Viruses, Riots, and Bears, Oh My! Providing Inspiration in Uncertain Times

That last few months have been trying for everyone around the world. The threat of plague, interpersonal violence, lack of certainty, economic collapse, and possibly war in particular regions cause many to lose sleep and suffer anxiety. If ever there was a time for leaders to step up, provide hope, instill trust, and inspire all of us to be better, it is now. There are no secrets about the actions leaders need to take to restore confidence, peace, and stability. They are the same principals leaders have used for ages.  Leaders need to assess the situation and how each crisis affects her team, identify a course of action to address the threats and seize opportunities, and communicate the plan to followers in such a way to reduce fear and create inspiration. There are no easy answers to any of the problems currently facing the world but leaders can still do things to make the situation better by following those simple steps.

In times of uncertainty, leaders create plans that allow others to begin to sort our the pieces and restore order. from pxhere.com

The most important thing leaders do in times of crisis is provide calm, calculated responses. Before selecting a direction leaders assess what is happening. During times when we are in an economic downturn, facing a pandemic, open violence in the streets, and complete uncertainty about how long each of these crisis will last, a calm response provides reassurance that at least there is stability in one part of the world. In addition to conducting a hasty Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis figure out what kind of problem you are facing from the Cynefin model.

The Cynefin model introduce in 1999 by David Snowden and Mary Boone breaks down problems into five categories, Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, and Disorder. Identify simple problems as those whose cause and effect are known. Apply best practices. If you have a problem whose cause and effect can be discovered with some analysis categorize it as a complicated problem. Apply good practices to complicated problems. The cause and effect in complex problems can only be identified in retrospect. Apply emerging practices to complex problems. If the cause and effect cannot be perceived, you are facing a chaotic problem. Novel practices are best for these situations. In the case of disorder, leaders must do something to restore some level of order before applying any solutions. Understanding the type of problem you face helps identify the best approach to that problem (click here for an infographic). 

In our current state, it appears the problem leaders appear to face a chaotic or complex problem because the cause and effect may be discovered with some probing or not perceived at all. However, leaders currently face several separate problems. True some of them are related such as the downturn in the economy caused by the pandemic. However, the economy was also affected by the riots. Each problem must be analyzed separately with an understanding of the cause and effect each has on the other. The most important assessment is the impact each problem has on your team.

Leaders find ways to navigate in uncertain times and inspire others. From pxhere.com

Once leaders identify the problem or problems, they need to develop ways to address the problem. Leaders do not have to come up with the solutions on their own. Turn to your people. If you are a smart leader, you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you in different areas of expertise. Rely on them to help find some ways to deal with the problems you face.  An example from a gun cleaning kit manufacturer is that they switched from making gun cleaning kits and accessories to creating protective masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer. They have been able to keep many of their workers employed and meet a growing demand for such products. Those leaders identified a threat to their current product line and an opportunity for a new product line and took action to keep their company viable until demand for their primary products return. 

Often in times of unrest, leaders do not know any more than their followers about what their followers know. However, those same followers turn to their leaders for messages of hope, reassurance, and inspiration. Communication during times of uncertainty is critical. Be honest. Many members of the press have pressured government officials to identify when life will return to normal. The best leaders honestly say they do not know. However, they also establish courses of action to begin the return to normalcy. They use milestones measured in data rather than time to trigger certain easing of restrictions. They tell people what is coming next and what the standard is for that next action to happen.

As a leader in your organization you should be doing the same thing. Tell your people the problems facing your organization. Tell them the steps you are taking to return to normal and what metrics serve as trigger points for those actions to begin.  You cannot take away the current pain people are feeling. If people know there is a path ahead and you are scouting that path, they will be inspired and follow you.

Leaders work with others to solve problems one step at a time. Before long all the pieces of the puzzle fall in place. Photo by Willi Heidelbach form PxHere

The current problems we face create difficult leadership challenges. During such times good and great leaders assess what is happening, identify a way to resolve the problem, and communicate their plan with others. As leaders deal with difficult situations in a calm fashion, they reassure their followers that things will become better. People who follow such leaders are better able to respond in bad situations because they know what happens next and can plan appropriately. Uncertainty becomes less scary. They know the night might be dark and stormy, but their leader goes before them making the path safer to travel.

The Flag No Family Wants but Wave with Honor

A red rectangle on a white background surrounding a blue star. The banner is displayed in the homes of the families who have members serving in the military. During the first and second world wars, it was a banner of honor. No so much during the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. The banner is proudly displayed again in the windows of families who have members serving in the military. Because less than 1% of our nation’s population serve in the military it is rare to see such banners. Even more rare is the the banner with the gold star instead of blue. It is a banner no family wants. A banner with a gold star instead of blue means that family lost a loved one while serving the country in combat.

What is the story of the gold star? Where did it come from? It seems like the gold star has been a centuries old tradition. However, the tradition only began after the beginning of the Great War of 1914.

The story of the Gold Star begins in Ohio in 1917. CPT Robert Queisser patented a service flag with a red border and blue star to honor his sons serving on the front lines during WWI. Cleveland adopted the flag as a symbol for all families who had sons serving during the Great War. Before long, families who lost sons during the war replaced the blue stars with gold stars. President Wilson is credited with establishing a black armband with a gold star for the mothers who lost sons instead of wearing the tradition black dress during mourning. It does not take much imagination to understand how the gold star from the armband found its way on the service flag replacing the blue stars. Before long, being a gold star family was an unwanted honor.

Early historical records share rituals armies conducted after battles to celebrate victories and honor their dead. There is no time in battle to reflect upon or mourn those who die. The Soldier must continue to move to achieve the objective of the battle. Even though nations and armies develop formal ceremonies to honor those who die in war, small units also create their own rituals.

Author

Often those rituals grow out of little habits warrior develop to prepare for battle. They have code words that have great meaning, certain ways of preparing equipment, and even mascots and good luck charms. Men and women who enter battle only have each other to rely on knowing that even if they do everything right it may not be enough to keep away the grim reaper.

Memorial Day grew out of a post American Civil War tradition of decorating the graves of Soldiers who died during the War between the States. Then it was called Decoration Day. Several states and cities lay claim to the title of being the first to start the practice in May. By the time the Great War started, it had become a spring-time tradition across the nation

The Great War changed America in many ways. We learned we could no longer remain an isolated nation. Many of the modern memorial traditions began as a result of the Great War. In addition to the blue and gold star service flags, congress established the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. If you know the history of Arlington, you know the connection to the Civil War and therefore to Memorial Day.

For those who do not know, the property of Arlington National Cemetery was the homestead of GEN Robert E. Lee. While Lee is remembered for his actions leading the rebel army during the Civil War, his service in the United States Army is often forgotten. President Lincoln seized the property for unpaid taxes and began burying dead Union Soldiers there to insult Lee. The front porch of Lee’s former home is still one of the best views of the Washington Mall.

Note there is no star by Edward E. Cross.
Photo by Autor

As I began to prepare this piece on the symbol of the Gold Star I was surprised to learn how new the symbol was. As you can see from the references below, my research was all internet based and we all know how reliable the internet can sometimes be. I decided to do a little research on my own. It is common practice on war memorials in communities across our nation to mark the names of service members who died during the war with a star. My community has war memorials dating as far back as the French and Indian Wars in 1754. I ran down to the old monument that stands at the sight of first town meeting house. I noticed there was not a single star beside any names, not even beside Edward Cross who was the commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Second Army Corps during the Battle of Gettysburg where he was injured on July 2rd 1863 and died the following day. No star beside his name yet several monuments around town dedicated to him!

Notice the names with stars.
Photo by author

When I went to the war monument for WWI, I found the first instances of stars beside names on the honor roll. Clearly this was the time period that the nation began to distinguish those who died in armed conflict while on military service.

