What's Your Vision of Your Future in Maintenance?
Tips for transitioning to management
By Fred Workley
When you are the proud holder of a new certificate with Airframe and Powerplant ratings, many people consider that you have a "license to learn." Unlike other fields, however, you can't learn in aviation by making mistakes. You have to learn how to do things right the first time and continue to do them right every time for the next 40 or 50 years.
Over the course of a career, we are offered opportunities to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. If you stick around long enough, you get to be the older, wiser one with the answers to others' questions. This sometimes puts the best and sharpest mechanics in a situation where they are asked to be the supervisor or shop manager. I would like to offer you some thoughts on how you can be successful when you make the transition to greater responsibility for other people and the direction of a whole organization.
We accept responsibility for the work that we have accomplished every time we place our signature and A&P number on a maintenance record. We possess the knowledge and skills to accept that responsibility. If you are going to lead others, you have to make a personal commitment to leadership. This transition from mechanic to leader is your chance to show your stuff.
If you are successful, you will have an advantage over other competition in the market place.
Also, with your success will come a competitive advantage for your organization. Your challenge is to take ownership of your destiny and offer leadership to "Keep 'em Flying."
You may have to realign your thinking and perspective. It's your task to create a vision for yourself and others. You may have to start thinking like the owner. On the other hand, you may have to develop a commitment to a shared vision. That means that you may have to get others to enthusiastically buy into your vision.
You may have to empower yourself by taking the initiative. Again, you may have to feel and act like the owner.
However, the challenge will be to delegate this new ownership experience to others. You are going to have to push both responsibility and authority down to the newest person in your organization. When things go well you have to share the recognition. Now everyone is fully accountable.
In order to instill your vision into everyone so that you can sustain a leadership culture, you must gain support for your actions. At the same time, you must give support to others for their independent actions. I have carried a card around in my calculator case for nearly 20 years. Here is what it says about leaders and managers:
• Provide vision
• Develop commitment for vision
• Interpret company philosophy
• Act as change agents (Unwilling to accept status quo)
• Clarify expectations
• Direct and monitor performance
• Document progress
• Administer policies
Can you think of people that you know that fall into one, or possibly both, of these categories?
Approaches to leadership and management
The traditional view of an organization has been a pyramid with the Chief Executive Officer at the top and employees at the bottom. Customers were somewhere in the space below the employees. If you like to lead people with rules and regulations imparted through command and control then this model is for you. It leads to predictability through task-oriented activities that are tied to production. You will be successful and make a profit. The traditional model is bureaucratic by its nature, but don't be lulled into thinking that its set structure provides lower risk and therefore offers no risk to you. Unless there is a sustained commitment over a long period of time, it is difficult to have everyone give 110 percent everyday. Boredom may eventually set in and that could lead to errors. Errors cause rework and diminish profitability. In this model, people work "for you."
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