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motivated by new challenges

One of the key challenges leaders face is finding ways to motivate their employees, and this is all the more challenging within a demanding and fast-paced industry like ours. One of our colleagues who is using his personal development experience to find new ways to motivate his team is Michael Graf, Head of Assembly at KML.

Michael studied mechanical engineering before taking a job as an assembly fitter at an Austrian company specialized in extrusion machines. Thanks in part to a production leader who saw his potential, after two years he was promoted to team leader for production technology and then became team leader for a quality management team. However, after 15 years there and a change in management, he was ready for something new. 

During his job search, Michael got in contact with KML, whose complex products and projects sounded like an exciting change of pace. He joined the company in 2022 as Team Lead Special Construction, and immediately noticed a big difference. “My previous company was quite large, but KML is more like a family,” he says.“The great thing about that is that if there’s an issue, everyone works together to solve it.”

Working as a Team Lead also gave Michael a great opportunity to showcase his leadership experience and work side-by-side with the former Head of Assembly. When that colleague stepped down earlier this year, Michael was invited to take his place.  

As Head of Production, Michael’s responsibilities have expanded considerably; he now has to oversee all of the products KML makes and all of the team leaders. Fortunately, he loves a challenge. “The job is very interesting because I have a much broader spectrum of people and technologies to deal with,” he explains. “Every day I see something new and there’s always new challenges to handle. It’s definitely never boring!”

This new role is also helping Michael learn how to be a better leader. “I’ve had managers who were very strict, but when I went to leadership training I discovered that I’m not the kind of guy who likes to work with the whip,” he explains. “I prefer to talk to my people and try to understand what their issues are. I’ve found that this is a more effective way to get people on board than being strict and trying to force them to do things.”

Being open and treating others as equals is a big part of Michael’s vision for the assembly department. “I’m encouraging the team leads to take this approach and trying to just lead by example,” he says. “I still work at the machines and try to help out where I can. I hope that the employees recognize that and that it makes them feel happier and more motivated. After all, they are the capital of the company.”

In fact, making sure his people are motivated is one of Michael’s main goals as a leader. “I feel more motivated when I am given new challenges and have been fortunate to have leaders that pushed me to develop myself,” he says. “I want my people to have this same experience, so I try to give them more responsibilities and opportunities to learn and grow. I’m certainly getting the chance to do that in my new role!”

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Michael Graf Head of Production KML

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