Leadership during COVID-19

June 3, 2020
Amanda Del Buono interviews Jay Richards, a member of the founding team and senior consultant at Denison Consulting

Amanda Del Buono interviews Jay Richards, a member of the founding team and senior consultant at Denison Consulting, a consulting firm that helps its clients improve their culture and build leadership development. They discuss leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and then step back to take a broader look at leadership development in U.S. manufacturing. Visit Jay's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJix0XVFhLJvqO1EFIw_Z8w


Amanda Del Buono: Welcome back to Manufacturing Tomorrow's Workforce. I'm your host, Amanda Del Buono. Today's leaders have been challenged like never before, but according to today's guest, this pandemic has brought out the best in manufacturing leaders, which he hopes will continue when we can return to business as usual. Today, I'm talking leadership development with Jay Richards, a member of the founding team and senior consultant at Denison Consulting, a consulting firm that helps its clients improve their culture and build leadership development.

Thanks for joining me today, Jay.

Jay Richards: Hey, thank you, Amanda.

Amanda: So, right now, we all know we're going through an unprecedented crisis, and I just want to start out by asking, what advice you have for leaders who are trying to manage during this? 

Jay: The big thing that I see out there, and I've done this for 20 years now in organizational psychology specifically culture leadership and things like that, but right now, there is so much uncertainty in the workforce. You know what I mean? There's a lot of fear. And I mean, right now, we're two months into this whole COVID-19 thing, and when things couldn't get any worse, now they're telling us we're going to have to dodge murder hornets as well, right? And so, what you see when you're looking at things around uncertainty is how do we relieve or alleviate that uncertainty? And you do that by communicating. So, if I'm talking to any leader right now, there's a few things that we want to learn, and we're learning that as the months go by and the data that we have, but right now, what I'm seeing great organizations do is communicate, communicate, communicate.

And a lot of times, what we do when we're not communicating well in just normal times, we usually leave out information. We tend to speak at people, okay? And so, when I'm coaching some of the people I coach, managers, leaders, executives, and things like that, I actually use a formula that I developed, which is just basically what minus why equals the rumor mill. And so, I always set what at 100%, but it's the why that's where we get ourselves in trouble. So, if I only communicate 9% of the why, I leave 90% out in the rumor mill, right? One hundred percent minus 10% equals 90%. And that's where all the headaches occur. People tend to make up answers that they don't have, that we leave out there, and you don't want them doing that because they never give you the benefit of the doubt. It always seems to be they come back negative, right?

So, what we want to do, and what we're seeing right now is organizations are communicating at a high level. Your people need this information. They're worried about their job, they're worried about their families. A lot of them that are families, they not only have their eight-hour jobs, if they're essential, they're also stay-at-home school teachers now. And so, there's a lot of stuff out there, "Am I gonna get sick?" whatever. We want to make sure we're getting people information, and I think a lot of companies are doing that.

Amanda: Well, good. That's good to hear that people are taking a proactive approach to communicating with their employees and really being transparent right during this time.

So, I understand Denison was quick to gather some data related to how organizations are responding to the pandemic, and I know our listeners can expect to see an article in our Plant Services magazine discussing the topic, but I'm wondering if you can share some key takeaways that you learned from the data you collected? What challenges did organizations rise to, and maybe what were some other key points that really hit home to you?

Jay: Yeah. I mean, back in March, as everything began to unfold, at Denison people were not thinking about a culture survey anymore or leadership development surveys. Things are getting pushed off, and we have here in Michigan a lot of organizations, Ford, GM and a lot of factories out here that have switched over to gowns, ventilators, masks, and things like that. And we wanted to do something as well. So, that's why we developed a resilience survey, measuring how resilient organizations are in times of crisis. What we really wanted to accomplish was getting companies' information quickly from their people because people had concerns, right? We talk about uncertainty. So, we were good at that. We can't make ventilators, but we can get information. So, we switched over pro bono for a lot of our clients and just started letting them use our software to collect information.

