Soft Skills: What To Expect In Return | SOS Podcast

Soft Skills: What To Expect In Return | SOS Podcast
 Return on investment should be a primary concern for those looking to invest time and money into leadership training for managers or supervisors. In this episode, we interview Jay Greene, operational director for South Bay Sand Blasting and Tank Cleaning. Jay offers a first-hand perspective of his experience with the AEU LEAD Supervisor Skills Workshop and highlights several things managers can do to build teams and improve customer satisfaction.


Episode Transcript


Joe White (00:00):
ROI, return on investment. Will leadership skills really make a difference for your organization on the shop floor? Let's find out.

Joe White (00:14):
Hello and thank you for joining us today. My name is Joe White and I'm the host of Supervisor Skills, Secrets of Success. The SOS podcast series is produced for the ongoing development of front-line managers. With each episode, we'll take on a topic of interest and interview subject matter experts for the benefit of our listeners. In this episode, we're going to talk to someone that has operational responsibilities for several divisions at South Bay Sand Blasting in southern California. My guest today is Jay Greene. I first met Jay last summer when he attended one of our online Supervisor Skills workshops. Welcome Jay, and thank you for joining us today.

Jay Greene (00:49):
Thank you, Joe. Thanks for having me.

Joe White (00:52):
Jay, if you would just take a little bit, just take a moment, tell us a little bit about who you are, and just give us a little bit of an update or an overview of what South Bay does.

Jay Greene (01:02):
Okay. Well, my name is Jay Green. I have lived in California my whole life, mostly in Northern California, and I made my way down to San Diego back in 2010 and engaged myself with the Ship Repair Association, and started working on these Navy ships. After one good company I worked for, and we traveled around the world, I ended up at South Bay Sand Blasting and Tank Cleaning, and I currently am the director of the technical flush division, and I also oversee the outside machinist division. South Bay Sand Blasting and Tank Cleaning is the number one provider of non-skid for the Navy west of the Mississippi. We have a huge, robust tank cleaning division that can manage all the availabilities of these ships. Their team is about 150 people. My team's more of an intimate, smaller team, with about 25 guys in the technical flush division, and about five guys in the outside machinist division. My teams are responsible for a lot of the flushing services for the United States Navy.

Joe White (02:06):
Wow, that's pretty impressive. So again, just with the role that you have and the service that you provide, you're definitely tied to the defense of our nation, which I think is incredible, when you think about the products and the service that you provide, that's an awesome accolade, and way to tie your services and what you do back to the country. So again, thank you for your service in helping provide that.

Now, you mentioned that the technical aspect, that you provide technical flushing. You and I have talked a little bit in the past, and while that may sound like it's done remotely, perhaps through equipment, if I'm understanding correctly, this is a very labor-intensive service that you provide.

Jay Greene (02:51):
Absolutely. There's a lot of things that we do on these ships a lot of people don't understand in the industry, and if you want I can go over the general scope of the technical flushing. But yeah, you're right, Joe. It is very labor-intensive, and it is extremely technical. My team, when we go out to these jobs ... what technical flushing essentially is, is you have different components of these ships. You have huge reduction gears, main reduction gears, and they have lube oil systems. And a reduction gear takes the interface from the propulsion engine or gas turbine engine and takes the repetitions per minute and dampens it down into the propulsion shaft. So it reduces the amount of rotations. However, these pieces of equipment are gigantic. They're about 20 stories tall, the value of these things is around $35 million each, and the criteria of cleaning this for the lube oil systems is extremely high.

So when they do lose cleanliness or there is overhauling the system, my team, with modular equipment, essentially adapts to the lube oil systems with flanges and fittings. And we mimic with our equipment, the expected flow rate of that lube oil system, with our temporary lube oil system. And we also provide heating systems that heat the oils to whatever requirement, and then huge filtration banks that really filter down the oil to establish cleanliness of the system. Again, that was a short example of it. However, at the labor end of it, these projects could go on for several months at times. So very heavy on the labor, and also very heavy on the technical abilities.

