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The Concept of Change Means Leaders Must Communicate

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smallgroup7

Leaders are the facilitators of change within their organization. As such, in implementing an initiative or new direction, they must employ proven techniques and strategies to ensure good communication with their employees. This is true of the entire process of change—from beginning to end. Without open and effective communication, leaders can create problems and issues that hinder their efforts to make the needed changes.

Leaders should understand that change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change can be confusing and messy until the “kinks” are worked out. There is no way to communicate change to employees that makes it an enjoyable process. While planning for change can list tasks and responsibilities, it doesn’t lessen the discomfort of altering long-held behaviors and habits that comprise individual employee comfort zones.

Because change is in fact an ongoing, difficult process that pulls people out of their comfort zones, the importance of good communication is magnified. It becomes crucial for managers and leaders to gather outside sources of information, solicit employee feedback and perspectives, and use this information to create specific “plans of attack.” Every group is unique and a cookie cutter approach to communicating and managing change will not work.

Within the realm of a leader’s main responsibilities is the role of effectively conveying the need for change to his or her employees. The concept of change means that leaders must communicate during the planning, announcing, implementation and completion of the process of change within their organization.

Proven techniques for facilitating smooth and effective communication include:

Identify and Communicate the Results to Be Achieved

The communication of change means that leaders must clearly articulate the results they want and the specific means required to achieve them. Often leaders must communicate two messages simultaneously: the macro, or “big picture” of how the changes in their unit plays a role in the overall changes within the organization, and the micro, or detailed picture of the specific changes to be made.

When leaders communicate both the macro and micro views of change, they give their employees a balanced picture of how their contributions to facilitating change benefit the organization. Surveys have shown that employees are markedly more effective when they understand how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

Simplify Jargon and Buzzwords

Many organizations and industries have developed their own jargon and buzzwords. Often managers, leaders and employees rely heavily on these specialized terms. However, many of these words lack real substance or meaning in their daily use. Words and phrases such as “responsive,” “employee friendly,” “customer focused,” “empowered” and others should have specific meanings. For instance, if an organization is responsive, what exactly does that mean to leaders and employees? What are the parameters defining this word’s use and application? The same is true for any other buzzword: tts definition should be plain to employees so they are clear on what the term means and how it applies in the workplace.

Share Information Early and Often

Managers and leaders should share as much information as possible with their employees.

In many large publicly owned organizations, the emphasis is placed on good communication with investors, not employees. While obviously the importance of the former cannot be argued, it is the latter that does the work of moving the organization forward.

Consequently, when employees learn of organizational changes and developments through the media or the rumor mill, they become more apprehensive and less productive until put at ease. Rather than lose time and revenue to this anxiety and uncertainty, managers and leaders communicate as much information as they can up front.

Maintain Quality and Consistency

Managers and leaders should maintain a consistent, quality flow of information to their employees. Due to the ease with which communication channels can get bogged down with meaningless information, leaders should filter their communications to ensure significant and substantial information is imparted to their employees.

Don’t Underestimate the Duration of Change

Many leaders fail to appreciate the length of time required to develop, nurture and maintain change within their organization. Effective change goes beyond its announcement or the introduction of new programs to implement it.

Leaders must understand that organizational change means altering ingrained personal habits. This takes time, and open and active communication is required throughout the process. Leaders should not shortchange it with ineffective communication at critical, often later stages of change.

Use a Variety of Communication Pathways

Effective communication of change is as varied as each individual involved in the process. Many managers and leaders limit their communications during change to a single medium such as email or the intranet.

If managers and leaders wish to develop an effective communication program during the process of change, they should transmit their message through a variety of means, such as unit/company meetings, email/intranet updates and daily interactions.

Don’t Confuse Process with Communication

Managers and leaders should not confuse the process of change with communication. The process of change can include creating vision, developing teams, planning and countless meetings. Properly designed, these can be effective communication vehicles, but not sufficient to meet the communication requirements of organizational change.
Provide Ample Opportunity for Feedback and Concerns

Managers and leaders should provide their employees ample opportunities to share their fears and concerns, ask questions and share insights. Managers and leaders should make addressing employee concerns and following up with answers and informational updates a primary concern. This empowers employees and gives them ownership in ideas and concepts. It keeps key people from leaving, and often prevents those who remain from sabotaging the process of change.

