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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

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Louis Gerstner - IBM

Louis Gerstner – IBM

Leaders have ideas and a personal vision of what they feel their organization is capable of accomplishing. Ideas and vision are meaningless unless a leader can effectively communicate them to others and win their approval.

When leaders introduce a new idea to an organization, they are not only selling that new idea, they are selling the concept of change.

In many organizations, the concept of change is not readily accepted and often takes time and patience to implement. This is where many leaders find their values and principles tested. Their ideas are often not accepted at first and they must present them over and over again until they are. However, during this period, each rejection causes the leader to reevaluate their position and refine their ideas until they find acceptance.

As facilitators of change, leaders will encounter many barriers and obstacles within their organization. It requires time, persistence and the ability to organize and effectively communicate new ideas and concepts. A true leader will not give up on their vision and the ideas and concepts that define it. They are convinced of the merit of their ideas and remain focused until they are able to see them implemented.

Leaders must use effective communication methods to implement their ideas including the following steps:

Evaluate

Before a leader can present and sell their idea to others, he or she must take the time to make sure it is carefully conceived and thought through. It is not sufficient to simply state an idea and then hope the organization implements it. Rather, before presenting a new idea or concept, the leader must examine it from all aspects, perspectives and viewpoints. He or she must determine if the idea is feasible in terms of time, money, personnel and other available resources.

A poorly conceived idea or proposal has little hope of a fair hearing, much less being approved.

Substantiate

A leader can best move an idea or concept forward by taking the time to research whether or not the idea has worked elsewhere. If it was tried at another company location or within the industry, there may be results and statistics that can be used for validation.

Leaders can substantiate their conclusions with impartial documentation cited in trade journals, magazines, newspapers, books and industry research papers. Naysayers will find it difficult to dispute a well-documented and conceived idea.

Develop Scenarios

Before formally presenting a new idea or concept, leaders should take the time to develop a best- and worst-case scenario. Typically, neither the best- nor worst-case scenario will occur. Actual results will normally fall somewhere between the two extremes, but before a final decision is made it is important to identify the exposure to the organization.

It should be noted that when leaders develop scenarios, the assumptions on which they are based are critical. The more realistic and substantiated the assumptions, the more reliable the scenario. Faulty assumptions can produce a skewed, unrealistic and therefore unreliable scenario.

Solicit Feedback and Support

Before making a formal presentation, astute leaders will solicit feedback from allies and associates. This provides an initial forum to test their ideas and concepts while gathering additional feedback in order to make modifications and improvements before a formal presentation is made. It also allows leaders to build the internal support they need to move their ideas and concepts forward.

Link Benefits to Idea

Individuals will support a new concept or idea when they grasp the benefits to be derived from it. Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”  Leaders can use this reality to their advantage by clearly outlining and communicating the benefits of their idea to the organization, employees and customers. This allows leaders to build internal support as individuals realize the personal benefits they will experience from the idea once it is implemented.

Review Timing

New ideas and concepts can be welcomed at certain times and ignored at others. If the organization is dealing with many other issues or it is the end of the budget, new ideas and concepts may not be received or tabled until circumstances change. These circumstances can affect whether a new proposal is even reviewed.

Leaders must be aware of the timing of their presentation so that it is well received. They understand the priorities of their organization and wait until they know their ideas will be received and allocated the time and resources to fully evaluate them.

Communicate with Passion

The creation of new ideas and concepts are part of a leader’s vision for the organization. They must communicate their ideas with passion and paint a vivid picture of their vision in order for the audience to appreciate the positive changes that will come with it. A lackluster presentation makes for lackluster results.

Anticipate Objections

An effective communicator will anticipate objections to their idea(s). Rather than passively wait for these negative comments to occur, he or she will immediately address them at the beginning of the presentation with documented facts and figures. By anticipating and addressing objections up front, fewer objections will occur later. Problems arise when leaders attempt to hide and mask negative information, problems and implications. This renders their presentation suspect and subject to more intense scrutiny.

Identify Best Communications Method

Depending upon the scope and complexity of a new idea or concept, there may be multiple ways to present an idea to superiors, associates and employees. Leaders must determine what will be the most effective manner of communicating their ideas, whether it be a memo, report or a physical presentation to a group or committee. The optimal mode of communication will vary, but leaders should consider that which will best convey their new idea or concept to the decision making individual or body.

Request an Evaluation

When leaders encounter resistance to the implementation of an idea or concept, they request a controlled evaluation to be conducted on a limited basis. This provides the decision maker(s) with concrete facts on which to base their final decision.

Excerpt: Improving Communications 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

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

Execution: Six Action Steps

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dynamicsleadership

In the face of overwhelming change, it is often difficult to predict the future with any certainty. Managers must have the flexibility to adapt to change and harness its forces to their advantage. In many cases the results of such an upheaval cause a shift in both thinking and actions. While this process can be difficult for some managers to adjust to, one thing is certain: they can either adapt or be bypassed. Market and business conditions are unforgiving to the manager who resists change.

