Say it Three Times if You Want Them to Remember

Anything you want others to remember is worth saying three times. One of the first times I remember hearing this rule was during DARE Officer Training with Linda Lang. She taught me to make learning points by using an auditory method, a visual method, and a kinetsetic method. Several months later I attended a class about courtroom presentations. Ray Mellow introduced first of his rules: that if you wanted the judge and jury to remember an important element of your case, repeat the point three times. About a year later I was taking a firearms instructor class. The instructor, Brad Parker, told us to ensure students remembered what we taught them to tell they what you are going to tell them in a class as an introduction, tell them during the lesson, and then tell them what you told them in the review. I am not a rocket scientist, (although I can operate a rocket launcher) but I learned after three times of being told that if you want your message to stick, repeat it three times.

When I applied this rule to my communications with others I learned how to use different communications methods to improve retention. Repeating something three times is an obvious lesson for trainers. It is also an important lesson for leaders. People remember better if you tell them something and then follow up with at least two other reminders using different means communication such as a phone call, a calendar invite, a text message, or an email.

This simple rule can be used all areal of your career and life. As simple as it is, execution can be hard. I gave a task to a direct report. A couple days later I had a follow up conversation checking on progress. He said he forgot. I thought I should only have to tell him once. Then I could remembered times when my boss spoke to me about completing a project or task. I recognized that he had to remind me a couple times after that first tasking before it really stuck in my mind. The lesson I took from that event with my employee was to apply the repeat three times rule.

The key to using this strategy effectively requires some creativity to avoid hen pecking. Calling an employee into your office and telling him, “I want you to do this, I want you to do this, I want you to do this.” is not effective. Likewise, calling the employee into your office in the next two days and asking, “Are you done yet?” makes you sound like an annoying sibling on a family road trip. How you implement this strategy requires you to identify your communication strengths and how your intended receiver best receives information. Using three different methods increase effectiveness.

Begin by simply telling the other person what you want or expect. You might suggest they take a few notes. Follow up within 24 hours with an email, letter, a social media private message, or a sticky note. Place a phone call or send a text message two or three days later to see if the other person has any questions and check on preliminary progress. Using this method allows you to pitch your message three times and reinforce the importance of the task or appointment. Each connection allows opportunities for additional information sharing, idea swapping, asking of questions and clarification of expectations which improves the quality of the finished product. Using different modes of communication, in person, in writing and by telephone, also improves communication by appealing to different communication styles of others. What they miss in one, they pick up in another. Making your pitch three times means you are more likely to have results three weeks from now during your follow up meeting,

I commonly employ this tactic. I start by reaching out to someone by mentioning to them I would like to talk with them soon about whatever the project or task is. We set a time then to meet. Giving them notice allows them time to think about the topic. During the meeting, I tell the person what I expect. I frame the expectations using loose interpretation of the SMART goal model so they have the information they need. A couple days later I will follow up with an email. I may tell them I think the project deserves a goal setting sheet and ask for a time to meet again to clarify expectations and standards. After someone has worked with me for awhile, they arrive at these meetings with a completed worksheet (see my post on setting goals: ). We reviewing and adjust the goal. I set calendar reminders during that meeting for appropriate follow up briefings. It is uncommon for projects not to be completed on time.

Three repeat works equally well with family and friends. For example, you ask your spouse about a weekend away in the fall. She says sure so you figure you are all set. I found that touching base a few days later with something like, “How does Columbus Day Weekend sound in Maine?” Again she agrees. A few days later follow up with more of the details. When Columbus Day Weekend arrives, you will be less likely to hear yours spouse say she planned on working the rummage sale at the church on Saturday afternoon instead of spending the weekend with you.

Conversely, you can reverse the tables. When your friend mentions going to the big game in a few weeks, reach back to him a few days later. “Hey, who is ordering the ticket?” Such a question does two things. It shows you paid attention, and helps your figure if your friend really wanted to go to the game. A text a few days later about how much you are about going with your friend keeps your friend engages and demonstrates your excitement about the event.

During this message, the repeat three times rule was introduced by a series of three teaching stories. In the middle of the article three examples of failure were provided to reinforce the message of the importance of the repeat three times. The middle of the essay also provided directions to apply the repeat three time rule by using three means of communication for each pitch, and examples on how to apply them at work, home, and with friends. Here, in the conclusion, I discussed each item I said I was going to discuss again to ensure my messages were received, understood and acted upon. Go forth and start and start repeating!