And it was cool because within a month, we had over 30 organizations that have all done the survey and we actually have a normative database now for it, for just the 30. It'll continue to grow, but the cool thing was there was a lot of things that started to emerge. And one was when you look at the data, we added a question on the end where people could type in their own comments, and it said, "What has our organization done well during COVID?" And the top answer by far was communication.

And so, this is something I think leaders want to take note of as they bounce back because you hear people say, "Well, when we bounce back, we'll do this," or, "We hopefully will be in good shape when we bounce back." And I say actually, there's some qualities here that organizations have really done well, where they should actually bounce forward, and communication's is one of them. They communicated at a level that you hardly ever see. They're giving information, they're transparent, they're out there talking with people once, twice a week, even.

So, those are the types of things when you hear your organization, if you've heard them in the past say, "We don't communicate. We want communication,” this is what they're looking for. So, use this to bounce forward.

Now, there was another thing, caring. That was another big one. Okay? Man, I mean, you always get people that say, "Oh, our employees are our most valuable asset." And yeah, it's also become cliché. Okay? It sometimes just falls on deaf ears. People don't buy that. But in this particular environment, people were really out there. The leaders were trying to keep people safe, getting them the supplies they needed. They understood that people now have challenges. If they're working at home, they've got kids, they've got all of these things, but caring and valuing your people are at a whole new level, which is actually really cool to see for a guy that's spent most of his career working with organizations.

And then finally this connection piece. People came together like nobody's business to help create change. There's a lot of change that's taking place, right? I mean, you had offices being suddenly moved to homes. You had different ways of working, you may have staggered your shifts, so you didn't have a mad rush at the door. There was a lot of things that were suddenly having to take place and a lot of change. Organizations typically are not very good at change, right? People resist it, they fight it. But suddenly, with COVID-19 when you had to, you made that change and, actually, they did it quite well.

And this is another thing I think leaders should take note of, okay, as we bounced forward. There's a professor, John Kotter at Harvard. He wrote a book called "Leading Change" and he had the eight steps to create change, but the very first step was a sense of urgency. You need to create a sense of urgency. Otherwise, people will not see a reason to change. And so, what we had here, just by the nature of COVID, was that sense of urgency, thus creating the need to change, and people did it on a whole new level.

So, I think there's three things that people want to take away, leaders specifically, is how they communicate, take note of that, and that's how you should communicate bouncing forward. How you care about your employees? Think about what they did. People who are actually putting their lives on the line. And I think that is something that leaders were actually quite impressed with. So, know that your employees are engaged and motivated and dedicated and loyal, more so than you probably even knew, right?

And then finally, connection. How do you create adaptability? Well, you've got a good model for it now on when we have large scale change, we always need to create that sense of urgency and then the other seven steps as well. So, those are the three things that I felt were interesting from an organizational perspective.

Amanda: I'm curious, you mentioned that these things should continue forward: communications, transparency, all those things. And you started the resilience survey. I guess I'm just curious, is that something you're going to continue doing? Is there an interest to make sure that there's a preparation for next time? If there is a next time, obviously, we all hope there isn't, but do you see any, like, "Okay, next time, if this happens, we're going to do this" or any forward-thinking on preparing yourself?

Jay: For sure. I mean, we're actually already creating a normative database for it. So, we already on our culture survey, we have what we call a safety module. Those are additional questions that are normed against other organizations. We have an engagement module, innovation module, commitment module, all these different modules that organizations can add on to the culture, and then we do driver analysis. So, let's say you want to look at safety. We will have a driver analysis that'll do a linkage analysis from your culture to your safety to see what aspects of your culture can have a big impact on how safe your organization is.

