Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘decision-making

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

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Effective leadership is an active, not passive, process. Leaders get involved in the day-to-day challenges and inspire employees to take risks and rise above the ordinary in their thinking, attitudes and actions. Leaders know they are not always the innovators, Most believe that workplace innovations and especially daily task-related decisions should be made by the employees doing the work. They fully support the actions of their employees and see that they are given the opportunity to create, innovate, and adopt new ideas and methods.

One of a leader’s primary tasks is to develop a sincere interactive leadership style and work climate focused on their employees’ advancement and attainment of goals. Creating a supportive work atmosphere becomes a main ingredient for achievement. Without daily interactive leadership support, very little gets accomplished within an organization.

A totally supportive leadership climate implies establishing shared power, shared risk and shared accountability. It visibly supports all employees’ actions through mutual respect and trust. Only in this way will there be a willingness on the employees’ part to make the organization a top priority with a shared desire to strengthen it.

Interactive leadership focuses on making the organization’s welfare the number one priority by cultivating each and every employee to support its direction and efforts. Supportive leaders continually emphasize the fact that if the organization wins, everyone wins. Every employee activity that assists and promotes this belief must be nurtured and encouraged.

The thrust of leadership is to support all employees effectively and passionately enough to instill the belief and trust that attainment of collective goals will benefit all involved. To see employees reach this level of trust and security, leaders can do the following:

Link Collective and Management Goals

It is essential that interactive leaders support their employees in all their efforts, especially when it comes to identifying and attaining goals. Before goals can become a reality, leaders must instill in their employees a desire and passion to think in terms of the organization’s best interest. Organizations and companies do not just “pocket profits,” they provide people and families with jobs with which to earn a living. It is in this light that every activity and action needs to be focused on the organization’s advancement.

In order to best support their employees in this effort, leaders must make certain that they develop specific strategies for linking management goals to all individual and collective employee goals. In this way, as the organization succeeds, so do they.

Build a Mutual Interactive Support Network

Interactive leadership and its support is a relationship between leaders and the employees they seek to lead. A failure to understand that leadership is a shared responsibility easily breaks down the support process being actively built within an organization.

Interactive leaders don’t attempt to become heroes by accepting full responsibility for their departments, thinking they should be aware of everything going on and able to solve every problem that arises. They realize this mindset inhibits personal and employee progress and development. It disintegrates the shared vision intended to direct, guide and support every unit member toward each goal’s attainment.

Help Employees Realize Their Goals are Cooperative

Leaders interactively support their employees by helping them realize that their goals are cooperative. This is accomplished through applying day-to-day organizational norms, expectations and standards that encourage them to share information, consider each other’s ideas, exchange resources, and respond to each other’s requests through positive interdependence. Doing this ensures the building of a mutually interactive employee support network.

Effective leaders plant “seed” questions that require employees to gather input from peers before responding. This technique serves to create an environment of active communication on all levels, which instills a high degree of mutual support within the specific organizational unit.

Offer Direct Help and Provide Necessary Resources

Providing ongoing, direct assistance and the resources needed to do the job are concrete signs of cooperative goal attainment. Imparting information on how a newer technology might facilitate completion of an assignment, or offering suggestions as to how to increase personal productivity or decrease wasted time and energy are visible examples of a leader’s desire to actively support all members of their work unit.

This strategy also serves to unify the entire unit, as it actively promotes the general welfare of the employee as well as the organization. It emphasizes that even though assignments vary, everyone has the same basic goal. All tasks and individuals become interdependent in the name of advancing the leader’s vision and organization’s cause.

Distorting or withholding information is a clear sign that an active undermining of a leader is taking place within the organization. This destabilizes the motivational framework within individual work units. It also instills a sense of competition between leader and employees, and manifests a lack of trust on the leader’s part.

Promote Cooperation

Leaders support each individual member in words and actions demonstrating respect, warmth and personal acceptance. They resist the urge to make competitive comparisons among employees. Effective interactive leaders reward productive individual and cooperative efforts to develop and attain specific goals and objectives.

The key to moving the organization forward lies not in promoting competition, showing preference for one employee over another or overpowering people to gain compliance, but in winning their employees’ complete cooperation, trust and loyalty.

In order to do this, leaders must foster an atmosphere that secures collective participation among their employees. Actively supporting cooperation built on mutual interdependence is the most effective strategy for creating and sustaining strong collaborative relationships. This strategy is successful because it demonstrates both a willingness to be cooperative and an unwillingness to be taken advantage of.

Interactive leaders need to recognize and encourage ongoing positive interaction among employees. This implies actively working to instill cooperative reciprocity that establishes deeper bonds of trust. During this process employees begin to openly acknowledge that all goals and work-related assignments are collaboratively essential and equally important.