Joe White (04:41):
Right. So when I think about it, obviously what you're doing is very important, it's very important to the defense of our country, but it's also, you provide a very technical service and you provide employment within the Southern California area. So I want to ask you, in terms of performance and I'm going to take this down to where the rubber really hits the road, what's critical for South Bay? If you think about your performance and what you do, what's really critical?

Jay Greene (05:13):
Absolutely. I know. Well, it's very critical that people are safe now. I have a couple of things. If we can't do it safely, let's not do it all. And there's always time to do it right, okay? If we can't do our job safely -- and working for the United States Navy you can only imagine the oversight -- we're not going to win any contracts, right, if our safety record is low. So we have to, it's essential in order to be successful, we have to do things safely. And that corresponds to being professional when we do this work. And one of the things that's fun to deal with, and you're bringing up this topic, is engagement and buy-in. We have to get these guys' buy-in to be safe, and to be professional, in order to get our jobs done correctly. And that, in my mind, is critical to express, the importance of getting things done safely.

Joe White (06:18):
Right. And so when you think about a client situation or arrangement where you're providing a service, a product to a client, safety is obviously a very important factor. And I know with regard to the Navy, my experience with government contracts, it ranks up there pretty high. I also know that the overall customer experience is a very, very important part of that equation. And so it's very relevant, and I think it's part of the topic that we want to ... I guess the point that we want to pull in today is that so often when we run these podcasts, we'll interview leadership experts, and we'll talk about philosophy and theory and making that practical, and I think your point of view is a little different because you are an operational guy. You're the one that's out there actually having to do it, and you're the one that's actually out there having to please or satisfy a client. And so that's a very different dimension. I think it's a very important and very relevant dimension.

Jay Greene (07:23):
You're absolutely right, Joe. And you can really boil things down. You can have all your different data and such but were we profitable? Were we safe? Did we do it in a timely manner? Ultimately it boils down to the customer's experience. Right? And that's a cool thing to look at because if the customer's experience with the company is a positive one, and all the attributes have to be checked, you have to do it safely, it has to be done quickly and cleanly, is the ability to direct your team and get your team engaged and focused on projects, is a skillset that a lot of managers don't naturally have.

We got brought up through these ranks as being good at what we do and going up to the next level. I wasn't necessarily taught to be a leader. However, in order to get a good customer experience from the customer, you need a leader that can effectively and clearly communicate the details of the projects, the idiosyncrasies of the project, the cautions, or the urgencies. So I think the customer's experience really starts with the leader of the team.

Joe White (08:42):
Interesting perspective. I want to ask you a question. I know you attended one of our online workshops last year. It was a supervisor skills workshop. And as part of that experience, you walked from there with an individual action plan, and that really narrowed down something that you were going to follow up on, and something that you were going to go work on for improvement. If you don't mind sharing, what was it?

Jay Greene (09:07):
Absolutely. It was pretty simple. A little bit of a background on me is, I grew up on a team. I grew up playing sports. I've always been in a team atmosphere. And I've never really, since that, while working, having a career. And your workshop helped me focus it as, this is just like a team. And I'll use the example of a baseball team. And one of my action plans was to make this team solidify, make it gel. And I'm attempting to do it by, being more personable, sharing myself with each other, and getting down to the personal level with people.

Joe White (09:56):
That's interesting.

Jay Greene (09:57):
And it's a dance, it's not an easy thing to do. But it was cool how it's really, there's other conversations that we need to have with our teams that are beyond work. We can talk work. I love to talk work, and my guys love to talk work. But the thing that I'm seeing is if you can take a conversation and shift it to a personal thing or, "What are you guys doing this weekend? What are you doing for the Superbowl?", or stuff like that, you really see the person behind that worker. That person is someone who is very important to you. He's part of your team. And he needs to understand his roles. So as my action plan, I'm making things a little bit more personal. I'm getting to know the guys a little bit more. I'm learning Spanish as quickly as I can because a lot of my guys are Spanish speaking, and I, unfortunately, don't know it that well. So I'm really trying to get on a personal level with each of my team members.

