A Top-Down Leadership Approach

buy-in employee engagement ethical influence executive improving your profitability by building better leaders influence leadership leadership culture lean manufacturing management manager ownership performance profit profitability profitability killers return return on investment supervision supervisor top down top down approach Oct 04, 2023
Improving Your Profitability By Building Better Leaders

If the owners or executives in any organization want to have the best shot possible at improving profitability by building better leaders, they will need to be just as engaged in developing their own leadership and communication skills as they are in providing any kind of resource to the key people on their teams. For what it’s worth, building a strong leadership culture and capturing the profitability that’s lost without great leaders in place is no different from implementing any other type of initiative.

When I was tasked with rolling out one of the first Lean Manufacturing initiatives in a nearly 40 year facility, with the majority of the folks I needed to participate having nearly that many years of service (and being in my mid 20s at the time), I got a hefty dose of how getting the best results really does start at the top - because the top managers in the building had almost no interest at all in supporting the initiative. This was something that had been mandated from the corporate office but was very unlikely to get visibility on a regular basis. And even when it did, productivity and budget numbers would still get far more attention! Unfortunately, that initiative required quite a bit of time and resources on the front end with the potential for seeing a positive return later on - assuming any changes made were actually sustained. There were a few areas where I was able to work the most progressive thinkers in the place and achieve some solid results. But in far too many areas, the people I was attempting to help dug their heels in to stick with the status quo, largely because the supervisors and managers they reported to had no interest in the initiative themselves…

I’ve shared quite a bit through this process about the success I saw our behavior-based safety process achieve. While I won’t pretend that we had complete support from every member of the local management team, or even from everyone at the corporate level, we did have enough to gain some great momentum and make a positive difference in the site’s safety culture. Even a few in leadership roles backing the process led to significantly more success than I saw with the Lean initiative that had almost no support from the top.

When it comes to building a great leadership culture that permeates all levels of an organization, improving profitability by building better leaders in each part of the workforce, the best approach is to always start at the top! The biggest challenge we’ve seen with this has been with far too many owners, executives, or even long term managers believing they’re already great leaders simply because they’ve been in their roles for an extended period of time. Friends, sitting in a garage for the next ten years WILL NOT turn me into a car and being in charge of the business my daddy’s daddy started a hundred years ago WILL NOT make me a leader! Here’s where I’ll insert a statement from John Maxwell one more time, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less…”

As we prepared for the fourth annual full day leadership development event that we host locally, Cindy and I received feedback from a friend who was the CEO of a local business. He mentioned that he had never seen a peer group for executives and owners focused exclusively on building better leadership cultures. Like so many other times where someone commented on a gap in resources for their leaders, we went to work immediately to create a single session on the tail-end of that annual event to provide him and other high level leaders in the area with what he felt was lacking. Since that one-time session, we’ve launched our Executive Leadership Elite Think Tank that we offer publicly and to our corporate clients geared at providing ongoing support to owners and executives so they can be intentional in their top-down approach to leading their organizations. And more recently, we’ve backed that with our IMPACT Leadership Academy that’s geared at providing mid level managers and newer executives with the tools they need to capture profitability by becoming great leaders at that stage of their career.

Through these intensive models, we’ve helped organizations realize a substantial return on their investment of time and resources into becoming better leaders! That said, there will be times where we can only control from us, down. We’ve built programs and systems that can address every individual profitability killer that we’ve worked through here regardless of how anyone we report chooses to lead - or not lead… We’ll start working through those next!