Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘results

A Systematic Approach is Required to Structure Your Teams

leave a comment »

smallteam

Leaders should be cognizant of the fact that teams do not evolve automatically, and that the only things that do in the organizational environment are disorder, friction and poor performance. Effective team design and structure require thinking, analysis and a systematic approach to their development.

Organizational and team structures are not mechanical, but organic, as both organizations and the teams that work within them are comprised of people, not machines.

Additionally, designs and structures are unique to the organization, matched to meet its particular needs and objectives. Leaders should note that some of the worst team development mistakes were made when a mechanical model of an ideal team structure was imposed upon a living and organic business.

It is important for leaders to understand that strategy determines the structure of a team. The basic questions, “What is our business?” “What should it be?” and “What will it be?” define the purpose of any team and organizational structure.

The answers to these questions identify the key tasks and activities for which specific teams are formed. It is this effective structure that makes these activities get off the ground, function and produce results. Therefore team structure needs to be primarily concerned with these key activities; all other purposes are secondary.

Team structure demands self-discipline from every member. All individuals must take responsibility for the work of the entire team and its performance. It is the combined efforts of organizational teams that allow them to accomplish all of the key goals and activities.

Teams need to be designed and structured to integrate three distinct forms of work:

Operating Task – responsible for producing the results and output of the team.

Innovative Task – enables the team to approach its assignment with a view toward the possibilities the team can attain.

Management Task – directs the work of the team, creates and monitors its vision and sets its course.

All of these distinct forms of work are integrated into the team’s structure and approach. The specific blend of these tasks is determined by the responsibility, assignment and makeup of the team.

The structure and approach of the team is created to satisfy specific organizational needs, including:

Clarity

Clarity should not be confused with simplicity. Teams can be working on complex problems and issues that require complex solutions. They are not expected to simplify these solutions for the sake of the organization, but they should clarify them so they are understood and implemented.

Economy

Teams must employ an economy of effort to maintain control over the group and to minimize friction between team members. Excessive time devoted to the resolution of internal problems wastes the team’s resources and is uneconomical.

Direction

The direction of the team must be geared toward results rather than the team process. This means that teams should be concerned with the reasons why they were created rather than with the techniques they need to employ. The focus should be placed on output over form.

Understanding

Teams need to be structured so that team members clearly understand their specific roles, tasks and assignments and how each contributes to the accomplishment of individual team goals.

Decision Making

Decision making must be structured to focus on the right issues; it must be action- and results-oriented.

Stability

Teams must be structured for stability rather than rigidity. This allows them to survive turmoil and to adapt to the changing circumstances and environment that they are operating within.

Perpetuation and Self-Renewal

The team structure should be conducive to producing new leaders for the organization, and further be instrumental in helping these new leaders continually grow and develop their skills. It is this self-renewal of leadership that allows teams and organizations to develop and incorporate new ideas. Only with self-renewal can businesses maintain their competitive edge.

Related:

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach (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

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

with 2 comments

hospital-meeting

Effective teams worry about obtaining positive results. This is why they typically succeed in the projects they are assigned, and in implementing the positive solutions they generate.

Teams are unlike work groups. They are an assembly of people who are committed to balanced participation, equal contribution and regular deliberation. The ideas and abilities of individual team members need to be used for the overall good of the project or its purpose. Such a collaborative dynamic does not occur automatically. It takes a great deal of energy and purposeful activity and is easily destroyed by the lack of focus, agendas and motivation of participating team members.

Successful teams consciously focus on how to generate better results. To get them, a team needs to be able to organize its talent, assigned roles, tasks and processes so members remain interested and absorbed in what the team is charted to do and accomplish.

When a team does not worry about generating positive results, it will never function as effectively as it can. One reason is because members will resort to performing roles and taking stances that tend to suit and advance their own purposes and desires, but act against the best interests of the team.

These actions are quite destructive. They can easily undermine team success in terms of efficiently and effectively addressing and accomplishing the task it was assigned. These destructive forces must be guarded against if a team is to be a highly productive and functional decision making entity.

When a team fails to be results oriented, it tends to allow five major destructive forces to take root. This is the result of looking the other way and allowing members who have a tendency for continually “turning off,” “labeling,” “playing devil’s advocate,” “controlling” and “yes-butting” to take over team processes and group dynamic standards and structure.

To obtain better team results and sustain a high focus on generating them, with the least amount of disruptive interference, the team alone must become responsible for:

  • Minimizing actions that result in negative attitudes toward addressing and advancing the team project
  • Maximizing actions that make team participants enjoy the process of collaborative problem solving and experimentation
  • Modeling and reinforcing effective performance techniques that have a problem-centered focus
  • Getting team members excited about the project’s associated opportunities and challenges
  • Making the team as a whole eager to function effectively and cooperatively while moving it continually forward
  • Reducing frustrations to prevent members from becoming unmotivated and giving up
  • Overcoming and preventing these major destructive forces is absolutely necessary.