Photo Credits

All images from PXHere.com used with 0CC license. No other attribution available.

Three-Part Recipe for Workplace Success: Developing Procedures

Soldiers execute a standard battle drill in the desert.
Formal procedure create leadership freedom, allow rapid responses, and provide for internal communications.

“Contact right!”, shouted the point man at the sound of small arms fire. The team reacted instinctively. Every member of the team came on line and returned fire from covered positions. The team leader assessed the situation and reported back to the squad leader.  The squad leader directed his second team to flank the enemy position. When ready they laid down suppressing fire drawing the attention away from the first team. The second team leader came up on the radio, “Shift left!” The first team adjusted their aim to the left as the second team began to move across the enemy position. As the second team neared the middle of the enemy position he called for the first team to cease firing and they did. Once across the position, the second team leader advised the first team leader. The first team leader led his Soldiers across the position 90 degrees from the second team’s assault. Within a few minutes the shooting stopped. The enemy was suppressed and withdrew. The squad was victorious. 

React to Contact is a critical Infantry battle drill. It is the foundation of ground combat tactics used by Hannibal during the Second Punic War.  A well drilled squad or platoon can execute the drill with the few words shared in the above story because every squad and platoon in the Army does it the same way, well at least the successful squads and platoons. When executed well, a smaller force has the ability to defeat larger forces. This basic principal of movement is a procedure known to all Infantrymen because it works. This drill allows leaders to initiate action with few words and little direction. In this example the squad leader was the senior leader yet the only decision he made and direction he provided was to a single team leader to flank the enemy. In this battle drill there are only three decisions for the squad leader to make; commit your second team to suppressive fire and allow the platoon to flank, execute the flank with your second team, or break contact. Infantry squad leaders and team leaders rehearse this drills hundreds of times so they know when to suppress, when to attack, and when to withdraw.

Leading an organization of any size becomes easier with formal, practiced procedures. Formal procedures appear to remove a leader’s freedom to make decisions. The opposite is true. Well thought procedures allow leaders to detach from the current crisis and plan for what comes next. Benefits include increased speed by reducing the number of decisions required of a leader, specified lateral lines of communication increase responses, and required actions for teams and individuals without additional instruction. 

Reducing Decision Options

Freedom is defined by dictionary.com as the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; or the power to determine action without restraint. Formal procedures may confine some leaders because they have limited choices. However, well thought out procedures identify best practices and offer a short menu of options proven to work reliably. Formal procedures allow leaders to stick their heads above the weeds and make big picture decisions

Standard operating procedures allow leaders to look at the bigger picture rather than getting stuck in details.
Procedures free leaders to look at the big picture rather than restrict their attention to what is happening in the weeds.

At the front-line level of the React to Contact Drill, the squad leader has a variety of choices. He can direct the supporting team to provide additional fire power to suppress the enemy and ask the platoon to flank. The squad leader can establish a base of fire from the flanking element and have the element who established contact to maneuver across the enemy’s front. He can call for artillery or air support. He can withdraw. However, it is only through the actions of the team in contact, executing without direction, that he as the freedom to evaluate the situation and determine which course of action is best.  Without this drill, the squad and team leaders would have to solve each problem as it occurs.

In organizations outside the military the same principals are true.  The front line leader has a process to execute. For example, a new employee is assigned to work in the leader’s team. If the organization has a process to orient new employees, none of the leaders need to spend much time figuring out what the new person needs to learn. The leaders follow the check list, tailor the learning to the new person’s position, and the new person quickly becomes a functioning member of the team. Without a procedure to welcome new team members, leaders loose time figuring out what the new person needs to know. They make lots of decisions about what parts of what organizational documents new team members need to read. The leaders need to figure out what administrative processes must be completed to ensure the employee is paid, receives benefits, and knows what is expected of him or her.

A new employee orientation procedure takes away some decision making from leaders but only because the leaders decided earlier what new team members needed to do. Now instead of spending a few days figuring out what to teach the new guy, who should teach it, and where the information is stored, the leader turns to the procedure and execute. The procedure frees his time to decide on other matters.

Lateral Lines of Communication

Allow leaders to communicate with their peers to coordinate actions and permit senior leaders to continue to look forward.
Lateral communications ensures leaders are not bombarded with information they do not need and only to make decisions appropriate for their level.

