Together We Can - Values in Action!

#34 Together We Can, Values In Action

To create good, strong, caring relationships in your company, community, or country, go home and practice on your family.  If you want world peace, start by creating peace within a mini-society – your family.  A family almost always mirrors the qulity of our own values back at us quite clearly.

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Together We Can - Values in Action!

#32 Together We Can, Values In Action!

At age 40, I visited seven people who had guided me along positive paths when I was a child.  I wanted to thank each one for shaping my life.  To my surprise, only three remembered me.  Like stones dropped in a pool of water, the words of advice you give today may ripple outward into many lives and many tomorrows.

Don Dougherty

Don’s words are so accurate!  Don, you need to know that you didn’t just receive ripples created by seven people, but you dropped many stones in that pool yourself that have propagated ripples to many, many more.  I was fortunate to be one of them.  I met Don over twenty years ago when he coached and mentored me and my team on one of the pinnacle milestones of my career.  We have stayed in contact since then and Don has continued to be a mentor, advisor, and friend to me.  Thanks Don!  No doubt you have given more than you received!

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 

Together We Can - Values in Action!

#31 Together We Can, Values In Action!

Change the world… But where was I to start?  The world is so vast, I shall start with the country I know best, my own.  But my country is so very large.  I had better start with my town.  But my town, too, is large.  I had best start with my street.  No: my family.  Never mind.  I shall start with myself.

Elie Wiesel

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.