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Ask Your MHEDA Board: Emerging Leaders

“How do you identify emerging leaders within your own company and how do you encourage them to learn and grow?” ASKED BY MHEDA

Doug Carson, VP Marketing / Sales, Fallsway Equipment Company, Akron, OH

We identify emerging leaders primarily by recognizing key traits we find valuable in personnel with upward mobility or management/leadership in their future. Some of these traits include: 1) the willingness to proactively seek out additional responsibilities 2) great customer service skills 3) displaying the willingness to take risks and make decisions that consistently positively affect the company 4) projecting an encouraging, “can-do” approach in all business situations, and 5) the ability to interact with all departments and co-workers in a friendly and respectful manner while using company resources to solve customer problems.

We identify these emerging leaders and then try to provide growth paths through additional responsibilities and networking/educational opportunities. We regularly use the MHEDA educational conferences such as Service/Parts, Emerging Leaders, and Rental/Used to expose emerging leaders to new ideas and peer-to-peer networking. We also encourage participation in our OEMs’ educational offerings. Other growth venues include encouraging active participation through presentation opportunities with MHEDA or OEM programs.

Buddy Smith, CEO, CMH Services, Columbia, SC

Identifying emerging leaders – We are fortunate to have some very good emerging leaders in our company. I think it starts with the hiring process in the sense that we try and look for individuals who will have the potential to be future influencers in our company. Once they are on board, we look to see how they are embracing our culture. We are very intentional about our culture and values and a future leader in our company must align themselves with these values. Finally, we try and give them all the tools necessary for them to be successful including skill set training as well as leadership coaching. Developing future leaders in our company is a great way to ensure our long term success.

Mike Vaughan, CFO, Liftech Equipment Companies, Inc. E. Syracuse, NY

Identifying emerging leaders in your organization starts with engagement of employees in a wide range of activities and functions. Obviously you may see potential in an individual during the recruiting and hiring phase, and once hired, you’ll have the opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions about many aspects of the business. To really engage the emerging leader you’ll need to open the doors of opportunity and help them visualize the future with excitement. Be positive and approach the interaction with excitement. Let them run with ideas and feed their momentum by encouraging new thoughts, ideas and recommendations. I have used book clubs as a way to create productive discussions on a variety of challenges and opportunities.

Ted Springer, President Springer Equipment Birmingham, AL

These two questions are some of the most important questions we are asking ourselves today. The best way to identify an emerging leader is to listen to what they are saying or in the case of a younger leader what they are asking in terms of questions about their job and how it effects the other jobs in their department. Those who ask relevant questions are paying attention and will tend to take advantage of the opportunities they are provided. We encourage those we identify as emerging leaders that take the initiative and are engaged in their jobs by rewarding them with opportunities for advancement either within their department or other departments in the company.

Mentoring and coaching is very important either during the learning curve of a new job or when something didn’t go quite right. We always try to make a positive out of a negative situation and fully explain what the results of the outcome are and how the process could have been different. Encouragement with genuine praise about their progress is very helpful in learning new skills and the growth that follows. It never hurts to offer praise on a job well done to the emerging leader when they are within earshot of their peers!

Mark Nelson, President Nelson Equipment Company, Shreveport, LA

At Nelson Equipment, we fill positions by identifying the particular skillset that is required for that job requirement. That is the hard part. We can teach everything else.  But identifying emerging leaders within our organization is really quite easy. We look to those individuals that go above and beyond what is “required” in their job. They are creative and ask good questions, not question every task given. They complete that which is set before them on-time and with a high degree of excellence. And most importantly, they lead by example.

For us, it is very important to recognize publicly and privately excellence when performed by an employee. We celebrate the small things as they lead to bigger results. We make sure that we understand what the employee desires both at work and on their own time and ensure that there is a balance between both so that work does not become a burden. It requires day to day interaction and also some “away from work” time. Our employees embrace challenges as long as they know they have a supporting cast behind them. And lastly, we try to create a fun and enjoyable environment along the way.

