Continuous Improvement, Motivation

To lead your team so they can led you

It happens time after time, I feel down and our employees cheer me up!

As leaders, we are responsible for the lives of our employees but yet many of us don’t understand that important piece of our job.  When I started to work as a team leader, my father told me a couple of rules that he always followed himself.  His first rule was to always respect the people, never ask them to do something you are not willing to do yourself.  The second rule was to never forget that you are responsible for them, their security, their learning and their success.

Over the years I kept these rules as my north, nothing like practice to learn day by day how to be a better leader.  Through the years I learned that employees look up to their supervisors until they don’t.  When the supervisor show no respect or care, people stop respecting them and after that their committment and motivation are gone too.

I make a conscious effort every day to respect. lead, motivate, develop, recognize the good, teach the right way and never get complacent using continuous improvement as the road map to success.  Some days are better than others, but something of this is working because I have seen many of my employees to grow up to become great leaders.  I can tell the difference between employees that enjoy their jobs and those who do not.  When you find those employees on your way, their passion and attitude towards their work cheer you up.

Our job as leaders is to exercise our responsibility and keep working to positively affect the lives of our employees.  Motivation, positivism and committment are contagious, let’s spread it!

Motivation, Workplace

Is it better together?

“The running thread through my career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better,” President Obama

Do you remember when you were a child and your parents ask you to clean your room?  Not that you wanted to do it but if you had to do it anyway you wanted to do it your way.  But you mother insisted in telling you where you have to store every action figure, every puzzle, every little thing you have.  After a short but intense struggle you end up doing what she said.

When we are trying to improve a process, most of the time we feel the urgency to jump straight to the answer without even asking what happen.  That same urgency push us to tell people what we think has to be done without asking for their input.  Imposing ideas in the work place is never a good way to improve the process much less the work environment.  It is just like the children following his mother’s instructions with reluctance, not a single intention of make it work.

A visit to the gemba is never complete without interaction with the employees. Observation of the process is critical but when the time comes to ask for why’s, do not ask yourself or other managers, ask the person(s) doing that process.  Even if the answer is obvious, you need to engage the employees by asking with respect, guiding them through the root cause analysis process.  Allow them the chance to express their ideas and proof them right.  If they were wrong, still there is a learning process.  Take the learn lessons with you and guide them through a start over.

The more people participate from this process, more and better ideas will come through and together we will change things for the better.  That is the spirit of a problem solving people focused workplace.



Ready, Set, Go!

Last week I read the post Leadership Lesson: Tim Noonan by Bob Chapman.  Noonan’s motto “Think big. Start small. Start”  stuck on my head.  Sometimes we are too afraid to think big, even to dream big and that is the first hurdle against us and our true desires or goals.

During the last 16 days I’ve been amazed by the dedication and sacrifices or athletes around the world who has a golden dream, get a medal.  There are a couple of histories that are  very near and dear to my heart because the main characters are people from my country, Puerto Rico.

As a nation we knew in a matter of days two opposite sides of a journey, the awesomeness of the triumph and the pain of the defeat.   Monica Puig won the first olympic gold medal ever for Puerto Rico.  The 22 year-old tennis player began the year ranked 92nd and is currently ranked 34 in the world by the WTA. Nobody expected Monica to win the gold, she was unseeded, but she did by taken care on her Rio Olympics journey of players ranked number 19, 4, 32, 14 and finally number 2.  As a teenager she dreamed about playing professional tennis and win a olympic medal for her country.  Think big, Start Small, Start!

Javier Culson is a Puerto Rican athlete and London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist who specialises in the 400 meter hurdles.  Javier is a two times World Championships Silver medallist and participate in the IAAF Diamond League, an annual series of track and field meetings.  It was a very real expectation to see him on the Rio 2016 podium but his  Olympic dream of hurdles ended in the most crushing way possible, disqualified in the finals due to a false start.  Javier also dreamed big, he wanted his second olympic medal.

Every journey has its setbacks, times when you feel defeated, the game over thoughts.  I think this is the part where the start takes more sense.  All of us start small, the first step after having the courage of go for your dream is not a problem.  The problem comes after that, when you have to play against all odds, when looks like you take one step forward and two steps back.  My two fellow Puerto Ricans, Monica and Javier they dreamed big and had the courage to go for it, started their journey and along the way both fell, Monica passed that hurdle and won the gold, Javier had a heartbreaking setback but that only means that he is still a few steps shy of his Gold Medal, which can come disguised as something else.  He is now on the Start phase.

Ready to think big, Set-start small, Start-Go!.

Motivation, Training Program

How we trained our employees for new jobs?

Years ago I was working with inevitable changes in our manpower.  After a revision in our business plan the entire operation was going to change requiring less manpower.  A very generous retirement plan took care of most of the extra employees under the new operation scheme.  The challenge for me was to choose what job the remaining group would have.  After a life doing a manual job that will no longer exist, these people (90% of them women) whose age was between 50 and 60 years will have to learn to do something else.

All the available jobs required to operate a machine that runs at speeds between 150 to 400 units per minute.  It was not only to feed the machine but also to be able to control the settings to comply with quality requirements, clean the machine and assist maintenance with troubleshooting and minor adjustments.

Most of these ladies were really afraid about what would be their new job.  Assigning jobs and provide appropriate training was a critical task which required to show respect towards these persons.  I interview every one of them to hear their concerns, fears and expectations regarding their new jobs.  The real intention of these interviews was to have a one to one meeting to clarify doubts, ask if they had any preference regarding what machine they would like to work with and assure them that we will train and support them every step of the way. With the information gathered during the interviews, their training records verification and skills assessment, the supervisors that work with them before and their new supervisors help me to choose the machine they would be assigned to.

We created visual work instructions for every task and every machine, design theoretical and hands on trainings, and use all these material to teach them.  We also used a buddy system to ensure that every new operator was with a more experienced operator 100% of the time during at least one week.  The shift supervisors help me to assess their job and we scheduled some additional to some individuals based on the results.

The journey was stressful at times, difficult at others and challenging all the time but at the end it worth it.  This group of operators learn at their own pace, they grew up to be an excellent group and some of them even become trainers for new comers.  Their smiles and how good they feel about themself for all their accomplishments during that time it is for ever one of my personal favorite stories.