Stand up for standards
Carl, an equipment superintendent for a large general contractor in southern Oregon, told Session 8B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"I noticed that our shop wasn't being maintained to its usual high standard of order and cleanliness. Things were being overlooked, passed by, and it was obvious that the general look and housekeeping just wasn't being looked after. In a genuine inquiring way, I asked the clean-up person, 'How are you doing?'. We talked for a couple of minutes, then I said, 'I've noticed the shop clean up is falling behind and isn't up to your usual high standards'. Then I asked, 'What's going on?'. His reply was that the guys in the shop had asked if he could build a screen for a pump and had him working on a couple of other projects as well. I reminded him that his most important job function was shop housekeeping; 'As you know, your number one job is shop cleanup. I really appreciate your willingness to support the mechanics with your cooperation and teamwork. If you have time after doing your cleanup rounds to help the guys out with other projects, that is great. These extra projects can only be taken on if you have time after your routine cleanup is completed. I need you to make the housekeeping of the shop your first priority'. I reminded him of how important his job is; 'A clean, orderly shop contributes to efficient, safe operations and helps keep our productivity and labor costs in proper balance. As you know, this is one of the ways we measure success. We can't reach our cost production labor ratio goals and our zero accident objective without your help'. I wanted him to see how important I
think his job is. I asked him to please talk to me before he took on any other side projects in the future. He said that he understood.
Within less than a week, I noticed a huge improvement in how the shop was cleaned up and organized. He even repaired some storage staging areas for a neater look and easy access to the larger shop tools the maintenance crew shares.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to utilize Leadership Principle #2 – Become Genuinely Interested. I learned the importance of a professional intervention – not to second guess or get angry, to just simply inquire 'What's going on?'. The action I call you to take when you see performance issues surface is to do a professional intervention - ask the question 'What's going on?' or 'What happened?' and patiently listen. You may be surprised by what you learn. The benefit you will gain is an employee that understands even better the standards and priorities of their job, exactly what results are expected of them. The benefit you will gain is you will earn the respect of your team and all of your performance scores will improve."