Establishing internal lines of communication allow lower level leaders to coordinate actions and support without having to always run to the boss. The boss does need to know what is going on, but does not need to make or approve every decision. Establishing peer-to-peer communication channels frees up senior leaders to look farther ahead. Procedures specify what types of decisions senior leaders make and what types of decisions leaders lower on the org chart may make.

In the infantry squad example, peer leaders, the team leaders, directly communicated their intentions and directions to move and shift fires. This communication allowed the squad leader monitor the situation. The squad leader had the freedom to call for more resources and determine what actions to take after the enemy attack was stopped.

A non-military example of this principal is a nonprofit providing a service to their clients.  A new client is referred for service and appears at the office. The person meeting with the client knows the organization has a procedure for new client intakes and referrals. The employee welcomes the client and moves them through the intake procedure and determines the client’s needs. The employee directly contacts outside organizations necessary to provide resources and services for the client without having to clear each referral through a manager. Organizational leaders recognized the needs for those services and previously established processes to refer clients. As a result, the clients receive services and resources quickly because the number of people involved and the levels of communication are reduced. 

Action without Instructions

Formal procedures provide direction so others know what to do in a variety of situations without direction.

Formal procedures provide direction to employees about how to perform their jobs. Procedures spell out what kinds of decisions employees can make and what decisions and information require the boss’s attention. In the infantry squad example, each team member knows when they received contact to move on line to ensure they had clear lines of fire towards the enemy and to find a place of cover to return fire. They did not have to wait for direction from the team leader. They were expected to take those actions without directs in order to free the team leader to report the situation to the squad leader.

In an example from the private sector, Tim Ferriss talks about how he empowered his assistants to deal with customer services issues in his book The Four Hour Work Week and several of his podcasts. He found his assistant was reaching out to him several times every day for him to decide how to deal with unhappy customers. Tim realized he was not able to focus on growing his new business when he was dealing with those types of issues. He developed a list of ways the customer service assistant could offer help without consulting Tim and what types of customer issues he reserved to resolve himself. As a result, Ferriss was able to return his attention to growing the business and his customers received improved and faster resolutions to their problems.

Procedures receive a bad rap because organizations implement them poorly and never review them to determine their continued relevance.  The purpose of procedures is to create leadership freedom by providing a menu of choices for common events rather than problem solving every time something similar happens. As a result, the leader is free to focus on developing teams and improving the organization.  If the decisions a procedure allows become irrelevant, they need to be changed. Therefore, leaders must periodically review all procedures for relevance. Failing to do so causes confinement rather than freedom.

Quality procedures help leaders at all levels achieve freedom, increase the speed or response, and improve the quality of service by reducing the number of decisions leaders need to make. Communications improve communications laterally and vertically because leaders only receive the information they need to decide. Employees are more effective when addressing problems and opportunities.

Leaders and workers frequently view formal procedures as limiting their freedom, however, they provide a structured format for leaders to take action without additional control or restraint. Employees who are trained well know what is expected of them in many situations allowing them to make decisions without always running to the boss for guidance. Like the well run battle drill, formal procedures direct action without additional inputs and free leaders to lead.

Reference

Definition of freedom was retrieved from: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/freedom on 8/28/19.

Photo Credits

  • Infantry Attack from pxhere.com with a 0CC license. No attribution provided.
  • Dictionary by John Mark Smith from unsplash.com with a CC Attribution license.
  • Tin Can Phone by Chris Tag as CWD802 from pexel.com with a pexel.com license.
  • Arrow from pxhere.com with a 0CC license. No attribution provided.

Leading Change

“Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes.” (Bullock, 1716), everything else is subject to change.

Change is certain. Be a leader of change.

I wrote this article on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. It caused me to think about how that happened. There are lots of examples of leaders creating great things in government, business, and in social services after creating a vision of what could be dating back to the beginning of recorded history. As I study and apply leadership lessons, I found there are five principals of leaders who effectively lead change within their organizations. Those leaders set examples by living and enforcing organizational guiding principals, communicating a clear vision for the future, establishing goals and benchmarks, taking disciplined action to accomplish required tasks, and possessing humility.

