The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year ago

Thrilled to Be Asked: How to Build Leaders on the Frontline w/ Gayle Noakes

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

If we create an environment where people on the production floor can help the company be better, they're more than happy to use their knowledge to do it.

Unfortunately, many supervisors and managers have not been given the training, development, and coaching to do the job on their own or to help the company grow.

On this episode of the podcast, Gayle Noakes, a 20+ year veteran of the manufacturing industry, joined me to talk about building leaders at all levels to achieve business results.

Gayle and I discussed:

  1. Giving people the right training for their roles
  2. Creating the right balance among activities in complex manufacturing roles
  3. Whose voices we should be hearing — but often aren't — on a daily basis

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or here.

How many times do we not ask for how many times do we create the environment or the impression that we don't care about what they have to say and we're not open to their suggestions when they have the answers? Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving mid size manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive podcast. This show is being brought to you by our sponsor, codinus part solutions. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a cofounder of the Industrial Marketing Agency guerrilla. Seventy six as leaders of an organization, whether it be a manufacturing business like yours or a marketing agency like the one I co own, we all have a responsibility to help our team grow and evolve. We need to lay down a path for our employees to advance their careers, to take on new responsibilities and to contribute to the organization's success, which in turn should contribute to their own success. But unfortunately, the ladder doesn't always happen. Instead of equipping our people with the skills and the training they need to be successful as they move up the chain from operator to supervisor, we assume that they'll just figure it out. Well, my guest today is someone who's built her career around tackling this exact dilemma. Gail nookes, owner of Gail Nookes, supervisor, success worked inside of midsize manufacturing companies for twenty years. She spent many hours on the production floor, working sidebyside with plant managers,...

...supervisors and leads, focusing on continuous improvement, quality and training and development. Gail is experienced firsthand the positive effect of good leadership throughout the manufacturing environment. Now leading her own training and development consultancy, Gail works with small to midsize manufacturing companies to build leaders at all levels of the company in order to achieve the best business results. Gail, welcome to the show. Thanks, Joe. I'm glad to be here. Will Gail. I'm excited about this conversation because I know it's a topic that will be all too familiar to so many of our listeners, so we're going to go ahead and get right into it. You and I were talking a few weeks back about this common problem where CEOS, CEOS and plant managers of small to midsize manufacturing companies often spent too much of their time doing the work of supervisors and managers because those supervised and managers have not been giving the training, development and coaching to do the job on their own. So can you talk a little bit about this from your own experiences? Absolutely, I've worked with a number in a number of many manufacturing companies and with some as well, and I've seen a number of things. One is the CEOS, the plant managers, even the CEOS and owners get pulled into this day to day. They're doing things firefighting, dealing with performance issues, dealing with customer problems, and is really because the supervisors had not have not been developed to the point that they can handle them these things themselves. The other thing that I've noticed happening is that when the supervisors don't have the skills they need, they revert back to what they know. So they may have a supervisor role but on a daily basis. When push comes to shove, they push the problem back up, back up to the plant manager, and they often revert to doing what they've always done. One example is I had a new supervisor named Tom, will call him Tom, and...

...he I would continually go out on the production floor and find him driving around out of forklift and I would stop him and say what you do in Tom, and he said well, by material handlers didn't come in, so my guys need material and I got to get it to him. And I said, well, you know, what about these things that we're doing as a supervisor? And he'd look at me kind of sheepishly and you know. And so then I'd go help them and we'd figure out who could run material and those things continue to happen because he was more comfortable doing what he already knew how to do, and that was make production run. Yeah, I mean this is this is a problem that definitely transcends the manufacturing world, because I seen it in my own career as a marketing professional. I'm sure it's a problem in lots of businesses. You know, supervisors in the manufacturing world are off in individuals who were originally great doers, like machine operators or whatever it may be, and because they excel in their jobs, we then reward them right by promoting them to supervisor. You would I looking at some notes you would sort of sent me after our last call, and you put reward in quotes, because it's, you know, is it truly rewarding them by promoting them to supervisor? And if you're not giving them the right skills and training, well, it's your kind of setting them up to fail. I guess right, because now all of a sudden, there in the people business as opposed to what they are truly trained at and where their experience lie. So how do you get around this problem? Well, what I believe is that we need to start identifying and developing people who are going to be in these supervisor roles long before they're promoted. So first of all is looking at the potential you have in the operators that are already on the production floor or again, like you said, in any industry, looking at people's not only their performance but their potential, and start giving them tasks that they can start doing. Maybe being in a Kaiza, maybe they're on a project team, so...

