What the Best Mentors Do

What the Best Mentors Do

Can you think of a mentor who has helped you grow either personally or professionally? Perhaps a teacher? A boss early in your career? When have you mentored someone? How did it work out?

I can remember a teacher or two who helped guide me. My first supervisor in manufacturing would put me in situations where I couldn’t help but grow. My problem then was that although I could do the work intellectually, my interpersonal skills were sadly lacking. Especially in the manufacturing environment of the time that placed a premium on strong personality. I can still remember moments when he set me up for a confrontation forcing me to be forceful. I think the other guys liked it because I was almost the only “college kid” there. The old guys loved to poke at the college kid.

Many people have begun studying mentorship. We talk often about mentoring young soccer referees as the best way to move them from the classroom to a successful career.

I recently ran across this older article in the Harvard Business Review by Anthony K. Tjan. His research revealed four things that the best mentors do.

Before he gets to the four things, he notes that mentors he studied consistently “do everything they can to imprint their ‘goodness’ onto others in ways that make others feel like fuller versions of themselves. Put another way, the best leaders practice a form of leadership that is less about creating followers and more about creating other leaders.”

  1. Put the relationship before the mentorship. All too often, mentorship can evolve into a “check the box” procedure instead of something authentic and relationship-based. For real mentorship to succeed, there needs to be a baseline chemistry between a mentor and a mentee. Mentoring requires rapport. At best, it propels people to break from their formal roles and titles (boss versus employee) and find common ground as people.
  2. Focus on character rather than competency. Too many mentors see mentoring as a training program focused around the acquisition of job skills. Obviously, one element of mentorship involves mastering the necessary competencies for a given position. But the best leaders go beyond competency, focusing on helping to shape other people’s character, values, self-awareness, empathy, and capacity for respect.
  3. Shout loudly with your optimism, and keep quiet with your cynicism. Your mentee might come to you with some off-the-wall ideas or seemingly unrealistic ambitious. You might be tempted to help them think more realistically, but mentors need to be givers of energy, not takers of it.
  4. Be more loyal to your mentee than you are to your company. Of course, we all want to retain our best and brightest. We also want our people to be effective in our organizations. That said, the best mentors recognize that in its most noble and powerful form, leadership is a duty and service toward others, and that the best way to inspire commitment is to be fully and selflessly committed to the best interests of colleagues and employees. Don’t seek only to uncover your mentees’ strengths; look for their underlying passions, too. Help them find their calling.

And Tjan makes a couple of final points: The best mentors avoid overriding the dreams of their mentees. At its highest level, mentorship is about being “good people” and having the right “good people” around us — individuals committed to helping others become fuller versions of who they are.

This is all based on research as is befitting of the Harvard Business Review. It is also wise guidance.

Manufacturing Jobs Surveys Highlight Positive and Negative

Manufacturing Jobs Surveys Highlight Positive and Negative

Everyone worries about manufacturing jobs. The topic comprises talking points for politicians. Economists can’t figure out jobs and wages (but they can’t figure out much with all their differential equations and such but never actually working anywhere). Manufacturing management is worried about filling all the openings caused by retirements.

Oh, and young people wonder about whether manufacturing is a good career that will pay off financially in the future.

As coincidence would happen–I just received news of two research reports on this very topic. The first is from an interesting organization called Leading2Lean (L2L). If you are sick of hearing about Millennials like my Gen Y son is, then this survey about Gen Z will get you going. Following this survey is research by McKinsey that I saw reported in my Axios newsletter.

We do need to be mindful of recruiting talented young people into manufacturing. People in general know the importance of manufacturing to the economy, but few consider it while making individual career decisions.

“Generation Z to The Rescue as Manufacturing Faces a ‘Silver Tsunami’ “

A new survey conducted by Leading2Lean (L2L)reveals that there is an unlikely hope for a new generation of workers that will spur industry-wide innovation.

The 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index, an annual measurement of the American public’s perceptions of U.S. manufacturing, found that adults in Generation Z (those aged 18-22) are 19% more likely to have had a counselor, teacher or mentor suggest they look into manufacturing as a viable career option when compared to the general population. One-third (32%) of Generation Z has had manufacturing suggested to them as a career option, as compared to only 18% of Millennials and 13% of the general population.

