Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘employees

Creating a Culture of Innovation

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Hewlett-Packard Company co-founders David Packard (seated) and William Hewlett run final production tests on a shipment of the 200A audio oscillator. The picture was taken in 1939 in the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California, where they began their business.  Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard/Newsmakers

Hewlett-Packard Company co-founders David Packard (seated) and William Hewlett run final production tests on a shipment of the 200A audio oscillator. The picture was taken in 1939 in the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California, where they began their business.
Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard/Newsmakers

Effective leaders are the key influence in bringing about innovation and opportunity. Their search for ways to advance and grow the organization takes them far beyond the traditional structures, methods and concepts that have worked in the past. In today’s fast-paced market climate, empowering members to test new approaches and ideas is critical. This creates the innovation, creativity and opportunity needed to drive change.

The forces of change come from both inside and outside the organization: customers are the source of demand for product and service innovation; process innovation generally comes from within the organization itself and through its employee members. There are definite factors needed to create the innovation—in essence a willingness to break from past methods—to effect positive change and incremental transformations.

A major function of the leader’s role is to stimulate innovation and creativity, to bring about incremental transformations that improve an organization’s products, services and overall quality. This is necessary in order to meet both external and internal customer needs. Accomplishing this is done through developing an empowered environment that instills and reinforces innovation.

In order to create an environment conducive to the full empowerment of its members, leaders must depend on consistently influencing others while keeping all communication channels between units, divisions and upper management open. Leaders realize that employees doing the frontline work are the best resource to utilize in designing more effective processes, generating creative ideas and quality improvement concepts, and implementing the best solutions to overcome inefficiencies.

Only when employees take an active role will creative innovations, new ideas, processes, services and product improvements consistently flow within and out of the organization. Whether this state is successfully attained or not depends on whether leaders acknowledge the factors generating imagination, resourcefulness and risk taking in their employees.

There are three chief characteristics of an environment supportive of innovation, creativity and risk taking. Successful establishment of this environment is dependent upon leaders building recognition of these factors. They include:

Experimentation and Breaking Away from Constraints

Leaders are experimenters by nature. However, they need to instill this desire in employees to experiment with new approaches to old problems, to accept the challenge of trial and error. Throughout this process, leaders actively help employees remove the barriers to creativity and innovation by identifying and breaking down self-imposed constraints on personal perceptions, thinking habits and patterns.

Outsight and Insight

Because innovation depends upon creative ideas—most of them coming from outside general conventional thinking—innovation within an empowered environment depends heavily on what is referred to as “outsight.” Outsight is the ability to perceive external realities. It is the necessary forerunner to insight, or the ability to apprehend the inner nature of things. An awareness and understanding of outsight forces comes through openness and flexibility. It is up to leaders to open the doors to the world beyond conventional boundaries and expose employees to a broader spectrum of situations, problems and concerns.

Developing a ‘Hardiness Factor’

Uncertainty and risk are part of the price both leaders and employees pay for being innovative. Leaders generally thrive on uncertainty and risk, but it is often another matter for employees. To overcome feelings of insecurity in regard to these two areas, the question becomes, “How do employees within the organizational unit learn to accept the inevitable failures and accompanying stress of creative innovation and the circumstances surrounding it?” The answer rests in cultivating a sense of hardiness and resilience.

When a healthy sense of hardiness reveals itself, it will be observed through actions and beliefs mirroring the sentiment that “uncertainty and risk are more interesting than being fearful.” Employees know they do have a definite influence on specific outcomes, which motivates rather than intimidates. They see uncertainty and risk as opportunity.

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

Actively Eliciting Feedback from Employees

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mantalking

Effective leadership is based on ongoing input and feedback. Where 20 years ago managers rarely asked for input, today effective leaders are regularly seeking and receiving employee feedback. Leaders elicit cooperation from employees and other individuals when they listen to them. To move employees forward, leaders first identify their needs by asking for their feedback. Identifying employee needs through feedback allows leaders to modify their behavior to serve the best interests of their employees and unit.

Feedback is an effective communication mechanism that enhances productivity and motivation. Leaders use it to create a positive sense of direction that increases efficiency and reduces stress among employees. It empowers employees and gives them ownership in both the ideas and direction driving the organization.

This is important for leaders to appreciate, as studies have shown that employees informed of the organization’s goals and progress are more productive and better able to persevere under difficult circumstances. These are indispensable qualities in the current business climate, as in challenging times the informed employee is more likely to work closely with leaders to resolve problems and stabilize situations. Sharing information rather than withholding it enhances a sense of positive, coordinated teamwork.