...they slowly start doing other things than running them machines and that builds and in manufacturing. Then they can move into that lead role and and often I find the lead role isn't defined very well. So that lead role can really be something that is a progression up to supervisor and they learned some of those same duties that then they will do as a supervisor. You know, you mentioned that it's really in any industry. I let a team in a different industry and that's exactly what we did. I had some young people, early twenties and they had some very specific jobs, but I would continually give them work opportunities, small things that they could do, and then I would coach them before and after the opportunity to help them get set up for success and then learn from things they did wrong, which they did, and that's part of learning. So I think those kinds of things is that development before they get there. Can do a lot a good points there. I mean, to see you set somebody up for success in something that they haven't done, you've got to you got to give them the tools and in the training to do it. It's a logical thing, but I think we make the assumption sometimes, Hey, this person's a great employee and they're really good at doing this. Off I'm sure they'll look Sli if we just sort of move them up the chain, but not always the case, and often not. Yep, that's true. It seems like the supervisor role is one that's sort of grown and evolved quite a bit over the years. Whereas it may have once been about meeting production schedules and getting operators to work, now it's there's more to it, from attending a wide array of meetings and answering emails all the way to supporting lean and continue some improvement efforts. How do you create the right balance for the modern manufacturing supervisor? Yeah, I think the supervisor role is definitely bigger and more complex than it was years ago. In fact, I haven't can't come up with a new name, but I'm not sure supervisor is even the right title anymore, because that's not supervisor in furs, hovering over...

...and telling people what to do, and that's really not what the modern manufacturing supervisor does. So it really needs to be that they have more management and leadership skills then supervisory skills. And what are those? It's, you know, the classic though. You know, be able to manage the work and lead the people and so that they understand the people that they have and be able to kind of work at a little higher level. What a classic example is, I think again, we talked about leads. I find, I've found often that the supervisors, because they often come from being doers, thought they had to do everything themselves and didn't really know how to delegate properly to the leads. And and then again then be a coach and manage the leads versus doing all the work, and so and again. I always talk about delegation. Is Not dumping. That doesn't mean giving the leads all the all the craft work that you don't want to do. It's giving them, delegating them a task that they're going to learn from and could be an opportunity from them. So again, I think it's just it's a different approach to that, the different skill set than it was several years ago. Gil, can you talk about the importance of creating an environment where operators are actively engaged in looking for ways to improve the organization's work and processes? Absolutely, you know, the the production workers, they really are the ones that know the work and the machines the best and I think we intuitively know that, but we don't consistently go to them for that knowledge and for that help. They're the ones using the machines every day and they know what's going on with them. I worked with a number of operators in different manufacturing companies and, frankly, I was blown away by their knowledge of the work of the operations, they're...

...great ideas and, overall, their eagerness to dive in and make things better. They were thrilled to be ask and included in making making the work, the processes and even the environment better. Yeah, you know, I'd see it in my world too. Again, there's just so many parallels, probably across a lot of businesses. I think a lot of people maybe make the assumption that, you know, if if this is the way we've always done it, this is how we need to do it, or if the directive is come from up top, that's that's the way and I'm going to follow it and do it. And Geez, I'll tell you I'm I I co lead a twenty person company and a lot of the best decisions we may come from the people who are in the daily grind, interfacing with customers, doing the work. You know, I can't make the decisions for them about they need to bring those insights and then you know when there's a big shift to make in the organization we that's where leadership can weigh in and say, yeah, this is a change we need to make, but those voices need to be heard for heard from the people who are out there doing the work on a daily basis. Absolutely, we're going to take a really quick break here to help pay the bills. So two thousand and twenty has been a weird year. Industries are facing new challenges as we navigate life without trade shows, events and in person meetings. Many businesses are bolstering their online tools to offer a better experience. Will also making up for some of those missing trade show leads, and that's where cademist part solutions come in. They help you create a dynamic, sharable cad catalog that you put on your website. Designers can preview your products from any angle and download and the format that they prefer. By improving the online experience, engineers and architects get the data they need for their design and you get a fresh lead in your marketing pipeline. Who Needs Trade shows anyway? To learn more, visit part solutionscom leads. Gail,...

...you have mentioned in a previous conversation a couple of examples where operators have been able to step up because they've actually had the right environment around them, where they've been encouraged to look for ways to improve the organization or solve a problem. I was wondering if they're you know an example two you could share where you've seen that actually happen? Yes, I'd be happy to I have lots of examples, but I'd like to share to that I think really always stand out for me. One is I was working with a group of operators from a production area and the there was a lot of Palettes, of boxes and it was really cluttered. There was just it was always stuff all over the place and I got the word that particularly sales group was very unhappy with that because when they gave customer tours this this area always look like a mess. And so as we were working through things, this came up and the operators were really kind of shocked because they said we, you know, we don't like this either. You know this. We we are the one that's got to work around all this stuff. We're not happy with because these salespeople you know, frankly, just kind of assumed these guys are production operators. They really didn't care, and so they just they just had a mess and they said absolutely we care, we don't like all this stuff. And I said, well, why is it all out there? And they said, well, purchasing orders too much and we don't have any other place to put it, so we put it in every nook and cranny we can find. And so lot story short, is what happened is two of the people, operators and two of the purchasing agents started meeting every month and went through what they really needed and within a couple months all that excess was gone. So it was a again that it always struck me because a part of it was our perception was the operators didn't care, and that's totally wrong and what it really...