To circle back to the beginning of this post, it certanly seems that the story of the Gold Star Banner dates to World War I. CPT Queisser’s flag created to acknowledge the service of his son’s has become a tradition to honor families that have members serving in the military. The Gold Star is an important part of that tradition. As you attend a Memorial Day service this weekend, pay attention for those who wear a Gold Star. Remember to thank them for their sacrifice as you would any living veteran. You see, veterans may be the one who write the blank check up to and including their own life when they join the military but it is the families that have to cash that check. Remember every name on your town’s war monument with a star was the son or daughter of someone. Many had spouses and children. On this Memorial Day please remember not only those who gave all but also those they left behind.

References

American Legion. Blue Star Banner. https://www.legion.org/troops/bluestar 5/22/20

Burdeau, Lisa M. Mourning And The Making Of A Nation:, The Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages, 1930-1933 April 2002 https://www.vanderbilt.edu/rpw_center/pdfs/BUDREAU.PDF 5/22/20

Cross’ monument in Wilder Cemetery, Lancaster, NH.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery. shttps://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier

Fine Tuning the 10 Minute Rule

The ten minute rule for changing habits is like time itself, relative. Ten minutes is not an absolute, rather it is an idea that you can do many things in a short time to change your life or organization.

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

I introduced the 10 Minute Rule in my last post. I received some great feedback from readers through private messaging. The feedback caused me to reflect on some finer points not discussed in the original post that help make the rule most effective. This post will focus on using the 10 Minute Rule to build a series of habits into routines and improve retention. The important lesson in this post is that change takes time; whether you are making changes in your life or helping employees make changes in their work lives.

Recognize that during the change process there will be set backs. That is a normal part of change. Developing new habits helps build persistence and resilience but only if you are willing to begin again and forgive yourself and others when initial efforts fall short of success. Developing routines help improve success rates. It takes time to figure out what part of the habit cycle create the conditions for new behaviors to become ingrained habits.

As I began searching for ways to improve my life by changing my bad habits into good habits I found my first attempts failed. I would try to copy what someone I knew and respected was doing. The way they approached a problem was not always a good fit. Instead of throwing in the towel, I made small adjustments until the process was my own.

An early example of a ten minute habit I adopted was developing a time management system. I would often forget appointments, tasks assigned by my boss, and chores I promised to do at home. To be honest, I still do but far less often. After reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I started to carry my version of the Weekly Schedule shown at the end of the chapter on Habit 3: Put First Things First. This was ‘back in the day’ before reasonably priced laptop computers, cellular telephones, and even Palm Pilots. I used a word processor to create a version of the schedule, Xeroxed, and stapled a year’s worth of sheets together. It worked for some time but I found it just wasn’t right.

I began looking at alternatives and eventually found a commercially available calendar system I liked that was affordable. I used that system for many years, but eventually transitioned to a different calendar system that was easier to carry. I now rely on apps I can use with my phone and computer. I suspect I will be using something different in a few years as technology changes along with my preferences. The bottom line is I learned to control my time better which is the first habit you need to change to make other changes.

Calendars help you take control of time to accomplish important things. Find a system that works best for you.

Photo by author

Not everyone works in an environment where their time is easy to control. If your business is managing crisis, your time is often controlled by others and circumstances. Police officers, emergency room doctors, snow plow drivers, and those in similar professions need to respond to the current emergency. However, even those types of workers have periods during the day when they have control of their time. Plan tasks or projects to work on in those periods which in turn will help you begin to improve your habits. Planning improves execution.

Regardless of the planning tool you use, it only works when you use it. In order to build a house you need tools like hammers and saws and ladders. Just because a person owns a hammer, saw, and ladder does not mean he will build a house or anything else. Nothing will be build until that person picks up some wood, saws it to size then connects it to another piece of wood by using the hammer to drive nails.

In an earlier post I talked about the importance of developing organizational policies. They are important because they establish routines people use to make decisions when confronted by simple and complicated problems. Those routines establish a standard and allow people to figure out how to creatively implement standard answers to common problems. In your personal life you do the same thing with routines. As I began to gain control of my time, I started to study the habits of successful people. I found many had morning routines that helped them become emotionally, physically, and psychologically ready for the day. A common morning routine includes some sort of physical activity, some sort of spiritual or reflective activity, eating a healthy meal, and analyzing and adjusting their schedule for the day.

Likewise I learned that successful people have work routines that help them prepare to do physical, mental, or group work. For example a person might grab a coffee, hit the bathroom, log off their email account, develop a list of tasks to complete during the work session, and shut off the ringer on their phone. A person could write each of those items down on their calendar every day using. Alternatively, one can create a checklist used every time a routine is executed. Using the checklist ensures a person follows the steps necessary to have a successful work session.

Each item on your checklists becomes a habit. Returning to the morning routine, you can decide that when you wake up you want to make your bed, do some sort of morning exercise like walking, or lifting weights, and then eat a healthy breakfast. Start by making your bed. Do that for several days then add the exercise for ten minutes. After several days of exercising in the morning add the healthy breakfast. In this fashion you create a healthy routine that prepares your for your day. By adding only one habit at a time each task sticks better. As you become better at each, you can adjust the time to for those days you have off or have to leave early.

Developing a series of morning habits help create a routine that makes someone more successful all day long.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

I little leadership tip here, you can apply the same activity for a group meeting. The checklist is called an agenda. They help keep everyone focused on the important tasks of the meeting and honor everyone’s time.

As you integrate new habits into your life using the 10 minute rule, understand that the ten minute time is a concept, not concrete. You can make your habits one minute habits like Ken Blanchard did in the One Minute Manager, or 20 minute habits if you need 20 minutes to successfully complete all the tasks of a new habit you wish to adopt. Not everything can be done in 10 minutes.

It is not really possible to prepare a 45 minute lesson for a meeting at work in ten minutes. You can however set aside 10 minutes over several days to prepare the lesson. You will still need at least 45 minutes for your rehearsals and it is essential to do rehearsals in order to be a successful speaker or trainer.

The Ten Minute Rule is a valid method to change and adopt new habits in your life and to help those you lead create change. Remember that the ten minute part is a guideline. That number is not carved in stone. You may find you need to complete several short tasks to develop a new habit. Each may only take a few moments rather than ten minutes. Gradually build each new task over time until each is its own habit and all the tasks come together in about 10 minutes. Some things need more time to complete than ten minutes. The Ten Minute Rule is nothing more than practicing small changes in behavior that make a big difference. The longest journey always begins with a single step. Remember, if you find you failed to maintain a new habit, in about ten minutes you can begin again! Persistence is the key to the 10 minute habit, not time. I challenge you to set aside ten minutes today to begin a new habit that will make your life better. Also take ten minutes to teach those you lead about the Ten Minute Rule.

Ten Minute Rule: Adopt Habits of Successful People

Ten minutes of daily practice is better than 60 minutes of practice once per week. Photo from pxhere.com. No other photo information available.

“Go play your horn Joseph!”

“Mom I just want to finish this level.”

“Shut the game off and go practice your horn NOW!”

“But Mom I’m almost done.”

Dad steps in, “Hey, you know Joe if you practiced your horn 10 minutes everyday right after school we wouldn’t have to fight like this every Sunday night.”

“Oh yeah Dad, then how come you don’t run a mile everyday after work instead of running three miles on just Saturday and Sunday?”

…Crickets…

The story you just read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty father who told me this tale. The back story is that he has to complete a physical fitness test on a regular basis and struggles to complete the run in the time allotted. However after this confrontation with his son, he changed his habit. Instead of running six miles over two days which was not helping improve his run time, he did what he told his son to do, he started running one mile everyday after work but still ran three miles on Saturdays. On his next fitness test not only did he pass, but he cut five minutes off his run from the previous test. It took Dad less than ten minutes after work to run a mile but the improvement was dramatic.

I unknowingly started to develop the Ten Minute Rule of changing habits several years ago. As I continued my lifelong pursuit of continuous improvement by studying the habits of successful people I noticed that many of them had similar habits and rituals. They did things like exercising regularly, journaling, meditating, making new connections, creating paths for achievement, reading often, learning about new people and places, and taking time away from work to be with family and friends. I recognized that if I adopted some of those habits I would become more successful by accomplishing more and becoming a better leader by extending my influence.