The essence of leadership is to persuade others rather than control them. Persuasion is not a one-way process but a continuous feedback loop from employee to leader. The loop incorporates listening, understanding the employee’s point of view and perspectives, and positively responding to their needs. In doing this, the effective leader and persuader is rarely able to change another individual’s behavior or point of view without altering their own approach and perceptions.

When leaders communicate they are in essence selling their ideas to others. To effectively accomplish this they must:

  • Create a dialogue around their idea or concept.
  • Convince others their idea is valid.
  • Actively interact with individuals to brainstorm and solicit new ideas, insights and viewpoints.
  • Build a relationship with them.

This is an extremely productive chain of feedback. It demonstrates to employees that the leader values and respects them. If a leader has failed to persuade others, they have also failed to understand their needs and concerns.

Leaders solicit their employees’ feedback for a number of reasons. Firstly, as imperfect people make decisions, feedback provides continuous testing of an idea or concept against actual conditions and underlying expectations. When leaders solicit feedback, they are asking their employees to question the assumptions behind the idea or concept, examine the expectations connected with it and assess the realistic impact it could have on their organization. This amounts to a mutual search for solutions yielding shared advantages to all parties.

The use of feedback by leaders also enhances their effectiveness. The Drucker Institute reported that when leaders–

  • Ask for input from their employees.
  • Learn from the feedback in a positive and non-defensive attitude.
  • Follow up in a focused and efficient manner.

–they become more effective and are perceived accordingly by their managers, employees and superiors.

The pitfall to avoid is the soliciting of feedback from employees, then reacting emotionally and negatively to any bad news or information, in essence “shooting the messenger.” This only serves to quickly close down communication and replace it with an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia.

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

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: 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

Seven Key Benefits of an Empowered Workplace

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smallgroup2

Organizations can expect obvious results when they implement an empowered environment. However, many people fail to realize the impact of the hidden effects of the empowerment process. These hidden benefits can have a more dramatic impact on profitability than a leader might imagine. When one considers the issue of the effective use of resources, the hidden impact of empowerment clearly demonstrates how leaders can effectively marshal the resources they are responsible for.

Many traditional managers fail to understand and comprehend how empowerment can impact their bottom line, as there are a number of hidden costs associated with restricting employee abilities and capabilities. Most are focused on their power and authority and concentrate on ways to maintain their personal power base.

Leaders, on the other hand, understand that tapping into the human potential of their employees unleashes a tremendous source of power, information and expertise that the organization can ultimately benefit from.

Most leaders are unaware of the hidden or intangible benefits associated with empowerment. However, the thoughtful leader who takes the time to consider the costs of the traditional approach will find them staggering, which is often sufficient to motivate them to move the empowerment process along as quickly as possible.

The following outlines the great number of benefits that companies can measure beyond the results of increased productivity, efficiency, effectiveness and productivity when implementing an empowered workplace.

Absenteeism

Absenteeism results from employee boredom with their jobs and a feeling that what they do is not valued and does not contribute to the success of the company. In other words, there is no personal connection between the company and the individual employee.

As employee involvement increases through empowerment, most companies experience a noticeable decrease in absenteeism because the individual contribution to the organization is sought, valued and recognized. Empowered individuals are challenged to their maximum capacity and abilities, resulting in an increase in overall job satisfaction. Consequently, the cost of lost productivity associated with absenteeism is reduced and can be directly attributed to a benefit and positive effect of empowerment.

Employee Turnover

Employee turnover is often due to a lack of value, opportunity and growth within a company. Employees feel that their only option is to look for a better job. Without job satisfaction, they appraise their work only in terms of what they are being paid.

Since empowerment taps the individual resources each employee can provide and focuses the combined efforts of all employees toward a common goal, job satisfaction increases. As a result, for the first time many employees feel that they are valued, and they come to understand their role in the company’s success. They are invited to grow with the company and expand their personal capabilities. They are rewarded and recognized for their personal contributions, which motivates them to do more and continue to grow. The combined result is that it reduces their desire to leave the company, and, in many instances, it increases their motivation to do a good job and remain with the company.

When employee turnover is reduced, the organization saves the funds to search, relocate and train new employees.

