Lift off

Challenge your people

If you want your people to get excited about your vision, you
need to talk to them about what you want them to do. In doing so,
you may find they have a few ideas to make your plan even
stronger.

“Give them a challenge and say, ‘We’d like to accomplish this. Do
you think you can do it?’” Mendelson says. “The first thing they do
is they look upon it as a challenge. ‘This is exciting because the
boss asked me if I think I can develop this and if I can do it. He didn’t tell me, “Hey, you over there. Do this.” He said, “Do you think
you can figure out a better way to make this happen? Do you know
how to do that?”’”

It is human nature for people to want to feel valued by others and
the workplace is no different. If you ask employees for their opinion about a project, the odds are greater that they will take a genuine interest in the task.

“Now, I have a challenge,” Mendelson says of the employee’s thought process. “This is exciting. I think I can do this, and I’m
going to show him how I can do this.

“That person buys in to the program, and he is at that point committed because it is now his program. He is going to make that program work.”

Get the people who will be doing the actual work on the project
involved in the logistical details of making it happen.

“On day one, we get a bottoms-up program of how we’re going
to do whatever the program is,” Mendelson says. “It ensures the
people responsible for the execution are the ones that have
designed the program, and they buy in to it, and they feel they can
accomplish it.”

Mendelson spoke with employees about the length of time it
would take to complete the new parts and the equipment that
would be needed and how the parts would be marketed.

“You constantly measure your progress based on what promises
that department has made to the overall plan,” Mendelson says.
“You have guideposts. It’s like going down the highway. If you’re
going from Miami to West Palm Beach, you have to go past
Hollywood. How long does it take to get to Hollywood? How long
does it take to get to Fort Lauderdale? You’ve got to know you are
on the right track and that you didn’t go off in the wrong direction.”

With the basics of the project in place, your people will be in a
much better position to make it happen.

“They are committed to making it work,” Mendelson says. “Once
they’ve bought in and they say, ‘Yeah, I can do it,’ they are going to
figure out a way to do it. I don’t think the leader should be trying
to figure out how to do it and telling them. It should be right down
to the lowest-level person. How do you do this?”

For example, one of the products Mendelson wanted to develop
was a compressor blade that fits into a jet engine. It is a complex
product that is subjected to a great deal of heat and pressure and
thus needs to be built in a very precise manner.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t have an idea of how to do it,” Mendelson
says. “I’m not an engineer, and I didn’t know how to do it.”

So Mendelson brought together a group of knowledgeable people and explained the demand for the product and the potential
benefits it held for HEICO if it could be successfully developed and
marketed.

“They sat down with the (Federal Aviation Administration) and had
meetings and conferences and designed a program that accomplished
the objectives,” Mendelson says.

Through this work, the company was able to design and develop
more than a dozen different variations of the product to meet its
diverse requirements.

You’re the boss, and you may be great at developing visions and
plotting a course for your company. And perhaps you do have
expertise about what it is your company provides or produces. But
don’t lose sight of the people you have working for you and the abilities that they bring to the table.

“I think, overall, I have very good judgment,” Mendelson says. “But
in the specifics, I have to rely on the people who are more knowledgeable in those specific areas. If the boss thinks that he or she is
infallible and whatever his or her idea is right, that’s a problem. Part
of developing a program is getting feedback from employees.”

This dialogue also helps you to ensure you are using your talent in
the right places.

“Each person has a different capability,” Mendelson says. “In
order to get the best results, you want to give that person the
opportunity to excel at what they do best. You don’t want to have
one person doing everything where they may be good at one
thing and not so good at another. … Let him focus on what he
does really well. He’ll feel good, he’ll love his job, and he won’t
feel frustrated having to do something he can’t accomplish.”

By maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your employees, you also
reduce the chance that you’ll find yourself in a polarizing dispute
with no hope of reaching consensus.

“When the ultimate plan comes out, both sides have input and
they’ve made iterations to it and revisions, and they say, ‘Yeah, I
think this will work,’” Mendelson says. “When you get all done, you
come out with a product or a result or a program that most everybody is in agreement with.

“That makes it a lot easier than getting an idea that you think can
sell and trying to force everybody into your little cubbyhole.”

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