6 Leadership Lessons From Factory Employees

Manufacturing factories aren’t typically somewhere you find desk employees, but they might just be the best place to discover insightful leadership strategies. While the setting and circumstances are certainly different, factory employees and their unique environment illustrate management practices in a very physical, real world, and tangible way you’ll never experience reading the newest business book or attending the next entrepreneur seminar. Here are just six of the many leadership lessons we learned from factory employees.

You Can’t Cut Corners

In manufacturing, cutting corners can have serious consequences. While shortcuts might seem to save time, they really create an unsafe workplace, where both coworkers and customers are in danger. Machinery malfunctions, product recalls, inferior workmanship, and damaged reputations are never worth the occasional convenience. In leadership, the physical results of cutting corners aren’t always as obvious, but it can be just as damaging to an industry. Besides the obvious mistakes that careless work can bring, avoiding work introduces a negative attitude into the work environment. As a leader, employees look to you to set the culture, tone, and ethics of the organization. Corner cutting, even when it seems innocent, shows employees they don’t need to take the time to do it right. As a shortcut focused attitude spreads across the organization, what started out as a simple, probably even harmless work hack soon becomes an entire culture of disengaged, dissatisfied, and unmotivated employees.

Make Work Meaningful

Factories are loud, active, physically demanding, and overall just hard work. At the end of the day, employees go home sore, exhausted, and ultimately, with a real sense of personal satisfaction. When employees are able to measure their efforts, they develop a sense of pride, accomplishment, and dedication in the work they do. In manufacturing, seeing the end results are often easy. You leave tired and can physically see what has been accomplished during the day. But in the corporate world, it can be a little more difficult. As a leader, it is your responsibility to help employees see the results of their efforts and understand that their hard work is actually paying off. Make sure employees understand the entire workflow process, not just their own part of it, and show them how their efforts directly lead to success. Celebrate their individual accomplishment and create an environment where everyone knows the difference they make.   

Every Job Is Essential  

In factory work, you can’t skip a single step. It doesn’t matter how simple or mundane a task might be, a single missing screw can ruin an otherwise perfect product. In leadership, it is the same. As a leader, it’s tempting to think your role or the roles of other senior employees are more meaningful, but one of the most important leadership lessons is knowing that every team member is essential for success. Make sure every member of your team participates and contributes to the group, both by doing their work and by offering their unique perspective. Respect each team member’s knowledge and experience in their particular field and avoid any kind of arrogance or elitism. Don’t pretend, or let other team members pretend, to know about a field they have little training or experience in. Help your team see the value of each position. It’s easy to discredit a role when you don’t understand how it works or what it contributes to the team. As you help your team members recognize not only their own value, but also the value of those around you, you will develop a hardworking, happy, and efficient team that works together with real unity.

Acknowledge Limitations

In manufacturing, it’s crucial to work within your own limitations. Not understanding safety practices, not having the required physical strength, or not being up to date on specific procedures can slow down factory progress and possibly even cause injuries. In the corporate environment, faking your way through a situation is often a little easier, but the results are just as damaging. As leaders, we want to instill confidence and respect. Our team needs to trust us to make the best decisions, support them, and get work done. But sometimes pride gets in the way. While leaders, of course, need to know their responsibilities and be able to do their job, you’ll never be up to date on every new idea or have in-depth knowledge on every topic your team covers. Similarly, time constraints, physical health, and other factors create real limitation that cannot just be ignored. Openly acknowledging your limitations can feel like a weakness at first, but it is actually incredibly freeing. Being honest with your team shows the trust and respect you have for them and encourages them to be honest with you as well, allowing everyone to overcome limitations and accomplish work.  

Communication Is Preparation

Timing in manufacturing is essential. Not only to meet specific deadlines and goals but also because many products have a specific life span. After too much time has passed, many factory materials can no longer be manipulated or are no longer safe to work with. Without clear team communication, this window of workable opportunity is lost, and factories are forced to begin again. While it might not always happen in a tangible way, this critical leadership lesson applies to businesses as well. Company teams, especially client-facing teams, often find themselves facing a specific window of opportunity. Sometimes these moments are known in advance and sometimes they come as a surprise. Either way, without straightforward and effective communication, teams are unable to act and lose opportunities. As a leader, your team must be prepared to take on a challenge whenever it arises. When healthy team communication has been established well in advance, it’s easy for teams to take advantage of new opportunities and smoothly handle whatever comes their way.   

Be Open To Adjustments

It’s easy to think of a stereotypical factory employee, but in reality, factory workers include individuals from every background. Everyone working on the factory floor has a different opinion, life story, living situation, theological belief, and much more. They all have unique perspectives and individual experiences but regardless of any difference, come together to get the job done. As a leader, it’s easy to stereotype what our team needs to be. Work habits, personal preferences, and other characteristics can influence what we visualize as the perfect team. Recognizing leadership lessons means being open to new individuals, styles, and ideas. At the end of the day, objectives always need to be accomplished but try letting a different team member take on a task, putting together a different kind of team, or listening to suggestions from other employees. You might just be surprised to discover unknown talents or a new dream team.

Lasting leadership lessons come not just from reading books or brainstorming ideas, but from understanding and apply real-world experiences. That’s why at MangoApps, we design our products around meeting real customer needs. We help organizations successfully implement internal communication tools, interactive company intranets, engaging enterprise social networks, and everything in-between. To learn more about how MangoApps works with manufacturing, helps leader build outstanding teams, or to see our services at work in your own organization, contact us or schedule a personalize demo today.