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SPRING 2013

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Distributor's Link Magazine Spring Issue 2013 / VOL 36 / NO.2

84 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S

84 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Mariah de Forest Mariah E. de Forest is executive vice president of Imberman and DeForest, Inc., international management consultants headquartered in Evanston, IL. She specializes in productivity improvement and positive employee relations programs in companies having predominantly Spanish-speaking workforces. She also consults for American companies with Mexican facilities concerning employee relations in that country. She has lectured at scores of universities including Northwestern University and the University of Illinois School, and has authored over 80 articles and reports on her areas of expertise. MAKE MORE PROFITS WITH YOUR TRAINING DOLLARS Distributor’s Link published my “How New Training Methods Can Make Latino Supervisors More Effective,” in June, 2005, because of the fastener industry’s need to teach its growing numbers of Hispanic first-level supervisors how to improve performance in the face of stricter customer demands for lower pricing. Today, eight years later, the need is more urgent, what with the rise in Pacific Rim imports coming from low-wage countries. The 2005 article explained how American fastener producers and distributors could boost productivity ands reducing per-unit costs by training their Hispanic supervisors to adapt their traditional authoritarian Latino leadership style to a U.S.-style “best practices” mode of supervision. I also discussed the five key elements needed for effective training of Hispanic supervisors. Here are those elements and the results of the training from 17 fastener makers using this approach: 1. Working With Rather Than Against The Natural Authoritarian Leadership Style While authoritarian supervision is typical In Spanishspeaking cultures, it is a major stumbling block for the success in America. We showed Hispanic supervisors how to adapt their traditional management style to one more acceptable to workers in our country. Typical Hispanic supervision often amounts to ordering people around, no back talk, as well as rewarding and punishing favorites. The training taught supervisors to modify this ingrained concept of authority by acting like a “priest” or “respected teacher.” Although regarded as authorities in traditional Latino cultures, these figures represent responsive "father" figures, guiding subordinates. This helped convince the supervisors this approach did not threaten their authority, and they learned one key to better productivity was helping, rather than just ordering, employees to improve productivity and quality. One of the workers commented: “All of a sudden, my boss noticed how I was working, and even helped me straighten out a problem I was having with one of the thread rollers. I don’t know what happened, but since he started talking to me about the job, I enjoy coming to work a lot more. I even take the OT I used to turn down.” Lesson Number 1 The first lesson in training such authoritarian oriented supervisors is to try to show them how to channel authoritarianism into a much more constructive direction. Hispanic supervisors can accept their respect is enhanced, not diminished, by acting as constructive "father" figures. They learn that guiding employees is not a threat to their authority, but a way to engage them in improving performance. The benefit of this approach was measured by departmental performance improvement, which climbed an average of nine percent without further capital investment. Absenteeism rates declined and overtime attendance increased as well. 2. Helping Foreign-Born Supervisors Manage Their Departments Rather Than Simply Giving Orders To Their Workers Most supervisors are reluctant to ask for help. In Latin cultures especially, it’s a sign of weakness. The benefits of the training were increased when we showed please turn to page 176

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