Inspiring a Shared Vision

How best to do this in your workplace? Fort Worth’s GE Manufacturing Solutions has ideas.

By Harriet Harral
Executive Director
Leadership Fort Worth

A book by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, called The Leadership Challenge, outlines five practices of exemplary leadership:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

My previous column in the July issue of FW Inc. demonstrated how Fidelity Investments models the way for employees to live out their value of good corporate citizenship.

The second leadership practice is “Inspire a shared vision”:

  • Leaders have a desire to make something happen, to change how things are, to create something that no one else has ever created before.
  • Leaders cannot command commitment; they can only inspire it.
  • To enlist others in a common vision, leaders must know their constituents and be able to relate to them in ways that energize and uplift them.

An excellent example of inspiring a shared vision can be found at GE Manufacturing Solutions, the 1 million-square-foot locomotive manufacturing plant built in North Fort Worth in 2012.

“At GE Manufacturing Solutions, we tell all our employees, ‘You run this place,’” Walter Amaya, the plant manager says. “Our employees understand they are responsible for the environment we work in, the culture we create, and they are empowered to make changes and drive impact for the business.”

Starting a brand new facility provided a perfect opportunity to foster this vision of inclusion as well as allowing employees to grow in their skills and their careers while growing the business.

Amaya maintains this shared vision has positioned the facility as one of the most competitive and productive sites supporting GE Transportation’s Global Supply Chain. In the first year, the plant ramped up to build three locomotives per week. With the involvement of team members, the production rate at the plant has grown to 10 locomotives per week. This past July, within just three years of opening the plant, they celebrated the completion of their 1000th locomotive.

The plant is intentional about assuring all employees are engaged. Two strategies to foster a shared vision include:

  • The Star Points Program, which facilitates regular meetings of team members and leadership regarding business and potential improvements, and
  • The Moonshine Shop where team members provide ideas that are tested and validated to improve efficiency and/or safety. This year to date, they have identified 120 ideas that have provided more than $550,000 in savings.

When asked his advice for others on inspiring a shared vision, Amaya said:

  • Maintain open lines of communications with employees regarding business goals and challenges. Involve them in identifying and implementing solutions to achieve/exceed goals and overcome challenges.
  • Most important, developing shared leadership is an ongoing process. It is a journey, not a destination. The cooperation among the leadership and team members must be continuously cultivated as business goals, challenges and employees change. 

As Kouzes and Posner say, inspiring a shared vision is the practice that sets some leaders apart from others. This practice engages team members to tie their personal dreams to the goals of the group; it creates the incentive for the team to commit their energy and expertise to the shared effort to achieve greatness. 

GE Manufacturing Solutions provides an excellent demonstration of this leadership skill.