It’s a look you never want to see in manufacturing…. The look on your crew lead’s face that reads “boss we have a problem and it is really bad”!
The call came in on the radio smack dab in the middle of finishing a train of thought during a meeting. “Paul, do you have time to come to the floor?” my response, “I’m in a meeting. Can it wait?” a somewhat stressed response of “yes” followed from the crew lead. I went back to my train of thought without much consideration until my crew lead’s head emerged from the crack in the door just a few minutes later. “Paul, we need you on the floor.”
Accidents happen, trust doesn’t just happen.
My fork lift driver didn’t wake up this morning planning to hit the gas line with his machine nor did he, or myself for that matter, ever wonder what the random unmarked pipe in the corner of the warehouse was. After the smell of rotten eggs filled the warehouse at an alarming rate and a panicked call to 911 and the gas company, we all thought about how we should have caught that obvious problem before we had an issue.
In the aftermath of an accident resides the opportunity to create trust within a relationship between one leader and all their followers.
The response I made could have shattered trust or set the concrete foundation it was built on. The choice was mine. Rather than show my frustration, I put a hand on his sweat covered shoulder and said “Its fine man, I know you didn’t do that on purpose. Get past this and let’s get back to work.” The look on his face was one of relief and trust. I can make mistakes and not get fired. This is an experience that is far too rare in our current day.
Care for your employees first. Remove the opportunity for failure second.
After this type of accident it’s easy to do a review of how the accident happened and take steps to remove the opportunity. Being analytical and finding root cause for the problem is great. In fact it’s critical, but just as important is handling employee’s emotions. If we skip straight to the solution we forget the emotional roller coaster your employees are going through and how that can fester. The constant wondering of “am I in trouble”, “was that my last strike” “when am I going to get fired” are seeds of doubt that will grow into a disengaged, unproductive employee, who will eventually leave.
Trust is a two way street. Leaders take time to focus on their true priority, their people. They can fix the organization later.