With teams around the world comprised of people with varying backgrounds, experiences, ages and aspirations, the challenge leaders face can stem from exactly that broad range of talent. For Caterpillar we believe it is critical that our leaders effectively bring out the best in their teams while leveraging each member’s unique skills and traits to drive success.
So how is it done? For UK Supply Chain Manager, Rob Simpson, this is a two-way street. He says that the strength of a team is built on leaders and their direct reports bringing out the best in each other. With years of leadership experience under his belt, Rob has a few tips to help pave that road in a way only Caterpillar can.
Tip 1: Build Trust
As a leader, Rob gives everyone a “full bucket of trust” on day one, which can go up or down. This bucket system works both ways, as well. In Rob’s case, he joined a new team in a part of the industry he had little experience, which required him to lean heavily on his team. He says, “Everyone is different, and you need to be conscious about how people operate, respond to you and really try and understand others.” This approach to genuinely understanding his team helps earn their trust that they are cared for and supported by their new leader.
Tip 2: Establish a Routine
Rob spent eight years in the military and in his transition back to civilian life found himself seeking a certain level of structure. As a leader, Rob believes in the value of instilling a routine within your team, so everyone knows what to expect. This approach is by no means authoritarian, but rather an organized and systematic approach to achieving success as a collective unit.
Tip 3: Be Genuine
Rob believes that a leader should be genuine in his or her efforts to build a strong team. To get to know his team of around 60 individuals, Rob executed a leadership assimilation shortly after joining Caterpillar. He posed several questions to his team, which opened up a dialogue to understand their expectations and how he could best support them. “I wanted to know what the team expected from me as a new leader, what they knew about me already and what I need to do to be successful as their new leader.”
Tip 4: Be Visible
“You get a lot more out of your team if you’re visible and available.” Rob makes a point to get out from behind his desk at least once a week to check in with each of his teams and ensure things are going well. He says his ultimate job as a leader is giving the team the “top cover” they need when things don’t go to plan. “If a supplier missed a delivery day, it is my job to negotiate with them to find a quick resolution so we keep the production line building. Similarly, if machines aren’t being shipped on time, I need to work with my team to get things back on track again.”
It takes teams all over the world functioning like well-oiled machines to ensure enterprise success. Similarly, it takes strong leadership to bring out the best in every member of Team Caterpillar. We are proud of the comradery between our doers who work hard for each other, our products and services and the customers we serve. Are you ready to be your best?