Turning off Others and Project Excitement

There are seven specific actions that work to turn others off as well as decrease levels of personal and team enthusiasm toward an assigned project:

  1. Personal interruptions when someone is trying to explain something
  2. Taking discussions off track
  3. Ignoring what a speaker is saying
  4. Ignoring and/or downplaying others and their responses
  5. Using nonverbal negative communication tactics
  6. Being singularly focused and totally closed-minded
  7. Using derisive humor

Any of these actions indicate that a team member simply doesn’t want to take responsibility to help the team perform and function well, or take an active interest in what it is trying to accomplish and tend to generate a lot of conflict within a team.

This is because individuals who attempt to shut down the sharing of explanations, insights and opinions will impede team progress and problem solving efforts, which makes it difficult and frustrating for others who want to move forward.

It is easy to predict that the majority of team members will likely tend to isolate offending individuals rather than openly and conscientiously deal with their inappropriate actions in an attempt to alter or change their behavior. As a result the team loses a valuable member simply because it failed to adhere to and reinforce the standards of communication it had set for itself.

Labeling

When a team fails to maintain a results-oriented focus, it often allows labeling to go unchecked. When someone inside a team places a label on another member’s behavior or attempts to describe another’s attitudes or motives, this individual becomes a detrimental force to reckon with.

Major breakdowns in team process and progress are often due to intentional or unintentional labeling practices. Labeling occurs when team members: talk forcibly to someone, intentionally confront another person in an intimidating manner, suggest that another person has a particular attitude or unworthy motive, or react sharply by challenging what another person is saying or implying.

Whatever tactic is used, predictably speaking, a team can be certain that the person being attacked will immediately resort to a defensive position, and conflict and resentment will follow. This tends to disrupt and halt any discussion or conversation. In teams this is extremely detrimental and unproductive.

Not only do labels affect the whole team in a social way, but also seriously affect the individuals being labeled from a psychological standpoint. Members who are labeled negatively by their team counterparts or peers tend to: be more depressed, have a lower self-esteem, portray defensive characteristics, and dominate others as a personal protective measure.

Self-concept may play a large role in the everyday happenings of labeling behaviors. When a team member assigns a label to another team member, it may actually reflect how this particular person perceives and views him or herself.

Research further suggests that a person’s flexible self-concept influences the process by which people form impressions of others. In other words, self-concept impacts the labels one tends to apply to others.

No matter what, labeling practices are fairly predictable. Silence and non-participation will become more apparent within the team, and resentment toward others will cloud and hinder open communication.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Playing the role of devil’s advocate is typically exhibited through the use of the word “no,” which oftentimes is referred to as “nay-saying.” Predictably, this type of occurrence generates not only conflict and chaos, but also frustration and stress within the team setting.

A devil’s advocate makes certain that whatever is ineffective or bad in regard to another’s idea, opinion or suggestion is openly and emphatically expressed. They emphasize so powerfully what is wrong with something, that what is right tends to get buried or ignored before it is even explored.

It is important to counter this type of team-subverting behavior, which can be done individually by interjecting something like:

  • “I heard what you had to say but I would also like to hear another’s point of view on this.”
  • “I am really not interested so much in why (name) takes this position as I am in (name’s) reasoning behind it, and this is what I wish to know more about.”
  • “I totally agree that there may be reasons why this won’t work, but I am intrigued by the possibility that it may work. Let’s address why and how it could possibly work effectively.”

Controlling

Without maintaining a focus on how to get the best results possible, it becomes easy to predict that a team will allow one or more of its members to control its: progress, issues, structure, methods of problem solving, and overall situations. This becomes a major reason why a team ends up functioning far less effectively and obtaining lower-level results.

It is important to understand what control looks like so the team can proactively watch for and effectively handle these types of situations. Individuals who always attempt to take control tend to have personalities that are fear or pride driven, even though they may have no idea that these two factors continually influence them.

The team needs to take a step back and ask, “Why does this person feel the need to dictate or to control this issue or situation?” Most controlling individuals tend to fear that if they do not control the situation, they will lose control of their surroundings and influence.

Often control is related to one’s feelings of self-importance or pride as an individual feels the need to be in control to feel special or be the center of attention. Unfortunately, “pride” in a team setting often manifests itself as an unwillingness to back down or to surrender power or authority. Ultimately it is to accept that someone else might be right and that the other might be wrong.

The team and its members must realize that control is the opposite of trust. If a member feels the need to constantly be in control of what the team focuses on, how something is done or what it does, this individual is demonstrating that he or she does not trust the team to make appropriate or effective decisions on its own.

Predictably, this lack of trust is detrimental, especially within a team setting, since trust is a vital part of the team relationship process, which enables each person within it to feel important and trustworthy.

