Member Forum: Leadership Council

November 9, 2017 No Comments
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Peers Provide Powerful Insights

by Lynn Moline

toc_columns50pxIt’s barely daylight but the aroma of coffee and bakery-fresh sweet rolls fills the room. One by one, members trickle in and the friendly banter begins.

“I see your crew showed you up again at Shoot for Scholarships.”

“Haven’t you managed to get that new machine up and running yet?”

“You’re late! Must’ve made the mistake of stopping by work this morning before coming here!”

Another MPMA Leadership Council monthly meeting is getting underway.

Some of the people seated around the table have been coming to these meetings for upwards of 10 years, while others have been attending for just a year or two. Some are seasoned executives, well-acquainted with the anxiety of cash-stretched downturns, with the relief that comes from a good year, with the pride of owning or running a company that’s well-respected by customers. Other members, newer to their roles, are learning day by day to deal with the ups and downs. And a few are next in line for the senior-most post in their companies, eager to glean tips from those who have been there and done that.

But what all members have in common is first-hand knowledge of the challenges of owning or otherwise leading precision manufacturing companies. That fact makes the MPMA Leadership Council unique among similar executive peer groups in Minnesota: no other such group focuses exclusively on the experience of leaders in this particular industrial sector. And therein lies the power and value of the Leadership Council. All members see the world from similar vantage points and share remarkably similar challenges and circumstances. Thus, every topic discussed is relevant to all.

Once everyone has arrived at the meeting, the Question of the Day hits the table. Sometimes serious (“What one thing should your company stop doing?”) sometimes silly (“If you won a million bucks in the lottery how would you spend it?”) and sometimes sublime (“Who had the greatest influence on making you who you are today?”) the questions and responses make their way around the table to chuckles and appreciative nods.

Next, members share confidential five-minute business condition updates with one another to hear what’s changed since last month’s meeting. As a result, members get to understand the rhythms and flows of one another’s companies and benchmark their own situations. They also deduce a sense of what’s developing in the market. Changes in personal lives make their way to the updates, too – a new baby, a home remodeling project, a health concern.

The inevitable outcome of the updates is that individuals get to know one another as well as one another’s businesses. Bonds of friendship are forged and trusting relationships are built. Golf games and snowmobile outings happen right along with the advice sharing and the occasional outsourcing of a hot part to a fellow member with machine capacity to spare. When children are born, family members fall ill, or an unexpected death takes someone, members are there for one another.

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The primary purpose of the Leadership Councils, of course, is business excellence and improvement. So, each meeting includes open discussion of whatever issues are on members’ minds. Should we buy a new Swiss? How have you guys dealt with chronic absenteeism? Who can recommend a good rigger? Here’s what we did to knock 30 minutes off set-up time. What are good ways to get the most from my sales reps? How should we be thinking about succession planning? What are you doing about health insurance next year? These and dozens of other topics arise and get explored on the table top.

In addition, most meetings include a preannounced special topic or an outside speaker. Some topics require members to read an article prior to the meeting. Other times, I as the director, present a mini-workshop or review a business book for the group. “Those business books aren’t boring when you report on them,” a member quipped. But whatever the topic, its relevance and applicability to members is always on center stage.

As an unspoken testament to the value of the Leadership Council, average attendance at the monthly, morning-long meetings hovers near 90 percent. Group size is deliberately capped at 10 members to ensure familiarity and collegiality, and to make it possible for members with small companies and small meeting rooms to take their turns hosting their group.

Testimonies are spoken as well. Member Ben Zoubek, vice president of ZTech Precision, said, “There is a great deal of knowledge sitting around the table. No matter what you are going through, another individual has dealt with a similar topic. The Leadership Council gives you another set of eyes looking from the outside in to provide helpful insight. It is always worth your time to attend.” pm_endmarkred-e1320337243152

LYNN MOLINE is the president and owner of Lynn Moline Associates, Inc., and the director of MPMA’s Leadership Council. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2017 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.


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