With continuous improvement practices we make sure the employee is comfortable and willing when tasked with something they are not normally accustomed to doing. We do not leave them to fail on their own. We interact so that success is a given, the skills learned is the objective.

Tom Albero, President & CEO Alliance Material Handling, Inc. Jessup, MD

First we have all new hires take a personality profile test to give us ideas of their strengths and weaknesses. Our approach is to focus initially on their strengths and over time help them overcomes some or all of their weaknesses. We then look at their performance in their first year and see if they separate themselves from others in terms of performance, alignment with The Alliance Way 30 core fundamentals, culture fit and overall attitude. Once we determine that an employee is an “A” player we begin to ask them to do additional tasks. We have conversations with them on career tracks that make sense for them. We enroll them initially in on-line training classes offered through the MHEDA LMS platform. This is a critical step to see their initiative on moving their career to the next level. Once an employee has embraced this first step, we determine what other management programs are needed for them. Popular consideration are college courses, motivational courses, review courses that may be required for passing a certain exam. Based on performance in these courses, Alliance will reimburse them for their costs. Over a 3 to 5 year period, we will enroll them in the MHEDA educational seminars that are offered. We monitor their progress and engage the MHEDA staff on how they participated.

John Gelsimino, President All Lift Service Co., Inc. Willoughby, OH

This is a great question and the answer can vary based on different areas of the dealership. Generally speaking it can be difficult to identify a true emerging leader in the first year of employment. Most employees initially say the right things and play the part in their first year. After the first year you start to see someone’s true colors and if they actually have the GRIT required to be an emerging leader in the material handling business.

I use the word “GRIT” very carefully because many people think that they want to be a leader. However, once they actually achieve their goal and feel the pressure and responsibility of the job they learn that they are unable to handle it. I tell people that the forklift business is not a hobby – it is a full-time job that requires an enormous ability to handle “challenges” each day and the will and determination to power through and keep pushing forward. If that last sentence made you smile then you get it and have been in this business for a while.

A true emerging leader must have the drive and desire from within. An emerging leader develops over time and is often given an opportunity to rise above when the going gets rough due to situations like someone leaving the company, on vacation or out sick. It is up to the leadership to make sure that there is a culture that recognizes and promotes people making decisions and rising above while at the same time maintaining a proper chain of command. Most companies have great difficulty balancing these two conflicting cultures and error more on the side of chain of command which can be damaging.

There are enormous opportunities for emerging leaders now and in the coming years. If you have the drive and desire to move up in your organization always remember that this process is not fast, it is not easy and it is not done with the normal course of effort. Look for opportunities when the going gets rough inside of your organization and do everything in your power to fill the void and jump in the trenches to help get the job done. This is how you get ahead in this business and these are the types of people that I try to hire, work alongside and recognize in my dealership.

Jeff Darling, Vice President Operations, Washington Liftruck, Seattle, WA

We identify Individuals that may be emerging leaders by their personal characteristics, behavior and work habits including:

  • Employees that lead or exhibit a desire to lead. This illustrates their desire for new challenges and their acceptance of additional responsibilities.
  • Those that are influential where others seek them out for thoughts and guidance even when not in a defined leadership role.
  • Individuals who consistently go above and beyond their normal duties to satisfy others and complete their mission.
  • People that seek additional responsibilities wanting to learn and grow.
  • Employees that always see the glass half-full, not halfempty that are optimistic. Other employees gravitate to these individuals.

As managers we nurture and engage these employees by:

  • Providing them with on-going feedback and recognition for their accomplishments.
  • Working collaboratively with the individuals in setting their short and long-term career goals.
  • Developing continual growth opportunities for these individuals including the following:
    • Special Projects
    • Specialized training in specific fields
    • Train-the Trainer opportunities
    • Shop Lead o Sales Specialist positions

Recognizing these skills and traits in our personnel and fostering their development significantly adds to their engagement with the company while growing tomorrow’s leaders!