Leaders establish guiding principals through their behavior. The old maxim, “Actions speak louder than words,” says it all; leaders who say respect is important and treat others respectfully are more convincing that those who treat others disrespectfully. Whether you are new to the organization, in a new position, or a veteran in a leadership role, you choose your values. Ensure they are aligned with the organizational principals, or advocate to changing them. It takes time to establish character, but even if you have been an angry, disrespectful, fly-off-the handle kind of a leader, you can change. Others will notice and your character will change.

In addition to behaving in accordance with your professed and the organization’s values, leaders ensure others also develop character. You cannot ignore a direct report’s violation of an organizational principal and fire a more junior person for the same behavior. If your organization values people’s time, then the person who is consistently two minutes late for work, meetings, and leaves five minutes early needs to be held to account. Not every offense requires firing. Not every offense requires a written reprimand or other disciplinary action. Often pulling a person aside and pointing out their faux-pas is enough to gain compliance. When misbehavior is displayed by otherwise compliant people it may signal trouble. Pulling that person aside presents an opportunity to address the trouble and become aware of their problem.

A few years ago I gave in and went to the eye doctor because I noticed road signs were not as clear as I remembered them. I needed glasses. Over time my vision dulled and I needed someone to help me see clearly again. An organization’s vision is the same. In the beginning everyone knows why they belong, where they are headed, what they are doing, and how to do it. As the organization grows older, the vision fades, just like people’s eyesight.

Help other people see your vision of the future.

Leaders often think they only need to cast their vision before their followers once and they are good for life. They are wrong. There is a reason all major religions have services on a weekly basis. That reason is to refresh the soul. Face it, after ten years of church going, you probably have heard all there is to hear. Services keep your faith fresh.

Likewise leaders need to continually project their vision for the organization. Those who work in the organization need to see it so they can properly care for clients and customers. Clients and customers need to see it so they understand why you do what you do; it builds brand loyalty. Vendors and contractors need to see it so they are on the same page. Leaders, from each member of the Board of Directors, to the shop foreman, need to see it so they can magnify and amplify the vision for their followers.

Vision statements are not one and done. Leaders constantly need to proclaim their vision to inspire everyone they encounter. Leaders develop credibility when they not only talk about their vision, but take action to make it a reality.

Based on the leader’s vision, the leader and junior leaders establish goals to accomplish the mission and vision. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound, and task oriented. Many of you will recognize the SMARTT goal setting model. I added and extra tee for the task steps.

Task steps are important. They provide the directions to achieve the goal. The goal is your What. The task steps are the How.

Use your vision of the future to establish goals.

Leaders should establish a plan for goal setting. Good goal setting happens in cycles. The first step is to assess. Your assessment establishes your starting point and destination. As you walk your selected path, you will encounter life and may find you stray from your planned path. Periodically check your progress and adjust course as necessary. As you move along, you learn; apply those lessons along your journey. As you near the end of your journey, it is time to assess again and establish new goals. Click here http://bit.ly/2YfQH0Y for a short lesson on the goal setting cycle.

Disciplined action ensures accomplishment of critical tasks for mission success. Discipline has several meanings. In this case I intend it to mean controlled behavior resulting from training (adapted from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/discipline). Action means activities required to complete the mission. Disciplined actions are planned and controlled activities that are scheduled, measured, supervised, and coordinated across all teams in an organization.

To be effective, organizations must plan. Planning includes scheduling, measuring, supervising and coordinating actions. Planning requires discipline. Planning also identifies key performance indicators. Controls are necessary to establish measures of performance and effectiveness (insert link to that blog). Supervision is only effective if supervisors know what they are looking for in performance and effectiveness. Coordination ensures things are going according to the plan across all teams. Coordination communicates the plan and status of activities to everyone.

An example of disciplined action are the steps required to make a widget and ship it to a customer. In the planning stage, leaders determine what needs to be done, what resources are required, what will be measured, how often, by whom, and how to coordinate across all the teams. The organization identifies the material, machines, and people required to make the widget. They order material and hire people. They schedule activities such as when raw material should arrive, when workers need to be at their machines, when product will be shipped, and the means for delivery to customers. Coordination is required so there is material on hand to manufacture widgets when workers are available; trucks are available when enough widget are ready to ship, and adequate capacity exists to meet deadlines. Coordination is an on going process. For example, if machine operators are sick, it causes reduction in production. The shipping team needs to know so they can adjust shipping schedules.

Disciplined action requires advanced planning to accomplish leader goals.

