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The importance of effective leadership during times of crisis

The importance of effective leadership during times of crisis

In a recent Q&A, Mark Hood, plant manager of our Sylmar, Calif., location discussed his experience on effectively leading and managing through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Mark oversees PPG’s aerospace facility, which manufactures commercial, general aviation and military transparencies for global customers.

 

Q: What has been your leadership strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve found that it’s incredibly important to work, and lead, with a calm sense of urgency. I am blessed to be surrounded by such a strong team and managing through this type of crisis does not happen by the efforts of any one individual, but by a group of talented leaders that function as one unit with a common purpose.

Frequent communications are vital for my team, and I highly encourage other leaders to communicate often and accurately to employees. Staying organized and providing a clear path forward has been key to help diffuse some of the chaos we’ve experienced over the past few months.

 

Q: What steps have you taken to help maintain the morale of the employees at Sylmar?

A: I constantly remind our team at Sylmar of who we are – we are a strong, resistant and driven group of individuals who can accomplish anything, including managing our way through the Coronavirus situation. This is a temporary and unique situation, and although the road ahead looks dismal at times, my team knows that we will get through this together.

We have become inundated with evolving information on COVID-19 related-issues, and misinformation can truly be detrimental to a high-performing team. As a plant manager, it’s my duty and the duty of my team to be transparent with our employees while clearly and factually communicating what’s happening within our facility.

We told the team very early on that although they may have concerns and worries, they never have to be worried about being left in the dark. I can’t drive this home enough – daily communications with your teams, sometimes multiple times a day, is vital to maintaining the morale of your employees, as well as their trust in the leadership team.

Over the past few months, we have continuously provided updates on the steps we are taking to protect our employees while they are at work. These include adding resources to our cleaning crew, disinfecting touch surfaces on both shifts, maintaining social distance, providing masks, taking temperatures prior to the start of each shift and more. We have also put a focus on employee education to ensure that every employee avoids contracting the virus at work and within their communities.

 

Q: For many leaders, this is their first time navigating through a crisis of this magnitude. What have you learned about your own personal leadership style amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and how have you adapted your approach to support the needs of the business and your employees? 

A: My leadership style has always been to put our teams and people first, while still managing the business. I believe that if we serve our teams well they will be happier and more engaged, which will help drive success throughout the business.

We have all had to adapt a bit due to the circumstances at hand, but my approach will always be people-driven. For example, I have cleared my calendar of all non-critical meetings, expect for certain business meetings, so that I can spend more time on the floor with my employees.

It’s always important for our leadership team to be visible on the shop floor, but now more than ever our presence is critical. As leaders, we need to be accessible to our employees and often times our physical presence is the best way to relay that we truly are all in this together as ‘One PPG.’

 

Q: For PPG plant and facility managers who are still dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, what are the most important things for them to consider?

A: Do not underestimate the importance of your voice. Your team will be looking to you for guidance, direction and factual information. 

Ensure that your team has a plan in place before an emergency situation arises. Conduct tabletop drills so that people understand their roles and responsibilities, set clear expectations around urgency, and enforce the importance of timely and accurate information. It’s also imperative that you know who your key resources are and pull them in quickly. I can’t say enough about our aerospace EHS and leadership teams, who have supported our team at Sylmar each step of the way.

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