One of the most effective strategies for eliciting cooperative efforts and to display active employee support is to enlarge the “screen of the future.” In other words, leaders must promote the realization among employees that they can expect to be working together as an ongoing group in all future assignments, tasks, decision making, goal setting and planning.

Employees are much more likely to support one another and their leader when they know they will be involved with each other on a continual basis. This is because an expectation of future interaction encourages employees to actively support and cooperate with one another in the present. Active support on all levels becomes far more common and enduring.

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

Related:

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

Do You Have Faith in Your People?

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong and Productive

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Leaders cannot assume that teams will automatically police and monitor themselves. Rather, leaders need to regularly audit a team’s performance to ensure that the mechanisms that build overall strength are firmly in place.

The fact that leaders are dealing with human nature makes team behaviors unpredictable and impacted by a number of variables that may or may not be within their control.

A single individual has the ability to undermine and ultimately destroy team strength. Consequently, leaders must continually audit the team’s overall performance. Such an audit requires both time and attention to detail when observing the behaviors, attitudes and levels of participation reflected within the team.

Leaders should audit the following areas on an ongoing basis in order to maintain overall team strength.

Participation

Leaders must ensure both balanced and equal levels of participation exist throughout the team. They must ensure that all individual members participate in the team process and are given equal opportunities to offer their insights and feedback. In this regard, leaders must make sure that no individual team member dominates the environment or is allowed to cow any other participants into silence.

Interaction

Leaders must actively observe the levels of interaction between individual team members. An active team will have open and energetic levels of communication, where members are openly and freely working with one another. Leaders must be aware of whether specific team members seem to be left out of the process, and identify those who may be reluctant to participate, have been intimidated into silence or had their behaviors minimized by more demanding and dominant members of the team.

Level of Development

Leaders must actively monitor the team’s overall level of development and maturity. A healthy team will grow, mature and become seasoned in their actions and decisions. While such development might occur in incremental steps that are difficult to monitor, leaders should take the time to evaluate the progress and growth of the team over prolonged periods of time.

Mutual Levels of Respect

Leaders should be observant for the mutual levels of respect demonstrated by team members. As teams develop, mature, and become more seasoned, the overall respect demonstrated by individual team members should be increasing and readily evident. Leaders must audit for both minimizing and destructive behaviors that reflect a lack of respect and undermine the entire team’s performance.

Depth and Scope

Leaders should also be auditing their team for the depth and scope of their brainstorming and decision making. Initially, teams will be dealing superficially with their projects or topics. As they mature and grow within the process, the breadth and scope of their brainstorming, analysis and decision making should increase and reflect the maturity of the team. If leaders conclude that these levels have not increased, they must take the appropriate action to challenge their team to grow.

Synergy

A sure sign that a team has developed and evolved is the synergy reflected in its actions and decisions. As team members learn to work with one another toward mutual goals and objectives, the overall synergy of the group should expand to the point where the whole becomes greater that the sum of the parts. Leaders who have determined that sufficient cooperation has not been developed should review the five aforementioned areas, as each will impact the overall level of synergy.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

Do These Four Common Pitfalls Undermine Your Meeting’s Effectiveness?

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There is something about face-to-face meetings. They continue to perform much better and provide a greater usefulness than any other means. Today’s modern web casts, video conferences, online discussions and chats etc. have continually tried to replace or surpass them in terms of generating better outcomes, but have never succeeded. If no meetings existed, work related satisfaction as well as task attachment, and certainly, company loyalty, would be extremely limited or in some cases, non-existent. That is why it becomes imperative to avoid problems that can easily ruin potentially productive meetings, and spiral them into dismal, time-wasting ones.

Designated meeting times may be the only time you, the leader, will be viewed as a guiding force, rather than a task master that is associated with “simply doing your job”. That is why it is so important to plan for smoothness of operation and flow in order to take advantage of the opportunity a meeting provides.

Selection is Key

To remedy meeting concerns before becoming real problems, it is crucial to identify potential pitfalls upfront. One key issue to consider is who should be selected to attend the meeting and addressing why the person’s attendance is essential for what the meeting is designed to achieve. To accomplish this purpose, the first step should include a careful scrutiny of potential participants. Keep in mind that any meeting tends to define a specific team, group of individuals or unit. Those who participate will belong to it. Those not invited or involved in its interaction never will become a component of its pool of shared knowledge, insight, experience, judgment and experience.

Consider the Meeting’s Collective Aim

A meeting needs to be the place where every participant learns the collective aim of the group. Its members must be able to define the way in which personal and collective work is able to contribute to outcomes that will characterize its overall success. The process needs to be used as a ‘commitment vehicle’ for the decisions being made through the group of its participants. It must also become a reinforcement tool for the objectives being pursued through it.

