The Impact of Servant Leadership on Business Growth and Development

Last Updated on March 9, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Are your team members making the most of their strengths in their roles?

Having worked with people for more than 20 years in his career, Luis Mar Silva understands that people are at their best when they execute roles based on their strengths. As the director of operations at Hilmar Cheese Company, a cheese production business, he implemented a strength-based operational strategy in streamlining the organization’s operations.

Luis Mar Silva is the guest in this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast. He speaks with the host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz, about the importance of identifying the strengths in your team members through servant leadership for success.

Listen to this audio interview

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Key Resource List 

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Hilmar Cheese Company

LinkedIn Luis Mar Silva

Process Breakdown Podcast 

Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

Show Notes   

[0:26] Intro   

  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz mentions some of the past guests who have been on the show including David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of the E-Myth, and Cameron Herold, the COO of Alliance.
  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces SweetProcess, a workflow tool that helps businesses to streamline their operations even in life-or-death situations.   
  • SweetProcess offers a 14-day free trial without a credit card. 

[2:00]  Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces the guest, Luis Mar Silva.

[2:58]  What’s Hilmar Cheese Company all about?

  • Hilmar Cheese Company specializes in the production of natural cheeses.
  • Established in 1984, Hilmar Cheese Company was founded by 12 families of dairymen on the core values of relationship, integrity, teamwork, improvement, and excellence.
  • One of every four pounds of American-style cheese consumed in the United States comes from Hilmar Cheese.

[4:17]  Luis shares a story of how he learned about servant leadership in the early phase of his career. 

  • Luis got the opportunity to lead 54 people in the operations team as a supervisor at Mars after college. 
  • With no prior knowledge of the business, Luis sought the support of his team members to be efficient at his job.
  • He also learned that being humble and asking for help from team members simplifies the work process.

[8:20] How does servant leadership impact Luis’s leadership style at Hilmar Cheese Company?

  • Luis developed methodologies that reflect servant leadership in his operations.
  • Luis’s biggest strength is the ability to win others over (WOO).
  • You need to develop a level of trust with the people that you work with so they can be comfortable around you.

[10:47] Luis shares insights into the training the organization organizes to help employees maximize their strengths. 

  • The training at Hilmar Cheese Company focuses on helping people on the manufacturing and leadership team to walk through the applications of their strengths in their day-to-day activities. 
  • If you have a very strong analytical strength, one of the ways that you can build trust is by validating the numbers that other people generate. 
  • Luis’ second biggest strength is the ability to learn. As a learner, you are looking out for the latest and greatest information to bring to your team.

[13:49] What are the other examples of strengths that people can implement in their teams?

  • Everyone has unique strengths. 
  • Identifying people’s strengths and delegating responsibilities based on their strengths generates great results. 

[15:58] Luis recommends some books that people can read to identify their strengths. 

[17:31] What are Luis’s top strengths?

  • Luis’s top five strengths are: win over others (WOO), learner, achiever, input, and intellectual. 
  • He implements his strengths in his endeavors to get the best results.

[18:31] Luis talks about his career transition from Mars Inc. to Boston Beer.

  • Strategic development is key in career growth. 
  • As a leader, you need to groom someone who can take your role when you are not there. 

[20:05] Dr. Jeremy Weisz directs the audience to find out more information about Hilmar Cheese Company on their website. 

[20:31] Outro.

About Luis Mar Silva

Luis Mar Silva is the director of operations at Hilmar Cheese Company. With more than 20 years of experience in the food business, he has a passion for team development, and guides leaders to discover their strengths and use them in the service of others.

A supply chain and manufacturing executive, Luis is vast in multiple industries and cultures. He cultivates healthy relationships among teams in creating extraordinary results.

