Review: Leadership Unleashed

Plastics Business
A reception welcomed conference attendees to Indianapolis, IN. COURTESY CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION

On Oct. 15, 430 plastics processing professionals descended upon the JW Marriott hotel in Indianapolis, IN, for two days of intense, industry-focused learning and sharing. The following provides only a glimpse into the power of this year’s event.




Kicking Off with the Right Cadence


Executive Director Troy Nix kicked off the conference in his typical high-energy style, as the sounds of a military cadence rolled across the dimly lit ballroom and a video lit up three large screens. Relating the leadership skills of the military cadence caller to the expertise necessary to successfully lead within a business environment, Nix explained the characteristics of an effective cadence caller.

  • The cadence caller’s leadership is always present, visible and motivational.
  • The cadence caller knows the strengths/weaknesses of the people in his column.
  • The cadence caller understands the staffing and placement of key resources.
  • The cadence caller ensures everyone is in step.
  • The cadence caller ensures full engagement from everyone in the column.

With a theme of Leadership Unleashed, this year’s MAPP conference was designed to provide manufacturing executives with a chance to reflect on their own leadership traits, study their strengths, examine their purposes and aggressively search for ways in which to impact their company and the lives of the people they lead. Nix explained that fractional improvements in leadership can dramatically improve company performance as a whole, and he challenged each attendee to dig deep to pursue knowledge that would positively impact his or her business.

Each attendee was challenged to ask the following questions:

  • Are you present as a leader?
  • Are you focused on leadership skills?
  • Are your people in step with your cadence?
  • Are your squad leaders (managers) more capable than you?
  • Do you have an employee engagement strategy?
  • Do you know yourself?

The room was filled with 430 cadence callers. All were challenged to spend 36 hours gaining inspiration and gathering insight to ensure they were singing a cadence that set the right tone for their organizations.

Jack was Back!

Jack Daly (


For the first time in MAPP Benchmarking & Best Practices Conference history, a keynote speaker was invited to return. Jack Daly built his companies over the years with a zest for not being in an office, but by being out in the field, side-by-side with his front-line associates. This practice has been validated by more and more accomplished companies and their leadership teams. Daly encouraged attendees to learn from these “masters” – and his own experiences – to leverage what they have done to build successful, growing and profitable enterprises. Daly advocated the applications of systems and processes throughout a company, facilitated by a written “playbook.” Why the sports analogy? A Super Bowl-winning football team would never take the field without a written plan for every contingency, and yet businesses operate every day without a deep understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.

Daly, a committed athlete, has competed in 13 Ironman competitions in eight countries on five continents, including the World Championship in Hawaii. An Ironman, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run, is an ultimate test of an athlete’s training. He shared with attendees his “lessons learned” after multiple feats of endurance.

  1. Start with a vision. Wake up each day with a vision of what you want to accomplish.
  2. Develop a playbook. Once there is a vision, you must understand what it will take to get there. Then, make a plan to achieve it.
  3. Create a system of measurement. Things that get measured get done, according to Daly. If you don’t have a system of measurement, there’s no way to know if you’re close to achieving the vision.
  4. Practice and train. Don’t expect progress without work.
  5. Add a coach. Who holds you accountable to the goals you have set? Find the person with the most knowledge and experience in the areas that are pivotal to your success, and ask for their help.
  6. Don’t ignore fitness and nutrition. A mental challenge cannot succeed without the physical base to support it. In all things, fitness and nutrition matter.
  7. Have the right attitude. Athletic feats of endurance rely heavily on mental toughness and attitude. The same principles apply when setting out to achieve a vision of business success.

A Marriage of Manufacturing and Education

Craig Cegielski, Eleva-Strum High School (


High school tech educator Craig Cegielski operates a student-run manufacturing company at Eleva-Strum High School in Strum, WI. Cardinal Manufacturing isn’t a typical machine shop – students are making parts for paying customers, gaining valuable knowledge and trade skills that provide local companies with recent graduates who already have experience in meeting customer demands and working within a manufacturing environment. With a focus on developing precision machining, welding and other metalworking skills, the program also instills skills such as resume development, interviewing, job-site professionalism and more.

