Too few leaders in business recognize the magnitude of their role.
Many “leaders” simply arrive to work and react to the stimulus of the day—an issue with a customer that needs attention, attending meeting after meeting, dealing with that day’s issues with little time devoted to focusing on what’s truly important.
As leaders in business, we are entrusted with the lives of our people every day. When we walk through the door each morning, we should be aware that we hold the fate of the people in our organization in our hands. Are they walking out our doors at the end of the day as broken souls, defeated by their time with us? Or are they energized, able to live more vibrant lives as a result of the growth and learning that occurred while they are in our care?
Since Barry-Wehmiller is a growing organization with currently 65 locations around the globe, I tend to spend a lot of time on airplanes. And every time I step onto a plane, I am grateful for the way our pilots prepare before each flight, ever-mindful of the precious lives entrusted to them. No matter his level of experience, each pilot always follows a simple checklist guiding him through the essential actions to keep all those in his care safe.
As leaders in business, we may not actually face life and death situations in our leadership, but don’t we figuratively hold the hearts and minds and souls of our team members in our hands? So how do we make sure we are doing our best to take care of those hearts, minds and souls?
Shortly after we had articulated Barry-Wehmiller’s vision of a people-centric culture through our Guiding Principles of Leadership [The Value of Identifying Values, April 17, 2013], we realized we needed to find ways to put the principles into action. After all, inspirational culture statements don’t hold much meaning if your direct leader does not embrace those principles. On the other hand, many team members who have reached leadership positions–traditionally called supervisors, foremen or managers—may need coaching and guidance to understand how to effectively lead.
Steve Kreimer was one of those team members. Steve was an assembly supervisor for one of our subsidiaries when we adopted our Guiding Principles of Leadership. At a session shortly thereafter during which we gathered team members to discuss our new cultural vision statement, Steve said, “I believe in the values on the wall, but I have no idea what you want me to do as a leader in this business. I know how to be a supervisor… I have no idea how to be a leader.”
So we began capturing the ideal behaviors of our most successful frontline leaders within our manufacturing operations. We felt that by looking at the “be, know, and do” of our leaders–who are our best leaders, what do they do each day, and what do they know—we could determine the ideal everyday actions that would bring our vision of culture to life. From this brainstorming that brought forth more than 500 ideas, we mapped 12 essential practices of a Barry-Wehmiller leader and created the following.
I accept the awesome responsibility of leadership. The following describe my essential actions as a leader:
- I practice stewardship of the Guiding Principles of Leadership through my time, conversations, and personal development.
- I advocate safety and wellness through my actions and words.
- I reflect to lead my team in Achieving Principled Results on Purpose.
- I inspire passion, optimism, and purpose.
- My personal communication cultivates fulfilling relationships.
- I foster a team community in which we are committed to each other and to the pursuit of a common goal.
- I exercise responsible freedom, empowering each of us to achieve our potential.
- I proactively engage in the personal growth of individuals on my team.
- I facilitate meaningful group interactions.
- I set, coach to, and measure goals that define winning.
- I recognize and celebrate the greatness in others.
- I commit to daily continuous improvement.
By the end of this year, these practices will have been taught to hundreds of leaders through our corporate university, Barry-Wehmiller University. Leaders learn to begin and end their day by reflecting on this checklist, considered the essential daily actions of a Barry-Wehmiller leader. With this list as a reminder, they can be purposeful in their leadership, rather than simply reacting to the stimulus of the day.
As a leader, I challenge you to check yourself each day. Do you accept the awesome responsibility of leadership?