Finding the Best Yo-Pros in the Finishing Industry

Products Finishing is searching for the next 40-Under-40 Leadership Class


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You can pretty much find leaders anywhere you look in an organization. I once walked into a company and the person greeting people in the lobby — some would call the receptionist — had a nameplate on their desk that proudly referred to them as the “Director of First Impressions,” which I thought was a fairly clever title and a very important one too.

Later on, when I asked the business owner about the title, he explained that the person had one of the most important jobs in the entire company: they answered the phones when prospective customers called, greeted customers when they walked in the door, and set the tone of how someone would be treated when they engaged with that company.

When I left, it finally dawned on me how important every role is in a company, whether it be the CEO, person hanging parts, sales manager, or quality inspector. Everyone has a role, and the company looks to them to represent the company in all facets of operation, be it closing a big sale or answering the phone. It all matters.

As we begin taking nominations for the Products Finishing 40-Under-40 leadership program, I am reminded that a company that looks upon every employee as a possible leader is one that values its staff and engages them often in the direction of the company. Companies that encourage growth of these employees are in an even better situation, as they are able to consistently bring along those employees’ talents to best fit the organization.

The big question is, “what makes a good leader?” It’s not the most powerful person in the company, or even the most well educated. It’s not the person with the most reports under them, or the division head. A leader is someone who has a passion for their job, someone who motivates others to be better than they think they can be, and who leads by example, even when no one notices.

I read an article a while back that touched on the best traits of a leader, and it struck me that what defines a leader for one person is not always the same for someone else. So, I went searching for what others have written and said about what makes a good leader, and, obviously, most of those were lists that people put together on what determines a person often called a leader.

For example, Deep Patel is a young entrepreneur who wrote in Forbes about 12 habits of successful young leaders, which included: Build A Network of Successful People; Constantly Educate Yourself to Master Your Business; Listen More Than You Talk; Communicate with Nonverbal Cues; and Adopt Clear Task Management Guidelines, among others.

Patel also wrote in a Forbes article about how to gain respect as a leader, which included: Prove Your Value As Soon As Possible; Genuinely Care About the Well-being of Your Team; and Understand That Their Success Is Your Success, among the 10 items he listed.

An article on LinkedIn called the “The 5 Qualities of Successful Young Leaders” lists them in this order: Pursue your passions; Listen and observe; Have empathy; Create a personal identity; and Be self-aware.

Claire Chewning, a registered dietitian, registered yoga teacher and food humor enthusiast, wrote about the three traits of successful young professionals, which she calls “Yo-Pros”: Act professional; Own your age and limited experience; and Speak up.

Marcel Schwantes is a speaker, leadership coach and consultant, and he advises companies on what to look for in hiring good leaders: Look for superb listening skills; Look for leaders who develop trust quickly; Look for leaders who will develop others; Look for leaders driven to excel; and Look for contrarians, who he says are entrepreneurial-minded people “that push against the status quo by doing, thinking and behaving in unconventional ways, at the speed of innovation.”

Josh Allison is founder and Chief Ideator for Think Café, and says young leaders have these six things in common: they are humble, speak well of others, pursue mentors, have positive attitudes, express gratitude, and they leverage the ‘feedback loop’ which is ask for, act on, report back and repeat.

“By using this process, the young leader gains valuable and ongoing perspective from the point of view of others,” Allison says.

If you know someone in your company or in the finishing industry who Products Finishing should recognize in its 40-Under-40 program, please nominate them at short.pfonline.com/40U40. We’ll be honoring the select 40 in our July issue, bringing to 160 those we have recognized in our industry. All nominees must be under the age of 40 as of May 1.

Patel reminds us that Steve Jobs was 25 years old when Apple went public, and that Bill Gates was only 20 when he founded Microsoft. We’re not saying the person has to be the next Jobs or Gates to be nominated, but who knows? We may have them in our midst in the finishing world.