Reading time ( words)
It is often easy to lose sight, particularly in the manufacturing sector, of your most valuable resource: people. You can’t take purchase orders, operate equipment and develop new strategies all on your own. With so much focus being driven toward quality, margins and customer satisfaction, upper management develops a tendency to forget what keeps all of those things in the positive. It is not that upper management has a blatant disregard for the people working for them; but when you are in the business of making things it is easy to forget the people that actually make them. Good leadership and management will always hinge upon the value of three things:
1. What the employee perceives their value to the company to be.
The most common way to measure this value is by compensation. However, it is not always the most accurate. We all see examples of over- and under-paid people all the time. There are other ways to manage what level of contribution someone thinks they are giving to a company. For example, you would be surprised how far verbal acknowledgment can go. You’d be even more surprised how much further it goes when it is done with others listening. This serves the double purpose of not only recognizing one employee’s efforts but also incentivizing those listening to improve their level of performance in the hopes of receiving similar treatment.
Regulating this perception inside your employee’s mind is undoubtedly one of the most important traits of a good leader. You need them to feel important but you never want them to feel irreplaceable either. No matter how honest and full of integrity they are, letting them feel overly important will breed mental lethargy and a lack of focus.
2. What you (the employer) perceive their value to be. This part requires a bit of introspection. Do you honestly think he/she is being fairly compensated? If not, can you afford to give them a raise? If the answer to that question is no, is there another way to show them they are important to your company such as the ones mentioned above? These are all questions that, when answered honestly and applied accurately, will allow you to leverage value into profit.
3. The company’s value to you. In the manufacturing world, leaders generally have so much at stake, usually large amounts of equity, that this generally isn’t an issue. However, for the purposes of leadership in general (and the outliers) this truth still holds. If you don’t care about the company, you will not be a very good leader/manager. Regardless of whether or not you have equity, you have to care. At the end of the day, everybody is in this to make money; therefore, everybody is essentially selling something—tangible or intangible. If you don’t have faith in whatever it is you’re selling, you won’t be profitable. Although the volatility of the manufacturing sector, especially for PC boards, is relatively low, we all know the market can turn on you any second—especially when you get too comfortable. Being overly comfortable can lead you to taking things for granted—especially your workforce. Leaders tend to rely a bit too much on the adage “everyone is replaceable.”
Although it’s true, some people are less replaceable than others. Your department supervisor who has been there for 20 years and doesn’t need to be told anything to do his job properly needs adequate upward movement in his/her compensation and position in order to maintain a semblance of self-worth and dignity. At the end of it all, leadership comes down to balance: a balance between delegation and micromanagement, over- or underpaid, overly attached or undervalued. As leaders, to remain apathetic—to a degree—is one of our most important characteristics. In enables us to make rational decisions free of emotional influence. Pragmatism will always be your best friend. Last—but certainly not least—be open to suggestions. Colin Powell once said, “The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” Although it is impossible to equate our brave servicemen and women with civilian employees, the underlying principle about leadership still remains.
Sam Sangani is president and CEO of PNC Inc.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.