Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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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)

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

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Employees must remain motivated if they are to perform to their maximum capabilities. Negative attitudes and behaviors not only impact personal performance, but left unchecked can spread like a cancer through the entire unit. It is essential that managers identify and address these problems as quickly as possible in order to minimize their overall impact.

When managers identify a problem, the natural tendency is to directly confront the employee and place him or her in a defensive posture. The natural reaction of the employee is to exhibit fear of repercussions and punishment for his or her behaviors and attitude. While this may be emotionally satisfying to the manager, it does not move him or her any closer to a solution. In fact, the solution may be even further away than before the employee is confronted.

It is important for managers to deal with negative behaviors and attitudes in a factual and objective fashion. By remaining emotionally and personally detached, managers will be more able to pinpoint the cause and identify acceptable paths to a productive solution.

When dealing with a negative employee, the manager must approach the individual with an open mind and remain free of personal bias and emotion that may taint the process. The following steps can be used to successfully rectify the problem.

Identify the Problem

The initial step in dealing with employee negativity is to formally recognize that there is in fact a problem requiring corrective action. The problem may be initially indicated by a decrease in performance or by a remark or complaint made by an associate or customer.

Once a problem is identified and is verified to exist, the manager needs to examine and document the extent of the problem along with possible implications and ramifications.

Talk to Employee About the Problem

Once managers have examined and documented the extent of the problem, they need to meet with the employee and objectively get the problem out on the table. This presentation should be factual and free of emotion, finger-pointing or assignment of blame. Such subjectivity will only inflame the situation, create barriers to a solution, and place the employee on the defensive.

Allow the Employee to Provide Input

The employee should be given adequate opportunity to provide their input. While he or she may be allowed to vent any frustrations, managers must keep the discussion as free of emotion and subjectivity as possible. Both the manager and employee should work together to identify the sources of the problems in a factual manner.

Identify the Source of the Problem

Often employees are so involved with and close to the problem that they are unable to look at it objectively. By remaining calm and at arm’s length, the manager should be able to pinpoint the root causes behind the problem. As often the employee will only exhibit symptoms of the problem, it is up to the manager to probe more deeply in order to uncover the problem’s causes.

Identify Potential Solutions

Once the problem is adequately identified and defined, the manager and employee then brainstorm to identify all potential solutions that are available to remedy the problem.

Again, when problems are approached in a calm, objective and factual manner, the fear of repercussion is diminished. This allows the employee to be more open to the possibility of an acceptable solution.

Agree Upon a Plan of Action

After the manager and employee have had an opportunity to brainstorm all potential solutions to the problem, proper time should be taken to carefully review each. Some will be revealed to be impractical for obvious reasons, while others may provide paths to concrete resolution of the problem.

Both parties should agree on the best option. Once chosen, a specific plan should be detailed and agreed upon. In this fashion, the employee is empowered to solve his or her problem and is accountable for implementing the plan and the solution.

Monitor Solution and Provide Feedback

Managers should actively monitor the employee’s progress in carrying out the plan to resolve their problem.

Managers should provide feedback to the employee on the acceptability of his or her work to resolve the problem. If they are meeting or exceeding the plan, praise should be given accordingly. Conversely, if he or she is failing to meet the goals of the plan, the appropriate punishments should be administered. The goal of the manager is to work with the employee to rectify the problem and eliminate the negative behavior.

If and when these steps fail to rectify the problem, the manager may have no other recourse than to terminate the employee.

Excerpt: Negative Workplace Behaviors: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

Recognition Must Be Given Liberally, Frequently and Publicly

Motivation Is More Than Money

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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peopleinteracting

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

Communication Starts With Respecting What Others Have To Say

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smallgroup7

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

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

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

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

Floundering

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

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

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

Overbearing Participants

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

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

Dominating Participants

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

Reluctant Participants

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

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

Self-Assured Statements

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

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

Rush to Accomplishment

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

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

Attribution

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

Discounting

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

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

Digression and Tangents

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

Feuding Team Members

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

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

Related:

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Strategies and Solutions for Solving Team Problems

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

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Trust is Based Upon Truth

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trust

Trust is based upon truth, which implies open, honest and direct communication free of personal or hidden agendas.

One of the pillars of leadership is developing and fostering a deep sense of mutual workplace trust. One of the most vexing problems faced in organizations is a simple lack of trust between employees and their managers.

