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47: Navigating Leadership Challenges in Manufacturing- with Holly Whitcomb
Episode 4720th March 2024 • a BROADcast for Manufacturers • Keystone Click
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Meet Holly Whitcomb

Holly Whitcomb’s passion for helping people be their best drives her every day. Holly is the CEO and Founder of Novel Leadership, focused on the development of individuals and teams through coaching, workshop facilitation and consulting. Holly is well versed in working with front-line level leaders in manufacturing organizations as well as senior leaders in highly matrixed organizations.

Prior to founding Novel Leadership, Holly led 3M Company’s North America Learning & Development team where she worked directly with senior leaders to increase their leadership team effectiveness and leadership development needs across 3M’s back-office, client facing and manufacturing teams.


Why is leadership and all development important in manufacturing? 

Think about all of the changes that have happened over the course of the last 10 years, but even think about what we've been through in the last four years. And the impact that that has had on manufacturing environments, on teams. On all the challenges that have not been planned, even though we always say we plan for stuff, right? I think that that's where it really starts to come in and you start to understand the importance of this idea of building capacity, building skills, building agility across all levels of the organization, across all silos.

And the one thing that I've noticed over the course of the work that I've done is this silo has a tendency to be left back here sometimes when it comes to these corporate initiatives of development. And so that's why I think it's so critical because when we think about what kept things moving, it was the people who went in. It was the people who were on the floor. 

And so it's how do we help recognize the value in a different way? So that's kind of why it's important to me and one of my passion projects.


What are some of the most critical skills you find are lacking or really needed today? 

I don't know if this is just manufacturing. I think we're all recognizing that we are entering into what I call kind of this new phase of what it looks like to be an employee and be an employer in the world that we're in today. And mental health is a huge piece of that. Whole person is a huge piece of that. Inclusion is a huge piece of that.

And so I think a couple of the things that I think about in terms of skills when I talk with leaders is where you are with your understanding about your own emotional intelligence. How is your coaching capability? How are you delivering feedback? And how are you engaging with people on that whole person aspect of who they are. So the whole idea of psychological safety, how are you creating an environment where people feel safe to be who they are and bring their voices into the organization? And when I think about it, oftentimes people are like, “Oh, manufacturing. No, they're just, they're good. They don't need it.” And they may work on machines, but these are humans. And think about what it is that we need to do as leaders in order to be able to crack open what our whole team knows and creating that environment where people feel safe.


And so much more… 


Reference

Advertising spend will bounce back in 2024: S&P Global Ratings


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Connect with the broads!

Connect with Erin on LinkedIn for web-based solutions to your complex business problems!

Connect with Lori on LinkedIn and visit www.keystoneclick.com for your strategic digital marketing needs!  

Connect with Kris on LinkedIn and visit www.genalpha.com for OEM and aftermarket digital solutions!

Transcripts

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[00:00:01] Lori Highby: How are you?

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[00:00:09] Lori Highby: Oh my gosh. So I first thought I just love all kitchen gadgets. Right now I'm really trying to use the instant pot as much as possible. I bought it like a year ago and I used it once to make corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's day, and then I didn't touch it for a year. But I'm like, I'm going to use it. And now I'm obsessed with it. So I don't know if I could say I couldn't live without it, but it's probably my favorite gadget right now. I just, , what I can't live without is a gas stove. I freaking love the gas stove.

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[00:00:43] Lori Highby: Oh yeah, it's way better than electric.

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[00:00:50] Lori Highby: Yeah, you can still heat up food.

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And I love to wear it on the weekends and I really think my coffee pots and my wine opener are just my favorite gadgets in the house. Well, you know, I'm not the chef, so it's all the other things that I use.

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[00:01:54] Kris Harrington: All right. Well, this is a good time to introduce our guest. Holly Whitcomb is here with us today. So let me just tell you a little bit about her. So Holly's passion for helping people be their best drives her every day. Holly is the CEO and founder of Novel Leadership focused on the development of individuals and teams through coaching, workshop facilitation and consulting.

