Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘managers

Seven Practical Applications of Ethics

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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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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

Eight Ways Others Evaluate Trust in Leaders

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As seen in numerous large-scale corporate scandals around the turn of the century, trust or a lack thereof has a dramatic impact on an organization. While an organization can be defined as trusting and empowering, it is the individuals within it who form the basis for these qualities.

The responsibility for fostering and nurturing trust does not lie with the bottom tiers of the organization, but the managers that lead it. Where there is no trust, there is no legitimacy to management.

The starting point is the personal commitment made by individual managers.

Trust and empowerment stem from the individual actions of the manager. However, once initiated, trust and empowerment create a synergy within the organization that has the ability to move it forward to unimaginable heights.

As soon as employees know they can trust the words and actions of their managers, they are motivated. All too often the words sound good, but the accompanying actions do not follow, fostering a sense of mistrust and fear within employees.

Once managers have established trust with their employees, a strong bond is formed that is difficult to break. Unless trust is broken and people feel betrayed, employees will be intensely loyal and cooperate to achieve mutual goals and objectives. This is the strongest principle of management and its essence.

Whether or not a manager is trusted is determined by his or her actions. Anyone can make statements and pronouncements; it is actions by which an individual is judged. Managers must hold to higher standards of personal behavior if they are to foster and nurture trust with their employees, who closely observe every word and action.

Managers are judged by the following criteria:

Promises and Commitments

Corporate managers are placed under an enormous amount of stress and will miss commitments, especially minor ones made in the heat of daily activities. However, they pay close attention to what they say, and do what they promise. If unable to keep their commitment, they immediately inform the other party and make alternative arrangements.

Employees take note of a manager who makes a personal commitment but fails to keep it due to political or internal pressures. If when confronted with this failure they make excuses rather than take responsibility, they will be perceived as hypocritical. Employees with little other alternative may accept the excuse, but will inwardly feel betrayed and no longer trust the manager. The foundation for management has been greatly undermined.

Mistakes

As part of the human condition, everybody makes mistakes and fails. When managers make mistakes, they often impact and affect their organization. Trust is established when managers openly acknowledge their mistakes to their employees and apologize for them.

Managers also allow their employees to experiment, make mistakes and fail without repercussions. They foster an atmosphere where employees can learn from their mistakes and move on. Managers understand that individuals can only grow when they are allowed to learn. The most effective learning experiences stem not from successes but failures and mistakes.

Loyalty

Managers give and demand loyalty from their employees. While they understand that loyalty is earned, they do not tolerate employees who are disloyal to their organization and each other.

The most open demonstration of a manager’s own lack of loyalty can be seen in his or her constant and open criticism of superiors and employees in their absence. While loyalty is not blind, managers must demonstrate, at all times, a deep sense of allegiance to the organization, superiors, associates and employees.

If a manager takes issue with the actions of others, they should openly but privately discuss it with the individual and not criticize them behind his or her back.

Information

Managers as leaders show faith in their employees when they share information with them. In many organizations, the control of information is the basis of personal power. Managers understand that employees must be informed if they are to do their job well and be empowered to make decisions affecting their work. Those who withhold information clearly demonstrate their mistrust of employees.

Involvement

Trust is established with employees when they are included and empowered to make decisions that affect them. Trust is undermined when employees are enabled to make decisions but the decisions are never acted upon and implemented.

Effective managers actively work with their employees and trust their decisions. They work with their employees in implementing their decisions and striving toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Recognition

Trust is fostered and nurtured when managers recognize the individual contributions of their employees and publicly recognize them for their efforts.

When new ideas and strategies work, managers who lead never accept the credit for the idea. They always acknowledge the efforts and contributions of their employees. To do otherwise betrays the trust of those employees.

Communications

Managers build trust within their organization by maintaining open communications with all employees, superiors and associates. They understand that trust is only established when they communicate regardless of the situation and circumstances, and whether or not the information is positive or negative.

Goals and objectives are effectively met when all involved have a complete picture of what is happening around them, including the barriers and obstacles to be overcome.

Respect Confidentiality

Managers understand trust is developed when they respect and honor confidential and sensitive information provided to them by superiors, associates and employees.

They also know they must trust their employees with the confidential and sensitive information they need to do their jobs and make quality decisions. Without this confidence, managers will not be able to create a trusting environment since they are evincing a basic suspicion of their employees.

Excerpt: Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $16.95 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

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

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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

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking can be defined as “learning to think better by improving one’s thinking skills.” Individuals who are critical thinkers use the thinking process to analyze (consider and reflect) and synthesize (piece together) what they have learned or are currently learning. Unfortunately, much of everyone’s thinking tends to be biased, imprecise, unclear, uninformed or prejudiced. Since this becomes severely limiting, critical thinking is needed to improve its quality and value.

Within the organizational setting critical thinking is necessary for: overcoming problems, making changes, modifications or adaptations within work structures, methods and problem solving situations, resolving situational conflict and pressing issues, and inventing and implementing new ideas, techniques and solutions.

Critical thinking development is a gradual process. It requires: mastering plateaus of learning as well as maintaining a serious focus on the process itself, changing personal habits of thought, which tends to be a long-range project, and extensive development time.

Within the process of critical thinking it is important to recognize what does not comprise its basic elements or components. Critical thinking is not accomplished by: saying something without carefully thinking it through, taking a guess at what one thinks “should” be done, memorizing material to analyze, discuss or examine, doing something just because it has always been done, believing something because it is what everyone else tends to believe, or arguing about something when there are no facts to back up the argument.

Critical Thinking Qualities

There are certain qualities critical thinkers possess and these characteristics tend to categorize individuals as “deep thinkers,” which separates them from more typical “basic thinkers.” Critical thinkers tend to be self-disciplined, self-directed, self-monitored and self-corrective thinkers. They raise essential or crucial questions and problems and then proceed to formulate them clearly and precisely. Critical thinkers gather, assemble, evaluate and appraise relevant information. They come to well-reasoned deductions, conclusions and solutions, while measuring and testing them against relevant standards and criteria. They also keep an open mind within alternative systems of thought while continually recognizing and assessing their assumptions and lines of reasoning. Finally, critical thinkers communicate effectively with others in seeking out and determining solutions for challenges and problems.

There tends to be six developmental thinking phases that lead to “mastering” the art of critical thinking. Through extensive practice and applications of the process, individuals can expect to begin altering and eventually changing their individual habits of thought. Each progressive phase is described below.

Phase One: The Unenlightened Thinker — individuals generally are not consciously aware that significant problems do exist within their current patterns of thinking.

Phase Two: The Confronted Thinker — individuals are aware that existing problems are evident or apparent within their process of thinking.

Phase Three: The Novice Thinker — individuals try to initiate improvements within their thinking, but without relying on regular or consistent practice.

Phase Four: The Proactive Thinker — individuals do recognize the importance of regular practice to improve and enhance their thinking.

Phase Five: The Developed Thinker — individuals begin to advance in accordance with the amount of practice that is awarded to the process.

Phase Six: The Mastery Thinker — individuals become skilled and insightful, where reflective, analytical and evaluative thinking becomes second nature.

Individuals can only develop through these phases if they accept the fact that there are serious problems with their current processes and methods of thinking, and are able to accept the challenge that their thinking presents to them and make it a point to begin regular practice to improve and enhance the components and elements of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Relies Upon Clarity of Purpose

In order to develop critical thinking, it is important for individuals to be clear as to the purpose of the task or topic at hand, and the main question that is at issue in regard to it. To accomplish this goal, it is essential to: strive to be clear, accurate, precise and relevant, practice thinking beneath the surface, be logical and fair-minded, apply critical thinking skills to all reading, writing, speaking and listening activities, and apply these skills to all aspects of work as well as life in general.

Questioning: The Impetus for Critical Thinking

Dead questions reflect dead minds. Unfortunately, most individuals, (even managers, leaders and trainers) tend not to ask many thought-stimulating types of questions. They tend to stick to dead questions like, “Is this going to be what is expected from now on?” or, “How are we supposed to understand (or do) this?” and other questions that outwardly imply the desire not to think.