So, we're gonna do the same thing with the resilience survey. It's such a great survey and it's helped people out. I mean, the response, not only from the leaders that decided to adopt it, but as I read through a lot of the comments, people were actually very appreciative that their leaders actually wanted to hear from them and hear their thoughts. It all goes back into that caring thing again. So, the answer to that, yes. It's a 10-question survey. So, it's a quick hit. Our normal culture survey has 48 questions. So, you can add the resilience survey on and look to see how well your organization is prepared because we look at things like technology. Do you have the technology present? Are people working together through connecting, communicating? All of these little things help create an adaptable environment for an organization.

Amanda: Yeah. Wow. That'll be interesting. I'm gonna be curious to see as time goes on how that data changes, how people grade their organizations after going through this, and learning what they learned.

Jay: Oh, exactly. I mean, from a data guy, I've been a data guy most of my life. I do the consulting and I do the coaching and things like that, but just seeing people's responses to this and how organizations really did step up. Now, keep in mind, we've got 30 so far, so those are usually your high-performing organizations anyhow, probably right around average. Usually, the organizations that struggle from a culture perspective, which is also in our world financially as well, don't really pay attention to culture. So, they might not show up. We've got them. But, you know, to the extent the resilience survey, in my opinion, a lot of the people that I've debriefed and met with on Zoom with this have all been pretty decent organizations already.

Amanda: Oh good. Well, now that we talked a little bit about what can be learned from COVID, I wanted to move on to some more general manufacturing leadership and leadership development. I was wondering if you could just start by telling us a little bit about what makes a good leader, and then the flip side of that, what ends up with a bad or ineffective leader?

Jay: Yeah. You know, I coach a lot of people and we also, here at Denison, sit on a mountain of data. I mean, our database for our leadership survey has 15,000 leaders that you're benchmarked against and that's like half a million, some odd raters. And so, for me, what I wanted to do because I love manufacturing... I mean, I grew up in Lansing, Michigan, right around Oldsmobile and all of that. And I just love going in and out of manufacturing plants. My kid just graduated from Michigan State, just got a job at Alro Steel, which I love the fact that he's going into manufacturing.

But what I found is I also sit on this mountain of data, right. So, in 2019, I isolated all of the kinds of the managers, plant manager, and below type of leader, okay? And I did it just for manufacturing from our database. And so, what we did is I was looking for high-performing managers and supervisors, but I wasn't interested in their quantitative data, like how they were scaled, I was looking at what employees said about them, okay? So, there's two questions on the end of our Denison Leadership Survey, and that's where you can say what makes this leader effective, and that's where people will leave comments. Okay. So, what I look for is what are the strengths? What do people see that makes this person unique or effective, okay?

And so, what we found by looking at that is I took it and put it into themes because I'm talking I had thousands upon thousands of comments that I had to sift through. So, what I did is I created themes, and by doing that, I could quantify it. And then I can come up with a list, the Top 5, right?

What we found was what these great leaders do is one, shares information, okay? This is not the type of person that hoards information, or "I'll get you that information on a need-to-know basis." You know, knowledge is power. They understand that these people need information to do their jobs effectively. They share information from the top. I don't know how many times, when I'm meeting with executives, how frustrated they get when they look at the various cultures across their organizations. You know, you might have an organization with 70 plants and you can always tell the ones with the poor cultures are those that have leaders that don't communicate well. So, what you know from top to bottom is getting to those managers that hoard information or use it as power, right? So, the great ones actually share it.

The second is they listen, they're approachable. Matter of fact, if I'm looking at our Denison Survey and I see the word listens more than once or twice, I don't even have to look to see if it's effective, like a full profile on how the raters rated them on the scale questions. Just if I see that word listens in there, I know that it's the type of leader that we, in our eyes and in our business, would be considered a success, an effective leader, manager. And they're also approachable, that the type of person that when you know this manager, you know their door is open. They're not the type of person that they'll tell you, "Oh, my door is open," but everybody knows it shut, right? It's an approachable leader that people like to be around.

And then third, follows up with action. Okay? You can communicate, you can engage with people all you want and think you're communicating, but if you don't follow up with action based on what was said there, then they just assume you didn't listen in the first place. So, people respect those who follow up.

