Exemplum docet ~ Example teaches
George, Paper Machine #5 Operating Assistant for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 7B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"After several months of onsite help from the Newberg Turbo Paper Group to improve the performance of PM #5, which included improving housekeeping on the machine and in the department, we were seeing many improvements and record breaking performance. We were running faster with fewer breaks and more tons per day (TPD). We had agreed at the beginning of the campaign that our stretch goal was 388 TPD. We even posted signs throughout the area showing the PM #5 goal of "388 TPD in '08".
"The machine had been running well for several days and the department was much cleaner than I had ever seen it. I entered the control room to greet the machine tender operator and said, 'Hi. How are you doing? The machine looks great and is running well. Thanks for a great job.' He turned to me and went into a rant about, 'This is all a pile of crap!' On and on he went. Most of his ranting revolved around the long overdue enforcement of housekeeping standards. I listened, determined not to let him get me upset. After he finally finished, I said, 'You are a senior experienced operator and you are doing a great job. The younger crew members look up to you. I know change is sometimes hard to accept. With your support of the changes we are making, we can look forward to continuing to run better, which makes everyone's job easier
and safer. Please be patient and continue working with the group. The younger guys need your help.'
"He agreed and thanked me for listening to his rant. After a good day on a clean running machine, he got to go home feeling good.
"The lesson I learned from this experience is when I am confronted with a disgruntled employee, not to react; instead to listen to what they are saying and the importance of understanding their point of view. Then I can point out their good qualities, and note the improved performance and the impact they have on younger crew members. I can then end on a positive note.
"The action I call you to take when faced with upset employees is to take the time to listen carefully to what they are saying. Remember there is a reason for their behavior even if from your perspective there is no good reason. Explain why change is necessary. Point out the good results expected or that are happening due to the change. Be sure to also mention their good qualities and note their improvements in performance.
"The benefit you will gain is you will earn employees' trust and you will be seen as a good and understanding leader. With your help, your team will learn to embrace change more readily. Knowing that you can handle these tough people issues in a positive manner will improve your personal confidence."