During my time on-site I saw a number of issues that caused me to realize the majority of their problems were caused by trying to manage people as though each person was from the same mold. Leadership principles were not present.
At the end of my review, I offered a number of recommendations and in Part 1, I wrote about responsibility and communicating (feedback). In this article, I will discuss two more issues and give you my thoughts on why they are important.
Because the distribution center was fairly large, they owned a large piece of property, but not all of it was directly connected to the center itself. Across the road a scattering of buildings was visible. These buildings were used mainly for storage of shipping supplies and shipping equipment that was either broken or not used.
On one tour of the facility I ventured over to this lot and drove around the buildings. Going around one I saw a huge stack of wooden pallets. There was a guy on a forklift piling more pallets on the already huge stacks, and I asked him “What is this?”
He looked at me like I was not all there and replied, “It’s our pallet storage area.”
“What do you do with them?” I asked.
“Nothing. I just stack them,” he replied
“Don’t you try to reuse them or find some other business that could use them?” I asked.
“Nope. We just stack them, and when we get too many, we load them on a big trailer and take them to the dump,” he said.
Later that day, I was discussing my findings with key managers and asked about the pallet yard. They looked at each other as if I had said a bad word. Finally, the operations vice president said he knew about the stack but didn’t consider it a problem.
Note: Before I met with them, I called several businesses that used pallets and learned that they were expensive and could be reused.
I mentioned that I thought they were missing out on getting additional revenue and could sell these pallets at a considerable profit.
The operations manager told me he had been told by one of the supervisors that they should find a buyer for the pallets rather than stacking and disposing of them. Further, he told me that he thought about it but didn’t think it was worth the effort.
I said this is a mistake and a good example of applying management techniques rather than exercising leadership. Regarding the latter, it would have been easy to tell the supervisor to do some research and report back. The principle I am pointing to is “Encourage Innovation.”
If you turn your people loose, you will be surprised and will reap the benefits of their thinking and actions.
A second issue I discovered was there was no “recognition system” in place. Good deeds were rarely recognized, but bad actions were always announced.
For those of you who read my first article, I quoted a former inspector general of the Army who said, “Go out and catch people doing something RIGHT and then make a big deal of it.”
The USA, more than any other country, believes strongly in recognition. One of our core values is to recognize good actions. Many of our institutions built their programs on recognition such as the scout programs (merit badges), military (medals and awards), sports (ribbons and trophies), etc.
In each, we reward a person for doing something right or at least trying (Special Olympics).
I told the managers that when I was leading the Army commissaries (grocery chain), I tried daily to write and send five “thank you” notes to deserving employees. I was always amazed that when I visited a store, an employee who received one of my notes would have it framed and hung next to his/her place of work.
Recognition is a powerful motivator, and all businesses, regardless of size, should have a reward system in place. Recognition does not always mean giving money. The act of showing that you appreciate and care about them as people and not just employees is a strong and positive statement.
Think leadership when dealing with people and management when dealing with running the business. There are real differences.
(Source: St. Arnaud, Chuck (2011, July 20). Chuck St. Arnaud discusses leadership in the workplace. Savannah Morning News. Retrieved from http://savannahnow.com/exchange/2011-07-20/chuck-st-arnaud-discusses-leadership-workplace)