Newly Established Meetings Are More Challenging

An initial meeting gathering needs to be recognized and viewed as an “automatic status forum”. Initial encounters tend to evolve into an opportunity for its individual members to find out their relative standing within the group. Always expect some struggle for dominance and competition for top positioning, as well as some forceful attempts at intimidation to establish importance. Established meetings do not typically exhibit these same issues.

Focus on Maintaining Positive Discussions and Outcomes

One important function of a meeting is to become an interactive place where revisions, updates or additions take place to enhance and move forward its agenda or project etc., as well as what it knows as a group. It is necessary to allow this to take place within safe borders, well-defined standards and adhered to guidelines. Also remember that a meeting tends to establish its very own culture. This is why it is so important to give great consideration to what it is supposed to accomplish and how you want it accomplished.

Common Pitfalls:

Not Planning For the Total Process

Committee and subcommittee types of meetings including work groups, project teams and/or boards tend to constitute the greatest number of meetings taking place in today’s business environment. Distinctions other than those of size will directly affect their nature, so make it a point to include a meeting’s frequency, composition, motivation and problem solving process into your thinking and meeting development.

Not Establishing the Proper Size of a Meeting

Most meetings tend to become ineffective due to sizing problems. Positive outcomes tend to become seriously threatened when too many individuals are present at any one meeting. It is found to be best if four to seven people are assigned to attend an individual meeting. Some meetings can tolerate up to ten individuals, but then expect the number to slow the agenda and discussions down. Never expect to have a truly effective meeting with twelve or more attendees.

If numbers become a concern, there are several things you can try to get them down effectively.

Analyze Your Agenda

See if there is some way to segment the meeting time into various sections or segments. Perhaps you can arrange the agenda so that not everybody needs to be present for every item being listed on it. This may allow some individuals to leave at various points throughout the meeting, or provide a window for new ones to arrive for inclusion into certain points and topics of discussion, especially ones that are crucial for them to offer input or take away critical information.

Not Determining the Proper Number of Meetings

Determine if two or more separate but smaller meetings may be more effective in the long run than one larger span of time. Think through the agenda to notice where breaks in objectives occur. Perhaps multiple meetings may be the solution for enhancing outcomes and timetables. Most times these smaller ones tend to get more intense and as a result, get more done in a faster, meaningful way.

Not Carefully Examining Meeting Program Points

Scrutinize your meeting points and program. See if it can be arranged and broken into several meeting components, rather than simply following one continuous meeting flow? Is it possible to give various members selective informational or decision-making points or items of importance that directly affect their particular area(s) of responsibility or work areas at least one week in advance in order to discuss and thrash out the predetermined topics or items? Follow this by perhaps allowing them to select one representative to join the actual meeting. This person becomes the total group representative, spokesperson and liaison.

Related:

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving 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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Linking Structure to Action

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Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) - UPS

Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) – UPS

Well-executed plans require organizational structure before they can be successfully implemented, and the great leaders understood this. A properly structured organization builds and drives lines of accountability throughout itself. As the former Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, General Robert Wood [Sears] “ran the company along military lines: directors of hardware and research, for example, corresponded to army chiefs of ordnance or artillery. Channels of authority fell sheer from top to bottom, but autonomy rode down with them.” (1)

James Casey (United Parcel Service) started UPS as an adolescent, so he didn’t possess the military background that Wood had, but he “was an early and thoroughgoing advocate of what was called, in the 1920s, ‘scientific management.’ He believed efficiency produced profit. And he believed that efficiency was achieved by measuring everything – by keeping track of the cost (in time and money) of every step in the process of achieving a result – in this case, the result of successfully delivered packages that met customer expectations. Further, Jim Casey believed that whenever you found a process that improved efficiency, you made it standard practice and you supervised employees to achieve fidelity to that practice.” (2)

Wood and Casey were only a few of the great leaders who linked structure to action. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) and Thomas Watson Sr. (IBM) all built organizations where structure was also solidly linked to action. So did Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy). “Rickover believed in courageous impatience. The power of unshakeable determination was critical for him, as good ideas do not get executed very often. Deciding what to do is the easy part … getting it done is more difficult. Being involved in details shows subordinates that if it’s not important to you … why should it be to them? When details are ignored, projects fail. This is not about doing things yourself; it’s about frequent reports (both oral & written) and from numerous sources (remember, he had 40 direct reports!!)” (3)

Peter Drucker observed, “Managers do not make decisions by opinions nor according to their preferences. They manage through the force of facts and not through the force of personality. ‘Bedside manners,’ I once heard Sloan say in a speech to GM managers, ‘are no substitute for the right diagnosis.’ ” (4)

  1. Doenecke Justus D., General Robert E. Wood: The Evolution of a Conservative (Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society)
  2. Nelson Douglas W. – President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy – speech to the Foundation Impact Research Group Seminar, March 9, 2005
  3. Wacker Watts, Courageous Impatience (www.firstmatter.com)
  4. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment

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Systematic observation and thorough analysis of the team process as it relates to individual members is essential for understanding how teams must shape their dynamics in order to improve overall performance. The team observation and analysis process focuses managers on the various ways individual members interact with one another within the team environment.

