Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

with one comment

smallgroup8

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem. Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur. An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

//

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

leave a comment »

questionsdiscussions

What is your typical response when asked a challenging question?

  • A blank panicked stare followed by a profusion of sweat.
  • Whoa, that came out of left field.
  • I haven’t learned that yet.
  • I didn’t expect you to ask that.
  • Shall I make a few tries at it before admitting that I don’t know the answer?

All of the above responses tend to be real replies often given by employees during a serious or challenging question and answer process or session. Most know that it isn’t the best way to respond, but failed to know what else to say. To be considered fluent and knowledgeable, it is essential to avoid these responses.

However, before responding to a question always consider a response from the questioner’s perspective. In other words: Why is the person asking the question(s) in the first place?

In order to answer questions appropriately and effectively think about asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the individual looking for?
  • What past challenges might this person have had in the organization or with previous employees?
  • What qualities, skills and experiences can you infer are important to the questioner from the question(s) asked?
  • Are the topics or concerns being questioned about in his or her field of expertise, or out of it?
  • Who is asking the question? The owner, manager or a peer or colleague?

What to Avoid When Answering Questions

When answering questions try not to provide a superficial response to any question. This makes the questioning process muddied, as it slows the progress of getting to the issue at hand, as well as at the heart of the question. Avoid offering a broad or general response because an opportunity will be missed to demonstrate understanding about the topic’s concerns, ramifications and issues. Avoid not answering the question, or skirting around it as it implies to the questioner they are not being listened to and they will become frustrated, and will start to tune out the response to the question. Don’t give generic answers, which implies not mirroring the questioner’s words in the response. If the specifics in the answer are not addressed, the questioner will likely be left with the impression that the responder didn’t listen well, didn’t understand the question, or really didn’t care about the seriousness of the question itself. None of these responses leaves a positive impression on the questioner.

Listen Carefully to What the Question Implies, States and Asks

Listening carefully ensures the question was completely understood and can then be answered effectively, or shows if the question is not as clear and concise as it should be. Listening well is an art that involves good eye contact, body language, and other nonverbal cues. It is essential to pay attention to both what is being said and asked and the manner in which it is delivered. As it may well provide valuable tips to formulate effective responses to the question.

Don’t Interrupt the Questioner

Interrupting someone is not just discourteous, but unprofessional. Not intentionally interrupting the questioner demonstrates the strength of one’s listening skills and ability to respond to the questioner’s inquires and to follow directions. If necessary, it is more effective to clarify the question or at the end, simply ask, “Was the question answered clearly enough?’

Provide a Complete and Precise Response

Take the time to formulate a response and remember that a moment of silence to collect one’s thoughts is always acceptable. Begin the answer with a strong, positive opener including key critical points. Be concise, direct and confident while still providing an adequate amount of detail. When answering a question that has multiple components, section it off to ensure that each point was addressed. For example, you might say, “First, I would ____ then I think I would ____.” After completely responding to one or more complex questions, provide a concise summary as to the whole of the topic or issue presented.

There are certain things to avoid when providing a response, such as: rushing through a response, providing only a superficial answer, trailing off at the end of a question, or not responding to prompts or signals that the questioner wants to hear more.

Prove Experience with Examples and Factual Statements

Share some personal experiences while responding which helps convince the questioner that you have the skills or the ability to transfer your knowledge and reasoning into new avenues of applications, perceptions and thinking.

However, make sure not to: reference the example(s) given, repeatedly use the same example during the question and answer process, choose a poor or inappropriate example, or use a good example, but provide it at the wrong time.

Ensure That Explanations Are Optimized

Most likely it will be impossible to give all the answers the questioner desires. Because of this, it is important to convince the individual that you do have: the potential to find out more about the topic being questioned, the ability to transfer knowledge from one situation to another, and the desire to learn quickly and efficiently.

When providing an explanation do not create a link in experience and events from the past to the present and future or miss the opportunity to build confidence based on personal past experiences.

Volunteer More Information than Is Expected

Volunteer information that might not otherwise be asked about. If you have a particular accomplishment that qualifies within a response and it hasn’t come up in the questioning process, make sure to work it in. Modesty and humility are fine personal traits to have, but certain responses can also be used to “sell yourself,” which at times can be extremely beneficial and useful.