Then you've got stays calm under pressure. That's a key. I mean, I spent so much of my time coaching leaders because typically, I don't get the really effective ones with a full leadership profile that are the great ones. I typically am brought in when they're really hardcore fear-based, authoritarian, dictator-type, right? And so, they don't stay calm under pressure. They're the ones that are going to lose it quickly, right.

And so, what I look for is I try to change that behavior. I change it back to something that's... I use this thing Eric Berne which is, "I'm OK. You're OK." But it's really transactional analysis. Your people can go Google that, but it talks about communication state. In any given moment, you're communicating as a parent, adult or a child, and a parent is an authoritarian. So, when I go into a plant and I hear, "Oh, they treat us like kids here," I can guarantee you they're operating out of an authoritarian. Okay?

The child then is the one that acts out. It's your emotional state. So, they are typically the ones yelling the loudest, they're agitated. I mean, you know, anybody in manufacturing that's listening to this right now knows what I mean.

Then there's the adult state. The adult state is your rational self., and that's where we have good productive conversations, because if I go up to parent on you and I start getting all in your face and I know better, I'll either push you down to child and you'll react with emotion or you'll go up to a parent, and then we both cross our arms and dig in. But what we do is we try to get everybody to communicate at a calm, rational level. And that's the whole idea around staying calm under pressure, being that person people look to in times of crisis, especially now, right?

And then five, mentors and coaches their people. Anybody knows that the team with the best players wins. Okay? So, why would anybody not want to develop their people? So often you'll hear employees and organizations that are below average in my book, right, and what you'll hear is new people talk about just being thrown into the fire. That doesn't work. You need to work with them, develop them, or get people that can do that for them. You want that person to succeed. Okay?

I love football, my boys all played football, lacrosse and things like that. I'm a Detroit Lions fan, unfortunately, but we have Tom Brady, who was from the University of Michigan that plays or played at the Patriots. Well, the coach, Bill Belichick, everybody always points out... And my son pointed it out one time as well. He said, "Dad, you're in leadership. Isn't it interesting how Bill Belichick always gets the average players, but he makes them great, and they become a great team?" And it's true. Tom Brady was taken like No. 7 in the draft, didn't even know if he'd be drafted. You got all these players because they're always at the top. At the end of the year, they're never, you know, at the beginning of the draft, right? But he's able to take just good players and turn them into a great team. And so, the whole point behind mentors and coaches and as leaders, we often forget to do that. That's the key.

Now you also asked me, "What's the flip side?" The flip side is simple. They don't share information. They hoard it. They never listen. They're not approachable people. They never follow up. You'll hear employees constantly complain, this issue has gone on and on and on and on, you know. They're not the ones to stay calm under pressure. They're the ones you tend to probably duck or squint when you see this person coming. Air probably actually is sucked out of the room when that person comes in. They don't mentor. They throw their people into the frying pan and expect them to rise to the challenge because they've got some type of martyr complex that, "I did all this. I was treated this way."

So, what you have to do is, leaders at any level of the organization, you've got to break that cycle or it continues. Imagine where a supervisor with no leadership development gets their leadership style, they get it probably from somebody that already exists in the plant. And if they're a-holes, then you just created more a-holes. And that's the five that we came up with.

Amanda: Well, that makes sense. So, now that you kind of explained what a good leader is versus what a bad leader looks like, what impact does leadership quality have on an overall organization? Why should manufacturers be concerned with grooming good leaders?

Jay: Oh, I mean, before we went into this crisis, Amanda, turnover was probably the biggest thing. Manufacturers just couldn't keep good people there and they couldn't get people in, and we probably will get back to that. So, this is something they probably want to understand thoroughly now, so they can address it as the economy recovers, right?

