Leadership Development At Wikoff Color Corporation

Conference callWikoff Color Corporation has been a member of the OpExChange/Lean Alliance for nearly 17 years. Their facility in Fort Mill, South Carolina was one of the charter members of the Metrolina chapter. In a report-out to the OpExChange team last week, they shared how they have approached leadership development and employee engagement.

Wikoff Color is an international, employee-owned corporation. They are a manufacturer of ink and coating for the printing and packaging industries. There are thirty-three manufacturing locations in the corporation, with a heavy concentration in North America.

Geoff Peters, President and CEO for Wikoff, introduced the session with an introduction to Wikoff and why leadership development is so central to their company culture. In the theme of continuous improvement, they evaluated their strengths and opportunities from their existing leadership and developed the “Wikoff Leadership Model.” Geoff explained that leadership is a function of both results and behaviors, which are the make-up of both the competency and credibility of a leader.


Missy Gieselmann is the Director of Continual Improvement for Wikoff and has been with them for over 30 years. She shared two tools that Wikoff employs to breed both employee engagement and ultimately retention. The first is the “stay interview.” Stay interviews are conducted to help managers understand why employees stay and what might cause them to leave. In an effective stay interview, managers ask standard, structured questions in a casual and conversational manner. “The stay interview really shows respect for the employee and it may improve their engagement,” Missy stated. “It shows that you are concerned for them.” The stay interview is meant to be informal and it is imperative that the leader actively listens to the employee. An important point Missy made was that the leader should always “tell the truth.” This is an essential component in establishing credibility.


A second tool that Wikoff employs in leadership development is the individual development plan (IDP). The IDP is a tool to assist employees in both their career and personal development. Missy explained that Wikoff realized that career growth is analogous to a climbing wall. In reaching the destination, sometimes it is necessary to take tangential or lateral paths in order to reach the destination. The IDP is a plan and an agreement between the leader and the employee. The plan should ideally center on “the sweet spot” that considers the employee’s passion, competence, and the needs of the organization.


In the development of their leadership program, Wikoff partnered with Ingenium Global Consulting. Dr. Sandhya Johnson, Managing Director with Ingenium, shared a third crucial tool utilized by Wikoff – emotional intelligence assessment. Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how we perceive ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, and cope with challenges. The emotional quotient (EQ) is not as easily measurable as the better-known intelligence quotient (IQ). Sandhya shared that it is, however, a better predictor of success in both life and work. Furthermore, Sandhya added, “You never stop developing your emotional intelligence.” It can be developed and coached for continuous improvement throughout an individual’s life. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, 75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional intelligence.

Good leadership is foundational to creating and sustaining improvement in every aspect of operations. Wikoff shared today how they are using their continuous improvement mindset to improve their leadership and management of people.

There were 68 participants from 32 companies attending this session. All attendees received templates for stay interviews and individual development plans that they can use in their companies as well as an example of the emotional intelligence assessment.


The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina dedicated to learning and growing together. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provide access to others who are on similar improvement journeys.

If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (mike@opexchange.com) or visit the OpExChange website: www.OpExChange.com

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