[Post by Chuck Krugh, September 9, 2022]
Two weeks ago, I wrote that there are three things that make a company stand apart from its competition and in the eyes of its customer: leadership, process discipline and can-do attitude.
I would like to explore what these are and what they mean for our efforts here at BIW. Let’s look at effective leadership first.
Effective leadership goes way beyond giving directions. Effective leaders give their team the support it needs to be successful by using two critical skills: listening and following up. All too often, leaders think they need to speak or give direction to be effective. But by listening and following up, it forces you to engage your team. That engagement, also known as a relationship, is how effective leaders influence their team to make it happen.
Leaders who communicate get more involvement with their team. By listening, taking the time to really understand a person’s concerns, leaders support their team but also identify problems that need to be solved. Solving the problems identified clears the roadblocks in front of our team so they can go faster, complete more work and feel accomplished with their daily work. Clearing the path in front of our team will help us claw back our late schedule condition.
Good communication also helps create a positive environment. When people are listened to, they take more ownership and pride in what they do. Creating a positive environment has many more benefits like teamwork, higher productivity, increased retention and job satisfaction—just to name a few. A leader has a major effect on the team each day. Leaders who are consistently communicating well provide a pathway for their team to enjoy the benefits of a positive environment.
The second and, I believe, the most fundamental and important responsibility of being an effective leader is following up. How many times have you asked a question and never heard back an answer? It’s one of my pet peeves because I hate not getting an answer—or worse, not getting an answer when someone tells me that he or she will get me one. To me, it’s a sign of respect to answer a question. It’s like I said at the all hands meeting, I’ll answer a question if I can, if I can’t, I will tell you I can’t and why.
But following up goes beyond the question and answers noted above. When leaders follow up, they are doing several critical things. First, following up completes the communication cycle. When you listened and provided an answer that satisfies the other person, communication happened. Second, and maybe most important, it creates the foundational elements of accountability.
Effective leaders are supportive of their team. They are solving problems that block team performance. They are making sure that their team does what it is supposed to do. It creates accountability. Follow-up also demonstrates that the leader is listening and responsive, and that builds credibility, which is a cornerstone of trust.
President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works
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