In small and large manufacturing and production-type enterprises, apart from technical issues that may occur from time to time, one of the most pertinent issues faced by leadership is getting the various teams focused and applying their energy appropriately. Modern or state-of-the-art production line equipment is necessary for speed and efficiency, but can be rendered useless without state-of-the-art attitude and focus by those working on the production line. The job of getting employees focused is difficult enough as it is, but when disgruntled or feeling devalued, focus on productivity issues becomes impossible for employees. Emotional dissonance derails any attempts at progress or effectiveness – the present negative emotion stands in the way of possible team-work, creativity and innovation. Employees become side-tracked in their focus, with feelings of despair and alienation dominating their available energy levels.
Getting a company focused around key organisational imperatives is a leadership task. Each team needs to understand their part to play in realising these objectives. They need to see how the part they play fits into the overall expected results and the value that they bring to the process when fulfilling their respective roles perfectly. To get this right, leaders need to:
- Deal with the emotional environment first – outstanding emotional issues hold the company back from achieving peak performance. Negative sentiment has a way of infiltrating the very best of efforts and rendering them sterile. Leaders thus need to listen and make time to facilitate healing within teams.
- Get close to the middle managers and supervisors – quality of relationships is essential here to live the same dream. Show appreciation frequently and discuss issues transparently, listening very carefully to ideas and suggestions. Never put down an idea, but rather facilitate the discussion around the idea, seeking the best possible alternatives.
- Celebrate achievements – demonstrate the value placed on good behaviour and success by rewarding the same. Even a gratitude speech and a small chocolate for each individual will go a long way to boosting morale and reinforcing expected productivity standards.
- Clearly articulate the “big picture” – goals, targets and ultimate results expectations should be known by everyone, even by employees working in support functions (like finance, human resources, procurement and the like). Everyone should be working off the same page in the company.
- Establish visible real-time indicators – using technology appropriately, demonstrate the productivity/efficiency metrics that really count by displaying them where people do their daily tasks. The indicators should be appropriate to each team and physically in the proximity of their work spaces. Company metrics can be displayed in congregation areas, like the canteen, for example.
- Reinforce attitude that aids productivity – teams that demonstrate resilience, creativity, optimism, a sense of ownership and focus need to be rewarded. Make sure that this performance is highlighted before the company in creative ways. Show appropriate appreciation.
- Extend trust to managers and supervisors – attempt to get decision-making authority and accountability on all levels as low as possible within the company. People love some responsibility – this gives them opportunity to achieve and be noticed.
Within production environments, stimulating energy and focusing the same on the right business priorities is a leadership function. Such leadership does not ignore the prevailing emotional environment, but rather seeks to make it robust through appropriate acts of care and design, through listening adequately.