For managers to experience successful growth and positive results in their respective department or unit, trust must be established on all levels. Without a deep sense of trust, their vision, goals and plans—as well as unified workplace cohesion—will be unobtainable.

Establishing trust is difficult, time-intensive work. It is earned when synergistic working relationships are established with individual employees. These relationships are characterized by active communication and listening, open and candid interactions, and a total acceptance of all persons as unique individuals. Trust also includes the manager’s personal involvement in ensuring employee as well as departmental success.

The fact that managers are granted authority over employees does not guarantee trust between both parties. Trust is based upon truth, which implies open, honest and direct communication free of personal or hidden agendas. For managers to become totally effective leaders trust must be earned and established. In the absence of trust, leadership principles will be of little consequence in the workplace.

Managers have a unique role within organizational workplaces. While they are responsible for individual employees and are required to guide and direct their activities, many are working on different assignments, projects and tasks in varying phases of completion. Many times it becomes impossible for managers to oversee everyone’s ongoing daily activities. This type of environment demands that high levels of trust are established and sustained.

Lack of trust in the workplace stems from areas managers can fall short in, including:

Establishing a Work Environment Free of Fear

Most managers are generally under extreme pressure to produce ongoing results. Many are focused on agendas that are able to secure or enhance their chances of organizational advancement. In the process, they often create zero-tolerance policies for mistakes and failures. This produces work atmospheres where employees become afraid to discuss problems or results in honest and open dialogue. Rather than trust their managers to support them, they hide pieces of information or mistakes that can hurt or jeopardize them in any way.

Communicating with Employees

Many managers have direct contact with their employees, but often fail to actively listen and engage in conversations that encourage interaction, feedback or input. Some are only interested in picking out certain information that they want to hear without thoroughly listening to anything else being said. Even though they fully believe they are communicating effectively, selective listening and targeted talk work to demoralize their employees and reduce their levels of trust and loyalty.

Interacting in Person

Many managers choose to communicate with their employees via email, written memos or posted messages. Very few efforts are made to interact directly with them on a regular and active basis. This becomes a major pitfall, as only when they make it a point to seek out employees to have open and free discussions and conversations can they become attuned to workplace problems, concerns, and attitudes and know which motivational methods need to be applied to whom.

All employees must be treated fairly, compassionately and honestly and be appreciated for their own particular characteristics and personalities. All have unique needs that must be addressed and met if they are to feel an important part of the organizational team.

Since many tend to function with daily frustrations and pressures associated with their assignments and responsibilities, managers as leaders must become actively involved with them daily in order to encourage and sustain the motivation needed to assure they do not succumb to burnout and other psychological problems.

Specific Steps to Building Trust

If leaders wish to establish and build workplace trust, there are specific behaviors that must be avoided.

Criticism – Discussions concerning documented performance results and how to improve them are always necessary and appropriate as one of the manager’s primary responsibilities and functions. However, they must make it a point to avoid making unwarranted negative comments regarding an employee’s performance, attitudes and decisions, as they are directly perceived as personal criticisms, not constructive performance or work-related input.

Psychological Analysis – Managers as leaders must avoid assuming the role of amateur psychiatrist and analyzing employees’ motivations and behaviors. This includes resisting the urge to prejudge their circumstances, situations and actions.

Advice – Managers can easily provide solutions or advice without making the effort to seek employee input. As problems are often more complex than they appear, managers can short-circuit the learning process and alienate employees by not allowing them to identify why things happened, how ineffective solutions were reached, or the particular factors that contributed to inferior results.

It is important that managers seek employee input in regard to specific problems in order to understand, analyze and learn from the facts and pertinent information they possess. Only then do they provide their advice, suggestions or solutions.

Command – Some managers tend to coerce, manipulate and force employees into completing assignments on time or accepting increased responsibility. As leaders, they need to avoid these types of actions, and instead motivate and encourage their employees to achieve desired results and/or increase their personal effectiveness and efficiency. They must know their employees well enough to be able to match the appropriate motivational strategy with each individual.

Control – Managers as leaders must avoid controlling actions and behavior through intimidation techniques and practices. Threatening employees with negative consequences does not motivate them. Employees need to be consistently and positively encouraged to produce results. Intimidation only serves to demoralize them.