Many controlling personalities don’t ever think about what they are doing. Most don’t realize that they are controlling individuals until they are told. Control can be broken. It is not a permanent condition that cannot be changed. Most people who are controlling in their actions and behaviors want to change, they just don’t know how.

Several action steps members can take to help overcome control issues within the team environment include:

  • The first step requires the team to acknowledge that an individual is projecting a dominating or controlling personality.
  • The second step requires openly addressing it. For those with pride-based control, this is a difficult exercise, but a very important one that is crucial to change.
  • The third step requires the offending individual to accept needed, constructive criticism, which can be part of the set standards for the team.
  • This step will demonstrate a true desire on the person’s part to be a better team player. It also will begin to reestablish elements of personal as well as team trust.
  • The fourth step requires changing the team’s reaction to control-based situations. These circumstances will occasionally happen, but as a team it is important how its members react, address and respond to them.
  • The fifth step requires creating a more solid, positive team atmosphere, which includes keeping positive words flowing, never talking in a derogatory way about others, either in front of or away from them.

“Yes-Buts”

One of the most common occurrences within a team discussion is demonstrating the “yes-but” syndrome. This is typically done in response to someone’s ideas, suggestions or way to approach something.

Predicting the effects created by this is fairly reliable: unclear, ambiguous messages are sent and interpreted. Responses appear to say one thing but actually convey another leading to team communication breakdowns and miscommunication.

This is one of the hardest practices to detect within a team setting because it is often used so subtly and skillfully. Yes-buts:

  • Imply, “I heard what you said but you are wrong.”
  • Tend to be a personal discounting of what another person says or believes.
  • Tell the speaker, “As a listener I think you may have a good or useful idea or suggestion, but it isn’t worth much in this situation.”

The “yes-but” technique is often used to soften the blow of disagreement. This approach tends to occur most when members on the team attempt to personally sell an idea to others or want to take control of a situation.

Either way, “yes-butting” should be put to rest quickly. Allowing team members to apply this technique will predictably hinder progress while forcing likely effective solutions out of the problem solving picture.

Related:

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 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

Performance Driven Leaders Must Establish Clear Employee Expectations

with 2 comments

Fred Smith - Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Fred Smith – Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Performance driven leaders must establish clear employee expectations if they expect to achieve positive results and outcomes that are totally aligned with their vision, mission, and goals.

Fred Smith (FedEx) stated, “When people walk in the door, they want to know: What do you expect out of me? What’s in this deal for me? What do I have to do to get ahead? Where do I go in this organization to get justice if I’m not treated appropriately? They want to know how they’re doing.

They want some feedback. And they want to know that what they are doing is important. If you take the basic principles of leadership and answer those questions over and over again, you can be successful dealing with people. The thing that I think is missing in most in business is people who really understand how to deal with rank-and-file employees.”

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy), “who developed a reputation as a talented troubleshooter and effective problem-solver, ensured education and training were priorities and achieved impressive results.

Working days, nights, and weekends and expecting his staff to do the same, he refused to compromise when it came to standards and quality. He expected sacrifice from those who worked for him—and from their families.” “

Agrees Donald Kendall [Pepsi-Cola]: – ‘There’s only one standard. Once you’re stuck on the flypaper, you’re stuck. If you don’t set a high standard you can’t expect your people to act right.’ ”

The great leaders were and continue to be demanding taskmasters. As illustrated by Rickover and Kendall, they established expectations that also applied to themselves as well as to others.

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) is known for creating an entrepreneurial culture laced with fun, but one that does not undermine his expectations. “Bezos expects total dedication from people at Amazon, too, where the hours can be grueling.

Says Acting Customer Service Director Jane Slade: ‘This is everyone’s wife, mother, father, baby, whatever.’ He routinely ratchets up goals for managers and often plunges into minute details himself. Slade, for instance, recalls bringing a long list of her job goals to Bezos early on. He handed her his own list, saying: ‘You tell me what’s more important.’ ”

“Never one to rest on his laurels, [David] Packard [Hewlett-Packard] demanded the same from his employees. ‘You shouldn’t gloat about anything you’ve done,’ he told his employees when he stepped down. ‘You ought to keep going and try to find something better to do.’ ”

Related:

“Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”

How Well Do You Set the Tone?

When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

‘Performance’ is More Than the ‘Bottom Line’

leave a comment »

Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) was the president of both the Carnegie Steel Corporation and Bethlehem Steel. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) was the president of both the Carnegie Steel Corporation and Bethlehem Steel. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) observed; “Put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket,” when he answered the question of how he became so successful, he obviously gave a simple response to a complex question. However, his answer simply places a focus on the entirety of his plans and goals, from one who mastered the art of execution and used it to his competitive advantage.

