What do you think of when you hear the word “factory?” While the younger workforce generation may give you a funny look and ask you if that’s the new fusion bistro down the street, baby-boomers and generation X employees may usually think of huge smoke stacks, hard hats, steel-toed boots, and the dreaded u-word: unions. Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have traditionally been required to have union representation for their employees primarily to prevent the employer from creating an otherwise unfair and non-mutually beneficial relationship with their employees. I have worked in a few plants that were/are unionized and the tension is not only palpable, it’s destructive for both the employee AND the employer. Fred Foulkes (1) wrote a supporting article for non-unionized companies’ successful managing style; albeit it’s from 1981, but it still gets the point across especially for the greater prominence of unions at that time versus today.
On a more positive upswing moving into the future, social media has strongly contributed to leaders in today’s business to be more visible, available, and transparent than ever before, whether you’re the owner of a small mom-and-pop coffee truck or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Websites like Glassdoor.com, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, and other social media platforms make it easy for anyone, customers and employees alike, to easily (and extremely quickly) communicate their opinion of a company to thousands and even millions of people. This is especially apparent for leaders of manufacturers because of the nature of the industry; usually running 24-hours-a-day all through the year, dealing with more treacherous working conditions than traditional office jobs, and employing a larger proportion of a local community make the actions set out by the manufacturer’s leaders more apparent and feel closer to home. These actions and their decisions can have impactful effects not just on the financial bottom line, but even more significantly on the lives of the employees.
The power of this relationship and how a manufacturing company’s leadership is perceived demands that C-level execs to be more mindful of even their most seemingly minor decisions and how it will affect the lives of their employees. Even a small adjustment in schedule or standard operating procedure (SOP) without understanding the effect company-wide can be easily turned against the company’s leaders, (and I won’t even get into having to watch what they say). As well discussed in Building the Bridge as You Walk On It by Robert E. Quinn, leaders need to demonstrate ever-increasing integrity, not just to the community at large, but more importantly to the people that choose to follow them. Without the respect anyone earns from consistently “walking the talk”, leaders will not have followers to call themselves leaders.
Share someone that is a leader who constantly shows and improves upon his or her integrity. My shout-out is to Dr. Bret Simmons, (I promise I’m not sucking up, though you assigned me to do this blog post!) You certainly “walk the talk.” Thank you. @drbret on Twitter.
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