In response to a question don’t leave it up to the questioner to “fish” for information in order to get it or miss the opportunity to share unique details that might make you stand out from other employees or individuals.

Demonstrate Your Level of Knowledge

Within responses, bring in points that support your level of knowledge about what is going on within the organization, department and workplace. Take the opportunity during responses to share what you have gained, your knowledge of the industry, and especially your interest in the company. Express your interest verbally through the words you choose as well as in your actions throughout the question and answer process. If you don’t find opportunities to work in certain points of knowledge and interest during the ongoing question and answer process, address it at the end when you are given the opportunity to say something, (which is usually when you are asked if you have any more questions).

When responding to a question, make sure not to let your nervousness and response performance override your interest and enthusiasm during the questioning process or miss opportunities to share your understandings and viewpoints.

Respond Positively to Questions

It is important to frame your responses positively. This can be challenging when asked a question that you do not have an answer for, or when asked about experiences that you don’t yet have. A person can prepare him or herself in advance by anticipating these types of questions, and learning techniques to respond positively.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Not All Questions Are Created Equally

The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Attention to Minor Details Averts Major Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

//

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

September 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

with 7 comments

smallgroup

The tactical approach to questioning is a highly disciplined process. The questioner must take on the role of acting as “an inner critical voice,” which expands another’s mind to skillfully develop deeper critical thinking abilities.

Questioning for thought provoking insight and understanding, and for inducing more in-depth thinking in another individual requires a tactical approach. For instance, verbal contributions that come from employees when they are questioned can be compared to an array of numerous thoughts that simultaneously flow from one’s mind. Yet, all of the thoughts must be dealt with, weighed, and carefully analyzed in an unbiased and fair manner.

If leaders or managers follow up on all of the answers initially given by employees with further questions that work to advance the discussion, employees are forced to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner. At the same time the questioning process continually aids their own personal agenda to gain more insight and knowledge through posing selective, yet effective facilitating discussion lead-ins.

The oldest and still most powerful tool for instilling critical thinking and mental self-evaluation, is questioning. In order to glean and gather as much usable information as possible, and to change individual perceptions about something, leaders and managers must remain focused on interjecting questions to employees, rather than offering answers.

It is important to practice and model the inquiry process, by continually probing employees on topics, subject-related contexts or mental thinking patterns through the use of very specific questions. The abilities individuals gain by becoming involved in the process and by focusing on the elements of reasoning in a disciplined and self-assessing way tend to enhance employees’ sensitivity to others’ points of view, problem solving and decision making skills. A solid questioning process also helps provide a more balanced mental structure and framework to use in the future, which results from generating and incorporating logical mental relationships that tend to enhance more disciplined thought.

There are three basic ways to instill changes and alterations in employees’ thinking: questioning them for viewpoints and perspectives, questioning them for implications and consequences, and questioning them about the question being asked.

Questioning for Viewpoints and Perspectives

As the discussion and questioning leader, it is important encourage employees to slow their thinking down in order to elaborate upon their responses. Employees must be given the opportunity to develop and test their ideas, standpoints and opinions. Leaders must take employee responses seriously and determine to what extent and in what way the information or assertion is true, or if it makes sense. In order to do this, they need to wonder aloud what the employee is saying and thinking, what the person means, the response’s significance, its relationship to other beliefs, and how what is being said can be tested for its reliability.

Most arguments employees give are from a particular, yet structured point of view. As part of the “questioning for viewpoints and perspectives” process, it is essential to attack the argument from a tactical position. It is often necessary to demonstrate that there may be other, equally valid, viewpoints. Some examples of specific questions that are able to generate alternative viewpoints include:

  • What else could be accomplished by doing ____?
  • If we don’t have access to ____ or can’t use ____, what do you think should be done?
  • What are the positives and negatives of ____?
  • How do you think ____ and ____ are alike?
  • Another way to think about this is ____, do you agree?