Joe White (10:58):
I think about, when you and I last talked, you'd shared with me an experience you had with an individual, you had indicated that the employee and his wife were expecting, I believe their first child. And you indicated that it's going to be a girl, and you shared with that individual, you said, "Well look, I have two girls." And I thought that was so powerful, because one of the things we know, and we understand about building that rapport, that comradery, is the importance of finding some common ground. And sometimes it's not easy, especially with generational differences or the backgrounds that we each have. It's not always easy. But I thought that was very powerful.

Jay Greene (11:41):
Oh, thanks. I appreciate that, Joe. And yeah, as a father and also as a professional, you have these things that are near and dear to your life, and my life. And he actually walked in with a "girl dad" hat on. It was a sharp-looking hat. And at the time it reminded me of it, and then yeah, I shared some photos of my girls, and then told him what he needs to expect when they had theirs. So yeah, and I'm fortunate to have a great team. I don't know how I ended up with these guys, but they're absolutely fantastic.

Joe White (12:19):
That's incredible. And we each have a need to belong, to have a sense of belonging, and being in a culture where there is that personable, approachable supervisor, manager, one that's willing to really open up about themselves and to be transparent, that's inviting, and it's something I know in my experience I've really had a lot of value in, and I've appreciated that when I've seen that. So I think it can certainly only be of value and benefit to your organization.

So I want to bring up another, I want to dive into this a little bit deeper, but as we think about return on investment, and I breached that subject at the very beginning, when you think about a training experience, typically we measure training at a level of, how does the learner feel about the experience? But we know that there are multiple levels beyond that. For example, feeling and immediately following the experience is one thing, but we can also measure, what did that person learn? We can also measure, what did they do with that information? And then ultimately, what impact did it have on the organization? Those are all layers that we can apply when we start talking about return on investment. So I'm going to ask you, in terms of your experience when you, and not only with the workshop that you went through last year, but with the leadership materials that you've been exposed to, what have been some of the learnings that you feel are most impactful to you?

Jay Greene (13:58):
Sure. Okay. No, that's a fair question. But I would say that's the uniqueness of each individual. Like you said yourself, you give these trainings and you can look at the retention of the information by giving them a test at the end. You can look at how it was applied, the training that they received, how they applied that to the work, and if it made a difference. But what I've experienced is, the big thing is the uniqueness between each individual. And also, I loved the part about the generational difference, right? How generation, back from the '40s, '50s, it was a different mindset. They were more focused on a career, and that was it. This new generation is way more collaborative, is way more engaged. They want to feel like they're making an impact. And as employers, the cool thing is, give them something to be impactful for. Give them the opportunity to make an impact, if that's what they want.

Jay Greene (15:03):
So when it comes down to training and giving information out and hoping it sticks, I think that there's a way to improve it. And that is to recognize the uniqueness of each individual, and also the learning capacity of each individual. Because not everyone can sit in a classroom and retain information and lock it in. So a big part of it, what I'm taking away, is if someone wants to be impactful, allow them to make an impact. Allow them to exercise their strengths. But one of the things to take away from your training was, the difference in uniqueness between all individuals, and especially the generational differences.

Joe White (15:49):
Right. We spend a lot of time trying to categorize and fit people in boxes. But as we learn through experience, ultimately what matters is, what really is important to that individual? How do you communicate with them? Some people want to see data, they want to see numbers. Others respond more to stories and experiences. And you won't know that unless you get to know that individual.