The program relies on a true partnership between the high school and the community. Local manufacturing firms, hoping to gain experienced employees upon graduation, support Cardinal Manufacturing by donating equipment and funneling small production jobs its way. Retired community members have volunteered their time and skills to refurbish the high school’s shop area into an independent manufacturing facility. The school’s leadership has provided support by advocating a curriculum that acknowledges not every student has the desire to attend four years of higher education.

The success of Cardinal Manufacturing has gained national attention, and a recent grant from the state of Wisconsin will help Cegielski to package the program in a way that will help other high schools to model it. In 2015, a summer workshop will be held for other schools and manufacturing partners that are interested in creating a student-run enterprise in their own communities. In addition, student teachers come through Eleva-Strum High School each year and are taking the process out to replicate as they engage with the education system.

Inspiring Employees to Follow

Troy Hazard (


As a business owner of 11 different companies, Hazard acknowledged that leading effectively can be difficult, and the only way to make it easier is to become a better leader, faster. Also an extreme sports fanatic (he owns his own race car), Hazard’s presentation encouraged the leaders in the room to stop focusing on avoiding the potential “accidents” and, instead, focus on winning the race.

Hazard recalled a sporting event in which he had participated where his team was completely dominated by the opposition, losing badly. Nevertheless, he and his teammates felt incredibly positive after that game; in fact, they almost felt invincible. An acquaintance later said that feeling was the result of actions taken by the coach, and Hazard realized those actions were applicable to business coaching as well. The coach of Hazard’s losing team was effective in creating the following things:

  • A sense of belonging. No matter the score on the field, Hazard felt as if he belonged with a group that was working together in an attempt to achieve a goal. He wanted to work to his highest level in order to support the team. There was a personal fear of letting others down.
  • An element of autonomy. The coach created plays and an overall game plan, but when something went wrong on the playing field, the coach gave his players the autonomy to make the decisions needed at that time, without fear of reprisal later.
  • A feeling of proficiency. Hazard’s coach encouraged him as to his abilities and efforts, making him feel as if he were playing to the absolute best level possible. While the coach still suggested changes and did all of the things an effective coach should do, Hazard felt as if implementing those changes would simply make him even more proficient at a game in which he already excelled.

As a business leader, how often do you make your employees feel as if they belong to a larger team on the brink of accomplishing great things? How often do you give them the autonomy to make decisions in the field or on the plant floor? How often do the employees believe they are the best they can be?

In the end, Hazard realized that in his own businesses, he wasn’t leading. He was threatening his employees with consequences if they didn’t follow him. To inspire his employees, he had to change the way he led; he had to become a better coach.

RJG Presents 2014 Training Excellence Award

MAPP’s annual Benchmarking & Best Practices Conference is two days of intense, industry-focused learning and sharing. COURTESY CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION

RJG, Inc. has created the RJG Training Excellence Award as a way to recognize clients for their commitment to the RJG Master MolderSM Certification program. The Master Molder program was developed over ten years ago under the guidance of Norm Ward, who saw a great need in the industry for a training program and tools that would bridge the gap between classroom instruction and implementing what was learned on the production floor. This year, the award was presented to Mack Molding of Statesville, NC, Tech Molded Plastics of Meadville, PA, and Technimark of Asheboro, NC. RJG presented the award to the three chosen companies at the MAPP Benchmarking Conference. All three companies received this award because of their dedication to improving the skill levels of their employees.

Book Recommendations

Conference attendees were gifted with Hyper Sales Growth, written by Keynote Speaker Jack Daly. In addition, several book recommendations were given by both Troy Nix and Daly.

  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  • First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
  • Leading from the Inside Out by Samuel D. Rima
  • Nuts: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg
  • Great by Choice by Jim Collins
  • Getting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni