Category Archives: Communication Factory

Communication: Understanding your Audience

Have you ever said something that was misunderstood, or received an email you thought was discourteous? You are not alone. In fact you are in the vast majority. We communicate every day in many different ways. So much so, that communication seems an easy thing to do. However, very few people have mastered the skill of truly effective communication, where the sender and receiver both understand the same information as a result of the communication.

One of the keys to successful communication is understanding the person you’re communicating with – and that everyone is different.

I recently travelled to the Pacific to deliver training to an organisation of over 90 staff. One aspect of the training focused on communication. I was fascinated to hear the participants’ stories, and in particular what annoyed them when others communicated with them. One gentleman – let’s call him Harry – shared with his group how he hated receiving emails that didn’t address him by name. For example, ‘Hi’, instead of ‘Hi Harry’. While most people in the group found this funny, he was serious about his complaint. He even shared that at times he would delete an email if it didn’t address him by name. “That’s over the top,” you might think. But to Harry, it was an important aspect of effective communication, and to have any chance of communicating well with him, his colleagues needed to understand his personal preference.

People are different. We are different in the way we think, and therefore in the way we like to receive, send, and process information. We use different filters based on our mood, our upbringing, our education, and our cultural norms, to name but a few. If you use a ‘one size fits all’ approach to communication, you are likely to overlook the different needs and expectations of people. If you use the approach that is based on how you personally like to be communicated with, again, you run the risk of missing people’s differences and not being able to pass on or gain the information you wanted.

Getting a team to understand and take note of differences in their communications can be difficult. Most people will want to continue to communicate as they always have, and that usually means in a manner consistent with their preferences. One way to get people to think about their differences is to use a psychometric tool with the express goal of challenging their comfortable notion that they can communicate with people the same way each time, independent of audience, topic, and environment.

There are a multitude of tools to use, from personality stalwarts like Myers Briggs or DiSC to more specific implements like Belbin Team Roles. I particularly like the Neethling Brain Instrument (NBI), because it delves into individuals’ personal preferences and their thinking styles. The NBI profile can give you an indication of how you communicate, how you act towards other people, and how you learn, to name a few. The focus on thinking styles is important because it’s thinking styles that are the immediate precursor of behaviour, including communication behaviour.

The NBI is based on discoveries concerning the functional specialisation of parts of the brain, and breaks thinking styles down into four key profiles, or quadrants:

  • L1: this is the left cerebral quadrant thinking style. Individuals with this as their dominant thinking style will be logical, analytical, and bottom-line tough, making fact-based decisions that focus on the present. This person displays little emotion and likes things to be done their way. These are the people in your organisation who will determine all the bottom-line information that is necessary to support the ideas of others.
  • R1: this is the right cerebral quadrant thinking style. People with this as their dominant thinking style are often characterised as being intuitive or adventurous. They take risks, and they typically don’t like details and statistics; they also like to have fun and they lose interest easily. Strategic thinkers, R1s create the big picture; they are the organisations’ source of future-oriented, strategic ideas that will take the company to the edge of possibilities and beyond.
  • L2: this is the left limbic quadrant thinking style. People who have this as their dominant thinking style prefer things to be very detailed, structured, and solid. They are usually down-to-earth people who do not equivocate or display ambiguity. L2s believe in practical questions and thorough planning; they avoid taking risks and are good at implementing. These are the people who excel at developing plans and organisational systems that are necessary to put ideas into action.
  • R2: this is the right limbic quadrant thinking style. Individuals who have this as their dominant thinking style are highly participative and team-oriented. They often have well-developed value systems, are socially considerate, are instinctive in their approach, and enjoy group dynamics. R2s generate awareness and acceptance, and will communicate ideas, facts, and plans in the right way to gain support and stimulate passion.

Almost everyone is dominant in one or more styles. Sixty percent of the population are dominant in any two styles, thirty percent in any three styles, seven percent in one style and three percent are whole brained, that is, equally at home with all four styles. No profile is good or bad. It just identifies what the preference is for that particular person. The challenge comes when people dominant in opposing thinking styles have to interact.