Better still, the survey also found that Generation Z is intrigued by careers in manufacturing. They are 7% more likely to consider working in the manufacturing industry and 12% less likely to view the manufacturing industry as being in decline, both compared against the general population. These findings may be in relation to Generation Z having a larger exposure to the industry compared to previous generations with one-third (32%) having family members or friends working in the manufacturing industry, compared to 19% for Millennials and 15% for the general population.

“For many years, manufacturing has struggled to introduce and entice new workers to the industry,” said Keith Barr, President and CEO of L2L, the lean manufacturing software company behind the survey. “The industry has failed to compete with technology for their interest. Unfortunately, the industry hasn’t fully explained the dynamic, technology-driven environment of the modern plant floor. With Gen Z just moving into the workforce, we need to encourage their participation in modern manufacturing. If we don’t, I’m afraid the industry will be hit with the negative effects of the Silver Tsunami.”

According to the latest government data, there are now 522,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States (an all-time high), and a recent report from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute (the National Association of Manufacturer’s social-impact arm) projects that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade.

Unfortunately, vast misconceptions about the industry persist. For example, the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index revealed that over half (53%) of the general population assumes the average salary of a mid-level manufacturing manager is under $60,000. In reality, the average salary for a manufacturing manager in 2018 was $118,500, according to IndustryWeek.

Leading2Lean though has reason to believe that the industry is making positive moves towards a better-informed public. Last year’s 2018 Leading2Lean Manufacturing Index measured that 70% of people believed that the American manufacturing industry was in decline. When the same question was asked in this year’s survey, only 54% of people believed the industry is in decline, showcasing a surprisingly better understanding of the present state of the industry.

Education is the key, and it is an area that manufacturing continues to struggle in. When surveyed about alternative types of education, the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index found that a vast 75% of people have never had a counselor, teacher or mentor suggest they look into attending trade or vocational school as a viable career option. The number was slightly lower with Generation Z (59%) and Millennials (67%), but still showcases an extreme disconnect in consideration of alternatives outside of traditional 4-year institutions.

When surveyed about the likeability and availability of work, 54% of Generation Z respondents agreed that there is a shortage of skilled manufacturing workers in the U.S., and 43% agreed that manufacturing jobs are an attractive option to younger workers and the next generation of workers. A majority (59%) of Generation Z also agreed that trade schools offer promising career opportunities for high school students graduating in 2019.

Generation Z grew up in the midst of the Great Recession, watched their older peers accumulate student debt, then struggle to pay it off with low-paying jobs right out of college. They are seeking higher paid jobs in a more transparent and open learning environment, and they’re increasingly open to alternative types of education and training. Barr believes manufacturing jobs can meet their needs and provide the diverse and rewarding work experience they crave.

Click the link to learn more about the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index.

Think polarization and inequality are bad now?

  • Buckle up: Axios’ Kim Hart writes that big cities are poised to get bigger, richer and more powerful — at the expense of the rest of America, a report out later today from McKinsey Global Institute will show.

Why it matters: Automation may end up adding more jobs than it destroys, but the McKinsey analysis of 315 cities and more than 3,000 counties shows that only the healthiest local economies will be able to adapt to the coming disruption.

  • Wide swaths of the country, especially already-distressed rural regions, are in danger of shedding more jobs.
  • The 25 most prosperous cities, which have led the recovery from the Great Recession, are poised to get stronger.
  • Those megacities could claim at least 60% of job growth through 2030. 

The big picture: The labor market will become more polarized, according to McKinsey’s 113-page “The future of work in America.”

  • On one end of the spectrum are a few dozen successful cities with diversified economies and a lot of young, highly educated workers.
  • On the other end are “trailing” cities and rural regions with aging workforces, lower education levels and jobs that are highly susceptible to automation.

Between those extremes is a group of thriving niche cities, such as Sunbelt cities popular with retiring baby boomers and college towns.