Holly is well versed in working with frontline level leaders and manufacturing organization as well as senior leaders and highly matrixed organizations. Prior to founding Novel Leadership, Holly led 3M's North America Learning and Development Team, where she worked directly with senior leaders to increase their leadership team effectiveness and leadership development needs across 3M's back office, client facing, and manufacturing teams.

So, welcome, Holly, to the broadcast.

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[00:02:55] Lori Highby: Excited to have you here.

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[00:03:06] Holly Whitcomb: Well, when we think about all of the changes that have happened over the course of the last 10 years, but even think about what we've been through in the last four years. Right? And the impact that that has had on manufacturing environments, on teams, on all the challenges that have not been planned, even though we always say we plan for stuff, right? I think that that's where it really starts to come in and you start to understand the importance of this idea of building capacity, building skills, building agility across all levels of the organization, across all silos.

And the one thing that I've noticed over the course of the work that I've done is this silo has a tendency to be left back here sometimes when it comes to these corporate initiatives of development. And so that's why I think it's so critical because when we think about what kept things moving, it was the people who went in. It was the people who were on the floor, right?

And so it's how do we help recognize the value in a different way? So that's, that's kind of why it's important to me and one of my passion projects.

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[00:05:06] Holly Whitcomb: That's awesome. And I think you brought up another thing that's really, I see as important to, and this isn't just exclusive to manufacturing, but again, why I think sometimes we got to remember, right? They may not be at the back in the corporate office, right?

I've worked in large global organizations where manufacturing is five states away, right? And we're always like, oh, we got to bring this group together. And I'm like, where's plant people? Where are plant people? Because the intersectionality of the work.

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[00:05:33] Holly Whitcomb: It's so critical to being able to be productive and effective.

And if we're not thinking like you were just talking about, Kris, like bringing everybody together to build perspective and understanding and, also just how do we know each other when we hit those barriers. That's part of why I see that as such a critical component to the organization as a whole productivity.

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[00:06:09] Holly Whitcomb: Yeah. And you know, I, I know this changes, right?

So it's not every organization that, that isn't doing that. But I think a couple of things that I've heard that, that often are barriers is we don't want to take people out of their sight, right? We're afraid that whole productivity and, that's such a driving force for, for those of us that are in manufacturing. That that idea of pulling somebody off the floor, taking a manufacturing leader off of, you know, whatever they might be doing I think it gives people pause and they sometimes think more short term, then what's the long term value of being able to invest in that talent and help that individual grow and come back and be far more effective and far more productive in the future.

And so it's a little short term thinking that comes into play. And then I think there's also just the reality, quite candidly, that sometimes people are like, I don't know how to bring that. to a manufacturing site. We don't have people who can sit on a computer screen and maybe attend a webinar very easily. And I'm thinking shop floor, right? A lot of times. And so we get stuck in, I'll say our paradigms and frameworks of how it should look. And we don't allow ourselves sometimes the creativity and thought to think about how learning might look different for the different people across that entire silo of manufacturing. And different people need different things. And so it's kind of getting creative and thinking about what you can do to solve for that.

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And you know, when sometimes when we're doing some marketing, branding, messaging, it's internal communication and we'll say, well, can't you just email your, entire organization about this? Like, yeah, but no one on the manufacturing floor has an email address. Because they're not sitting at a desk looking at emails, right? or even if they do, they look at it maybe once a week. So that's not the right way to communicate and educate on those things that are happening. So yeah, some of the things that we've done is creating a podcast. It's an internal podcast. You know, so leadership can communicate to everyone and just everyone has smartphones or, you know, whatever it is, like just a different way to bring that value and next level on your team, but across the board equally.

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[00:08:30] Holly Whitcomb: Yeah. And your point is so valid because you think about you know, we all walk around with that device no matter where we are, right? And it's attached to us. Now in some places you gotta leave it back because it's danger if you got it with you, but it's there, right?

