Leadership

How Effective Leaders’ Actions Speak Louder Than Their Words!

Do you sometimes find your team doesn’t understand your priority?  If so, they are probably confused by your actions not your words.  So what can a leader do to ensure their actions speak louder than their words?

In a previous post, A Big Problem With Problem Solving, an example was given where the team believed the leaders placed a higher priority on productivity over quality which ultimately resulted in a significant quality defect.  I received a question from a reader that many leaders often face, and struggle with, on how best to address the following type of unfortunately common issue:

The perception of team members that some attributes (i.e. cost and delivery) take precedence over other attributes (i.e. quality) has concerned me several times.  How do you suggest this can be changed?

A leader’s actions not only have to align with their words, the actions must speak louder than the words!  Also, actions have to be consistent and unwavering from the words particularly when in a time of pressure or crisis.  For example, if you always say safety is the most important thing, that you care for your team, and that you will not risk their safety for any reason, and then when you are under the gun to deliver on time, you instruct your team, or otherwise turn a blind eye, to by-pass a safety standard, process or policy, you’re done.  These are opportunities where your actions can speak louder than your words.  Imagine if during this same example, you shut down the operation until it could be done safely?  Of course there may be a negative impact such as missing on-time delivery, but over the long term, and as it relates to the culture and relationship with your team, which is more important?

Two real examples come to my mind that emphasize these points very well.  The first related to a safety issue that was identified but didn’t cause an immediate safety risk.  Only under certain conditions and situations was there some risk.  Many involved believed that with additional training and other controls in place, the risk could be adequately mitigated.  Further more, the condition had existed for some time but had only just been identified and become known.  Stopping the operation would no doubt impact the customer and add cost to the business.  The timeline to address the issue was significant, costly, and would impair the operation until addressed.  The leader involved, demonstrated conviction to their words of safety first, and shutdown the operation and kept it down until the safety issue was properly addressed.

I was directly involved in this second example and remember the situation like it was yesterday!  Production was behind schedule and as we worked hard to catch up, the quality indicators started to decline but remained within target.  On this particular day, the first passed yield dropped significantly, meaning a lot of rework would be required and the actual completed volume would be lower, adding to the stress of the situation.  We had always and consistently communicated that our top priority, second only to safety, was quality.  I called the management team together and requested that we shutdown the plant and conduct a quality stand-down with the entire plant.  They looked at me like I was out of my mind!  They raised concerns with the additional lost volume this action would result in, not to mention the costs!  We shutdown and communicated the quality concerns, what the top issues were, what the operators could do to improve quality, and reconfirmed our leadership priority and commitment to quality over productivity/volume.  The recognition and appreciation from the team was incredible, which boosted the morale and pride of the operators for being part of an operation that placed quality ahead of productivity.  They wanted to believe!

They wanted to believe!

These examples describe real life crisis situations many leaders have and will no doubt face in their careers.  It is during these times, that true leadership and commitment to a leader’s words, values, and standards is tested and demonstrated.  It is during these times, you either build or destroy your culture and leadership trust.  These decisions are never easy, even though they should be, because of the other ramifications and consequences they create.  However, I’d suggest that typically those consequences are short term focused.  If you lead with the long term in mind, the decision is clearer and easier to make.

The same holds true for a non-crisis day.  Your actions must be consistent with your words.  You can’t walk by or ignore anything that doesn’t align with your words.  You must take action.  For example, no matter what else is happening at the moment, walking past something or someone that is unsafe when you say safety is your top priority, completely discredits your words of the past, present and future.  Look for opportunities to emphasize your priorities and reinforce your words every chance you can find.  Always explain “why” one thing is a priority over another.  If you need to focus on something else that might give the perception that your priority has changed, explain why you are focusing on the other and that it has not in fact superseded the higher priority.

Leave a comment with what you do to ensure your actions speak louder than your words!

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com 

Leadership, Personal Development

“But that is your job!”

As leaders, we all have a lot of demands on our time.  Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in other things and forget that one of the primary responsibilities we have as leaders is to support our teams.  It might be surprising, but in reality our teams are not there to support us.   Leaders are there to support their teams!  Of course a primary job of a leader is to set the vision and direction that the team needs to go, but after that, our job is to facilitate the team in accomplishing and reaching those goals.

How do you think you stack up in this area?

What would your team say about you?

