Written by Jason Haines

“If you want to be a great leader, remember to treat all people with respect at all times. For one, because you never know when you’ll need their help. And two, because it’s a sign you respect people, which all great leaders do.” -Simon Sinek

One of the pillars of the Toyota Way is respect for people; but what does this mean to Lean and leadership within companies? How can we, as leaders, show and receive the respect of the people that work for us along with stakeholders in our business? How do we show respect to those we may not know well, but are trying to do business with our company from time to time? The answer is we must show ALL people respect if we want to get respect in return.

Why did the leaders of Toyota believe they had to show respect for their people to get the most out of them? Is this some hidden secret that only they know about and the rest of the companies out there were clueless when trying to get their people to work. Toyota wanted to show their people respect, along with any Lean practitioner out there. We always want to show our people respect because we need them just as much as they need us, and many people are not going to follow until they realize how much they care about them.

What must we do to gain respect from our people? As a leader we need to work on ourselves first, to learn what drives us as a leader. Find our strengths and weaknesses and work on those first. After we work on ourselves, we then can start to lead others in life and in organizations to help make them stronger and to teach future leaders and ambassadors. This is a big reason that I took up Lean management. One, I realized I had a lot of work to do on myself to lead an organization, my family, and my own life. Two, I wanted to have a toolset that I could use as guidance for others and have a starting point that helps people out.

I became interested in Lean management in 2011 when I spoke with a former manager about what I needed to work on to understand more about how I could help people. He pointed me in the direction of Lean Six Sigma, and I decided to pursue my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.  I had never been a big fan of the statistics field, bad experiences while in college where I never understood the purpose of the course, but I decided to give it a try. At first, I was skeptical because of the statistics part, but then we started learning the Lean part and discussing the tools and respect for people. When we focused on the respect for people section, I became more interested in Lean management. Needless to say, I got certified as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt but came away with a much bigger interest in learning more about Lean itself.

I wanted to learn everything there was to know about Lean and apply it to my job and my own life; I thought all the tools and items I had learned could help me and others. I had always wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between the frontline workers and managers and Lean was that way to do so. With Lean I found a way to find a common language between the two groups so they could communicate better with each other. I also found a way that I could be more of a hands-on leader and not be told by other leaders that we can find someone to do that. The way I was raised by my family was to be part of the process and help people out.

While I was working as a line lead at a train wheel manufacturer, I always had respect for the people who worked for me. I showed my people this respect in many ways, at the time it wasn’t improving the process because I didn’t know how to, but I wanted them to understand that I cared about them. Depending on the time of the year I would give them longer breaks, pull molds for them, and many other things to make their jobs more comfortable and easier to do. I loved being there to help them out and wanted to be able to always be there for them regardless of the position I was in.

Then I moved to other jobs in more of a manager role, or leaders role, and many times when you get to these higher positions you are told that you cannot help, or guide the people in your stead. But at the same time these people are telling you this, they are also not teaching you how to become an effective leader, coach, teacher, and mentor in order to get the best out of the people that you are leading. And there is a huge disconnect here in many organizations. Many times, people are not taught how to lead properly. New leaders are not taught how to communicate with their people and how to get the most from them. New leaders need to be trained and taught how to succeed and one way to do this is through Lean management.

Lean management is a set of tools that are used to guide everyone through the process to make jobs more efficient with less waste and provide more time to find errors and learn new things. At first Lean is very difficult because many people do not know the how or the why it should be implemented in their organization. This is where training and education come into place; people don’t realize Lean is to help them become better at what they do and to eliminate the stress and chaos to their everyday jobs to allow their employees to grow and flourish.

When leaders help eliminate this stress and chaos from the job, they are showing people the respect they deserve. Furthermore, they are helping them to understand what is needed in the future and how to teach others. Leaders must gain respect from helping others, guiding others, and caring for other’s needs - this is where respect is earned. To accomplish this, we leaders learn to work on ourselves and lead ourselves. Leaders will then learn what it takes to lead others by learning what they want and building relationships with their people to get the most out of them. Caring for others is essential in leadership, as most people will know when we are faking it. But when they know we care they will follow us anywhere because they know we don’t just care about ourselves.

Helping grow your business through process improvements!!