And so how we think about leveraging those things that are already on the person as a way to help them learn. And also, how do you help create that connectivity across the different parts of the shop? How do you help people see where there are learning opportunities? And this is the other thing, learning oftentimes for people, I think, We have this paradigm that I'm going to sit in front of a thing and I'm going to hear somebody tell me about how to do something. Learning is also picking apart what worked. What would you do different? How do you have conversations with team members that help people understand how they're maybe experimenting or learning in the moment? And so that doesn't always have to be, I'm going to take you off the floor and have a conversation. It could be I'm standing right next to you, next to your machine and we're having a learning conversation right now about what it is that you're doing and what would you do different if you could?

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[00:09:46] Holly Whitcomb: Yeah, well, I don't know if this is just manufacturing. I think cuts cross everything, by the way. I think, you know, there's a, I think we're all recognizing that we are entering into what I call kind of this new phase of what it looks like to be an employee and be an employer in the world that we're in today. And mental health is a huge piece of that. Whole person is a huge piece of that. Inclusion is a huge piece of that.

And so I think a couple of the things that I think about in terms of skills when I talk with leaders is where you are with your understanding about your own emotional intelligence. How is your coaching capability? How are you delivering feedback? And how are you engaging with people on that whole person aspect of who they are. So the whole idea of psychological safety, how are you creating an environment where people feel safe to be who they are and bring their voices into the organization? And this again, when I think about it, oftentimes people are like, Oh, manufacturing.

No, they're just, they're good. They don't need it. And I'm like, these, you're, they may work on machines, but these are humans. They are humans. Right? And I'm like, so come on, let's back up, right? and think about what it is that we need to do as leaders in order to be able to crack open, you know, what our, our whole team knows and creating that environment where people feel safe.

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[00:11:04] Holly Whitcomb: Not just physically.

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And it's so fascinating. And they talk about this on the show of how the different groups like process challenges and are aware of their situations and how they learn and communicate with each other. And I just am really intrigued that it's just a big social experiment, obviously, is what Survivor is. But I love that they kind of did this from a generational perspective. And I'm, it really resonated with me as a business owner to bring this awareness that, wow, Millennials respond completely differently than Gen X does to the same message that's happening, and how to tackle a problem and how to work together, how to communicate. I don't know, it's fascinating. Watch the show.

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How are you delivering feedback to our employees and potentially learning from each other in a room? And I'm not sure if you have anything that you would want to expand on how we're delivering feedback, but it really ties into what Lori just said. a message can be perceived in different ways when you're talking to one generation versus another generation.

So we're all learning as we do give feedback, and feedback is one of the hardest things to do as a leader.

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Candidly, I hated it. I hated receiving it. I didn't want to give it. I struggled with it for a really long time until I was able to shift my own brain to recognize, and I think work with some people who were able to deliver it in a way that helped me be open to hearing. in a constructive way, right? And so how do you build that practice and that muscle?

So a couple of different ways that I've talked about it. There's a lot of models. If you even Google feedback models, you can probably find five of them right in the top list. But the crux of a lot of those are things like, how are you specific about what it is that that person did? Right? So be specific about when it was and what was that behavior. What was the behavior? And we practice this. I practice this with a lot of clients is this idea of I can say, well, oh my gosh, you know Lori, you were so aggressive. Well, your perception of aggressive is very different than mine. I need to actually describe what it was that I saw that you did in order for you to understand what behavior I'm speaking about and not have that subjectivity cloud our feedback.

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[00:14:08] Holly Whitcomb: And then what does it mean? So, okay. Yeah. And. Right? So, how did that impact the organization? How did that impact me? what happened? And I think the other thing that's really important to think about with feedback and this, now you've got me, see, see me just rile up right here.

Love it. The other thing is, it's like if I didn't see that behavior and I was not there to witness it, I really cannot be the person who gives you the feedback on that behavior.

