How Strong Leaders Can Break Down Silos in Food Safety Culture

Tia Glave
Contributing Writer

Silos between manufacturing teams cause miscommunications, mistakes, rework, and limit a business’s ability to streamline operations and cut expenses. So, what do we do about them? In this blog, we discuss the importance of leadership in breaking down silos to foster a positive food safety culture.

In our recent webinar, Food Safety Culture: Breaking Down Silos using Influence, Tia Glave and Jill Stuber, co-founders of the leading provider of coaching-based food safety culture programs Catalyst, explain why having a strong technical leader who can lead with influence is critical for breaking down interdepartmental silos.

Let's pinpoint where the shortcomings of technical leaders typically come from, and what you can do about it.

Topics include:

  1. Shortcomings of today's food safety culture leaders

  2. Business cases for building strong food safety leaders

  3. How to develop influential technical leaders

Shortcomings of Today's Food Safety Culture Leaders

Too often, our leaders aren't leaders. The majority of technical leaders are promoted because of their technical expertise — not their leadership skills. Food safety culture is a prime example where leadership typically has strong technical skills, but isn’t provided with training in how to lead effectively, impacting their direct reports and inhibiting their ability to break through interdepartmental silos.

We are people who have been highly trained in science, and we speak that language. Even when we think we’re not speaking science or technical jargon we’re still not communicating effectively to influence and have the right outcomes we want.

Tia Glave, Co-Founder / Catalyst

A prime example is food safety culture leaders coming to interdepartmental meetings armed with data and statistics to sway buy-in from other departments. In fact, studies show that rational persuasion is the single most attempted method of influence, while also being the least effective. What’s worse is that inspiration — the most effective method of influence met with the least resistance — is the least utilized.

If companies valued training leadership how to better communicate, relate to, and guide their teams, silos would be a non-issue. A good leader in food safety culture forms strong relationships across teams so that collaborations are streamlined, efficient, and successful. Unfortunately, that’s not the trend we see in most businesses today, particularly in technical fields like FSQA.

Business cases for building strong leaders

Despite the fact that we just showed you evidence that rational data isn’t the strongest motivator, we know you still want to see the data behind the effectiveness of providing training and coaching resources for your leaders. Well, here it is:  

How to develop influential technical leaders

The Center for Creative Leadership identifies four keys to leading with influence: organizational intelligence, team promotion, trust building, and leveraging networks. These four keys have one critical overarching priority: they all focus on developing professional relationships.

Assess how colleagues view your department.

Evaluate your workplace’s food safety culture by talking to people at different levels in different departments of your organization. Do they see your department as a show stopper or as an enabler? Do they understand that you want the same things — quality production environments for your workers and customers? Open a conversation that discusses how your departments can work towards communal goals together.

Identify the skills and qualities your organization needs in a strong leader — then develop those attributes throughout your team.

Developing people and their leadership skills is essential to break down silos. Your job as a leader, whether or not you have direct reports, is to take care of the people around you so that you can better influence and inspire them.

Jill Sybor, Co-Founder / Catalyst

What does your team from you to succeed? Asana identifies 17 of the most important qualities in a leader, which ones do you have, and which do you need to work on?

  1. Do you empower your team members to succeed with encouragement and industry-knowledge?

  2. How do you prioritize professional development for your team members? Do you pay attention to what they want to learn, use failures as teaching opportunities, and provide constructive criticism in a way that inspires your team?

  3. How effective are your methods of communication? Do you notice frequent misunderstandings, delays in responses, or a lack of feedback?

  4. Does your team consider you to be emotionally intelligent? Do you go out of your way to choose your words carefully so your team can stay motivated and productive, even when things go wrong?

  5. Are you an effective problem-solver? Does your team often come to you for help or advice, and, if they do, do they typically leave with their issues resolved in a way that’s satisfying to them?

  6. How good are you at showing respect for others? Do you let a bad attitude affect the way you interact with your colleagues? How do you handle situations when you disagree with a team member?

  7. Do you practice personal development by frequently attending classes and conferences to develop skills that will benefit you and your team?

  8. Do you guide your team through strategic tactics to generate new ideas? How often do you use data to drive important decisions or lead brainstorming sessions across departments?

  9. How often do you practice active listening?

  10. Are you confident enough in your team to delegate tasks? Do you, or are your typically scrambling because you took on too much work for yourself?

  11. Do you assume responsibility when your team makes mistakes and make it your priority to come up with a solution?

  12. Are you passionate about your day-to-day tasks and new projects? Can you see that excitement reflected in your team?

  13. How forward looking are your initiatives? Do you take a long-haul view of overall company goals or are you just trying to make it through the quarter relatively unscathed?

  14. Do you go out of your way to show you care about your team by asking them appropriate questions about their lives, connecting with them on a personal level, and orchestrate team building exercises that are inclusive of all team members?

  15. How up-to-date are you on the latest industry trends and technology innovations in your field? Are you actively looking for ways to keep your team current and armed with the latest tools to do their jobs efficiently and safely?

  16. Do you quickly adapt to changing situations without placing additional stress on your team?

  17. Do you continuously make an extra effort to keep an open mind and eliminate unconscious biases?

About the author: Catalyst is a comprehensive coaching program for creating transformational change within people and organizations toward the ultimate food safety and quality culture.