  • There’s also a broader “mixed middle,” including stable cities like St. Louis and unique economies like Lancaster, Pa. 
What the Best Mentors Do

Government versus Business

I saw this note in today’s Espresso from The Economist, “France’s finance minister pledged to save jobs under threat at General Electric’s plant in the country’s north-east. The American industrial conglomerate, which made a loss of $23bn last year, had said it would cut around 1,000 jobs. Earlier this year GE paid France a €50m ($56m) fine for failing to create jobs after it took over Alstom’s energy business.”

Meanwhile in the US, officials are taking a second look at the results of Foxconn’s supposed multi-billion dollar investments. Politicians made great PR hay in 2017 with the announcement of a large investment in Wisconsin. Two years down the road, maybe the investment may not be so large and the employment a few thousand shy.

Governments can preach and give breaks and whatever, but market forces and bad management mean much more than governments for success. Take Alstom, for example. Perhaps there is French pride involved, but GE discovered that that particular acquisition was not all that it hoped for. One of a string of GE missteps. The French government can fine all it wants, but job creation depends upon good management and proper economic tailwinds.

I recently reported on the “success” of re-shoring manufacturing jobs, as the Reshoring Initiative would have it. Most likely it’s a result of financial analysts taking a closer look at supposed savings from only low wages discovering that other costs, such as logistics, insurance, loss of intellectual property, longer lead times, inability to quickly respond to changing markets all combined to make manufacturing offshore unappealing.

Most of the ills of manufacturing society I read about have a common root cause—less than competent management. I don’t see any quick fixes for that! And it won’t come from government fines generated by disappointment at lack of political gain.

What the Best Mentors Do

Companies Announce Return of 143,000 Manufacturing Jobs to US

Ever since a bunch of sharp MBAs armed with their spreadsheets determined that deep cuts in direct labor costs could be gained through chasing low wage geographies, a reaction set in to convince companies and the US government that shipping jobs overseas was bad economics and bad for the economy.

A chunk of my responsibilities for several years in a manufacturing firm was analyzing and recommending ways to cut costs. I didn’t have responsibilities on the growing revenue side of the equation; rather I was charged with helping boost profitability through cutting direct costs. By the way, back then cutting labor cost wasn’t worth the effort.

I have had conversations for several years with The Reshoring Initiative. A 50-year manufacturing industry veteran and retired President of GF AgieCharmilles, Harry Moser founded the Reshoring Initiative to move lost jobs back to the U.S. For his efforts with the Reshoring Initiative, he was named to Industry Week magazine’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2010..

The Reshoring Initiative’s 2018 Reshoring Report contains data on U.S. reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) by companies that have shifted production or sourcing from offshore to the United States. The report includes cumulative data from 2010 through 2018, as well as projections for 2019. The numbers demonstrate that reshoring and FDI are major contributing factors to the country’s rebounding manufacturing sector.

“We publish this data annually to show companies that their peers are successfully reshoring and that they should reevaluate their sourcing and siting decisions,” said Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative. “With 5 million manufacturing jobs still offshore, as measured by our $800 billion/year goods trade deficit, there is potential for much more growth. We call on the administration and Congress to enact policy changes to make the United States competitive again. Our Competitiveness Toolkit is available to help quantify the impact of policy alternatives, including a stronger skilled workforce, continued corporate tax and regulatory reductions as well as a lower U.S. dollar.”

In 2018 the number of companies reporting new reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) was up 38% from 2017. The combined reshoring and related FDI announcements totaled over 145,000 jobs. Including upward revisions of 36,000 jobs in prior years, the total number of manufacturing jobs brought to the United States from offshore is over 757,000 since the manufacturing employment low of 2010.

Allowing for a two-year lag from announcement to hire, the cumulative announcements since 2010 have driven 31% of the total increase in U.S. manufacturing jobs during that period and 3.3% of total end-of-2018 manufacturing employment of 12.8 million.

The Reshoring Initiative largely attributes the increases to greater U.S. competitiveness due to corporate tax and regulatory cuts. Similar to the previous few years, FDI continued to exceed reshoring in terms of total jobs added, but reshoring has closed most of the gap since 2015.

