Commanding with courage

Manufacturing First keynote speaker says ‘Leadership Isn’t for Cowards’

Posted on Sep 11, 2019 :: Feature
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

Mike Staver has a message about the war for talent: It’s here for the long term, and there’s no easy way to address it.

The skilled worker gap isn’t just a Wisconsin problem. In fact, as someone who speaks nationwide and will deliver one of two keynote presentations at the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference in October, Staver hears about this issue just about everywhere he goes.

“I think (the skills gap) is going to remain challenging. As baby boomers continue to exit the market and as next generations come in, I think we’re going to see continuing compression,” Staver says.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that leaders and companies can take steps to better position themselves to draw top talent.

Benefits and money aren’t what move most people, and the old way of thinking: “You have a resume; we have a job; we pay you; you do the job,” no longer works, Staver says.

“That’s a very outdated way of seeing talent,” he says. “The best way to see talent now is, ‘We have a job. You have a resume. Come to work for us. Oh, but wait, what are your needs at work?’”

Businesses that succeed ensure they can tell a compelling story. It’s important for prospective hires to know their opinions will be valued and that they will feel like part of the team, he says.

Think of your job candidates as you would a customer and give them what they want, not what you think they need, Staver says. Assess their needs and pitch to those.

As for going after candidates, Staver says companies can use both traditional methods — holding job fairs and offering attractive benefits — and non-traditional — offering to pay down student debt. But if you’re missing the compelling story component, “you’re going to be in trouble.”

Staver, an internationally renowned speaker and coach, has written three books, including “Leadership Isn’t for Cowards,” the topic of his speech at Manufacturing First. He’s worked with organizations such as Federal Express, Mayo Clinic and leading real estate companies, and Training magazine ranked some of his work No. 1 on its 2018 Training Top 125 list.

The author, who holds degrees in business administration and counseling psychology, says he became passionate about leadership after working with some leaders who needed some help. He often sees a gap between intentions and execution.

“It isn’t just about getting the widget out at the end of the line. It’s not just about the P&L. It’s not just about your KPIs. It’s about a lot more,” he says. “I say in ‘Leadership Isn’t for Cowards,’ we’re messing with people’s lives, and I’m very passionate about that understanding and being able to blend the art and the science.”

Staver conducted some research in the real estate industry about what makes a leader great and identified numerous characteristics. However, he says, there’s no formula for building an “uber-leader.” You can’t simply say every great leader must be extroverted or introverted or creative.

To find success, Staver says leaders must be able to clearly articulate the organization’s purpose and direction. The leader also needs to be the right fit. Someone’s resume may be perfect on paper, but he or she may not click with the organization.

“It used to be that companies only hired leaders they believed could do the job, and now what we need to be doing is hiring leaders that not only can do the job but that are a fit within our organization. The most talented leader can fail in the wrong culture,” he says.

Strong leaders communicate powerfully, solve problems effectively and build good relationships, Staver says. They need to know leadership is about more than simply getting the work done and avoid assuming they know more or have more skills than those who report to them. It’s also important to cultivate personal awareness and continuously develop skills.

“I’m always surprised about the number of leaders who either don’t have a coach or don’t have a development plan or aren’t hungry leaders or aren’t developing the skill of leadership,” he says.

Staver came up with his book title — “Leadership Isn’t for Cowards” — after he realized that the leaders who struggle most operate from a place of fear and uncertainty. Those who operate from courage, who are willing to feel the fear, anxiety and discomfort and still go after objectives, will succeed, he says.

The book and Staver’s keynote address follow the acronym ATTACK (Accept Your Circumstances; Take Action; Take Responsibility; Acknowledge Progress; Commit to Good Habits; and Kindle New Relationships).

At his Manufacturing First talk, Staver says attendees can expect to be challenged, to laugh and to leave with the opportunity to do things differently and better than when they showed up.

“I’m a big believer in making sure that what we talk about isn’t Chinese food. You go, you get full, you enjoy it and you’re hungry a little bit later. I’m going to challenge them,” he says.

In addition to Staver’s talk, David Kohler, president and CEO of Kohler Co., will deliver a keynote presentation on “145 Years of Manufacturing and Innovation.”


What to expect at Manufacturing First 2019

The Manufacturing First Expo & Conference has become known as one of the state’s premier industry events. The annual event draws more than 1,200 attendees and 550 high school students who come to the KI Center in Green Bay to speak to manufacturers and learn about careers.

This year’s event features two keynote presentations, 12 breakout sessions focused on innovation and industry trends, multiple networking opportunities and an expo hall with more than 200 exhibitors highlighting their products and services.

After a successful first outing last year, Power Hour returns this year. It offers an exclusive opportunity to register for cash and prizes on the expo floor. Following that, Oshkosh Corp. will deliver a special presentation, and then the Business After Hours Cocktail Reception and Power Hour Giveaway will run on the upper level from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

The evening prior to Manufacturing First, the NEW Manufacturing Alliance holds its Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnerships Awards dinner honoring innovation at local companies and educators who are making a difference. Students pursuing careers in manufacturing also receive scholarships at the dinner. Tickets for this event are sold separately and cost $60.

To learn more or to register for either or both events, visit: