W&WP January 2002

10 New Year's Resolutions for Better Management

By Tom Dossenbach


Yes, it's that time of the year again when we feel duty bound to make New Year's resolutions. Some of us have already made at least a few: lose 20 pounds; cut 5 strokes off our golf game; spend more time with the family - you get the idea. Resolutions are always based on something that will be beneficial to us. If we make and keep them, we can actually achieve a great feeling of accomplishment.


What about making New Year's resolutions as a woodworking manager, not just in your personal life? Have you gotten around to that? It is already late January and some people have not even considered setting goals for their professional careers. Instead they are concerned just about day-to-day problems that always seem to consume their time.


I have always believed that it is very important to set personal and professional goals at the beginning of a new year. They give you something to shoot for - something with which to gauge success for the year. Everyone needs goals to help accomplish those things that are important to them. Manufacturers in the wood products industry need managers and supervisors who want to excel personally as well as professionally. These are the ones who will lead the company through the demanding times we face this year.


I am presenting 10 New Year's resolutions on these pages for your consideration. Adopt some or all of them and replace as many as you wish with some of your own. Hopefully, this article's resolutions will motivate you to make at least five of your own that are important to you both personally and professionally.


1. Resolve to take care of your health.

A healthy and vibrant individual is more valuable to a company than someone that is sickly. You are no good to your company or your family if you suffer a sudden heart attack. Are you still smoking? The lack of exercise is a leading cause of many health problems. Do you take time during your day to exercise, or do you convince yourself each afternoon when you get home that you have gotten enough exercise at work because you are so tired? If nothing else, try to walk a mile in 15 to 17 minutes each morning or evening. Watch the fast food, and see your doctor for a physical once a year.


2. Set goals for personal development.

You have a life away from work. What would you like to do that would give you a feeling of personal accomplishment? Have you read any good self-help books lately? Did you read any books at all during 2001? Are you up to date on your personal financial planning for retirement? Would you like to learn to play the guitar?


Managers who like themselves will be happier and more productive at work. Find something you can focus on this year to give you personal satisfaction.


3. Listen more.

Whether at home or at work we are all guilty of focusing our attention only on the person we feel is most important in our lives at that particular time. Unfortunately, that person is all too often ourself! For some reason we like to hear ourselves speak above all others.


If you want to be a better son, daughter, husband, wife or manager, you need to listen a majority of the time. Spend more time walking the factory floor and listening to your employees. You will be surprised how much more they know about making store fixtures or increasing lumber yield than you think. When in a meeting with a group, assume everyone else has a better perspective than you and listen to him or her.


4. Become a mentor.

Most of us can think back to a time when someone took a special interest in us and helped us in our personal or professional development. They went the extra mile to teach us from their experiences. Maybe they are responsible for our being in the position we hold now.


Find someone you believe has potential, but has been overlooked, and mentor him or her this year. This person may or may not be an associate at work. In any event, show that you believe in the person and want them to reach their potential. You can make a difference in someone's life if you only take the time.


5. Set a professional goal.

Are you all that you can be to help your company? Do you have the skills needed to contribute in a meaningful way in these challenging times? Have you been wondering what all the talk about lean manufacturing and continuous improvement is all about? Almost every technical school has night classes on the subject and there are hundreds of books written on these topics.


Have you considered taking a supervisory management course at the local technical college? Have you asked if the company would support your doing that?


Set at least one goal to further your professional career this year. You could be a much more valuable asset to the company if you do.


6. Take daily challenges as daily opportunities.

Have you ever witnessed a manager get angry when someone brought a problem to him or her? I have seen the foreman in a press room tense up and turn red in the face when someone came to tell him he had run out of glue. What did that accomplish except take about an hour off the life of that supervisor?


You should make a resolution to get excited in a positive way about problems. That's right - enthusiastically excited! If there were no challenges, would your job be necessary? Then, why are you so uptight when you are called upon to do your job? Problem solving can be fun if you turn it into an opportunity to teach others and yourself.


7. Look for waste.

In the past, I have discussed waste and how it robs a company of profits. There has never been a more important time to cut costs with the global competition that is facing every manufacturer of wood products, especially furniture. Cutting waste may not reduce your cost equal to that of a manufacturer in China, but it will put you in a better position to compete. Those who ignore the elimination of waste in their companies could be out of business in a matter of a few short years (or even months).


No matter what position you hold in the company, you can look for waste and lead the way to eliminate it.


8. Start continuous improvement this year.

Continuous improvement is still the way to make your company more competitive. Getting everyone involved in making changes to produce a better product at a lower cost and with higher quality is a powerful tool to ensure the long-term viability of the company.


One of the more serious mistakes a company can make is to wait too long to begin the process. If you don't have the authority to start a company-wide program or are unable to motivate others to do so, begin in your own department. Combine this effort with #7 above. You may get something started that will spread throughout the organization.


9. Hold an employee family event.

Employee loyalty is largely dependent on the feeling that one is an important and essential part of their company. If your company does not have annual picnics and holiday parties for employee families, consider this practice this year as one of your New Year's resolutions. Your employees are truly your most important asset. Begin showing this during 2002 with appreciation dinners and other family gatherings. Spouses and children will develop an incredibly positive perception of your company and say good things about it in the community.


10. Resolve to laugh more.

Last but by no means least, resolve to laugh more. Stop taking yourself and others so seriously. Find something amusing in every circumstance and let everyone know it. No one likes a grouch - at work or at home. Ask the question, would you work for you? Maybe it would be a good idea to read the funnies before going to work each day.


January is almost over - make your own list and have a great year!


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