Implications and Consequences Questions

The argument that employees often give may have logical implications, which can be forecasted. From an “implications and consequence questioning” position, employees should have their arguments challenged. The process requires them to think about if their argument or stance makes sense from a logical standpoint, and if what they say, is desirable and meaningful. Some examples of argument challenging questions include:

  • What are you implying by saying that?
  • What else does this remind you of?
  • How does this information fit into the things we have already learned?
  • What implications does ____ have on this?
  • Why is this necessary to know?
  • What do you think would happen next?
  • What is an alternative to this?
  • If what you said happened, what else could happen as a result? Why?

Questions About the Question

Questions about the question tend to be more reflective. Their purpose is to turn an argument, statement or question back onto itself. In other words, leaders can use questions like the ones below to bounce the ball back onto the employees’ personal argument, position or stance:

  • How can we find out more about what you are saying (or asking)?
  • What assumptions does this question imply?
  • Why do you feel this question is important?
  • To answer this particular question, what questions would have to be answered first?
  • Does this certain question ask us to evaluate something in particular?
  • What is the point of asking about ____?
  • Why do you think the question you asked is important for (me, us) to consider?
  • Why did you phrase this particular question in the way that you did?
  • Does this question fit into the context of our discussion?
  • What does this particular (question, stance, position or opinion) imply?
  • Is it possible to break this question down at all into one or two other ones?
  • Do you think this question is an easy or hard one to answer? Why?
  • Does this question seem clear to you?

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

Making the Questions as Important as the Answers

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Comprehensive Questioning: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

 

Functioning in a Less Than Meaningful Workplace

with one comment

depressedEmployee

Effectively addressing negative employee interaction requires singling out what truly engages the minds, actions and hearts of individuals. Leaders must identify the factors producing the need in some employees to act negatively and callously toward others. In almost all cases, negative interaction among employees is the result of functioning in a less than meaningful workplace. To stifle interactive negativity, leaders must identify both the factors defining and methods creating a meaningful, reciprocal work environment.

It is important for leaders to understand every employee has a personal set of factors defining a meaningful workplace. When leaders fail to apply practical strategies for making the workplace more reciprocal, with people respectfully and productively working toward a common goal, they can expect continuous negative interaction among employees. This creates havoc that slows productivity and advancement for both the individual work unit and the organization.

How employees define a meaningful work environment determines how they function within their current environment. Some factors are more important than others. For one employee, the top factors may be a desire for a deep sense of purpose, the freedom to be innovative, and the opportunity to build strong relationships in the work setting. Other factors might include ownership in ideas and solutions, an atmosphere that encourages overcoming challenges or a feeling of success within the work unit.

The leadership challenge for reducing and eliminating employee interactive negativity is to reflect on what it is that makes a work environment truly rewarding and fulfilling. Leaders need to create a workplace that keeps its employees busy and productive, but one that also keeps their minds and hearts actively engaged. The only way personal negativity and accompanying actions are displaced is with security, trust, comradery, positive interaction and mutual respect.

Leaders assess their workplace and put into word and action what employees desire to see in a meaningful and rewarding environment. In order to do this, leaders:

Conduct An Environmental Climate Check

Leaders analyze their own negative feelings regarding the workplace. They ask, “Do I often find myself dwelling on the negative aspects of my work and performance and the atmosphere that exists?” If the answer is “yes,” the reasons behind their feelings are a good indicator of why employees feel the same way and negative interactions are taking place.

Taking the time to complete an analysis of the entire work unit atmosphere is the first step in dealing with negative employee interaction. In order to effect positive workplace change, leaders should both ask themselves the following questions and take appropriate actions wherever a “yes” response exists:

  • Is there an unspoken understanding that work should always be first in every employee’s life?
  • Does the organizational culture favor workaholics?
  • Do employees that don’t share this “work first” philosophy feel guilty?
  • Is there undue pressure on employees to make trade-offs with tasks and assignments against time, resources and availability?
  • Do individual assignments have more importance than collaborative efforts, trial-and-error methods and interactive positive communication?
  • Is praise a lower priority than the completion of timelines and tasks?