Some managers, leaders, trainers or facilitators in turn are not themselves generators of in-depth questions and answers of their own making, which aids in establishing non-critical thinking environments. These individuals are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own initiatives, issues, concerns, topics or instructional concepts and resort to being mere purveyors of the “questions and answers of others.” They often end up initiating or responding to some initial concerns or issues that tend to surface spontaneously during a discussion or meeting, without having personal background information that would otherwise help stimulate deeper levels of creative probing and evaluative questioning. Sometimes they tend to apply second-hand information, knowledge or questions that have been passed down, which limits creative assessments and deeper level questioning. Often they find themselves referencing authors or others who are considered to be experts or leaders in their field rather than questioning important workplace-related issues, ideas, methods or concerns that need to be probed in-depth.

Questioning Through Critical Thinking Keeps the Organization Alive

Every company stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously. These questions are then used as the driving force for generating and implementing changes. To think through or rethink anything, individuals within an organization must ask questions that stimulate deeper levels of thought. Questions define tasks, express problems and identify issues. While answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when answers generate further questions does thought continue to add value in terms of personal as well as organizational growth and change.

It is important to remember that individuals within an organization, who generate and ask serious and insightful questions, are the ones who are, in fact, truly thinking, developing and learning. It is possible to move an organization forward by just asking employees to list all of the questions that they have about an issue, method or topic, including all questions generated by their first list of questions. However, deep questions drive out thoughts that rest underneath the surface of things and force individuals to deal with complexity. While questions of purpose force individuals to define “their task,” questions of information force individuals to look at their source(s) of information as well as its quality.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

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

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Effective Problem Solving Requires A Systematic Approach

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Effective problem solving in a complex world and in times of uncertainty demands a systematic approach that allows managers to be fair and consistent in the solutions they create. As both customers and employees are placed under more and more pressure to produce, problem-solving skills take on a heightened significance.

Effective problem solving requires that managers use a systematic approach rather than their intuitive judgment alone. Studies have shown that managers make more accurate judgments when they use such an approach for resolving problems and making critical decisions.

Many of the problems managers must resolve involve customers and can impact their business. The use of a systematic problem solving approach ensures that managers will consider all aspects of the issue before making decisions. Additionally, an established system is more efficient and effective than spending hours in unorganized thought considering the dimensions of an issue and creating a possible solution.

As resolving issues requires a series of determinations to arrive at a successful conclusion, it follows that successful problem solving is not possible without effective decision making. When encountering a problem the following techniques should be utilized:

Identify Primary Issues

Often problems are stated in terms describing symptoms rather than root causes. It is a common pitfall for managers to react to these symptoms and take action to resolve them without identifying their underlying causes. To avoid this misstep, managers should stand back and examine the problem to identify actual causes and the degree of difficulty involved in resolving the issue.

Identification of the primary issue is key to the rest of the resolution process. If not properly identified, the manager can waste valuable time and resources on inapplicable solutions.

Frame the Problem

Framing is another word for structuring the problem. Once the preliminary issue has been identified, framing allows the manager to structure the problem in the proper context, identifying the resources and potential solutions that may need to be employed. It should be noted that how a problem is framed does create a bias toward one solution over another. For instance, in terms of accounts, compare, “How can this problem be solved without impacting my profitability?” to “How can this problem be resolved to the customer’s complete satisfaction?” One solution is clearly customer focused while the other is internally focused. The solutions framed by both questions will produce markedly different results.

Gather Information

The third phase of problem solving is the gathering of facts and information to clearly define the extent of the problem and point to the causes. One pitfall managers must be cognizant of is not to discount information that challenges their perceptions and personal biases.

The key to information gathering is to go about it in a systematic manner that allows facts and data to be developed in an organized fashion.

Identify and Prioritize Potential Solutions

As information and data are organized, correlated and analyzed, a series of possible solutions should begin to emerge. When able, managers should use brainstorming techniques with all of the involved parties to identify several paths to take. At this point, limiting factors and other criteria should not be considered. The key is to flesh out ideas and concepts, group them and develop a final series of potential solutions to be considered.

Once the list of all potential solutions has been created, the manager should examine the feasibility of each in regard to time, cost, ease of use, satisfaction and any other important criteria. Solutions should then be ranked from best to worst.

Agree on Optimal Solution

The ideal solution is the one that is acceptable to all parties. The top one or two potential solutions should be considered and modified to meet the needs of all concerned. A win-lose solution may be expedient, but will create ill will in the long-term; as such, where possible it is always better to arrive at a win-win solution.

Assimilate Lessons

The final aspect of problem solving often overlooked by managers is the ability to assimilate the lessons learned from the situation and to refer back to those lessons when a similar problem arises.

