Duane Jefferies is a recognized leader within Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), Supply Planning, Operations and Customer Service with over 35 years experience in Global Supply Chain between Pharmaceutical and Sportswear industry.
He has extensive experience leading numerous Supply Chain functions in an SAP environment. And he is an expert at creating empowered teams, developing leaders and streamlining organizations. Passionate about giving back to the community through sports coaching, youth development and college mentoring.
I asked Duane to share his thoughts on Leadership Practices. Enjoy his responses.
What are you passionate about?
To be honest to the reader, I struggle with answering this question. Partially because the answer can sound self-serving and what we would want people to think about us. I personally believe this question is most accurately answered by others assessment of me. Fundamentally, this is why I am a firm believer in regularly getting 360 feedback from a core group of individuals.
As I think about this, I believe my greatest passion is helping others. In business terms it is being a “servant leader”. The key to me though is that it applies to all aspects of life. It is also deeply rooted in my personal faith and belief structure. I firmly believe in a God and that I was created for a purpose.
Additionally, when I die, it won’t matter what title I held, how much was in the bank account or what was accumulated over my life. I love the theme from an old movie “Brian Song” which was “I am Third”. God first, others second and myself third. To be honest, I know I have not always lived this way but, it is the reason behind my passion.
And what are you doing to deliver on this passion?
I focus on Family, Youth, Co-workers and Friends.With my family I strive to place a priority on helping them through each stage of life. We (my wife & I) have lived long enough to experience the beginning of life, raising kids through adolescence, seeing teens develop into adults, dealing with challenges as we age and walking along loved ones as their life comes to an end.
The time goes too fast and you can’t redo yesterday.
That is why it is critical for me to be involved in coaching my daughter’s softball, encouraging them to regularly attend youth meetings, providing advice while allowing them to try it their way, praise them when they succeed and be their safety net when they fail. It is also remembering that I pledged my commitment to my wife and she deserves time as well. Finally, it is also remembering that I am not perfect, and my family’s feedback is often the most accurate. By listening to them, I can continuously improve myself while giving them opportunities to help me.
I break Youth out separately for a specific reason. Many of the principles apply to the other groupings but, in today’s world our youth need us more than ever. Whether coaching a girls’ softball team, mentoring 7 & 8 grade boys weekly or providing opportunities for young college students to see the business world. I gain great satisfaction in seeing and supporting young people as they grow. Part of the trick with this is we/I get so focused on success that we lose sight that failure is an opportunity to learn more critical life lessons. When I focus on the bigger picture of helping them develop into adulthood, the smaller setbacks or loses don’t seem so important.
Part of my leadership background has been shaped by leading in areas where I am not the subject matter expert. This has helped me see an important truth about employee engagement and developing others. As leaders, we gain the most by providing a vision or direction and then get out of the way. Too often we step in and force people to do it our way. Sometime that gets a desired end result but, it doesn’t allow co-workers to grow.
I firmly believe in operational metrics but, which metrics are critical are best developed together versus handed down from on high. People are more engaged when they play a part in build metrics, process and solutions. An important piece to this is allowing people to make mistakes and treating them as a learning opportunity. To me there is a lot of correlation between co-workers and girls on a softball field.
Last, but not least, is everyone else (Friends). Often times we get so busy in our own lives or the lives of our kids that we don’t take time to help others. For me one of the greatest ways to keep perspective on things is to volunteer at Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. I have met families that children facing some of the hardest physical battles you can imagine. Forcing myself to be part of their world, helps me recognize how truly blessed I am. I often wonder who gets more from this, the families or myself. It can also be taking time to listen someone at church or helping a friend through financial hard times. My advice for my girls has been, I don’t care where your passion is. Find what moves you and just do something about it. It is a daily effort. Another expression I love is “All points expire at midnight.” It applies at home, at work and all other times.
What you did yesterday is nice but, it is in the past.
All points expire at midnight
Find what moves you and just do something about it.
How do you go about leading? And how do you use your passion to align people to your vision?
Since my career path has moved me across multiple disciplines, I find it critical to align on what each teammates role is and where they are at in their career. I have found over the years when I have moved into a new leadership position a great starting point is having a teammate explain their goals and how it relates to their current job. Often it leads to a core discussion on what the value of their role is to the company. In many cases, it has led to revising goals to better reflect what they do.
The second part is to understand where they are in their career.
- Do they want to advance?
- Are they looking to manage people?
- Are they happy with where they are and focused more on work/life balance?
- Are they preparing for retirement?
- Do they like their job?
By understanding these areas, it helps me understand how I can best help them.
Sometimes this leads to tough conversations about unrealistic expectations.
It can also lead to identifying easy steps to build skills or expand responsibilities to bring greater value to the teammate.
Is there anything in your background not directly related to being a leader that has had an outsized impact on the way you lead?
Finding the right role models.
From a positive perspective, I give significant credit to my father.
Growing up I saw his very leveled approach to handling issues. First, he was very hard working. He had a professional career and built an impressive real estate portfolio in his spare time. He was not afraid to try new things of which not all worked. He did a lot of home and rental repairs by himself. If he didn’t know how to do something he would learn and try. He would work 8–9 hours a day and come home and always have a project he was doing to support the family. He also made time to spend with his family. Again, if he did know how to do something, we would just try it. For example, white water kayaking / rafting / canoeing. We just went out and tried it. Over the years he attended a number of seminars on stock trading and developed his own method to personally be successful in trading. He also started a side company doing lead testing. It did pan out totally but, he learned from the experience. He taught me the value of hard work, family, learning from mistakes and never giving up. I will always give him credit for how I see the world.
From a negative perspective, I think of a couple bosses I had while being an individual contributor.