Seek Out Specific Areas in Which to Focus Your Efforts

Every organizational work unit has room for improvement. The key rests in a leader’s ability to know where to focus his or her efforts for maximum effect. The following are actions proven to transform the work environment in the quickest and most effective way:

  • Finding out what is most important to employees as far as creating a non-threatening, secure and fulfilling work environment.
  • Understanding each employee’s top priorities as they relate to work and themselves personally. This can be the starting point for creating a more meaningful and productive workplace for all.
  • Allowing employees to pause after a major completed task or project in order to gain a sense of closure and to savor their accomplishments.
  • Acknowledging all progress and getting upper management to recognize major milestones and hurdles employees reach and overcome.
  • Making challenges exciting, somewhat demanding, but realistic.
  • Allowing employees to make best use of their talents and to freely use others whenever needed as resources for input, ideas and suggestions.

Track the Fit of Your Employees

Getting to know what fires up your employees is crucial in fostering a rewarding work environment. Identifying the skills and talents they have outside the workplace can help place them into a better fit inside the organization. One of a leader’s responsibilities is to find out what their employees’ interests are, or their sources of motivation and energy. It is vital to talk to each employee about their passions, talents and creative abilities, and then tap into them however and whenever possible.

Negativity permeates an employee’s attitudes when they feel misplaced in their jobs, tasks, assignments and responsibilities. In order to overcome this, leaders assess:

  • Whether the big picture of the organization is thoroughly discussed with employees so that they clearly understand their personal place in it and how they specifically factor into its success.
  • If there are any employees who feel a particular job or assignment “just isn’t right” for them. It is important to find out what employees feel they can take on more capably, then match them with projects, assignments, and duties where they can better achieve success.
  • If there are some employees who feel a clash between their values and goals and those of others in the workplace. When work makes employees feel they need to be a different person in order to “fit in,” a leader can expect negative employee interactions to occur repeatedly.
  • Whether employees are allowed to consistently tap into their strengths and spend a great deal of their assignment time in activities best matched to their interests and talents.

Analyze Your Unit’s Flexibility

Nothing creates more negative interaction among employees than a work environment that remains inflexible to their needs. Leaders need to establish a more meaningful work environment by making certain that flexibility exists for all employees. They need to make sure the corporate rulebook does not overshadow the positive accomplishments taking place within the unit and among its members. Leaders need to consider:

  • Are work unit rules flexible when certain situations arise, or are they rigid to the point where the rulebook is still the ultimate word?
  • Are policies and procedures followed to the letter without allowing employees to question their validity and necessity?
  • In order to accomplish certain things do employees feel they must sidestep rules and hope they don’t get caught?

Addressing and changing areas needing improvement allows leaders to spend more of their time doing that which works to motivate employees and move the organization forward. Strengthening these areas is best accomplished by interacting with every employee, and taking action to build stronger personal relationships and subsequently a more secure, meaningful workplace.

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Interaction is a Necessary Component of a Vibrant Workplace

Leaders Have Three Motivational Tools Available to Them

When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Approach Problems in a Professional, Logical and Systematic Manner

with one comment

smallgroup6

A critical element of business is building relationships that ultimately result in partnerships. As all relationships have problems, the successful employee knows how to handle these issues efficiently and professionally in order to keep relationships productive. Constructive interaction resolves problems to everyone’s satisfaction, which builds good will and trust. The resulting solid relationships can provide the companies with the elusive edge in highly competitive markets.

Many employees are placed on the defensive when faced with a problem. Rather than diagnosing a problem logically, they react emotionally.

There are several types of problems that confront employees, many of which stem from deficiencies in the performance of a product or service. Customers can also create fictitious problems in an effort to gain an advantage in their business relationships. Additionally, there are perceived problems: situations where nothing is actually amiss, but for one reason or another the customer perceives a problem. While any issue—internal or external, real or perceived—can be trying, in all cases the employee must maintain his or her composure and approach the problem in a professional, logical and systematic manner.

People realize that in an imperfect world they will encounter problems. However, it is not the situation itself that tends to cause difficulties, but how the employee reacts to it. Surveys have indicated that a rapid, helpful response and resolution to an issue can strongly bind a customer to the company and employees to each other, whereas a sloppy and slow response can result not only in losing valued employees and customers, but also in turning them into activists that will do anything to undermine the business.

The next time managers are faced with a problem, they can follow the systematic approach outlined below, bearing in mind that speed is indispensable to problem solving.

