Owners of job shop platers, anodizers and coaters need a sense of urgency in their shops to survive today’s economy

Owners of job shop platers, anodizers and coaters need a sense of urgency in their shops to survive today’s economy – urgency to meet goals, to satisfy customers and to boost productivity. The inertia of business as usual is no longer an option as a tsunami of bad economic news washes over the surface coatings industry – and perhaps your company too.

Creating a sense of urgency often means an owner/executive of a small business needs to develop a stronger leadership system so he can focus on key company goals, instill in his managers a desire to do their utmost to reach those goals, and overcome organizational inertia before the status quo turns into status woe. A performance coach can often help small business executives institute these changes quickly.

What is A Performance Coach

A performance coach is a seasoned executive who understands plating and job shop coating, the organizational dynamics of smaller companies where single managers juggle multiple tasks, who knows the difficulties an entrepreneur has in focusing on his company’s key goals while delegating less-important matters, and who can advise him how to re-energize his workforce – from direct reports on down. In short, he can help rid a company of inertia.

What is Inertia?

Inertia is “business as usual” – an acceptance of the status quo that tolerates mid-management excuses rather than reasons for not achieving goals. Inertia can be overcome with a formal compensation system that rewards managers based on their results and with an informal communications effort that motivates them to work together to achieve overall company goals. Most importantly, inertia can be overcome when an executive/owner is taught to focus on the “big picture” – the goals his company must meet if it to be successful – and help his subordinates achieve their part in making the big picture a reality rather than a dream. According to management guru Peter Drucker, “Inertia in management is responsible for more loss of marketshare, more loss of competitive position, and more loss of business growth than any other factor. (Drucker, Peter, Managing for the Future: the 1990s)

What is Leadership?

Leadership is the ability to discern what needs to be done, what goals must be met, and how to motivate associates and subordinates to make those needs and goals their own priorities. Leadership is not to be confused with affability, nor, perhaps, with setting goals through consensus. While the need for mutual support and teamwork is clear, so are ambitious goals. Every business needs a leader to set the goals and priorities for his company. Although every company is a team, every team needs a leader, and everybody on a team must cooperate to reach the ambitious goals he sets.

A leader has a strong internal drive to improve both personally and organizationally, and a dissatisfaction with any performance short of that. His leadership inspires subordinates to do the same. Leadership is not the result of consensus, does not necessarily produce popularity, but does generate a sense of achievement. My experience suggests exerting such leadership is not as simple as it sounds.

What Often Really Happens

Despite their honest belief that they strive to improve results, many executives accept substandard results because they are reluctant to upset anybody by insisting on better performance. In today’s economy, many executives ask how they can do a better job of managing their organizations to create the urgency they want. They ask how they can motivate subordinates to exert the extra effort needed to fulfill their individual objectives, so they themselves can focus on the “big picture” – the overall goals their company needs to reach to survive, and perhaps even to prosper, in the current recession.

There are several reasons why executives find a performance coach helpful in answering these questions, solving these problems. First, most executives and managers in smaller companies wear many hats, and are busy doing a multitude of tasks. It takes a management system to enable them to back away from details and prevent subordinate managers from “delegating upwards” responsibilities they are reluctant to undertake. Second, many owner/executives have grown their companies because of they have excelled in a particular activity, be it marketing, sales, finance or manufacturing. They cling to the matters with which they are most familiar.

In a growing company, an entrepreneur is responsible for everything. Even with the many hats he wears, the long hours he works, he sometimes is reluctant to let go of the details of the activities with which he is comfortable and familiar. Just what trade show to attend, or just how to schedule the plant for speedier deliveries of past-due orders are no longer his job. Those are for subordinates. Many entrepreneurs are uncomfortable taking the jump from handling familiar details to the unfamiliar of dealing with the “big picture.” They are unfamiliar with asking, “How does doing X help us meet our key goals?” And they are uncomfortable with the question, “Just how are my subordinate managers helping us reach our key goals?”

How to Do It

Creating a sense of urgency in meeting company goals is often accomplished both formally and informally. Formally, it first requires a system to ensure managers understand what their goals are, and confirms for the executive that his managers understand what is expected of them. Second, it requires a system of aligning individual rewards to individual results. This means gathering and reviewing operating statistics, i.e., just how managers are doing with regard to their goals. And finally, it requires a feedback mechanism so that managers are constantly aware of the progress they are making towards their goals.

Informally, creating a sense of urgency requires constant discussion with and listening to subordinates on both an individual and group basis. This interplay puts everybody on the same page and aware of any problems. It involves give-and-take discussions and sending informal signals to subordinates in order to create an environment that makes managers want to work together to achieve overall company goals.

How a Performance Coach Can Help a Busy Executive

Most surface finishers today face purchasing agents shopping for cheap suppliers.

 Executives of the most successful suppliers use performance coaches to take the following steps:

  • Help them focus their own individual efforts in defining their company’s key objectives and then developing a system to monitor how well subordinate managers do in reaching those objectives.

    Show their managers and supervisors how to improve their own effectiveness by teaching them how to focus their time on those activities that contribute the most in reaching their individual goals.

  • Develop feedback mechanisms to inform managers of the company’s progress in meeting overall objectives, and the managers’ own progress in meeting their parts of those objectives.

  • Tie managerial and supervisory compensation to their progress in attaining their individual goals, which further the company’s key objectives.

  • Train supervisors to organize and manage their departments’ work, not just their employees’ behavior.

  • And improve worker productivity through motivational tools including innovative pay-for-performance compensation programs.

In today’s down markets, most customers are paging through the lists of platers, anodizers and job shop coaters, seeking only the few, the most efficient, the ones with the highest quality for the lowest prices. Only those will survive. Think about it – perhaps a Performance Coach can help your company be one of them.

Dr. Woodruff Imberman is President of Imberman and DeForest, Inc., management consultants based in Evanston, IL. His firm specializes in improving managerial effectiveness, supervisory training, productivity improvement, and performance based pay systems. He can be contacted at IMBandDEF@aol.com, or by calling 847/733.0071. )