And the thing is with millennials, everybody complains about the millennials, right, but they just expect more. That's it. In my day, you start with a firm, I've been with Denison for 20 years now. You know, I was member of the founding team, but I put a lot of emphasis on that. For me, it was just to get in and just become an expert in my field and things like that. Millennials aren't that way. Okay? But more importantly, they will not be disrespected. And now, more than ever, right? They've got social apps. You know, I used to go to the paper and pull up the classifieds. They don't. They go to places like Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, things like that. On Glassdoor, they can not only see your dirty laundry, they can smell it too. Okay? Imagine going in and seeing a poor rating on your company and reading what employees said about you.

I saw one, you know, when I was writing an article earlier this year that said, "Run, don't walk away from this company" and then just went on to lambaste this company. And that means it's out there. It's out there. So, what happens is you are missing potential hires because they read that. Why would you want to go work for that? All you have to do is see 50, 80 bad reviews and that tells you all you need to know. So, leadership now is more important than ever.

The other thing I'll tell them as well is you want to develop a great place. So, you look at Fortune 100 best places to work and you'll look at the Glassdoor 100 places to work. They've actually created indexes, you know, stock market indexes on those, and they've actually... Those organizations have outperformed the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 year after year after year since its inception. So, that tells you, you want to develop your people. You want good managers, period.

Amanda: Right. Well, in line with that then, who should be thinking about that? Who should be thinking about building up leaders and growing people within the organization? Should that just be top-level management or who else should be thinking about this?

Jay: I mean, obvious, that's the obvious, right? If I'm a new CEO or if I'm a CEO that has a struggling company or anything like that, I'm going to be concerned about leadership development. I want to develop my people. If they don't have the budget, I've got a YouTube channel where I do three-minute leadership fitness workouts, and I’ve got things around how to recognize employees, how to communicate effectively, that thing I talked about, what minus why, I do that. You know, some of my friends that have that love that thing. Role conflict, dealing with bad employees, creating accountability, all that type of stuff. If I'm a leader, that's what I want in my workforce. Okay?

But who else? Who else? Plant managers. If you want to develop an effective plant, I'll tell you one thing. Our tagline, how we got our start was through Dan Denison from the University of Michigan, who had done a lot of research looking at culture and financial performance. And over and over again, not just in ours, but everybody out there like us and in academia find that better cultures outperform poor-performing cultures any day of the week. And I can go into an organization, like the one I mentioned with 70 plants, and I can actually tell you...

I actually went in one time and I wanted to tie their data to the safety. I did all the culture data from all 100 or so plants, and I sent the CHRO a question. I said, "Hey, can you send me your safety data and give me your lost time accidents, your LTAs, and your recordables? And I'm going to correlate it with your culture data." And I said, "Just in case you think I might be wasting your time, I've seen your culture data, we've got it ready to report. Here's your three high-performing plants in terms of safety, here are your three lowest." He sent me the data back that night because he said, "Man, you're spot on." Two of the three had zero LTAs over, it was like two years. Two of the three that I've mentioned were actually going into safety audits and one was already in it.

So, you want to focus on culture, then you've got to get there through leadership. So, if I'm a CEO, if I'm a president, if I am an HR person, if I'm the CHRO and I don't have a formal leadership development program, I want to get one going, and there's ways to do it. Like I said, YouTube, like my channel, you got Google, you can Google all sorts of stuff on leadership development. You've got local two-year institutions. You can create your own if you want, and then you've got a whole host of people like Denison. And I mean, I do coaching all the time. There's ways to do it where you can spend a lot, there's ways to do it where you can do it for free, and there's ways to do it where you can blend the two, but the key is to focus on your leadership.

Amanda: Oh, great. Good things for everybody to be keeping in mind. So, then for the individual within an organization who's maybe moving up and gaining more leadership and supervisory responsibility, what should they be doing to adjust to their new role?

Jay: Oh, yeah. And that's a great question. This is what I tell all of the people I coach and it's usually as I'm wrapping it up and that is, become a student of leadership. Just be thirsty for knowledge, go out and seek, okay? Don't just take the status quo. If you have a supervisor that you tend to look to and everybody hates that person, you probably don't want to be mentored by that person. Okay? So, there's ways you can do it. Like I said, going back not to hit the YouTube channel, but it's out there and you've got also Ted Talks, you got all kinds of stuff. You got books, you got magazine articles, you got, you know, places like yours, "Plant Services," which is one of your mags has a lot of great stuff in there and they're all over the place. There's so much more knowledge out there than there ever has been to educate yourself.