Managers must recognize that many of the traditional business models of the past are no longer applicable. A number of organizations have employed a host of management fads over the past decade with either limited success or disastrous results. Aside from the implementation of new ideas and concepts meant to enrich the authors rather than the company, it is certain that managers must deal with the ever-increasing forces of change that appear to be both overwhelming and unrelenting.

It is important for managers to understand that they are forced to adapt to and align themselves with the changes impacting their industry and company. The traditional direct-and-control role is being replaced by the principles of active leadership and empowerment as the most effective method to anticipate and handle changes in the business environment and marketplace. As a result, the manager is required to take a proactive rather than a passive stance. In this way leaders are on the alert and prepared to deal with the constantly changing business environment.

Managers must adapt to meet the demands of their company, customers and the marketplace. Their professional development and transformation into a proactive leader is interlinked with the changes their organization must make to survive and prosper. The shift can be accomplished by the continual application of the ideas listed below. Since change is continuous and relentless, the evolution of new ideas and professional development must also be ongoing.

Brainstorm

Managers must always be seeking new ideas to implement in their business. The best source of new ideas and insights lies within the native knowledge of their individual employees. They are positioned in the front lines of the business where they gather feedback from both coworkers and customers, and see firsthand what the competition is doing in the marketplace. Unfortunately, in many organizations this wealth of knowledge is seldom tapped, much less converted into a useful form. Yet this source of information, insight and ideas are at the manager’s fingertips.

Managers need to schedule ongoing brainstorming sessions to utilize their employees’ knowledge and work through ideas and concepts. Where geographically dispersed branches or locations prohibit this, managers should consider a threaded discussion group using email as a tool to engage their employees as a group.

Brainstorming has distinct advantages in that it feeds on participant synergy in order to build on ideas and concepts. Most participants feel energized and motivated when the exercise is properly undertaken and all ideas and feedback are considered and treated with respect.

Abandon Prejudices

Most seasoned managers have personal prejudices regarding how things in their business should be run. Formed from their experiences and successes over the span of their career, these biases can hinder a manager’s ability to develop and implement new ideas and concepts. With the speed and impact of change in the world now, it is essential to know that what has worked in the past may no longer be effective, and that the fact that old processes may still be in place does not mean there are not better ways of doing things.

New ideas and concepts developed during brainstorming or from other forms of feedback should not be summarily dismissed as a “bad fit” for the corporate culture. Managers need to put aside their personal prejudices and examine viable ideas from all angles in order to determine whether they have an application or can improve employee and company performance.

Implement New Ideas

While managers should seek out new ideas from their employees, customers and their own research, more must be done. After developing these ideas, determining their applicability to the company, and prioritizing them, managers must then implement those that can have the most impact.

People generally fear that new approaches will not work. However, managers must overcome their reluctance by continually testing new ideas. If they do fail, they should learn from the experience and move on to other concepts. It is from a series of failures and the subsequent lessons learned that new and viable ideas are built.

Remove Barriers

Managers must remove barriers their employees may encounter that hinder their effectiveness, productivity and efficiency. In the sales environment, this can typically include reports as well as reworking procedures that hinder their ability to directly deal with a prospect or customer.

Managers need to measure what is actually needed versus what is currently required. The implementation of new ideas and the increase in the level of customer service may require a streamlining of procedures to enhance the individual employee’s ability to be productive and attain desired results.

Think Small

From the mid-90s to the mid-00s there was a tendency for companies with a “bigger is better” mindset to expand through acquisitions and mergers. However, managers must now think small. This adjustment may include reorganizing units into smaller cells that are more adaptable to change. Additionally, thinking small should translate into the areas of goals and planning. IBM built their business on the philosophy of small successes. By breaking their goals down into a series of less daunting, more easily attained steps, employees were able to build their confidence and motivation by completing one after another. The outcome was the same as giving employees the entire goal at once, but in this manner it did not seem insurmountable.

Lead with Passion

As managers transform themselves into proactive leaders they must evolve in their style so that they lead with a passion, sharing their personal vision at every opportunity with their employees, customers and suppliers. They will find that their passion is contagious and that it will impact the performance of the entire team.

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

Related:

Four Major Hindrances to Empowerment

 Creating a Culture of Innovation

 Why New Ideas Trigger a Competitive Advantage

 You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose 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

Mistakes as a Source of Innovation

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos  Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Effective leaders adhered to an unalterable expectation that mistakes and failure need to be an acceptable part of the process of innovation. They opposed “zero tolerance for mistakes” policies, many of which are still being practiced in many companies today. They considered these to be hindrances to innovation.