The habit of staying in touch with connections keeps your personal and professional network alive, well, and growing. Keeping connected is an example of a habit that can be done in ten minutes or less and have a great impact on your life.
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

I started simply enough by writing a card or email at least once each week to someone on my contact list (back then it was an address book) that I had not connected with for a while. I found that I reinvigorated my professional network by reconnecting with people as they responded to my cards. Next I tackled journaling. I had taken a class that talked about how reflective journaling could help leaders find patterns in their behavior and the behaviors of others that were counter productive. I figured I could do that in about 10 minutes a day at the end of each week. I continued to add habits here and there as I found 10 minute activities were easy to add to my schedule and made dramatic improvements. I even added running a mile a day!

Ten minutes a day can make a big difference in many things you do as a person and as a leader. As described above, some of those habits are for personal improvement and fall into the category that Stephen Covey called “Sharpening the Saw.” Other habits expand your influence that allows you to have more resources and power to accomplish things for yourself or your organization. Some of the most important habits as a leader involve investing time to develop others. The best way to change a habit is to replace it with another habit. When you add the ten minute habit of spending time with your followers you make them better employees and set the example of making small behavioral changes.

You may wonder how to begin accumulating a series of new “Ten Minute Habits” when your day is already full from morning until night. Like all journeys, you begin with a single step. Pick one habit you want to add to your day that will make a difference. Examine your day to find ten minutes you can consistently engage in the new practice. You do not have to do it every single day but the more days you do it, the quicker the new habit will take effect. Alternatively, you can find a ten minute period of time and decide to add a few new habits and do one or two each day during the week.

Regardless of how you start, write down in your calendar, your journal, the notes on your phone the days you complete the new ten minute habit. Writing down the days you actually do the habit begins to form accountability to yourself for making that important change.

When you develop a new habit you displace old habits. Charles Duhigg encourages people to identify the cue that starts a bad habit and the reward you receive for any habit you want to change. Once you know the cue and reward, you insert a new response which eventually becomes your new habit. Once you change one habit you will find others that do not serve you as well as they used to and want to change those as well. Taking a few minutes each day helps you make those small changes that make your life better.

Apply this to leadership by helping your employees change their habits. Ken Blanchard tells a story about an executive that is so busy helping her employees solve all their problems she never has time for her own work. As she works with her mentor she learns that she developed the habit of solving employees’ problems for them instead of helping them learn to solve their own problems. As she works with her mentor, she learns to teach employees how to solve their own problem, teaches them their decision making authority, and frees up time during the day to work on the projects she needs to complete. When employees develop the habit of going to the boss every time they have a problem they become dependent on the boss to solve all their problems. That is good for no one.

Spending ten minutes with an employee to teach them a new skill, progress on a project, or to check in on life events sets a powerful example. They learn they can be self reliant and still have your support. They know you care. They learn important habits do not have to be time consuming. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Like teaching employees to set goals, teaching employees how to establish new habits helps them learn to help themselves. As a result every employee becomes more productive, learns things to make them better employees, and begin the process to become leaders in the future. Remember the old saying that you cannot be promoted if you are indispensable in your current position.

Before I wrap up, I want to point out that the ten minute rule is a target. My morning routine is a series of ten minutes habits I developed from learning about other successful people’s routines. Some mornings are shorter because of life and I’ve learned that some of those ten minute routines can be done in one or two or five minutes instead of ten when necessary. Recognize that sometimes a few dumbbell curls is better than not exercising at all in the morning. The next day you can workout for 15 minutes to make up for the short day.

Using the ten minute rule can be a powerful way to develop habits that create success personally and professionally. Leaders adopt habits such as journaling, meditating, reading, etc. to become better leaders. As they learn how to integrate ten minute habits into their own routines, leaders can begin to teach others how to benefit from the the ten minute rule. Not all change is fast like adapting to the new normal of corona virus. Change that sticks takes time as people learn new habits. Using the ten minute rule creates slow, small change that increases the likelihood the change will be lasting. Try the ten minute rule. If it does not work it only costs you ten minutes. When it does work the return on, your ten minute investment is enormous.

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References

  • Blanchard, Ken. The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do
  • Covey, Stephen. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit

3 Steps Leaders Use to Teach Ethics

We have all been there. In that dreaded conference or classroom for the mandatory training on ethics. People drag themselves in at the last moment with a look of boredom before the instructor has even shown the first slide. We all know what is coming, the boring text based slides, the monotone speech, the guy in the back row who, while leaning back in his chair falls asleep and falls over bringing a few minutes of excitement and humor.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Ethics training is important. The only way people in the organization understand its guiding principals is to received both classroom and hands on training. But the training does not have to be like that described in the first paragraph. In fact, there are so many ways to approach ethics training that it is unethical to have bore people during training. Leaders should be prepared to conduct ethics training on three levels. The first demonstrate by training ethically. The next provide ethical training. Finally identify organizational behaviors that require change and train to change that behavior. This post presents a few ideas about how leaders can accomplish each of these goals without having to speak above the din of snoring in the classroom.

The first step, train ethically seems like a no brainer. Well if this statement was true, few of us would know the dread of sitting through one of those classes. Leaders tasked with providing ethics training have an obligation to use time well. Presenting instruction in such a way that students fall asleep and take away nothing to help them do their jobs better just is not ethical. In fact, it may not seem like much learning happens in classed like that buy employees learn their time is not valued and the organization does not value them as people.

If part of the reason organization train ethics is to avoid civil liability, then this kind of training encourages law suits. You can pull out sign in rosters and lesson plans but if students do not take the lessons with them into their workplaces you failed. Leaders should train employees to do the right things the right way for the right reasons. That is the best insurance against torts. Well trained employees help organization avoid liability. Value is added to employees when they understand how to apply guiding principals in their daily work habits and routines.

Good training is valued by employees. When employees know they will receive important lessons taught in an interesting way, they look forward to training. Everyone despises the torture known as Death by PowerPoint. The point of presentation software is to help make critical points powerfully. By showing everything you are going to say on the slide the importance of the points are lost. Be prepared to speak the ideas, not the slides.

Helpful supervisors have greater influence by living organizational values – Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Now you have demonstrated the ethics of the organization by valuing the time of people and keeping the engaged. That is great but content is still important, teaching ethics. Teach organizational standards, orders, policies or other written documentation governing behavior in your organization. Teaching does not mean reading. Have war stories to share related to when things both went well and when they did not. Such stories show why certain rules and expected behaviors were established. If the training requires students read organizational documents, assign them to read the documents before class. Formulate a series of questions that invites the employees to discuss how those rules apply. Good questions lead to the students sharing their own stories for others to evaluate. As students share their examples others can chime in about the nature of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Facilitated classes are great opportunities to share ethical theory with students and show how their biases effect their reflection of organizational standards.

If the point of training is to change behavior then leaders need to include some exercises employees can execute to learn those new behaviors. Repetition is required for this training to be successful, but do not teach the exact same class to the exact same audience time after time. Both you and your students will become bored quickly. The point of this training is to focus student attention to voluntarily comply with the organizational mission, principals, expectations and norms. Use this time to explain what the mission statement means to their section. Talk about how the organizational principals support the mission. Express your vision for the future of the organization. Even if you are teaching the newest, lowest level employee remember that as some point that person may be selected to lead. Share your vantage point with others so they understand the why doing the right things the right way is important to them as well as the organization.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

As you work through the exercises and activities, employees will become aware of how the behavior of good leaders in the organization aligns with it guiding principals. As a leader people are always watching you. When you are doing the right things the right way for the right reasons employees notice. Every time you engage in desired behavior you are teaching others what is acceptable. The boss that uses the sea gull technique of leading will be shunned as they take about guiding principals.

You never heard of a sea gull boss? He or she is the one that is always hovering around above everyone else waiting for someone to make a mistake. When they see the mistake they swoop in, make lots of noise and then fly away pooping on people as they stream skyward.

On the other hand, the boss that is always around but not into everything also notices when employees make mistakes. He or she may watch the employee struggle a bit to see if she can figure out how to fix the mistake. Just before the employee does something harmful, this boss calmly arrives and coaches her through the process.