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[00:14:35] Holly Whitcomb: And so when I talk about feedback as my passion project, one of the things that I often talk about with leaders is feedback training or helping people get comfortable with giving feedback should not stop at a team lead level.

I want my people on the machines or on the floor or doing the work to be able to understand how they build that muscle so they can give their peers feedback. And that stops that triangle of Kris, Lori did this. I need you to solve it for me.

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[00:15:06] Holly Whitcomb: Well, it's not feedback. Then it's not feedback. Right. I mean, the feedback in that case is. Right. People are coming to me. I'm struggling to understand what's going on. We need to move forward, right? So that's the feedback. It's not, I can't say what you did because I wasn't there.

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[00:15:31] Holly Whitcomb: Absolutely.

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So I communicate transparently and I'll say as part of the onboarding, if I'm giving you feedback and it's not in the form or the style that you like to receive it, you need to communicate to me how you prefer to receive feedback. Otherwise, I'm going to continue to do it in this style.

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You can read body language. You can see different things that are happening. You understand the intent of what was said, which can sometimes be, it's so important that if you perceive something inappropriately to pick up the phone and have a conversation about what you just heard to make sure it doesn't fester.

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[00:16:49] Kris Harrington: Yeah, it happens, right. And it's okay to take ownership. It's the best kind.

Oh, I made a mistake. Just say I made a mistake. I thought you meant this, or I misunderstood what you were trying to do there. So glad you called.

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[00:17:29] Lori Highby: Well, and I'll argue that email is an absolute terrible form of communication to relate any sort of emotional type of information.

I mean, email should be strictly facts. Especially if there's business whatever, but humans tend to read it automatically in a negative voice and tone. So we just assume the absolute worst case scenario when we're getting any sort of emotional related communication via email. And that's why a zoom call, an in person, even a phone call, because at least you can hear the tone of the voice instead of making the assumption of the tone that's associated with the message.

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I think that there's times when we leave a section of our organization behind and we don't recognize the impact that that's necessarily having on the, I'll call it even like the capacity building for your future leaders in the organization. Right. And I think about some of the things that you all have talked about in some of your other podcasts, there's so much intersectionality behind this idea of leadership and what's happening in terms of AI, what's happening in terms of how are we building a more diverse culture.

And all of that has to do with ramping up our own skills as leaders in the organization to be able to work and do different.

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And then there's all these new things that are coming that we had to educate ourselves on. How do people. I mean, I'm trying my damnness to make time for these types of things, but it's hard, you know, what, what do you have to say to that? What advice? Can you bring to the table on that topic?

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[00:19:35] Lori Highby: I mean, we talked about, like, the production floor is how we make the money, right? But at the same time, and we've got goals and targets that we have to hit and fill. Time is money.

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Because like you just said, you're like, I'm trying to find time and then other priorities come in and it slips, right? It slips to the bottom of the to do list and it takes commitment. It takes a mindset change to say to yourself, this is One of the most important things for me to focus on right now.

If I don't do this, what is the cost long term? Not just for the next hour, right? Not just even for the next week. But if I don't do this, What is the long term effect on the team, on myself, on the organization? But having that frame of reference, I think, helps us stay committed to being able to do different. Or learn different.

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[00:20:41] Holly Whitcomb: Yeah. Easier said than done.

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[00:20:49] Holly Whitcomb: It is. And so how do you have those accountability partners too, Lori?

Like how do you have those people who are helping you with that or what that is. And this is the other thing I often talk about with people and we look at others for inspiration and inspiration is fantastic, but you can also recognize that what you do, Lori, isn't necessarily going to work for me and what Kris does isn't good, you know, and so kind of letting yourself sit in that juice for a little bit and figure out what that looks like for you, because that's going to feel more real than if I try to copy and paste what somebody else is doing.

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[00:21:36] Kris Harrington: Well, I think this ties in really well to just our conversation about learning some other things.