Understanding your thinking style preferences gives you a new perspective of yourself and others you interact with every day. By tailoring what we say and how we say it to the thinking style of our recipient, we automatically improve the effectiveness of the communication. For example, Harry has a L1 and L2 thinking preference (accurate, meticulous, disciplined, detail). This explains why he prefers to receive emails that address him by name. By simply spending another second to write his name after Hi, you are more likely to know he will read your email. Another example, if your CEO has a R1 thinking preference (big picture, holistic, intuitive), do not put proposals to him with lots of detail. Instead provide him with a one pager supported by visuals.

Perhaps even more important than people understanding their NBI profile, however, is the impact of making people think analytically – perhaps for the first time –about how people would like to be communicated with.

I used the NBI with the group I trained in the Pacific. During my three weeks with them, I saw people take on board Harry’s complaint and acknowledge that this was one of his preferred communication methods, among many examples. This only reinforced for me how effective it is to know who you are communicating with, and how to best communicate with them.

The Importance of Communication in Project Management

Since I didn’t hear otherwise, I ASSUMED all was going well.

Second on Rick Klemm’s list of things most commonly overheard on a failing software project, this remark is characteristic of project managers who are not in frequent and efficient communication with their staff.

Communication is Key to Successful Project Management

If project staff do not know what their tasks are, or how to accomplish them, then the entire project will grind to a halt. If you do not know what the project staff are (not) doing then you will be unable to monitor project progress. And if you are uncertain of what the customer expects of you, then the project will not even get off the ground.

Maintaining open, regular and accurate channels of communication with all levels of project staff and stakeholders is vital to ensuring the smooth flow of instructions from customer to factory floor and sufficient warning of risks and changes to enable early assessment and preparation.

The Information That You Need to Give

As project manager, it is your job to keep a number of people well-informed. It is essential that your project staff know what is expected of them; what they have to do, when they have to do it, and what budget and time constraints and quality specification they are working towards.

It is also your job to keep the Project Board informed of project progress. The Project Board usually includes the Executive (person ultimately responsible for the project), and representatives from the User and the Supplier.

It is important that the project manager updates the Project Board regularly on the status of the project, so that any changes or risks can be assessed, project progress can be measured against the original Business Case and a project that is not fulfilling its purpose or matching the value of its investment can be called to a halt.

The Information That You Need to Receive

In order to keep the relevant people informed, you must have regular and complete access to all information about the project; customer needs, objectives, plan, constraints, changes/risks and progress.

PRINCE2, the government-standard project management methodology, suggests that a system of ‘management products’ (documents used to make management more efficient) is set-up.

For example, a Project Quality Plan relies on information about quality expectations provided by the Customer. The Quality Log is a record of quality checks performed by project staff. Both documents are necessary for effective management of product quality.

The PRINCE2 method also recommends that project managers establish regular dates for Checkpoint Reports (detailing the progress of individual teams and team members) and Highlight Reports (documents prepared by the project manager, for the Project Board, describing overall project progress).

With disciplined adherence to a system of regular and focused communication, you will avoid the misunderstandings and delays that so frequently lead to project failure and ensure that all your project staff and stakeholders are secure in their knowledge of what has to be done, and who is doing it.

5 Ways That Companies Can Use Mobile Apps

Anyone who has a smartphone or tablet uses a variety of mobile apps. This term refers to internet applications that help smartphone users make use of the internet very easily. There are a whole lot of apps available these days and large companies also create apps for their customers to download to their mobile devices.

Smartphone users prefer to use mobile apps instead of browsing a company’s website because the app launches much faster than the website, especially if there is poor network. Some apps can also be used when the phone is offline since they are always available on its home screen. Mobile apps are designed to be used for smart phones. Therefore, they are able to use the features of the phone, thanks to which users can use the phone with a great deal of ease.

All large companies have to upgrade their marketing strategy to include the use of mobile apps. This is because:

1. Apps are useful to increase a company’s accessibility. A customer can tap through to the company within a few seconds whenever he or she requires anything. Apps can also contain maps and directions to reach the closest outlet or office.