Hal Ingram, Divisional VP, Gregory Poole Equipment Company, Raleigh, NC

Answering on behalf of Hal Ingram are two Gregory Poole emerging leaders Chris Sowers, Marketing & Business Development Manager and Jeremiah Kappler, Sales Manager

Chris Sowers

To successfully identify emerging leaders, it is important to recognize the ability of an employee to possess a combination of high performance and high potential. Meaning that the employee is able to fulfill their current duties, as well as seeking out additional tasks. This is a crucial element for management to be aware of because it shows that the employee is actively looking to perform at a higher level in the organization. While mastering their daily tasks, they are still interested in doing more to benefit the organization.

It is also safe to assume that emerging leaders are interested in the advances in compensation that become available when the steps of the ladder are climbed. Emerging leaders are motivated by the ability to achieve both financial gains, and also the elevated status that comes with advancing one’s career. For an emerging leader to feel successful, they cannot rest on their laurels, but instead execute complicated tasks to completion and still want more. They truly care for the health of the company, and are invested in the success of the company because they feel that if the company does well financially, that those who made success a reality will benefit.

To encourage emerging leaders to learn and grow, a combination of strategies must be considered. First you must allow emerging leaders to be put in a position to succeed, but also to fail. There must be a gauge to tell where the breaking point is for that individual. Are they doing 100 things at the same time, but only a certain percentage is done successfully?

Secondly, a series of high profile assignments is valuable so that others in the organization can also recognize the talent of that individual. It portrays the confidence that the senior management places on the emerging leader to showcase their skills. For senior management to be able to delegate a complicate task, and have the confidence that the task will be executed properly, and with the sense of urgency that the task deserves is a tremendous example.

The emerging leaders in our own company will play a crucial role in the prolonged success of the organization. The need to identify these high-potential leaders now, and prepare them for their future role is one of the most important aspects of successful, succession planning efforts.

Jeremiah Kappler

It can be widely argued that leadership is influence. The art and degree of influence he or she may naturally have will often be determined within the scope or culture of a company. A genuine leader will recognize the scope and culture and adjust his or her skill set to become valuable person to the organization. Each company has their own specific beginning and environment in which they either fight to maintain or seek to evolve because of external factors, internal factors, or a combination of both (Why, How, and What). Regardless, each company needs high performers to perform its tasks and processes. High performers can be viewed as people taking on additional tasks, taking initiative, problems solvers, short or long-term profit makers, and great managers. However, high performers within a specific segment of an operation are not always the best leaders. High performers may chase a position of influence or title, but the value they bring to the organization is potentially what can drive an emerging leader. An emerging leader and not manager is someone who can be trusted, someone who has a positive influence on those around them, someone who drives a team to win, someone who does not compromise the company’s core values, and someone who comes to the table with a holistic company approach. They are the ones that exercise restraint, learn from their mistakes (are not afraid to make mistakes), stand behind their colleague (right or wrong), and continually push the betterment of the company. They are driving disruptive innovation (internally or externally), they are the ones that have the genuine motivation for personal and group success. Motivation is key. If everyone above the potential leader is satisfied but everyone below is disgruntled the motivation must be challenged. Again, we go back to the organization’s culture, and the default attitude of the emerging leader. Every company has their own lens. An emerging leader will be able to genuinely/ naturally evolve because the influence of that person will be displayed through the positive feedback from others (directly above and below, or customers). If management is creating the right work environment catering to the emerging leader, his or hers leadership qualities are naturally displayed, and this person becomes the obvious choice.

Encouraging a future leader to learn and grow is a balancing act. The first way to encourage a future leader, once they are recognized, is to be involved. Every future leader is different. The approach may have to be anywhere from a personalized approach to more opportunities to a handsoff (however, be there to coach). The second way is to make sure there is an incentive for winning/succeeding and building value. Third is to make sure there is trust, affirmation, and respect at the appropriate times to build the right amount of confidence to keep making progressive strides for them and the company.