Teams respond to issues differently. Responses can result in disruptive conduct such as personal dominance, obstinacy, controlling, outright fighting and a host of other negative behaviors.

Task and maintenance roles allow individual teams to deal with issues and influences in a more structured and productive manner. However, managers must observe how their individual teams interact before and after structures are put into place in order to determine the increase in their performance output and productivity.

The team observation and analyzing process includes the following factors and components:

Membership

Leaders need to understand that individuals who comprise the makeup of an individual team have differences in personalities and backgrounds and that these—along with gender and age differences—all affect the group dynamics within the team structure. Differences in functional backgrounds and commitment to collective goals also contribute to a level of cohesion or overall conflict within the team environment.

Organizational Context

Successful teams need organizational direction, information and resources. Problems can occur when organizational missions are unclear, tasks poorly defined, and teams not given sufficient autonomy. Problems also result when rewards are given to individual members and not collectively to recognize overall team results.

Influencers, Communication and Participation

It is important for leaders to identify the influencers and established subgroups and coalitions within individual team environments. There is a natural tendency for individuals within the team to form alliances to the exclusion of other members, and most team environments will experience their influence and control. Influencers and alliances impact team communication patterns as certain individual input is sought and heard over and above other sources of dialogue, ideas, comments and suggestions.

As within any healthy team environment there is a balance of all opinions and feedback, leaders must be aware of who has the most impact on the team’s actions and decisions and take action to ensure those who have been ignored are heard.

Climate and Personal Behaviors

Leaders must observe individual team members for signs of anger, irritation, frustration, boredom, defensiveness and withdrawal. As within a healthy team environment, individual team members should be free to probe others with regard to their thoughts and feelings – such emotions are indicative of problems that must be addressed.

When reviewing the climate, it is essential for leaders to also determine whether conflict is suppressed or encouraged: solutions cannot be reached unless there is healthy debate and open conflict that allows individual teams to reach their optimal performance levels.

Minority Opinions

In most team environments there will be individual members who hold opinions and viewpoints that run counter to those of the majority. In a healthy team environment, these opinions are valued and sought out rather than suppressed and discouraged.

Leadership

Leaders should monitor the power structure within their teams to determine whether leadership responsibilities are assumed by one person or shared by the entire membership. They should be watchful for power struggles and conflicts resulting from a lack of leadership within the team environment.

Task and Maintenance Functions

Healthy teams have task flow and maintenance roles that are fulfilled by all members. Leaders should determine whether specific roles and responsibilities are being fulfilled competently and accurately, and whether the individuals assigned to these roles and tasks take their responsibilities seriously.

Decision Making

Leaders should be well acquainted with the decision making processes used within their individual teams. Key decisions are generally made during the first meeting, which often then tend to shape and determine progress. These key initial decisions are often hard to reverse. Leaders should also guard against groupthink, where pressure is put on all team members to agree and conform to the actions of the entire team and little or no dissention is allowed.

Conflict

Leaders should encourage useful, healthy and appropriate conflict over substantive issues, while taking time to improve personal relations among individual team members when negative emotional eruptions become apparent. Conflict is healthy only when personalities and personal issues are removed from the issue.

Emotional Issues

All individual team members come to the team setting with personal needs and issues that get played out within the environment, including:

  • Personal identity within the team
  • Goals and needs
  • Power and control
  • Intimacy

Atmosphere

Leaders should monitor the atmosphere created by their individual teams. Within some teams, members may prefer a business-only approach, while in others a more social atmosphere might be prevalent. The atmosphere is also shaped by whether a single individual controls the team or leadership is shared collectively.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

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In employee led groups or in an individual context, individuals can begin to take over the responsibility of using questions to help foster a deeper understanding of material, information, key concepts or issues.

Through the use of questioning, employees engage in a social process that is fundamental to learning. Individual learning and self-development begin on the social plane, through interactions where employees think and respond with others who possess varied levels of knowledge. Employees should take an active role in exploring, finding and researching answers to their own questions.

Through self-inquiry based questioning, individuals develop questions that need to be answered and then research the answers to support their thinking and responses. Inquiry is not always a specific question, but can be simply a contemplation about something that needs to be investigated further. There is usually not one correct answer to meaningful questions of inquiry, but through the process, employees actually gain understanding, generate more questions to ponder, and find further issues to research. This technique helps provide a structure for looking through information and sorting out relevant from irrelevant facts, sources and data.

