Leadership, Together We Can - Values in Action!

#11 Together We Can, Values in Action!

“Put your words in a letter so they won’t die on empty air.  Letters hold families and friendships together.  When someone wins an award, leads a drive, preaches a great sermon, or gives to the greater good of your company or community, lift his (her) spirits with a letter.  Get into the envelope and seal the flap!”

W.A Peterson


This may seem passe’ in this day of emails and social media, however, it is still a great way to recognize someone or show your appreciation.  I still remember receiving a congratulations card in the mail from a top executive when I was promoted to General Manager many years ago.  Although I didn’t really know this executive, I certainly knew who he was and was thrilled to have received a hand written card from him.

I’ve adopted this form of appreciation and periodically send a card to an employee’s home to thank them for going above and beyond, achieving a significant career milestone, or for accomplishing an important goal.  It’s a simple gesture that goes along way and allows their family to participate in their recognition.

Leadership, Leading People Series

Leading People Series – Part 4 – Listen First

Leading People Series – Part 4

People modelIn the Leading People Series, we’ll examine some key points to consider when leading people.  Part 4 is about the need for a leader to listen first, then ask how you can help.

So being self-critical, I have some work to do on this one!  Ok, maybe a lot.  Nevertheless, I do believe that as leaders we need to listen first to our team, and then ask how we can help.  I was reminded by another leader recently the importance of this when I was expressing frustration over someone not taking advice or feedback as well as I had hoped.  The other leader said to me, “Did you ask them if they wanted advice first before you gave it?”  Oops!

Sometimes as a leader it can be so hard not to offer a solution, give advice, or even sometimes tell someone exactly what they need to do.  This is usually because you so desperately want to help them or to avoid them having to learn the hard way like you may have.

Although I do have work to do to improve in this area, I do practice it and try to catch myself when I’m not doing so well.  So what can you do to listen first:

  • Obviously, the first step is to actually listen.  Stop what you are doing and focus on the person by looking at them and giving your full attention.  After they finish speaking, count to 10 in your head, giving time for them to potentially explain further or to give you some insights as to what they are asking of you, and most importantly for you to hesitate from jumping right in.
  • Ask questions to ensure you understand the situation and what has already been done while demonstrating interest, such as, “What is the impact of this?” or, “What actions have you taken so far?”
  • Ask how you can help or if they want your advice.  Often I find, people don’t want your advice, but rather just want to let you know what’s going on or to vent.
  • Ask them questions that lead them to their own ideas, thoughts, conclusions or decisions.  Use questions such as, “What options have you considered?”, “How are you planning to address this?”, “Are there other ideas or options you have considered?”, “What are the risks of doing this?”.
  • When it’s their call, tell them it’s their call but still ask how you can help them.  Ask them questions to assist them with their decision process, or to point them in the right direction of things they should consider while making the decision.  Use questions such as “Did you consider how this may impact the team member?” rather than “Don’t you think the team member will be negatively impacted by this because of …. “.  When they’ve made their decision, keep your trap shut… it was their call remember.

I recall a situation years ago when I was writing a very important A3 (form of business proposal) and had to review with two different VPs.  The first one told me to change this, change that, add this and delete the next thing.  I walked away completely demotivated, mad, and as though the A3 and contents were no longer reflecting my my work.  When I reviewed with the second VP, he listened to the proposal, asked me some questions to understand and clarify.  On points he didn’t think were articulated well, he would ask, “Is there a different way you can make this point more clear?”.  I’d make a suggestion and he would say, “Yes, that’s much better. I can understand that very clearly”.  I walked away from that leader feeling motivated, inspired and anxious to make the changes and improvements to the A3.

What do you do to listen first, then ask how you can help?

Together We Can - Values in Action!

#10 Together We Can, Values in Action!

Tom Peters summarizing In Search of Excellence: “Neither superior customer service nor constant innovation – the two edges of excellence – is built on executive genius.  Just listening, trust, and respect for the potential of each person in the organization.”  Have you listened to the heart of your company?  Your family?  Yourself?

Leadership, Leading People Series, Lean and Continuous Improvement

Leading People Series – Part 3 – Undercover Boss?

Leading People Series – Part 3

People modelIn the Leading People Series, we’ll examine some key points to consider when leading people.  Part 3 is about how important going and seeing what is going on, or not going on as the case may be, is so important when leading people.

Do you need to be an “Undercover Boss” to learn what is happening in your organization?  No!  Many people think that “go & see”, or as often referred within operations as “gemba”, is a manufacturing only tool.  I think that is a big mistake!  I believe that “go & see” is a leader’s most important tool and in fact, I think it is the secret weapon!  When I say secret, I don’t mean like on the “Undercover Boss” TV reality show where the leader pretends to be someone else in order to almost deviously figure out what’s going on in their organization.  What I mean is, that go & see is an extremely effective tool for a leader to truly understand what is happening in their organization, see the challenges their team is facing, demonstrate support by removing barriers, while providing coaching and empowerment to their teams.

Although there are all kinds of “how to” have an effective go & see or gemba, just start by going to see the process of interest, regardless what it is.  Go and see it with your own eyes whether it be an administrative function, physical process a team member has to perform, customer facing interaction, user interface, spreadsheet, location of an incident, whatever the situation, just go.  Just watch for several minutes or cycles to see the abnormalities and ups/downs of it while asking questions to understand.  Start with that, what you have to do next will become clear.

Go & see is to engage with your team by showing an interest in what they do, how they do it and to assist them in being successful at it.   Our teams come to work and want to do a good job and it is a leader’s job to help remove the barriers that get in the way of our teams doing the best job they can. Over time, waste and inefficiencies seem to creep in or inadvertently get added that can cause safety, quality, productivity, or cost issues. By going and seeing, a leader is more likely to find these wastes and inefficiencies and can take action with their teams to correct them.

“Like” if you regularly use go & see as part of your leadership toolbox.


For more information on go & see or gemba check out these posts:

10 Important Steps of Effective Gemba Walks or “Go See”

Gemba Walks – Tip #1

Gemba Walks – Tip #2

The best place for a meeting… is on the roof!

Teaching your eyes to see

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

A Leader’s Best Question

Gemba by any other name is… go & see! Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes!



Together We Can - Values in Action!

#9 Together We Can, Values in Action!

What motivates you?  No one works “for” a company or “for” a manager.  We basically work “for” ourselves, to fill our own needs or values, or because the company’s goals are meaningful to us.  “In communities where men build ships for their own sons to fish or fight from,” reminds J. Deville, “quality is never a problem.”