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 askfor how many times do we create the environment or the impression that we don'tcare about what they have to say and we're not open to their suggestions whenthey have the answers? Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explorethe strategies and experiences that are driving mid size manufacturers forward. Here you'll discovernew insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successesand struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts about howto 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 beingbrought 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 asleaders of an organization, whether it be a manufacturing business like yours or amarketing agency like the one I co own, we all have a responsibility to helpour team grow and evolve. We need to lay down a path forour employees to advance their careers, to take on new responsibilities and to contributeto 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 theskills and the training they need to be successful as they move up thechain 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 exactdilemma. Gail nookes, owner of Gail Nookes, supervisor, success worked insideof midsize manufacturing companies for twenty years. She spent many hours on the productionfloor, working sidebyside with plant managers,...

...supervisors and leads, focusing on continuousimprovement, quality and training and development. Gail is experienced firsthand the positive effectof good leadership throughout the manufacturing environment. Now leading her own training and developmentconsultancy, Gail works with small to midsize manufacturing companies to build leaders at alllevels of the company in order to achieve the best business results. Gail,welcome to the show. Thanks, Joe. I'm glad to be here. WillGail. I'm excited about this conversation because I know it's a topic thatwill be all too familiar to so many of our listeners, so we're goingto go ahead and get right into it. You and I were talking a fewweeks back about this common problem where CEOS, CEOS and plant managers ofsmall to midsize manufacturing companies often spent too much of their time doing the workof 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 youtalk a little bit about this from your own experiences? Absolutely, I've workedwith 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 plantmanagers, 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 thepoint that they can handle them these things themselves. The other thing that I'venoticed happening is that when the supervisors don't have the skills they need, theyrevert back to what they know. So they may have a supervisor role buton a daily basis. When push comes to shove, they push the problemback up, back up to the plant manager, and they often revert todoing what they've always done. One example is I had a new supervisor namedTom, will call him Tom, and...

...he I would continually go out onthe production floor and find him driving around out of forklift and I would stophim and say what you do in Tom, and he said well, by materialhandlers didn't come in, so my guys need material and I got toget it to him. And I said, well, you know, what aboutthese things that we're doing as a supervisor? And he'd look at mekind of sheepishly and you know. And so then I'd go help them andwe'd figure out who could run material and those things continue to happen because hewas more comfortable doing what he already knew how to do, and that wasmake production run. Yeah, I mean this is this is a problem thatdefinitely transcends the manufacturing world, because I seen it in my own career asa marketing professional. I'm sure it's a problem in lots of businesses. Youknow, supervisors in the manufacturing world are off in individuals who were originally greatdoers, like machine operators or whatever it may be, and because they excelin 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 ourlast 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'renot giving them the right skills and training, well, it's your kind of settingthem up to fail. I guess right, because now all of asudden, there in the people business as opposed to what they are truly trainedat 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 developingpeople 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 thatare 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 startgiving them tasks that they can start doing. Maybe being in a Kaiza, maybethey're on a project team, so...