When individuals are elected to run a corporation, most often the only major thing that is taken into account, is whether or not they have the talent to get things done and to deliver on their commitments. When it comes down to it, nothing else matters.

Peter Drucker in his commentary about Alfred Sloan (General Motors) wrote, “The job of a professional manager is not to like people. It is not to change people. It is to put their strengths to work. And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts, and indeed is the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to. I once said to Sloan that I had rarely seen more different people than the two men who during my study had run the most profitable divisions of GM, Chevrolet and Cadillac. ‘You are quite mistaken,’ he said.‘These two men were very much alike – both performed.’ – But ‘performance’ is more than the ‘bottom line.’ It is also setting an example and being a mentor. And this requires integrity.” [1]

The great leaders were known for their talent to execute well. Henry Kaiser (Kaiser) exemplified this ability when he ramped up production of his Liberty Ships during the Second World War. So did James Burke (Johnson & Johnson), when faced with the Tylenol crisis in the 1980s.

Colin Powell (U.S. Army) observed, “‘The most important assets you have in all of this are the people, and if you don’t put people at the center of your process, you’ll fail. Not profit motives, not size of the organization’s headquarters, but people.’

What differentiates successful companies from unsuccessful companies is rarely the brilliant, secret, take-the-market-by storm grand plan. Indeed, the leaders of today’s great companies are inclined to freely share their plans and business models in books and magazines. Even if they weren’t, today’s fast-moving economy dictates that most organizations’ plans are on their way to obsolescence almost from the moment that they are publicly revealed.

The key to success, therefore, lies in exceptional, innovative, fast execution. Execution lies, in turn, in the capacity of people to quickly capitalize on fleeting opportunities in the marketplace; develop imaginative ideas and creative responses; generate fast, constantly changing action plans; mobilize teams and resources; get the job done swiftly an effectively—and then continue that process with relentless commitment.

That’s what this ‘people’ thing is all about, because it’s people that make all that happen. What effective leaders do is create an environment in which great people can flourish in optimal pursuit of the enterprise’s mission. In describing the famed symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein, one observer noted that ‘what Bernstein achieved—and what great leaders achieve—is a seeming paradox. He convinced his players they were free to innovate and express themselves, while convincing them to accept his vision for the music and to follow his direction.’ That description nicely captures the spirit of the leader role that Powell endorses.” [2]

As has been previously noted, Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Fred Smith (FedEx), along with numerous other cited examples, all built successful organizations around their employees.

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) knows not only the value of his employees and their contributions, but also knows how to extract the best from them. “Howard asks questions and will challenge you to perform. He’ll push you to go gather the data.

He’ll tell you what he would do to try and solve a problem, but he’s not always going to hand you the answer.” [3]
While at Carnegie Steel, where he supervised all of the plant supervisors for Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab rose from laborer to the executive ranks through his uncanny talent to execute.

“Schwab was not an originator, he was a builder of integrated teams. His particular genius was in handling people…” [4] Schwab often recalled a story, which demonstrates his talent to execute. He said,

“I had a mill manager who was finely educated, thoroughly capable and master of every detail of the business. But he seemed unable to inspire his men to do their best.

‘How is it that a man as able as you,’ I asked him one day, ‘cannot make this mill turn out what it should?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘I have coaxed the men; I have pushed them, I have sworn at them. I have done everything in my power. Yet they will not produce.’

It was near the end of the day; in a few minutes the night force would come on duty. I turned to a workman who was standing beside one of the red-mouthed furnaces and asked him for a piece of chalk.

‘How many heats has your shift made today?’ I queried.

‘Six,’ he replied.

I chalked a big ‘6’ on the floor, and then passed along without another word. When the night shift came in they saw the ‘6’ and asked about it.

‘The big boss was in here today,’ said the day men. ‘He asked us how many heats we had made, and we told him six. He chalked it down.’

The next morning I passed through the same mill. I saw that the ‘6’ had been rubbed out and a big ‘7’ writteninstead. The night shift had announced itself.

That night I went back. The ‘7’ had been erased, and a ‘10’ swaggered in its place. The day force recognized no superiors.

Thus a fine competition was started, and it went on until this mill, formerly the poorest producer, was turning out more than any other mill in the plant.” [5]

Related:

  1. Do You Have a Zeal to Execute?
  2. Do You Have Faith in Your People?
  3. Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?
  4. Should Profit Be the Only Measure of Success?

References:

  1. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)
  2. Harari Oren, Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (McGraw Hill, New York 2002) p.128
  3. Meyers William, Conscience in a Cup of Coffee (U.S. News, October 31, 2005)
  4. “Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab” by Robert Hessen and “The Highest Virtue” by Alan Stang (Freeman, February 1976)
  5. Schwab Charles M., Succeeding with What You Have (Century Company, New York 1917) p. 39-41

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

with 4 comments

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem.

Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Related: Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur.

An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt:Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 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

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

with 2 comments

Teams are a critical component of every organization as the predominant vehicle for decision-making and accomplishing tasks. A team is defined as a group of people who need each other to accomplish specific results.

Teamwork represents a set of values that encourages listening, responds constructively to views expressed by others, gives others the benefit of the doubt, provides support and recognizes the interests and achievements of others. These values help teams, their individual members, and the entire organization perform.

In many organizational environments, working groups and teams are both essentially used in the same way despite there being a measurable difference between the two. Working groups are simply a loose combination of individuals working toward a common goal. These groups’ structures will vary according to the makeup and personalities of the members. Teams, on the other hand, are governed by a specific team structure that takes into account member roles, responsibilities, rules and boundaries.

It is important for leaders to understand the distinctions between groups and teams. Most individuals who work within groups perform as individuals. Teams require a common commitment to which members hold themselves mutually accountable. They are committed to a common purpose and a set of performance goals and approaches.

Related: There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Teams differ fundamentally from working groups because they require both individual and mutual accountability. Teams go beyond group discussion, debate and decision-making and do more than simply share information and best practice performance standards.

To understand how teams deliver extra performance, it is important for leaders to distinguish between teams and other forms of working groups.

Results and Accountability

A key distinction between groups and teams is found in performance results. A group’s performance is a function of what its individual members do as individuals: members don’t take responsibility for results other than their own, nor do they attempt to develop incremental performance contributions requiring the combined work of two or more members.

A team’s performance includes both individual results and the collective results of the team. The collective results reflect the joint and real contributions of team members.

Leadership

A strong and clearly focused leader typically directs working groups. Due to the nature of the group’s leadership, the individual leader has the ability to influence the work and results the group produces.

Teams, on the other hand, develop shared leadership roles that are established by team members. This reduces the influence of a single team member on the results of the team.

Related: Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

Purpose

Working groups focus on a purpose that is the same as the broader organizational mission, whereas teams focus on a specific team purpose for which they are established to address. The team focuses on a specific purpose, and the results are focused to particularly fulfill that established purpose.

Output

Teams produce discrete work products through the joint contributions of their members. Possible performance levels are greater than the sum of the individual contributions of its members. Working group performance, however, is simply the product of the results of individual members.

Meetings

Working groups perform their work in efficiently run meetings. Teams encourage open-ended discussions and active problem solving throughout their meetings. The team meeting is specifically structured to encourage these activities. Within this structure, meetings are guided and directed by the roles and responsibilities of team members and are defined by the boundaries and framework established by the team to govern its activities.

Related: Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Measurement

Working groups measure their effectiveness indirectly by their influence on others. Teams measure performance by directly assessing the collective results of the team and its ability to fulfill its purpose and mission. The results of the team make something specific happen, and that adds real value to the results. By contrast, gathering as a working group from time to time does not sustain the group’s performance.

Methodology

Working groups discuss, decide and delegate the work of the group to individual members or committees. Teams discuss, decide and then complete the real work required together as a team. Within teams, performance goals are compelling; they challenge individuals to commit themselves as a team to make a difference within the organization. Since goals are challenging, the onus is on the team alone to make it happen.

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

with 6 comments

A group does not become a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team. This requires discipline that brings the team together with a common purpose, approach and responsibility. This discipline is critical to the success of all teams. Yet, effective teams also have a focus within the organization.

Trust and commitment are the results of individuals working toward a common objective. Consequently, teams enjoy a strong common purpose and approach that holds them responsible both as individuals and as a team for their performance. This sense of mutual accountability produces the rich reward of equal achievement that is shared by all team members.

This topic is of critical importance to leaders because teams are becoming the primary unit of performance management in many organizations. This does not mean that teams will crowd out individual opportunities in a formal hierarchy: teams will enhance existing structures without replacing them. Team opportunities exist anywhere hierarchy and organizational boundaries inhibit the skills and perspective needed for optimal results. Teams have a unique potential to deliver results to the organization in these situations.

Organizations must create the kind of environment that enables performance by teams, individuals and the organization.

Groups established as teams with the primary purposes of job enhancement, communication, organizational effectiveness or excellence rarely become effective. Only when appropriate performance goals are set can the process of discussing objectives and approaches give team members clear alternatives. At that point they can disagree with the goal and the path that the team selects; in effect, they can opt out, or they can pitch in and become accountable with and to their team members.

Most effective teams are classified in one of three ways.

Teams That Recommend

These teams include task forces, project groups, audit groups, quality groups and safety groups that are asked to study and resolve particular problems. Teams formed to render recommendations almost always have predetermined completion dates. Two critical issues unique to such teams are getting off to a fast, constructive start and dealing with the ultimate handoff required to get their recommendations implemented.