2. Apps can be used to provide the best experience. They are generally easier to use than the website. This ensures that customers can have a positive interaction with the company and that there is less need to deal with another company for the same product or service.

3. They can be used to build customer loyalty. Once a person has installed a company’s mobile application to his or her smartphone then it indicates a predisposition to use that company’s product or service. For instance, if a person has the mobile app of a particular airline then he or she will visit it first in order to make a booking.

4. Apps can be used to increase visibility. Not all apps are used for transactions with a company. Some can be used for fun or to help people with certain tasks related to the company’s business. If an app is popular then the company will get high visibility. It is also an important tool is a social network marketing strategy.

5. Mobile apps can be used to inform customers about promotional offers and the latest information about the company.

It is clear to see that companies cannot afford to not use mobile apps. They need to use the right apps to increase business.

Effective Communication Skills: 4 Ways To Become A Better Communicator

Effective communication skills play an important role in various aspects of our lives. Its primary goal is to convey your feelings or message to others; and the clearer, the better.

Whether you want to build trust and respect, maintain happy relationships, or work harmoniously in a team environment, developing effective communication skills is a necessity.

Let’s explore some ways on how to become better communicators.

1) Combine Words And Body Language.

If you want to communicate your ideas and emotions, facial expressions and body gestures can be just as effective as their verbal counterparts. And by combining body movements along-with words, you can achieve better clarity of thought and convey the information in a clear-cut style.

If you want to engage the audience, it is very important to maintain eye contact while speaking. Through eye contact, you will establish a connection with your audience and they will show interest in your lecture.

The words and expressions should match with the message that you will deliver. If you are delivering a negative message, there should not be any smile on your face.

2) Listen Attentively.

Listening is very much a part of effective communication. In order to deliver the message in a powerful way, you have to acknowledge what others are saying and put the spotlight on them. After listening to others, you can take some time to recollect your thoughts so that you will deliver a meaningful output.

3) Use The Appropriate Words.

While speaking, it is required to use the proper words that your counterpart can relate to. If you are not sure about the usage of a word, you better abstain from using it.

Correct pronunciation should be used. The right kind of tempo and volume should be maintained throughout your speech. It is required to test and modulate your voice so that others will show interest in what you are saying.

By speaking on a topic fluently without showing any nervousness, you can attract the audience. The great way to improve your speaking is by taking feedback from the audience and making the required adjustments. There is no doubt that by taking the advice of experts, you can improve the way you speak to people.

4) Practice Constantly.

Effective communication skills can be developed through constant practice. You can observe how experts speak at various instances. Learn from them.

Exercise restraint when you are stressed. While maintaining your stand on a particular point, there will be instances where you should go for compromise, so that you can regain confidence to speak in a better way.

Becoming a better communicator isn’t that hard. All it takes is having the right knowledge and taking the appropriate action to develop effective communication skills.

Why is Technology Important in Business?

Technology has important effects on business operations. No matter the size of your enterprise, technology has both tangible and intangible benefits that will help you make money and produce the results your customers demand. Technological infrastructure affects the culture, efficiency and relationships of a business. It also affects the security of confidential information and trade advantages.

Communication With Customers

First and foremost, technology affects a firm’s ability to communicate with customers. In today’s busy business environment, it is necessary for employees to interact with clients quickly and clearly. Websites allow customers to find answers to their questions after hours. Fast shipment options allow businesses to move products over a large geographic area. When customers use technology to interact with a business, the business benefits because better communication creates a stronger public image.

Efficiency of Operations

Technology also helps a business understand its cash flow needs and preserve precious resources such as time and physical space. Warehouse inventory technologies let business owners understand how best to manage the storage costs of holding a product. With proper technology in place, executives can save time and money by holding meetings over the Internet instead of at corporate headquarters.

Business Culture and Class Relations

Technology creates a team dynamic within a business because employees at different locations have better interactions. If factory managers can communicate with shipment coordinators at a different location, tensions and distrust are less likely to evolve. Cliques and social tensions can become a nightmare for a business; technology often helps workers put their different backgrounds aside.