One of these two bosses will be listened to in ethics class. The other will be ignored. The one that act respectful receives respect. Employees in ethics class taught by that person begin to understand that the positive behaviors are aligned with the organization’s guiding principals and they try to change their behavior accordingly. They have a positive model to follow.

As you develop training for each of these areas, you will soon find you have far more material to cover than the time available. Newer leaders assigned to train will curse and try to squeeze everything into the allotted time. Experienced trainers recognize the opportunity to provide follow up training without repeating previous classes. This provides those leaders opportunities to improve attention and retention in subsequent classes. Focus on the three areas, ethically train, train ethics and change behavior. When you do, your followers will clamor for more.

Leading others to success in four easy steps

Setting goals is an important personal skill to achieve and measure success. Teaching others to set goals is an important skill for successful leaders to master. Teaching people to set goals ensures their personal and organizations success. Unfortunately, too many people work for bosses who do not know how to set goals, let alone how to teach others to set goals. If you read and put into practice any of the suggestions from my earlier post, you know how to effectively set personal goals. Learning to teach others and helping them along the way is pretty easy when you follow these steps.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Once you understand the process for setting goals and achieve a few goals you develop an appreciation for the importance of goal-setting. The process is pretty simple. First assess things you do well, things you can improve, and what you want to accomplish. Next, figure out where you are in life and where you want to be. Third, develop a plan to move closer to your desired end state. It does not have to be a perfect plan. By the time you develop a perfect plan it will be too late, so take your imperfect plan and adapt is as you move along the path to success. Written goals are more effective than those that are not written. Periodically check your progress. You will find that as you change, other things change too. That requires you to make adjustments to stay headed in the correct direction. That is also why perfect plans are rarely effective. This paragraph is intended to be a review. For more on setting personal goals see my earlier blog by clicking here.

You have to set and achieve a couple goals before you begin trying to teach others. If you are in a leadership position you probably have done that. Maybe you never thought about how you go about setting and achieving goals so you do not know how to teach others. That is the point of this post. It is only a little harder to teach others to set their own goals than it is to learn to do it yourself.

Start by sitting down with your employee or protegee and explain the goal setting process described above to them. Share a story of your personal success following the goal setting strategy to motivate them. Explain the SMART model Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Share your version of a Goal Setting Worksheet to document their goal. Click here for an example.

When you introduce the goal setting process, take time to explain each step briefly. You will demonstrate each step when you spend time helping him set his first written goal. It helps to have a set of directions even if you do have a tour guide for the first trip. It also communicates credibility.

When you explain SMART goals, explain each term. Help them understand the difference between a specific and non-specific goal statement. There is a difference between saying, “I want to loose weight.”, and, “I want to loose 25 pounds.” It seems obvious on the surface and when the two appear side-by-side. People who have not successfully set and achieved goals think they are the same. Explain different ways to measure success when you talk about a goal being measurable. In the weight example you could measure fat lose by using a scale or waist size. The simplest way I ever heard to explain attainable is to ask the other person if someone has previously done what they want to do. If someone else achieved it then that person can as well. Relevant goals can be relevant. Explain that a work place goal is relevant to the workplace. Personal goals are relevant to their life. Relevance is the “Why” of the goal. When discussing time-bound explain it prevents or reduces procrastination.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Introduce your version of the Goal Setting Worksheet. I learned in the One-Minute Manager that a written goal should fit on one page, be less than 250 words, and reviewed in less than a minute to ensure people review it periodically. The worksheet becomes the map to achieve the goal. In my work, I found a simple set up makes writing down goals easy. Put the name of the goal at the top. Next list the person completing the goal, the start date, and the target completion date. If you have more than one employee, it helps to have their names on the worksheet when you follow up later with them. List the steps necessary to complete the goal. Identify some measurements of success and what the desired end state looks like.

Start to put everything together. Work with the employee to find a goal. Help them conduct her first assessment by asking questions that guild them to find out what they want to achieve. Questions should include answers that provide insight to the SMART elements. Work with them to write out the goal on the worksheet. If you are working on a workplace goal, you, as the leader, must agree the goal is worthy use of her work time. Once the goal is established and written up, make a copy for you. The employee keeps the original.

As part of the goal setting process establish when you will meet again to review the progress. I recommend daily or weekly for small, simple goals with inexperienced employees. Eventually employees will develop bigger goals. You need to meet less often to assess progress and success.

During the periodic review meeting ask for details about the progress of each task step. Inquire about problems he encountered and how they resolved those problems. Review the measurements to help them understand if he is doing what he set out to do. Before you finish the meeting, ask if he needs anything from you to continue. Find out what steps he will take between this meeting and the next. Wrap up by setting the next meeting date and praising his progress.

Learning to set and accomplish goals is an important growth steps for individuals. Learning to teach others how to set and achieve goals is an importation growth step for leaders. Leaders first have to understand the process used to set and achieve goals. You cannot teach what you do not know. When you sit down to teach someone how to set a goal, review the goal setting process of assessing what you want to achieve, identify where you are and where you want to go, develop a plan, establish measures of success, and evaluating and adjusting the plan periodically. Explain why goals are SMART. Introduce the Goal Setting Worksheet because written goals are more likely to be achieved. Take time to walk the employee through the process of setting a goal. Meet periodically to assess progress and provide support. Before long, your protegee will be teaching others how to succeed and you will be known as a successful leader.

Leading During a Crisis: Ensure Your Organization Survives COVID-19

Leadership is the most important thing right now for organizations. It doesn’t matter if you are a leader in a governmental organization, a non-profit, leading in the private sector, health care, or even a volunteer leader in a local club. Leadership during these rapidly changing times will be the difference between the organizations that thrive after COVID-19 runs its course and those that collapse during or shortly after things return to “normal”. 

The Corona Virus Pandemic is forcing leaders to rapidly implement changes in their organizations. Those who lead effective change will have advantages once the virus passes. Credit: Fusion Medical Animation from unsplash.com unsplash license 2020.

Change is inevitable. I have posted several blogs on leading change. Good leaders understand change is always happening and look to the future to ensure those they lead are ready when change happens. Most of the time that means change is gradual and like the hands on a clock, the changes are barely perceptible.  Sometimes, like the events surrounding the COVID-19 response, change is rapid and requires leaders to accelerate their leadership processes.

Joan Sweeney, Ph.D teaches there are five elements that need to be present for change to success fully happen. Those elements are vision, skills, motivation, resources, and plans (Sweeney, 2009). If any of these elements are missing effective change fails to happen. Whether you find yourself leading gradual change, rapid change, or in a crisis, you as a leader need to ensure each of these elements are in place to lead change.

SWOT

Start by assessing the situation. A SWOT analysis is common method of assessing. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. There are plenty of documents, books, and websites discussing the subtleties of conducting SWOT analysis. If this is the first time you heard this term, head to your favorite search engine. I provide a short answer about what SWOT is here. Divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants.  Label each Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Individually or with your team identify each area. Ask the simple questions of, “What are our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats?” Use these answers to work on the five elements of change.

Vision

Most leaders understand the need to have a vision. In times of crisis, the vision is not about the distant future. The vision is about the days, weeks, and months ahead. The vision shares with your stakeholders your view of how the organization navigates the turbulent waters of the crises, in this case getting through the COVID-19 Pandemic. This element is essential so examine your strengths and opportunities so others have hope.

Leaders ensure the organization has people with the necessary skills to implement change and the motivation to use those skills. Credit: Allie Smith from unsplash.com with an upnplash license 2020

Skills

Take a look at the skills you listed in your strengths. Determine how you can use them to address the threats posed by the situation to create opportunities. Include this assessment in your vision statement. Doing so provides hope which is the basis of motivation.

Motivation

I learned on Jocko Podcast 207, that the root of the word motivation means to move (Willink, 2019). When you motivate others, you cause them to begin movement. To sustain movement, it is important for leaders to align resources with action plans. This alignment demonstrates to followers that the proposed action and change is both viable and attainable.