Intense Questioning – Managers as leaders must avoid second-guessing and questioning employees on every decision, idea, recommendation or suggestion they make. Employees must be trusted to make decisions on their own without intense scrutiny and oversight.

A barrage of suggestions or intense questioning as to their employees’ rationale or methods on every assignment only creates more obstacles to them doing their jobs properly, and sends a clear message that their manager thinks them untrustworthy and even incompetent.

Related:

Personal Credibility is Anchored in Character and Integrity

Leaders Are Judged By The Actions They Take

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

Excerpt: Leadership (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 18, 2013 at 10:49 am

A Team’s Foundation is Built Upon Structure and Focus

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Problems can arise throughout team development and management, but leaders must pay particular attention to the structure and focus of the team. There are many potential pitfalls associated with establishing a team’s mission and focus. These foundational problems can linger and hinder the team’s performance.

Teams can encounter many problem areas during their tenure, but most challenges arise during the establishment of the team. Without a strong foundation that includes a focus, a mission, rules, boundaries and objectives, teams will encounter chronic problems.

It is important for leaders to understand that team productivity will be diminished without a firm foundation. From the outset leaders must invest time and effort in team development to ensure long-term success. This process includes establishing a clear understanding of what to avoid to prevent future problems.

Quality improvement is a common task given to teams. Organizations with teams in this area often stumble into pitfalls and produce poor outcomes. The selection of the wrong process for a team to work on is the main cause of inappropriately focused teams.

Selection of a Project No One Is Interested in

As organizations assign and develop teams for various projects, one common problem stems from selecting projects neither managers nor team members are concerned about. Consequently, the project will likely die from inattention. Often individual team members are assigned to several teams, and will only focus their attention on the projects they are interested in.

Often the only motive that sustains the effort of the team is the commitment of its members. If uninterested in a project, individuals will resist it, hampering the team’s ability to meet and work together effectively. When leaders develop new teams, the projects they assign should be meaningful to the active team members.

Selecting a Desired Solution

Leaders tend to think they already know which improvements need to be made before a team meets to study a problem, analyze it and make recommendations. Consequently, they pick a solution for the team to consider rather than have it look at the larger quality improvement process. This tendency does not empower teams to come up with changes and improvements, and their creativity is held back. As a result, the most creative and effective solutions may not be brainstormed, recommended, analyzed, studied and considered, and the team’s effectiveness and productivity are diminished.

While the leader’s predetermined changes may in fact turn out to be the best way to proceed, teams should be allowed to arrive at their own conclusions, and be free to recommend actions they determine will yield the greatest success.

Projects in Transition

As companies evolve, many processes and projects are in transition. It is wasteful to assign a team a project or process that is undergoing transition or is scheduled for change. The exception here is if changes occur in a process because of the team. In such a case, the team’s resources can be effectively used to study and evaluate the process and determine the best changes.

Selecting a System

Managers often delegate projects that are too ambitious and that should be broken down into smaller components. Properly focusing teams on particular elements of a project facilitates a better chance of success. In this manner they can concentrate their efforts and make recommendations that are easily implemented. Once improvements are made in one small area, teams can methodically move on to other areas. This method allows them to build on their successes and, ultimately, to impact the entire system.

Improper Framing of the Problem

When problems are properly framed, team operational boundaries are defined. But teams can frame a problem too narrowly or broadly.

Broadly defined problems can create projects that are too vague or difficult to label. Consequently, teams quickly find they have neither the time nor resources to deal with such projects. Potential solutions also become broadly defined, ineffective and difficult to implement.

Narrowly defined problems create ineffective solutions. Tight parameters prevent teams from exploring all aspects of the problem and its possible solutions. The final solution can result in issues and concerns that are ignored but should have been considered.

Related:

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: 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

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Interaction is a Necessary Component of a Vibrant Workplace

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Astute leaders guide and direct from the front lines of the company. Leaders are continually present and interacting with their employees in order to see what is slowly transforming and changing and what is causing unit frustrations. Frontline guiding and directing is a necessary process enabling leaders to apply their abilities to moving the organization forward.

There is a critical difference between the roles of a manager and a leader. While many managers are considered leaders, some not totally committed to sound leadership principles choose to direct from behind their desks. This results in relinquishing the advantage gained by immediate, firsthand knowledge of their organization’s daily activities, progress or frustrating hindrances.