Within the process, it is important to eliminate incorrect information, confirm reliable information, and ask further questions about the meanings and implications of certain words and phrases. After the discussion, they review and confirm the accuracy of summarizations and understandings.

Questions have the ability to buttress comprehension. Their intended use is to make the sharing of new information a collaborative process, with shared responsibilities for ongoing discussions and conversations as well as problem solving outcomes.

Within the questioning process, it is essential for employees to invite questions that effectively probe for understanding. One effective method is to apply “why” types of questions that tend to redirect an individual’s attention. An example is, “Why are you sure that when you say ____ will happen, it will?” It is also important for employees to ask questions that model comprehension monitoring, “Does (this) or (that) make any sense to you?”

POSSE Questioning

POSSE questioning is an effective framework to guide employees to facilitate better comprehension, particularly when solving problems. POSSE stands for:

  • Predict (predict what will happen as a result of the problem);
  • Organize (organize knowledge and ideas into categories and details);
  • Search (read to identify key ideas and details of problem-related parts);
  • Summarize (identifying the main problem rather than its symptoms);
  • Evaluate (ask a question, compare, clarify and predict).

Within the POSSE framework, questioning tends to be embedded in the Predicting, Searching, and Evaluating stages of problem solving and is structured in a “Shared Inquiry Discussion” format that is designed to promote creative, thoughtful and critical thinking. As such, the leader continues to play a key role in the inquiry process. Within this framework, however, he or she avoids asking employees’ questions that tend to cause them to speculate about something that is outside immediate, contextual boundaries. He or she also avoids questions that tend to require making predictions about something.

Applying the POSSE Framework to Make Questioning Visible

How can employees become proficient in using questions effectively in their own problem solving/work-related situations? There are two major challenges associated with this question. First, while widely existing in any workplace, questions are so common that employees tend to simply take the process for granted, rather than analyzing how the process of questioning works. Which is, how questions are formed, the purposes they serve and the information sources they probe. Second, even when the questioning process is discussed and detailed to make it “visible,” employees still need opportunities to engage in active questioning practices themselves. The goal of the questioning process should be to increase and enhance proficiency in seeking out information and to generate higher levels of insight and understanding.

There are specific ways in which to practice the skill of questioning for reaching this goal:

Think Aloud Sessions

A “Think Aloud Session” is one way to make a relatively common or invisible process like questioning to identify important information more visible by allowing employees to share insights, reasoning and perceptions through the art of inquiry and the language of questioning to generate positive results. When a leader applies Think Aloud Sessions, they should model or demonstrate “Questioning Use Strategies,” and the vocabulary of “Question-Answer Relationships” (see below).

Creating Question-Answer Relationships (QAR)

A Question-Answer Relationship is an effective questioning strategy, which emphasizes that a relationship exists between certain questions asked, the material presented, and the background of the responders. In this strategy, employees need to rely on four question/answer relationships or descriptors to find the information they need in order to effectively answer the question(s) being asked.

Question-Answer Relationships help employees and the leader develop a shared, common language for discussing and understanding how particular questions are designed to function. The leader may need to introduce QAR and to explain the four types of question/answer relationships that it encompasses:

Consider and Explore – The answer exists, but employees need to put together different pieces of information to obtain it. This is the most common QAR.

Right Here – The answer resides within the question and is usually easy to comprehend. The information is found without much effort.

Question Asker and Me – The answer is not explicitly stated. Employees need to think about what they already know, what the leader tells them, and how both pieces of information fit together in a meaningful way.

On Your Own – The answer is not physically given or implied. Employees should be able to answer the question without reading or researching information, simply by using their own experiences and background knowledge.

QAR Brings Together Knowledge and Information

This is information and knowledge that employees need to draw upon in order to answer particular questions, through various inquiry strategies. For example, a question asked could require a response that is part of the respondent’s background knowledge, or an “In My Head” response. In contrast, another particular question may require a response that needs to be obtained from past readings about something in particular.

Asking a question such as, “Have you ever been surprised when our production line shuts down?” cannot simply be addressed with information from reading something, even if what was read about tends to describe a situation like the one being asked. Further, a question like, “What might we do if and when the production line breaks down?” requires both an understanding of the dilemma and the ability to draw on one’s own background to solve the problem in a new way. To gain a better understanding for how the QAR relationship works, and why it is important, the process should be focused on question asking and answering within workplace contexts and their activities.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving 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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

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blogNegativeEmployees

Leaders in the workplace hear several complaints every day. Some are minor and easily resolved; others are more complex, requiring complicated solutions. Leaders should have a specific procedure or decision tree set up to guide them through the resolution process fairly and consistently.