Identify the Problem

Employees and customers will no doubt bring problems to light without being prompted. The identification of an issue allows the manager to begin a diagnosis and gauge the potential impact of the situation. This step affords the opportunity to establish the importance of the situation and determine how fast to respond.

Define Parameters

Once the issue is identified, it is up to the manager to distinguish the real cause of the problem. Many complaints are either symptomatic of a larger problem or point to other unresolved departmental issues; still others are wholly unrelated to the company’s product or service. The manager will need to define the problem by probing and asking pertinent questions in order to discover needs, expectations and the ultimate reasons behind the problem.

Qualify the Problem

When qualifying, the manager is determining where responsibility for the problem lies. Often when an employee or customer voices a complaint, they place the blame on parties that have little or no responsibility for the problem.

In terms of accounts, a flooring retailer, recounting the instance of a customer coming into his store and vocally complaining about the carpet she bought and its installation, disclosed that upon further examination it was found the customer had purchased the carpeting from a cut-rate competitor and had it installed by an incompetent handyman. She wasn’t a customer, but felt compelled to tell someone, and the only one available was this retailer. It wasn’t his problem, but he was able to turn this ugly situation into a new and happy account.

Quantify the Problem

When quantifying the problem, the manager is defining the size and scope of the situation and zeroing in on the ultimate impact the issue will have on the business. For example, a small order of a critical product can literally shut down a production line. It is up to the manager to identify the extent of the problem and the resulting impact on their employees’ and/or customers’ situation. All too often employees minimize what appears to be a small problem, but in fact has a significant impact. Managers must be careful when dealing with such issues, as how they are handled can ultimately determine future outcomes.

Examine the Problem

During the examining phase, the manager is identifying the source and potential causes of the problem. Decision makers need to examine what has happened, why, and who is responsible for the problem. The process should not be a fault-finding expedition, but a search for the genuine causes of the problem.

In terms of customers, examination includes identifying whether issues such as late delivery, a manufacturing defect, faulty materials or a lack of education caused the problem. The goal is to determine where the ultimate problem lies as well as examine the options that are available to resolve the immediate problem.

Resolve

Once causes have been identified, the problem can be solved to all parties’ satisfaction. Managers who attempt to minimize difficulties at this critical juncture are only hurting themselves. A successful company will do anything to correct a problem, whether internal or external, in a satisfactory and timely manner. Any extra expense will be readily recouped in future productivity and business; failure to follow through with an adequate resolution will build considerable barriers to productivity. The time and money required to thoroughly address a problem are minimal when compared to the productivity gains and repeat business represented by happy employees and customers.

Report Findings

Findings should be reported to senior management so that the cause of the problem can be remedied and a record made in order to avoid its recurrence. The manager’s findings should not spark recriminations, but positive changes within the company that will prevent this type of situation from arising again. These adaptations should allow the company to grow, prosper and thrive while making the manager’s job easier.

No one wants to have to continually solve the same problem with different employees or accounts, as this ultimately undermines the manager’s credibility and the reputation of the company.

Related:

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

with 5 comments

onewaysign

Overcoming and preventing groupthink tendencies requires leaders’ constant diligence and continual attention. For constructive thinking to occur within team environments, individuals must possess high degrees of like-mindedness regarding the basic values and mutual respect needed for their teams to succeed. This requires a level of cohesiveness, where personalities become blended and balanced through common missions and purposes.

As leaders attempt to tackle the complicated issues surrounding groupthink, they should be cognizant of the critical evaluator roles all team members assume. They need to understand the constant hazards associated with issues that require rapid action, such as prolonged debates, or with open criticism that potentially leads to damaged feelings, especially when team members resolutely live up to their roles as critical evaluators. Feelings of rejection, depression and anger might be evoked when challenging particular team decisions. This can have a corrosive effect on team morale and working relationships.

It is important for leaders to understand both the negative and positive consequences associated with individual personalities when it comes to dealing with complex groupthink issues. The personality mix of individual team members determines and impacts subsequent team environments and group dynamics. The addition or removal of individual team members tends to greatly impact team environments and their interrelated dynamics.

There are specific strategies to prevent and overcome groupthink tendencies. These can also be implemented when particular individuals are actively decreasing overall team effectiveness.

