The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 11 months ago

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


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 howmany times do we create the environment or the impression that we don't care about what they have tosay and we're not open to their suggestions when they have the answers? Welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forad here you'll discover new insights frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and youill learn from BTB sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive podcast. This show is being brought to you by oursponsor cadinus part solutions. I'm Joe Sullivan your host and a cofounder ofthe Industrial Marketing Agency Garilu, seventy six as leaders of anorganization whether it be a manufacturing business like yours or amarketing agency like the one I coon, we all have a responsibility to helpour team grow and evolve. We need to lay down a path for our employees toadvance their careers, to take on new responsibilities and to contribute tothe organization's success, which in turn should contribute to their ownsuccess, but unfortunately the latter doesn't always happen. Instead ofequipping our people with the skills and the training, they need to besuccessful as they move up the chain from operator to supervisor. We assumethat they'll just figure it out well. My guest today is someone who's builther career around tackling this exact dilemma: Gale noakes, owner of Gailnoakes supervisor, success worked inside of midsize manufacturingcompanies for twenty years. She spent many hours on the production floor,working side by side with plant managers supervisoors and leadsfocusing on continuous improvement,...

...quality and training and DevelopmentGillis experienced firsthand the positive effect of good leadershipthroughout the manufacturing environment. Now leading her owntraining and development. Consultancy Gale works with small to midsizemanufacturing companies to build leaders at all levels of the company inorder to achieve the best business results. Gale welcome to the show,thanks to Jo I'm glad to be here well Gal. I'm excited about thisconversation because I know it's a topic that'll be all too familiar to somany of our listeners, so we're going to go ahead and get right into it. Youand I were talking a few weeks back about this common problem where CEOS,Coos and plant managers of small, the midsize manufacturing companies, oftenspend too much of their time doing the work of supervisors and managers,because those superviseors and managers have not been giving the training,development and coaching to do the job on their own. So can you talk a littlebit about this from your own experiences? Absolutely I've workedwith a number in a number of many manufacturing companies and with someas well and I've seen a number of things. One is the cools. A plantmanagers, even the CELS and owners, get pulled into this day to day they'redoing things, firefighting, dealing with performance issues dealing withcustomer problems, and it's really because the supervisors had not havenot been developed to the point that they can handle them. These thingsthemselves. The other thing that I've noticed happening is that when thesupervisors don't have the skills they need, they revert back to what theyknow. So they may have a supervisor role, but on a daily basis. When pushcomes to shove, they push the problem back up back up to the plant managerand they often revert to doing what they've always done. One example is, Ihad a new supervisor named Tom will... him Tom and he I would continuallygo out on the production floor and find him driving around out of forkclift,and I would stop him and say what you doin Tom and he sayd well by materialhandlers didn't come in. So my guys, nade material and I got TA, get a toineand I said: Well, you know what about these things that we're doing as asupervisor and he'd look at me kind of sheepishly and you know, and so thenI'd go, help them and we'd figure out who could run material and those thingscontinue 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. This is aproblem that definitely transcends the manufacturing world, because I'e seenit in my own career as a marketing professional, I'm sure it's a problemin lots of businesses. You know, supervisors in the manufacturen worldare often individuals who are originally great doers, like machineoperators or whatever it may be, and because they excel in their jobs. Wethen reward them right by promoting them to a supervisor. You- and I waslooking at some notes. You would sort of sent me after our last call and youput reward in quotes because it's you know, is it truly rewarding them bypromoting them to supervisor and if you're not giving them the right skillsand training well, you're kind of setting them up to fail. I guess rightbecause now all of a sudden they're in the people business as opposed to whatthey e are truly trained at and where their experience lies. So how do youget around this problem? Well, what I believe is that we need to startidentifying and developing people who are going to be in these supervisorroles long before they're promoted. So, first of all is looking at thepotential you have in the operators that are already on the productionfloor. R again, like you said in any industry, looking at people, not onlytheir performance but their potential and start giving them tasks that theycan start doing, maybe being in a Kaiza,...