Decision trees come in different varieties, some more suited to particular issues than others. One type can be quite logical, providing the leader with a rather intuitive model to follow for simple problems. Difficult problems, on the other hand, require more complex models that give leaders the more intricate guidance they require.

Unresolved complaints are symptomatic of underlying issues in the workplace. When left unsettled, these issues fester and ultimately surface as major problems that can impact productivity, efficiency and performance, as well as expose an organization to legal liabilities. Leaders must always strive to resolve a problem; otherwise, employees who continually complain about the same issue yet don’t see action being taken likely have legal recourse. Even a seemingly minor issue can have potential legal ramifications that make the company liable for failing to address the complaint.

Effective leaders understand the importance of immediately addressing and resolving complaints. They know that lingering issues hinder the performance of their organizational unit by disrupting the harmony and balance required to maximize output. Additionally, the time invested in “nipping a problem in the bud” is well spent when compared with the time required to deal with a complaint that has exploded into a major problem. Good leaders furthermore understand that a quick and effective response to a complaint limits the company’s legal liability.

Undoubtedly, leaders are well-versed in dealing with daily operational problems (e.g. production, quality, scheduling and efficiency) associated with the organizational unit’s performance. And while it is possible these methods are effective at resolving related employee complaints, they are not the focus of this lesson. For present purposes, complaints will be limited to general workplace issues such as intimidation, harassment, bullying and other employee-related concerns.

When a complaint is initially brought to the leader’s attention, he or she will most likely immediately classify it as a problem that is either major or minor. This tendency is natural, as quick classification leaves the leader with the necessary time and energy to identify and resolve the problem.

However, leaders must take care not to minimize a complaint. They need to recognize that it takes courage for an employee to voice a concern. In fact, before the complaint is made, quite often the issue has been going on for a sustained period, with the employee making many failed attempts at resolving it. Hence, it is important that the leader carefully consider the complaint’s seriousness. Even if the individual tends to complain or whine about everything, each grievance should be examined on its own merits. If, after thoughtful consideration, the leader finds there isn’t much to the complaint, then it may be dismissed. But a repeat pattern of similar complaints may require further action on the part of the leader. On the other hand, some employees rarely complain, and when they do the problem may be more serious than it initially appears.

Once the legitimacy of a complaint has been established, several steps must be taken. A decision tree, as outlined below, guides the leader to the ultimate solution.

Preliminary Investigation

A preliminary investigation identifies underlying causes, the individuals involved and impacted, and the extent of the problem. When the problems causing the complaint are rooted out early, potential solutions can also be identified right away. If this is the case, leaders can act quickly to resolve the problem and move on to more pressing issues. If not, leaders must move on to the next step.

Documentation

If the problem is bigger or more advanced than originally thought, then leaders must begin to document its extent—that is, the activities of the individuals causing the problem, and the complaints and actions of the employees affected by the problem.

Effective leaders understand the importance of documenting the problem: the process helps develop objective facts necessary for a satisfactory resolution and protects the company if the termination of employees is required.

Interview All Participants

An initial investigation of a complaint and a documentation of the facts should include personal interviews with everyone involved in the issue. This gives all parties ample opportunity to express their viewpoints. Leaders must take care to stick with the facts and not be biased by previous experiences with anybody or let their personal feelings impact their decisions.

Pinpoint the Causes and Solution

After interviewing all participants and listening carefully to what they had to say, leaders should be able to pinpoint the underlying causes of the problem. Sometimes the issue to be dealt with is obvious; in which case, immediate action is advised.

In more serious cases, leaders may need to consult with their superiors or the human resources professionals in their company to determine further action or attain recommendations. When issues of legal liability are involved in the solution, leaders must seek counsel from others more familiar with the issues. Effective leaders understand the limits of their responsibilities and the importance of calling on others with more expertise. When in doubt, it is best to call human resources to get their view on possible courses of action.

Implement the Solution

Depending upon the seriousness of the problem and who is involved in crafting and implementing the solution, leaders must take action as soon as possible. Clearly, the solution can take many forms and have a variety of actions. As a result, leaders will often have to sit down with the people affected, either individually or together as a group.

In these sessions the problem will be plainly laid out, the findings and extent of the problem will be reported, and a discussion of the possible solutions initiated. In certain cases where the problem is very serious, solutions can be presented without options, leaving the people who are causing the problem with clear instructions to cease their behaviors or face specific consequences. In other cases, the parties will discuss and agree upon a solution.

Once again, leaders aren’t doing this alone: they are guided by the seriousness of the problem, instructions from their superiors, and the legal liabilities and ramifications if the issue is not resolved. Each area offers unique guidance that, along with understanding the particular circumstances surrounding the problem, will help leaders identify the final resolution and the actions they need to take.