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

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: 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

 

The Concept of Change Means Leaders Must Communicate

with 4 comments

womancrowd

Leaders are the facilitators of change within their organization. As such, in implementing an initiative or new direction, they must employ proven techniques and strategies to ensure good communication with their employees. This is true of the entire process of change—from beginning to end. Without open and effective communication, leaders can create problems and issues that hinder their efforts to make the needed changes.

Leaders should understand that change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change can be confusing and messy until the “kinks” are worked out. There is no way to communicate change to employees that makes it an enjoyable process. While planning for change can list tasks and responsibilities, it doesn’t lessen the discomfort of altering long-held behaviors and habits that comprise individual employee comfort zones.

Because change is in fact an ongoing, difficult process that pulls people out of their comfort zones, the importance of good communication is magnified. It becomes crucial for managers and leaders to gather outside sources of information, solicit employee feedback and perspectives, and use this information to create specific “plans of attack.” Every group is unique and a cookie cutter approach to communicating and managing change will not work.

Within the realm of a leader’s main responsibilities is the role of effectively conveying the need for change to his or her employees. The concept of change means that leaders must communicate during the planning, announcing, implementation and completion of the process of change within their organization.

Proven techniques for facilitating smooth and effective communication include:

Identify and Communicate the Results to Be Achieved

The communication of change means that leaders must clearly articulate the results they want and the specific means required to achieve them. Often leaders must communicate two messages simultaneously: the macro, or “big picture” of how the changes in their unit plays a role in the overall changes within the organization, and the micro, or detailed picture of the specific changes to be made.

When leaders communicate both the macro and micro views of change, they give their employees a balanced picture of how their contributions to facilitating change benefit the organization. Surveys have shown that employees are markedly more effective when they understand how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

Simplify Jargon and Buzzwords

Many organizations and industries have developed their own jargon and buzzwords. Often managers, leaders and employees rely heavily on these specialized terms. However, many of these words lack real substance or meaning in their daily use. Words and phrases such as “responsive,” “employee friendly,” “customer focused,” “empowered” and others should have specific meanings. For instance, if an organization is responsive, what exactly does that mean to leaders and employees? What are the parameters defining this word’s use and application? The same is true for any other buzzword: tts definition should be plain to employees so they are clear on what the term means and how it applies in the workplace.

Share Information Early and Often

Managers and leaders should share as much information as possible with their employees.

In many large publicly owned organizations, the emphasis is placed on good communication with investors, not employees. While obviously the importance of the former cannot be argued, it is the latter that does the work of moving the organization forward.

Consequently, when employees learn of organizational changes and developments through the media or the rumor mill, they become more apprehensive and less productive until put at ease. Rather than lose time and revenue to this anxiety and uncertainty, managers and leaders communicate as much information as they can up front.

Maintain Quality and Consistency

Managers and leaders should maintain a consistent, quality flow of information to their employees. Due to the ease with which communication channels can get bogged down with meaningless information, leaders should filter their communications to ensure significant and substantial information is imparted to their employees.

Don’t Underestimate the Duration of Change

Many leaders fail to appreciate the length of time required to develop, nurture and maintain change within their organization. Effective change goes beyond its announcement or the introduction of new programs to implement it.

Leaders must understand that organizational change means altering ingrained personal habits. This takes time, and open and active communication is required throughout the process. Leaders should not shortchange it with ineffective communication at critical, often later stages of change.

Use a Variety of Communication Pathways

Effective communication of change is as varied as each individual involved in the process. Many managers and leaders limit their communications during change to a single medium such as email or the intranet.

If managers and leaders wish to develop an effective communication program during the process of change, they should transmit their message through a variety of means, such as unit/company meetings, email/intranet updates and daily interactions.

Don’t Confuse Process with Communication

Managers and leaders should not confuse the process of change with communication. The process of change can include creating vision, developing teams, planning and countless meetings. Properly designed, these can be effective communication vehicles, but not sufficient to meet the communication requirements of organizational change.

Provide Ample Opportunity for Feedback and Concerns

Managers and leaders should provide their employees ample opportunities to share their fears and concerns, ask questions and share insights. Managers and leaders should make addressing employee concerns and following up with answers and informational updates a primary concern. This empowers employees and gives them ownership in ideas and concepts. It keeps key people from leaving, and often prevents those who remain from sabotaging the process of change.