...and maybe they are ot a project team.So they slowly start doing other things than running the machines and thatbills and in manufacturing, then they can move into that Leed, roll and- andoften I find the lead role isn't defined very well so that lead roll canreally be something that is a progression up to supervisor and theylearn some of those same duties that then they will do as a supervisor. Youknow you mentioned that it's really in any industry. I let a team in adifferent industry and that's exactly what we did. I had some young peopleearly s and they had some very specific jobs, but I would continually give themwork, Opportunity, small things that they could do and then I would coachthem before and after the opportunity to help them get set up. For successand then learn from things, they did wrong, which they did and that's partof learning. So I think those kinds of things is that development before theyget there can do a lot, a good points. There I mean Tus, you know, setsomebody up for success, an in something that they haven't done.Eyou've got a you got to give them the tools and e and the training to do it.It's a logical thing, but I think we make the assumption. Sometimes hey thisperson's a great employee and they're really good at doing the stuff, I'msure they'll excel. If we just sort of move them up the chain, but not alwaysthe case and often not yeah. 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 andgetting operators to work. Now, it's there's more to it from attending awide array of meetings and answering emails, all the way to supporting lenand continuous improvement efforts. How do you create the right balance for themodern manufacturing supervisor? Yeah, I think the supervisor role isdefinitely bigger and more complex than it was years ago. In fact, I have a kitcome up with a new name, but I'm not sure supervisor is even the right titleanymore, because that's not supervisor... firs hovering over and tellingpeople what to do, and that's really not what the modern manufacturingsupervisor does. So it really needs to be that they have more management andleadership skills than supervisory skills. And what are those it's? Youknow the classic the'll you know be able to manage the work and leade thepeople and so that they understand the people that they have and be able tokind of work at a little higher level. When a classic example is, I thinkagain we talked about leads. I Find I've found often that the supervisors,because they often come from being doers, thought they had to doeverything themselves and didn't really know how to delegate properly to theleads and and then again then be a coach and manage the lads versus doingall the work. And so and again I always talk about Gelegation- is not dumping.That doesn't mean giving the leads all the all the CRAFP work that you don'twant to do, it's giving them delegating them a task that they're going to learnfrom Itd coald be an opportunity from them. So again I think it's just it's adifferent approach to t a different skillset than it was several years agogo. Can you talk about the importance of creating an environment whereoperators are actively engaged in looking for ways to improve theorganizations, work and processes? Absolutely you know the the productionworkers. 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 themfor that knowledge and for that help they're the ones using the machinesevery day and they know what's going on with them. I worked with a number ofoperators in different manufacturing companies and, frankly, I was blownaway by their knowledge of the work,...

...the operations, their great ideas andoverall their eagerness to dive in and make things better. They were thrilledto be ask and included in making making the work, the processes and even theenvironment, better yeah. You know, I'd see it in my world too again, there'sjust so many parallels, probably across a lot of businesses. I think a lot ofpeople maybe make the assumption that you know if, if this is the way, we'vealways done it. This is how we need to do it or if the director has come fromuptop, that's that's the way and I'm going to follow it and do it and Jeezi'll tell you. I mean I coled atwenty person company and a lot of the best decisions we make come from. Thepeople who are in you know the daily grind interfacing with customers doingthe work. You know, I can't make the decisions for them about. They need tobring those insights, and then you know when there's a big shift to make in theOrganization we dad. That's where leadership can weigh in and say yeah.This is a change we need to make, but those voices need to be heared forheard from the people who are out there doing the work on a daily basis.Absolutely we're going to take a really quickbreak here to help pay the bills. So two thousand and twenty has been aweird year. Industries are facing new challenges as we navigate life withouttrade shows events and INPERSON meetings. Many businesses arebolstering their online tools to offer a better experience. Wil also making upfor some of those missing trade show leads and that's where cadinus pipesolutions comes in. They help you create a dynamic Sharabl, CAD catalogethat you put on your website. Designers can preview your products from anyangle and download ind the format that they prefer by improving the onlineexperience. Engineers and architects get the data they need for their design,and you get a fresh lead in your marketing pipeline who needs tradeshows anyway, to learn more visit. Part...

Solutionscom leads gale. You have mentioned in a previousconversation a couple of examples where operators have been able to step upbecause they've actually had the right environment around them. Where they'vebeen encouraged to look for ways to improve the organization or solve aproblem. I W wondering if Therare, you know an example to you could sharewhere you've seen that actually happen. Yes, I'd be happy to have lots ofexamples, but I'd like to share two that I think really always stand outfor me. One is, I was working with a a group of operators from a productionarea and the there was a lot of palates of of boxes,and it was really cluttered. There was just it was always stuff all over theplace, and I got the word that a particular life sales group was veryunhappy with that, because when they gave customer tours this, this areaalways look like a mass, and so as we were working through things, this cameup and the operators were really kind of shocked because they said we, youknow we don't like this either. You know this. We we are the one: that'sgot to work around all this stuff, we're not happy with, because thesesalous people, you know frankly, just kind of assume these guys theirproduction operators. They really didn't care, and so they just they justhad a Mosse, 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 purchasingorders too much and we don't have any other place to put it. So we put it inevery nook and cranny we can find and so law story short is. What happened istwo of the people, operators and two of the purchasing agents started meetingevery month and went through what they really needed and within a couplemonths, all that excess was gone. So it was a again. It always struck mebecause part of it was our perception.