Monitor the Solution

After a solution has been implemented, leaders should actively monitor the solution and periodically interview the employees affected to assure their satisfaction with the outcome. The leader’s central purpose here is to ensure that the problem is completely resolved. If unresolved, then further action must be taken. Consequences may need to be revisited and more drastic action may be called for.

Leaders must understand that every complaint and problem is unique. Dealing with workplace issues means working with complex human behaviors that often have no simple or straightforward solutions. While some solutions are mandated by company policies or management direction, others require the leader’s persistent application of logic until the problem is completely solved.

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

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

“Dissent, Even Conflict, is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

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Ray Kroc- Founder of McDonald's

Ray Kroc- Founder of McDonald’s

In addition to allowing themselves to have their own thinking challenged, the great leaders also challenged the thinking of others, to help them to consider all possibilities and options. Consider the example of Ray Kroc (McDonald’s). “Suppose someone comes up with a proposal that McDonald’s should serve turkey sandwiches… Everyone on the board of directors can think of nine good reasons why turkey sandwiches would be a bad thing for us. They would blow the idea out of the water immediately. But Ray would say, ‘Wait a minute; let’s examine what this might do for us. Maybe we could make it work. If not turkey sandwiches, maybe we should try turkey hash.’ He wouldn’t let go of it until all possibilities had been considered.” 1

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) illustrated this point of challenging the thought process, when he remarked, “One must create the ability in his staff to generate clear, forceful arguments for opposing viewpoints is well as for their own. Open discussions and disagreements must be encouraged, so that all sides of an issue will be fully explored. Further, important issues should be presented in writing. Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.” 2

Peter Drucker commented, “Dissent, even conflict, is necessary, indeed desirable. Without dissent and conflict there is no understanding. And without understanding, there are only wrong decisions. To me the most fascinating parts of [Alfred] Sloan’s [General Motors] book [My Years With General Motors] are the memoranda in which he first elicits dissent and then synthesizes dissenting views into an understanding, and in the end, into consensus and commitment. Sloan implies that leadership is not charisma, not public relations, not showmanship. It is performance, consistent behavior, trustworthiness.” 3

James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) was “never one to fill his staff with employees who were afraid to state their minds, Burke enjoyed having different viewpoints on board. ‘My style is to encourage controversy and encourage people to say what they think,’ he told Fortune (October 24, 1988). He always wanted his employees to fight for what they believed in, without fear of repercussions.” 4

Henry Luce (Time Magazine) was known to challenge other’s thinking. It was reported, “‘Far from being pained by new ideas,’ Mr. [Hedley] Donovan [Editor in Chief – Time Magazine] said, ‘Harry Luce rejoices in them. He welcomes argument so ardently that it takes a certain amount of intellectual courage to agree with him when he is right, as is bound to happen from time to time.’ This was also the impression of Gilbert Cant, a Time editor for many years, who said: ‘His decisions may have been unidirectional but, by God, he thought a hell of a lot. Conversation with him was utterly maddening because he was always aware of the other side of any proposition he was stating, and he frequently tried to express both sides at once.’” 5

  1. How He Made McDonald’s Sizzle (Success Magazine, March 1, 2009)
  2. Admiral Rickover H.C., Doing a Job (management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering, 1981; CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)
  3. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)
  4. Watson Stephanie, Business Biographies: James Burke (http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/A-E/Burke-James-1925.html)
  5. Whitman Alden, Henry R. Luce, Creator of Time-Life Magazine Empire, Dies in Phoenix at 68 (The New York Times, March 1, 1967)

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)

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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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Reasons Why Team Communications Can Deteriorate

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groupconflict

Since leaders are dealing with individual personalities in the team environment, it is unrealistic to expect that communication will never break down. Even within the most effective and efficient team environment, issues and situations will arise that will cause an entire breakdown of team communication.

The breakdown of communication in the team environment often occurs when trust and respect are diminished or ignored by individual team members. Breakdowns also occur when chronic conflict has not been resolved within the team.

Another source of communication breakdown is when team members feel their personal interests are stronger than the needs and identity of the team. These individuals are motivated by their personal desires and will do anything to achieve them, including disrupting the team environment.

It is important for leaders to recognize that communication breakdowns will occur within the team environment. In the early stages of team growth, communication problems and breakdowns are more frequent, as individuals struggle to obtain position and retain power in a new and changing environment. However, in more mature and structured teams, leaders will find that the team itself will deal with the communication problem according to its defined boundaries, rules and standards.

Leaders should be aware that a breakdown in communication can have long-term ramifications on the structure and effectiveness of the team. Therefore, it is important for them to recognize potential problems and the symptoms in order to anticipate issues, such as those discussed below, before they occur.

