Let People Chew You Out

person walking on snow covered sidewalk

Leadership is about listening.

In the manufacturing context, this means that you should be approachable to anyone on the plant floor. You might not agree with the feedback, it might even irritate you, but you should listen to it.

Even if people feel the need to chew you out, let them.

Recently, I had this experience as people gave me feedback for the family’s decision to shutdown the facility for twenty-four hours on a Wednesday due to unprecedented cold temperatures (-30F). Some of our third shift team-members were upset because, in order to make up their two lost shifts, they worked Friday and Saturday nights. They could take those days as vacation, but that decision would inevitably be left to the discretion of their managers. The company needed enough team members present to run the facility to ensure that orders were completed and our customers experienced minimal effects from the shutdown.

Of course, our family considered the inconvenience of team members having to work both weekend days. We suspected that some may have pre-existing plans, or simply want the break that exists in the rhythm of a normal work week. But this wasn’t normal! In fact, this shutdown was only the second in our sixty-six-year history! The most important factor for the family was the well-being, and safety, of each team-member arriving at work around midnight, and departing the following morning a little after 8 a.m. According to the National Weather Service, these were the most dangerous times. Thus, we felt the safest decision was for our team-members to be home. Not only did this keep them out of the elements, but it also allowed them to be home with loved ones in case something went wrong in their home – bursting pipes being a fear realized by many

Chicagoans because of the unprecedented low temps.

Walking through the facility a few days later –on Saturday morning — I began receiving mixed feedback:

“My car would have started perfectly fine,” someone informed me. “You guys should have given us a vacation day, instead of making us work all weekend.” Another person simply said, “thank you.” Another said, “I don’t understand why we shut down. You should pay us extra for working all weekend, even if it just makes us whole for the week.” And another questioned, “Did you even consider people having to work all weekend?”

I listened.

I honestly felt bad. But, the job of the leader is to do what’s best for the collective whole, not the opinionated few.

And, as I mentioned above, people feeling the need to chew me out comes with the territory.

I take it as a sign that everyone feels like they can talk to the family.

I wouldn’t have it any other way!