Personal perspectives

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

In my opinion, one of the things that makes Reliable Plant magazine so important is the multitude of perspectives that are provided in each issue. Some of the industry’s most knowledgeable and interesting people (Tor Idhammar, John Schultz, Tim Goshert, Jay Lee, Doc Palmer, Drew Troyer, et al) and companies (Cargill, Eli Lilly, Toyota, Alcoa, Raytheon, U.S. Steel, etc.) share their insights and experiences within these pages.

Now, I don’t consider myself all that interesting and important. I’m a fairly private and reserved guy. I’d rather write about others than write about myself. But in considering a topic for this particular editorial, I thought that perhaps I could provide some helpful perspectives on being a better manager.

These hints don’t come from overseeing a 500-person widget manufacturing plant or a 50-man maintenance crew. For a completely different point of view, I thought I would share some insights from two of my sidelight passions – teaching and coaching.

Since 2000, I’ve taught an advanced reading and literature course at a local elementary school. The purpose of the class is to open kids’ minds to great short stories, foster creativity, and build critical-thinking, decision-making and idea-sharing skills.

And, for 10 years, I’ve coached youth soccer, baseball, basketball and softball. I currently co-coach one of the better U-14 soccer teams in Wisconsin. As a coach, my mission is to promote physical fitness, teach athletic skills, increase kids’ self-confidence, and strengthen their critical-thinking, decision-making and team-building skills.

Here is what I’ve learned from teaching.

  1. Let them provide the solutions. During class discussions and quests to find the truths hidden within the texts, I don’t supply any answers or provide my own opinions. I only supply background information, ask questions and create an atmosphere that leads to open, free-flowing dialogue. Great thoughts and ideas come when the students know they are empowered to find solutions.

  2. There is no wrong answer. I encourage kids to think outside the box. I don’t want them simply looking for the easy, obvious answers. Take it one step, two steps, three steps further. Sometimes the coolest, deepest answers are the weirdest ones. It makes others say, “I never thought of it that way, but, yeah, I can see your point.”

  3. Look outside of your four walls. You can get too comfy examining things with which you are very familiar. Shake things up and look elsewhere for knowledge and perspective. My class explores short stories from a variety of countries and cultures. Neat thoughts emerge when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It becomes, “What can I learn from this person or situation.”

Here is what I’ve learned from coaching.

  1. One team is mightier than a group of talented individuals. A team is a collection of people who understand the ultimate goal and the steps needed to attain it. They know their roles in the team structure, support and motivate one another, and are committed to personal- and team-based improvement.

  2. Find the “born leaders” and give them the opportunity to lead. Leaders aren’t necessarily your most skilled players. Many simply have an innate ability to calmly direct, and have the mental makeup to put the game plan into action on the field.

  3. The best victories don’t always show up in wins and losses. A few years ago, I coached a kid in soccer. He lacked skills, confidence and coordination. But the kid worked hard and had a smile whenever he played. In the last game of the season, he scored his first-ever goal. I gave him the game ball in front of the entire team. This is one of my favorite coaching moments.

I’ve provided my perspectives. Now, it’s your turn. E-mail your thoughts and insights to parnold@noria.com.

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