Coaching beats correcting any day
Jeremy, paper mill supervisor for a mill in Manitoba, Canada, told Session 8B of the Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
"About a month ago I was in the beater engineer control room with the on-shift beater engineer. He was having a hard time controlling his b* blue dye, which is used mainly for newsprint grade paper. As the stock gets bleached, it retains a bit of yellow color. To remove that yellowish from the sheet, the operator must maintain the right amount of a very concentrated pigment, acid or basic dye in the sheet of paper. This is called controlling "b" or "b*" color which goes from yellow to blue. This employee is a spare and he has a hard time remembering the complicated procedures. He has a reputation of making the wrong control changes. I decided to use Turbo's 4-step coaching process to help him improve his performance. First I gave him praise for the improvements I had seen him make in performing start-up procedures. Then I said, 'I have an idea that may help you feel a lot more comfortable when you are assigned to the beater room' and asked, 'May I mention it?' He responded with a simple but firm 'Sure'. I then offered to give him advice to help him remember how to make the correct control changes. I recommended that he start writing down any of the complicated procedure steps that we all had difficulty remembering in a personal notebook the first time he heard them. I said, 'Never worry that anyone will think less of you for taking the care and time to write them down. On the contrary, they will be impressed and see you as being genuinely interested in retaining
what they have told you.' I told him, 'When you do this, you will eventually make these procedures second nature. You will be a more efficient operator with less downgrades on your shifts'. Since then, I have noticed him writing down the steps to various procedures more often in a little notebook he bought. More importantly, I have seen him referring to his notebook before making setup changes. He has shown significant improvement in his work performance.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to have faith in my employees' abilities and to be patient with them while they are learning. I need to provide support with suggested steps for improvement and good, positive feedback to help them succeed in their job.
The action I call you to take is to understand the training and resources your employees need, and make every effort to give them the help and training they need. The benefit you will gain is an empowered, productive workforce who will be efficient at their jobs. Your productivity and quality will continuously improve."
And what is the bottom line for this mill? My update as of yesterday is that this mill is running at an average of seven tons per day over their best production in the last five decades. The combined efforts of all the management staff, frontline leads and supervisors providing supportive coaching and training has created significant increases to the bottom line.