For those of you who make it a habit to read my blogs regularly, you know I absolutely love good coaching. As a 30+ year college football official, I get pretty good opportunity to watch phenomenal leaders on Saturdays in the Fall. I’m sure several of you may be a bit tired of my constant examples of Bill Belichick’s abilities to motivate a group of employees to outperform the sum of their collective parts. Throw John Wooden (UCLA basketball), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke basketball), Greg Popovich (Spurs basketball), Vince Lombardi (Packers football), Geno Auriemma (UCONN basketball), Paul Assaiante (Trinity College squash) and Paul “Bear” Bryant (Alabama football) to name a few people that demonstrate a sustained level of coaching excellence.
Lucky for me, my real job (not that football referee isn’t “real”), I continuously marvel at people’s ability to positively impact other people as coaches and mentors. A particular source of joy is watching people who take it upon themselves to be generous with their experience and knowledge without the power to fire or discipline anyone. No titles. These remarkable people lead because they are respected and do it for one reason and one reason only….to help…..what we lean people call “servant leadership”
Meet a glowing, living, breathing example of really good coaching. Meet Ray Pelletier of Ulbrich Steel (North Haven, CT). Ray is a27 year veteran (very few people seem to leave Ulbrich), and is probably one of the best in the world in operating the 48 Slitter. his primary job. When other people go on vacation, Ray can seamlessly run the cutters and levelers. Like many veterans at Ulbrich, managers pair young people with Ray for training as “helpers”.
Ulbrich is also a “lean company” in the purest sense of the word. That is, Ulbrich “walks the talk”. Continuous improvement is part of the Ulbrich culture. Kaizen improvements are led by the people who actually do the work. Every day, not once in a while.
Ray was one of the “early adopters” when Ulbrich started doing kaizen using A3 via temporary self-directed work teams. He is one of the leaders with regard to number of improvements completed each year, is a member of Lean Manager John Peterson’s Lean Beret, a group of 8 people who work to teach others how to use A3.
Ray has an extraordinary ability to develop brand new people into very good A3 leaders. Almost as soon as they start working, Ray is encouraging people to look at their (and his) work with an eye for improvement. He teaches them all about the 8 wastes and helps them through the A3 process, helping them pick their teams, organize their meetings, fill out the form, and prepare for the company-wide closing, where they get up in front of everyone (including the COO) and teach what they’ve learned.
I’ve read decades ago that Toyota “builds leaders, then cars”. It took me a long time to understand why a company would need so many leaders (don’t we need followers too?). Ray Pelletier is a really good example of what Toyota has in mind. Imagine an entire company of people who live and understand the company philosophy and culture? An entire company of people willing and capable of incredible problem solving every shift? An entire company of people who never say “good enough”? And an entire company of people whose first instinct is to help others selflessly (like Ray and others at Ulbrich)?
“Continuously develop Your People and Partners” is one of the 4 Toyota tenets and it is very difficult if you leave it to management and HR alone. That’s what most organizations do. “if you want results others don’t get, you need to be willing to do things others won’t do.” Like building great coaches. You’ll know it when you see it!
Bill Greider, from P4 Executive Lean Strategy Consulting, provides management teams and lean champions with the tools needed to turn a “continuous improvement or lean sigma program” into a market disruptive policy deployment machine by a proven & experienced certified LEAN Champion. Bill’s manufacturing company has been recognized as a true learning organization and one of the Best Companies to Work in Connecticut four times. Learn more here.