Managers need to establish a system to learn from the results of their past decisions. This may require that they periodically spend several hours, once or twice a year, to review those decisions and their subsequent impact and ramifications on their business.

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

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

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

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Leadership Shifts Focus From Tasks to Individuals

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Managers are often task-oriented, and not necessarily focused on their employees. Leaders on the other hand are people-oriented; they work through and motivate their employees, utilizing their resources to perform assigned tasks in the most productive and profitable way possible.

Many managers confuse management with leadership, and feel they are automatically leaders because they occupy a position of higher responsibility. While this assumption is often true, many fail to display active leadership qualities. The roles leaders fulfill are different than those of managers, although sound management practices are complementary to effective leadership.

While some individuals are natural leaders, most managers must evolve into leaders both by investing time and effort in developing their abilities and by adapting their management roles to a more flexible, effective leadership style.

Leaders learn how to harness the specific talents of every employee team member in driving efficiency and productivity. While this may appear to be more work than it’s worth, effective leaders are able to produce higher levels of productivity with fewer problems than from simply using traditional managing techniques.

When leaders adhere to specific leadership roles they will foster trust, inward strength and a unity of purpose in the groups under their direction. As leaders, they will embrace their own personal responsibilities, understanding that anything is possible and attainable. They will recognize that each specific element is a stepping stone to the next that ultimately creates a transition from managing to leadership. To define a personal leadership role, the following three principles are critical:

Self-Management

Leaders take complete responsibility for all their actions and decisions. Often leaders must make a decision to challenge rules proven to be detrimental to their overall work environment and the people entrusted to them. The role of a leader is to set ineffective or unproductive rules and procedures aside in favor of those promoting increased cooperation, trust and ownership.

Leaders never waiver in this pursuit. They understand that part of their role is to take risks whenever a policy, procedure or situation hinders progress—and stand by their decisions.

Making improvements often means rocking the boat. While often challenging to the best leaders, this is a substantial part of true leadership. Leaders recognize the status quo often isn’t good enough, and that it takes change and creativity to generate improvements.

Leading People

Leaders approach their roles with serious determination. Part of their role is not to dwell on the “rearview mirror,” but to look forward. They learn from past mistakes and errors in judgment, but never allow them to affect future opportunities and possibilities. Leaders learn to detach themselves from their circumstances to maintain a clear, forward-thinking perspective.

In order to succeed, leaders must unburden themselves of emotions and perceived limitations that impede attainment of goals and performance. They know past experiences can easily alter good judgment. For a leader, past experiences become the lessons for the future, producing the wisdom to adapt to change.

Leaders know situations or problems will not always fit into neat compartments and have predictable outcomes. They understand and accept that even the most unthinkable changes and devastating occurrences are a possibility, and that their role is to embrace the challenge to overcome them.

Leaders also know they must be flexible in any and all situations, and that looking forward requires creating viable alternatives. They are aware that part of their function is to embrace change and the challenges it brings.

Cultivate the People under Your Direction

The most important role a leader must fulfill is to cultivate, support and nurture employees. Anything can be achieved with fertile enough ground to plant and grow the seeds of accomplishment. To best achieve this end, it is important to:

Learn and remember:

Leaders know part of their role is to learn everything about every person under their charge. They make it a point to learn what is important to each, to celebrate special days, achievements and even sadness with outward expressions, incentives, written memos, awards, notes and letters. Nothing builds loyalty and cooperation in employees better than being both professionally and personally attuned to them.

Demonstrate fairness and a cooperative spirit:

Leaders work with their employees to maintain high levels of motivation and productive team efforts. They do this by clearly educating their employees on specific procedures, problems and needed skills. Leaders also acknowledge and take seriously the expectations employees have of them. This role builds trust, loyalty and the desire for all to achieve.

Walk the floor—get your hands dirty:

Part of a leader’s role is to offer help when and where it is needed. This can only be done by personally taking part in tasks and assignments and being an overall active participant in what is going on in their workplace. Knowledge is gathered, problems disclosed and people motivated when leaders fulfill this role. Employees gain respect for leaders who willingly undertake this interaction in a positive fashion rather than view it as an obligation.

Excerpt: Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 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

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 5, 2013 at 10:28 am

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