Related: Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

Ongoing interaction with employees is the active practice of visible leadership. Leaders cannot lead from their office. They must continually be in the midst of their employees, seeing for themselves what is happening and what is holding their unit back.

Frontline guiding and directing is a critical concept for leaders to understand and apply. In order for employees to be comfortable with change and transformation within their organization and the constant risk taking that goes with it, leaders must be ever present to train, direct, and reassure each individual member. They must be there to cheer every accomplishment, no matter how small. This can only be done successfully when leaders are continually involved in their employees’ daily activities.

Practical leadership demands that leaders have an active, ongoing presence within their organizational units. This presence creates a visible strength achieved through openly and consistently interacting with all employees. When leaders develop an interactive presence and work to achieve active visibility, they have the ability to fully apply their leadership skills and capabilities. Effective interaction allows leaders to:

Understand Frustrations

Only when leaders are constantly interacting with their employees can they fully understand the daily frustrations they are experiencing individually and as a group. While often minor, these frustrations serve as mini-barriers to productivity and efficiency.

Frustrations are often not known about unless a leader takes the time to observe what is actually occurring. They may be considered minor parts of the work process that employees fail to mention due to their insignificance. However, when considered collectively and cumulatively, smaller frustrations have the power to hemorrhage an organization’s productivity.

Related: The Value of Personal Experience and Expertise

Observe Firsthand What Is Occurring

Reports and meetings cannot take the place of the leader personally observing what is happening within their division or unit. A casual walkthrough does not provide sufficient opportunity to clearly observe and internalize what is actually occurring at any one point in time.

Close observation allows leaders to identify certain occurrences that produce either a positive or negative impact upon the organization. Only when leaders practice visible leadership and openly interact with their employees will a true picture of the organizational unit’s overall progression and advancement emerge. Without this firsthand insight and knowledge, leaders cannot effectually move any part of their organization forward.

Encourage Open Communication

Visible leadership and open interactivity brings leaders out of their comfort zones and away from their desks. Being an interactive leader puts them on an equal plane with their employees, which makes them much more accessible and approachable. When this occurs, employees feel more comfortable to talk about frustrations, concerns, problems and issues that may not otherwise be disclosed. This open communication directly drives the free-flow of knowledge and information that leaders need to be successful.

Related: Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Provide Insight into Solutions

When leaders become fully interactive, and observe and communicate with their employees, they gain insights into existing problems. Leaders use these insights to much more easily reach solutions to the immediate and pressing problems facing their employees. Minor frustrations are quickly remedied and eliminated to minimize productivity losses.

Change transformations in any organization entail countless daily decisions. Open interaction facilitates the decision making process by encouraging employees to make cooperative or independent judgments in the name of reaching objectives and eliminating needless frustrations.

Provide Insights into Problems and Opportunities

Leaders typically have the advantage of the “macro view” of their organization. Sometimes they are focused on this larger picture to the extent that they forget they can—and should—look for and watch what is actually transpiring in their front lines. While this field of vision will vary by the level occupied in the organization, leaders do have the advantage of obtaining increased knowledge through a wider perspective that is not available to their employees.

Leaders who are active and visible in their organizations have the ability to witness what is happening and can identify potential problems and opportunities because of it. Their position often allows them to act on this knowledge to either eliminate a potential problem or tap an opportunity. In either case a frontline perspective helps leaders and employees save their company money. The only sure way to accomplish any of the above is to take full advantage of applying all the available knowledge obtained from a more “micro view” of the organization.

Related: Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Share in Successes and Failures

An essential role for leaders is to act as a motivator and cheerleader. While corporate leaders may not like to think of themselves as cheerleaders, the meaning goes beyond the term to the bottom line. When leaders are actively present and daily interacting with and encouraging their employees, they are in the best position to motivate and inspire them to achieve beyond expectations.

As their presence creates an impact on the organizational unit, leaders are able to share in the successes and failures of their employees as they test new ideas and concepts and help their organization adapt in the face of change. Doing this creates a bond of loyalty between leaders and employees as it steadily and securely increases the organizational unit’s cohesiveness.

Related: Motivation Is More Than Money

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: 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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Challenges We Face

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It is not only important for managers to recognize the challenges that they will face, but also to understand how to meet and overcome such trials. Preparation provides them with a starting point and the impetus to change.