“It’s easy to believe that Jeff Bezos is one of the great innovators. But that’s not exactly the case. His rise into Fortune 500-dom actually has little to do with innovation and more to do with iteration. If anything, Amazon demonstrates how a cutting-edge Internet company – of all things – can succeed slowly. The trick is taking a million tiny steps – and quickly learning from your missteps.” [1]

The mega-inventors of the 19th Century are also prime examples of this philosophy. “[George] Westinghouse (Westinghouse) built on his engineering skills, learning how to design and evaluate industrial trials. Time after time he turned trial failures into commercial successes. Even his competitors hailed his problem solving skills…” [2] “[Thomas] Edison (Edison Electric) viewed even disasters as an opportunity for learning. On one occasion his lab stove went out in the dead of winter, causing an assortment of expensive chemicals to freeze. On another occasion unprotected chemicals were damaged by sunlight. Instead of bemoaning the losses, Edison put aside all other projects to catalogue changes in the properties of the bottled substances… ‘He knew how to turn lemons into lemonade.’[3]

Walt Disney (Disney) took a proactive approach toward mistakes. “Walt found a way to push improvement without laying blame. [He] take(s) a look at what [someone says]… not glossing over a problem with the gag. He implicitly acknowledges it could be better. But rather than indulge an employee’s criticism of another worker, he demands a positive, forward-thinking attitude – ‘what we can do to make it better…’ Walt kept employees engaged and contributing by not shooting down suggestions, but instead steering employees toward improving their ideas… Walt’s approach to suggestions as the difference between responding ‘Yes, if…’ or ‘No, because…’ [4]

As Sam Walton grew Wal-Mart into a retailing giant, he realized that “not all of his ideas worked. The minnow buckets didn’t sell. People in Wisconsin didn’t go for his Moon Pies. But when he saw he was wrong, he admitted his mistake and went on to try something else. And he wanted his associates to be the same way. He’d get them together on Saturday mornings to share their success and admit their failures. That culture of candor produced a great environment to capture ideas. It helped that he had ‘very little capacity for embarrassment.’[5]


[1]  Quittner Josh, The Charming Life of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (Fortune Magazine, April 15, 2008)

[2]  Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (Algora Publishing, New York, 2007) p. 61

[3]  McAuliffe Kathleen, The Undiscovered World of Thomas Edison (Atlantic Magazine, December 1995)

[4]  Niles Robert, Disney Legends Recall Walt Disney and the ‘Yes, It…. Way of Management (Theme Park Insider, November 19, 2009)

[5]  Walton Sam Made in America. A Money Book Summary (character-education.info)

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 2012)

Read a Free Chapter

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

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leaderinchair

Critical thinking is a powerful process if understood and applied effectively. When developing critical thinking skills, it is important to understand more about the activity and process that comprises it. Once understood, fears about actively applying critical thinking skills will likely dissipate. Critical thinking is able to translate the thinking process into clear, persuasive, truthful language, which is carefully and logically crafted. At the same time it is able to convert perceptions and reactions into concepts, ideas, assumptions, suppositions, inferences, hypotheses, questions, beliefs, premises and logical arguments.

There are many misconceptions about critical thinking that tend to hinder individuals from continually working to develop it. Unfortunately many assume the process is too difficult and remain unenlightened as to how the process can help them not only in their work environments, but in their own personal lives as well.

Four roadblocks often create negative feelings about getting more involved in the critical thinking process:

  • It is more of a negative process, since it tends to tear down ideas and inserts nothing in their place. In actuality, it is a positive process that is able to put things in a more realistic perspective.
  • It will lead to the inability to make commitments to people or ideas. In actuality, commitments become informed ones.
  • It seems to involve traumatic change since one is expected to continually abandon old assumptions. In actuality, some beliefs stay the same individuals simply become more informed.
  • It is detached, unemotional and cold. In actuality, it is highly poignant and liberating, since individuals tend to be free of their past assumptions and the anxiety of self-scrutiny.

Critical Thinking Encompasses Specific Elements

Every process or method is made of essential components, and critical thinking is no different. These components provide a structure to the process, which if incorporated, makes persuasive, truthful and supportive verbal communication possible to highly influence others’ points of view and message acceptance. The major components in critical thinking include: perception, assumptions, emotion, language, argument, fallacy, logic, and problem solving.

Perception

Perception is considered to be the manner in which individuals receive, interpret and translate experiences. How individuals perceive things works to define how they think. Perception tends to provide individuals a significant filtering system.

Assumptions

Assumptions are central to critical thinking. They tend to be implied, where individuals are not always conscious of them. Assumptions are not always bad and often rest on the notion that some ideas are obvious. They tend to make individuals comfortable with their present beliefs, shutting out any alternatives.

Emotion

Trying to leave emotion out of almost anything is impossible as it is part of everything people do and think. Emotions are the number one cause of creating and putting into place thinking and operating barriers, which are continually used as a defense mechanism. Critical thinkers do not ignore or deny emotions but learn to accept and manage them.

Language

Thinking can’t be separated from language since both tend to have three primary purposes: to inform, persuade and explain. Language denotes (designates meanings) and connotes (implies or suggests something), and relies heavily on the use of metaphors. Metaphors are powerful language tools, which are able to influence how individuals think and problem solve. These figures of speech give great color and depth to one’s language. Metaphors can be short phrases, stories, or even poetic renditions and is a verbal message that listeners can easily interpret and visualize.

Argument

An argument is a claim, which is used to persuade that something is (or is not) true, or should (or should not) be done. An argument contains three basic elements: an issue, one or more reasons or premises, and one or more conclusions. An argument can be either valid or invalid based on its structure and only premises & conclusions are reached, which are either true or false.

The goal of critical thinking is to implement a sound argument, which has both a valid or proper structure and contains true premises. This is where using logic makes all the difference.

Fallacy

Reasoning that doesn’t meet the criteria for being a sound argument is considered erroneous, or fallacious. A fallacy comes from incorrect patterns of reasoning. However, it does not always mean that the conclusion is false, but it does underscore the fact that the reasoning used to support it is not: valid, based on true premises, or complete and does not include all necessary relevant information.

Logic

Logic incorporates two methods or types of reasoning: deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning relies on facts, certainty, syllogisms, validity, truth of premises sound arguments and supported conclusions. Inductive reasoning relies on diverse facts, probability, generalizations, hypotheses, analogies and inductive strength.

Problem Solving Through Logic

A logic problem is like any problem. It requires:

  • Understanding the problem. In other words, listen, read & take heed.
  • Identifying all of the “unknowns” as well as the “knowns.”
  • Interpreting relationships between them (visual aids can help).
  • Generating a strategy from steps two and three.
  • Applying the strategy and solving the problem.
  • Repeating the process if it is necessary.

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

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

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:

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

The Productive Response to Failure

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Fred Smith - Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Fred Smith – Founder and CEO of FEDEX

The great and influential leaders were no strangers to failure. My research illustrates that most experienced levels of failure and adversity that would compel typical individuals to pack their bags and quit in frustration and disappointment. The levels of success they achieved did not come easily, but from persistence. Their personal levels of perseverance and self-reliance are what realistically defined them. Most viewed failure as a learning experience, rather than a defining event. Fred Smith (FedEx) observed, “Just because an idea isn’t implemented or doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that a person has failed.” [1]

Early in his career at Johnson & Johnson, General Robert Wood Johnson taught James Burke a valuable lesson about failure. “Shortly after he arrived at J&J in 1953 as a product director after three years at Procter & Gamble, Burke attempted to market several over-the-counter medicines for children. They all failed-and he was called in for a meeting with the chairman.

‘I assumed I was going to be fired,’ Burke recalls. ‘But instead, Johnson told me, ‘Business is all about making decisions, and you don’t make decisions without making mistakes. Don’t make that mistake again, but please be sure you make others.’”[2]

In 2001, John Chambers (Cisco) saw his company’s revenues and stock price fall off the cliff during the tech and telecom busts. He was challenged with the reality of massive and likely fatal failure. “Within days of realizing Cisco was crashing, Chambers leapt into trying to fix it. ‘He never dwelled on it,’ says Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM (IBM) … ‘John kept the company focused. He said this is where we are, and he drove the company forward.’

He reached out to [Jack] Welch (General Electric) and a handful of other CEOs. They told him that sudden downturns always take companies by surprise, ‘so I should quit beating myself up for being surprised,’ Chambers recalls. He did. Chambers decided that the free fall had been beyond his control. He now wraps it up in an analogy he retells time and again, likening the crash to a disastrous flood: It rarely happens, but when it does, there’s nothing you can do to stop it… Those other CEOs also told Chambers to figure out how bad it was going to get, take all the harsh action necessary to get through it and plan for the eventual upturn.” [3]

David Packard (Hewlett-Packard) faced failure and adversity in a gruff and straightforward manner. “When he returned to HP in the early 1970s after his stint as deputy secretary of defense and found the company on the verge of borrowing $100 million to cover a cash-flow shortage, he immediately met with employees and gave them what came to be known as a ‘Dave Gives ‘Em Hell’ speech. Packard lined up the division managers in front of employees and told them, ‘If they don’t get inventories under control, they’re not going to be your managers for very long.’ Within six months, the company once again had positive cash flow, to the tune of $40 million.” [4]

John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) advised, “‘Look ahead… Be sure that you are not deceiving yourself at any time about actual conditions.’ He notes that when a business begins to fail, most men hate ‘to study the books and face the truth.” [5]

[1] Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine, October 1, 1986)
[2] Alumni Achievement Awards: James E. Burke (Harvard Business School, 2003)
[3] Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)
[4] O’Hanlon Charlene, David Packard: High-Tech Visionary (CRN, November 8, 2000)
[5] Baida Peter, Rockefeller Remembers (American Heritage Magazine, September/October 1988, Volume 39, Issue 6)

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

Read a Free Chapter

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Only Certainty for Leaders is That Change Will Occur

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stressedwoman

It is difficult to predict leaders’ responses to change, as they must continually be on guard for unpredictable occurrences and forces, and in some cases immediately respond to a series of unknown and unanticipated events and circumstances. The only certainty is that change will occur, and leaders must be at the forefront of the process regardless of circumstances and apprehensions.