Create Subgroups

Leaders may need to periodically create subgroups that meet separately under different group leaders to work on the same general team problems. This method creates contrastive team environments with varied personality mixes for arriving at separate conclusions. Once these subgroups have each arrived at a separate consensus, they should all be brought together as a unified team to present their findings and negotiate specific differences.

Consult with Other Associates

Leaders should discuss their teams’ deliberations with trusted associates in their organization. These individuals should possess different expertise, outlooks and values. Once identified, they are expected to make independent evaluations and critiques of team progress. They should be able to offer fresh perspectives and possible solutions that may have been overlooked.

Leaders should then report back to their teams on these in-depth discussions and incorporate newly acquired ideas and recommendations into their teams’ deliberation processes.

Invite Outside Expertise

Leaders should periodically introduce outside expertise into their team environments. This expertise can come from individuals who are trusted associates in their own organizations. They should be selected because of their inherent capacity to grasp new ideas quickly, their ability to identify hidden agendas, their sensitivity to moral and ethical issues and their verbal skills to effectively communicate criticism directly to the teams involved.

Regularly Rotate the Role of Devil’s Advocate

While the role of devil’s advocate is institutionalized in most team environments, leaders should assign the role to a different individual for each team meeting. This rotation gives all team members the opportunity to actively challenge the consensus of the majority at, instead of after, a team meeting.

Spend Time on Surveying Warning Signs

In order to counteract their team’s illusions of invulnerability and tendency to ignore warning signs that interfere with member complacency, leaders may need to make a concerted effort to induce both themselves and team members to pay specific attention to special risks and make appropriate contingency plans accordingly.

Even when team members are assigned specific roles to point out the potential risks that the group needs to consider, they are likely to disregard any warnings if there is a preexisting consensus among the members. Therefore it is critical for leaders to invest time and energy to address specific warning signs that may otherwise go unrecognized because of individual teams succumbing to a groupthink mode.

Holding a Second Consensus Meeting

In order to prevent premature consensus based on feelings of invulnerability, stereotypes and unexamined assumptions, second meetings should be scheduled before individual teams make actual commitments and after they have arrived at their initial consensus. When teams arrive at a consensus, leaders should announce this second meeting, providing individual members with a sufficient amount of time to ponder and reconsider their deliberations, discussions and solutions.

Members should be encouraged to play devil’s advocate and express all residual doubts and rethink entire issues before making any definitive decisions. They should be encouraged to challenge their own arguments and fully disclose and discuss all related risks and objections. Individual team members should present any and all possible objections that have not been previously discussed and explored.

To facilitate discussions, team members should be encouraged to prepare one to two-page documents ahead of time to stimulate open dialogues. These documents need to be collected, copied and disseminated to all team members at the second consensus meeting.

Team secretaries should compile and summarize all key points into a formal document that is given to all members, including the supporting documentation that every individual team member initially provided. This process ensures full disclosure and discussion of all key points, doubts and objections that were not originally brought up prior to the team consensus.

Related:

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Personality Differences within the Team Setting: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 28, 2013 at 10:39 am

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

with 6 comments

manwithproblememployee

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively.

This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader.

In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development.

Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures.

With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

with 4 comments

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem.

Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Related: Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur.

An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt:Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

with 2 comments

What is your typical response when asked a challenging question?

  • A blank panicked stare followed by a profusion of sweat.
  • Whoa, that came out of left field.
  • I haven’t learned that yet.
  • I didn’t expect you to ask that.
  • Shall I make a few tries at it before admitting that I don’t know the answer?

All of the above responses tend to be real replies often given by employees during a serious or challenging question and answer process or session. Most know that it isn’t the best way to respond, but failed to know what else to say. To be considered fluent and knowledgeable, it is essential to avoid these responses.

However, before responding to a question always consider a response from the questioner’s perspective. In other words: Why is the person asking the question(s) in the first place?

In order to answer questions appropriately and effectively think about asking yourself these questions:

  1. What is the individual looking for?
  2. What past challenges might this person have had in the organization or with previous employees?
  3. What qualities, skills and experiences can you infer are important to the questioner from the question(s) asked?
  4. Are the topics or concerns being questioned about in his or her field of expertise, or out of it?
  5. Who is asking the question? The owner, manager or a peer or colleague?