As the complexity and depth of challenges increase, managers cannot afford to ignore the issues that currently confront them. Doing so will create a domino effect of problems that will continue to plague them until dealt with. More importantly, managers will learn that the obstacles, barriers and challenges to their business will continue at an alarming rate, fueled by technological advancements and changes in the global economy.

Cognizant of the above circumstances, managers can devote more time to meeting the strategic challenges that continue to confront their business. At the same time, more of the tactical issues must be pushed to the frontline employee. The strategic nature of many challenges precludes most managers from micromanaging the activities of their people and forces them to deal with the macro-issues of management.

Related: Adapt or be Bypassed

Several critical management challenges identified are listed below, along with specific strategies managers can employ to meet these challenges.

Reinforcing Employee Support Systems

The rapid flow of information between managers and their employees is the biggest challenge to be faced. It is recommended that managers conduct a complete reassessment of their employee support system. The best approach is to flowchart the entire system so as to completely understand its methodology and complexity. Over time, support systems tend to become increasingly complex and redundant as new elements are put into place, which overburdens the process.

Managers should consider a complete redesign of their support systems; this can start with a fresh set of goals and objectives to use as a foundation. With these goals and objectives in mind, managers should analyze the type and form of information that both they and their employees require, and the best means of obtaining and delivering that information. The key is to remember that most managers and employees are awash in information, but starving for knowledge. Managers should look for the best methods possible to deliver knowledge over information, providing support data and information if it needs to be referenced. Some vital areas to examine are:

  • The effective use of performance metrics to evaluate work.
  • The conversion of reports into action plans.
  • The minimization of data flow to eliminate information overload.

Realigning Internal Processes

Managers must conduct a comprehensive analysis of the buying habits and patterns of their customer base. As buyers become more sophisticated and are forced to face the realities of increased global competition and a depressed economy, their behaviors change. Managers must examine and monitor these changes, and analyze future trends: when compared to their existing processes, most will find profound shifts. The impact of the Internet on information gathering must be addressed along with the overall increase in risk factors that change the way companies handle their purchasing. The key is to realign the internal processes using all of the available tools and technologies to closely match customers’ buying behavior and to maximize the use of their people’s time and resources.

The business landscape is evolving and changing. It is important to monitor these changes and continually adapt and modify the operating processes accordingly.

Related: Power Must Be Shared for Organizations to Grow

Strengthening Employees’ Understanding of Customer Profit Economics

There is no doubt that many changes in the economy and marketplace have precipitated a shift in customer economics. If anything, many companies have been induced to reevaluate the manner in which they conduct business. Companies are purchasing more carefully and examining the return on investment a specific product or service delivers to them. Consequently, unless employees understand the economics of their business and how their product or service fits into that picture, they will be quickly discounted.

Managers should require their people to conduct a review of their companies’ major accounts in order to understand the specific application of their product or service, recognize the importance of that product or service to the customer, and glean how the product directly contributes to the customer’s profitability. Only when employees know how their product contributes to customer success can they successfully position themselves to contribute to the bottom line.

Reconstructing and Realigning Reward Programs

As companies realign their internal processes and require more servicing of accounts, managers must adjust their compensation plans to reflect these changes. Compensation plans should be designed so that employees perform desired activities and functions, which can include business development and service. Research shows that employees will gravitate to where they are making the most money. If they are paid on commission it is unlikely service will be important to them.

Managers should identify and prioritize desired behaviors. Based upon what they come up with they will have a platform for creating a compensation program that meets their goals.

Related: Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Flattening Decision Making

Managers are challenged to move the decisions typically made by managers directly to their frontline people. Employees are thus given the latitude to make quick and timely operational decisions that can positively impact the speed and quality of results.

Strengthening Employees’ Understanding of Their Companies’ Profit Economics

Employees should be educated in the profit margins of the products/services their company sells. They need to understand the impact an order has on their business as well as the financial ramifications of customer concessions. Once furnished with this information, their performance should be evaluated not only on their specific work-related activities, but also on the profitability of the portion of business for which they are responsible.

Excerpt: Overcoming Management Challenges: Pinpoint Management 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

Four Major Hindrances to Empowerment

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The concept of empowerment demands the full participation and interaction of all levels of an organization. Problems arise when there is a lack of commitment by leaders to actually implement empowerment strategies throughout the organization. They mouth the words of empowerment but fail to back them up with real actions to remove barriers for all employees.