Safety

When employees are involved with the personal management of their tasks and assignments, they are empowered to work within the boundaries that enable them to make their jobs safer and more efficient. Most companies report a reduction in workers’ compensation claims and, as a result, see lower insurance premiums. This can provide significant savings, especially in the manufacturing environment where frequent accidents occur. When employees understand the financial impact of these claims, they are motivated and empowered to make the necessary changes to increase safety.

Productivity

Empowerment sparks new ideas and concepts throughout the organization, including ways to reduce waste and increase productivity and efficiency. While these may be small improvements, in the empowered environment they add up to additional profits over time.

Additionally, empowerment improves the relationships among managers, leaders and employees, which correspondingly reduces complaints and grievances. While these elements are difficult to quantify, the productivity increase attributable to the resolution of these problems positively impacts the performance of the organization.

Lawsuits

Companies that have implemented an empowerment program have experienced a significant reduction in the number of lawsuits from employees and customers. An empowered workforce experiences increased job satisfaction, fosters better relationships with customers and suppliers, and produces a higher quality product or service. All of these factors contribute to a reduction in lawsuits and attorney fees.

Benefits

Benefit claims is an area organizations often overlook when assessing the overall effects and impact of empowerment. While savings will obviously vary depending on the benefit packages provided to employees, most companies report a reduction in medical and other health-related claims as job satisfaction and fulfillment rises.

Reputation

There is a demonstrable relationship between an enlightened workplace and overall performance. Companies who have empowered their employees are more productive, retain more customers and are more profitable. They are able to withstand economic pressures and competitive demands because of overall employee involvement.

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

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Seven Practical Applications of Ethics

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manatangle

An organization and each of its employees, wherever they may be located, must conduct their affairs with uncompromising honesty and integrity. Business ethics are no different than personal ethics and the same high standard applies to both. As a representative of their company all employees are required to adhere to the highest standard, regardless of local custom.

Everyone is responsible for their own behavior. We live in a culture where responsibility and accountability are minimized, with individuals hiding behind the label of “victim” as an excuse for their actions. There is right and wrong, black and white, but many would prefer to operate in shades of gray. As long as they do not cross the line, they feel that they are fine. As long as no one catches them, their behavior is acceptable.

Individuals operating in shades of gray feel ethics are not as important as the legality of their actions and think the ends justify the means. After all it is a results-driven environment and it is the results that matter.

While certain actions might be legal, they may also be unethical and reflect poorly on an organization as well as the individuals responsible for them. If these actions are tolerated and allowed, an organizational culture is created that undermines the customer’s confidence in the company, as well as its products and services and ultimately destroys its reputation in the marketplace.

Allowing even a single unethical activity can pull a thread that ultimately unravels the cloth of an organization. Actions have consequences and unethical actions and their consequences can have a rippling effect within a company. If all employees understand this and apply it to their actions and the actions of their colleagues, it will result in a stronger company. Both the company and an employees’ ongoing employment within it require compliance to this philosophy.

Ethical behavior cannot be legislated. It is a combination of strong values and the impact of the example set by peers and superiors. To better appreciate ethics, individuals must understand how the following factors interact with each other to impact their actions, behaviors and decisions:

Values

Values are the principles or standards of personal behavior. Most values are shaped early in life by parents, families, friends, teachers and spiritual leaders. As individuals mature, their values can be changed or biased by their experiences and the choices they make in life. Specific examples of sound values include honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, fairness and a sense of justice.

A primary value possessed by most individuals is acknowledging the difference between what is right and what is wrong. How one acts on this knowledge is the core of both value-based and ethical behaviors.

Norms

Norms are the guidelines or guiding values that define behavior in specific situations. Norms governing employee behavior can be formed by organizations, informally created by groups, or established by individual values. Some examples of organizational norms include:

  • Every employee is 100% responsible for their behavior.
  • Ethics are ethics.
  • There is no difference between business and personal ethics.
  • Ethics are critically important in both business and in life.
  • Employees are expected to act ethically 100% of the time.
  • Whether they will be discovered or not, employees must always do the right thing.
  • There are leadership obligations, which include giving clear direction and teaching fellow employees by example.
  • It is an employee’s obligation to keep those they supervise acting ethically.
  • Employees are expected to stop unethical acts, even if they think it will jeopardize their job.

Convictions

A conviction is a firmly held belief or opinion and can include one’s values, beliefs, corporate values and norms. A company’s strong ethical program relies upon employees’ uncompromising belief or conviction in “always doing the right thing.” This underlying conviction is the foundation for success.