Change undoubtedly poses a challenge to every leader. This is because it can be anticipated only to the degree that it is predictable. Long-term changes and trends can be generally anticipated, but these changes are often complicated by numerous factors and elements continually altering and transforming themselves at varying rates of speed.

The concept of change also demands that leaders embrace stability and instability within the organization as it transforms itself. Several strategies that leaders need to employ during periods of change include:

Being Visible

The very nature of leadership demands that leaders be actively involved in their organizational unit. Leadership does not emanate from behind a desk or within an office. Leaders must be active and visible in the front lines of their business. Only when leaders are out and about among their employees can they see and feel the pace of progress, and witness firsthand the problems their employees are encountering.
Testing

Paces of change and organizational transformations demand that countless ideas be constantly generated and experimented with at all levels. Undoubtedly, some ideas will fail and some will succeed. The only way leaders can sort out the winners from the losers is by constantly applying new ideas and concepts on the line to test for feasibility and adaptability to their organization.

Listening

As leaders become increasingly visible, it is important that they simultaneously begin to develop listening forums where everyone within their organizational unit is sharing new ideas, celebrating minor successes and learning from small failures. This increases the synergy between employees, builds and solidifies team bonds, and enhances overall organizational cohesiveness.

Appreciating Failure

As aforementioned, an organization’s response to change as it transforms itself implies countless new ideas and concepts are being experimented with on a regular basis. Leaders know that constant experimentation means that they must test concepts, ideas and strategies rapidly—fail or succeed fast—and adjust quickly.

Active leaders must immediately discard bad ideas and learn from their failures. However, no idea can be deemed good or bad unless it has been adequately tested. The key is to learn from the failures and quickly move on to the next idea, building knowledge and expertise from a continual string of ineffective results, failures and shortcomings.

Taking Action

Leaders in the fast pace of change must be proactive rather than reactive. They cannot let the organizational bureaucracy interfere with the progress of their organizational unit. At times they must actively work against this bureaucracy when it regulates or inhibits the testing and experimentation of new ideas and concepts.

Effective leaders do not only involve their frontline employees in concept, idea and method experimentation, they encourage the participation of multi-functional teams as well, and work to get them fully involved in the process.

Learning from Customers

Leaders have learned that the external influence of the customer is a stabilizing factor in the midst of change. Successful leaders interact with their customers, and encourage employees at all levels to do the same. This can be accomplished through scheduled customer visits to the organization for discussions, observations and feedback, and by sending representatives out to the customer’s business. Once there, their job is to objectively observe exactly how specific products and services are being used and applied. They also interpret what problems occur and why, as well as each one’s impact on various time factors.

This allows leaders to cross-pollinate ideas and concepts throughout the organization so that all involved have mutual goals and objectives, increasing the overall quality of the product and its value to the customer.

Additionally, employee exposure to their customers makes daily tasks and assignments more tangible. Employees are able to see how the product they produce is used. This increases empowerment and overall responsibility toward the customer.

Making It Fun

The concept of change and accompanying process of organizational transformation are stressful. Most leaders have learned that they can ease stress by making certain elements of the process “fun.” This is not to say that leaders create a jovial and joking atmosphere, but that there is pleasure and enjoyment in accomplishing something together as a team and sharing interesting failures and mistakes in a non-critical atmosphere. It means keeping things light, celebrating the little successes, and using them to build on others to the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Change will throw many curves at an organization. It takes large doses of flexibility and participation to adapt to these trials. It also helps if leaders and employees lighten up at times where stress is at its highest, which helps to reduce the urge to take things far too seriously.

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

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

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

 

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Using Change to Increase Performance

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woman-w-data

The impact of change can often seem overwhelming to leaders, as most problems associated with it require the complete cooperation and participation of employees. This is especially true of problems occurring during the incremental phases comprising major changes, requiring countless decisions before effective solutions and methods can be implemented.

A single event or person does not control change. Change is often brought about by a series of internal and external forces that impact all within the organization. The forces that bring about change are too dynamic for any single individual to oversee and direct. Consequently, for change to be managed and controlled effectively, the willing participation and input of an organization’s entire workforce must be harnessed.

Change demands that all employees become actively involved, not only in the process of change itself, but also in the many decisions that change requires if a successful transformation is to occur.

Decision-making and leadership is a dynamic process in the face of change. Rather than passively dealing with change, leaders must become proactive in their decision-making, using the dynamics of change to increase performance and improve overall results.

The elements that enhance overall decision-making in a dynamic atmosphere include:

Freely Empowered Employees

There is no set formula or pattern for implementing or dealing with change. As an organization transforms itself, change is implemented by countless daily decisions made at all levels of the organization, which are solely guided by the leader’s vision. Unless employees, teams and workgroups are freely and fully empowered to make these decisions, a centralized decision making process remains in effect. This only works to hamper the organization’s ability to readily adapt to change. Centralized decision making quickly bogs leaders down, greatly reducing their effectiveness and motivation.

