Managing Your Shop Floor – First You Need Leaders

This time of year most t-shirt shops around the country are getting tested every day by a higher than normal percentage of new orders arriving.  In our shop, we’re about 20%-30% above our historical norm right now, and it’s good to be that busy.

However, with the volume comes a completely new set of challenges that need to be addressed daily.  Managing these challenges can only be controlled with leadership from the floor.  This means staff making decisions and moving onto the next challenge, without running to you to clarify a detail.  It’s all about leadership.

So how do you grow or find that leadership when you need it?  Here are some tips:

  1. Set clear expectations.  It’s easy to make decisions if your company culture has matured enough that your entire staff knows what’s expected of them, and what won’t be tolerated.  That being said you still have to reinforce, promote and discuss these expectations constantly.  If it’s widely known that “Receiving must check in all goods by 1:00” or “Rush orders are staged and printed first” or “Invoicing for orders occurs one business day after the order ships”, etc., then managing your company is that much easier.  Ambiguity breeds indecisiveness. 
  2. Who stands out on your team?  Regardless of seniority, who is stepping up and getting things done?  That’s the person that you need to mentor on leadership.  Keep giving small projects to them to nurture their growth.  Cross train them in other departments.  Like a shortstop on a baseball team, these folks will quickly become your “go to” people when you need them the most.  Encourage them with praise, training, and yes even more money if you can afford it.
  3. Not all of your leaders are managers.  Look out among your staff, these people easily stand out as they are the ones that come in early, stay late, and are not satisfied until everything that are tasked to do today is complete.  Hold them up as examples for encouragement.
  4. Leaders are dependable.  It won’t do you much good to have someone volunteer to help out with a special project and then not show up.  Learn that some people are all talk and move on.  Find the people that you can count on.  Sometimes this means letting go and hiring new people.  You can train a skill, but you can’t train an attitude.  That comes from within.
  5. Trial by fire.  Got a big project looming?  Who is on your A-Team that you are going to need to get it accomplished?  Everyone on that crew that helps grows a little bit, as they have provided an over the top value to your company.  Publicly recognize these people as leaders, and that they earned their stripes by helping.  Don’t forget that the people you may want on your team may not necessarily work in that area…  If you can get them some training beforehand, you’ll be that much better prepared.
  6. Find the mechanic.  Who in your company wants to fix the problem instead of pointing fingers?  That’s leadership.  Finger pointing and assigning blame is for cowards.  Problem solvers make the attempt, and regardless of the outcome, are showing leadership potential.  Get those people some help.
  7. Leaders understand the value of accountability.  More often than not, they aren’t happy when something happens and want to find a solution so it doesn’t happen again.  One tool to use is your performance review process.  I’m a big believer is using a 360 degree review, with all of the discussion during the review is focused on improving performance and setting goals.  Everyone should get a review every six months.  This includes your management team and owners.

Developing leaders in the apparel industry isn’t something that most shops do naturally.  Most are just focused on getting product out the door on time.  However, if you take a step back and honestly review your company from a 30,000 foot level you can see where you need help.

Got some questions on leadership development with your group?  Contact me and let me help you develop an all-star team that will set you apart from your competition.  matkinson4804@gmail.com

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http://about.me/atkinsonmarshall

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