Integrity

Integrity means acting unbiased by self-interest and within the framework of one’s values and norms. One of the most generally accepted norms of organizational behavior is that an individual’s private interests or desire to benefit personally should not influence how they carry out their responsibilities. An employee is corrupt when he or she damages the company by deriving personal benefits and gains from their decisions and actions.

Choices

Ethics is the collection of values, norms, standards and principles that provides a framework for action. Action requires individuals to make choices. Ethical choices often create personal dilemmas, where decisions may conflict with one’s personal values and beliefs. The bottom line in ethical behavior is determined by the individual choices one makes in both their business dealings and in their personal lives.

Ethical choices and decisions are unquestionably difficult to make. Some may impact profitability, employment or even personal relationships. The dilemma often lies in defining “the right thing,” which is not always obvious. This often involves determining and weighing the various consequences specific decisions will have on the problem or situation. Ethical decision making is further complicated by all involved parties emotionally arguing their positions. Emotional arguments are subjective and tend to charge the decision making environment. The right choice or “the right thing” will be an objective choice free of emotionalism. Once identified, the decision should be straightforward.

Courage

It takes courage to be ethical in the current cultural environment. Ethical decisions can be unpopular because of their impact on both the company and other employees. They can be stressful because of a fear of retribution or reprisals within the company and from others.

Courage must come from the uncompromising convictions, values and beliefs supported by an organization’s ethical philosophies and reinforced by the belief in “always doing the right thing.”

Behaviors

Integrity or ethical behavior is guided by each of the factors discussed within this lesson including values, norms, convictions, integrity, choices and courage. None is independent of the others and each supports the others. They are what define your behaviors as either ethical or unethical. Together they provide you with the guidelines that define your behavior.

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

Related:

You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

 Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You

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

Five Strategies to Maintain Your Focus

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menonlaptop

While it is easy for managers to start out with the best of intentions, many can be detoured by the uncontrollable events impacting their professional lives and company. When a crisis occurs, there is a tendency to immediately confront the challenge. While well-intentioned and often necessary, managers should not allow this thinking to cause them to lose focus on their goals and development.

Maintaining a results-oriented focus takes discipline and perseverance in the face of constant interruptions that demand both the manager’s time and attention. If managers are focused in their thinking, it must be strategic in nature, focusing on the long-term growth of the business rather than on the problem or crisis demanding their immediate attention. The ultimate solution to every problem must fit into the long-term goals of the manager.

It is important for managers to grasp that maintaining a focus on long-term goals and objectives and attaining a desired outcome is the result of doing the right things, at the right time, and in the right sequence. Often managers allow uncontrollable events and problems to make them lose sight of or even abandon their long-term plan and goals.

Managers who want to successfully maintain a results-oriented focus that allows them to consistently achieve their goals and desired outcomes must:

Develop Mental Discipline

Successful managers have developed the mental discipline that keeps them focused on their goals regardless of the problems and uncontrollable events they may encounter. Such hurdles must be overcome on the path to the successful accomplishment of their objectives.

Mental discipline allows managers to always keep an eye on their goals. They consistently keep the summit of the mountain in view, and do not allow daily problems to impede their progress. While daily problems may cause a setback, managers always make sure they are moving forward one step at a time.

Managers should understand that the attainment of mental discipline takes a conscious effort and perseverance. While not an easy road, it is achievable.

Adopt Strategic Thinking

To achieve and maintain a results-oriented focus, managers must learn to take a protracted view of their business, which means acquiring and polishing strategic thinking skills. These skills allow managers to create their focus and form part of their personal vision—the top of the mountain—in the first place.

The long view is opposed to tactical thinking that focuses only on short-term day-to-day activities. As companies evolve, many are empowering their employees and delegating the tactical activities lower in the organization. Employees assume much of the day-to-day decision making that directly impacts their performance and relationships with customers.

Plan

While strategic thinking was considered passé and outmoded during the heyday of the dot-coms, it is now clear that a lack of planning contributed mightily to their downfall. Successful managers develop a realistic plan, work the plan and stick to it. It is a simple concept, yet does require discipline.

A great deal of a plan’s success lies in its execution. Many managers develop excellent plans, but, because they have not properly executed and held to them, fail to see their fruits. The best plans are not complex instruments, but simple and designed to be easily and effectively carried out.

Question Activities

Many managers have a natural tendency to want to control everything within their sphere of influence. Yet it is this desire that causes many to lose focus on their long-range plan as they attempt to personally put out every fire and handle every issue.