Transcript of the interview

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s go get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Before I introduce formally, Luis Mar Silva of Hilmar Cheese Company, Luis, I always like to mention other guests, people should check out on the podcast. There have been some great guests over the past several years. Michael Gerber of the E-Myth we had on. We had David Allen of Getting Things Done and just… Cameron Herold, who has the COO Alliance. And many, many more people, COOs, directors of operations. So if you hear this and you’re like, "I know of a COO and director of operation that’d be great for the podcast," email us and let us know. Okay.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. I don’t know if you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and maybe the 10th time you spent explaining it, well, there’s actually a better way. There is a solution. SweetProcess is software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff, and save time with existing staff. Now, I was talking with one of the owners, Owen. He was telling me, not only do universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time and your team’s time so you can focus on growing and doing your best work. You can sign up for a free 14 day trial. No credit card is required. You go to Sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T Check it out.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’m excited to introduce Luis Mar Silva as director of operations at Hilmar Cheese Company, making me hungry as I’m talking. Luis actually I went to Madison, Wisconsin so I’ve been around cheese for a long time, but… Luis has a passion for team development and guides leaders to discover their strengths and use them in service of others. Hilmar Cheese Company serves customers in more than 50 countries. State-of-the-art production facilities in California and Texas to convert high quality milk into a variety of cheeses. Luis, thanks for joining me.

Luis Mar Silva: It’s a pleasure being here with you, Jeremy. Thank you so much.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We’re going to break down and talk about specifically servant leadership. I always ask, "What can you teach our audience of COOs and directors of operation?" We are chatting servant leadership and strategic people development. Before we launch into that, tell people a little bit more about Hilmar Cheese Company and what you do.

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. Hilmar Cheese started in 1984. It’s a company that started by 12 families of dairymen, who literally bought the farm on new venture, where they came up to build the first facility up in California. And is founded on relationship, integrity, teamwork, improvement, and excellence of the core values. And those core values have been able to enable a success for organization that is, now one of every four pounds of Americans style cheese consuming the United States comes from Hilmar Cheese. Great company with outstanding leadership and a real focus on people across organization, which is a great thing to see. For me and I’ve been in the food industry for 20 years, 20 plus years, and I have say Hilmar is definitely stands out for living those principles for sure.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Luis, you were mentioning before we hit record too, that again, people won’t recognize the brand because you serve other brands. Tell me about the type of companies that you serve and work with.

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. We make business… We are 1.5 million pounds of cheese for instance, out of one facility, this one here in Texas. And so we make cheese in 640 pounds blocks. So you can imagine that goes to converters like Sargento, Great Lakes where they convert the cheese into great value and multiple different other brands from there. So it is a very interesting process for sure.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I was looking at the website. You could see delicious shredded cheese. Looks amazing. Let’s talk about servant leadership and strategic people development a little bit. It goes back to when you were starting as a supervisor at Mars.

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. Yes. Many years ago, time goes by so quickly, I guess when you’re having fun, they say. But I remember the first time that was given the opportunity to lead 54 people team, operations team. And I was just graduating from college, had about a year and change as industrial engineer for the site, which is a pretty large site in Waco. I was about to give my speech, I guess as a leader of this group of people who have been in the industry for a long, long time. I was very enthusiastic, lots of energy and wanted to make sure that I gave some good directions and everything. Before the meeting started, in comes a very good dear friend of mine to this date, by the name of Mary Beck.

Luis Mar Silva: So Mary, very strong African American woman in manufacturing. She’s been there for a long time and she knows everything about the packaging machines and how we make snickers. She’s definitely an influencer back in the day, even. And she asked me, "Hey, Luis, what are you going to tell us?" And I said, "Well, I have a little, an idea what I want to go do." And she says, "No, no, no, you haven’t heard me, you don’t know anything, you just started with us here and did you know… How can you tell us anything if you don’t know anything?" And it took me a while because I was… I had a master’s and all of these different things. But then right there and there, I decided that-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: She humbles you a little bit.

Luis Mar Silva: Oh my gosh, yeah. She was right. I didn’t know anything. [crosstalk 00:07:04]. And so I crumbed the paper up and toss is away and said, "Guys, I don’t know how to make snickers, you guys are going to help me with that. I’m here to serve you. I’m here to help you get your resources, and I need you to teach me whatever I need to do to be a better leader for you." And just that conversation, like five second conversation changed the whole relationship that I had with that team. It really enabled us to go and do great things. But it was really that shift of focus and just humility that Mary imparted on me to just know that as leader, your job is not the job, your job is the people who does the job. And if you see it that way, then everything changes.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love that. That’s such a good viewpoint and it is coming from a place of serving and humility in general. Now, the fast forward to today, once you started with Hilmar Cheese Company, what were some of the things you did along those lines?

