5.1 What Is a Role Model?
I was 29 years old, I was promoted to the position of Zone Supervisor. A zone
supervisor was responsible for all of the maintenance work within a portion of
the plant. In this job I had responsibility for approximately eight foremen and
one hundred mechanics. I was the youngest person the company had ever promoted
to a position of this nature. There were many reasons why. First, I had been
successful in all of my previous positions and, second, I was part of an aging
workforce. Two others and I were the first management employees hired into the
maintenance organization in 20 years; everyone I worked with was over 50. The
organization was trying to develop younger managers who could take over when
the current managers retired.
was very aware in this new role that I wasn’t clear what I was to do. Although
my organization was older and far more experienced than I was, I was expected
to lead them and manage their work. My predecessor had been very successful and
was highly respected by the entire organization. He had the ability to motivate
people and get things done regardless of the circumstances. He had not been
moved to another position. He had been given several special projects, one of
which was to teach me the ropes. At the time, our organization was based on a
reactive work culture. When things broke down, it was maintenance’s job to fix
them as quickly as possible and return the operation back to normal.
young and inexperienced, I copied the former supervisor. On many occasions, I
asked for his opinion, help, and support in different circumstances. Over the
next year, we had a very good relationship and he taught me what he thought I
needed to be successful in my new position. In short, he was my role model. He
had shown me how to be one of the best reactive maintenance professionals in
our organization and shortly thereafter I was again promoted.
years later, the plant was sold to a private owner. At the time, I was in
charge of all maintenance work in the plant. I reported directly to a
maintenance manager brought in by the new owner to implement a
reliability-based work culture. My specialty was reactive
not reliability. However, I quickly took on a new role model and learned that
there was more to work than fixing broken equipment. My new role model taught
me about the concepts of reliability, good planning, and scheduling techniques
as well as how to implement programs that (with production’s help) avoided
equipment failure. The manager was successful in his conversion of the business
and, as a key part of his team, so was I.
both of these instances I emulated someone who I believed would provide the
best maintenance services to the plant in the existing culture. Although my
role models exhibited different traits and behaviors, they were correct for the
culture in which they operated and were successful in their careers.
remainder of this chapter will examine role models, why they are or are not
successful, and how and why people emulate their behavior. We will also examine
how and why people’s behaviors, and frequently their beliefs about how to
operate the business, can be altered by these models.