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Supply Chain Challenges, Logistics Labor Management

Training Logistics Leaders, One Mistake at a Time

Kane Logistics | June 12, 2013

In logistics and any industry, training great leaders and having the right mentor strategies can be difficult.  As leaders ourselves, we want our teams to exceed expectations.  We want them to be independent decision makers.  We expect them to make the same decisions or choices we would in similar situations.  But great logistics leaders must understand that, in order for players on their team to become great workers and great leaders themselves, we need to let them make mistakes.

Here's a quick example.  A newly minted operations manager was given the opportunity by the facility's general manager to set the summer work schedule.  The ops manager miscalculated his staffing for one of the weeks.  The result?  A couple days of unplanned overtime to cover all the activity associated with that customer account.

Some leaders regard mistakes as completely negative.  They strive for perfection and berate themselves and others when something isn't just right.  If that sounds familiar, expect to make all the decisions for your team in this kind of environment.  Instead of feeling empowered, your team will be scared to make the wrong decision and will constantly seek your direction.  These interactions will easily fill your day, but isn't your time much more valuable?  Don't you need them to learn to work independently?

The interesting thing about great associates is when they make a mistake, they punish themselves.  You typically don't need to do more than simply point out the error.  They will do the rest for you.  They will replay what happened and why.  They will review what went wrong and how it could have been different.  They will focus on exactly what they personally did to make it unsuccessful.  They will intentionally not repeat it. 

Great logistics leaders understand that only through making mistakes can people learn.  If baby birds didn't attempt to fly, and fall, they would never leave their nests.  If players don't get in the batter's box, they'll never get a hit.  Much of our lives are spent learning the right way to do things, but we don't get tested until we do something wrong.

As a logistics leader and a mentor, you need to take on a support role in evaluating mistakes.  Identify and reinforce what was learned, guide them to the right corrective measures, but never berate the associate for the error. 

Let your associates make mistakes.  Let them experience failure and the learning associated with it.  Then, let them try again.  By providing them with a demanding environment that is still safe and allows them to make mistakes, you build trust and give them a reason to want to work for you.