Leading By Example

This mold manufacturer’s employees don’t have to be told what’s important.


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Staffers at Westminster Tool gather for a daily production meeting. Westminster's workforce development strategy--including encouraging employees to take initative and constantly contribute to improvement--is among the myriad factors that earned it the 2014 Leadtime Leader award. (Photo courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)

Ray Coombs, president of 2014 Leadtime Leader award winner Westminster Tool, is a big believer in the Hawthorne Effect. At its essence, this term refers to tendency of workers to change their behavior not because they’re told to do so or incentivized to do so, but because they’re being observed.

Wikipedia offers a pretty good overview of the phenomenon, but applying it on the shop floor really isn’t all that complicated, Coombs explains. Management just has to lead by example. Consider spindle utilization. A manager could simply dictate from on-high and take steps to hold employees accountable for doing their utmost to maximize this key metric. Coombs, however, would first take a different approach; one that he says is not only just as effective, but far more likely to gain employees’ respect and encourage more active participation. That is, just show that you're paying attention. For instance, taping charts tracking utilization to the sides of machines and casually questioning operators could be more than enough to get the message across.

“Anyone in a leadership position, for good or ill, is usually under a microscope,” Coombs says. “If you make it public that you’re looking at something, people will naturally start to pay more attention to it.” (This approach jibes nicely with another aspect of the shop's philosophy, which Coombs has informally referred to as "catch 'em being good.")

This is just one aspect of a workforce development strategy that is anything but typical—and that played an outsized role in winning the shop this year’s Leadtime Leader award. Read the article to learn more. You can also take a video tour of Westminster Tool and the winner of 2014's Leadtime Leader--Honorable Mention award, Aalbers Tool and Mold.