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Low Hanging Fruit And Highly Placed VegetablesRipe or Rotten Leadership
By Tom Fehlman
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Tom Fehlman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSeeds of Leadership
Leadership Defines Who You Are; Not What You Do!!
I have assessed over 7000 participants for all types of leadership positions, and I have taught thousands of participants in leadership skills and practices, including combined sessions of supervisors and shop stewards. I am absolutely and firmly convinced that becoming a leader is "A Calling", rather than the next "rung on the ladder". Good leaders are passionate about what they do and who they do it with. If you are engaged in an interview for some type of leadership position, and the question is asked "Why do you want to be a leader?" what will the answer be?
Is it simply the next step in a pre-determined career path? Is there pressure from home to make more money? Is there a high need for power and control? Do you do things to make other people successful, or do you do it for selfish reasons? I follow up this question with another one: "What have you done to prepare yourself for a leadership position?
More often than not the reaction to this question is dead silence. If you were hiring for a leadership position, without factoring in past task achievements, would you hire someone who has done nothing to prepare for the position? Yet we hire these folks every day for the wrong reasons, only to come back later with wonderment and surprise that they didn't turn out so well.
My dad was a master toolgrinder for the Bendix Corporation, who at the time made air brakes for many and various industries. He loved what he did, and he was a master at it. Many times management came to him and asked him to take a supervisor job. Every time he turned them down. He had found his calling. He loved to work with his hands. He was challenged in grinding tools down to impossible dimensions. The only power and control he needed was that job sitting squarely in front of him.
Passion brings about pride, and he had plenty of both when he talked about his job. From my point of view he didn't make enough money. There were many times we struggled through union strikes and layoffs, which would not have affected him and my family if he had chosen to become part of management. Although he had to belong to a union, he certainly did not love the union, and most certainly did not overall benefit from his membership with the union.
When he went on strikes, he had to take menial and often very physical jobs that would have challenged many people much younger than he, simply to keep food on the table. One of the reasons I engage in union avoidance work from time to time is because of what the union did to my dad and my family. But I never heard him complain; because these were simply trials and tribulations he and we had to go through in order for him to get back to what he loved to do- grind tools down to impossible tolerances.
Looking back on those days, so many years later, I deeply regret that I was not much more supportive of who he was, and what he loved. Like many of you, I had to work through high school and college to make enough money to go to college, because there was no money from my parents to help me along. I resented the fact that I had to load trucks during the week and weekends, rather than going to ballgames and parties with my friends.
I never asked for money, because I knew there wasn't any, and there were times I resented the hell out of my situation. Now I wish I could go back and tell him how much I respect his calling and his passion. His work defined his personal value system. It is somewhat ironic that we often pass on to our children and employees both good and bad attributes by accident, and not by design.
It's certainly possible and maybe even probable that you do not feel driven to be a leader. In my simplistic world there are many reasons you shouldn't be a leader, and only a few why you should. But those few reasons why you should are non-negotiable. My sentries are always on alert for people who want to become leaders for the wrong reasons. I look for, enjoy and admire all the true professionals in all walks of life I encounter every day. I encounter floor sweepers who have elevated floor sweeping into an art form.
I encounter bar tenders who love what they do, and at times I may even get "over-served" by them. I run into machine operators who leave their machines when I enter their workspace, and politely remind me they require ear protection in their work areas. I work with sales people who love the "thrill of the chase" as they describe it. Leadership in its purest form is truly a calling. It defines who you are or are striving to be and, who and what you care for.
True professionals and "Masters" of any profession are first measured "Around Their Heart". You should never see descriptors such as "drive, commitment, loyalty, or enthusiasm" in a written job description. I can be committed for instance, but not show observable enthusiasm. So which one is more important? Behaviors are hard to qualify and consistently measure. If you don't get up every morning excited about the possibilities and challenges that a new day brings, you are in the wrong job. I can't measure it, but I will know if you got it. That's a free lesson you can thank my old man for.
And a Young Child Shall Lead Them
Recently I received the highest form of recognition that in my world is possible to obtain. I wasn't consciously trying to get it, and I'm not sure I'm worthy of it. My granddaughter Peyton, with whom I have had almost daily contact since she was born, achieved a significant milestone in her young life of twelve years.
She was selected by her teachers to attend the National Young Leaders Conference (NYLC) being held in Washington, D.C. For a full week she attended conferences with Congressional leaders, visited famous landmarks, and participated daily in leadership workshops with other kids from around the country. For the first time in her life she was in the total control of folks other than family members. Parents and grandparents were not allowed even visitation rights during the week. Interesting that no contact seemed to concern the rest of us a great deal more than it concerned her.