The key to the issue of a fast start lies with the clarity of the team’s charter and the composition of its membership. In addition to wanting to know why and how their efforts are important, task forces need a clear direction as to time commitment and the people senior management expects to participate. Management can assist these groups by ensuring the inclusion of individuals with the skills and influence necessary for crafting practical recommendations that will carry weight throughout the organization.

The ultimate handoff is almost always a difficulty for such teams. To avoid this, teams should transfer the responsibility for recommendations to those who must implement them. The more that senior management assumes recommendations will just “happen,” the less likely this will be the case. The more involvement team members have in executing their recommendations, the more likely they will get implemented.

Teams That Make or Do

These teams include people at or near the front lines who are well acquainted with the value-added activities of the organization and responsible for basic manufacturing, development operations, marketing, sales or service. With some notable exceptions, such as new product development or process design teams, these teams tend to have no set completion dates, as their activities are ongoing and continuous.

These teams have the greatest impact on their organization when they focus on the company’s critical delivery points. These are the places where the cost and value of products and services are most directly determined. Performance at these points depends upon combining multiple skills, perspectives and judgments in real time. Here the team option is considered the smartest direction for organizations to proceed.

Teams that make or do must have a relentless focus on performance. Senior management must make clear, compelling demands on these teams and pay constant attention to their progress with respect to both team basics and performance results.

Teams That Run Things

Despite the fact that many leaders refer to the group reporting to them as a team, few groups accept this label. Groups that become real teams seldom think of themselves as a team due to the high degree to which they are focused on performance results.

The main issue these teams face is the determination of whether a real team approach is appropriate to the situation. As many entities can be more effective as working groups than teams, the key is to decide whether individual performances will suffice or substantial and incremental performance through real team products is required.

Working groups present fewer risks in that they need little time to shape their purpose since the leader usually establishes it, meetings are run regardless of prior ties to agendas, and group decisions are implemented in relation to specific individual assignments and accountabilities.

In practical terms, most teams that run things tend to be smaller, usually two to four people.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about focusing teams to produce results and positive outcomes, refer to A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: 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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

with 9 comments

Critical team success factors consist of specific elements that are particularly valued for obtaining the best results possible. These tend to reflect five major key areas that include team leadership, shared vision, attitudes and commitment, mutual trust, and team collaboration.

If team critical success factors are not addressed or implemented correctly it will result in a failed team project. They are considered required and necessary for successful team project execution and improved team communication, focus and energy.

If applied and monitored consistently and judiciously, the critical factors of success will allow any team to achieve a high level of capability. Each has an impact on the major processes of: innovation, problem solving, decision-making, and implementation. These processes are the way the team applies its capabilities to get product results.

The First Critical Factor of Success: Leadership

Every team needs a leader who is able to focus its members on a project’s mission, purpose and goals. This individual must be committed to the team’s results and must be willing to be held accountable by the team’s sponsor and other stakeholders for leading the team through processes that ensure its goals are attained. The job of the team leader is to get team members to successfully evolve through each successive phase of a project life cycle. This implies that a keen awareness of the state of the team must be monitored and maintained. In addition, the milestones and long-term goals must be consistently reviewed with the team as a whole. A good leader makes sure that progress becomes the “property” of the group.

Effective team leadership is one of the most important factors for team success and positive results. This is because it tends to have the strongest impact on all aspects of team performance. Team leaders are responsible for engaging each team member in the processes of the team and building a platform of mutual trust that leads to: open debate, collaboration, individual commitment, and personal accountability.

Team leaders set the tone of the team and create the environment within which team members interact and do their work. In addition, they also support and influence key success factors that shape the team’s internal environment and structure. This in turn determines the team’s capability or capacity.

Some key success factors may be beyond the control of the team or the team leader. Such as, higher authority may select the team leader. Or, senior management may determine: team size, arrangement, and perhaps technology and resource support. However, most of the success factors fall under the team’s control and can be developed by it.

The Second Critical Factor of Success: Shared Vision

A shared vision is held together by a sense of passionate interest and value. At the same time it needs to focus on practical aspects such as:

  • Everyday problems
  • New tools
  • Ideas
  • Developments in the field
  • Things that work and other things that don’t

The first step in establishing a shared vision is to identify a related goal that makes a strong impact for and on change. This goal must be more complex than a simple definition and contain:

  • A challenge;
  • An appeal to personal pride;
  • A sense of needed comradery;
  • A call to action that provides an opportunity for the team to make a real difference, and know it.

Only if this can be done effectively will the goal become a powerful vision.

The Third Critical Factor of Success: Attitudes and Commitment

Attitudes and commitment are what make a significant difference in the eventual success of an assigned team project. It is the collective membership of a team that literally decides to succeed. This takes a positive attitude and a strong sense of commitment on the part of all team participants. However, once this mindset is attained it becomes a self-directed impetus for forward movement and goal attainment.