Resources

There is an old saying in the Army, “We the willing have done so much for so long we are now qualified to accomplish the impossible with nothing.” In times of crisis resources become scarce. If you have tried to by bathroom tissue or hand sanitizer in the last few days you know that is true in this current crisis. You may not be able to acquire the ideal resources is times of crisis so leaders need to be creative. What resources do you have that can be repurposed safely to accomplish the same thing? What resources can you obtain that come close to doing what you need done? What do you really need?

Leaders need to provide resources to implement change whether it is responding to Corona Virus or any other change in the organization. Photo by author.

In a TEDTalk in 2006, Tony Robbins encountered former Vice President Al Gore while discussing the importance of resourcefulness. He told the former VP that had he been more resourceful during the campaign he would not have needed to have his case heard by the Supreme Court. Rather he would have received an overwhelming number of votes to win the election without having to resort to a Supreme Court case. Leaders always have to figure out how to use the resources available to accomplish their organization’s mission.

Planning

Plans in crisis are important. Looking ahead and creating plans before crisis helps move that process along quicker. Even if you lack a plan for dealing with a pandemic, you probably have some emergency plans you can adapt. In the non-profit I run, we have plans to continue operations in the event of a disaster like the building burning down or other cataclysmic events. We did not have one for dealing with COVID-19. As the crisis escalated, I found it easy to re-examine our emergency plans and take relevant parts, piece them together to develop a plan that, so far, ensured we were available and able to continue to provide services to our clients.  Planning occurs rapidly in a crisis. Your plan must support your vision. You need to communicate so everyone remains motivated to apply their skills to overcome the crisis. The plan must include how to use existing resources and how you will find other resources necessary to survive the crisis.  Your plan does not have to be perfect.  Theodore Roosevelt said,

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

Conclusion

In this current crisis, leadership is critical to meet the changes required for organizations to survive.  Leaders must ensure they communicate a vision, coordinate the skills of stake holders, provide motivation and resources, and create a plan that effectively coordinates the actions of the organization. Leaders everywhere are faced with important decisions during this pandemic. Following the basic principles of change management will ensure your organization prepares and responds effectively to this crisis and emerges ready for the future as things subside.

References

Robbins, T (2006). Why we do what we do. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_why_we_do_what_we_do 3/18/2020

Roosevelt, T (n.d.). Unknown publication. retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/theodore_roosevelt_403358 3/18/2020.

Sweeney, J. (2009). Organizational culture and change management. Command Training Series: Executive Development Course. Bristol, RI: New England Asc. of Chiefs of Police, Roger Williams University.

St. Cyr, C. (2019). Leading change. Little Leadership Lessons. Blog. available at https://saintcyrtraining.com/2019/07/

Willink, J (2019). Podcast 207: Live a life worth fighting For. Medal of honor recipient, Kyle Carpenter. Jocko Podcast. retrieved from https://jockopodcast.com/2019/12/11/207-live-a-life-worth-fighting-for-medal-of-honor-recipient-kyle-carpenter/ 3/18/2020.

Learning to Handle Leadership Power

Wise leaders understand and obtain power at many levels. While the opening statement may sound Machiavellian, power is necessary to influence others. Leaders need power to accomplish tasks that grow and improve the organization. Leaders set agendas. Without power, organizations deteriorate or cease to exist. Leaders do not work alone. If you want to lead you need to learn about, acquire, and harness power.

Niccolo Machiavelli has become synonymous with leaders who gain and use power to only benefit themselves. Good leaders learn sources of power and how to use them to benefit others and their organization. Machiavelli by Santi de Tito from Wikipedia.

Power focuses organizational energy. Think of power like a spot light. The leader focuses the light in the direction he wants the followers to go, illuminating the objective. Without a power source there is no light to focus, no objective to achieve.

In an organization leaders often have one or more power sources available to accomplish the goals of the organization. The common power sources include, charismatic, expert, coercive, reward, and positional. A short description of each and their uses follow.

Charismatic power is likability. A synonym d, is referent. This source of power may get you in the door, but rarely lasts long except with those who are weak. Leaders who only use this power must do things in order for others to continue to like them, or at least continue to receive their approval. There is nothing wrong with being likable. If this is your only way to influence others eventually you will find yourself held hostage to the demands of others to remain likable. This source of power does develop resilience if the leader uses his or her charisma like bait and follows through by engaging in behaviors that develop trust and a genuine environment of physical and emotional safety.

Expert power stems from ones ability to do well or have specialized knowledge. This provides power in two ways. The first is like the artillerymen of old who guarded the secrets of their craft so their skills would always be in demand by armies. The second yet potentially fleeting source is through the ability to teach others your skill or knowledge. When you share those secrets that have made you successful, you have the potential to create rivals and replacements. Alternatively, you could also develop collaborators who desire to achieve more than either of you could alone. If you are truly an expert, there will always be a demand for your skills and knowledge. As a result, you will always have power to influence others. Like Charismatic power, you need things to ensure this power lasts. Continue to study changes in your field. Share some of your knowledge with other with no strings attached. Doing so develops trust that you use your knowledge to benefit others rather than just yourself. They only way your skill and knowledge retain power is by sharing it. However when you share it, you enable others to also begin developing expertise. If you fail to keep up with the times and charge too much for what you can do or know, others will surpass you and have more power. Before long your followers will be following them because they trust (hum seen that word before) the other person will treat them fairly

Sources of leadership power include charismatic power, expert power, positional power, reward power, and corrosive power. Each is a tool, neither good nor bad. Image by Thomas Kelly from unsplash.com

Legitimate, reward and coercive often go together but not always. Legitimate power is granted when awarded a ‘leadership’; position with in an organization. Sometimes this source of power is call positional power. CEOs have legitimate power to run their cooperation. They also possesses the ability to dole out rewards such as pay raises, promotions and prime parking spaces. On the coercive side, is employment termination, demotions and selection of another’s pet project. Legitimate power is limited to only those within the organization that agree to follow that person. It weakens when the leader behaves in such a way that followers move onto other organizations because they feel the leader does not have their best interest in mind (they lack trust). Leaders in legitimate positions of power are only effective when they can also use other sources of power to influence people outside their organization. The CEO who runs a company that makes the best product in its class will not lead long if no one buys the product, or he cannot influence suppliers to provide material at a reasonable price. Only when a manager in a position of perceived power develops trusting relationship with those outside an organization does that manager become a leader.

To be clear on this point, this extends down the ladder from the CEO. If a shop foreman in the stamping machine area has a good relation ship with the foreman in the warehouse, he maybe given priority to receive rolls of material and have spaced cleared of finished products sooner that perhaps the foreman in the milling machine area of a factory. As a result of that foreman’s relationship, he secures greater production for his operators. They they receive piece rate bonuses they are happy. If he monopolizes the warehouse’s material handling equipment and other sections cannot get their parts moved, that foreman may find he is out of a job and then his workers suffer. He is the the big kahuna. He cannot demand others who do not work for him do things but he can have influence.

Reward and coercive power does not solely rest with formal leaders. Each of these can be used on their own by providing rewards and punishment to others or together to mold behaviors. Sales representatives can influence behavior by offering a better price to a favor customer. Alternatively, a phone manufacturer may encourage the purchase of new smart phones by withholding software updates to keep older phones operational even if the older phone would still function.

Power is a tool. If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem or opportunity looks like a nail. However the skilled carpenter with a small complement of basic hand tools tools is capable of building beautiful things. Between his experience and tools he can fashion wood into anything he can imagine. Take another person with a workshop full of the latest and greatest power tools but has no skills; he would not be able to build a simple wooden box.

When power is controlled and focus it can be used by leaders to accomplish great things that benefit many. When raw and untamed, power wreaks destruction. Image by Vance Osterhout from unsplash.com

As leaders practice their leadership skills they increase the power options available. Using a variety of tools shapes followers into quality employees, volunteers and future leaders. When they show those future leaders how to use the full spectrum of leadership powers, they prepare the organization for continued success well into the future. New leaders learn to adjust the focus and intensity of the organization’s spotlight so others can see their vision and follow them into the light and out of the darkness. Without power, there is no leadership. Power wielded poorly results in failed leadership. Only when someone masters the power of each tool, develops the necessary skills to use each tool, and develops trust with others does that power contain the potential for leadership.

