A February to Forget

Typically, I write a leadership message based on prior experiences and key learnings that I have had in the past.  This month, I think it is appropriate for me to be fully transparent with my current challenges to help you with potentially similar issues as you lead others.

You see, February was a tough month in many respects.  We had a serious injury in one of the plants, and I hate to see one of our folks seriously hurt!  This injury was also given a severe designation which brings on a host of issues which can create a challenging experience for months to come. 

We experienced severe winter weather that resulted in almost the entire region of plants losing a complete week of operation.  This weather also caused severe damage at one of our warehouses, and we lost a significant amount of finished product.

If that wasn’t enough, we continue to face operational challenges which are driving our manufacturing metrics the wrong direction and placing burdens on our plant folks that I wish they didn’t have to bear.

So, if one were just focused on pure metric results, it would be easy to just give up now.  We aren’t going to be able to make up for these events this year!  Any leader could easily get discouraged and just write this year off.  Many of you have been there before and some may be there now.

That very fact is why we must look at our roles as leaders in a different light.  I am going to share a few things for consideration to help reshape your thinking, to provide meaning/purpose to your role, and to help you with that discouraging burden you may be feeling right now.

  1. We are in a business with an ultimate goal to go beyond just a calendar year.  Think of it as an infinite game.  While we are given annual goals and annual reviews, the business hopefully goes on well beyond that year end date on a calendar.  I am not diminishing the importance of performance, I am just encouraging us to broaden our view of what we are doing beyond some finite time frame that quite frankly doesn’t coincide with the ultimate goal of business.  The principle here is to lead today and not be defeated by the past!
  2. Leaders always need to stay focused on purpose.  We manage process, systems, and even results, but we lead people.  I spoke to James, the injured employee, this week.  That discussion was awesome.  It reminded me of my purpose and helped me refocus on people.  If our purpose is to lead people, then we are not deterred by obstacles, performance challenges, or setbacks.  The principle here is to stay focused on your purpose!
  3. As we work through difficult times, there will be a lot of negativity in a variety of forms.  We can’t get drawn into that vacuum. We have to further narrow our focus, filter out things that aren’t helpful, and provide a positive approach to those we are leading.  I have quit looking at YTD report summaries, ranking reports, and will not forward such information to others.  It’s just not helpful right now.  I am being very strategic and targeted with communication efforts to address current issues and provide a positive approach to what we are currently doing.  The principle here is to eliminate negative distractions and become laser focused on what’s important now (WIN)!
  4. Lastly, don’t go through challenging times alone.  Discouragement often sets in when one feels like they are alone in the effort.  I suggest we get that core group of folks around us that we trust and can depend on.  Challenging times can solidify a team!  The key principle here is we need each other whether we want to admit it or not. 

If you are going through a discouraging, trying time, I really hope you will give some consideration to the above comments.  I don’t share these as suggestions.  I share these from what has worked for me and what is working for me! 

Oh by the way, I failed to mention that on top of everything else noted, I dealt with mean kidney stone for three weeks in February.  Oddly enough, it left on March 1st.  It was a February to forget!

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