97: Steel Toes and Stilettos (and everything in between) with Kathy Miller and Shannon Karels

Our guests this week are Kathy Miller and Shannon Karels. Both of these women have racked up decades of experience in manufacturing and operations, and now they’re the duo that leads OPSisters where they focus on advising operations through coaching, training, and speaking.

Beyond that, they’ve also distilled some of the best lessons in their book “Steel Toes and Stilettos,” and we’re going to be learning quite a bit from them today as well.

Tune in to this episode to hear the origin story behind this fantastic business duo, their thoughts on leadership, building connections, leading with empathy, and why they use the lean manufacturing concept in their work.


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3 Quick Things from this Episode

  1. Lean manufacturing is about getting the best quality products to your customers in the fastest way, with the least amount of waste.
  2. Leaders need to communicate their vision to their team rather than assume everyone’s on the same page.
  3. Being a great leader isn’t just about telling people what to do. It’s about building connections and trust and leading with empathy.

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Tweetable Quotes

  • “When I was given the autonomy to build a team I wanted with the best skills that I could find and people who brought diversity of thought to that team was when it was not a grind, it was when it was fun. We were all working toward a common mission.” – Shannon Karels
  • “I think it’s just important to know that there will be trade-offs, and you just have to do the best you can with the information that you have. When you’re somewhere, be present there. Be thankful for where you are and don’t spend a lot of energy on where you can’t be.” – Kathy Miller
  • “Know your strengths, use your strengths to help others, and bask in your authentic self. And if it’s not a match with where you are, move on and don’t look back.” – Kathy Miller

Please Scroll Down for Recommended Resources from this Episode

Do you want to connect with other leaders that are moving the needle in manufacturing everyday? Then make sure to join us in the Manufacturing Happy Hour Industry Community on LinkedIn.

SteamChain.io is the Machine-as-a-Service solution provider helping both End-Users and OEMs collaborate, drive revenue, and grow together. Learn more about them on Episode 5 of Manufacturing Happy Hour.

Audible is the world’s largest library of audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment. Get a FREE audiobook when you sign up at audibletrial.com/happyhourpod.

Concept Systems Inc. is an independent systems integrator and your automation solution partner for anything from antiquated control system retrofits to greenfield controls coordination and project management. Learn more about them on Episode 7 of Manufacturing Happy Hour.

Interested in generating leads through videos, podcasts, or other digital content? Then make sure to check out our 6 Strategies for Growing Your Manufacturing Business Using Social Media.

What We Discuss with Kathy and Shannon

  • How Kathy and Shannon first met
  • How they took the leap to quit their jobs and start a new business
  • Advice for anyone looking to start with a business partner
  • What a lean manufacturing roadmap looks like
  • The soft skills you need to be a great leader
  • Why you need to make the mission of the business meaningful
  • How to avoid the grind of manufacturing
  • Why you should lead with empathy
  • How to find a work-life balance
  • Kathy and Shannon reflect on their careers

Recommended Resources

  • OPSisters, operations leadership advising that includes coaching, training relationships, realities, and results
  • Steel Toes and Stilettos, a true story of women manufacturing leaders and lean transformation success by Shannon Karels and Kathy Miller

Connect with Shannon and Kathy

OPSisters | Kathy Miller | Shannon Karels