I’ve realized recently that I need to get better at this.  I know this is a key and important part of my role, but I’m not as good at this as I need or want to be.  You know what I mean?  The frown or sigh you make when one of your team drops by your office and says “Bill, do you have a minute?”.  Sure, you are in the middle of catching up on emails, or reading that monthly report and it interrupts your train of thought.  You aren’t necessarily making the gesture or sound effect towards the individual, but nevertheless, the impact it has on your team is tremendous.

I remember when I worked in a totally open office concept and an engineer came to my desk to ask me a question.  We had a brief conversation and I answered his questions after which he walked away.  Then I sighed and made a comment to the person next who was like my Sensei, that, “It is impossible to get anything done around here without getting interrupted!”.  He looked at me with a surprised look on his face and very sternly said,

But that is your job!

He went on to explain to me that the purpose of my role as a leader was to be there for my team.  To answer their questions, provide direction, coach them, teach them…

I never forgot that.  He was so right!  Ever since then, I have made a concerted effort to make myself accessible.  However, what I realized recently is that I had gone too far.  If I wasn’t in a meeting or on a phone call my door was open, and I encouraged anyone to come in anytime.   In my attempt to give my time to my team, I hadn’t given any time to myself.  To my surprise, the complete opposite to what I was intending was happening;  my “open door policy” had lead to frustration on my part which resulted in a poor experience for someone that did come to see me.

I’ve talked to my team about this and they have given me some suggestions because they also realize, I need time to work and get things done.  They don’t expect me to be available whenever they want, but they do want access to me and want to know I will get back to them.  After all, we all do need to get things done that require our full attention and concentration.  So the first suggestion I have, is to discuss accessibility with your team and get their input as to what they need and expect of you.

Below are a few suggestions to help make yourself more accessible to your team and more supportive when you do:

  • Determine the best days and times of day when you are at your best to receive your team and give them your full attention.  Similarly, determine when your best time of day is to focus and get your own things done.  Plan your schedule with these times in mind.
  • Have open “office hours” in your schedule and communicate in advance to your team to which anyone can drop by to see you.  You may want to schedule the person in to avoid conflicts, but the point is that the time slot is always open in your schedule until someone books it.
  • Close your door or go somewhere private when you cannot afford to be interrupted, but set a time frame as to how long you will do so before coming up for air.
  • Establish an SLA or Service Level Agreement to which you will respond to emails or other requests and commit to it.  Mine is 24 hours.
  • Schedule regular 1:1s with each of your team and allow them to discuss whatever they want to discuss as a priority ahead of anything you want to discuss.
  • Establish informal opportunities to have discussions with them, such as meeting offsite for a coffee, lunch or sometimes dinner.
  • If someone does come to see you, or calls, and you are in the middle of something important that requires your full attention,
    • Ask if it is urgent – nothing worse than telling someone you will get back to them later then finding out it is a drop what you are doing 911!
    • If not urgent, explain to them that you are in the middle of something that you need to get finished, but that you will get back to them by a specific time.  Make sure you do!
  • When someone does drop in to see you, or during a scheduled meeting with you, turn your phone upside down so you can’t see the screen and leave it away from where you are, turn off notifications, lock your lap top and give them your full attention.  Turn and face the person.  At the end of the discussion, summarize what you discussed, agreed upon, and the follow up dates/requirements.

Coincidentally, as I was drafting this post in my mind, I came across a post by John Hall  on social media that was similar in concept and had some great advice.  Worth a read:

Why saying I don’t have time is a great way to lose trust of your teammates

Leave a comment with what you find is a great way in which you give your time to your team.

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com.

Leadership, Personal Development

Steps To Build a Professional Network

So you have decided to build a professional network, but don’t know where to start?  Well the first step is NOT to start sending hundreds of LinkedIn invitations to random strangers.  Ok, so where do you start?

In the last post, Is A Professional Network Even Necessary?, we talked about what a professional network is, and why having one is important.  If you missed it, check it out now before reading this post further.