Related: Not All Questions Are Created Equally

What to Avoid When Answering Questions

When answering questions try not to provide a superficial response to any question. This makes the questioning process muddied, as it slows the progress of getting to the issue at hand, as well as at the heart of the question. Avoid offering a broad or general response because an opportunity will be missed to demonstrate understanding about the topic’s concerns, ramifications and issues. Avoid not answering the question, or skirting around it as it implies to the questioner they are not being listened to and they will become frustrated, and will start to tune out the response to the question. Don’t give generic answers, which implies not mirroring the questioner’s words in the response. If the specifics in the answer are not addressed, the questioner will likely be left with the impression that the responder didn’t listen well, didn’t understand the question, or really didn’t care about the seriousness of the question itself. None of these responses leaves a positive impression on the questioner.

Listen Carefully to What the Question Implies, States and Asks

Listening carefully ensures the question was completely understood and can then be answered effectively, or shows if the question is not as clear and concise as it should be. Listening well is an art that involves good eye contact, body language, and other nonverbal cues. It is essential to pay attention to both what is being said and asked and the manner in which it is delivered. As it may well provide valuable tips to formulate effective responses to the question.

Don’t Interrupt the Questioner

Interrupting someone is not just discourteous, but unprofessional. Not intentionally interrupting the questioner demonstrates the strength of one’s listening skills and ability to respond to the questioner’s inquires and to follow directions. If necessary, it is more effective to clarify the question or at the end, simply ask, “Was the question answered clearly enough?’

Provide a Complete and Precise Response

Take the time to formulate a response and remember that a moment of silence to collect one’s thoughts is always acceptable. Begin the answer with a strong, positive opener including key critical points. Be concise, direct and confident while still providing an adequate amount of detail. When answering a question that has multiple components, section it off to ensure that each point was addressed. For example, you might say, “First, I would ____ then I think I would ____.” After completely responding to one or more complex questions, provide a concise summary as to the whole of the topic or issue presented.

There are certain things to avoid when providing a response, such as: rushing through a response, providing only a superficial answer, trailing off at the end of a question, or not responding to prompts or signals that the questioner wants to hear more.

Related: The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Prove Experience with Examples and Factual Statements

Share some personal experiences while responding which helps convince the questioner that you have the skills or the ability to transfer your knowledge and reasoning into new avenues of applications, perceptions and thinking.

However, make sure not to: reference the example(s) given, repeatedly use the same example during the question and answer process, choose a poor or inappropriate example, or use a good example, but provide it at the wrong time.

Ensure That Explanations Are Optimized

Most likely it will be impossible to give all the answers the questioner desires. Because of this, it is important to convince the individual that you do have: the potential to find out more about the topic being questioned, the ability to transfer knowledge from one situation to another, and the desire to learn quickly and efficiently.

When providing an explanation do not create a link in experience and events from the past to the present and future or miss the opportunity to build confidence based on personal past experiences.

Volunteer More Information than Is Expected

Volunteer information that might not otherwise be asked about. If you have a particular accomplishment that qualifies within a response and it hasn’t come up in the questioning process, make sure to work it in. Modesty and humility are fine personal traits to have, but certain responses can also be used to “sell yourself,” which at times can be extremely beneficial and useful.

In response to a question don’t leave it up to the questioner to “fish” for information in order to get it or miss the opportunity to share unique details that might make you stand out from other employees or individuals.

Demonstrate Your Level of Knowledge

Within responses, bring in points that support your level of knowledge about what is going on within the organization, department and workplace. Take the opportunity during responses to share what you have gained, your knowledge of the industry, and especially your interest in the company. Express your interest verbally through the words you choose as well as in your actions throughout the question and answer process. If you don’t find opportunities to work in certain points of knowledge and interest during the ongoing question and answer process, address it at the end when you are given the opportunity to say something, (which is usually when you are asked if you have any more questions).

When responding to a question, make sure not to let your nervousness and response performance override your interest and enthusiasm during the questioning process or miss opportunities to share your understandings and viewpoints.