...was was that there just wasn't communication between the right people who knew what to do. It wasn't the purchase purchasing agents fault either. They didn't have the right information. But when I got the right people together, these operators and the purchasing agents, everything was everything was solved. I have another story that's my favorite that we were also we really progressed with a group of operators and working on processes and there was one process that consistently ran out of control. So it was creating a fair amount of scrap. This has been going on for quite a while and in our conversation there was a young gentleman who was from second shift. He never said much in our in our continuous improvement meetings, but he was always there and this was a machine that he ran all the time on second shift. And so it came to it. He finally, he quietly said I know what's wrong with it and I said really, I said you know what it what's wrong with it, and he said well, so to describe the operation, it was a big machine. Had had pretty corrosive chemicals in it and so it was sitting on a grating and it had a pit underneath it so that if something went wrong and it ever overflowed, no one would get hurt. And he said to me the machine is falling in the pit. I said what and sure enough he said there were wooden beams that have held up the machine down in the pit and they had worked over time and with the warping the machine had tipped and it threw everything out of control. So we've got some engineers out there and construction and they rebuilt the post underneath it. The machine got level. It ran completely in control, no more scrap. So I went back to the gentleman and I...

...said, because he'd run this machine a long time, and I said you know, tim if you knew this, how come you never said anything before? And I'll never forget what he said. He said no one ever asked me, and so the learning, you know, and I'll never forget it. I'll never freget that conversation because how many times do we not ask or how many times do we create the environment or the impression that we don't care about what they have to say and we're not open to their suggestions when they have the answers? And so those two examples, like I said, I have lots of them, but those two, I think, are classic as far as if we open up, if we create an environment, and the supervisors are key to this, create an environment where people that operators on the production of floor can help the company be better they are, have the knowledge and they're more than happy to do it, that's really powerful. I think we just assume sometimes that you know the people out there. They would say something. They you know they, but if the environment around you is not made you feel comfortable or made you feel that your voice matters or that you should speak up, well, may not happen. Yep, exactly. So what happens then? Gail in scenarios where supervisors reach a place where they're both competent and competent and confident in their jobs and feel like they can contribute and speak up. How does that change the organization? I think two things happened especially. One is again the company leaders. The see all the plant managers, sometimes even the owners. You know. They then can focus on doing their job, which is what is best for the company. They don't get pulled into this daytoday pieces. They can look into the future, they can...

...sell, they could do the things that they need to do for the company and this time they do spend with the supervisors, can be coaching rather than stepping in and solving problems for them. They can continue to develop those those leaders. The other thing that happens is the supervisors now, with that confidence, can also start developing the people that work with them and create those folks to be future leaders. May Not even be leads or supervisors. I'd seen examples where operators became technicians, they moved into quality roles, they would lead Kaison events, you know. So there's lots of other ways that operators, even you know, can really develop and and further their career, not only just in the supervisor role but in other areas of the company. But it really starts with helping to develop those skills right at the operationater level and have them have work opportunities that give them different, different skills to learn. Well said. Well, Gail. Is there anything else you'd like to add to this conversation that we haven't touched on? I think just to summarize, you know, I believe supervisors have a tough job and there's a lot going on every day and there's lots of things tugging at their time and again, if we help develop them early and help continue to develop them as they as they evolved in their role, we're going to be super happy with their performance and they will be happy because in my experience of supervisors are people that are loyal to the company, they've usually worked there a while, they want to do a great job and they just need they just need some help and guidance to do that and then again, you know the company can be successful because the the leaders can be leading and you involve the operators to improve the business and everything moves forward to to create a success. That's a great message. To...

...put a bow on this one. Well, Gail, really great talk today. This was, I think, exactly what I was looking forward to. You know, try to. I think this is a message that needs to be heard by a lot of leaders out there, Jeez. I mean not just in the manufacturing space, but it resonates with me as a leader of my own company. So great, really great insights. Can you tell people? Oh yeah, go it. I just thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. Job. Yeah, absolutely. So tell our listeners here the best way to get in touch with you and to learn more about your consulting firm. Wonderful. I have a website at Gail noakes. It's gay L E and Noa kaescom. I'm also on Linkedin. You can reach me there and if you want to just send me an email. It's Gail at Gail Miscom, and I would be happy to have a conversation with anybody out in this topic. All right. Well, that's great to hear. I would advise you to take gale up on that offer so well. I would like to say thank you again to our sponsor, cadinis part solutions, for helping to make this episode possible, and Gail. It was a pleasure having me on the show. Thanks for doing this. Thanks again. As for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for BTB manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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