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MTM Employees Who Are Part of Mazda Toyota History in North Alabama

Training Our Team through LEAD Academy


Real leadership starts with listening to your people. It is where trust begins.


Our workers need to feel like they are owners in our company. Engaging them in problem solving, involving them in decision making, and incorporating their expert input gives them that ownership.


We need to constantly assess and improve our processes and systems to be as efficient as we can be.


We want to develop our people from within our company to give them a career, not just a job. Developing your people shows appreciation and loyalty, and it helps build the trust we need to be successful.

Listen, Engage, Asses, Develop. Together, these principles guide the leadership training of LEAD Academy here at MTM.

In the fall of 2022, our executive leadership saw not only the need for leadership training, but a need to add additional leaders to cover those sent to training. The unanimous consent was, “Let’s get this done the right way to ensure our company’s success.”

In December 2022, the HRD Department hired four Production Group Leaders from the floor to become our trainers for LEAD Academy. Shortly afterwards, we started the first LEAD Academy classes in February 2023 with 19 Group Leaders and 24 Team Leaders.

Since that initial class, we have graduated 157 Group Leaders and 399 Team Leaders for a total of 556 of our 731 total plant leaders. Our goal is to have 30 Team Leaders and 20 Group Leaders for each cohort and have achieved a 90% participation rate due to our executive commitment.

Our LEAD Academy curriculum includes several core classes, such as:

  • Leadership: Day 1 of the program is always kicked off with leadership. We discuss topics such as the company vision, what characteristics Mazda Toyota wants in its leaders, and how to develop a successful team.

  • Role-Based Training: What is a Team Leader or Group Leader supposed to do daily? We discuss how to prepare for a smooth start each day, ensure workers are following our standards to produce the exact same vehicle every time, manage change points, and control abnormalities.

  • Problem Solving: We use an 8-step approach to solving problems where we break down the problem to its source. We then dig deep to find the root cause and implement a countermeasure so that it never happens again. Finally, we standardize that countermeasure to make it the norm of our process.

  • Standard Work: We teach the tools needed to find and visualize processes down to each element of the work. We then employ kaizen (make better) and make changes for improvement, and then we reassess the process using the tools and visualize the results.

  • Job Instruction: This involves a 4-step approach to teaching. We start by putting the team member at ease, then introduce the process, allow the new team member to learn the process, and then always follow up.

  • Communications/Mendomi: Communication is the key to every relationship. As leaders, we need to understand that and communicate daily with our teams. This includes coaching, giving feedback, and often having tough conversations to improve. Mendomi is Japanese for care and concern.

We believe if our people succeed, our company will succeed. 

Our Group Leaders have additional training that includes systems they use to manage pay, record keeping, legal issues, and so on.

Both groups also participate in a community outreach project during their time in class. Some examples have included helping clean up a daycare, assisting in Harry Potter Day at the library, and serving at a community-wide Thanksgiving meal. We always want our community to know that we don’t just build vehicles at Mazda Toyota; we are your neighbors, too.

Following completion of the program, we revisit our graduates and do a post-graduate audit to ensure they are using the tools we gave them in class.

LEAD Academy is designed to train and uplift our team members so they have what they need to continue to grow.