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

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: 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

Communication Starts With Respecting What Others Have To Say

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smallgroup7

As teams are composed of different personalities with different communication styles, communication problems will occur even when team structures are properly constructed and implemented.

Leaders must learn to deal with the practical elements of communication and overcome problems associated with group or team dynamics before moving ahead with more advanced communication issues.

It is important for leaders to understand that before teams can learn to communicate effectively, team members must first learn to communicate by each respecting what the other has to say. Leaders will find that this is the initial challenge that must be overcome after team formation.

Leaders should understand the common problems experienced by groups that can hinder the effectiveness and productivity of the team.

Floundering

Teams commonly have trouble intiating and ending discussions. Members flounder, wondering what actions to take next. Resistance is experienced as the team moves from one phase of the discussion to the next.

Problems from the onset suggest the team lacks clarity or is overwhelmed by the assignment. These startup problems suggest that team members are not comfortable enough with one another to engage in meaningful discussions.

Floundering during discussions suggests that the team has not arrived at a consensus. Team members can be reluctant to expose their work to review and criticism.

Overbearing Participants

Overbearing participants wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the team. They often have a senior rank within the company or possess in-depth technical knowledge. While most teams benefit from their participation, they can cause problems when they forbid any discussion that encroaches on their area of expertise or authority. Overbearing participants will tend to see such group solutions as unworkable, or they will use technical jargon signaling that the subject is off-limits to the group.

Leaders can minimize these problems by reinforcing to the team that, as long as it pertains to the current subject, no area is off-limits. Privately, leaders can talk with overbearing individuals to let them know that it is important for the group to explore the particular subject and for individuals to understand the process.

Dominating Participants

Some team members can consume a disproportionate amount of time by talking too much. Their excessive input inhibits other members of the team from participating. Leaders should structure discussions to encourage equal participation, and openly solicit input and contributions from all team members.

Reluctant Participants

Reluctant participants may feel shy or unsure of themselves in the team, and must be encouraged to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Problems can develop when there are no activities built-in to persuade these individuals to participate.

Leaders must act as gatekeepers to the discussion by openly and actively soliciting input and contributions from these individuals. These measures ensure balanced participation from the entire team.

Self-Assured Statements

Some individuals express personal beliefs and assumptions in a self-assured manner. These statements are so forceful that other team members assume they are hearing a presentation of facts. Consequently, members are reluctant to question these statements without facts and data to defend their position. They may also fear being wrong and thus losing face with the team.

Leaders cannot allow unquestioned acceptance of opinions as facts. They must use techniques and questions that compel members to support their statement with facts and to hold it up to the scrutiny of the entire team.

Rush to Accomplishment

Many teams will have individual members who are impatient and wish to rush through the training activity. These members will come to a decision before the team has had the time to discuss and consider alternative solutions. They will then urge the group to decide matters quickly, and will discourage any further efforts to analyze or discuss the matter. These members can communicate their impatience using nonverbal behavior or direct statements.

Leaders must remind the group of their focus and make sure that specific members do not exert pressure on the team to finish prematurely. If all else fails, leaders may need to directly confront the offender.

Attribution

As a way of bringing meaning to apparent disorder and confusion, people tend to attribute motives to individuals they disagree with or don’t understand. This behavior can lead to hostility in the team environment. Leaders must reaffirm the purpose, boundaries and framework of the training exercise and intervene when such behaviors are exhibited by team members.

Discounting

Discounting occurs when team members fail to assign other members’ ideas and options any validity, credence or credit. If discounting happens frequently, teams can experience hostility.

Every team member deserves respect and attention from the entire team. Leaders must ensure that the team is trained from the onset in active listening and other constructive behaviors. When possible, the leader should provide support to the discounted individual. Leaders will also need to privately discuss the matter with the team member who is responsible for discounting.

Digression and Tangents

Wide-ranging and unfocused team discussions are a natural tendency as teams stray from the topic. While some digressions may be entertaining, they divert the team from the purpose of the activity. Team facilitators are responsible for bringing these discussions back to the team’s agenda.