So, what I would tell these people is don't just try to do it on your own. There are ways out there where you can become a good leader. And, you know, I'll joke with people. I'd say, "You know, nobody starts their career out wanting to become the world's worst boss and there's not even a coffee mug for that one, right?" They all have the same thing in common. They're great individual contributors. They all were people the company relied on. They found them to be really, really good employees. And that's why they're promoted into a leadership position. And so, they do so because they want them to then help create more people like them, mentoring, right. But also, they've got all different role now. If they've switched from individual contributor to a manager level, and that's a whole different skill set and that's where you want to learn. And like I said, Google can become your best friend. So, that's what I would tell someone for sure.

Amanda: Great. Well, I wanted to ask you about Denison's Leadership Development Survey and I understand that helps leaders manage their development process, but I was curious what Denison has learned about leadership and leadership development from the responses that you've collected over the years and how the survey helps individuals grow, you know, if you have an example.

Jay: Oh, I can do all of that. So, basically, the leadership development survey is based on our culture survey. And the leadership survey has 12 factors that we look at. And it looks at, I'll just say, the four main traits right now which is mission, how well we communicate mission. And it's also not just that. To me, when I'm looking at a individual leader, I'm also looking at how they communicate, set goals, objectives, and things like that, but it's this mission piece. Then consistency, how well did they develop a consistent team that executes over and over and over again. And then involvement, how they engage their people, how they develop them, how they empower them. And then finally, you got adaptability, which means especially right now, right, with COVID-19, how adaptable of a team or organization do you create?

And those are the four key things. Okay? But we also benchmark them against 15,000 other leaders. So, we don't just give a mean score. I actually rank them in a database. So, if I'm looking at how well you empower your people, if you score in the 80th percentile, that means you scored higher than 79% of the other people in the database.

So, what we're doing by doing that is we're washing out any type of variance in the questions and giving leaders good information on an equal level. So, if I'm doing well, let's say on mission, I communicate well. I'm really good at communicating information, but I may be a little weak in terms of how I involve and engage my employees. Meaning, maybe I tend to manage up too much and don't manage down enough. So, what we're doing, the survey is basically helping people to just isolate their strengths and their weaknesses and improve.

Like I said, it's also a part of the whole student of leadership. Really, what the value of the survey is, if you're going to start a journey, you kind of have to know where you're starting from. So, the Denison survey kind of gives you a benchmark of where you're at now, and then where you hope to end up. And so, that's why people tend to gravitate towards the benchmark and the model and things like that is just to get a starting point.

In terms of how people use it, you know, I've got this one guy, he's one of my favorite subjects because he actually, by the time he got done coaching, he was starting to share information and teach me new things or at least cool things that I can use that I actually have coming up in one of my new videos that I'm going to publish next week.

But anyways, this guy, his name is Mike, man, and he was like one of the worst possible leaders. He had worked with this organization for like 29 years and unbeknownst to him, he thought he was going to be the next plant manager, when, in fact, they were going to probably let him go because he was one of those guys that actually chose the wrong mentor that everybody hated. So, he learned a lot of bad habits. But the good thing about the organization was they cared a lot about the guy and they were dedicated because he had been dedicated to them.

So, he comes to me initially, with some really bad, bad scores. And the good thing about the tool is it creates a sense of awareness. He was blindsided by them. And if you've got those types of leaders that scare people away or they bully, and your listeners probably know exactly what I'm talking about, but when they see these results, it's a huge, huge eyeopener for them and it really gets their attention. And at that moment, at that moment, they're in a very vulnerable state and that's where I get them. You know what I mean? That's where I get them.

