Burt: Lately I have been reading more motivational-content books, and one that really resonated with me was by Ed Mylett, #Max Out Your Life: Strategies for Becoming an Elite Performer. The focus of the book revolves around strategies to becoming an elite performer. It’s a short read, but very impactful to me, so much so that I purchased copies for every employee.
One key takeaway: The book reminded me of the importance of
positive thinking and how our subconscious mind always tries to prove us
right. This can work for or against us; how
we think (positively vs. negatively) sets our subconscious mind to work. After reading this, I now make sure to try starting
every day with positive thoughts, and I write them down during my morning
Editor’s Note: Per the Amazon review, “#Max Out Your Life is for those that are serious about achieving their highest levels of life and evolving into the best version of themselves. It provides strategies for:
- Creating strong habits and rituals
- Raising and shifting your identity
- How to truly build self-confidence
- Elevating your physical body
- Goal-setting strategies
- Developing your will to win.”
Q: What is the biggest challenge you face as a company leader?
Burt: Probably aligning the needs of the organization with the needs of our employees. Our employees are key to our success. I always will work to ensure that their livelihoods are protected and that they are given opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally.
Q: What are two or three of the most important things you look for in a mid-level manager?
Burt: They must be excellent communicators, passionate and empathetic. These are traits that we look for in all leadership roles, from team leaders on the shop floor to top-level executives.
Q: What are two things you believe your company is doing well?
Burt: We have invested a great deal of time, energy and resources into finding ways to better-support our employees and the surrounding communities. As an organization, Ernst is very focused on continuous improvement (CI) and implementing best practices.
As a way of giving back, Ernst sponsors quarterly blood
drives, has a commitment to support veterans through USA Cares Veteran &
Family Support systems, and offers all employees a paid volunteer day so that they
can support the community and organizations important to them.
With respect to CI and best practices, our most recent project has been the development of a press operator-training and incentive initiative, which ties merit increases to training progress. The program uses inhouse materials in combination with PMA’s METALFORM EDU platform.
A stamping operator needs years of experience to become truly proficient. This seems to be a great vulnerability of our organization, as company performance hinges on our operators’ knowledge, motivation, engagement, and passion. Recognizing this vulnerability led to the creation of the training program, which features a 16-tier compensation plan and pay increases tied to each defined skill level.
This new plan is the carrot of positive motivation to get
operators cross-trained and up-trained and has been instrumental in increasing
engagement with our most important hourly team.
We also have several other actions working in parallel:
- Supervisor goals and objectives with cross training as second priority
- Monthly supervisor-to-operator meetings to review one-on-one goals and objectives, with training as the top priority
- Monthly 1-hr. classroom training sessions
- Bi-weekly 15-min. team meetings with an emphasis on productivity and training.
All of this has yielded impressive results:
- Zero stamping-operator turnover since September of 2021.
- Training level has improved from 45 percent in October 2021 to 67 percent today.
Q: How do you encourage and motivate your management team?
Burt: I give them the freedom to do what they were hired to do, freedom to speak their mind knowing that they are safe to do so, and I speak to them regularly to understand their issues and to support them.
Ernst has some really talented leaders and exceptional problem-solvers—I encourage them to take risks and try new things.
Q: Can you provide an example of a solid management decision you made during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it helped to address a major pandemic-related challenge?
Burt: Easy: We maintained our workforce through the pandemic. We elected to keep everyone employed and this has paid dividends as the economy has started to regain traction. As we all know, labor is a significant issue across the globe, so it was important for us to keep our team connected.
Q: I assume it can be “lonely at the top” for you at times. How do you relax, release your stress and rise above the endless list of problems you have to deal with each day?
Burt: I try to stay fit and follow a regular exercise regimen and eat healthy, and I enjoy spending time with my dog, Cooper. I also journal in the mornings, which really helps align me for the day ahead, and brings perspective to what really matters in life.