Feuding Team Members

Feuding team members can disrupt the entire team with their personal disagreements. Usually these feuds predate the team and are best dealt with outside of the team environment. Leaders can offer to facilitate a discussion to end the personal feud or at least arrive at an agreement concerning their behavior in the team setting.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Strategies and Solutions for Solving Team Problems

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

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

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Warren Buffett (L), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and David Rubenstein (R), president of the Economic Club of Washington, participate in a discussion during the 25th anniversary celebration dinner of the Economic Club of Washington June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Warren Buffett (L), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and David Rubenstein (R), president of the Economic Club of Washington, participate in a discussion during the 25th anniversary celebration dinner of the Economic Club of Washington June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) remarked, “‘It’s vital to be able to communicate well… Just being able to communicate with others on the job adds at least 50% to your value.” Open and effective communications at all levels solves many problems and reduces conflict before it even occurs. Lee Iacocca (Chrysler) declared, “A leader has to communicate. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth…

Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s painful.” Iacocca notes the importance of intellectual honesty as part of the communication process. “Iacocca says he’s not talking about verbosity or sound bites. He means facing reality and telling the truth, even when it’s painful. If you apply spin, people will know—they’re not stupid—and they’ll stop listening.”

“Peter Drucker [felt] the most valuable asset in a firm is the collective knowledge of its employees. But to realize that value, the people in an organization have to be able to share that knowledge. That means ‘them that’s got it’ have to be able to give it to ‘them that don’t.’ And that transaction requires two-way communication between inspired transmitters and welcome receivers.” The great leaders understood this. In fact, most spent a great deal of their time on the “factory floor” meeting with managers, supervisors and employees to see firsthand what is happening and to understand the problems and issues facing their companies.

At Hewlett-Packard it was discovered that “‘Management by Walking Around’ improves communication, improves quality, improves teamwork, and improves profits. Hewlett and Packard’s visible presence and easy availability (they insisted on a company-wide open-door policy, believing that interruptions were a small price to pay for the advantages of open and frank communication with the talented people they hired) earned them deep credibility with their co-workers. A drill press operator on the outskirts of the factory knew that the CEO and President understood what he did and appreciated his contribution.”

As was previously pointed out, John Patterson (National Cash Register) actually moved his office into the middle of his factory floor. While other leaders, such as Henry Heinz (H.J. Heinz), Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire), William Proctor (Proctor & Gamble), and George Westinghouse (Westinghouse) did not go to that extreme, they still remained highly visible, and openly and frequently communicated with their employees. In recognition of his frequent presence on the factory floor, Harvey Firestone’s casket was walked through his factory one last time, at the time of his death.

The great leaders spent the majority of their time traveling and communicating with employees and key constituencies. This allowed them to become personally acquainted and to influence employees on all levels. It also provided them with the opportunity to elicit feedback to make more accurate and fact-based decisions.

Fredrick Crawford (TRW) spent “much of his time speaking to employees and projecting the force of his ideas and his personality. One observer called him ‘a natural leader of tremendous vitality, self-assurance and singleness of purpose.’ But there was more to the Thompson program than Crawford. At all levels of the organization, managers tried to convince workers that the company had their best interests at heart…

Thompson managers referred employees as ‘members of the Thompson family’ and tried to minimize status distinctions between managers and workers… the firm’s policies were guided by an effort ‘to eliminate class lines and have our relationships on a first name basis.’”

While this may appear commonplace, some influential leaders like Cary Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard), Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers) and Roger Smith (General Motors) avoided meeting with their employees. Not only that, they strictly limited their accessibility to them. These leaders, among others who exhibited this characteristic, experienced substantial problems on multiple levels.

Related:

The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Capacity to Face Reality

Don’t Push Out Figures When Facts Are Going in the Opposite Direction

References:

  1. Stein Ben, Ben Stein: More from My Dinner with Warren (Fortune Magazine, January 7, 2010)
  2. Iacocca Lee, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (Scribner, 2007)
  3. Iacocca on the Need for Leadership Now (Business Management Daily, March 31, 2010)
  4. Willax Paul A., To Communicate Better, Improve Your Listening Skills (New Hampshire Business Review, September 28, 2007)
  5. Orfalea Paul, Helfert Lance, Lowe Atticus and Zatkowsky Dean, Inspirational Figures David Packard (West Coast Asset Management)
  6. Jacoby Sanford M., Reckoning With Company Unions: The Case of Thompson Products, 1934-1964 (Industrial and Labor Relations Review, October 1, 1989)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

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

Do Your Communications Have Room For Improvement?