Face it, over the years, everyone will have good bosses and bad bosses. In those times where I had a bad boss, I have tried to capture what I didn’t like about their leadership style. Was in their lack of integrity, their communication style, their tendency to micro manage or throw employees under the buss. As I could quantify or qualify those negative behaviors, I committed to not repeating them when I began to lead others.
What’s your philosophy on building a team?
Thousands of books have been published on these questions. One quick answer is to read some of them. The challenge I face is in many cases, I haven’t agreed with a lot of the recommendations. However, I would say that you should not use that as a reason to stop reading. Here are some of my thoughts and considerations to building an effective team.
First, I live in the supply chain world. It is not rocket science. Therefore, don’t worry about finding teammates that have tons of experience in a specific area. If you have desire, ability to learn and a willingness to try you can do most jobs.
What do you search for?
Diversity is critical. However, we sometimes get focused on outward characteristics. Instead, I find building diverse teams is best based on skills, experience, backgrounds and thoughts. For example, you are building a team of retail planners or allocators, I believe they all don’t need to be schooled or experienced in planning. Having someone who has worked in a store that has seen it from the other side, can bring a fresh perspective to how the team does planning and allocation. However, one hurdle is that when you have a diverse team, make sure you listen to each equally. If individuals are not encouraged to voice opinions or disagree, it won’t help.
Never forget about the hidden areas of talent. I have found some of the best professionals have either spent time in a warehouse or customer service. These individuals have seen the net result of how we treat customers and how important roles upstream are to satisfy your customers. These are often people who are thrilled to advance and will work hard to prove themselves.
How do you go about selection?
During the talent selection process, it is critical to start with a plan. Over the years I adopted a structured process that starts with defining the competencies of the role.
From there, I weigh the importance of those competencies. These are entered into an excel sheet before reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates. For the prescreening process, there are usually a smaller set of competencies and qualifiers to determine who to interview.
I like to preselect an interview panel based on the role, those that have earned my trust and usually at least one new person to the interview panel. The reason for the new person, is it is a great opportunity to asset internal employees for future leadership roles. Each panel member is asked to focus on specific competencies but allowed to provide feedback on all competencies.
Candidates get scored on a 1–5 scale. Interviewers are asked to score competencies and provide some brief justification for scores. At the end of the interview process, everyone is asked to provide the scores on all candidates. Ideally, it is best to do the review face to face.
Once all feedback is provided the decision maker makes the final selection. I find this process help flag unconscious bias that tends to creep into the hiring process. I find this is a great approach for new managers that are not as familiar with finding talent.
And how to do you approach managing performance?
Many books are already out there.
For me, it starts with establishing effective goals and aligning on expectations. Goals should be reviewed on a quarterly basis either in a team meeting or regularly scheduled one on one. Obviously frequency is impacted by the size of the team.
At each level, I think regular one on ones are critical with direct employees. The more they are structured and have formal notes, the better. On a quarterly basis, the conversation should focus some on what is next for the employee. By doing this, the more formal bi-annual or annual reviews should avoid surprises.
What data do you use to ensure you are leading effectively?
Metrics and feedback. In each function there are operational metrics that should be developed to measure volume of work, value of work and quality of work. Because most higher level metrics have multiple inputs, it is critical to align high level metrics with the functional metrics required. The caution is that companies can fall into over depending on metrics to determine how effective they are at leading.
The second part is feedback. Leaders should actively solicit feedback from bosses, peers and employees. The trick is that you first must build a safe environment where people are encouraged to provide feedback.
Again, having bounced around to several different functions, I have found it takes 6–12 months before people are truly comfortable providing the critical feedback that leaders need. Depending on people’s history and company environment that window of time can be longer or shorter.
I also don’t think there is one form of feedback. It can be in one on one, suggestion boxes, 360 format or through HR partners. It has to be valued and encouraged to be effective.
What are some of the biggest mistakes today’s leaders are making? And how would you go about fixing it?
In answering this question, I want to avoid focusing on “They, Them or Leaders” and focus on me. It is too easy to see perceived issues with others versus looking at yourself. As I have moved into leadership roles, I understand that someone on the outside doesn’t always know all the facts when assessing leadership. Leaders often don’t have the time to get all the facts before making decisions. So here is a check list of things I strive for (don’t always do):
- Make people a high priority in your daily schedule
- Never confuse meetings and Power Points with actually getting things done
- Measure the right things (find a balance between adjust metrics and maintaining consistency for trends)
- Value your teammates more than an outcome
- Live with integrity (act the way you want others to act)
- When you are wrong, admit it
- Set direction versus tell teammates the answer (odds are good they may have a better answer)
To steal from a leader that I highly respect…
Follow the SLED principle (Suck Less Every Day). We don’t have to be perfect, just always try to be better.
What do you see as the 2 or 3 greatest opportunities for leaders over the next several years?
Adapting to the pace of change without drive your team crazy.
Change is happening at an ever-increasing pace. As companies change with the times, leaders need to focus on avoiding change for change sake. Within supply chain, leaders have to be careful not to change because Amazon is doing it. At the same time, leaders have to decide what changes are necessary and over communicate their vision to their teams.
Developing great leaders in the face of social trends.
The workforce is changing. Social media, technology social responsibilities are having a huge impact on new professionals entering the workforce. Leaders need to better assess skills and experiences within their organizations and actively look to develop future leaders.
Do you have any final words of wisdom for Everyday Leaders?
- Leaders are not defined by titles or the number of people reporting to them.
- Leaders are individuals willing to lead whether they are being followed or not.
- Leaders should also not be afraid to look in a mirror. We should learn from the past to make a better future.
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