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  • Writer's pictureBill Greider

No stage fright here

One of the 4 basic principles of the Toyota Production System is to continuously develop your PEOPLE & Partners (build leaders).

Let's focus on one piece of developing leaders, and specifically the one big fear that turns men into mice, the kryptonite that weakens knees. That is, of course, speaking in front of a large group of people. The laundry list of things people fear most usually includes, death, snakes, clowns and gulp!! Public Speaking!! Several surveys have actually shown that some people prefer the Grim Reaper to public speaking.

One of the most common conversations I have every single week in my lean consulting life goes something like this:

Me: "That's a great idea Fred! Let me help you pull a team together, and we can start by bringing some definition to the current condition. I bet you and your team will eliminate 70 or 80 hours per year of walking alone on the dooflicker line"

Fred: "Do I have to do that thing where I have to talk at the end?"

Me: "So who do you think you might need on your A3 team to help you make this suggestion come to life? Maybe someone from the sales team? Maintenance? IT? Anyone else from the dooflicker cell? Purchasing?"

Fred: "I don't have to talk at the end, do I?"

Me: Here's the A3 form, let me help you get started. Let's go over to the A3 board so I can add this beauty."

Fred: "I won't have to talk, right?"

Me: "Fred, you're a perfect example of how the people who do the job every single day are best qualified to make improvements, and this A3 is a grand slam!!"

Fred: "Yeah thanks. I won't have to talk at the end right?.

Things get worse when we ask Fred to use a microphone because the closings are on the shop floor with lots of noise.

As Fred's manager, it is my job to constantly work to develop Fred and everyone else I am responsible to help grow. As Taiichi Ohno said, "we build leaders, then cars." As Fred's manager, my ONLY task in life, in fact is to develop people. I don't make the dooflickers, or test them, or ship them.

For Fred's first A3, I will explain to him that I will help him do a good job on his A3 form, because it will ultimately end up being his "script" for the closing. I will tell him that everyone who is listening will be rooting for you and will want you to be successful. I will ask his team leader or supervisor to go through a dry run the day before with him, and to stand next to Fred at the actual closing to get him started. Just state the problem, who was on your team, explain the current condition and how we got to root cause and what the countermeasure was.

An interesting dynamic is when Fred gets through it and his peers clap. Pictures are taken, and one of his leaders comes over to express gratitude, shake his hand, sometimes a quick hug. Phew! I survived! Fred will be a little less anxious the next A3. After leading 6 or 8 closings, Fred will feel like he can talk in front of anyone.

Hint: One of the things leaders have to do is communicate in front of people, whether it's their team, customers or making a proposal.

Continuously Develop Your People and Partners. Glossophobia is as good a start as any. Imagine the competitive advantage of having a whole population of people who are fearless and act like they own the place? Like my friends Laura and Sharon, along with Greg Fowler, Rodney Chandler and others at Atlas (Newington, CT).

It's the exact opposite of "I just work here, is it Friday yet?"

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