...they slowly start doing other things thanrunning them machines and that builds and in manufacturing. Then they can move intothat 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 tosupervisor and they learned some of those same duties that then they will do asa 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 coulddo, and then I would coach them before and after the opportunity to helpthem 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 kindsof things is that development before they get there. Can do a lot agood points there. I mean, to see you set somebody up for successin something that they haven't done, you've got to you got to give themthe 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 employeeand they're really good at doing this. Off I'm sure they'll look Sli ifwe just sort of move them up the chain, but not always thecase, and often not. Yep, that's true. It seems like thesupervisor role is one that's sort of grown and evolved quite a bit over theyears. Whereas it may have once been about meeting production schedules and getting operatorsto work, now it's there's more to it, from attending a wide arrayof meetings and answering emails all the way to supporting lean and continue some improvementefforts. 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 itwas years ago. In fact, I haven't can't come up with a newname, but I'm not sure supervisor is even the right title anymore, becausethat'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 needsto be that they have more management and leadership skills then supervisory skills. Andwhat are those? It's, you know, the classic though. You know,be able to manage the work and lead the people and so that theyunderstand the people that they have and be able to kind of work at alittle higher level. What a classic example is, I think again, wetalked about leads. I find, I've found often that the supervisors, becausethey often come from being doers, thought they had to do everything themselves anddidn't really know how to delegate properly to the leads. And and then againthen be a coach and manage the leads versus doing all the work, andso and again. I always talk about delegation. Is Not dumping. Thatdoesn't mean giving the leads all the all the craft work that you don't wantto do. It's giving them, delegating them a task that they're going tolearn from and could be an opportunity from them. So again, I thinkit's just it's a different approach to that, the different skill set than it wasseveral years ago. Gil, can you talk about the importance of creatingan environment where operators are actively engaged in looking for ways to improve the organization'swork and processes? Absolutely, you know, the the production workers, they reallyare the ones that know the work and the machines the best and Ithink we intuitively know that, but we don't consistently go to them for thatknowledge and for that help. They're the ones using the machines every day andthey know what's going on with them. I worked with a number of operatorsin different manufacturing companies and, frankly, I was blown away by their knowledgeof the work of the operations, they're...

...great ideas and, overall, theireagerness to dive in and make things better. They were thrilled to be ask andincluded 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. Ithink a lot of people maybe make the assumption that, you know, ifif this is the way we've always done it, this is how we needto do it, or if the directive is come from up top, that'sthat'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 alot of the best decisions we may come from the people who are in thedaily grind, interfacing with customers, doing the work. You know, Ican't make the decisions for them about they need to bring those insights and thenyou know when there's a big shift to make in the organization we that's whereleadership can weigh in and say, yeah, this is a change we need tomake, but those voices need to be heard for heard from the peoplewho are out there doing the work on a daily basis. Absolutely, we'regoing to take a really quick break here to help pay the bills. Sotwo thousand and twenty has been a weird year. Industries are facing new challengesas we navigate life without trade shows, events and in person meetings. Manybusinesses are bolstering their online tools to offer a better experience. Will also makingup for some of those missing trade show leads, and that's where cademist partsolutions come in. They help you create a dynamic, sharable cad catalog thatyou put on your website. Designers can preview your products from any angle anddownload and the format that they prefer. By improving the online experience, engineersand architects get the data they need for their design and you get a freshlead in your marketing pipeline. Who Needs Trade shows anyway? To learn more, visit part solutionscom leads. Gail,...

...you have mentioned in a previous conversationa couple of examples where operators have been able to step up because they've actuallyhad the right environment around them, where they've been encouraged to look for waysto improve the organization or solve a problem. I was wondering if they're you knowan 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 toshare to that I think really always stand out for me. One is Iwas working with a group of operators from a production area and the there wasa lot of Palettes, of boxes and it was really cluttered. There wasjust it was always stuff all over the place and I got the word thatparticularly sales group was very unhappy with that because when they gave customer tours thisthis area always look like a mess. And so as we were working throughthings, this came up and the operators were really kind of shocked because theysaid 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 ofassumed these guys are production operators. They really didn't care, and so theyjust they just had a mess and they said absolutely we care, we don'tlike all this stuff. And I said, well, why is it all outthere? And they said, well, purchasing orders too much and we don'thave any other place to put it, so we put it in every nookand cranny we can find. And so lot story short, is whathappened is two of the people, operators and two of the purchasing agents startedmeeting every month and went through what they really needed and within a couple monthsall that excess was gone. So it was a again that it always struckme 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 communicationbetween the right people who knew what to do. It wasn't the purchase purchasingagents fault either. They didn't have the right information. But when I gotthe right people together, these operators and the purchasing agents, everything was everythingwas solved. I have another story that's my favorite that we were also wereally progressed with a group of operators and working on processes and there was oneprocess that consistently ran out of control. So it was creating a fair amountof scrap. This has been going on for quite a while and in ourconversation there was a young gentleman who was from second shift. He never saidmuch in our in our continuous improvement meetings, but he was always there and thiswas a machine that he ran all the time on second shift. Andso it came to it. He finally, he quietly said I know what's wrongwith it and I said really, I said you know what it what'swrong with it, and he said well, so to describe the operation, itwas a big machine. Had had pretty corrosive chemicals in it and soit was sitting on a grating and it had a pit underneath it so thatif something went wrong and it ever overflowed, no one would get hurt. Andhe said to me the machine is falling in the pit. I saidwhat and sure enough he said there were wooden beams that have held up themachine down in the pit and they had worked over time and with the warpingthe machine had tipped and it threw everything out of control. So we've gotsome engineers out there and construction and they rebuilt the post underneath it. Themachine got level. It ran completely in control, no more scrap. SoI went back to the gentleman and I...