We recently did an exercise with our marketing team, and it's something we do annually. You know, what did, what did you learn? What should we change? What should we stop? Is an exercise that we all went through. And when I was Learning from one of our team members. She had shared that she had been using a new tool in Adobe's Photoshop that was helping her extend images to fit into a required thing. Like if you're trying to do a banner, but your image was smaller than the banner size and Adobe Photoshop has something that's called generative expand and generative fill. I mean, she had said that she learned it and it's been saving her so much time in editing.

le was the best inventions of:

[00:23:08] Lori Highby: Okay. I'm going to go political. Not fun. But it's really the advertising. So that's obviously more fun. So I just read an article first off that anticipated advertising spend for 2024 is going up compared to 2023.

So that tells me a positive thing with regards to the economy and people are spending money again. Right? But with regards to the big presidential election that's happening in the U. S. here this year, I found this quite interesting that they're anticipating the majority of the advertising dollars to still be on just regular local TV.

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[00:23:46] Lori Highby: Doesn't that blow your mind that Yeah. it's because they're of the super local targeted voters that they're trying to get in front of in very specific districts. And attracting and getting in front of those voters basically.

So I mean, you can do that with so many different types of advertising, especially in the digital space. But I thought that was really interesting that the bulk of the dollars they anticipate to be heavily on TV still. Because me personally, if there's commercials on TV, I'm annoyed. And that's why I love my streaming, my Netflix.

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[00:24:30] Lori Highby: I didn't read the whole article, so I'll have to do that. But I'll throw the link in the show notes for that article. Awesome. Holly, what about you? Something that you just learned?

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Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. And it was in that context of scary Yeah. Of what's happening within the whole idea of influencing voters and all of that. Mm-Hmm. . And, and so it's, it's fascinating. Michigan was apparently gonna try to put together a law that was, I don't know how they would manage it, trying to get at how do they counter some of the efforts that are being done really well with all of this advertising. And what's fascinating is you think about some of the TV spend that you were just talking about and getting in front of eyeballs of people who maybe are more , I don't know.

So now my brain is like, gosh, I want to see if there's a link between the article that you read and what they were doing with this idea of, of deep fakes for Influencing voters, right? Yeah. Yeah. Are they trying to counter it? Is it helping them? It's just fascinating. And it's scary.

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I mean, if the ad was made with AI, that you actually have to, you know, notate that. But, you know obviously you've listened to a handful of episodes and I, I wouldn't say obsessed, but semi obsessed with the concept and topic of AI. It's not a concept. It's reality.

I speak on it a lot and just this week I spoke to a manufacturing company. They had their big annual meeting where five different facilities across the country. The leadership came together. But my, my role was to educate them on AI and how they need to be aware of what's happening with this.

And when I asked the question, How many of you have used or even played with AI? I mean, there was 50, 60 people in this room. I want to say three raised their hand. Really? And that really surprised me. Because that's concerning. But knowing that we're targeting ads on general TV and individuals aren't even aware of the capability of the technology. So they can't even be thoughtful enough to go, is this a legitimate message that's being communicated by a real human being or not. Yeah. Major concerns there.

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[00:27:05] Holly Whitcomb: Yeah. Oh, that's really fascinating. I'm really surprised it was that small.

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[00:27:36] Kris Harrington: Well, I know there were a lot of restrictions in manufacturing companies on the use of these tools on a company device. So I think that also sometimes whatever a company feels about a technology extends to the people that work there, right?

So, if the company's not trusting it, then they don't trust it either. So they don't try it. I think some of that happens too.

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But if you're not, your competition is going to take you over. You have to be paying attention to what's happening here. So I was able to redirect their thinking a little bit on it and we changed the message to proceed with caution as opposed to don't use these tools.

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Really enjoyed this. Holly, how can our audience and our listeners get in touch with you if they're interested in reaching out?

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[00:28:59] Kris Harrington: Wonderful. Well, connect with Holly Whitcomb on LinkedIn and head to her website, novelleadership. com. And thank you for being with us. And to our audience, thanks for listening and we'll catch you next time.

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