And you know, when I sit down and talk to them, I often will, I won't ask them, "How do you feel you're doing at work?" because they're so guarded and they have these walls set up because they’re tough people. What I actually do is I say, "How do you feel when you go home at night?" And then often, I'll get an emotional response because what I've done is I catch them off guard. They weren't expecting that question. And then suddenly, memories or thoughts of maybe divorces or the anger that they bring back with them. And then I get them in a really vulnerable state.

I also, then at that point, teach them that whole thing I was talking about earlier, transactional analysis and just tell them, "There's new ways to lead, man. You're leading out of the 1950s." You know, I don't say it like that... Well, no I do. I say it like that. "You're leading out of the 1950s. Okay? We got to change. This is how people react and they don't react well to you."

So, what we do is we get them on that adult self, that rational self, and I get them to stay that way for a month until our next coaching session. And if I can get them there, then the next month I always ask them, "How did it work? How do you feel now?" And this Mike guy, he tells me, "Yeah." He goes, "It's weird. Everybody thinks that I had gone to the doctor and might possibly be sick because they think I'm atoning for my sins and that's why I'm so nice. And Oh yeah, they also now call me new Mike." That's great, and I'll tell him and reinforce it, "Stick with it." And then I teach him some new things to go forward. It might be, more into communication, we might get deeper into employee recognition.

And then the second month, you know, how's it going? And, of course, Mike comes back, “they still call me new Mike." I'm like, "Well, what's one of your biggest concern? What do we need to autocorrect?" He's like, "I'm just worried that old Mike might come back." And it's like, "Don't worry about it. It takes 21 days to develop a habit, and I just get you through the first 60. So, you're good. You're good to go."

But something like that, I think the big thing there, if your listeners are thinking about people that they may have in their organization or might be close to being like that, just remember people can change. They just don't know they need to change, and they don't know there's something else out there. And it's important to let them know. They may get a little defensive at first, but if you attach something meaningful to it, a sense of urgency of why they need to change, they'll change.

And a lot of times, like I said, I don't have the luxury of always coaching these high-performing leaders. Most of mine are really people that need to change or they don't want to take a chance on it. They're just now new supervisors. So, they bring me in, right. And so, you know, when I see these people, they're very, very open. You'd be surprised. They really are thankful to get that kind of information.

And what's interesting is a lot of times when I hear execs that we're coaching, a lot of them will actually say, "I wish I would have had this when I was just starting out, when I really needed it." Because most of the people as they make their way up, have already developed a pretty decent style. That's why they made it to where they're at. And that's a good point, and I'm not sure why organizations don't do that.

Amanda: Well, and you mentioned that the leadership development survey is a part of your culture survey. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about that and what you have noticed in those responses, how maybe they've changed over time in what is considered a good culture or a bad culture? Any key points from that that you may not have mentioned?

Jay: That's a great question, and I don't necessarily think we're seeing things in terms of a culture because our culture is simple. Build the mission, you have to really promote that mission and getting people fired up, the consistency, the involvement, the adaptability, that really doesn't change much over time. Other things that are in play that good and bad cultures like diversities, in terms of not only ethnic diversity but also gender diversity in manufacturing, right? Those are big issues right now, but it doesn't need to show up as a question in our culture model, right? We have modules for that, but what you find is high-performing cultures tend to be very good just naturally. They promote based on skill, not color of skin or gender or things like that. If there's people that have hang-ups around that, you don't want to work for that organization, right? It'll show up in their culture model.

So, to me, you know, what's changed is just more of the emphasis on it. Okay? When we first started this thing back in 1998, you'd walk in, I'm not going to say the name of the company, but we were in the room with a very large, large manufacturing organization and we're about ready to talk about their culture results. And one of the executives leans back in his chair and says, "You know what, I swear to God, every time I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver." I'm thinking, "Oh, yikes." But people back then, I mean, we're talking 20-plus years ago, we had a hard sell. It was becoming an easier sell, but what happened was, it was a soft topic, right, hard to get your head around.