A genuine desire on the part of the team to be successful comes through the evolution of a shared attitude and commitment among the team members that the project will succeed no matter what. This attitude is both powerful and sustaining. An example of this belief comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who stresses: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Teams that think they can are able to sustain their levels of commitment and positive attitudes by actually visualizing the project at its successful state of completion. In essence, team members are able to create the frame of mind necessary to get them through the inevitable obstacles that can be expected to emerge during every complex development stage and effort. Conversely, teams that lack positive attitudes and commitment effort will be stopped dead by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. It all comes down to the difference between doing difficult, creative thinking when it is necessary, or to simply accept defeat because the solution tends to require too much effort.

In some cases, a team literally decides to fail as in the book Peopleware, where Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister coined the term “teamacide.” This is where team participants plainly make a conscience decision, without openly addressing it, to cause the project to fail. This may be the result of personal conflicts, technical or departmental frustrations, or a lack of support.
Whatever the reason, the team undertakes a major negative shift in attitude, which becomes devastating to the team process as well as to the project itself.

Oftentimes even if only one individual develops a negative attitude, other team members become exposed and follow along. Before long, everyone on the team “catches” varying degrees of negativity and a loss of enthusiasm and commitment. The only truly effective remedy to overcome this is the attitude of the team leader, who must remain disciplined enough to guide the team through its various drops in morale.

The Fourth Critical Factor of Success: Mutual Trust

Mutual trust is considered to be the most important element of successful teamwork. As part of a team’s self direction, it is trust that enables the team to engage in open debate and decision making that leads to “a commitment of action” on the part of individual members of the team.

At times it is easier to instill and establish trust than it is to sustain it. Building high levels of trust requires an openness that allows team members to know and understand the beliefs and behaviors of all members of the team, so that team actions can be structured to take advantage of each member’s uniqueness and talents. As part of the process it is important for team participants to develop an understanding of how individual members of the team view themselves and how each responds to others within the team.

Teams thrive on trust. One of the main dynamics of a self-directed team is that part of its structure, practice and principles require that members ask for and offer help to one another to initiate and maintain mutual caring and sharing. Having open, frank and supportive discussions generates a strong bond and a sense of connection and trust among members.

Sometimes elements of trust become formalized within team guidelines and standards, which helps to sustain it. But often these elements simply remain “what everyone knows” about good and positive team practice. In the course of helping each other and sharing ideas, and collectively solving problems, “everybody” tends to become a trusted group of equal peers.

The Fifth Critical Factor of Success: Team Collaboration

An effective team consists of team members who are actively involved and engaged in the work and focus of the team. This requires all team members emotionally commit to actively and openly participating in the team’s processes and in the pursuit of the team’s goals. Each separate team member must willingly commit to carry out action plans that are necessary for the team to reach its defined goals. Each must also be dependable and willing to carry the full weight of personal responsibility to complete his or her individual commitments according to deadline.

An actively engaged team member tends to enthusiastically support others, which adds greater value to the team itself. When enthusiasm becomes combined into a high level of synergy, it is much easier to prepare and implement team processes. Because of the team’s ability to engage everyone in a positive manner, it also becomes part of the team’s self-directed focus to find solutions to issues and challenges both from an individual and team standpoint. All members will constantly seek to improve themselves for the benefit of the team and will refuse to quit or give up until the goal is attained.

The power of teamwork dynamics is engaged when team members come together to focus collectively on goals, issues, challenges, and problems. Team leaders must carefully manage the processes of team meetings in order to maximize the power of the collective knowledge and skills of the team members. As part of the collaboration process, more effective teams tend to follow a meeting methodology that both focuses on dealing with issues requiring the team’s attention and maximizes the power of collective knowledge and the skills of the team members.

Collaboration works to help establish personal accountability. Team goals will usually not be realized until individual commitments are completed and team members embrace a discipline to complete their commitments as scheduled. Through personal collaboration team members must agree to hold each other personally accountable for completing the commitments each person has made to the team.

Barriers to team and individual progress will occur in every team effort. However, collaboration works to effectively remove barriers and hurdles to ensure progress toward team goals and keep the team running smoothly and proactively. A highly collaborative team will make certain that each team member continuously reports the status of their open commitments to the team, so that barriers to completion can be identified early on. This allows the team leader and other team members the opportunity to deal with certain issues before overall milestones, timelines and deadlines are impacted.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about effective team building techniques that produce results, refer to Developing & Planning for Team Results: 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.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

with 5 comments

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem. Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur. An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective decision-making techniques, refer to Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management 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.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

Do You Have the Talent to Execute & Get Things Done?

with 6 comments

Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) observed; “Put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket,” when he answered the question of how he became so successful, he obviously gave a simple response to a complex question. However, his answer simply places a focus on the entirety of his plans and goals, from one who mastered the art of execution and used it to his competitive advantage.