Leaders need to develop a full complement of power sources to influence others. They must learn how to obtain, develop and use each tool. As they practice they will find that the tool they used to accomplish a task with one piece of wood, will not work so well with another piece. One version of a tool may not be capable of completing every job much like using a framing hammer to drive a tack. A tack hammer is the better choice.

References

McShane, S., Von Glinow, M. Organizational behavior: Emerging realities for the workplace revolution. 2008. McGraw-Hill

Leading by Training Others

    Leaders, by their position, are trainers. This important task is often overlooked by leaders particularly in larger organizations with training divisions. However, leaders are always responsible for their followers work and on-the-job behaviors, so they better be prepared to train them.  

Even when leaders are not training others, they are. Everything leaders do sets an example for others to follow. People begin to understand what behaviors result in recognition. Your behaviors demonstrate what behaviors are recognized. Photo by Nappy from pexels.com CC attribution.

    The purpose of training to create or change behaviors by influencing people work or behave in ways acceptable to the organization. One of the most basic training events is new employee orientation.  Orientation sets the stage for employees to conduct their activities in accordance with the organization’s documented procedures. In many organizations someone from human resources conducts new employee orientation. While this process serves to ensure all new people understand the company’s culture and expectations, only the leaders in each office, branch, or division can provide those employees with the expectations in their part of the organization. The best definitions of leadership include descriptions of influencing others, providing motivation, sharing a vision or improving the organization. Leaders who take time to train people do all these things.

    Frequently organizations introduce change by providing some sort of training program. The training describes the desired change. The goal is for employees to understand the new philosophy and provide the skills required to complete new processes. Frequently formal leaders are called upon to conduct the training but not always. How the trainer presents the material either improves acceptance and success or results in rejection of ideas by employees. Training presented passionately increases success and the trainer’s profile with senior leaders.

    Some organizations select high performing workers to receive training about changes then train the rest of the organization. Selection as an instructor gives line workers an appreciation for the vision of the organization’s top leaders. Using lower level employees as trainers has additional benefits. Those employees become in-house subject matter experts in the theory and process behind the change. They learn how to present ideas to influence others to change behaviors. They provide an opportunity for an organization to see how potential future leaders perform when given leadership tasks. The other employees view the trainers as leaders.

   Selecting peer trainers is an important task. Employees selected to become trainers take a few steps up the company ladder. This new position improves their view of the internal workings. Employees who learn to successfully influence others in a positive fashion demonstrate they are ready to become leaders. Their actions help implement the change senior leaders seek to implement. 

     Trainers learn more about the organizational culture. They help senior leaders determine if those employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities align with future leadership position requirements. Smart employees seek ways to open doors like opportunities to teach and train to prepare for greater leadership roles. Employees may be unaware their desire to teach marks them as future leaders. Many managers overlook training ability when leadership positions become available. Do not overlook them.

     Not all organizations rely on in-house assets to provide training and implement change.  Many look outside and hire consultants. There are times consultants and outside trainers are necessary such as when fielding a new piece of equipment or implementing a new leadership program in a growing company without a training office. If you find it necessary to look outside for training, remember those consultants become leaders in your organization. Check their backgrounds before letting them have access to your vital human resources. Make sure they have a track record of doing what they say they do. It amazes me how many organizations hire outsiders to teach leadership. The consultant comes in for a short period of time, presents the material, then leaves and may never be heard from again. This type of training rarely is effective.

Anyone who teaches is a leader. The instructor may be an established organizational leader, an expert with no leadership title in the organization, or an outside consultant. Regardless, trainers influence others to change their behaviors so they are by default leaders. Photo by rawpixel.com from pxhere.com

    If you hire outsiders to teach your people a skill or ability, insist on periodic return visits to reinforce the lessons learned. This is important even if the training is for some sort of new technology or process. When the consultant periodically returns, it provides your people with the chance to improve their skills. If you hired the consultant because they are a real expert, you people receive more and change more with each exposure to that person.

     This principal also applies to trainings you select your people to attend outside the company. A school or consultant should offer some sort of follow up for their training. This enables your employees to reconnect when they run into some sort of problem. Several training models require students to attend training a few days each month and then return to their work place. They return to the school periodically to discuss how what they learned in earlier lessons worked out in the real world. The experts guide and mentor students to be more effective.

     Examples of such training programs include any of the apprentice programs in the building trades. Apprentices work for a master for months and years. The master teaches the apprentice a new skill then allows the student to practice. The master looks over the shoulder of the apprentice making corrections as necessary. As the apprentice improves, the master spends less time checking the work. When the student masters that task, the master teaches a new skill.

     The New England Association of Chiefs of Police offers a series of trainings for police leaders. In this model, students attend a week of training and learn several important leadership lessons. They return to their home agencies and apply what they learned over the course of a few weeks. Students check in with their teachers and each other to learn how to make corrections and improve their skills as they actually apply them to real world problems. The students return to the school after a few months to report successes and learn a new round of skills.  The periodic interaction with experts and application to real world problems allow those student leaders to become expert leaders much the same as the building trades apprentices.

Never stop learning. After three decades of leading others the author is seen here attending a year long training program for children advocacy center leaders. The lessons learned here will be transferred to others using the techniques and methods shared throughout this blog.

   Leaders influence organizational culture and behavior by training. Learning to train others provides junior employees opportunities to show their leaders they possess skills to influence others. They learn to communicate important ideas and concepts. By creating quality training programs, trainers help management introduce organizational changes. Standing in front of the crowd provides the trainer a spotlight to demonstrate their ability to their leaders and for leaders to influence others. As a leader you are a trainer in your organization. Change a life; change your organization; take time to train others and become a leader.

Leading Problem Analysis

Paralysis by analysis is a common phrase used to caution leaders not over analyze a situation before taking action or making a decision. There are many on causes for such paralysis to include fear of moving forward and not understanding how or what to analyze. Leadership analysis should help leaders and their support staff to understand a situation to they can develop a course of action that helps resolve problems, adjust strategic course, and implement change. Conducting a proper analysis reduces fear, provides answers to important questions, and allows leaders to make quality decisions in a timely fashion. Here is a way, but not the only way, to improve leadership analytical skills.

There are several key steps to making a good situational analysis. Analyze key relationships, Figure out what data are available to inform decisions. Use data to identify relevant trends. Identify available resources. Figure out tasks required to implement the decision.

Identify Key Relationships

Key relationships are tied between individuals, positive and negative, as they relate to the problems or issue. Key relationships are those strong ties between people, not just associations. For example a husband and wife work in the same company and one would think they have strong ties. However each works in different parts of the organization and at work, rarely work together. An example of a positive strong tie might be between a particular sales person and a supervisor in the shipping department, or a project manager and a company supply buyer. Take the time to map out these relationships indicating their strength and whether or not they are positive.

During this step, you also want to identify each key players known position on the issue under consideration. Identify whether they against, neutral, or in favor of the position. Determine how likely they are to change their position on the matter. Identify what risks you face and controls you can implement to mitigate the risks. What messages do you want to communicate to internal and external audiences? Develop courses of action and use criteria to reduce options to the top two to four. Select a course of action and execute. Tailor the steps to meet your needs by prioritizing steps and the depth of each step to improve good choices.

What Data Is Available?

Data is important. It helps you identify the current state of affairs, and when things begin to change. You need data to identify trends. You also need to determine if key data is not available but can be produced. If the data cannot be produced, what methods may inferences about data can be made?

Data helps you identify what kind of problem you have. With simple problems you can easily identify the cause and effect. Therefore you can quickly apply best practices with little additional analysis. You categorize events and respond.

With complicated problems, you can distinguish the cause and effect from analyzing data. Once you identify the issue you can determine a set of good practices and apply them accordingly. You analyze complicated problems then respond.

When faced with a complex problem, cause and effect are not readily apparent. Frequently cause and effect are only identified in hindsight. Complex problems require you and your team to probe by asking analytical questions, sense potential courses of actions, then respond.

Cause and effect are not perceived with chaotic problems. To address chaotic problems, take action, step back to sense the results of those actions then respond with the action that appears to provide the greatest result. Develop selection criteria. Develop courses of action.