As leaders, managers must empower their employees and delegate the tasks, assignments and responsibilities that do not advance them toward the attainment of their desired outcomes. In this light, every activity on their to-do list and calendar must be questioned on a consistent basis; if a particular pursuit does not advance the manager toward the accomplishment of their goals, it should either be delegated or eliminated.

Monitor Results

Successful managers tie the metrics that measure their unit’s progress directly to their plans. They then determine the frequency and content of the report that allows them to actively monitor progress toward their own and the organization’s goals.

Additionally, managers have flags built into their metrics that immediately signal potential problems when the numbers reported to them are outside normal ranges. The report allows them to quickly act and resolve the problem before it gets out of hand.

Excerpt: Professional Development: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 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

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: 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

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

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fearfulman

Before managers can successfully lead their organizational units through a transformational change, they must overcome existing general fears and negative attitudes. Most of these fears and attitudes have been formed over the past two decades by actions and decisions organizations have made that have detrimentally affected individual employees.

From the 1980s on, businesses have faced the greatest overall restructuring since the Industrial Revolution. The depth and scope of this restructuring has been painful. Many employees have experienced downsizing, layoffs and a host of management fads, including the chaos, uncertainty and heightened frustration of reengineering. The methods used often resulted in covering and masking a number of management actions and mistakes.

Pain was further increased by the visible unfairness and callousness of many employee layoffs. The result left for managers to deal with is an employee mindset that translates into a lack of willingness to contribute personal initiative and productive work. This reflects itself in less effective teaming efforts and a lower output of quality decisions and products, as well as decreasing the loyalty leaders require from their unit members to lead their organization through the ongoing transformational process.

This is important for managers to grasp because organizations competing in the twenty-first century need the willing help and assistance of intelligent, motivated, collaborative and enterprising employees. This presents leaders with a real challenge: they must first work with their employees to overcome the problems and sentiments of past organizational actions before moving forward into an active transformation. Organizational stakeholders and investors who want to see increased results and overall improvement further complicate the process.

The International Survey Research Corporation, which tracks employee satisfaction for Fortune 1000 companies, reported that since 1989 employees:

  • Feel that management fails to provide clear direction.
  • Do not believe what management says.
  • Are less sure about keeping their jobs.
  • Worry about their company’s future.
  • Fear being laid off.
  • Feel overall morale is lower.

These facts frame the starting point defining where many leaders find themselves in the face of transformational change in their organizations. While time heals all wounds, most managers do not have this luxury in the face of the chaotic events and issues.

The most practical answer to overcoming these fears and attitudes is increasing employee empowerment. However, this is not likely to work without the total commitment of everyone holding a leadership position. Leadership can come from the ranks of senior managers or from organizational unit and team leaders. Any major transition will not work without a commitment from each level.

In addition to employee empowerment, managers need to establish working teams to tackle ongoing problems and concerns. It is better to establish multiple teams than to create one involving every employee in the organizational unit; the best workable size is between five and six members. In many instances, teams can work on the same problems. This furnishes a method of developing multiple solutions and alternatives. A collaborative team can be established to select the best solution and then assign specific aspects of it to each team to address and implement.

Employing a team approach demands specific leadership skills, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Effective follow up procedures

If managers fail to develop one of these three skills or eliminate them from their leadership contributions, the team will break down.

Managers furthermore cannot assume that if they simply form a team, participants will decipher what needs to be done and how things need to be accomplished. They must train unit members in working together in teams, focusing on the important issues, dealing with other teammates, and getting results.

In order for this training to be successful, managers must make sure the following team elements are adhered to, including:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Good communications
  • Effective dissemination of business objectives so the team understands how it fits into the general business plan
  • An effective process to guide and direct the actions of the team

While empowerment and an effective team approach will not immediately resolve many of the nagging employee problems and attitudes a manager must actively deal with, it does establish a foundation for improved performance and participation. As leaders initially start the process, they will need to develop strategies to cope with and address the emotional baggage issues brought to the table by their employees. They must allow the venting of frustrations and criticisms, then eliminate each of these issues in turn until full participation is achieved.

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

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Managers as Facilitators of Change

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 Challenge of Handling Conflict

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manpointing-atemployee

Conflict in the workplace is often created when somebody wants to make a change another party does not agree with. Often it only takes one to create controversy. This person draws others—who many times in order to maintain the relationship have no option—into the vortex. Since this can lead to these people then terminating their employment with the company, the conflict must be resolved.