Although China topped Germany for the greatest number of FDI jobs announced since 2010, China announced 12% fewer in 2018 than in 2017. I’m betting that 2019 will see a greater decline given the current trade war unless something works out.

Quality, freight cost, and total cost make up the top offshore drivers of the trend.

Proximity to market, government incentives, supply chain optimization, higher productivity, skilled workforce, and brand image/made in USA serve as the top domestic drivers.

Reshoring has been increasing at a similar rate as FDI, indicating that U.S. headquartered companies are starting to understand the U.S. production benefit that foreign companies have seen for the last few years.

What the Best Mentors Do

The Coaching Role

I’m still reflecting on Trillion Dollar Coach plus three weekends of youth sports. Most executives don’t even have coaches, even though they could really use one. The variety of coaching skill and ability at the youth sports level is staggering. So many coaches need coaching at that level. That’s the role of the leadership of a good club. Often doesn’t happen.

What makes for a good coach.

Begin with empathy and trustworthiness. If the coach lacks these character traits, then anything further is hopeless.

A coach must have a set of knowledge and values. Good coaches have experience, but they are seldom the greatest. They are the ones who have been there but had to reflect on their development and experiences. They’ve studied the game and know the skill sets required for success.

A coach is observant. This ability means a coach can see each player or client, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They can pick out the next skill each player/client needs to develop to succeed at this level in order to progress.

A coach can teach skills. Of course, the player/client must be teachable. It is a two-way interaction.

A coach can devise practice for student to repeat until learned. This is the same idea for a 9-year-old beginner or a 29-year-old pro. Knowing you need to move slightly to the left more or knowing how to field a ground ball does nothing without the drill to make the skill part of “muscle memory.”

A coach provides appropriate feedback. This makes practice more valuable and helps adjust skills to the situation.

The end result consists of increased confidence and character development.

Think of the coaches that you’ve had. Think of the impact of the good coaches on your development. Then the bad ones where you learned nothing. Or, perhaps the bad teaching or negative comments set you back years.

Become a good coach. You do that by practice, of course. That means finding a young person who is coachable. Start slowly. Build rapport. Then try with another. Make yourself valuable to your organization and find your own fulfillment by bringing along the next generation. Works for engineers, managers, executives, whomever.

Go make a difference.

Hiring Woes Beyond Helicopter Parents

Hiring Woes Beyond Helicopter Parents

Director of hiring to job candidate, “Congratulations. I would like to offer you this position. Can you start Monday?”

Candidate, “First, before I accept, my mother must interview you.”

She didn’t get the job.

Have you fund an increasing number of job applicants unable to stand on their own?

I’ve written, probably many times, about my experiences assigning soccer referees to games over the past 25 years.

I’ve tried “Rachel needs to call” or “Jeremy must go to this website and fill out the form” or whatever.

That’s too subtle. Mom never gets it, and sometimes is offended that I suggest that her precious darling actually show some initiative to get the games. After all, I’m expecting them to be professional arriving at the site, making decisions, helping manage the game.

Earlier this season there was a young, new referee who obviously didn’t want to be there. Probably was told there was money to be made. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out that dad or mom did the online course work before the classroom session.

Then I was told about the “snowplow” parent who goes beyond hovering like a helicopter into the territory of removing all obstacles. Researching that term, I discovered another term–“lawnmower” parenting. Same idea.

This does the kid no good. It’s a good way, I guess, to breed dependency. But that’s a bad thing. Who wants a society of weak, dependent people?

I guess they never took to heart the ancient story of the butterfly.

A child brought a cocoon to a wise guru. “What is this?” The guru told him. And he continued, “Watch this cocoon and soon you will see a beautiful butterfly come out. But you must not help it when it is leaving the cocoon.”

Later the child brought the cocoon and a dead butterfly to the guru. The guru said, “You helped the butterfly get out, didn’t you? You see, child, the butterfly must struggle and beat its wings against the walls of the cocoon in order to gain enough strength to leave the cocoon and fly.”

So it is with us. It is in the facing and overcoming of obstacles and challenges that we become stronger–physically and spiritually.

Again, I ask, are you having trouble with applicants or new hires and their over-protective parents? How do you handle it?