Security

Most businesses of the modern era are subject to security threats and vandalism. Technology can be used to protect financial data, confidential executive decisions and other proprietary information that leads to competitive advantages. Simply put, technology helps businesses keep their ideas away from their competition. By having computers with passwords, a business can ensure none of its forthcoming projects will be copied by the competition.

Research Capacity

A business that has the technological capacity to research new opportunities will stay a step ahead of its competition. For a business to survive, it must grow and acquire new opportunities. The Internet allows a business to virtually travel into new markets without the cost of an executive jet or the risks of creating a factory abroad.

Communication Apps

Marketing, Corporate and Employee Communications

Deliver your annual report, brochures, brand and retail materials and other marketing collaterals through a mobile experience that impacts business results.

From annual sustainability report, to in-house employee communication systems or mailers. Keep your company connected with employee communication tools delivered in a secure, internally distributed mobile app. Push HR info, training materials or company news that employee actually read.

Instead of waiting for employees to log on to the intranet from office or lap-tops, send a regular report directly to their phones and hand-held devices. You can even create personalized content by defining filters, like department, position, region etc. Make use of messages and Push notifications to send real-time updates for urgent news and big deals.

Improve employee on-boarding process by creating a training app complete with everything employees need to get up to speed quickly, navigate the company, and succeed in their jobs. Make training materials more engaging with interactive, mobile-based content. Empower your employees to educate themselves anywhere with on-the-go, portable training. Reach employees in new and interactive ways through newsletters and magazines that keep them up to date and engaged on market trends, company initiatives, and the firm’s vision. Convert printed training materials, employee magazines, newsletters, and more into timely digital content — available on the devices your employees use every day.

Overhaul communication program with a privately distributed mobile newsletter. Where traditional paper gets lost or tossed, members will now have easy access to all the latest news and an archive of past info.

Step up your training with engaging mobile-native materials you can create and distribute for a fraction of the cost of print. Even better, training apps can include feedback, quizzes and an ongoing channel for communication. Plus, analytics will let you see who has opened and used the content any time.

5 Tips To Create Effective Internal Communications With Your Team

Effective communication between a company and its employees enables businesses to fully tap into the unique knowledge, insights, and talents of its people.

Often, the benefits stretch beyond pure profit. More open discussions help build a strong community within a firm, allowing workers to feel confident and happy, and to outperform expectations at their roles.

To develop a corporate culture that is forward-thinking in its approach, thanks to team members who regularly contribute superstar ideas, here’s how firms can improve internal communications.

1. Enable Company-Wide Conversations

In 2010, the National Federation of Independent Business published an article that listed five benefits of instant messaging for your business. Those include:

  1. Archived group and individual chat logs, which can be easily referenced at a later point
  2. Seamless collaboration with team members from off-site locations
  3. The ability to productively manage multiple conversations at once
  4. Opportunity to break down language barriers when text works better than voice
  5. Elimination of long-distance calling fees

The value is clear: you have to empower employees to communicate.

Create ways for employees to exchange ideas, information, and questions. Chat rooms and listservs work particularly well at company, department, and team levels. These empower people to seek answers from their peers, strengthen connections between colleagues, and transfer knowledge.

2. Improve Both Horizontal (Peer-To-Peer) And Vertical (Employee-To-Manager) Communications

To streamline internal communications, the right tools matter. Slack, HipChat and other Internet Relay Chat (IRC) services improve peer-to-peer communications–or horizontal communications. With programs that connect workers at all levels–or vertical communications–each individual is empowered with a voice on issues or topics that matter to him or her.

Collaboration solutions, such as the one we have built at Vocoli, allow executives to hear from employees to create transparency, harness the wisdom of the crowd, and track employee suggestions.

This makes owners and managers more accountable when team members invest time and energy into brainstorming ideas that could become very profitable for business, improve customer service, or increase tasks. Besides, many ideas can’t move forward without outside manager input. It is important that new concepts are not just discussed among peers. Management needs to be involved and feel connected to those suggestions from the very beginning. With their interest and influence, company leaders may help implement the best ideas.

