A leadership workshop capped the morning session. The workshop followed an inspiring talk on leadership challenges by Steve Skarke, Site Manager and SVP - Operations at Kaneka Texas Corporation. Steve's talk was bolstered by an outstanding panel of contributors who spoke about their experience regarding leadership and operational excellence.
Beth Bowles, Site Director at Celanese Chemicals, provided insightful commentary on employee engagement. John Parkinson, VP - Operations at PetroLogistics discussed leadership in a highly competitive environment and Dick Pettigrew, Principal, Aura, LLC drew on his career at Rohm and Haas to highlight leadership challenges in a fast paced, rapidly changing industry.
We then turned the leadership topic over to the forum attendees. The audience organized themselves into seven groups and the abovementioned speakers joined four of the groups to answer the following questions:
1. Name your top three leadership challenges.
2. What are the top three characteristics you look for in an effective leader?
3. What is the most effective way to get employees involved and committed to your business goals?
Communication topped the list of leadership challenges. But the subtext of that discussion ranged widely. Getting quality face-time and bridging generational differences, were top-of-mind for effective communications. Engagement ranked second regarding leadership challenges and here, line-of-sight to corporate goals, modeling behavior and relating long term impacts to daily actions dominated the discussion. Building sustainable momentum, aligning goals and obtaining personal commitment in union shops rounded out the leadership challenge issues facing the conference participants.
Integrity, honesty, credibility, trustworthy described the top-of-mind characteristics of effective leaders. The ability to inspire and motivate as a team member ranked high. And courage to make good decisions, follow through on promises and own up to mistakes was an admired characteristic.
Letting employees lead summarizes the top recommendations for getting employees involved. Sharing knowledge and performance results ran a close second. And helping employees see "what's in it for me" and giving them direct line-of-sight to how their daily actions affect corporate goals rounded out the recommendations.
As one team put it: "Include employees in all decisions - keep them connected to the business - ask, ask, ask, their point of view - make sure they have skin in the game."
The afternoon session featured keynoter Dick Pettigrew, Principal, AURA LLC and his panel - Tim Montgomery, Site Manager at Pensacola Chemicals, Ascend Performance Materials and Phil Starr, Director of Reliability at Air Liquide Large Industries US. Their presentations and the following discussion of reliability, asset management and business solutions was apropos.