion about Good Leaders and Leadership

In every situation, what leaders don’t know, they ask. They make the right choices and always lead by example.

Good leaders make sure they follow safety rules, take time to do each job safely, report all job-related injuries, identify and eliminate hazards and watch out for each other. They are committed to keeping their people safe so they can go home each night and return the next day. Good leaders work themselves out of a job by developing their replacement. Leaders know that the best way to the  ext job they desire is to leave behind an organization that continues to grow after they are gone. They make sure that learning, innovation and continual improvement are key attributes for an organization’s culture.

Roger D. Lee is the President and Founder of RDL Solutions, LLC. Roger retired from Eastman Chemical Company as the Global Manufacturing Optimization Manager after 35 years of service and has 42 years of experience in the chemical and refining industry with clients from across the world.

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