3. Plan A Budget

For any internal communications program to be successful, corporate communications managers need resources. To establish a meaningful budget, organizations should evaluate and weigh the downsides of failing to invest in employees’ ability to build stronger relationships with each other, share concerns and constructive feedback, and discover information that helps them be better at their jobs.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Recent costs of employee turnover
  • Customer loyalty and retention, and the effectiveness of your customer service team
  • Employee engagement and morale, or lack thereof
  • Missed opportunities, misunderstandings, and lost revenue because of miscommunication
  • Product or service quality and development

In addition, they should think honestly about the benefits and disadvantages of using existing systems for such programs.

The wooden suggestion box on the wall or web form on the company intranet you already have may not be enough. If people are not currently using those for employee suggestions, then it will be tough to get them to start, no matter how good your internal marketing plan is.

Investing in a new method for collecting and reviewing employee suggestions not only makes the logistics easier, but it also sends a powerful statement to employees–that you’re serious about hearing what they have to say.

4. Measuring The Effectiveness And Impact Of Internal Communications

Often, successful internal communications campaigns provide long-term returns that are orders of magnitude more than their cost.

When managers are tasked to demonstrate those results, here are three ways they review the effectiveness and impact of internal communications:

  • Analyze recent changes in productivity, sales, and profits
  • Conduct surveys on employee happiness and job fulfillment
  • Review latest staff retention rates

If the early results show promise, then management may be more accommodating whenever communication specialists suggest additional solutions that may further bolster the firm’s bottom line.

5. Leverage Leadership To Create Change

In most organizations, employees follow leadership’s example. To create change, executives, directors, and managers must be the champions of knowledge sharing, transparency, and worker engagement. Dedicated personnel may give advice and direction, such as internal communications managers. But senior execs, department directors, and team managers need to back them up. This has to be a collaborative effort.

When businesses build or license platforms to support company-wide conversations, employees inherently become better at their jobs. Upon improving horizontal and vertical communications, firms may receive more feedback from employees and will be tasked to execute new ideas. Creating an initial budget can be difficult, but it gets easier when organizations recognize there is more to lose by forgoing internal communications projects entirely.

Soon enough, the results, including improved worker performance, engagement and retention, will speak for themselves. But to ensure change takes place, management needs to participate and inspire the whole staff to do the same.

5 Habits of Highly Effective Communicators

It’s no secret that good leaders are also good communicators.  And the best leaders have learned that effective communication is as much about authenticity as the words they speak and write.

Indeed, communication and leadership are inextricably tied. How can you galvanize, inspire or guide others if you don’t communicate in a clear, credible, authentic way?

Here are 5 essential communication practices of effective leaders.

1.    Mind the say-do gap. This is all about trust, which is the bedrock of effective leadership. Your behavior is your single greatest mode of communication, and it must be congruent with what you say. If your actions don’t align with your words, there’s trouble. And it can turn into big trouble if not corrected swiftly and genuinely.  Since it’s often difficult to see the say-do gap in yourself, rely on a few trusted colleagues to tell it to you straight and flag discrepancies. Rule of thumb: it’s better to say nothing or delay your communication until you’re certain that your actions will ring true.

2.    Make the complex simple.   Your employees and customers are being bombarded 24/7 by information, making it hard for them to hear you. Simplicity has never been more powerful or necessary. Effective leaders distill complex thoughts and strategies into simple, memorable terms that colleagues and customers can grasp and act upon. If you’re having trouble distilling something to its essence, it may be that you don’t understand it. So get clear and look out for technical jargon and business speak, which add complexity. Say what you mean in as few words as possible.

3.   Find your own voice. Use language that’s distinctly your own. Let your values come through in your communication. Often, executives will opt for the sanitized “corporate voice” instead of their own because they think the former is more eloquent; more appropriate. This is not to say that correct grammar and use of language aren’t important — strong leaders know how to string a sentence together. But don’t fixate on eloquence; concentrate on being distinct and real. People want real. People respect real. People follow real. Don’t disguise who you are. Be genuine, and people will respect you for it.