I thought ... "That's not about to happen". So I made arrangements to take her to D.C., and let her know I would be in the general area if she needed us in an emergency. I would be out of sight and probably out of mind, but at least I could get to her quickly if she needed me. Unbeknownst to me, she had to submit an essay on leadership to the conference before she attended. She had to do this without any help, ideas or suggestions from others. Peyton's mother thought I would find the final product interesting reading. I pass it on in hopes you will also. The sentence structure is not perfect, but not bad for a twelve year old. You'll get the idea. The essay is as follows:
What It Takes to be a Leader
Leader, the dictionary says that this word means a person or thing that leads, as simple as that, but this does not include what it takes to lead. It's not just leading that makes you a leader it is your skills and even your attributes. It is how you react to situations and how you make decisions.
Well, my role model is someone who knows leadership very well and is and has to be a leader everyday because his job is to teach leadership and management skills to business owners and managers. He is my grandfather. But his job is not what makes him a leader to me, it is personality, the way when he makes a promise he never breaks it, his kindness, his jokes, and even his sternness. He makes decisions that may not be the best for the present but will come out perfect in the long run.
For example this summer we had planned on going to Canada to visit his family but he gave that up so I could have the once in a lifetime experience to come here, to JrNYLC. Of course we all know that a good leader can't always be nice. He is not shy to tell when I'm doing something wrong or something that I shouldn't be.
So based on my grandfather my definition of a leader is ...
Leader: A loving person with good decision making skills, a person who knows right from wrong and is not afraid to tell you what you are doing wrong and how to do it right. A person with care and honesty. A person like my grandfather.
I hope and pray that she never finds out that I'm not that good. She'll probably figure it out when she reads this book. The first thing that struck me when I read Peyton's essay was "Wow, I'm pretty damn good". The second thing I thought about is that I hoped she was talking about me and not her other grandfather. The next thought to hit me was how proud I was of my precious granddaughter.
The reason why her essay is in this book is that, upon reflection this child of twelve years has captured in such beautiful and concise terms what a leader is and what a leader does. She doesn't have her MBA (but she just received her grade school diploma). She has yet to attend one of my workshops since I occasionally use "colorful" language and exhibit irrational passion about the points I'm trying to make.
She has never read a Covey or Drucker book about leadership. Possibly I've unintentionally given to her what my dad gave to me. Frankly, it appears to me we may all end up reading a book on leadership she writes some day.
Bosses need submissive people who will obey without question. Managers need titles for recognition and validation. True leaders don't have to try to get peoples' attention through artificial means or management "techniques". They just have it. More importantly, they serve as examples and models for those who would follow them in leadership roles.
Why Now? Why Not
There is nothing new here. If this was rocket science, I sure wouldn't be writing about it. That's really the point. Everybody is looking for the panacea, the gimmick, the "cure all" of all the leadership woes that abound. Some training organizations and management authors have figured out that if they can find a unique twist, like renaming a rock as a "hard substance", they can actually fool people into thinking they've discovered something new.
More importantly, so-called decision makers are willing to spend a lot of money for this new "hard substance" when they already have a bunch of rocks sitting in storage they've never used. Go in the storage room and look at your rock collections gathering dust. Juran, Deming, Quality Circles, TPM (Total Process Management) SPC (Statistical Process Control) and countless other iterations are becoming distant memories. Six Sigma and Synchronous Flow are the new buzzwords.
Behavior Modification has become Interactive Management. Participative Management techniques have become 7 Habits. And so on and so on. The truth is, we don't stick to anything long enough to make it habit-forming. But from hope springs eternal complacency. There's another shrink-wrapped cure right around the corner.
If my thoughts appear somewhat sarcastic, they are meant to be. My observations are meant to provoke, not offend. However, you may need to read between the lines to really get the message. My experiences are meant to initiate autopsies on what we've done and what we're doing. Why do baseball teams go to spring training? The boys and girls of spring practice their fundamentals.
Why do organizations continue to push on into more complex and sophisticated programs when they don't even know what the fundamentals are, let alone practice them? The "Here's Your Halos" included in this book contain many of the false hopes and expectations we've been feeding the workforce for lo these many years. Look on the shelves in the backroom and count the number of programs and initiatives that are simply iterations of the same theme. We shouldn't be shocked as leaders to know that the people we lead understand that the next "flavor of the month" will still taste like garbage. If they are patient this too shall pass, only to be replaced by more garbage.
I write like I talk and teach. So if you don't like this book- you are probably only one of many thousands of potential clients who have never hired me, and maybe never will. But that's okay, because there's a chance I couldn't work for you anyway. I'm not cynical, I'm knowledgeable-there's a difference. This book challenges people, places and things because managers, department heads, supervisors and owners pretending to be leaders are high risk to subordinates like my kids now old enough to enter the workforce. I'm taking it personally.