Identify Relevant Trends (internal & external)

With data in hand, organize it so you can identify trends related to key analytical questions. Such questions may include things like:

  • How do sales projections compare to actual sales?
  • How do production projections compare to actual production?
  • What relationship do interest rates have on other key performance indicators?
  • Where are the biggest buyers?
  • Where are sales non existent?
  • Which products and services are in greatest demand?
  • Who is our target audience?
  • How has our target audience change?
  • When can we expect regulations to change that affect our organization?

This range of questions imply that the team should look at a series of Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why questions related to the issue. Use caution answering Why questions at this stage.

Identify Available Resources

Available resources expand or contract reasonable options available to decision makers. Think about the smart phone in your pocket. How much of the technology was know to computer designers and software engineers in the 1960s and 1970s? The basics have not changed much since the introduction of transistors. What has changed in how to write code better and the manufacturing process required to reduce the size of the components. So why did we not have pocket smart phones before men walked on the moon? Answer, the resources were not yet available. The very things needed had not been figured out, effective code and micro transistors. There is more computing power in your smart phone than was on the entire Saturn V rocket that brought the astronauts to the moon. I would wager there is more computing power in that phone you are reading this on than was in all of mission control! NASA used the available resources to send men to the moon. They did not wail for the days of smart phones.

An example of available resources comes from Apollo 13. When the support module exploded ground and space crews had many problems to work out. It was not possible to introduce more resources to the crew in space. The crew had to work with what they had to return the crew and space vehicle safely to earth. The first steps in solving each of those problems included identifying the available resources.

An important part of analyzing available resources included figuring out resources that other posses that you can leverage. For example a small nonprofit trying to expand their community messaging mission could rely on a friendly ccorporate sponsor to provide staff part time from their marketing department. The nonprofit cold never justify hiring a marketing person but they cold use a corporate sponsors resources.

Identify Tasks required to complete change

Again another simple task. What needs to happen to make the project happen. The steps can be as bask or as involved as time permits. The end result is knowing what needs to be done, in what order, and what can be done concurrently.

Identify risks and controls

Risks imply danger. You can reduce the danger by developing adequate controls. For example in every building there is a risk of fire. To reduce that danger buildings have fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems. Many workplaces conduct periodic fire drills. None of these controls prevent fires from occurring, but they do reduce the frequency of occurrence, the amount of damage to the building and increase the likelihood of people surviving fires.

Leaders should look at several layers of risk management. The first things risk management should look to do is decrease the likelihood of an occurrence. Using our fire scenerio, leaders would do things like ensure furnaces are maintained regularly and closed within a fire resistant room, or prevent employees from ganging extension cords. Controls should find ways to identify danger early, like those fire alarms. Early notification allows organizational leaders to start responding the the potential danger to reduce the loss. Controls that slow the consequences of danger help leaders develop solutions to stop what ever event is occurring to cause damage. The example from above are sprinklers and fire extinguishers. Neither will likely stop a fire alone, but both slow the spread enough to reduce the damage until professional help arrives. Finally, no controls work unless they are rehearsed. Like a fire drill leaders must make sure everyone knows what to do when things go sideways.

Identify strategic messages for internal and external audiences

Messaging often gets lost in analysis. It is an important part of any plan. Remember you have both internal and external audiences. If you do not plan to tell your story, rumors slowly grow until they become forecasters of the future. Take the time to develop messages for your key stake holders and put them out into the world. Communications plans that are developed and then filed away are about as helpful as an empty fire extinguisher!

Develop screening and evaluation criteria

Screening and selection criteria are important to help leaders make good decisions. We all know stories about low bidders. Be sure to think about what criteria defines success so the course of action achieves what you envision. Screening criteria is used to delete options that won’t work within your given perimeters. Evaluation criteria is weighted in some way so the important things receive more points, or weight, than less important things. If we thing back to the low bidder stories many times they happen because a low price item or process was allowed to be used rather than requiring a more expensive option. Even though chopping wood will eventually dull an ax blade, no one would opt to use wood to wear down steel. You probably want someone to use something like diamonds or carbide which cost more that a cord of wood but will get the job done quicker and better.

Develop courses of action

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926); Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia; 1905; Opaque and transparent watercolor over graphite underdrawing on paper; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas; 1961.195

Use some brain storming or mind mapping or whatever the popular term is when you read this to develop a bunch of ideas about how to solve the problem facing you. Throw them out there. Bad ideas will be caught during the screening process using the criteria set above. Okay ideas will be whined out by the evaluation criteria. The best ideas are likely to receive the highest, or lowest, score (depending on your rating system) and become obvious answers.

Decide

Now you have done all the work. You identified the problem and tasks. You developed messages. You created criteria and courses of action. You ran your courses of action against your criteria. Now it is time to decide. While it is appropriate for leaders to use all the time available to make a decision, do not avoid making a decision when the correct answer slaps you in the face. Frequently you may find more than one option has the potential to succeed. You still have to select one. If the path still is not clear, pick one option and start to work it before jumping in with both feet. You may find a few small adjustments result in peak performance, or that the idea was not as good as it appeared. That is okay; just go back and try one of the other options. Putting off a decision is deciding not to do anything and never solves the problem.

Execute

Execute means to communicate the ideas and answers you selected to those who will do the work. Assemble the required resources and do it, whatever IT might be. Failing to execute is the same as not deciding. It is still a decision to do nothing. This is often the hardness part as leaders often question if they did a good analysis going back and forth. You must pick one option and go with it.

Analysis often receives bad press because it hold leaders and organizations back from making decisions when faced with problems. Paralysis by Analysis only happens when you fail to follow a formula that ensures you conduct a good analysis that results in good options. Good analysis provides leaders two or more good options to move forward. It is up to the leader to make that decision. When done well, the leader can sit back and watch other execute making a few course corrections here and there. When done poorly leaders languish in the fog of information not sure what questions to ask or how to formulate ideas. Follow this method when faced with your next problem. I will not promise you will always find the perfect solution, but you will find one that probably will work. Avoid paralysis by using good analytical practices and make better decisions.

Photo Credits

All images are open source with CC0 license or in the public domain. Attribution in the caption if available.

Four Ways to View Ethical Behavior

Ethics serve as a compass. Like a compass, there are four points of view for every situation. Photo from pxhere.com, no attribution.

Wall Street struggles with insider trading scandals. Washington drowns in waves of corruption. The military suffers from trust issues inside and outside the force after many high profile sexual assault cases. Everyone of these groups have published values. They have codes of ethics. They investigate allegations of wrong doing daily. In spite of their best efforts the same ethical problems reoccur.

Each group trains their people in their professed values and ethics. Many of us have to sit through classes teaching us what is right and what is wrong based on organizational principles. None of these classes explores the underpinnings of ethical thinking. The result is all the failures reported in the news on a regular basis. It does not have to be that way. My teaching your workforce about the foundation of your guiding principals and their application, your employees will have a better understanding how to apply those principals in daily situations.

In their book, When Generations Collide, Lynne C. Lancaster & David Stilman explore the differences between generations based on the differences of the history that defined the moments each grew up with. The thesis of the book is that understanding the forces that shaped each generation allows the others to understand the motivations behind the behaviors of each group of people. Young people are not lazy, but rather value their free time to associate with friends and family. Of course the Millennials are not the first to receive this criticism. Back in the day, Baby Boomers were also accused of failing to live up the values established by the Traditionalist Generation. Boomers thought globally and acted locally, well until they invented the internet. Understanding the forces that shaped the values of others creates harmonious relationships at work and home.

Ethics are the same. When an organization professes to value loyalty, the committee that established that as an important guiding principle envisioned that everyone will understand what loyalty means. Everyone does, but their understanding may not be the same as the company’s understanding. Each person brings their own history to the definition. One who has strong family ties is loyal to his family. Another employee who values friendships is loyal to her friends. A third employee is a third generation worker at the company. He benefited from many of the past policies that rewarded hard working employees. His loyalty lies with the company. From different points of view come different views of loyalty, each equally valid yet when viewed by the others, bound to create disagreement and tension. A study of ethical theory enables understanding of how others define ethical values such as loyalty, honor or duty.

