The Pain: I coached Sales Director, Marketing Director, and Quality Assurance Director who was effectively also the Plant Manager. Quality had been on the decline causing returned medical products and loss of confidence of customers. Plant employee morale was on the decline resulting in higher rates of injury and dissatisfaction regarding the job and the company.
What I Did: After initial coaching intakes, I worked with the Sales Director who established achievable goals, the Marketing Director who had exterior dealings with another company and eventually decided to leave, and the Quality Assurance Director/Plant Manager who created effective communication goals that seemed were realized rather quickly. I had him focus on developing effective relationships with the plant employees and his wife and kids.
Result: The work done by the Sales Director resulted in a 10% increase of sales which happened concurrently with changes in the plant. The Marketing Director resigned and was not replaced. My work with Director of Quality with his communication style created a huge shift in morale in the employees and my client which resulted in a fairly quick reduction in the level of quality incidents and returns resulting in satisfied customers, and a large reduction in injuries which reduced workmen’s compensation claims and altered morale of the plant employees and also had a major benefit in his relationship with his wife and children.
I’ll now focus on the Director of Quality, Jim, who was working internally on communication effectiveness with employees and externally on improved communication with his wife and kids.
Jim’s job was to run manufacturing and assure high quality and low injury rates. Currently, results were going in the opposite direction. High return rates of the precision tools shipped to customers and high rates of injury to employees that also resulted in low morale and growing absenteeism.
We started to focus on the plant issues: High returns of precision tools, rising rates of injury to employees, and increasing rates of absenteeism. To get the Full Picture of his issues, I asked Jim to describe his day from beginning to end.
He would start the day arriving to work at 7:30 AM, walk through the plant, casually passing the employees who were working, and go to his office which had a good visual view of the plant, production lines, and employees. Employees molded dental tools of stainless steel, then inspected and refined the finishes to precision tolerances. Most tools were sharp and dangerous and needed to be handled expertly and with care. The average employee was talented and long term. The day was a normal 8-hour day and he would then go home to see his 2 little girls and wife.
Jim described his work process in more detail. As he passed employees, he would say hi however typically not use their name. I asked how well he knew each person since they had all worked for him for an extended time. Jim said he did not know each person’s name and had little knowledge of their life beyond seeing them in the plant each day, advising them according to their job descriptions, and tracking results and doing performance reviews. Mostly he would deal with things and people when there were errors and returns and accidents. Jim’s expectations were that of a task master who wants great results and then gets upset when things go wrong and quality results are poor.
I asked what time the employees started work…6 AM. Who opened the plant? Jose opened the plant 5 days per week 52 weeks per year at just before 6 AM, rain or shine or snow. Jim related that Jose was highly reliable and always count-on-able. And he took 2 buses each way to arrive and go home each day. I was curious about the kinds of rewards or praise or acknowledgment Jim gave to Jose. Jim’s view was that Jose was just doing his job and did not need anything extra. The picture was becoming clearer.
I asked Jim about ideas to turn things around in the plant. He was curious about communication improvements he could try. We discussed some opportunities or actions that Jim could take that may begin to improve his working relationship and communication with the employees and the results they were achieving.
Based on what Jim had described of the current process and relationships, I suggested Jim try connecting with the employees more deeply and openly by learning their names and begin to get to know more about each of them personally. He agreed to get to know 5 plant employees each week on a deeper level by asking how they are doing in their job, what they like about their work and what improvements they may suggest to make their jobs better. I also requested that he ask about their families and listen to what they say. Finally, I asked Jim to acknowledge each person for one thing that he saw through these conversations that was a strength of theirs or that was something he would like to see more of.
Now, we usually met every other week. Each coaching session was used to discuss results and to modify behaviors to increase positive effects. 6 weeks later, because of the initiatives Jim undertook, results began to improve dramatically. Returns from customers declined, quality rejects were reduced, and accidents almost disappeared. Jim said the employees seemed happier and more effective just by the fact that Jim was walking the plant and wanting to hear from them.
So, Jim continued the plant work he had started and was actually enjoying the process. I then asked Jim to describe what happens when he goes home after work. On arrival, his kids would say hi briefly and then run off to continue playing. Once inside, he would be greeted by his wife with a perfunctory kiss and then she’d get back to preparing dinner or another task. I asked Jim how well this greeting process worked for him and he indicated he’d like to see something more like what was happening in his plant. Curious, I asked what that would look like to him. He wanted his kids to be more affectionate and playful with him and he wanted to be able to have great conversations with his wife like they used to have years ago and have hugs and kisses to be longer lasting. I was curious about what he had tried that worked or not much. He tried coming home earlier however that seemed to not do the trick. He only got more of what he didn’t want…distant kids and perfunctory kisses from his wife.
I asked him if he’s willing to try the “being curious” and “acknowledgment” processes he was employing at the plant with his employees. Yes, he would, but how?
I asked him what he really liked about his kids and his wife and to talk in depth about his feelings. Jim was uneasy however he engaged with me and had amazing things to say about all three of them. I asked him if he was willing to speak with each of them and acknowledge them for what he saw as aspects of them he really liked and loved. He agreed.
Two weeks later, we were checking in on results. He had great news regarding his kids. He said he had the acknowledgement conversations with them more than once. Now when he arrives home, the kids run up to him and want him to play and they ride him like a horse. He loved the result.
How is it going with your wife…I asked? He was stuck and was unsure about how to have an acknowledgment conversation with her. Would I help him? Sure enough. I asked him to describe all the things he really liked about her that he would typically not acknowledge, only assume or not even think about. He described things like good housekeeper, great mom to the kids, had dinner ready every day, and more such things. So, I said “OK, what else?” That question started a process of him going to deeper awareness of who she was for him and him being courageous about saying what he saw to another person…this time me his coach…and then to his beloved wife.
The ‘what else’ were all the things that were present when they were younger and first in relationship. The first thing Jim said was “She has a great body!” So, I coached and gave him some powerful suggestions that he tried. His goal was to have great conversations with his wife, and to be able to acknowledge her for what Jim really appreciated about her. He created a romantic weekend evening with flowers and champagne.
On the next coaching session, when I asked how the last two weeks went and how did his initiative with his wife go, he remarked…with a big smile…it was the best weekend they had in very long time!