Leaders must ensure their employees are free to make operational decisions on issues impacting their jobs and performance. Even reluctant employees will be swept into the waves of change, compelling them to be full, active participants in the process, regardless of their feelings or apprehensions.

Free-Flow of Information

The facilitation of effective decision-making demands an open exchange of information. In the past, managers controlled information as a means of holding power and influence. In the face of change and transformation, all parties must be free to share all useful information and data so that more informed and lower-risk decisions can be consistently and expediently made.

A free-flow of information is not channeled into a single direction. It demands progression openly and in all directions, so that all parties are fully informed regarding the progress and impact of change at any given point in time. This gives the organization the ability to react quickly, and also allows it to readily adapt to changes on a needed basis.

Open Communication

Leaders must facilitate open channels of communication. Open communication encourages otherwise reluctant employees to report bad news or poor results free of fear of retaliation or punishment. If change is to be effectively managed, employees must feel free to openly communicate their feelings, observations, criticisms and findings with confidence that what they have to say will be fully respected and considered.
Encourage Experimentation

Change incorporates countless new ideas and concepts. Employees must be encouraged to take risks and try new methods and experiments. Not every idea will be successful or even feasible. Because of the pioneering nature of change, it is imperative employees understand they will be awarded the necessary freedom to experiment and tinker with new ideas, trial-and-error methods and creative concepts in order to isolate what works does and does not work.

The fact that many ideas might fail should be emphasized to help reduce frustration levels. In the midst of change transformation, failure is not as important as the lessons gained from it. Employees need to be encouraged to share their findings with others in the organization. The key is to test quickly and frequently in order to move the organization forward as expeditiously as possible.

Frequent Assessment

Leaders should hold frequent meetings with their employees to assess the progress of change within the organization. Their primary purpose is to share information and results based on the successes and failures of various ideas, trials and approaches.

Meetings should be used as a tool to tap the power of the group and provide realistic feedback and suggestions from astute observations. A successful meeting generates multiple employee perspectives and insights in order to disclose and detail what is working or not working within the organization.

Drive Down Decision Making

Leaders must drive decision making down deep within their organization. They must allow employees, teams and workgroups to make the daily tactical and operational decisions directly affecting their individual jobs.

Allowing members of the organization to generate decisions and solutions does not mean the leader shuns the responsibility of remaining actively involved in their decision making process. Rather, the decisions are guided by the leader’s vision and direction, and many will necessitate his or her input. However, to get the most out of their employees on a consistent basis, leaders empower them to make group and individual decisions having a direct impact upon their individual performance.

Close the Decision Making Loop

Leaders must ensure all decision-making loops are closed by closely monitoring the results of the collective decisions of their employees, teams and workgroups. Leaders must then share these findings with their employees so they can make any necessary adjustments, improvements or modifications based upon their feedback. Readjustment and the quest for improvement will naturally channel the process back to the starting point of the free-flow of information.

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

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

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

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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The Proper Use of Feedback Builds Consensus

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Productivity is enhanced and empowerment achieved when leaders solicit, then act upon employee feedback, ideas and concepts. Soliciting and acting upon feedback is the essence of leadership. The proper use of feedback allows leaders to build consensus among their employees and give them ownership of the ideas and concepts to be implemented within the organization.

There are critical differences between managers and leaders. Managers tend to direct and control without soliciting feedback and building employee consensus.

Leaders, on the other hand, build their strength from group consensus, acting as facilitator rather than controller. They understand the power and synergy of combining ideas and working together to achieve mutual goals.

The more involvement leaders seek from their employees, the easier it will be to implement new ideas, resolve nagging problems, minimize conflict and move the organization forward.

Leaders will find the more proficient they are in working with their employees and soliciting their input, the smoother things will run as many problems and headaches experienced in the past are eliminated.

The ideas and concepts created by employees during the feedback process can be easily implemented using the following techniques either in a group setting or individually.

Initiate Dialogue

The feedback process begins with the initiation of a dialogue between the leader and employee(s). This should include a clear and concise presentation of the problem or circumstance being addressed.

Whenever possible, a presentation of background material, including any and all supporting facts, should be included in order to afford employees a complete overview of the situation.

Research has shown that by providing employees with the complete information concerning a specific problem, they are more responsive, feel more involved and in the decision making process, and are more productive when the ideas are implemented.

Solicit Feedback

Once the dialogue has been initiated and the facts presented to the employees, the leader should solicit feedback from them and open the floor to discussion.

Respectfully Accept All Feedback

All ideas and feedback should be respectfully accepted and considered. One individual should be assigned to write the ideas down on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper for the group to see.