Getting Started

To get your network started, make a list of people you know.  As this is a professional network, with professional being the key word, be particular about who you place on this list.  They should be of good character and reputation.  Someone you trust and is trusted by others.  Remember this is just a start and that to build your network, you will be relying on this initial list to get you going.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Family and friends
  • Known acquaintances of close friends
  • Co-workers
  • Past co-workers
  • Former classmates
  • Fellow members of professional associations you belong to
  • Former teachers, professors or instructors
  • Parents of your children’s friends

Once you’ve got your initial list done, establish a prioritization criteria.  This criteria will establish how often you want to make contact with each person.  For example, a very close network member you may want to touch base with monthly, while another member might be once per year.  The criteria may also be based on the importance they hold within your network based on influence, mentoring, gaining new connections.  It’s up to you.

Rules of Engagement

Networking can take a lot of time.  How much time can you commit?  Once you establish your network, people within your network are going to make requests of you for various things.  What are you willing to do or what won’t you do?  At first you will be reaching out, but in a short time, others will be reaching out to you to connect.  Who do you want to connect with?  What is your criteria to connect with someone?  You should establish your rules of engagement right from the get go.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • What is the main purpose or goal of your network?
  • How much time per week will you spend building your network?
  • How much time per month will you spend meeting people within your network?
  • What is your budget for networking?  i.e. Gas, coffee, lunches, dinners, drinks
  • What is your connection criteria?
    • Do you have to know them personally?
    • Will you insist on a referral from someone you know and trust first?
    • What industries do they need to be from?
    • What level of experience?
    • Any educational requirement?
  • Will you provide “recommendations” on social media such as LinkedIn?
    • Recommendations are a reflection of you as well.  You should never recommend someone if you truly do not endorse them.  As such, consider how you will accept some requests for recommendations and not others.
  • Will you endorse members of your network for their skills on LinkedIn or other social media?
  • How will you handle job reference checks?
  • Who will you meet over email or phone vs for coffee or lunch?  Who will you meet over dinner?
  • How will you handle the tab for a meeting?  Will you pay?  Split it?  Decide in advance or at the meeting?

The First Connections

If you are serious about your network, integrate it into your personal planning routine to ensure that you are scheduling time for it and are taking specific actions to build your network.  It will not happen by itself.  You will need to work at it and when first establishing a network, it will take a great deal of time, focus and energy to do so.

Using your contact list, go back now and indicate your preferred means of connecting with each person whether it be by email, phone, or face to face.  Based on your personal planning, start reaching out.  You may decide to send several emails a week to some contacts, calling one or two, while arranging to meet one for coffee in a given week.  To make it happen, schedule or plan time to send the emails, have the phone numbers available and again schedule time to call.  Predetermine a mutually suitable place to meet that doesn’t inconvenience one person more than the other.

HINT:  When planning to meet someone face to face, plan several weeks to a month in advance.  Don’t expect to call someone on Monday and arrange to meet them on Tuesday.  It typically doesn’t work that way!  Again, build this in to your personal planning, so that you are taking actions this week, to arrange a meeting in a month’s time.

Growing Your Network

Now that you have your network established, you need to look after it and grow it.  The best way to look after it is to maintain contact with the members of your network on some frequency.  It doesn’t have to be overly frequent, but maintain contact somehow.  We all get busy with life and work, and at times, you will not have the time you really want to spend on your network, but keep it alive.

You don’t want to be that person who reaches out only when they want something!  You know who I mean.

This also applies to members of your network.  They may not be responsive or appear to make an effort at some point, but don’t give up on them.  They may be back.  There maybe something going on in their life at that moment that is demanding more of their time.  For example, we’ve had a very challenging couple of years in my family dealing with aging parents and ultimately their passing, which has demanded a massive amount of my time, leaving me with very little ability or energy to spend on my network.  However, I’ve tried to keep it going as best I could, and now with this family need behind me (unfortunately), I’m trying to revive my network again.

To grow your network, look for opportunities to meet new people.  Within your existing network, ask a member if they can recommend someone for you to connect with from their network.  This can be done through a LinkedIn referral, or ask them to connect you virtually by sending an email to both of you to introduce you to each other.  Arrange to meet with them and their colleague for a coffee.

You can make great connections at leadership development seminars or training, or when attending trade shows or conferences.  Wherever you are, whether it be for personal or business purposes, be looking for good opportunities to add to your network.  Remember though, the game is not to get as many “connections” as possible and LinkedIn connections do not necessarily define your professional network.  In a truly professional network, you know each member personally, you can vouch for them, and they for you.

Other Related Posts:

How to Build and Maintain a Professional Network – Dawn Rosenberg McKay

The Most Common Professional Networking Mistake – Alison Doyle

 

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

 

Leadership, Personal Development

Is A Professional Network Even Necessary?