The role of the leader includes mediating conflicts between employees. Many leaders not confident in their ability to resolve stressful conflict may seek to overlook, minimize, or avoid it altogether, allowing it to fester and grow through backbiting and constant complaining that saps the productivity of the organizational unit.

In some cases, unresolved conflict may mushroom into a legal issue with one or more parties using attorneys to resolve the problem. This often has wide-ranging ramifications for both the company and the involved leader.

It is important for leaders to understand that conflict and disagreements are part of the workplace environment and that it is in everyone’s best interest to develop the skills to resolve these disputes quickly and equitably. Effective leaders learn to watch for any potential conflicts and quickly address the pertinent issues before they explode into a bigger problem. Conflicts and disputes are best addressed early on before they become more complex and difficult to handle.

“Conflict” is used to describe numerous situations that are not in fact conflicts, but problems of indecision and personal stress. Conditions induce workers whose jobs are interdependent to feel angry and perceive others as being at fault. These situations and reactions constitute a business problem that must be resolved.

What Causes Conflict

There are seven types of conflicts. The leader who can develop a clear understanding of the issues greatly reduces the likelihood of mismatching problems and solutions.

Leaders should understand that most conflicts are complex and can include several elements of different issues. Leaders must carefully observe to determine the actual issues involved in order to match causes with solutions.

Data

Data conflicts arise over facts, figures and statistics and will have their solutions in obtaining new data or verifying and clarifying existing data.

Personality

Where there are people there will be personality conflicts. While in general a person cannot hope to please everyone all of the time, the problem is often directly attributable to the manner in which parties interact with one another and can be addressed by improving communication between involved parties. This may include clearly stating needs and developing clear expectations or even written agreements between conflicting parties.

Values

Clashes over values occur when disagreeing parties have real or perceived incompatibilities in their personal belief systems. Solutions include increased tolerance, understanding and acceptance of opposing points of view.

Resources

Disputes often arise from struggles over a real or perceived scarcity of available resources to adequately perform a job or achieve objectives.

‘History’

Conflicts can stem from unresolved experiences, problems and issues. These conflicts can only be settled by revisiting the past. Issues were created over time, and as such will take time to resolve. Both parties must be allowed to vent their frustrations and perspectives on the issue. The separate issues identified must be addressed and trust reestablished between the conflicting parties.

External Sources

External conflicts refer to the realities of life outside the workplace including anxiety over childcare, health, finances, divorce and other personal issues.

Psychological

These conflicts are caused or maintained by the psychological needs of individuals including the desire for power, control, autonomy and recognition. Psychological issues are often masked by other more tangible problems and may be difficult to distinguish. These issues can only be resolved by addressing the individual’s psychological needs.

Common Responses to Conflict

Individuals in conflict will normally employ one or more of the following three basic responses.

Fighting

When an individual chooses to fight, they are taking a side and getting caught up in the emotional energy flying around the dispute. These individuals are only in touch with their personal feelings and those on their side of the dispute.

A fighting response may be appropriate when a legal point must be decided, the moral issue is at stake or when a clear victor will not damage the relationship between conflicting parties.

Avoidance

Individuals who engage in avoidance are trying to protect themselves from conflict by erecting psychological barriers. This is their way of handling conflict from a safe distance. These individuals have difficulty empathizing with other parties due to the distance they have created between them.

Avoidance may be appropriate when it is important to allow the conflict time and space to de-escalate.

Acquiescence

Individuals simply give up and drop their demands when faced with a conflict. Most feel it is not worth the fight, but may feel used and manipulated later on. The problem is unresolved and festers until it erupts at a future date.

In other cases, individuals acquiesce because they prefer to give up on smaller issues to win when larger problems arise.

Resolving Conflict

The most effective means of settling conflict is to bring all parties together and allow them to air their side of the issue. Leaders must carefully listen to and observe the interaction between conflicting parties and identify the specific mix of issues involved.

Once the true issues are on the table, each must be individually resolved as outlined above. Leaders must be careful to match solutions to the problem. For instance, a historical conflict cannot be resolved by addressing psychological issues nor can a relationship conflict be resolved by addressing value issues. Solutions must take into account the underlying issues of the conflict.

Leaders must take care to completely resolve each issue to both parties’ satisfaction. Any issue left unresolved will fester and return as a bigger problem in the future. This includes any conflict with a forced resolution that one or more of the parties is compelled to accept.