Was the operators didn't care andthat's totally wrong and what it really was was that there just wasn'tcommunication between the right people who knew what to do. Wasn't thePURCHANS purchasing agents fault either? They didn't have the right information,but when I got the right people together, these opperators and thepurchasing agents, everything was everything was solved. I have anotherstory, that's my favorite that we were also. We had really progressed with agroup of operators and working on processes, and there was one processthat consistently ran out of control, so it was creating a fair amount ofscrap. This has been going on for quite a while and in our conversation therewas a young gentleman who was from second shift, never said much in our inour contines improvement meetings, but he was always there, and this was amachine that he ran all the time on second shift, and so it came to it. Hefin he quietly said. I know what's wrong with it and I said really. I saidyou know 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 itwas sitting on a grating and it had a pit underneath it so that if somethingwent wrong and at ever overflowed no one would get hurt and he said to methe machinous falling of the pit said what and sure enough he said therewere windn beams that held up the machine down in the pit and they hadworked over time and with the warping. The machine had tipped and it threweverything out of control. So we got some engineers out there andconstruction and they rebuilt the post. Underneath it the machine got level, itran completely in control, no more scrap. So I went back to the gentlemanand I said because he brout this...

...machine a long time, and I said you know Tim if you knew this, how comeyou never said anything before and I'll? Never forget what he said. Hesaid no one ever asked me, and so the learning you know I'll, never forget itI'll, never afree that conversation, because how many times do we not askfor how many times do we create the environment or the impression that we don't care about what they have tosay 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, Ithink, are classic as far as if we open up. If we create an environment hand,the supervisors are key to this createad environment, where people theoperators on the productionof floor can help the company be better theyre, havethe 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. Theywould say something they you know they, but if the environment around you isnot made, you feel comfortable or made. Youfeel that you know your voice matters or that you should speak up. Well, maynot happen Yep exactly so. What happens then gale in scenarios where supervisors reach aplace where they're both competent and competitnd, confident in their jobs andfeel like they can contribute and speak up? How does that change? Theorganization? I think two things happened, especially one is again thecompany leaders, the SEALL, the plant managers, sometimes even the owners.You know they then can focus on doing their job, which is what is best forthe company. They don't get pulled into this day today pieces. They can lookinto the future they can sell. They can... the things that they need to do forthe company, and this time they do spend with the supervisors can becoaching rather than stepping in and solving problems for them. They cancontinue to develop those those leaders. The other thing that happens is thesupervisors. Now, with that, confidence can also start developing the peoplethat work with them and create those folks to be future leaders may not evenbe leads or supervisors I'De, seen examples where operators becametechnicians, they moved into quality roles, they would lead Kaizan EventsYouw, so there's lots of other ways that operators, even you know, canreally develop an and further their career, not only just in the supervisorrole but in other areas of the company. But it really starts with helpingdevelop those skills right at the operator level and have them have workopportunities that give them different different skills. To learn well saidwhat GA s there. Anything else, you'd like to add to this conversation thatwe 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 andthere's lots of things tugging at their time and again, if we help develop themearly and how continue to develop them as they as they evolve in their role.We're going to be super happy with their performance and they will behappy because, in my experience, the supervisors are people that are loyalto the company. They've usually worked there a while they want to do a greatjob and they just need. They just need some help and guidance to do that, andthen again, you know the company can be successful because the the leaders canbe leaving and you involve the operators to improve the business andeverything moves forward to to create a...

...success. That's a great message to puta 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 amessage that needs to be heard by a lot of leaders out there Jeez I mean notjust in the manufacturing space, but it resonates with me as a leader of my owncompany. So great, really great insights. Can you tell icle? Oh yeah goahead. I just thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. JoYeah. Absolutely so tell our listeners here. The best way to get in touch withyou and to learn more about you're, consulting firm, wonderful. I have awebsite at gale noaks, it's Ga yle, an NOA Kescom, I'm also unlinted. You canreach me there and if you want to just send me an email, it's gale at Galnoakescom and I would be happy to have a conversation with anybody onn thistopic 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 again to our sponsorcadenus part solutions for helping to make this episode possible and gale.There's a pleasure happening ou on the show, thanks for doing this. Thankthank gain. As for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episodeof the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sale strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools, specificallyfor BTO B manufacturers. At grilla, seventy sixcom Ashand learnn. Thank youso much for listening until next time.

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