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The Nature of Change

When starting in the role of Executive Director at the Missouri Association of Manufacturers almost 3 years ago, a common question I heard asked in leadership circles was, “What book are you reading?”.

Without fail, most of the answers I heard people mention were in the “leadership” category. Not surprising. There are some great resources out there. There are also those books that have a solid grip of the obvious, regurgitating concepts and strategies on the subject with a slightly different communication style.

I started with, The Laws of Human Nature, by Robert Greene. I am not sure why I started my new role with this book, but it just made sense to me. If I could identify the personality types that I would be coming into contact with, I felt, I could more quickly make a connection. Or, at the very least, better understand them – their motivations and context from which they operate.

To date, this has been the best resource for me, not only in my career, but in life.

Visiting our 160 manufacturing operations in the last 24 months, we have connected with manufacturers all over the state, in different industries, various sizes of operations – learning, discussing, discovering, and listening.

As we pulled up to one such plant tour in a small town that felt like it took three days to get to, my Director of Marketing said, “I don’t have a great feeling about this.” I replied, “On the contrary. This is going to be our best plant tour, ever.”

Two years later, we both are still unpacking that visit. The conversation, the stories, the products they make.

A story for another time, but it’s a good one.

In our travels and visits, as I mentioned, we listen. If we hear about a challenge at one manufacturing operation, we take note. If we hear about that same issue at another tour, we ask a few more questions. When we hear it again at a third facility – now we have an opportunity.

An opportunity to seek information and resources for the manufacturers of the state.

Over the past few months during our plant tours, automation is a common topic. The comment that is always made, “When we began implementing robotics and automation, our people were concerned about losing their jobs.” Followed by, “Why would they think that?”

I am surprised when employers are . . . surprised by that response from their employees. Human nature acknowledges that, when change is introduced, people will start with, “how is this going to impact me?”.

But I think this issue coming from those working in manufacturing is actually deeper than a concern of losing their job. Never forget, they make things – creating tangible important products. Something you see, touch and use. We have been blessed to have met some truly skilled craftsmen and women, all with a passion and pride for what they do and what they make. It’s who they are.

In one manufacturer where they make cabinetry for the hospitality industry, every team member who worked on a particular product, signs their initials on the back of the cabinet. “Be proud enough to put your name on it”, we were told.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The essence of liberty is independence.”

What people might be subconsciously asking, when they express concern of losing their job is, “Will I lose my craft, my skill, my independence, that make me valuable to this company I work for – making a product that creates pride and feeds my passion?”

Just a thought.

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