When individuals are elected to run a corporation, most often the only major thing that is taken into account, is whether or not they have the talent to get things done and to deliver on their commitments. When it comes down to it, nothing else matters.

Alfred Sloan

Peter Drucker in his commentary about Alfred Sloan (General Motors) wrote, “The job of a professional manager is not to like people. It is not to change people. It is to put their strengths to work. And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts, and indeed is the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to. I once said to Sloan that I had rarely seen more different people than the two men who during my study had run the most profitable divisions of GM, Chevrolet and Cadillac. ‘You are quite mistaken,’ he said. ‘These two men were very much alike – both performed.’ – But ‘performance’ is more than the ‘bottom line.’ It is also setting an example and being a mentor. And this requires integrity.” [1]

The great leaders were known for their talent to execute well. Henry Kaiser (Kaiser) exemplified this ability when he ramped up production of his Liberty Ships during the Second World War. So did James Burke (Johnson & Johnson), when faced with the Tylenol crisis in the 1980s. Colin Powell (U.S. Army) observed, “‘The most important assets you have in all of this are the people, and if you don’t put people at the center of your process, you’ll fail. Not profit motives, not size of the organization’s headquarters, but people.’ What differentiates successful companies from unsuccessful companies is rarely the brilliant, secret, take-the-market-by storm grand plan. Indeed, the leaders of today’s great companies are inclined to freely share their plans and business models in books and magazines. Even if they weren’t, today’s fast-moving economy dictates that most organizations’ plans are on their way to obsolescence almost from the moment that they are publicly revealed.

The key to success, therefore, lies in exceptional, innovative, fast execution. Execution lies, in turn, in the capacity of people to quickly capitalize on fleeting opportunities in the marketplace; develop imaginative ideas and creative responses; generate fast, constantly changing action plans; mobilize teams and resources; get the job done swiftly an effectively—and then continue that process with relentless commitment. That’s what this ‘people’ thing is all about, because it’s people that make all that happen. What effective leaders do is create an environment in which great people can flourish in optimal pursuit of the enterprise’s mission. In describing the famed symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein, one observer noted that ‘what Bernstein achieved—and what great leaders achieve—is a seeming paradox. He convinced his players they were free to innovate and express themselves, while convincing them to accept his vision for the music and to follow his direction.’ That description nicely captures the spirit of the leader role that Powell endorses.” [2]

As has been previously noted, Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Fred Smith (FedEx), along with numerous other cited examples, all built successful organizations around their employees. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) knows not only the value of his employees and their contributions, but also knows how to extract the best from them. “Howard asks questions and will challenge you to perform. He’ll push you to go gather the data. He’ll tell you what he would do to try and solve a problem, but he’s not always going to hand you the answer.” [3]

Charles Schwab

While at Carnegie Steel, where he supervised all of the plant supervisors for Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab rose from laborer to the executive ranks through his uncanny talent to execute. “Schwab was not an originator, he was a builder of integrated teams. His particular genius was in handling people…” [4] Schwab often recalled a story, which demonstrates his talent to execute. He said, “I had a mill manager who was finely educated, thoroughly capable and master of every detail of the business. But he seemed unable to inspire his men to do their best.

‘How is it that a man as able as you,’ I asked him one day, ‘cannot make this mill turn out what it should?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘I have coaxed the men; I have pushed them, I have sworn at them. I have done everything in my power. Yet they will not produce.’

It was near the end of the day; in a few minutes the night force would come on duty. I turned to a workman who was standing beside one of the red-mouthed furnaces and asked him for a piece of chalk.

‘How many heats has your shift made today?’ I queried.

‘Six,’ he replied.

I chalked a big ‘6’ on the floor, and then passed along without another word. When the night shift came in they saw the ‘6’ and asked about it.

‘The big boss was in here today,’ said the day men. ‘He asked us how many heats we had made, and we told him six. He chalked it down.’

The next morning I passed through the same mill. I saw that the ‘6’ had been rubbed out and a big ‘7’ written instead. The night shift had announced itself. That night I went back. The ‘7’ had been erased, and a ‘10’ swaggered in its place. The day force recognized no superiors. Thus a fine competition was started, and it went on until this mill, formerly the poorest producer, was turning out more than any other mill in the plant.” [5]

[1] Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

[2] Harari Oren, Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (McGraw Hill, New York 2002) p.128

[3] Meyers William, Conscience in a Cup of Coffee (U.S. News, October 31, 2005)

[4] “Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab” by Robert Hessen and “The Highest Virtue” by Alan Stang (Freeman, February 1976)

[5] Schwab Charles M., Succeeding with What You Have (Century Company, New York 1917) p. 39-41

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

If you would like to learn more about the talent to execute of  the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

%d bloggers like this: