Wednesday, June 28, 2017 / Perth Australia / By Niekie Jooste
In this edition of "The WelderDestiny Compass":
Just looking at technical welding issues can become a bit boring, so to mix it up a bit, we will take a look at one of the most important factors for success in any organisation, from the one man business, to the multi-national corporation. That factor is leadership.
Many books have been written on the subject of leadership. I have certainly read quite a few. While each one will teach you something, most will just use a lot of words, and make long lists of the important characteristics of a leader. After a few weeks I forgot most of what was written in those books.
One book does however stand out to me in its simplicity and intuitive approach to leadership. That book is "The One Minute Manager" by Kenneth Blanchard. The name of the book initially put me off, but the contents made a lot of sense to me. Since reading The One Minute Manager, I have always remembered the three basic aspects of leadership explained there.
For us as technical types, a simple distillation of leadership is not only useful, it is essential. We cannot be experts in everything, so we just want the basic concepts that will help us, without confusing the issue.
Leadership as a skill is important for all of us, even if we are not a professional manager. This is especially true for a future where many of us will end up being solopreneurs.
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Now let's get stuck into this week’s topics...
The first aspect of leadership is to let people know why their work is important. This should not be difficult, because if someone's work is not important, they should not be doing it in the first place!
Often people do incomplete work, or do not pay attention to important details. We could just write this off to some personality flaw of the person, or we could recognise that many people just do not understand the implications of getting their work wrong. They are not motivated to do it right, because they themselves think that their work is unimportant.
Are you a welder? What would happen if the weld you made in that pipeline failed? Could somebody lose their life? Could your company loose a lot of money? Are you an engineers? What if you missed something that you should have taken into account when designing a critical structure? Are you a welding inspector? What if you missed a clue that a weld was not done right, and could fail during production?
Regardless of what your job is, there are many reasons why it is important to your company, or to people that may use the product your team is making.
As a leader, it is your job to make sure that people know why their work is important.
This second point is about empowerment.
Nobody works in a vacuum. We all need training, financial and material resources to make our jobs a success. Organisations often send the wrong signals to employees regarding where they spend their time and money, and where they do not spend their time and money.
The idea here is not necessarily that throwing money or resources at a problem will make it all well again. Often low cost support for people can make a huge difference in their ability to do their jobs well. What is important is to identify what support people need to do their jobs well, and then making sure that they get that support.
As a leader, understanding what your people need to do their jobs well, and then providing that support, is critical to not only their success, but yours as well.
The third leadership point is all about feedback and encouragement.
People need to know if their work is right or not. Giving feedback that is not linked to financial reward or punishment is therefore important. While negative feedback is difficult, it can be voiced in such a way that it leads to a better outcome for the leader and the worker. It is much worse if unmet expectations are not voiced.
Obviously this feedback is not just about negative feedback. If the person is doing a good job, then they should be told that their efforts are appreciated, and the necessary recognition given. This recognition does not need to be financial. It can just as easily be in the form of verbal feedback. The proverbial "pat on the back".
A final point that is worth making is that none of the three factors mentioned are personality based. While some people naturally have charismatic personalities, which makes their leadership efforts more powerful, we all know some leaders with rather abrasive personalities, that somehow still earn our trust and respect.
While a positive approach to leadership will generally be more successful than a negative approach, the three points given above can be put into practice by anybody, regardless of their personality. None of us has an excuse.
Yours in welding
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