Related: Attention to Minor Details Averts Major Problems

Respond Positively to Questions

It is important to frame your responses positively. This can be challenging when asked a question that you do not have an answer for, or when asked about experiences that you don’t yet have. A person can prepare him or herself in advance by anticipating these types of questions, and learning techniques to respond positively.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

Looking into the Crystal Ball

with one comment

The events that have transpired over the years since the onset of the current recessionary cycle, underscore the turbulent times all organizations face. While uncertainty is troubling, the time of greatest organizational opportunity is found when the business environment is experiencing its greatest turbulence.

If one looks at when the greatest industrial giants started, it was during times of upheaval and turbulence. Greats like Rockefeller, Carnegie and J.P. Morgan emerged out of the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer and Microsoft emerged from the shift to an electronic society. This leap to greatness is made possible by the fact that during times of turbulence many of the traditional paradigms that govern business are shattered. Companies and whole markets begin to seek out new solutions to the problems brought about by the forces of change.

Creative thinking and decision-making can greatly enhance leaders’ success during turbulent times. Rather than mourn the loss of business or bemoan internal changes brought about by recessionary pressures or from intensified market competition, leaders begin seeking new opportunities that present themselves in the prevailing market conditions. One thing is certain: organizations are not going back to the business models that governed them prior to 2007. They are seeking new ways to enhance productivity and profitability, and therein lies the opportunity for any leader who wishes to seek it out. However, each should acknowledge that in times of turbulence, the ability to anticipate problems, situations and opportunities dramatically increases their chances of success.

If leaders wish to take advantage of the turbulence in their markets they must apply creative thinking skills that enhance their decision-making and enable them to step ‘outside the box.’ The resultant shift in thinking allows them to design and develop new solutions to address their workplace and organizational problems. It is also a necessary component for pinpointing available but oftentimes hidden opportunities. These demand a creative thinking process consisting of the following steps:

Related: Why New Ideas Trigger a Competitive Advantage?

Understanding Personal Influences

All leaders are influenced by their own impressions of reality. This creates a personal bias that shapes their perception of the present and future. Typically these perceptions are created from personal and professional past or recurring experiences. This is exemplified by military generals who plan for future wars and conflicts based on lessons learned from past engagements. The leaders that emerged from World War II—Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton—began as colonels and majors. The conflict gave them the ability to shine as leaders.

This highlights the crucial importance of managers transforming themselves into positive and effective leaders. More than ever, today’s leaders need to be driven by their zealous view of the possibilities held by the future, as defined by their vision. Leaders learn to rid themselves of their personal biases and look to what is possible and then actively, consistently and passionately work toward specific goals that will achieve it. In this way their perceptions of the past do not negatively influence their outlook on the future: this is where opportunity resides.

Once leaders understand that which impacts and influences their personal perceptions, they can take them into account as they anticipate the future. This allows them to actually step outside of their self-imposed limitations to see things in a creative light as never before—and to think and plan accordingly.

Related: The Value of Personal Experience and Expertise

Divergent Thinking

Leaders must apply divergent thinking skills to understand and discover more than one right answer to any problem. Included in this classification is the “what if” thinking scenario. Divergent thinking allows leaders to seek the possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. Additionally, polished divergent thinking skills allow leaders to remove the personal biases and perceptions that normally work to distort or eliminate creative possibilities. Doing this aids them in fully exploring all possibilities, thoughts and ideas from various perspectives and angles.

Related: You Keep Innovating if You Want to Keep Leading

Convergent Thinking

Once leaders have examined all of the possibilities available to them, they must use convergent thinking skills to focus on the integration of data and prioritize available choices. This is where leaders apply analysis skills to determine the economic feasibility of each choice and determine its impact and the ramifications upon the organization and workplace.

Related: The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Mapping

Mapping, another word for planning, is the leader’s capacity to draw the pathways that show how he or she will get from the present to the future. In others words, it is the ability to formulate objectives that lead the organization toward the accomplishment of the overall goal or desired outcome.

Imaging

Imaging is the ability to draw visual pictures or representations using words, graphs, models or drawings to effectively communicate the vision and intended course of the organization. This allows a leader to effectively communicate his or her vision of its future direction and to highlight opportunities as they present themselves. It is vital that leaders present options, opportunities, ideas and pathways to the vision’s attainment in a way that can be easily understood by their employees and others.

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

%d bloggers like this: