Leadership Development Programme helps rubber maker put more bounce in his career

Nathan Williams signed up for the Manufacturing Institute’s Leadership Development Programme [LDP] to hone his management skills – and came away with so much more: a rejuvenated faith in his own abilities and an unexpected eagerness to see how far he can rise up the career ladder.

An unhappy earlier foray into management had left him doubting his readiness for top-tier roles. 

“I was in a management position once before and I just didn’t know how to manage people,” says Nathan, who works for rubber manufacturer Hexpol Compounding, based in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester. “I actually ended up leaving that role because I wasn’t comfortable with my ability to do it as effectively as I wanted to.” 

It’s a story perhaps familiar to many who have been promoted at work. Proving yourself highly capable in one role, you’re swooped on for a more senior position with the assumption that you already possess the new skills necessary for leadership. That’s rarely the case, so Nathan was far from alone in feeling out of his depth.

He voluntarily took a step back and threw himself into a few less senior jobs. Proving himself once more to be a hard worker and smart thinker, he inevitably found himself earmarked for promotion yet again.

But, how to stop history repeating itself?

Now the sky’s the limit

“When I started working my way back up again I realised that I really need to learn how to manage people and how to talk to them,” reflects Nathan, an Efficiency and Improvement Manager.

Luckily, Nathan happened upon a brochure for our October 2019 LDP course – and eight weeks of intensive learning later, his difference in outlook is transformational.

“Now I find myself back up into management, the course has given me the confidence to look for even higher jobs”

“Now I find myself back up into management, the course has given me the confidence to look for even higher jobs,” Nathan explains “I want to push it even further now because I feel I’ve got all the information I need to become a good director eventually.”

Unlocking people’s potential

Although no two management jobs are ever quite the same, one thing unites them all – an ability to lead from the front. But, how best to inspire and motivate others? The LDP is packed with practical tips which are easily transferable back to the workplace. 

Tellingly, Nathan stumbled upon one example just days after discussing it on the course – the notion of positive reinforcement. He witnessed his director compliment a production manager on the tidiness of his work area – only for the production manager to immediately set about making it even tidier.

Praise can trigger pride. It might sound obvious, but sometimes until such ideas are verbalised in a learning environment like the LDP, they can prove elusive.

“The thing that stuck with me most is how necessary it is as a manager to look at things from other people’s points of view”

“The thing that stuck with me most,” says Nathan, “is how necessary it is as a manager to look at things from other people’s points of view. I enjoy reading books on persuasion and how people’s minds work, but my knowledge of that just hovered in the background. The course brought it front and centre. 

“Now I realise just how true it is that nobody looks through the same pair of eyes. Everyone has had their own experiences in the past and views things from a slightly different perspective.”

Communication is key

Nathan also acknowledged a need to delegate more – not only freeing up his own work time but also empowering his team by driving them to take more responsibility for their actions.

The ability to communicate your vision confidently to workmates is vital for ensuring everyone pulls in the same direction. That requires polished public speaking or presentation skills – another area in which Nathan’s previous journey into management came unstuck.

“On the LDP I learned that presenting is a skill as much as anything else and that practice makes perfect”

“Beforehand, I was having to give presentations to my team and while in my head I knew all the information, as I went along I could see myself losing people,” Nathan recalls. “On the LDP I learned that presenting is a skill as much as anything else and that practice makes perfect.

“When I was tasked with doing a presentation during the course, I felt I now had the skills and confidence to pull it off. I kept all the guys engaged, they were giving me answers, writing it all down, discussing it among themselves – honestly, it was 1,000 per cent better than the first time when they just sat there and glazed over!”

Fast-track to efficiency

Coming from industry backgrounds ourselves, at the Manufacturing Institute we know it is results – from the shop floor to the balance sheet – that matter most. 

That’s why we squeeze as many practical strategies into our course as possible. Students learn about time management. About employment law and health and safety. Lean manufacturing techniques. Improvement metrics, key performance indicators, best practice and more.

In short, everything needed to make a measurable difference as soon as students return to their various workplaces.

Back at Hexpol, Nathan wasted no time in identifying ways to improve efficiency. For instance, he recognised that the existing stock-check method would benefit from some ‘5S’ lean strategies (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain) learned on the course. In fact, simply by reorganising boxes in the sorting area, he managed to reduce the number of boxes that needed scanning by 100+ in a single day.

Learn from the best in the business

Our course tutors plucked straight from the sharp end of the industry, have both the authority and the experience to share high-impact ‘secrets to success’ time after time.

“Every time someone described an issue they’d encountered at work, the tutors had a real-life example they could relate it to”

“They were all really informative,” says Nathan. “They all clearly knew what they were talking about and had good back-stories. Every time someone described an issue they’d encountered at work, the tutors had a real-life example they could relate it to. They weren’t just reading from textbooks, they were describing actual lived experiences.”

All of which illustrates another benefit of the Manufacturing Institute’s LDP courses – the benefit of face-to-face learning. This was especially evident to Nathan, who had previously done some of his ‘lean strategy’ learning online. 

He explains: “To actually sit down with someone and discuss lean manufacturing, and learn where I was going right, was such a valuable reinforcement.”

Having emerged from the course with a new qualification and re-energised self-belief, it’s an experience Nathan is keen to share with as many people as possible.

“The course was bang on what I needed,” he says, adding, “I would absolutely recommend it to other people – I’ve told my friends about it already. I can’t emphasise enough what it’s done for me.”