4.    Be visible. Visibility is about letting your key stakeholders get a feel for who you are and what you care about. It’s easy to hide behind a computer and transmit messages to others without seeing or interacting with them. Although e-communication serves a valuable purpose, it is no substitute for face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication. In today’s environment, people are often burned out and need to feel a personal connection to you and the work that you believe in.  Do a “calendar test” to make sure you’re allocating time regularly to be out on the floor, in the factory, in the call center, in the lab, in the store. Show your people that you’re engaged and care about them and their work.

5.    Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Stop, look and listen. Remember that effective communication is two-way. Good leaders know how to ask good questions, and then listen with both their eyes and ears. It’s easy to be so focused on getting your message out — or persuading others — that you don’t tune in to what you see and hear. Because you’re in a position of authority, the stakes are even higher because you won’t always get direct feedback. You need to read between the lines. Listen and hear what is coming back at you. Look for the nonverbal cues. Sometimes a person’s body language will tell you everything you need to know.

Four Types of Verbal Communication

Verbal communication include sounds, words, language, and speech. Speaking is an effective way of communicating and helps in expressing our emotions in words. This form of communication is further classified into four types, which are:

1. Intrapersonal Communication

This form of communication is extremely private and restricted to ourselves. It includes the silent conversations we have with ourselves, wherein we juggle roles between the sender and receiver who are processing our thoughts and actions. This process of communication when analyzed can either be conveyed verbally to someone or stay confined as thoughts.

2. Interpersonal Communication

This form of communication takes place between two individuals and is thus a one-on-one conversation. Here, the two individuals involved will swap their roles of sender and receiver in order to communicate in a clearer manner.

3. Small Group Communication

This type of communication can take place only when there are more than two people involved. Here the number of people will be small enough to allow each participant to interact and converse with the rest. Press conferences, board meetings, and team meetings are examples of group communication. Unless a specific issue is being discussed, small group discussions can become chaotic and difficult to interpret by everybody. This lag in understanding information completely can result in miscommunication.

4. Public Communication

This type of communication takes place when one individual addresses a large gathering of people. Election campaigns and public speeches are example of this type of communication. In such cases, there is usually a single sender of information and several receivers who are being addressed.

Communication Pays Off in Manufacturing

Mishandling communication can cost a manufacturer, from missed orders, quality issues, and running out of material to increased scrap, absenteeism, and turnover, to misunderstanding customer need and selling the wrong product. Separate silos of information can arise between functional departments, to the point where it’s almost necessary to introduce Engineering to Production and Sales to Accounting.

Weak growth, profit, and morale can result, prompting the founder-owner or president of many small to mid-sized American manufacturing companies to question what can be done to narrow the gap between their original entrepreneurial vision and today’s frustrating reality.

While communication is typically considered a “soft skill” that’s often overlooked in machine-filled plants focused on production, many of the ills in manufacturing are actually symptoms of poor communication. Once better communication is established, the manufacturer’s bottom line can often increase by 10% or more very quickly.
[sws_pullquote_right]“One of the best ways to tap into the collective wisdom of the production floor is to hold regular town-hall meetings, perhaps every quarter.” [/sws_pullquote_right]
“Manufacturers have focused so much on cost reduction that they’ve taken their eye off their people,” says Bill Flint, President of Flint Strategic Partners, a Midwest-based full-service business consulting firm headquartered in Goshen, Indiana, specializing in helping small to mid-sized manufacturers improve their results.

“Too often the focus is on tasks, rather than on the people who do the tasks,” adds Flint, who rose through the ranks to become president of two manufacturing firms in almost 40 years of industry service. “But today communication is more important than ever because companies are operating with fewer people to reduce cost. People are busier, have less time to plan and tackle the big issues they’re facing. Yet if corporate leaders simply give orders without taking time to listen and communicate, they miss golden opportunities to make their operations more profitable.”