Loss of Trust and Respect

If leaders allow problems to fester and lead to a breakdown of team communication, they will experience a corresponding breakdown of trust and respect among team members that can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore. These circumstances can be fatal to the team and might require the formation of a new team in order to overcome them. Broken trust requires prolonged periods of time to be reestablished. Leaders need to be aware of this and take appropriate action to reduce the occurrence of chronic problems that can result in the loss of trust and respect among team members.

Hindered Free-Flow of Ideas

Once communication has broken down among team members, leaders will observe that discussions become more emotional and subjective rather than objective and factual. When discussions are based on emotion rather than fact, brainstorming will diminish to the point that there is no free-flow of ideas among team members. This effectively halts the team process until the issues causing the breakdowns are dealt with.

Intimidation

Leaders who experience a breakdown of communication observe that certain members will attempt to take control of the team process, subjugating the team to their personal agendas and perspectives. Once done, these individuals will use emotional responses to intimidate other team members into accepting their points of view. This is where the bonds of trust and respect among team members can be broken. The communication breakdown destroys the team structure and subjects it to the will of one or more members.

Bias

Once the breakdown of communication has led to the destruction of the team order by one or more team members, a specific bias is created that supports the personal agendas of these individuals. When members allow the team process to be subverted by particular individuals, they undermine the entire team effort.

Faulty Decision Making

The breakdown of communication in the team environment inevitably leads to faulty decision making. Specific biases that hinder the free-flow of ideas prevent teams from considering all options and alternatives when making decisions. Consequently, decisions are impacted by the biases of the specific individuals controlling the team. In these circumstances, decision making and outcomes will be flawed.

Individuals who have hijacked the team process will use the team environment as a cover to mask their activities when decisions produce faulty results. As they do not want to be held accountable for their behaviors and actions, they will place blame for the decision on the team environment.

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

Related:
 
How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a TeamThe Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Eight Problem Solving Traps

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groupconflict

The process of problem solving can at first blush appear relatively simple: the difficulty is defined, facts and evidence are collected and analyzed, and a solution agreed to. However, because imperfect people make decisions, the entire process is fraught with traps that can lead to serious errors in judgment.

Problem solving is not to be taken lightly: it is a step-by-step process that when properly sequenced and followed should produce solid results. Unskilled problem solvers will often misinterpret the issues, attempting to solve symptoms rather than root causes, and makes the situation more confusing than it has to be.

It is important for individuals to understand that effective problem solving often consumes more time than most people are willing to invest. Rather than go about it properly, many just want to react and deal with the problem quickly. However, the time invested to thoroughly investigate and solve a problem more often than not produces a more successful solution—and happier employees and customers.

Individuals can easily fall into a number of common problem solving traps. The resulting consequences are often faulty decisions based on poorly framed questions, inadequate analysis and a host of other factors. Rather than solve anything, these traps often complicate the problem, making it more difficult to resolve.

‘Plunging In’

In this case, individuals begin to gather facts, data and information and form conclusions without thoroughly exploring the problem. They are in a reactive mode and desire to quickly dismiss the problem, which leads to faulty decisions based upon unsubstantiated assumptions. Such hastiness can worsen the situation and make the solution more elusive.

Wrong Problem

Individuals set out to resolve the wrong problem because they have established a mental framework for their decision with little or no forethought: they incorrectly frame the problem or use the wrong boundaries and reference points, causing them to overlook the best options or to lose focus on the issue.

Lack of Definition

Individuals fail to consciously define the problem in more than one way. In other instances, their definition is biased or unduly influenced by others.

Problems must be viewed and framed from a variety of perspectives to adequately define and resolve the problem. When definitions are limited, so are the available solutions.

Overconfidence

Individuals are too sure of their assumptions and opinions and they become overconfident, failing to collect key facts, data and information. They trust their intuition and the most readily available information or convenient facts without taking the time to fully investigate the problem.

Lack of Adequate Analysis

Rather than taking a systematic approach to problem solving, many individuals instead believe they can keep the facts straight in their heads. Consequently, they believe they are making intuitive judgments based upon the information available and don’t engage in careful analysis. Here, one often overlooks key evidence that can impact the ultimate solution.

Groups that fail to use good problem solving skills and processes can also fail to make sound decisions, or they fall into a groupthink mode where everyone agrees with one another without using critical thinking skills.

Faulty Interpretation

There are instances when people refuse to properly interpret the results of their analysis because it runs counter to their beliefs or does not fit their own set of assumptions. In other cases, pride gets in the way of arriving at an appropriate decision.

Failure to Keep Track

Many individuals assume they will automatically remember their past experiences. Research has demonstrated that when individuals maintain systematic records that they periodically review, they can distill valuable lessons that could be applied to later situations.

Failure to Have a Formal Process

People who fail to develop a formal problem solving process that they can use fairly and consistently will often repeatedly fall into the problem solving traps detailed in this lesson.

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

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

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

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize 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

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