The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) defines people-centric leadership (PCL) as a leadership approach that seeks to create a culture in which everyone is encouraged to improve and apply their talents and given the opportunity to pursue excellence at work every day. In PCL, leadership focuses on providing employees with what they need to go home feeling like they are flourishing and helping to fulfill a greater common purpose, which is important for morale and retention, innovation and product quality. All too often, PCL is missing from lean manufacturing, causing many manufacturers to struggle to sustain long-term continuous improvement. Lean only succeeds when tactical continuous improvement is combined with respect for all people within the organization.
As a manufacturing specialist for the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership (DEMEP), part of the MEP National NetworkTM, I help small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) develop people-centric leaders, which lets them leverage the skills of their employees and is required for lean success.
Take, for example, Justin Tanks, a Delaware manufacturer of large fiberglass tanks. When I first worked with the company, it had begun its continuous improvement journey, but it was running out of steam. By turning its efforts toward creating people-centric leaders, the company was able to build a foundation for continuous improvement and growth.
According to Ed Short, Justin Tanks’s CEO, PCL training has helped the company:
If these outcomes sound like things you’d like to foster at your company, here are five PCL essentials you can use to achieve similar lean success.
One of the biggest lean roadblocks is when management wastes time trying to control other people. People-centric leaders spend their time and energy reflecting and evaluating themselves. They take responsibility for their own behaviors, which in turn influence the behavior of the employees.
Leaders build relationships with and between people. People-centric leaders recognize they don’t have all the answers and that they need all the talents from their entire organization. Leaders must get to know the whole person. They must trust their employees and act with humility. Leaders who act with humility inspire trust.
In a people-centric culture, leaders listen more than they speak. They purposely learn and practice how to actively listen. Listening is the most important thing that good leaders do. As noted by Bob Chapman, CEO of the Barry-Wehmiller company, “Doing this one thing can profoundly impact an organization. It can set an organization on a path to a better future.”
Everybody likes pizza, T-shirts and monetary gifts, but these things do not necessarily make people feel appreciated for their unique contributions. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people in the organizations I work with is that their boss has no idea what they do. Perhaps a simple thank-you would have more impact. Employees need to know their work has meaning – and that they are part of something bigger than themselves. People want to contribute and be appreciated, not be controlled and rewarded.
According to Edgar Schein’s book, "Helping," when leaders offer correction or provide a solution, employees can feel frustrated, resentful and demoralized. Effective coaching uses a Kata-based scientific way of thinking, which causes people to self-evaluate and engage their minds. It shifts control from the leader to the employee, which results in self-improvement and growth.
How can your managers take advantage of PCL? First, it’s critical to remember that like any lean journey, leadership is one of continuous improvement. This journey begins with discarding traditional “director” leadership paradigms in lieu of supportive coaching roles.
Once you’re ready, the above PCL essentials can be developed through education, coaching, reflection and practice. This process includes developing systems to support organizational continuous improvement and clearly communicating strategies and expectations across the organization. This is accomplished by using the PCL framework developed by the AME PCL Curriculum Development Team.
The framework includes:
These elements drive growth and prosperity for the individual, the organization, the stakeholders and the community. PCL engages the minds of the entire workforce to drive continuous improvement and achieve greatness.
Looking for leadership support in your organization’s lean journey? Contact your local MEP Center to talk to a lean expert or other manufacturing specialists who understand the needs and challenges of smaller manufacturers.