Maintenance Manager Leadership Development Planning



In the current environment of Lean, TPM, Reliability Excellence, RCM, integrated maintenance / operations teams, new technologies and constant pressure to make maintenance more efficient and rise to a leading position with added value, the maintenance manager must become a business unit manager on an equal footing with the other functions of the plant.

Maintenance managers run a business within a business. They have 24/7 responsibility, deliverable, customers, resource allocations, planning, people development responsibilities, political acumen, accountability and drive. They also have the best-trained workforce with a lot of untapped talent and creativity. Do you manage to win or do you play so as not to lose?

For the past 10 years, I have been associated with a Maintenance Manager Mentorship Program within the US Postal Service. This is a program designed to improve the situation of our managers. We have strived to train leaders first, then business leaders and, finally, maintenance management professionals.

A full year of meetings and activities was devoted to self-knowledge. We used instruments (Myers Briggs, FIRO B, DISC, PF16, 360) to help the manager know himself and understand the diversity in others. In group discussions and using psychologists, the protégés learned how they can become effective in leading / persuading / managing others as well as themselves.

At the end of the first year, they were immersed in courses in marketing, accounting, economics, strategy and quantitative management. It is imperative to be able to converse with other functions in terms other than maintenance and in business jargon. They also subscribed to business magazines and attended professional association meetings and conferences. This was followed by two weeks of Excellence in Reliability training.

Self-awareness and business exposure have been prescribed as core activities to build upon. Using this foundation and the expectations developed from the best maintenance processes, each person developed their unique individual development plan to be completed in the two-year program.

Very few maintenance managers have the privilege of participating in such a program, but the basics still hold true: self, business acumen, process orientation, continued personal growth, and the development of others. American industry needs the best trained and most motivated workforce possible. Maintenance managers must work constantly to develop this environment in their companies. It is their responsibility to create a learning environment.

Maintenance management development process

The following paragraphs can help get the ball rolling for you. Managers at the top need to lead by example and truly believe in their own growth and that of their employees. They must preach.

On the first day of my first job out of college, I discovered tech and business magazines in the bathroom stalls. My supervisor also informed me that I was expected to continue my education at my office building on the latest engineering articles and keeping up with new products. I found out that everyone in the plant’s engineering department was doing this.

The company was sending a powerful message that learning was continuous and that it had a responsibility to employees to help them grow. I discovered that employees took college courses in a variety of disciplines including business, art, history, religion, and marketing. The company believed that any expansion of employee horizons made a better person and, therefore, a better employee.

Since this job 40 years ago, I have carried this philosophy throughout my career. Life is career and work is only part of it. If we want to have a balance in our careers, all parts have to grow if one part grows.

Alright, Rex! But how does this affect the workplace?

Most companies encourage continuing education with job-related courses. Is an oriental religion course related to work? Think about the diverse workforce. How about a pottery class? I had an employee who was a workaholic and didn’t know how to relax, and he didn’t have a hobby either. He asked if the company would allow him to take time off each week to attend the class, and would I pay for that? Yes, and he discovered he had a knack for “throwing bowls”. He came to work a little differently, more relaxed and less stressed, and he had a hobby.

Human resources managers talk about KSA – knowledge, skills and abilities. We perform a task analysis and decide on the required KSAs. Thus, we hire a workforce from KSA to perform identified tasks. For a manager, we want KSAs in planning, communication, analysis, problem solving, etc. But that’s what got them where they are. How to develop creativity, innovation and leadership? We offer a variety of experiences including seminars, education, assignments, mentors, technical readings and more to make them better at what they do today. Do we know what they will be doing in 10 or 20 years?

It’s time to let managers experience life, examine theirs and business paradigms. What can they learn about themselves and their managerial work? Several years ago, Harvard Business Review published its first special edition. The subject was leadership. On the cover there was the statement: “The best strategy for today’s leader is to know himself. I submit that manager training should include, from the start, the use of instruments (Myers Briggs, 360, FIRO B, etc.) so that the manager begins to understand his own type, character and diversity. It is the foundation for understanding self as well as appreciating the talents and diversity of those with whom we associate at work and beyond.

I had a secretary who wanted to get an MBA in marketing. Part of his job included setting up conferences. I agreed to his request. Today, six years later, she occupies a very visible position within the marketing department. Who are we to find out where our employees will end up working from a career perspective. They should be developed to afford the “chance” as Darrell Royal defined it: “preparation meeting opportunity”. 40 years ago, I certainly had no idea that one day I would be the second maintenance manager in an organization with 42,000 maintenance employees.

Properly prepare individual development plans

Yes, companies have employees who develop individual development plans (IDPs). It adapts to the forms of the company and favors short-term experiences. I prefer the manager to spend time in free form, writing down whatever comes to mind. This could include life aspirations, what he or she expects from work, desired community and social engagement, strengths, outcomes of various instruments, values, family expectations, and definitions of personal growth. It becomes a personal plan that transcends the company’s IDP and leaves the manager responsible for following it. Offsite workshops with other functional managers to encourage this introspection and sharing are helpful in developing personal trust and team understanding.

Remember, your employees, peers, and boss have the same issues as you do. Learning to help them will help you achieve a more productive and fulfilling “life career”.

I’m the kind of person who enjoys the adventure of travel, always looking for the next challenge. During the 12 years leading up to my retirement, I reinvented my job many times and started new journeys, not only for myself, but for my organization. You cannot change positions or jobs for several years. Can you reinvent your work where you are? It requires knowing yourself, understanding your workforce, managing processes, and jointly developing a vision that you need to champion for the entire plant. Are you up to the challenge?

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