Mindy Lanning became plant manager at Johns Manville in January, a position that came after 20 years of working at the insulation manufacturing facility.
"I had applied for this a couple of times and, thankfully, they chose the right time that was right for me versus just putting me in that role because I wanted it," Lanning said. "...There's a right time for a role and a wrong time for a role."
Lanning was first hired as a temporary worker in JM's warehouse and did not expect to stay there for more than a year or two. As time went on, she found she was working with great people, had consistent employment, great benefits and opportunities to advance.
"It's hard to leave a company that will take care of you," Lanning said.
Lanning was hired as warehouse clerk — the position that paid the least at the plant. Wanting to earn more to support her family, she advanced to being a truck driver for JM.
"I realized, sitting at the truck stop one day, there was no way in heck I could do this for the rest of my life," Lanning said. "I felt like I wasn't contributing enough."
That was when she decided to go back to college to get a degree in business, giving up what little free time she had between her job and raising two children.
"I told myself when I signed up for college, 'if you're going to do this, you can't quit.' ...You've got to make that commitment to yourself," Lanning said.
Her drive led to a job as the warehouse supervisor.
"From there, it kind of just blossomed," Lanning said. "I don't think a degree makes you smarter, it just opens a lot of doors; it's an extra tool in your tool box."
Lanning advanced over her career to became a safety manager, production supervisor, superintendent, plant superintendent and, now, the plant manager.
"It's fun. I enjoy it," Lanning said. "It's a lot of responsibility, but that's what I like."
As she worked her way up, Lanning learned she had to be able to take feedback.
"I know I have flaws and I'm not the perfect leader, but sometimes it's about if you tried and took a step forward every day versus totally internalizing it and not being open to 'you're not doing everything right, every day, 100 percent of the time,'" Lanning said.
Being willing to change and implement improvements is one of Lanning's main priorities.
"I'm a big change agent," Lanning said. "The worst thing I can see, day in and day out, is complacency or something that's not right and we struggle with it, knowing we're going to come in tomorrow and struggle with the same thing."
In order to know what needs to happen, she stresses communication — both from the top down and from the bottom up.
"I want the plant to understand how the plant runs; that's how we're going to make good decisions," Lanning said.
Developing people is another of Lanning's passions and something she said she can do more of in her current role.
"For people like me who don't want to stay status quo and who want to be ambitious, the door is open," Lanning said. "I tell that to everyone in our new hire class. If you start out in a temp position, there's no reason you can't be sitting here in my spot if you want it."
Lanning encourages individuals to prepare for the job they want ahead of time and is working with those who, like she did, are furthering their education while also working full time.
"The struggle is real, I can relate to it," Lanning said. "It's hard to find balance."
Staying in McPherson was important to Lanning, especially while she was raising her children.
"Having moved around most of my life, my goal was my kids were going to stay somewhere and grow up with their friends," Lanning said. "I didn't have that; my husband did, and it was kind of fun to see him run into people he knew all his life. McPherson's a great town to do that in."
Lanning acknowledged it can be tough to recruit employees to come to Kansas, though she is quick to mention to applicants the advantages of having less traffic and local activities while still being close to major cities.
Hiring quality talent is another area where Lanning would like to make change happen.
"Have we put enough into recruiting to make it where it's not so tough? I don't think so," Lanning said.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.