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

With Conflict, Nothing is Straightforward

Conflict Does Not Occur in a Vacuum

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

Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

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peopleinteracting

Leaders teach employees how to perform their delegated assignments and tasks in order to assure their timely and accurate completion. An effective method of educating employees both ensures complete understanding of assignments and addresses productive ways to complete them successfully.

When tasks are delegated, many leaders become frustrated by the inability of employees to complete assignments in a timely and competent manner. Leaders often feel completing assignments by themselves is easier and faster. This becomes an excuse and a barrier to delegating altogether. It also hampers the leader’s ability to grow and increase their productivity.

Leaders understand that when they begin to delegate tasks and assignments, time and patience are needed to educate their employees to perform competently.

Leaders regularly delegate assignments, but continue to see employees fall short of assignment completion and the expectations set for them. This is often the result of assignments or tasks being misunderstood, ignored, forgotten or viewed as overwhelming. These negative outcomes are generally attributed to improper or ineffective employee education.

Leaders know that in order to increase productivity and results, the first step is to properly educate their employees in how they want the task and assignment carried out and how specifically to do it. Employees must also be made aware of set time frames for accomplishing the work and the desired results the leader expects.

While employees may stumble initially, leaders understand that their proficiency will increase greatly with time and experience.

Use of the following six-step instructional method is a top priority for leaders because it eliminates unsuccessful assignment implementation and completion.

Review the Assignment

In order to effectively educate employees, leaders begin by previewing the overall assignment, task or responsibility. They look at all the components necessary to complete it effectively in a timely fashion and review their personal expectations in regard to it. Developing notes and reference points to use when meeting with individuals to be assigned is essential.

Explain Clearly and Carefully

One main responsibility in educating employees is to make instructions as clear and precise as possible. Leaders know that explaining clearly is a twofold process. They need to present their information in a way that is logical and free of confusion or ambiguity. The other side of clarity is how an employee perceives, interprets and responds to the instructions.

Leaders make it a point to use vocabulary that is on the employee’s level of understanding. Specific examples are used that relate directly to the tasks and expectations within the given assignment. Leaders carefully organize and sequence the components of each task to be assigned. They eliminate irrelevant or unrelated information and are logical and realistic in their expectations and requirements.

Apply ‘Think Time’

It is vital to explain in detail the work that needs to be done. Leaders need to both offer ideas or suggestions as to how best accomplish it and build in “think time” for employees to ponder and absorb what is being said. These are pauses inserted between major points of discussion, and include various essential components related to the task or the employee’s questions regarding the assignment.

There is a time difference between hearing and comprehending. People talk much faster than one can actually listen. This is why leaders make it a point to explain small portions of an overall assignment within a given time frame, affording the necessary space for employees to think through the instructions and various responsibilities that apply to all aspects of their assignment. Additional time is allowed to formulate questions and concerns so employees feel thoroughly prepared.

Assign Reference Materials and Individual Resource People

There may be times throughout the course of an assignment when an employee needs to use outside resources. Leaders cover these contingencies in their instructions.

Employees should be given the names of two or more people that can help them in problem situations. Reference materials should also be offered with detailed explanations of how they can be used and for what types of situations. Discussions and illustrations on how and where to find solutions to problems pertaining to their assignments need to be included in the instructional process.

Repeat and Readdress Directions and Specific Points

As total understanding is key to task achievement, leaders consistently repeat and readdress major points, issues and detailed components of assignments. This repetition focuses the employee’s attention on what is being said. Repeating and readdressing issues also helps leaders avoid inserting last-minute changes in their assignments and/or instructions. It is also a good way to survey the understanding levels of an employee. Leaders find many employees are ready to begin their assignments immediately after one good instructional period. Many will need little or no intervention and prodding afterward.

Self-Test for Assignment Understanding

Leaders encourage employees to test themselves in instructional areas that are not clear to them. The process includes being able to identify and openly state the main idea of the various components, steps, actions and responsibilities in their assignments. They should be able to recall exact directives of each separate phase of their assignment. Employees should be able to verbally detail what they need to do, when it needs to be done, and how best to accomplish it.

Ideas, concepts, methods or areas that remain unclear need to be revisited. Instructions should be given again in a learning style best suited to achieving total understanding. Leaders find that self-testing works effectively at the end of an instructional period to review and solidify the various details and processes within the given assignments.