Do you have a professional network?

A professional network is very important for your career.  A healthy network takes years to build.  How’s yours?  Is it active and healthy?

What Is a Professional Network?

Well, let’s start by saying that it is not having 10,000 connections on LinkedIn!  Sure, LinkedIn is a very powerful networking tool, but professional networking is much more than having many connections on social media.

A professional network is a system of business contacts with the intent to connect with each other for career, business, or developmental purposes to the benefit of all involved.  Sure, a professional network may help you find your next career move, or your next great hire, but it is much much more.  They may also assist with problem solving, recommend vendors, suppliers, or professional services.  Professional networks can also establish life long mentorship relationships.

How I Got Started.

cafe-coffee-shop-coffee.jpgWay back, I was one of those that thought that a professional network was only necessary if you were looking for a new career opportunity.  As I was challenged in my position at the time and not seeking new external opportunities, I did not maintain a professional network.  Maintain?  Well, I really didn’t have one!  Then, a colleague of mine that I hadn’t heard from in a number of years contacted me.  He was currently between positions and suggested we get together for a coffee.   Believing that my employer wouldn’t be a good cultural fit for this individual and not aware of any openings that would be suitable for him anyway, I declined.  But that didn’t stop him.  To me, he was relentless and eventually I gave in and met him for a coffee.

That’s ok if you don’t know of any opportunities for me.  Let’s just get together and catch up.  You never know how we’ll be able to help each other.  If not now, someday.

I met this leader that time and to this day have continued to meet with him, exchange phone calls on a regular basis, and we have helped each other out in one way or another countless times over the years.  Today, he is the CEO of a large company, and I feel pretty confident, no I know, that he is still there for me today.  And I’m there for him.  In fact, I spoke to him just yesterday.

If you wait to create a professional network until you need a new career opportunity, it’s too late!

Why Have A Professional Network?

Of course a professional network is critical if you are searching for new opportunities.  Or as a leader, your network can be an important source of new hires for your organization. In fact, in this regard your network can be a great form of a “pay it forward” system.  You can help others find their next new career opportunity or colleagues find their next superstar hire and some day, they may repay you with the same.

However, the benefits of having and sustaining a healthy network go much further.  Below are some examples of additional advantages to having an established professional network:

  • Your own growth and development by learning new skills, technology, and approaches
  • Give/receive career advice.  Others’ points of view are healthy when evaluating careers, next steps, evaluating opportunities, and making career choices/decisions
  • Connect others to your connections or each others connections
  • Provide mentoring to other leaders
  • Receive mentoring from other leaders
  • Increase your exposure in an industry, technology, or field of focus
  • Exchanging non-proprietary business ideas
  • Benchmarking opportunities and exchange of best practices
  • Learn of development opportunities such as seminars, training, on-line learning, books
  • The social interaction beyond those you interact with daily within your organization can be extremely motivational and inspiring

 

In a future post, we’ll review the steps necessary to build your network and the investment necessary keep it healthy and active.

So what do you think, is a healthy professional network necessary? 

What are other benefits of having a professional network?

Leave a comment…

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

Leadership, Personal Development

Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Tactics or Action Plans

The tactics or action plans are what brings goals and objectives to life and make things happen!  Whether setting personal or organizational action plans, this is also a step that if not done well, can lead to disappointing results.

In the last post, Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals and Objectives, we discussed the various important points of strategy or focus areas and how these then lead to goal development and then SMART objectives.  In this post, we discuss the critical execution stage of developing Tactics or Action plans used to deliver a successful objective.

The tactics or action plans clearly describe the tasks that you and/or your teams will do to achieve an objective.  Action plans are typically developed annually describing the tasks to be taken by whom, and when they are to be completed.

Action Plans are the detailed and specific tasks that will be taken to achieve one or more goals. 

When determining the action plans, be sure to review all the information gathered during the strategy brainstorming such as the SWOT analysis. Involve as many of the stakeholders as possible when determining the action plans. You need to define as many tasks or actions necessary to achieve the objective.  The more detailed you are, the more likely you are to achieve the objective.

