47: Navigating Leadership Challenges in Manufacturing- with Holly Whitcomb

a BROADcast for Manufacturers

Mar 20 2024 • 30 mins

Meet Holly Whitcomb

Holly Whitcomb’s passion for helping people be their best drives her every day. Holly is the CEO and Founder of Novel Leadership, focused on the development of individuals and teams through coaching, workshop facilitation and consulting. Holly is well versed in working with front-line level leaders in manufacturing organizations as well as senior leaders in highly matrixed organizations.

Prior to founding Novel Leadership, Holly led 3M Company’s North America Learning & Development team where she worked directly with senior leaders to increase their leadership team effectiveness and leadership development needs across 3M’s back-office, client facing and manufacturing teams.

Why is leadership and all development important in manufacturing?

Think about all of the changes that have happened over the course of the last 10 years, but even think about what we've been through in the last four years. And the impact that that has had on manufacturing environments, on teams. On all the challenges that have not been planned, even though we always say we plan for stuff, right? I think that that's where it really starts to come in and you start to understand the importance of this idea of building capacity, building skills, building agility across all levels of the organization, across all silos.

And the one thing that I've noticed over the course of the work that I've done is this silo has a tendency to be left back here sometimes when it comes to these corporate initiatives of development. And so that's why I think it's so critical because when we think about what kept things moving, it was the people who went in. It was the people who were on the floor.

And so it's how do we help recognize the value in a different way? So that's kind of why it's important to me and one of my passion projects.

What are some of the most critical skills you find are lacking or really needed today?

I don't know if this is just manufacturing. I think we're all recognizing that we are entering into what I call kind of this new phase of what it looks like to be an employee and be an employer in the world that we're in today. And mental health is a huge piece of that. Whole person is a huge piece of that. Inclusion is a huge piece of that.

And so I think a couple of the things that I think about in terms of skills when I talk with leaders is where you are with your understanding about your own emotional intelligence. How is your coaching capability? How are you delivering feedback? And how are you engaging with people on that whole person aspect of who they are. So the whole idea of psychological safety, how are you creating an environment where people feel safe to be who they are and bring their voices into the organization? And when I think about it, oftentimes people are like, “Oh, manufacturing. No, they're just, they're good. They don't need it.” And they may work on machines, but these are humans. And think about what it is that we need to do as leaders in order to be able to crack open what our whole team knows and creating that environment where people feel safe.

And so much more…


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