The leader should make sure no derogatory remarks are made as an individual presents an idea or gives their feedback. A failure to do so will further limit contributions from more reluctant members of the group. Leaders should solicit feedback from each individual in their group, even if they have to ask for it.

Group Similar Ideas & Concepts

Together with the members of the group, the leader should brainstorm to combine ideas and concepts. Often individuals communicate the same idea or concept, but in different ways.

The leader should facilitate the discussion and direct the grouping and combination of related ideas and concepts. They should make sure that the entire group agrees and is in consensus when performing these tasks.

Build on Ideas and Concepts

Once ideas and concepts have been combined, the leader should facilitate additional feedback and brainstorm ways to build and expand upon them. Leaders should make sure that all members of the group are involved and that their additional feedback is solicited. As new points are added and expanded upon, the group should always reach consensus before moving forward.

Prioritize

After adequate discussion has been concluded and the group has run out of new ideas, a consensus should be reached regarding prioritization of the refined ideas/concepts.

The basis for prioritizing each of the ideas should be that which best meets the criteria for resolving the problem or situation presented at the beginning of the discussion.

Assess Feasibility

Every organization has a limited amount of human, financial and physical resources. Leaders will find that the group will typically develop a number of ideas; however, available resources make it impossible to implement each of them. Therefore the group must determine which ideas are feasible under current organizational constraints. Remaining ideas can be tabled for further discussion when additional resources become available or after the initial ideas have been implemented.

Formulate a Plan

Once the final ideas have been selected, then under the leader’s direction the group should formulate a plan to implement them. A specific goal, timeline as well as individual responsibilities are assigned for every aspect of the plan. Additionally, a reporting and measurement mechanism should be included for overall accountability for the plan’s implementation.

Related:

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

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

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Active Leadership Takes Courage, Passion and Conviction

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Some individuals are natural leaders and automatically “take point” in any and all situations. Others must make a conscious choice to do so, possibly having reluctantly accepted an unexpected leadership role. These individuals are faced with a number of choices having a direct impact on their personal and professional lives.

Active leadership takes individual courage, passion and conviction. The role requires challenging established positions and procedures. It not only places the spotlight on leaders’ behaviors but also puts them under increased scrutiny by others who may not want them to succeed.

Individuals in this position cannot afford to take the path of least resistance. This is when leaders must face difficult choices with real implications for their professional and personal lives. It is not uncommon for emerging leaders to question their own motives and abilities once placed under extreme stress and pressure.

A leader is motivated by an inward desire to do the best they can to maximize both their employees’ efforts and overall organizational performance. While discomfort with increased scrutiny is natural, they must be able to continually persist and press forward toward their goals through adversity.

Effective leaders know they have to take a stand for necessary and essential changes if their organization is to become more competitive, develop inward strength and stability and prosper. It is the “weight” of leadership for a reason, but a necessary burden or challenge for those who see possibilities, opportunities and organizational potential.

The most common frustrations experienced by leaders are demonstrated in the contrasting roles of leaders and traditional managers.

Innovation

Managers are generally administrators of jobs and responsibilities. Leaders are organizational innovators. This means they are constantly identifying and implementing new creative concepts, principles and methods to enhance organizational effectiveness.

Managers typically copy and apply actions and methods known to work. Leaders continually develop new and original ideas. They try things that at times will not work or may even produce unexpected consequences.

Focus on People

Traditional managers tend to maintain the status quo and focus on systems and structures preserving their authority and control. This is an immediate frame of reference predicated upon short-term results and employees as workers with a job. Conversely, leaders pursue in-depth programs around developing their people’s potential. They make a concerted and ongoing effort to build trust and inspire confidence.

This means leaders must deal with resistant bureaucracies and the managers therein who are threatened by change and innovation. They must be willing to deal with opposition from employees and unions used to working under strictly controlled conditions and the barriers thrown in their way to frustrate their efforts and forward movement.

Change is not an easy process, especially when dealing with individuals fearful of its possible outcomes. Leaders must learn to deal with these frustrations and develop strategies to overcome them.

Differences in Style

A wide gulf exists between a typical managerial and leadership style. Traditional managers tend to ask “how and when,” leaders, “what and why.” As innovators, leaders continually question the status quo and challenge its premise, especially when it interferes with their employees’ ability to perform to their potential. Most are labeled troublemakers or rebels, rather than members of the team to be trusted and respected by upper management.

Leadership exacts a personal price. Leaders stand up for and do the right thing regardless of repercussions. They may not be popular, or at times even wanted within their respective organizations. Often their efforts go unappreciated for long periods of time.

However, true leaders continually stand up for what they believe in, relying on their personal visions, knowing in the end the results they and their employees produce will more than negate detractors’ tiresome objections.

Though working hard to meet what is expected of them, traditional managers tend to do as told without questioning the purpose of particular directives.

  • Even if they do not agree with a particular direction, they rarely openly challenge it.
  • They keep their eyes on the bottom line, knowing that as long as they do what they are told, they can maintain a comfortable existence.
  • They become easily threatened by any changes leaders attempt to make that will disrupt the workplace and possibly, their own security.