Excerpt: Delegation: 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

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: 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

Six Ways to Turn a Poor Performer Around

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manwithproblememployee

Every manager will have one or two poor performers in their unit or department. They may have inherited these individuals when they assumed the manager’s position and now must deal with them by either turning them around or terminating them for poor performance.

Employees’ negative behaviors often impact their overall performance and mirror their personal skills, attitudes and levels of discipline and perseverance. Many individuals have the “right stuff” to be successful, and only need guidance and direction to focus their abilities and increase and sustain their performance.

It is essential for managers to be able to distinguish between employees who can be rehabilitated and those who should find another company and/or profession.

People who are being unfair to both themselves and the company by only surviving in their job need frank talk about their career options.

On the other hand, employees who are struggling but have the ambition or potential can, with the proper guidance and direction, be turned into above-average, even excellent performers. It is often more sensible financially to work with these individuals rather than recruit and train new people, and also from an ethical perspective these people deserve the opportunity to turn themselves and their work around.

Managers must have a plan and structure to transition struggling people into better-than-average performers. The following steps can be used to turn a poor performer into a highly productive employee:

Define Performance Levels

Many employees are genuinely unaware of what constitutes acceptable behavior and performance. Often a manager will inherit several people who were simply not properly informed as to what is expected of them. Past managers may have dropped the ball, having failed to work with these individuals to develop their potential.

The first step a manager must take is to inform the employee that his or her behavior is unacceptable and that it is negatively impacting their performance. The employee should be educated as to the various levels of performance that are acceptable and a realistic time frame established for rehabilitation and bringing his or her work into line with established standards.

Analyze Behaviors

Managers must take the time to review and analyze the employee’s typical work-related performance and activities in order to identify the specific behaviors that must be eliminated, modified or replaced with more productive efforts.

Such discussions can be sensitive and put the individual on the defensive. He or she must be made to understand that the time and effort being expended is done so with the belief that his or her performance can be improved. They should also understand that if the manager did not think this the case he or she would have been removed from the company. Tactfully done, this should motivate the employee to change and make them more amenable to recommendations to improve their performance. The manager should further make it clear that a failure to improve adequately could well have dire repercussions.

Establish Coaching Plan

The manager, with the employee’s assistance, should develop a realistic and attainable coaching plan to assist him or her to change their behaviors and achieve acceptable levels of performance.

The coaching plan should be confined to a particular time frame with specific objectives met by predetermined points. Each goal and objective should be attainable and easily measured by both parties. The full responsibility for their implementation falls on the employee with the manager providing full support and assistance as required.

Commit to Goals and Objectives

Once a coaching plan is developed and agreed upon by both parties, it is important that both the employee and manager commit themselves to the outlined goals and objectives. While the employee will carry the majority of accountability for the plan, the manager must commit to fulfilling his or her portion of the responsibility as completely as possible if it is to be successful. This may include providing the employee individualized training and reinforcement as well as other commitments of time and energy.

If managers want these individuals to make a positive change, they must actively work with them toward these goals. Developing a plan and leaving these individuals without adequate supervision and support is a recipe for failure—and is unfair. It builds his or her expectations for improved performance and will result in total demoralization when they are unable to make the necessary changes on their own.

Manage Goals and Objectives

The implementation of the coaching plan is the most critical element of resolving negative behaviors and turning an employee’s performance around. Both employee and manager must actively manage the goals and objectives with the employee actively working toward their accomplishment and the manager keeping them focused and on track. This means he or she must positively reinforce the employee’s desirable behaviors and provide redirection when old behaviors resurface. Additionally, as the manager coaches their employee, he or she is providing constructive criticism to guide and direct them in attaining their goals and objectives.

Measure Progress Against Goals

As coaching plans are implemented, managers must measure the employee’s progress at regular intervals and provide full and sufficient feedback in order for them to make needed adjustments. As the employee progresses toward the attainment of his or her goals and objectives, monitoring can be less frequent and intensive.

When the employee happily does meet the stated goals and objectives, the manager should celebrate the individual’s success to reinforce their good work. While some managers will assume they are just doing what is expected of them, any major change is worthy of celebration.

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

Related:

Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

Leaders Succeed When Employees Are Successful

Three Reasons Why Leaders Fail

Looking into the Crystal Ball

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Leadership Styles: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communication in the Workplace: 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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When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

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headinhands

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

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

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

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively. This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

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

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader. In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

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

Employee’s Role

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

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

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development. Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

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

The Organization’s Role

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

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

Question the Premises

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

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures. With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

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

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

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

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Managers as Facilitators of Change

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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