Luis Mar Silva: Well, as time goes by, you develop certain methodologies that bring to live the servant leadership concept. And it marries with the strategic development part of things. But as leader, I know that one of my strengths is winning others over. It’s called WOO, W-O-O, as defined by the Don Clifton’s StrengthsFinder mindset. When you have WOO, the best definition is you don’t break the ice, you melt it. That means that I’m really energized when I meet new people, when I interact with the community. Throughout the pandemic, it has been a tremendous need for us as an organization to work with the local government here in Dalhart, Texas, where the facilities to coordinate responses, share best practices, what are the things that we’re doing to address the needs of the pandemic.

Luis Mar Silva: And that requires a lot of interaction, first time interactions with a lot of different people. And so developing that level of trust that we represent an organization that values people first, and that we’re prepared to do… to go to the greatest extent, I guess, to protect the people first. Because once you protect the people, and care about the people, everything else falls in alignment. Using that strength of connection with others, we were able to collaborate and keep on operating throughout the pandemic. Playing to my strengths, serve the team at the high level is really a differentiated, a way to add value to any organization.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Luis, I want to talk about one of those days where you were conducting a day long training on strengths. And because I could be thinking this Luis, great, I would love to hear your methodologies, but listen, you seem like a super nice, really easy going guy. It’s easy for you to melt the ice. So I’d love for you to talk about how that works for anyone and start with when you conducted that day long training on strengths and what you saw.

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. In manufacturing, you are really forced to boil everything down to what matters. In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice or not. The practical application of strengths is when you have someone who is for instance, highly analytical and… but he also know how to use that in service to the team. Part of the training that we conducted, that we have been conducting is explaining walking through these applications of strengths on the day to day for people on the manufacturing, leadership team. For instance, if you have a very strong analytical strength, one of the ways that you could build trust is by validating the numbers that other people comes up with. Because you naturally develop this reputation about being spot on, on the numbers. Then when you validate somebody else’s number, you give them some of that validity.

Luis Mar Silva: And the first time that someone that is highly analytical hears that is like a light bulb goes off on their mind like, "Whoa, I didn’t know I could do that." So when you see that multiply times different strengths from different people across a room full of frontline leaders, is energizing. Actually that’s another way for me to serve the team through my strengths. Because, my number two strength is learner. So when you’re strong in the learner thing, you are looking out for the best, next, latest and greatest information to bring it back to your team, boil it down to the simplest terms and then apply it, which is particularly important in manufacturing. Because at the end of the day, you have to produce with safety and quality every single day. And everything that you do to help your team do that is valued and sought after. That’s a very pragmatic example of servant leadership with strategic developmental people.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Let’s go a little deeper on that, because I like that. So it’s like there’s a strength and I’d love to hear an example on how someone use that strength to serve the team and they were able to help develop the team. You gave the example of analytical. Someone can… Because they could think, "Oh, I’m not as maybe socially savvy as Luis," but listen, they could use their strength of being analytical and serve their team and really validate. You also use example of learner. What’s another couple examples of a strength and then how someone used that strength in their company or their team?

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. There’s so many different examples that I can think of Jeremy. There’s 32 strengths overall. And no one has the exact same combination of strengths. Every individual almost is unique. Another example when… There’s another individual in our team, by the name of Pam, shout out to Pam Jordan, by the way, she’s the cheese plant manager and one of her strengths is communications. During some of these trainings, I asked her to conduct the training about communications, which is something that she’s naturally great at. There were things on topics that she covered in a way that I couldn’t have just because that’s one of her dominating strengths. And she did that in a way, she… we’re doing an exercise of role playing. She was role playing an upset employee.

Luis Mar Silva: And because she was so good at… she has the operational context of what that looks like. And she was able to articulate that so clearly it really resulted in a very unique learning experience for frontline leaders as taught by someone who is not necessarily a trainer. Because, our day jobs are… I run the operations, she runs the whole plant, but we’re now at that level training and sharing real life examples of how they need to improve upon their communication skills, the decision making skills, the conflict management skills. And that resulted in a very, very rich experience for everybody attending the training. And it was something that energized her because she was playing to her strengths.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love that example, Luis. And then I love how you share some resources. They’re thinking, "This sounds great, I want to start to implement some of this into my company and my own leadership." What are some resources, whether it’s books or trainings that you recommend people check out?

