Highlights from Day 3 at The MFG Meeting

More than 650 manufacturing leaders learned valuable lessons from Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman during the final session of The MFG Meeting Friday, March 8, at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Waikoloa, Hawaii. The joining of AMT (The Association For Manufacturing Technology), NTMA (National Tooling & Machining Association) and PMA (Precision Metalforming Association) for The MFG Meeting links the entire manufacturing chain, from OEM's to distribution to end-user manufacturers, and provides the forum for uniquely collaborative conversations on the most relevant topics affecting manufacturing today.

Waldman, also author of the celebrated book Never Fly Solo, shared his belief that the key to building a culture of trust lies with wingmen – the men and women in one’s life who help overcome obstacles, adapt to change, and achieve success. Waldman told how he overcame massive claustrophobia and a fear of  heights to become a highly decorated combat fighter pilot with over 65 missions in Iraq and Serbia and that he never fly solo, but by relying on his wingmen and being a wingman for them.

The group learned about four tenets of success in battle: commitment to excellence, being mission-ready and trained, the need to trust, and how to be a wingman.

He shared his experiences of not playing it safe and encouraged the manufacturing leaders in attendance to do the same. Using the example of stepping out of his comfort zone to fly an F-16 Fighting Falcon rather than playing it safe in a C-45 Expeditor on non-combat missions, Waldman illustrated the point: fly, fight, win – don’t just survive. He said go full throttle and push it up when times are tough because pulling back the throttle, or complacency means death.

He also reminded the group that even when they are having a bad day their wingmen are watching and relying on their leadership.

To be mission-ready leaders need to prepare. The right attitude and actions in times of adversity and accountability separate the successful from the unsuccessful. He said the more you sweat in peace, the less you sweat in battle. He urged attendees to train constantly – read the books, build the communications skills, attend the seminars and work harder on yourself than on the job. Be sure to have the tools to adapt and change because customers and wingmen are looking for passion and drive.

Showing full understanding of the complexities of the manufacturing technology world, he discussed loyalty and the importance of being lifters. “Even when you are committed and prepared, you can’t do it all yourself,” he said. “You need the wingman to be there. Competition is coming at you from every direction. Your wingmen crosscheck your blind spot. That’s tough for business owners and managers to see. It’s really all about perspective because we all have blind spots. In the heat of battle, speed means life. You have to respond. You have to listen to the feedback you don’t want to hear, you have to risk the relationship to tell the wingman what the blind spots are. At the end of every mission you have to put the ego aside and debrief to learn what to do when those missiles fire.”

Lastly, Waldman gave his insights on how to be a wingman. “You have to take off the mask and ask for help,” he said. “This shows your greatness and changes your fear to courage. On the opposite side of fear, that’s where life is! Allow somebody to do the honor of being your wingman and never turn down the chance to be a wingman.”