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Better Together: Leading the Way

Better Together: Leading the Way

tED magazine is launching a new series of stories that are completely the work of our past “30 Under 35” winners.  We are calling this series of articles “Better Together.”  Past “30 Under 35” winners came up with the topic, and then they wrote the articles. Instead of doing traditional interviews and taking small parts of what they said for our stories, “Better Together” allows the next generation in our supply chain the opportunity to let you know how they see the industry in the future, how they see it taking shape right now, and what they would like to see happen so it remains strong and vital throughout their generation.

This article comes from Rocky Kuchenmeister, General Manager at K/E Electric Supply.

Millennials are quickly taking over leadership roles at many levels of electrical distribution.  Baby Boomers are retiring and the need for a new generation of leaders is in high demand.  Finding young talent with leadership skills is always difficult.  Turning those future leaders into great leaders is even more difficult, but worth the investment.

Setting yourself up for success

You’re a 20-something or 30-something star, a champion of distribution.  You went to college, got a degree, and worked hard for many years.  Finally, the owner of the company recognizes your achievements and offers you a great opportunity to lead a team of people.  You have never led a team of people before, but you are excited about the opportunity, so you accept.  How do you set yourself up for success?

  • Build a team that can support each other.  Each individual should be different enough to complement each other’s skills, yet similar enough to get along as a cohesive unit.  It is the 1+1=3 principle.  As individuals the team is good.  As a group, they make each other better.
  • Build a team that supports you.  When you walk into a team meeting, you should not be the expert in the room.  Instead, you need to be humble enough to know that each individual brings an expertise to the group.  If you are the expert of the group, the group will only be as good as you.  If the room is full of experts, then the group can exceed your own limits.
  • Get rid of bad apples.  A high preforming, but negative or disengaged teammate will bring the team down.  Don’t be afraid of making a change.  No matter how good they are at what they do, they take away from the team.
  • Leave your ego at the door.  Be humble with your own abilities.  Actively listen to the experts on your team.  Too often a leader fails to listen to the group only to regret the decision later.
  • Empower them.  Give the team the tools and knowledge to succeed, then get out of their way.  When they make a decision, support them.  Your team will work through problems more effectively if you simply give them a chance to succeed.
  • Respect is earned, not given.  As kids we heard, “because I said do,” from our parents.  We are not kids anymore.  Earning the team’s respect early on will establish yourself as the leader of the group.  Giving them respect in return will create a much more cohesive team environment.
  • Challenge the team.  Push the team’s limits in a reasonable fashion.  Earn small wins early on and reward the team for it.  Larger goals are attained easily with small wins along the way.
  • Be innovative.  But, only after you understand why it was done that way.  Many new leaders start their careers changing the business for the sake of change.  Be patient and learn why, then make a change if necessary.  Set a timeline before any major changes take place so you do not fall into the trap.
  • Teachable moments.  If a person walks into your office with an issue, take time to listen to them and work through the problem.  The best time to work through the problem and help a team member grow is during those moments.  A few minutes of their undivided attention is worth more than you realize.

The owner of the company saw something in you to give you this responsibility.  Those skills got you to the job opportunity before you.  Being a leader doesn’t mean having all the answers.  Smart people lean on other smart people.  Constantly feed your personal growth through educational, peer networking, and mentorship.  The Electrical Distribution industry is counting on the future generations to revolutionize the industry for the 21st century.

This topic, along with many others, will be discussed during the roundtable discussions and panel session at the upcoming NAED LEAD Conference in Chicago on July 20-22. We strongly recommend you send your young, up-and-coming stars to this year’s conference. You can register by clicking here.


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