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. The strength based leadership book by Don Clifton and I actually have a copy of it as it happens. This is what some of the tools that we use to… Once you discover your strengths. Most organizations stop there. You get this little placard with your strengths and then go to a training and then just leave it there. And it’s interesting information, but not a lot of people goes the next step, which is, "Okay, now that I know my strengths, how do I use [inaudible 00:16:32] intentionally?" This book gives you like manual of how you go and use some of these strengths and in a very pragmatic way. It also even tells you, if you have someone who has this strength, this is how you should manage that person.

Luis Mar Silva: What I’ve done across the year is I go to my own strengths. I go to that section of the book, and then I do my boss’ job, managing myself. [inaudible 00:16:58] instead of waiting for someone to tell me, I just go do it. And if you read for… Then that section for WOOO it say, you have to put this person at the forefront of the organization to go and meet the customers, meet local authorities. So I put myself in that position where I know I’m going to be representing my organization through my strengths.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What does it say, Luis, on your strength thing? I saw there’s four different items there. What does it say?

Luis Mar Silva: Yeah. So the top five. You have WOO, you have learner, you have achiever, you have input and intellectual. Those are my five strengths. And I have them in front of me all the time as a reminder. So how can I apply this strength to this situation? How do I serve my team better through one of these strengths. For instance, achiever, it says people who are specially talented with the achiever team have a great deal of stamina and work hard so they can accomplish a goal. They get great satisfaction from being productive. I know these so I plan my day in a way that I’m energized all day long, trying to get the results, moving forward through people.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: There was another part of your career, which was a transition from Mars to Boston Beer and talk about some of the lessons there.

Luis Mar Silva: Absolutely. I think the story there was really about strategic development. I honestly believe that once you get to these levels of leadership, my job is not to produce cheese is to produce leaders. I’ve had these mindsets forever. So in order for me to be able to move to another role, you have to have someone, develop someone to take your role. And this was the case with Mars. When I left Mars, the person who took my job was someone that I hired by the name of Elias Dominguez. Let me send a shout out to Elias too. Since the moment I hired him, I worked with him, for getting him ready to be the director of the site that I was charge with… that I was in charge of. I’m sorry. He still to this day runs that site and he’s doing a fantastic job better than I could do.

Luis Mar Silva: Throughout the time that we spent together, we spent time working through his strengths, through my strengths, to be able to grow him to the level of leaders that was going to be having the success that he has had to this day. And I still stay in touch with him. Some of the things that I deem most proud of across my career is this… develop this relationship that I built with people that I have either worked for, or that worked for me and that we have been able to help each other develop to be the best version of ourselves with all of the [inaudible 00:20:01] that we have.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: First of all, Luis, I want to be the first one to thank you. Everyone should check out Hilmar Cheese Company, which is H-I-L-M-A-R And you had some great quotables here that should be on a t-shirt, Luis. We had, "We don’t break ice, melt it." And "We don’t produce cheese, we produce leaders." So with that, check out, Hilmar Cheese, check out SweetProcess. Check out more episodes of the process breakdown. And Luis, thank you so much.

Luis Mar Silva: My pleasure, Jeremy. If I could put the plug here, we have a lot of vacancies in both the sites here and in California. So-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What are you looking for? [crosstalk 00:20:43] What kind of jobs?

Luis Mar Silva: Everyone in all different levels from management. Have a lot of good open positions in the engineering team, for instance. Quality have a lot, several positions are… and also manufacturing across both sides. You guys want to join a great team that is breaking records and playing to your strengths. Come join us.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Where are you in… just so people know in California and Texas, where is it located?

Luis Mar Silva: So the locations are in California, in Hilmar, Hilmar California. That’s where our headquarters and our facility is over there. And here in Texas is in Dalhart, Texas, which is north of Amarillo in the Panhandle, right at the heart of the state of Texas.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Awesome. Well, check out, and the careers page. And Luis, thank you so much.

Luis Mar Silva: Thank you Jeremy. Pleasure being here.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the process breakdown podcast. Before you go, quick question. Do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up, go to Sweet like candy and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk free 14 day trial.

Owen: Hi, this is Owen, the CEO, and co-founder here at SweetProcess. If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast interview, actually, you know what I want you to do? Go ahead and leave us a five star review on iTunes, that way we get more people aware of the good stuff that you get here on this podcast. Again, go on to iTunes and leave us a five star review. Looking forward to reading your review, have a good day.

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