The Factory Floor
Poor communication can create unending production, quality, and personnel problems, particularly if training and feedback is shortchanged from the start. Some manufacturing firms are so eager to put people to work, for instance, that new hires can find themselves operating complex equipment within 30 minutes of being hired. Flint conveys the dilemma of one such frightened new hire. “My supervisor worked with me for three minutes, showed me how to make a good part, then stuck a picture of a bad part in front of me,” said the new hire. “My supervisor said, ‘This machine costs $1 million. Don’t screw it up and try not to make any bad parts.’ I haven’t seen him since.”

“Imagine a football coach telling 80 new recruits, ‘We’re not going to practice this year,’” says Flint. ‘I think you are as good as you will ever be, so here’s the playbook, you figure it out, do what you need to, and we’ll all meet back here for Saturday games.’ That’s what some manufacturers do with inadequate on-the-job training, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

One simple solution to improve communication and training for new hires is to pair them with an experienced employee, a “buddy,” who can answer any questions, eat lunch with them, and introduce them to others until they’re comfortable in their new position. Such an approach has significantly reduced employee turnover and absenteeism among new hires at one manufacturer, while improving part quality, according to Flint.

Mid-Level Managers
The biggest career killer in manufacturing is continuing surprises and variability, according to Flint.

“Without good communication, production becomes a daily fire drill where the focus is on getting parts out the door,” says Flint. “Too often a line manager will say, ‘We didn’t make the parts that were supposed to ship at 7:00 AM. The customer is on the line and wants to talk with you.’ One call can change the whole day’s production schedule, particularly at small to mid-sized manufacturers.”

Many line and mid-level manufacturing managers actually have the best hands-on technical production skills at their companies, but got promoted into management to increase their pay, according to Flint.

“Being good with your hands does not necessarily mean that you’re good as a manager,” he says. “Communication and leadership are different skills that need to be developed.”

Manufacturers would do better to first ask their technical production stars, “If you could make the same money, would you take this promotion into management or stay where you are?” says Flint. “Otherwise, many will later find themselves ineffective and miserable at managing others, rather than working with machines and equipment. Those who do make the jump to management will still need some help learning how to effectively communicate, delegate, and lead people.”

The Founder-Owner/President
The founder-owner or president of many small to mid-sized manufacturers often started the company based on their technical ability, then recruited others to support them, according to Flint, who has met many founder-owners over the years both as a manufacturer and manufacturing consultant.

“The strength of those who start manufacturing firms is often in technical areas such as working with machines and parts, not communication,” says Flint. “Because of this communication gaps can occur throughout a company, particularly between departments, if the founder-owner relies on others to convey his or her vision, or is ineffective in asking for and giving feedback.”

From Flint’s experience running manufacturing companies, including one that he helped to grow from $21 million to $125 million with 10 facilities, he’s found that “people on the production floor know what the problems and issues are because they’re closest to the action.”

Every day, for instance, the production floor crew knows which machines are producing excess bad parts or scrap, which machines need maintenance, which materials have run out, which suppliers are continually late, as well as who’s effective or not as a work teammate.

“One of the best ways to tap into the collective wisdom of the production floor is to hold regular town-hall meetings, perhaps every quarter,” says Flint. “A good way to do this is to have a pizza lunch together and say, ‘Let’s talk about the issues. What’s getting in the way of us doing a good job? What’s your biggest challenge in this shift? What can I do to be a better leader? How can I help you?’”

Perhaps the most effective way to communicate and lead is to run the manufacturing company as a servant leader, suggests Flint, whose consulting company offers four modules on improving communication for small to mid-sized manufacturers, with sessions available for virtually any size group. A servant leader holds himself and those working for him accountable for results but asks for honest feedback on how to best help them do their jobs. It’s a classic win-win perspective. Servant leaders put people first.

“By opening the lines of communication, manufacturers bring problems to forefront and work on them pro-actively,” concludes Flint. “Doing so can not only minimize surprises, scrap, late delivery, employee turnover and absenteeism, but also improve the bottom line by 10% or more.”