Jay Greene (16:17):

Joe White (16:19):
So the ability to take those learnings and apply them to the challenges that you face is really the ultimate test. And we think about most workshops that, one of the most recent studies that I read suggested that less than 20% of what you're exposed to, or what you learn in a workshop, less than 20% actually finds its way to practice on the job. That's not good. And I think about, again, the whole question around, what's the real return on investment? I want to ask you next about great learnings. If you would, share with us a few items, a few things that you've done. What are some of the actions that you've taken since going through this workshop?

Jay Greene (17:06):
Yeah, absolutely. So the actions that I've taken, when you talk about return on investment, I get excited. Absolutely. But it's really ... You can go out and buy nice pieces of equipment and they can do the job quicker. We can find better material to do it with that's cheaper. But really, I think the efficiencies nowadays are in the personnel, the worker, the employee, the technician, and effectively is getting their buy-in, getting their engagement in this stuff. And some of the things I've done to help pull this team in and to try and make it more of a team atmosphere, is I recognize projects when they're completed and they were successful, and we had a great project, and everything went really well, and the customer was very excited about the outcome of the project.

Jay Greene (18:11):
I'll recognize that with a team lunch. And that, everyone sits down, we're not engaged with work, we have our shields down because we're eating and we're just enjoying each other's company. So I just try to recognize projects as a group, recognizing that, being successful. And some of the things I'm pushing on my team is to get more accountability from them. And then that's one of the things I'm expressing every morning is, I need each individual to have ownership of their activities. No one's going to get blamed for something that you could have changed, or you could have helped with, and allowing them to be in control of, and being accountable for their actions. So those are some of the things I'm doing to try to help improve the team atmosphere.

Joe White (19:08):
That's great. And again, you've given some very relevant examples. These are things that anyone can do. They're things that can be done right away. And let's go back to statistics, one out of every two employees that voluntarily leave your organization, leave any organization, do so to leave their boss. They don't do so to leave the company or the nature of the work, they're leaving their boss. And of those, three-fourths, 75% of those cite a lack of appreciation, a lack of feeling valued and appreciated, as the primary motive for leaving. So the fact that you're doing something here to say, "Hey, I want to really take a moment here and thank you for your hard work", you're tying that back to a lot of stuff, and it certainly can have an impact upon employee engagement. And we all know that, you talked about safety earlier, we all know that all of those pieces at their root can be tied back to employee engagement.

Jay Greene (20:09):
Oh, yes, you're right, Joe. And one of the mistakes I think we have is that we tie the employee's engagement to the labor wage exchange, right?

Joe White (20:20):

Jay Greene (20:21):
They provide the labor, we provide a wage, and we tie it to that. And I think that's wrong. I think we need to tie it to the employee's engagement as part of their team, and their engagement in the work, and not so much about the wage. Because if you make it about the wage, it feels like the employee, "I've made enough this week, I'm not going to show up on this day". But if you made it about being a team, they can't let down the team, and they're more unlikely to let down the team because it's a team that creates this effort to get the job accomplished. So I think if you can get the employees more engaged, you'll see less turnover, you'll see more focus, you'll see better attendance, and hopefully ultimately a better effort.

Joe White (21:08):
Yeah, again, we're walking through this. It's, how did you feel about the experience? What did you learn? What did you do? And what's the impact on performance? And ultimately I'd like to ask you, and I know it hasn't been that long since you've started some of these actions, but have you seen a shift in performance? Is there anything that you can point your finger to and say, "This appears to be better, appears to be trending better, and I think it's in response to trying to build that team, or trying to communicate more effectively or trying to show value more readily"? Can you think of anything?

Jay Greene (21:47):
Like you were saying earlier Joe, we work for the Department of Defense, United States Navy, so there's a little bit of pride going on here. And I do have some folks on my team, they're ex-Navy, ex-military, young guys. And I saw this one project, first of the year, it was on the USS O'Kane, and a very serious project, high visibility, all the way up to the Pentagon. They had visibility on it. The project was actually assigned a three-star Admiral just to oversee the repairs to this reduction gear. And my team was in charge of flushing the lube oil system of this reduction gear. Very finite dates, two weeks to do essentially four weeks' worth of work. And I had to get the team together and express the urgency of this, the seriousness of it, and how they had to ultimately just work as a team.

