Bob, coalition leader for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 5B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"In 1993, I was relieving as pulp mill supervisor in a newsprint mill in northern Ontario. I was unionized. Many of my brother union members on the floor took advantage of this situation, cutting corners, ignoring standards, not doing their jobs as expected. My lead TMP operator had over 30 years experience in operating plants and knew his job well. There was a problem with the quality of the stock, and it was going to take some work to figure what caused the problem. I developed a plan to determine the source of the problem.
I went to the control room and told the operator that we were going to do a small trial. He replied, 'I don't do trials on night shift.' I thought I was going to explode. I kept it in, and tried not to show it. Guess you could say I 'counted to 10'. I sat down with him and reviewed his history of not doing trials on night shift. I was interested in how this came to be our practice. I asked him to tell me more about the practice of not doing trials on night shift.
We talked for a while and then I moved onto the problem of the stock quality. I explained my thoughts on the problem and went through the details of my trial plan. He appeared to be interested now that he saw what I was trying to accomplish, so he became involved.
He was a conscientious operator and I knew he would be interested in the results. I said, 'This is going to be a good night.' He asked, 'Why do you say that?' I replied, 'Because this is the first time in over 30 years that you will be doing a trial on night shift.' When the trial was done, the results lead us directly to the source of the problem. The necessary adjustments were made, and the next day and we were running well.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to not show my anger when I am frustrated. I learned to step back. I also learned firsthand the importance of using Leadership Principle #5 – See the other person's point of view, Leadership Principle #6 – Be an active listener, and Leadership Principle #13 – Avoid argument.
The action I call you to take is never give in to anger, explain the reasons for your action, the why behind the what, in a calm, rational fashion. It is always advantageous to get some agreement (Leadership Principle #14 – Begin with yes, yes), even if you can't get total agreement.
The benefit you will gain is you will turn a conflict into a learning experience and end up with 'world-record' positive results."