Four major concepts of ethical thinking include:

  • Seeking to do the Greatest Good for Me,
  • Accomplish My Duties & Safeguard My Rights,
  • Making Choices that are Just and Fair for All,
  • Living Virtuous Life According to a Selected Code of Conduct.

Using a story will help put each theory into perspective. While shopping, a person notices another placing a package of meat into a pocket on the inside of a bulky coat. What is the ethical thing to do?

Every situation is a moment it time. Sometimes, like the flowing water on the right everything is a blur and feels like a decision is need immediately. Other times the water seems to flow slower allowing more time to make a decision. When people make quick decisions they rely on personal values. When there is more time, they can reflect on the values of the organization.
Above from pxhere.com no attribution.
Right by author.

If we view this conduct through the first lens of doing the greatest good, the person realizes that everyone else pays a consequence when people shoplift. It would appear from this point of view that reporting the theft to a store employee or the police is the correct course of action. However, by reporting the theft, the viewer may find he is required to make a written statement at the store. He then has to wait for the police to arrive and possibly testify in court. This may mean missing time for work and not getting paid. He may find he will struggle to buy food for his own family and decide the greatest good in this situation is to go the other way and do nothing.

Viewing the second theory of duties and rights it again appears the shopper has a duty to her fellow shoppers to report the theft to the manager. Her report results in the same sacrifices already described. She has a right to pay the lowest possible prices for the products sold in the store. People stealing food causes prices to rise. She reasons that by reporting she fulfills her duty of being a good citizen and protects her rights to pay lower prices. From her point of view, she must report the theft.

When the conduct is viewed by a person using the Just and Fair outlook, shopper may take into consideration things like the ability of the thief to pay as well as time he will be required to miss work to go to court. He may reason that overall it is not fair for everyone to pay higher prices, but also that the other should be able to purchase food at a reasonable rate which must be more than the thief is able to afford at this point in life. He may choose not to report the theft, but rather approach the thief and offer to buy the meat and perhaps even slip the thief a few dollars for other life essentials..

I the final theory, living virtuously, the shopper decides that virtue requires reporting. She determines everyone must pay for food at the store. If people do not pay then the store goes out of business and no one is able to buy food locally. Stealing is against the law no matter the reason (the selected code of conduct) and must not be tolerated. She would expect her neighbor to report someone stealing something from her home therefore she has a responsibility to report this theft. Reporting is the only virtuous thing to do.

A person’s view also depends on how close they are to the problem. The farther from the problem, the easier it is to see the whole problem. When one is against the wall, all they can see is a giant rock. As they step back they realize there are other ways to view the problem. Photos by author

As the example shows, the lens of one’s ethical view determines how principles such as loyalty, duty, and honor determine actions. Based upon the ethical point of view, none of the answers provided are incorrect. In fact you could use those very same points to argue the reverse outcome in each situation. Likewise in the workplace, when employees make decisions, they select choices based on their ethical lens. In order to maximize mission statements, value selection, guiding principals and visions for the future, leaders must train their employees about the guiding principals of the organization and how the organization expects employees to view behaviors. Failure to recognize employee focal points ensures failure of ethical decision making efforts. Take the time to teach junior leaders and their employees which lens is used by the key leaders. Learning how senior leaders view the world enables those junior leaders to make better choices and prepare for more senior positions. Youngsters are not lazy. Old people do not know everything. Learning how each group in the workplace views the world helps leader develop methods so they all view workplace behaviors with greater similarity and reduces those pesky scandals on the front page of the paper.

Learn to Lead: Join a Club

Learning leadership involves more than study. One only becomes a leader after they apply influence on others in an organization that results in desired action to accomplish a mission and improve the organization.

Leadership is an art requiring practitioners to gain experience by applying known principals to a variety of problems as they arise. People can study about leadership their whole lives. Until they step into a leadership role, they will not know how to lead. Younger people often struggle to gain leadership experience inhibiting workplace promotions. Learning to lead is not a Millennial problem. Youth struggled gaining experience in every generation. So what is a kid, or anyone else who wants to lead others, to do in order to gain experience leading? Join a club! Yes, really join a club.

Leadership is leadership. It doesn’t matter if you are leading a bunch of pre-schoolers to lunch, a Fortune 500 company, or a grass-roots campaign against the latest injustice. Once you learn how to lead, you can lead almost anyone or any type of organization. What matters is understanding what level of leadership you are at and applying the principals required for that level of leadership.

Several years ago I was asked to take a position as a senior leader in the logistics division of my organization. I started my career in the organization as a logistician but found I disliked it and moved into operations. I was counseled by other senior leaders to accept the position because the job required leading other leaders, not directly supervising logistical support.

I accepted the position with a bit of apprehension. I found there was some resistance to my leadership by a few individuals due to my lack of logistics background. Most were receptive to my influence. Those who were resistant left the organization as I began to institute changes to making our division more responsive to the needs of the rest of the organization.

Understand that I am not advocating that the warehouse foreman be assigned to directly supervise bookkeepers in accounting. At lower levels of leadership, front-line supervisors require knowledge of the work being done. What I am saying is that when it comes to supervising other leaders, application of broad leadership principals is required rather than specialized job knowledge or particular tactics for a given situation. That broad leadership knowledge is directly transferable from job to job. You can gain that kind of experience outside the workplace and set yourself up to succeed within your workplace. This win-win tactic not only helps you improve as a leader, but also improves your community, whether geographic, professional, or any other description of community. Run or volunteer for a leadership position in a civic or professional group. After leading a civic group or professional organization you only need explain how you will apply the principals you learned to the specific leadership job you want at your workplace.

Practice leadership by leading a civic or professional group of volunteers.

Many of the civic or professional groups set up their officer positions to teach new officers about the whole organization. The lowest level officer learns the very basics such as how to set up for meetings. In other leadership positions you learn group’s rules, tracking property, running organizational ceremonies, finances, and controls. Each position eventually runs up to the vice presidency and presidency or the equivalent name for that group. The basics of each position happen to coincide with requirements for leadership in the professional world.

Every business, governmental organization, or nonprofit requires someone to track property, They need people to develop, implement, and enforce policies. They also need to comply with reporting requirements. You do not have to be a certified public accountant as a senior leader in any organization, but you must understand restrictions on spending funds, sources of funding, and reporting. Even nonprofits have filings to complete for the IRS.

Ben Franklin believed everyone should belong to at least three clubs. His reasons included having a network of friends, working to improve the community, and developing skills required to become happier in life. Participating in various leadership positions in a club of your choice allows you to develop skills to achieve happiness and success regardless of your measurement of effectiveness. As you build your network through club participation, you encounter people who are senior leaders in the professional world. Those people are always watching for talent. You may be asked to apply for a position before others become aware it exists. As you work within the community served by your club, you also develop connections within that community outside of your workplace. The people helped also know about opportunities and your good work.

Many civic and professional organizations offer leadership training at no cost. They do so to ensure local and higher level chapters and such have leaders who have some understanding of leadership. The application of principals, tactics, provided in these leadership trainings apply specifically to your group. The principals are universal. The tactic of having two people in a civic group sign checks is based on the principal of establishing and enforcing financial controls. The principal of establishing and enforcing financial controls is universal to leadership. Every business, government agency, and nonprofit needs financial controls. The same idea applies to all leadership principals. The application in the club you belong to will be different than the application at your workplace, but the principals are the same in the club and the workplace. You only need to learn how your workplace applies those principals.

As you can see, there are many reasons to join a civic or professional organization and accept leadership challenges. You have the opportunity to learn and execute leadership. You learn how to influence volunteers; you just cannot be bossy as they will leave the club or your committee (that happens in the workplace too). You learn the foundations of financial controls and limitations of spending and sources of income. You learn how other parts of the organization can help provide resources for training and problem solving. You expand your professional network in ways you could not by staying in your bubble at work. You earn the right to add leadership experience to your resume. If you want to gain critical leadership skills and experience, join a club and led it!