Jay Greene (22:44):
And man, I just saw these young guys, just a fire was lit underneath them. They knew they had something important to do. They took ownership of it. They worked long hours. And it's just a self-starting thing. And it's absolutely, it takes a lot of load off my shoulders when I have a very aggressive team that's excited about work, that's engaged in the work, and understands how to get it accomplished within the timeline. I'm not saying there's an exact correlation to me trying to get the team together, but I'm seeing a lot of improvement and a lot of urgency with these guys.

Joe White (23:23):
That's incredible. And again, employee engagement, we think about, it is about the employees going above and beyond, feeling connected, feeling motivated. There are so many pieces of employee engagement that directly hit the bottom line. So the fact that you're able to to see that, and to start to see that connection, that energy, I think that's just so powerful. Again, it'll be interesting. I'd love to follow up with you at some point, just see how things are going, and see if you've noticed reductions in turnover, and improvements in safety, and all the things that we objectively would like to tie back. And I know in many cases that takes time to be able to demonstrate that. But again, thank you so much for sharing that.

Got one more question for you. I always like to button these things up, these podcasts up with any advice that you might offer, have for listeners that may have interest in this. They may say, "Hey, I'd like to really start applying some leadership skills, I'd like to do something." Do you have any advice that you'd share with them based on your experiences?

Jay Greene (24:31):
Absolutely. My advice would be to understand who you are, understand your limitations, our limitations, my limitations, your own limitations, and understand that you might be good at whatever it is you do, but it doesn't mean you're an effective leader. It doesn't mean you're good at communicating. It doesn't mean that you're respectful to everybody. And these are some of the things, if you take yourself seriously and you take your career seriously, you have to take your team seriously. Because they're ultimately an extension of yourself, they're a reflection of the supervisor. And some of my advice I would share is, take some time to reflect on how your team perceives you and if there's any ability for you to improve on that. And ultimately, learn how to be a leader, and learn how to effectively communicate with everyone on their team, old and young, whatever it might be. Understand that you have your own limitations and that there's room for you to improve as well.

Joe White (25:34):
That's great advice. I'm often reminded that when we're on our tools, when we're out there turning wrenches, our performance is a reflection of the things that we personally do, and the products that we produce. When you are promoted and you become a supervisor, or foreman, or lead, you suddenly are in a position where your performance is a reflection of what those reporting to you do. So whereas on your tools, your production is based on what you're able to produce, you've got to get that done through others when you become a supervisor or manager. And that's something that leadership and leadership skills will greatly enable you to do, and at least do more effectively.

Jay Greene (26:20):

Joe White (26:22):
Jay, thank you so much. We're out of time. As usual, it's always a pleasure speaking with you. For anyone that may have an interest in following up with Jay or getting more information, his contact information will be available in the show notes for this episode. We'll also put a link in there for South Bay Sand Blasting, in the event that you might have interest in learning more about the company.

For those listening, I hope you found this discussion of value and benefit. If so, help us spread the word. Also, if you would share this podcast with anyone else that you know of that might be interested. The SOS podcast series is brought to you by AEU LEAD, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of front-line managers. For additional information, or follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes provided. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.



About our guest, Jay Greene

Jay Greene is the director of the Technical Flush division for South Bay Sand Blasting and Tank Cleaning in San Diego, California. He leads a team of approximately 25 employees that primarily provide support services to the U.S. Navy.

Jay is a graduate of Santa Cruz University and has a background in research, having worked for Chevron Technology in Richmond, California. He’s married with two children and is actively involved in his community as a volunteer with several organizations.


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