Leaders have a powerful position to play in the transition and development of a company’s ability to successfully implement employee empowerment throughout the entire organization. Leaders understand that the implementation process of empowerment is concerned with more than just the mechanical aspects accompanying the transitions and change.

It is important to understand that many barriers to real empowerment exist because of the pitfalls many organizations stumble into. Most of them materialize because of a failure to focus on how to improve the more indirect value characteristics of the organization. These characteristics involve the issues of trust, responsibility, harmony, participation and cooperative group efforts. Often the responsibility lies with the leader who fears a change in the status quo and an erosion of his or her power and authority.

One of the key phrases that defines empowerment is “participative management.” Research has demonstrated a positive link between employee participation and work satisfaction and between motivation and performance. These links are hindered from occurring when leaders fall short in recognizing the potential of their employees and fail to see how much power these individuals potentially carry to solve major problems and issues. The four major pitfalls leaders encounter as they attempt to transition into empowering their employees become manifested when they begin to mix the messages of empowerment or fail to link actions to ideas. These include the following beliefs:

“Empowerment is just a term used to produce the same actions to get similar results.”

Decisions are being continually made at the top in spite of the organization saying it is empowering its employees. This mixed message supported by accompanying actions does much to undermine an employee’s willingness to participate, improve performance, and accept additional responsibility.

A traditional labor division still exists even though participation is actively sought. This is generally caused by leaders failing to delegate meaningful assignments, tasks and projects able to have a real impact on building confidence and worker satisfaction.

Many leaders believe that empowerment can still be accomplished through delegating, but that there must be some form of direct or indirect control when it comes to overseeing what is being delegated.

“We are all in this together…up to a point.”

Many leaders fail to realize one important fact: if employees directly affected by proposed changes are not involved in the decision to change, they will fight its progress.

Employees should not be told what to do, but be given the opportunity to learn where, when and what to do in specific situations. Many leaders have their own fears to overcome, generally believing that empowerment will lead to them relinquishing authority and ultimately losing their jobs. Most resistance to empowerment comes from middle management. Leaders fail to see how these fears can be reduced or eliminated by setting, measuring and evaluating performance together with their organizational work units.

Organizations often fail at the top levels when desiring to implement empowerment. They thwart its success because they are shortsighted in not training their own leaders and supervisors to understand empowerment concepts, the value these ideas have for the company as a whole, or how to personally cope with change.

Organizations do not recognize the importance of the primary role of leadership in empowerment: to support and stimulate their employees to cooperate in overcoming cross-functional barriers and eliminating fear within their own work units.

“Empowerment begins at the top and works downward.”

Many organizations feel it is better to start empowerment changes at the top and then work down to employees, even though this limits some aspects of empowerment. Upper and even middle management often argue that employees are unable to get the whole picture of the organization and are unqualified to make most important decisions, especially those that impact profitability.

Organizations often forget or fail to recognize another important aspect of empowerment: delegating responsibility to the lowest levels of the organization. Leaders need to emphasize that the decision making process should be highly decentralized, and employees in work-designed groups or teams should be responsible for their part in work processes.

Empowerment is seen as a byproduct. Many organizations look at employee empowerment as a result of an organization’s strategy and technology that focuses on how to improve costs, speed and efficiency, not as the essential ingredient to make it happen. They fail to look upon empowerment as a direct strategy to produce higher quality, productivity and efficiency.

“Employees are not the only top priority… many others are equally as important.”

Organizations often fail to realize that without productive employees they are nothing and can do nothing. They sometimes become shortsighted and fail to realize that empowerment works best when employees need the organization as much as the organization needs them.

Organizations often feel an employee’s real need lies in an increased paycheck or better benefit package. There is a general belief that employees only wish to work for monetary compensation. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and their demands grow accordingly because employees resort to this focus when they are not allowed to play an integral part in the organization.

Leaders forget to follow the golden rule: they must treat their employees the way they would want their bosses to treat them. Leaders must define what their actions and words mean to employees so that they realize concepts of fairness, respect, and consideration are an important element in the overall work culture and climate.

If you would like to learn more about effective empowerment strategies, refer to Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

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
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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