Each action to be taken should include the following details:

  • What action is to be taken
  • Who is responsible for taking each action
  • When is each action to be completed
  • What resources are required to make the action happen

road-closed-sign-1-1165296-1279x591A key step I believe that is very important, is to identify the main barriers or risks to completing the individual tasks.  These are the things that can block progress or achievement of the task, or distract you or your teams.  Identify what they are up front and then invest time and focus to determine what mitigation steps can be taken to reduce the risk of impact.  For each barrier determined, consider multiple mitigation ideas or steps you can take to avoid or reduce these risks.  Build those into your plans.  These barriers and mitigation ideas can then impact or cause you to revise multiple parts of your action plan such as the what, who, when, or how.

For example, let’s say you have a personal objective to develop a 3 year strategic plan for your team.  While considering the barriers that can stand in your way, you identify that the day to day operational nature of your responsibilities may prevent you from having time to spend thinking strategically.  As mitigation to this you may decide to block a certain number of hours per week in your calendar for the entire year specifically for “Strategy Development”.  You go further by selecting a day of the week or afternoon in which you can work off-site to reduce the chances of casual interruptions.  Reviewing your calendar, you find that the best day to do so, would be Thursdays as there are typically less head office meetings, your team is heads down on priorities for the week, and you have the most control of your calendar.  Blocking your Thursdays across the horizon for “Strategy Development” will go a long way towards removing this identified barrier.

“When something is scheduled, it is 92% likely to happen!”

In the post Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals and Objectives, we used the following objective examples:

  • Personal Objectives:  Reduce my weight to 165lbs by June 1st and sustain through an active lifestyle.
  • Organizational Objective:  Reduce operating costs by 12% within 12 months.

While considering the barriers to achievement of these objectives, we determine that in the case of the personal objective the dark and cold mornings during the winter months are a real deterrent from a morning run.  Furthermore, for the organizational objective, a barrier is determined that many of the operating costs are governed by existing contracts and purchase agreements.  What action plans can be taken to achieve the objectives while taking these barriers into account?  The following are potential examples:

  • Personal Action Plan:  Purchase a treadmill for less than $1500 by 1 September.
  • Organizational Objective:  Establish a cross functional team comprised of operations, engineering, procurement and legal and identify top 10 contracts based on annual spend and opportunity, to review/renegotiate by 15 March.

The next step is a step that is often overlooked.  The problem is that after the action plans are determined everyone goes back to “normal life”.  However, soon after returning to “normal life” the action plans are forgotten.  Why?  Usually because the action plans are not integrated into daily routine and cadence.  The action plans will not happen on their own; you need to make them happen.

Here are some methods to “operationalize” your action plans:

Personal Action Plans:

  • Add repetitive actions to your Leader Standardized Work
  • Add an action plan review cadence to your Leader Standardized Work
  • Post a copy of your objectives and tasks where you will see them daily
  • Integrate into your regular weekly planning routine by adding specific tasks or actions you need to take that week as well as to review your progress and adjust as necessary
  • Set repeating calendar reminders or scheduled tasks in your calendar to review objectives and action plans on a regular basis

Organizational Action Plans:

  • Involve your team throughout all phases of developing the goals, objectives, and action plans
  • Create charters for each goal that clearly describe the problem, objectives, inputs/outputs, action plan, milestones, deliverables,  and team
  • Post or make visible to the entire organization the goals, objectives and the teams responsible for the action plans.  Regularly post updates on progress and performance.
  • Create a project plan and schedule, complete with gantt charts
  • An entirely separate topic is to implement the Hoshin Deployment Matrix to deploy and align your entire organization on your most important organizational objectives
  • Add an action plan review cadence to your Leader Standardized Work
  • Schedule regular cadence reviews with your team in which they report out on action plans and metrics, request your help, and you can provide direction
  • Conduct a gemba to review the results of actions within the operations
  • Celebrate and recognize accomplishment and completion of tasks.

 

What do you do to “operationalize” your personal or organizational action plans?  Leave a comment.

 

Other related posts:

  1. Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals & Objectives
  2. Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Mission Statements
  3. Reflections Vs Resolutions – It’s That Time Of Year!
  4. Lead with Vision
  5. Elements of Strategic Planning – Systemico.ca
  6. What Are Your Goals? – Valiance Coaching
  7. New Year’s Resolutions/Goals and How to Keep Them – The Whole House
  8. Don’t Make Resolutions! Set Goals... – Gloria Green Entertainment
  9. Demystifying the Hoshin Kanri X Matrix – Kanbanize

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.