This is part two of a two-part piece. Part one can be found here.
By MICHAEL COLLINS, Author, Saving American Manufacturing
Empathy — Pink also says that leaders in the new century must have empathy. He makes the case that “the era of sharp minded knowledge workers and briskly efficient high tech companies that prized emotional distance and cool reason and who could make a decision unimpeded by emotion2” may not be the answer.
American Manufacturing is facing a situation where we don’t have the skilled workers we need and the baby boomers are retiring by the thousands. To recruit and retain the bright, brave and honest future manufacturing workers may take a different approach to managing that requires the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. Pink implies that emotional abilities will become more important than intellectual abilities. Empathy is also an absolutely necessary part of interviewing, which every leader must do every day, it is important for building teams, and it is an important factor in motivating employees.
For instance, teams are always composed of people who have different agendas, emotions, needs, and views; but they still have to work together and make consensual decisions. It is essential that the leader understand the emotional make-up of these people make sure they achieve team goals.
Empathy is also necessary to retain the talented people I call “hunters.” Hunters are the people who get things done, are creative, and are a source of new ideas. Retaining “hunters” must be a high priority of the leader because it costs too much to replace them. It takes skills in coaching, mentoring, and empathy to be able to retain hunters and get them to follow you. It is this ability to understand the people that work for them or even customers that buy from them that may give them the inside track of becoming the complete manager/leader.
Meaning — Pink refers to Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” and makes the point that meaning is very important to motivate workers to be more creative in the new century. It is based on the assertion that the motivational engine that powers mankind is the pursuit of meaning. He makes a case that the pursuit of meaning is what powers human existence. This assertion gets very philosophical in terms of how it is applied but it may have application for a big problem faced by American Manufacturing — how to attract and recruit young people into a manufacturing career.
I don’t think that it will be possible to attract the bright and educated young people that are needed in manufacturing without making the job (career) more meaningful. So the question is how do you make people’s jobs more meaningful and bring them more job satisfaction?
This pursuit is probably different for every person, but for me the search was always about doing things that were interesting. The more new ideas I could find or invent in work the happier I was. Fortunately I have a very eclectic list of interests and my personal mission was to find ways to combine my interests and skills with my work to bring real meaning and enjoyment to my career. I always wanted to do something new and was willing to take chances right from the beginning.
I think that making a job more meaningful is extremely important, and one idea that I think would promote meaning and job satisfaction is assisting young employees in planning out their careers. Instead of just hiring them for some specific job profile, companies should identify their interests and help them map out a complete career showing the education and training needed and how they can reach their monetary and promotion goals, as well as satisfy their needs. This is being discussed more and more as manufacturing tries to come to grips with its bad image and the problem of training and retaining the high skilled workers of the new century.
In an article he wrote on How Do We Revive America?, Thomas Friedman says, “If we can make America the best place to dream something, design something, start something, collaborate with others on something — in an age where every link in the chain can now be done in so many places- our workers and innovators will do just fine.” But I would add that to accomplish these lofty goals will require shifting to right-brained strategies and leaders who can think with both left- and right-brain quadrants. In fact, I will go out on a limb and predict that the manufacturing workers and companies that emphasize R-Directed thinking will have a better chance of getting ahead in the new economy
 How Do We Revive America, Thomas Friedman, New York Times, July 24, 2012
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