...said, because he'd run this machinea 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 howmany times do we not ask or how many times do we create theenvironment or the impression that we don't care about what they have to say andwe're not open to their suggestions when they have the answers? And so thosetwo examples, like I said, I have lots of them, but thosetwo, I think, are classic as far as if we open up,if we create an environment, and the supervisors are key to this, createan environment where people that operators on the production of floor can help the companybe better they are, have the knowledge and they're more than happy to doit, that's really powerful. I think we just assume sometimes that you knowthe 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 youfeel that your voice matters or that you should speak up, well, maynot happen. Yep, exactly. So what happens then? Gail in scenarioswhere supervisors reach a place where they're both competent and competent and confident in theirjobs and feel like they can contribute and speak up. How does that changethe organization? I think two things happened especially. One is again the companyleaders. The see all the plant managers, sometimes even the owners. You know. They then can focus on doing their job, which is what isbest for the company. They don't get pulled into this daytoday pieces. Theycan look into the future, they can...

...sell, they could do the thingsthat they need to do for the company and this time they do spend withthe 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 happensis the supervisors now, with that confidence, can also start developing the people thatwork with them and create those folks to be future leaders. May Noteven be leads or supervisors. I'd seen examples where operators became technicians, theymoved into quality roles, they would lead Kaison events, you know. Sothere's lots of other ways that operators, even you know, can really developand and further their career, not only just in the supervisor role but inother areas of the company. But it really starts with helping to develop thoseskills right at the operationater level and have them have work opportunities that give themdifferent, different skills to learn. Well said. Well, Gail. Isthere 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 atough job and there's a lot going on every day and there's lots of thingstugging at their time and again, if we help develop them early and helpcontinue to develop them as they as they evolved in their role, we're goingto be super happy with their performance and they will be happy because in myexperience of supervisors are people that are loyal to the company, they've usually workedthere a while, they want to do a great job and they just needthey just need some help and guidance to do that and then again, youknow the company can be successful because the the leaders can be leading and youinvolve the operators to improve the business and everything moves forward to to create asuccess. That's a great message. To...

...put a bow on this one.Well, Gail, really great talk today. This was, I think, exactlywhat I was looking forward to. You know, try to. Ithink this is a message that needs to be heard by a lot of leadersout there, Jeez. I mean not just in the manufacturing space, butit resonates with me as a leader of my own company. So great,really great insights. Can you tell people? Oh yeah, go it. Ijust thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. Job.Yeah, absolutely. So tell our listeners here the best way to get intouch with you and to learn more about your consulting firm. Wonderful. Ihave 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 tojust send me an email. It's Gail at Gail Miscom, and I wouldbe 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 galeup on that offer so well. I would like to say thank you againto our sponsor, cadinis part solutions, for helping to make this episode possible, and Gail. It was a pleasure having me on the show. Thanksfor doing this. Thanks again. As for the rest of you, Ihope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've beenlistening 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 tolearn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection ofarticles, videos, guides and tools specifically for BTB manufacturers at Gorilla Seventysixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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