A winning equation

Most CEOs and business owners
continually strive to improve the
quality of a business’s product or service in a variety of ways — from new
equipment or technology to changes in
management to employee incentives.
But, quality does not come from superficial adjustments, says Louie Hendon,
director of quality programs at Corporate

“There are two elements that must be
in place if a business is to achieve quality
in products or services: good leadership
and good teamwork,” Hendon says. “And
one goes hand in hand with the other.”

Smart Business spoke with Hendon
about how business owners can achieve
quality in their products or services by
making some fundamental changes in
their leadership style, making teamwork

You say teamwork and leadership are prerequisites to quality. How does that work?

Teamwork is always a top-down
approach. The leader needs to be part of
the team and not just sitting alone issuing directives from an ivory tower. The
CEO of Pillsbury, for example, always
walks the shop floor and talks to the
employees. He is truly a part of the team.
It is important for every supervisor, even
midlevel managers, to do this and not
insulate themselves from what is happening in the team. This is not micro-managing but simply staying involved
and encouraging people to think about
teamwork and quality as part of their
jobs. Having the leader be part of the
team is a critical part to developing a
team atmosphere.

At the same time, this kind of leader
must also be willing to let go and allow
leadership to emerge from a team.
Leaders must be able to train their subordinates to take charge and own a project. Leaders need to ask themselves: If I
left for a month, would the objectives
still be met? The team members must be
able to operate independently from the
leader. A CEO who becomes a micromanager and does not encourage leadership abilities of individuals below him or
her thwarts good teamwork.

Why is this kind of leadership important to
creating a good team?

Because you want everyone talking the
same language and working toward the
same company goals — there should be
no disconnect between upper management and staff. For example, if you wandered around your office right now and
randomly picked an employee and asked
him or her, ‘What is one goal for the company this fiscal year?’ would that
employee know the answer? It is important that everyone does know the goals,
and it is the responsibility of the leaders
to make sure that everyone understands
those goals and is on the same page.

Is this approach to quality possible for
every company?

Most traditional companies operate
under the idea of a strict hierarchy, with
many levels of authority that are increasingly removed from the workers.
Employees only hear the ‘quality talk’
from their CEO once a year, if ever.
However, newer, smaller companies
inherently use this leadership model
because everyone — even the CEO —
has to share the load.

It isn’t impossible for larger, more
established companies to become connected with their employees and ‘walk
the talk’ of teamwork. But the leadership
does need to make an effort and, in most
cases, it is a huge paradigm shift. This
kind of leadership shift is a change businesses must undergo in order to survive
in today’s global economy. Business
owners are beginning to understand that
quality initiatives are intricately tied to
leadership attitude and many team-building exercises and leadership workshops have been created to fulfill this
emerging paradigm shift.

Could you sum up the link between leadership/teamwork and quality?

This basic premise is the same no matter what type of company or industry
you are in — service or manufacturing.
Basically, it all boils down to good leadership, which is more than just telling
people what to do. True leadership
encourages teamwork by allowing
employees to emerge as leaders and
make decisions. When there is team-work, employees understand that they
are important in the bigger scheme of
the company and feel ownership. When
there is a feeling of ownership, high
quality of products and services emerge
from that feeling.

LOUIE HENDON is the director of quality programs at Corporate College, which offers employers custom-designed training programs
to enhance future work force development, job growth and job retention in Northeast Ohio. Contact Corporate College at (216) 987-2917.