Author: Lisa Palm, Director of Manufacturing
Paving The Way For Others
I may be the first female Director of Manufacturing at Nahan, but I won’t be the last. It’s been quite a ride getting to this point and some would say I took the road less traveled. I say I paved the way.
My hope is that I can encourage others – especially other women in print – to pursue their career goals and provide some practical advice for overcoming obstacles in the corporate world.
Lisa Palm, Director of Manufacturing
Four Key Lessons I’ve Learned
The Importance of Setting Work/Life Boundaries
We work in a 24/7 industry. I use my phone for both work and personal connections. My work email, voicemail and text are always there at my fingertips even when I’m not physically at work. I had to learn to remind myself that when I’m not working, others will step in and respond – it’s ok to take time off for family and personal time.
As a leader when you train and empower your team, you’ve done the work ahead of time to know your team can handle the workload. It’s about building trust.
Leaders Listen First
Early in my career, I noticed that I was always speaking in meetings. While it’s still important for me to contribute during meetings, I realized I needed to take a step back and encourage others to speak too. I had to learn when to give input and when to open the floor to others so that their good ideas would be heard.
I saw that by listening and more importantly, taking action on employee suggestions, it helped my team members to feel valued. As a leader, facilitating their ideas and pursuing them strengthened our culture and our results.
Earning Respect on the Production Floor
Working on a production floor can be challenging. There is no handbook on what you will encounter and how best to react. I have faced many difficult situations and even experienced disrespect that at times was upsetting. But through these experiences, I learned to hold my head high; never letting others see if a situation was “getting to me,” and to give out the energy I wanted to receive even during the toughest moments. If I responded to a situation matching the energy of an angry employee, things would take longer to diffuse, and exhausted more energy and time on my part. Instead, I learned to handle myself calmly and professionally to help resolve the situation faster.
In addition to leading by example, it is important to develop mutual respect with the press operators; they are the experts. I look for opportunities for them to teach me – not only do I learn from them, but it allows me to demonstrate my true respect for their trade. And by better understanding their process and developing strong relationships with them, I not only earn their respect in return, but can better ensure they have what they need to be successful.
Importance of Finding Mentors Along the Path
The higher you move up, you naturally have fewer peers and mentors that you can bounce ideas off of. One of the biggest reminders I regularly give myself is to not get comfortable. I have had to stretch myself to continue finding people and opportunities to push myself forward.
My former supervisor Michelle was a very influential person in my growth as my leader. She saw something in me that I did not recognize at the time. I remember going into her office one evening and hearing her ask if I was going to apply for a supervisor role. My response was, “…In Production…on nights??” She replied saying, “Yes you would be good at it.” I remember the look on my face, thinking she had lost her mind. The opportunity felt like such a stretch outside of my comfort zone. If it was not for her, I would not have taken the leap, and would not be where I am today. For that I am forever grateful, and I can’t stress enough the importance of finding mentors that believe in you throughout your career.
I absolutely love my job and the people I work with. I enjoy allowing my authenticity to show and encouraging my team by giving them opportunities to lead, share ideas, and make connections that build trust and respect. My strength and success as a leader is thanks in large part to the coworkers and mentors who invested in me, and now as a leader in my field, I get to be the one that ignites the spark in others. I encourage you to do the same.