As I move along in my journey to become a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, the more I realize that one of the most important things I can do is to help others make the connection between The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® model and an organization’s shared values. In my role as Executive Vice President at Kaneka—a specialty chemical manufacturing company—and Site Manager of the Kaneka-Pasadena, TX facility, I have taken that responsibility to heart.
Over the past five years we have made great strides in crafting and implementing an operating philosophy of leadership that drives the focus of our work at the Pasadena facility. Working with The Leadership Challenge and The Five Practices among my senior management team, we began by coming together to consider our shared values. In addition to our mission and vision, the Pasadena plant leadership team wanted to create a set of core values that would bring everyone together to achieve the same goals. After collecting input from as many employees as possible, we settled on the four most frequently selected that we now refer to as our CORE VALUES:
- CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner write in The Leadership Challenge, “Values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgments, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organizational goals.” And our leadership team wanted to spread that message and The Five Practices to others, including front-line supervision and professional staff. So to that end, I recently shared the following in hopes of helping others make a meaningful connection between The Five Practices, our Core Values, and the Kaneka North America leadership culture.
1. MODEL THE WAY » HONESTY » SAFETY
In Modeling the Way we must be HONEST in finding our voice by reflecting on our own personal values. By sharing our values with others, we allow them to know us better. By aligning our actions to support our core values, we demonstrate that we are committed. For Kaneka, our strongest example is in our SAFETY culture. When everyone is open and HONEST about incidents, investigations, and behaviors related to corporate social responsibility, we increase our CREDIBILITY with both our Kaneka team and our watchful community.
2. INSPIRE A SHARED VISION » HONESTY
In a similar way, when we create a vision and attempt to engage and inspire others, we must be HONEST in the content and the approach. Creating a vision requires us to think about the future AND be realistic about where the team is going. Remember that as a leader others are expecting you to DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do. So be HONEST with yourself and others by choosing short- and long-term targets that your team can commit to achieving.
3. CHALLENGE THE PROCESS » CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMNT
Kaneka is a company fueled by technology and innovation. In order to feed that fire, we must always be looking for ways to improve. The CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT spirit needs to be encouraged throughout the organization, not just in operations. Every person has good ideas on how to be more effective in their daily tasks. Let’s create a safe environment for everyone to “experiment and take risks”—to Challenge the Process.
4. ENABLE OTHERS TO ACT » TEAMWORK
None of us are really ever successful without the help of others. Throughout our lives others are “enabling” us to achieve our goals. As leaders, one of our primary responsibilities is to FOSTER COLLABORATION by building strong teams and to STRENGTHEN OTHERS by ensuring that they have the proper training, resources, etc. to be both competent and efficient. In addition, we have to encourage teamwork across the site between departments and functional groups. I believe that these “super teams” will truly set us apart from our competitors in driving efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.
5. ENCOURAGE THE HEART » SAFETY » HONESTY » CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT » TEAMWORK
We must find opportunities to recognize others when they are behaving in ways that support and promote any or all of our core values. In fact, I believe that we do. I look at the GEM (Going the Extra Mile) recognition certificates I’ve received. And behind each one is a story of how an individual or team supported me by taking actions that promoted our values. By helping others “see” that recognition is firmly connected to all four of our Core Values we can reinforce those positive behaviors and together move closer and closer to our shared goals.
Now it’s Your Turn…..
Connecting your organization’s mission, vision, or values to The Five Practices in a similar way may be a good exercise for your leadership team. You could use it as an opportunity to tell stories about significant events and experiences that your team has faced. Making it personal for them will reinforce their connection and make The Five Practices that much more meaningful.
*Going the Extra Mile (GEM) is an internal peer-to-peer recognition program that is successfully building employee engagement, camaraderie and teamwork at Pasadena site.
Steve Skarke is a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge and Executive Vice President of Kaneka North America LLC. He also provides consulting services to the manufacturing industries and related organizations as a principal member of The MERSED Group LLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org