To get benefit from this book you must be open to critique, be driven to improve, embrace change, accept and even seek risks, and have a somewhat perverse sense of humor. I understand and embrace many of your management objectives. But if you don't balance your management objectives with leadership skills, I just don't want you filling up cemeteries with good or high potential employees in achieving them. If you don't enjoy the book, then possibly we both have wasted some valuable time. You also might be one of the people I don't want my kids working for.
Chapter TwoLeading the Roger Milliken Way
Picking the Fruit
The roots of my frustration probably started in the early 70's with personal experience on how committed leadership can run organizations, in of all places a dirty old cotton mill in Spartanburg, South Carolina. My first employer in the private sector- a somewhat secretive organization at the time called Deering Milliken (now simply Milliken) taught me many lessons about commitment and leadership.
Having worked on a swing shift in a cotton mill thirty five years ago taught me lessons you can't learn in a leadership lab at some university, or even observe it as an outside consultant. Those lessons, built upon over the years, enable me to Tell You What I Know, not What I Think.
Milliken's roots date back to 1865 when Seth Milliken and William Deering founded Deering Milliken Company, a small woolen fabrics company in Portland, Maine. Deering soon left to start his own company. You may have heard of it- John Deere.
Since Milliken has been a closely held private company since then, many of you may not be familiar with Roger Milliken, or what his company has achieved over the years. Milliken presently is ranked #16 in Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For. The company has over 1,900 patents for 36,000 different fabrics, yarn and chemical products. It is one of the only U.S. companies to achieve both the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award and the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance TPM Excellence Award.
It has the largest textile research center in the world, and management associates average 75 hours annually of extra educational training. Milliken University is internationally recognized as one of the most demanding training programs available. I've been to a lot of places and done many things with many companies since my tenure with Roger Milliken, but I remain fiercely proud of my experience as a cotton mill "Lint Head". And I wouldn't trade my cotton mill experiences for any others I can think of.
Many years ago, when Roger addressed me as part of a group of new hires, he said "As a new manager I don't expect you to give any orders to anyone for the first thirty days, unless you absolutely have to. Listen to your people, and ask them what to do". That advice was so wisely simple, I wrote it down. For me, that's advice that has stood the test of time, and contributed immensely to whatever success I've had in the leadership game.
When I go into an organization to straighten out management issues, the first people I talk to are the employees. They talk a different language, and they're holding onto the "organizational elephant" in an entirely different place than management is.
Back in the day there was no middle emotional ground if you worked for Milliken. Cotton Mill work back then was not for the "faint of heart". You either loved it or hated it. If you were in operations, you worked a forty-eight hour swing shift. If you were staff, you were still expected to put in a scheduled forty-eight hours.
Rewards were plentiful but punishment was swift and harsh if you couldn't "cut it". Labor disputes were occasionally "settled" out in the parking lot. You got respect from your employees only when you proved yourself worthy of it; not because someone had given you a fancy title like Manager.
As part of the labor force, your daddy and/or mama probably worked in the same mill doing the same job you had, and your work heritage could probably be traced back through several generations at the same location. To this day the old "mill village" concept of support and family remains alive and well. Even though for the most part old mill villages had long ago disappeared, the long held attitudes about "work family" and "going through it together" are still spiritual mantras that most folks in cotton mill country adhere to.
Excerpted from Low Hanging Fruit And Highly Placed Vegetables by Tom Fehlman Copyright © 2011 by Tom Fehlman. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsEdited Rhonda Frith-Lyons....................iii
Forward Is Forearmed....................xi
Chapter 1: Seeds of Leadership....................1
Chapter 2: Leading the Roger Milliken Way....................9
Chapter 3: What We Have Here is a Failure to Commune....................17
Chapter 4: Leaders Are Born, Not Bred....................23
Chapter 5: Training is Important....................29
Chapter 6: Six Sigma....................37
Chapter 7: Change You Before You Change Them....................43
Chapter 8: Our Processes are Engineered to Standard....................49
Chapter 9: Lead, Follow or Change Your Pants....................55
Chapter 10: People Are Our Most Valuable Assets....................61
Chapter 11: Minds Over Matters....................69
Chapter 12: The Buck Stops Here....................73
Chapter 13: Caught In The Headlights....................79
Chapter 14: Colorless, Odorless, Tasteless....................89
Chapter 15: Followership....................97
Chapter 16: You Are SOL....................103
Chapter 17: Here's Your Halo....................111