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hospital-meeting

Every leader has room for improvement in the way they communicate with both their superiors and employees. The fast-paced workplace environment and immediate but impersonal nature of electronic communication has diminished many leaders’ ability to effectively convey their message, gain valuable feedback and lead their organization.

Surveys often show employees are concerned with the quality of communications in the workplace. Many feel companies give lip service and are not sincere in the messages they communicate. Others feel the only way information is imparted is through memos on bulletin boards. Still others feel instructions or policies are vague and difficult to interpret and follow.

This is important to recognize because ineffective communication begets poor cooperation and internal coordination, decreased productivity, and increased tension, absenteeism and turnover. Voids in communication are then filled with extremely damaging gossip and rumors. These repercussions seriously undermine a leader’s efforts to facilitate change within their organization, a crucial ability in today’s business climate.

The following is a list of proven concepts and techniques leaders can use to improve communications with both superiors and employees.

Communication: A Two-Way Process⎯Not a Monologue

Leaders should understand that communication does not end when they are finished delivering their message. Whether with superiors or employees, it is a two-way process that involves both giving information and receiving feedback. It is an ongoing exchange as questions are answered, additional information is given, and further feedback and input solicited.

Emphasize Personal Communications

The convenience of voice and email has made impersonal communications a reality for many leaders. Rather than rely on these electronic media as well as bulletin boards, memos and other like methods of communication, leaders should rely on personal exchanges and stress face-to-face meetings where possible. This helps eliminate miscommunication as leaders can readily interpret nonverbal facial expressions and body language.
Be Specific

Vague statements or instructions cause most miscommunication by failing to clearly and concisely direct or inform employees/superiors. Since vagueness is open to a variety of interpretations, confusion quickly sets in.

Every time a leader conveys a message or gives an instruction, they must ask if what they are communicating is clear, concise and specific. If not, they must restructure the communication so that it is.

Information Is… A Service

“Information is power” is a widely used phrase. The problem is, instead of sharing information, many managers and leaders hoard it as a method of wielding power over others.

Leaders should view the delivery and availability of information as a service to both their superiors and employees that enables them to be more productive and make better-informed decisions. It is in this service sense that information should be considered powerful.

Show Respect

Effective and open communication demands that all parties respect one another. This means that leaders, superiors and employees demonstrate respect for what each other has to say. They ask questions to show interest and further clarify key points. When this is done, all will feel an important part of a team and tend to be both more dedicated and productive.

An Open-Door Policy

Leaders don’t give lip service to an open-door policy, they practice it. They take the time to be among and interact with their employees. They keep their finger on the pulse of the organization by openly discussing needs and problems and allowing employees to disagree and contribute new ideas and insights.

This practice demonstrates a sincere concern for employees—and builds an endearing sense of loyalty. The impact it can have on a leader’s organization cannot be overemphasized. Actively and continually showing care and concern dramatically increases productivity and personal dedication.

One-on-One Meetings

Where possible leaders should have one-on-one meetings with their employees to develop insight and ideas regarding how to increase productivity within the organizational unit. Discussions should focus on ways leaders and employees can help one another be more productive.

Build Credibility

Without personal credibility, no matter how hard a leader tries he or she will fail to communicate. Unless leaders create a climate of credibility, they will not be trusted or believed by their employees. This destroys any ability or image of leadership. True leaders deliver on their promises and do what they say they will do.

Related:

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

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

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 Organizations Need Critical Thinkers

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Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial or detrimental, robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans and initiatives, routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.

Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees.

At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

Related: Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone.

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces are full of employees who apply:

  • Contextual sensitivity — Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.
  • Perspective thinking — Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity — Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.
  • Alertness to premature ultimatums — Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept, which inspires further debate and assessment.

Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker

There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge upon obtaining it fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs or self-interests.

  • Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views, while at the same time actively monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.
  • Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.
  • Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at “inductive and deductive” reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at inductive and deductive reasoning will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate assumptions, conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers need to use deductive reasoning to: reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments and topics, define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts, draw a conclusion that follows known facts that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.

Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language

Organizations depend upon active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable. They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language needs to have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to: describe, inform and persuade.

Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to “their way of thinking” about a topic, idea, concept or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to “get closer to the truth” and to set “the record straight.” For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double talk and jargon. They also need to refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (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

Empowerment is a Structured Discipline

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Just as organizational improvement is an ongoing process, so too is empowerment. Specific factors combine to define the empowered environment that must be in place if the organization is to work effectively and efficiently.

Leaders should understand that employees have a wide range of discretion when it comes to contributing or withholding efforts. The goal of empowerment is to motivate employees to contribute maximum effort to the success of their unit’s activities and, ultimately, the company.

Many employees will contribute as little as possible within the range of their job description and responsibilities. When leaders empower their employees, they are motivated to contribute not only increased effort to the accomplishment of their own duties, but also more ideas, concepts and insights. When collaborative efforts, ideas, concepts and insights are combined in an empowered atmosphere, it translates into sustainable success and improved results for the company.

Leaders are the main impetus for creating an empowered atmosphere within their organization. They know the strength of empowerment is achieved when such an atmosphere is created at all levels of the organization, and that they have the power and authority to remove the barriers to empowering their employees. In this manner the organization is able to gain the momentum to move forward and grow as a whole. The factors discussed below help create an empowered atmosphere when put into place.

Employees Understand What Is Expected of Them

Employees must be taught to appreciate that a transition to an empowered atmosphere is a pivotal change for the organization. Minimal efforts and contributions are no longer accepted—not in terms of a disciplinary approach but in terms of employees understanding their role in the company’s success and how individual efforts contribute to that success. Often these changes are greeted with skepticism, which changes once employees see that the leader’s words are backed by consistent actions.

Employees must understand that a choice to more deeply involve themselves by contributing their ideas, concepts and insights benefits not only themselves but also their associates and coworkers.

Related: Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

Goals and Measurements Are Consistently Applied

A critical factor of the empowered environment is the consistent application of goals, standards and measurements. When this is implemented it creates an atmosphere of trust and credibility throughout the company because employees understand they are all being treated fairly and consistently. They know what is expected of them and how those efforts will be measured. If they fail to meet those standards, they know the penalties. They also are aware that when they exceed the standards they will be rewarded and recognized.

When employees understand the objectives of their company and unit, the current performance goals and targets of their team or workgroup, and the limits on their decision-making authority, they are empowered to make consistent decisions without the leader’s guidance.

Related: Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Employees Are Given the Skills and Tools to Perform Effectively

More than merely a word, empowerment is a method of tapping the human resources within an organization. Employees cannot work in this environment without first being trained according to the concepts of empowerment and teamwork; they must be provided with the skills and the tools to perform effectively. Leaders understand that a fully developed, empowered environment is a process that requires time to implement. It takes time to train, coach, monitor and develop the skills and tools that facilitate organizational change.

Related: Do You Have Faith in Your People?

Frequent and Immediate Recognition of Contributions

Recognition is one of the most powerful motivators in the workplace. The Westinghouse studies of the 1930s recognized this concept and determined that employees are more motivated by personal recognition than financial benefit. An empowered environment must factor in frequent and immediate recognition of subordinate contributions. Additionally, leaders play a major role in this critical factor: while everyone expects to be recognized for their major successes, the real impact is when leaders reward employees for their small contributions. In some companies, leaders actively search to catch employees doing something right and then reward them on the spot. The impacts of these programs have dramatic effects on employee performance.

Related: Motivation Is More Than Money

Employees Provided with Positive Feedback and Communication

Another essential role of leaders in the empowered environment is to actively communicate with employees and provide them with positive feedback. The leader is facilitating change and empowerment by motivating and assisting the individual subordinate to meet his or her goals or objectives. This is in contrast to a manager or supervisor who is directing and disciplining employees when they fail to perform. Contrasting the two styles highlights a differing focus on negative and positive behaviors.

Employees and Leaders Perform with Discipline

Empowerment is not a haphazard management fad but a structured discipline within the organization. It allows employees to contribute their individual efforts at their maximum capabilities and thus allows the company to harness a largely untapped resource. Since it is a disciplined approach, all leaders and employees are directed to work within the parameters established by the goals, objectives, standards and measurements of the organization. Barriers and constraints are removed, but all employees are still working within and toward the entire organization’s goals. There are rewards and penalties delivered to maintain discipline and to motivate employees.

Related: Do You Have the Talent to Execute Get Things Done?

Excerpt: Organizational Empowerment: 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

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