Leaders remain steadfast in their determination to effect the changes they believe will positively enhance and transform their organizations.

  • They expect resistance to their ideas, practices and methods, and that it will create frustrations and impediments to enacting operational or procedural changes.
  • They understand that though painful, their actions are necessary and will ultimately be rewarded.
  • As their ideas become refined to the point where they take root and develop, leaders derive personal satisfaction from seeing their visions and goals attained.
  • Leaders accept the burdens, frustrations and often lack of acceptance that comes with adhering to their beliefs.
  • They are continually “tempered in the furnace” of adversity.
  • It is this process of refinement that hones their leadership skills and makes them likely candidates for advancement, as compared to most managers taking safer and more secure roads to asserting their influence in the organization.

Related:

Three Reasons Why Leaders Fail

Leaders Are Judged By The Actions They Take

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

A Leader’s Management Style Sets the Organizational Tone

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

The Only Certainty for Leaders is That Change Will Occur

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menonlaptop

It is difficult to predict leaders’ responses to change, as they must continually be on guard for unpredictable occurrences and forces, and in some cases immediately respond to a series of unknown and unanticipated events and circumstances. The only certainty is that change will occur, and leaders must be at the forefront of the process regardless of circumstances and apprehensions.

Change undoubtedly poses a challenge to every leader. This is because it can be anticipated only to the degree that it is predictable. Long-term changes and trends can be generally anticipated, but these changes are often complicated by numerous factors and elements continually altering and transforming themselves at varying rates of speed.

The concept of change also demands that leaders embrace stability and instability within the organization as it transforms itself. Several strategies that leaders need to employ during periods of change include:

Being Visible

The very nature of leadership demands that leaders be actively involved in their organizational unit. Leadership does not emanate from behind a desk or within an office. Leaders must be active and visible in the front lines of their business. Only when leaders are out and about among their employees can they see and feel the pace of progress, and witness firsthand the problems their employees are encountering.

Testing

Paces of change and organizational transformations demand that countless ideas be constantly generated and experimented with at all levels. Undoubtedly, some ideas will fail and some will succeed. The only way leaders can sort out the winners from the losers is by constantly applying new ideas and concepts on the line to test for feasibility and adaptability to their organization.

Listening

As leaders become increasingly visible, it is important that they simultaneously begin to develop listening forums where everyone within their organizational unit is sharing new ideas, celebrating minor successes and learning from small failures. This increases the synergy between employees, builds and solidifies team bonds, and enhances overall organizational cohesiveness.

Appreciating Failure

As aforementioned, an organization’s response to change as it transforms itself implies countless new ideas and concepts are being experimented with on a regular basis. Leaders know that constant experimentation means that they must test concepts, ideas and strategies rapidly—fail or succeed fast—and adjust quickly.

Active leaders must immediately discard bad ideas and learn from their failures. However, no idea can be deemed good or bad unless it has been adequately tested. The key is to learn from the failures and quickly move on to the next idea, building knowledge and expertise from a continual string of ineffective results, failures and shortcomings.

Taking Action

Leaders in the fast pace of change must be proactive rather than reactive. They cannot let the organizational bureaucracy interfere with the progress of their organizational unit. At times they must actively work against this bureaucracy when it regulates or inhibits the testing and experimentation of new ideas and concepts.

Effective leaders do not only involve their frontline employees in concept, idea and method experimentation, they encourage the participation of multi-functional teams as well, and work to get them fully involved in the process.

Learning from Customers

Leaders have learned that the external influence of the customer is a stabilizing factor in the midst of change. Successful leaders interact with their customers, and encourage employees at all levels to do the same. This can be accomplished through scheduled customer visits to the organization for discussions, observations and feedback, and by sending representatives out to the customer’s business. Once there, their job is to objectively observe exactly how specific products and services are being used and applied. They also interpret what problems occur and why, as well as each one’s impact on various time factors.

This allows leaders to cross-pollinate ideas and concepts throughout the organization so that all involved have mutual goals and objectives, increasing the overall quality of the product and its value to the customer.

Additionally, employee exposure to their customers makes daily tasks and assignments more tangible. Employees are able to see how the product they produce is used. This increases empowerment and overall responsibility toward the customer.

Making It Fun

The concept of change and accompanying process of organizational transformation are stressful. Most leaders have learned that they can ease stress by making certain elements of the process “fun.” This is not to say that leaders create a jovial and joking atmosphere, but that there is pleasure and enjoyment in accomplishing something together as a team and sharing interesting failures and mistakes in a non-critical atmosphere. It means keeping things light, celebrating the little successes, and using them to build on others to the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Change will throw many curves at an organization. It takes large doses of flexibility and participation to adapt to these trials. It also helps if leaders and employees lighten up at times where stress is at its highest, which helps to reduce the urge to take things far too seriously.

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

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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