And then, of course, you had the challenger, you had Enron and you get Firestone all of these things. Now, not at the same time, the challenge or after they did all of the research that came back to a culture of fear. When you looked at Enron that had a culture of ethics, and then you had Firestone, it came down to a culture of fear and labor disputes in Illinois. They brought down companies, man. They ruin relationships. All of that stuff was over and over and over again, culture, culture, culture. So, what I've seen is I literally have watched the whole HR field change, right, because we're always working with the execs but then if it's time to do a survey, they shoot you over to human resources.

So, I watched it where HR was always complaining, because I look at their trade bags too, right? And they're always complaining that they never had a seat at the table. Nobody took them seriously. Well, that's maybe something they did to themselves. I don't know. But then, as you watched, suddenly, they became VPs more and more. And then had also another unique thing is when I watched the HR, if the top HR exec reported the CFO, they probably had a bad culture because the CEO just didn't want anything to do with them, but if they reported directly to the CEO and were high-level and had a seat at the table, usually, men, it was a good engaged people type of environment.

So, then it went from SVP, VP. Suddenly, CHRO started to become a term. And then you started seeing people officers, you saw culture officers, all of these things. So, what I've just seen is the importance of culture has become huge in organizations to the point where when we go in, there's no longer anybody rolling their eyes or falling asleep. It usually becomes a very important piece of their annual initiatives, which would be their culture survey and things like that. And it's cool. It's fun to see that. It's amazing. Twenty years of doing this and then now, to see where we're at today.

And like I said, Amanda, earlier, everybody talks about bouncing back from COVID-19 and there's so many cool things that organizations have done that, like I said, bounce forward. So, if you've done a good job communicating through this crisis, use that as a way to communicate in the future. That's the level employees like. You know, in terms of how you felt about your employees truly value.

Like Southwest Airlines has a statement in their annual report that they've used year after year and they've been profitable since the dawn of time for airlines, but it says, "We're a company of people, not planes," which is cool because they understand they buy the same planes as their competitors, but they choose to compete with you based on their experience and their people, the people and their experience and things like that, right? They're gonna beat you from point A to point B based on their people. That's cool.

So, all of these types of things about caring, communicating, and then, like I said, connecting, working together toward a common goal or really to save the company. Those are all really cool things that if I'm a listener today and I'm a leader, I'm taking note of a lot of this stuff and using it as I bounce forward.

Amanda: Well, great, great. That was really interesting. And it's really, I think, heartening to hear that there are so many companies that are taking the right steps and recognizing their people and putting people first during these experiences and obviously, we want to keep on growing our leaders despite the pandemic. So, I think this whole conversation was really valuable and hopefully, our listeners thought so as well.

Jay: Yeah, I hope so. You know, I'm a silver lining guy. And so, I always look at what are the positives? I mean, there's obviously a lot of negatives, but man, I think everybody's sick of that. So, we're are looking for hopeful things and I tell you, a lot of leaders really stepped it up all over the board. I really honestly believe even the average leaders were really stepping it up and we'll see how it shapes out, right? At the end of all this, we're gonna know who's still around and who's not, who's on the street and who's employed. And that'll probably tell us. And I'll bet money. You might feel that it would be the leadership that either saved the day or lost the company.

Amanda: Wow. Well, thank you so much for calling in and talking to me today and sharing all of this with our listeners, and we'll be sure to add a link to that YouTube channel to the podcast description for anybody who wants to check out your tutorials and workshops and stuff there.

Jay: Sounds great. Amanda, this is a lot of fun. It was fun talking with you and I hope people can get a lot out of this. I love what I do, I'm very passionate. So, thank you for having me on today.

Amanda: Thanks again, Jay, and thank you to our listeners for tuning in today. As always, be sure to like and subscribe to Manufacturing Tomorrow's Workforce on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or your favorite podcasting app. Also, join the conversation on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Until next time, stay safe. 

For more, tune in to the Manufacturing Tomorrow's Workforce podcast.

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