When you talk with Danny Cedotal about leadership, one word comes up over and over again: focus. Danny has risen through the years from Engineer to Superintendent to Management, now serving as the Vice President of Manufacturing at Shintech, Plaquemine, LA. Throughout his career, he has recognized the importance of consistency, safe production, investing in people and focus – and he emphasizes these values in training newer employees.
“For me it’s simple: work hard, make decisions that support the company’s best interest, treat people with respect, and focus on what you can control. 2020 had more challenges than a normal year, but there’s always going to be challenges of some type. If you focus on these goals and remain consistent and patient over time, you will be a successful leader. Companies and people always respond to consistency and appreciation.”
Danny’s role gives him direct responsibility for all manufacturing activities, including Operations, Maintenance, Material Handling, Administration and Safety. It’s a big remit, encompassing 3 production sites, 11 units and 725 employees. He achieved this position through 18 years of commitment and growth in one industry and region – he has been working in a 15-mile radius of Plaquemine, Louisiana since 1994, through positions at Georgia Gulf and Shintech.
Career journeys are incredibly diverse – some people gain leadership skills by industry-hopping, and other stick it out for the long haul by pursuing opportunities where they are planted. Both strategies have their benefits, and Danny’s journey is a good case study in the deep knowledge, trust, and community impact that can be generated by pursuing a relatively linear path.
Early Leadership Lessons
For people pursuing a similar path at one of our region’s large production plants, take Danny’s advice and embrace leadership opportunities early on. About three years into his first job post-graduation, he had the chance to serve as interim superintendent for Maintenance – not a role he desired long term, but one that helped him learn and make a few mistakes. One lesson was on the importance of constant talent development: Recognizing, advocating and developing people to thrive in their jobs and one day, take over the roles further up the ladder.
“In my first managerial role, nothing went horribly wrong, but I knew that I didn’t dedicate enough time and attention to cultivating front line supervisors, which led to a lack of awareness of some problems that developed later. You have to understand what’s happening at every level, identify emerging leaders and groom people to lead and address issues at early stages.”
As Danny progressed, he took this realization to heart and partnered with Success Labs to work with the leadership and first-line supervisor teams at Georgia Gulf, making sure everyone was on the same page. He had attended the Leadership Coaching Series when he was at the Superintendent level, learning how to leverage his strengths and guard against weaknesses so that they don’t turn into problems. From his current position, Danny appreciates more than ever the value of getting all employees aligned and making sure everyone is operating from the same basic foundation: doing what’s best for the team and company. As he says, “that creates a common ground with all employees, and helps people understand what’s important.”
Leading Through Uncertainty
In 2020, the concept of “resiliency” took on new meaning as industries across Louisiana and the nation were affected by events outside of their control. At Shintech, Danny helped to steer the ship and keep the course – focusing on leadership skills, advancing the company’s overall mission, and continuing to prioritize what was actually in their control. In order to prevent their workplace from becoming a COVID-19 cluster, they constantly communicated with employees about protections. Environmental and Safety is a top priority for Danny and Shintech, for both the employees and the community. With that in mind, 2020 presented a chance to emphasize these values and show support for employees, the majority of whom live in close proximity to the Plaquemine plant. Being a large employer, they had the opportunity to be a good neighbor by doing their best to protect employees at the worksite, and by extension, in the surrounding region.
Danny stepped into the VP role in 2018, in the last period of “normal” before 2020 turned all of our expectations on their head. But even with the challenges he’s faced while in senior leadership, Danny’s understanding of and appreciation for how to guide others has remained remarkably consistent across the years. One of Danny’s colleagues, a Human Resources Manager in Freeport, TX, credits his emotional intelligence for his leadership success, saying that “Danny always considers his words before he responds or acts, and makes sure they are appropriate for the intended audience. This is a big contributor to his ability to be consistent and lead through uncertainty.”
Lead Where You Are
He says that he can first remember embracing leadership in high school, as a senior on the football team. “We weren’t very good, with only five seniors on the team, but we laid a blue print for what some of the younger classes were able to do later. That goes for all leadership. You have to recognize there’s a need, what you can do to fill the need, and how that impacts other people. You don’t need a title to be a leader. You just need to listen, engage people, and balance the needs of the organization that support the vested interest of the company – and you will be recognized as a strong leader.”
Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to grow leaders, build teams and drive results through great people strategy. Contact us to get proactive about expanding your company’s potential, and stay up-to-date with our latest news and leadership development updates here.