Jack Helmboldt wears many hats. He is the president of DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, overseeing our mobility systems and manufacturing businesses in North America, and sits on the board of DENSO International America and on the executive committee in Japan. But ask Jack about his most important role, and you might be surprised by his response. Recently, Jack traded his sports coat for steel-toed boots, so he could spend more time on the plant floor meeting and mentoring associates.
Why did you decide to spend more time in the plant than on a plane?
I was finding that my message about what we need to accomplish to be successful as a business, wasn’t making it to the floor. Or, by the time it did, it was jumbled. I’ve been talking to associates and asking them questions like, does your boss tell you what to do? Do they tell you why it’s important? Do they tell you how to accomplish it? Good leaders should give clear direction, but at the same time, we want our associates to take personal responsibility of what they want to do or try to do in their careers.
What’s the best way to advance your career?
Understanding engagement and ownership. I tell my management team that they can ask for my help on anything and in any situation, and I will tell them exactly what I would do. No one should be afraid to ask questions. But, the best way to learn is by taking ownership and working out a problem by yourself. You and I can reach the same conclusion in two totally different ways.
How do you take ownership at such a large company like DENSO?
Move away from what I call the “silo mentality.” We’re all in this together. If your line is working properly, but your colleague’s isn’t, that’s your problem too. We need to work across lines to ensure everything is running smoothly on a regular basis. Taking a step back to see the bigger picture opens the door to more opportunities.
What makes a good leader?
Be an innovator. This doesn’t mean you need to be creative. It means you act to make us better. You see and seek out opportunities for improvement. You learn from people, from other plants, or other countries and you add those skills to your toolbox, which is critical as the auto industry undergoes massive changes.
Be a motivator. People around you should see you as being honest, credible, confident and a good listener. Take the time to talk to people, develop trust, and share information that can help them be better.
Be a visionary. This isn’t a goal or objective; it’s envisioning an ideal situation for the business and the company. My vision is that everyone who works here is happy and wants their kids and grandkids to work here someday. It will take time, and I’m setting milestones to realize that vision.
Finally, be a good teacher. I’m proud to be the president of DMTN, but that’s not how I want to be remembered. I want people to remember me as a good mentor or coach who recognized and cultivated talent, gave them opportunities to succeed, and helped them establish good habits and modify bad ones.
Anything else to add?
Be appreciative of good work. If someone goes above and beyond, take the time to thank them. I have a stack of cards on my desk, and I’m constantly sending them out because I see our associates doing such great things.Tags: Leadership Perspectives