Much of this step is as much management as leadership. Management is an important leadership skill. People are involved in each part of disciplined action and that is where the leadership comes into play. Fail to lead disciplined action, and your organization may achieve a task, but it will not remain successful.

I remember reading in Seven Habits that Stephen Covey claimed to have studied great people for years before boiling down their secret of success to seven habits. I thought, “Why would anyone dedicate themselves to such work?” I found myself reviewing Good to Great a short while ago and read Jim Collins’ assertion that Level 5 Leaders are humble. That was not the first or last place I encountered that idea, but it struck me then how many times I learned that point from so many other sources including people I chose to follow. I now wonder if Covey stumbled across those seven habits the same way I found the five principals of leading change.

Humility is an important trait for being a good or great leader. Great leaders do all the things I present in this article, but they also recognize they lack certain skills, lack knowledge, lack connections, and other important resources to make things happen. Great leaders recognize they need to rely on others to help them accomplish the organization’s mission. If they are the smartest, fastest, most skilled person in the organization, they are leading the wrong group of people, and they know that. They seek out people who are smarter they them. They hire others with greater skills. They know these others are their superiors and they are blessed to lead them, or put another way, they know they are blessed those high speed individuals choose to follow them.

You can develop humility. It is a skill that can be learned. I saw it in action during my first General Staff meeting. In a General’s staff meeting there are standard scripts everyone follows to ensure the General receives the information he needs to lead the force and make important decisions. According the script, other staff sections presented their canned information to the General. Then it was my Colonel’s turn to present.

At the time, Colonel Shawn was the Director of Logistics. On schedule, the slides with the logistics information were projected on the screen. COL Shawn hardly noticed. Instead he looked at the General and said, “Sir, I know you’ve seen my slides and our information is pretty good this month. If you don’t mind, I want to tell you about the great work that Kris Skinner has done this month with our surface maintenance program.” The Colonel went on about LTC Skinner’s accomplishments that month. At the end of the story COL Shawn asked the General if he had any questions about his directorate’s data. When the General said he did not, Shawn introduced the next staff chief.

I was impressed. I thought it was a one time thing to bring some attention to the boss about good work done by his followers. The following month however, COL Shawn had another story about the good work another member of the section. Again at the end, instead of getting into the data on the slide he moved onto the next speaker. COL Shawn had someone every month he highlighted at the staff meeting. Now of course none of those workers acted independently. Col Shawn knew what each was doing and used all his leadership ability to encourage them to do the greatest job they could do. Each individual responded by regularly exceeding the standards and expectations.

Disciplined actions result in desired change.

COL Shawn was promoted to Brigadier General. He is a confident and competent leader. He accomplished plenty of big things in his own right. Yet when ever he talks with someone, he learns about them. He shares what he learned in a recent book he read. He asks what he can do to make things better for lower-level leaders. He practices humility.

Change is inevitable. Leaders must navigate future changes. Even choosing to maintain a certain level or quality of business without growth or shrinkage requires organizational change. Laws change. Customers change. Demand for products changes. Organizational staff change. Leaders who do not lead change will find there is no one left to lead. Leaders effect change by creating a desired vision of the future. They set and help followers set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound goals with task steps. They plan and manage disciplined action to accomplish the mission and change. They are humble people who understand they still have much to learn. Change is coming. Are you leading to adapt to that change?

/ —- Photo Credits —-/

  • Coins by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay using pixabay license.
  • Eyeglasses by Skeeze ibid
  • Fortune Telling by Tumisu ibid
  • Agenda Calendar by Rawpixel.com from http://www.pexel.com using pexel license
  • Man Outdoors Snow no attribution available from pxhere.com using 0CC license

/ —- Reference —-/

Bullock: https://www.mightytaxes.com/death-taxes-quote-history/ retrieved 7/31/219

Leading Employees, Contractors, Teams, and Volunteers

High standards of behavior are required for organizations to successfully complete their missions. Leaders are responsible for setting, training, and enforcing standards in order to create a culture where standards are voluntarily followed. Organizations that establish and expect compliance with standards attract Ike minded applicants. Employees, volunteers, and other stakeholders learn to trust the organization, know the character of their workers, and understand their leaders.

It takes time to codify standards of behavior. Your standard operating procedures, protocols, employment guidelines, and similar documents will be easier to write when everyone knows and understands the organization’s core values or guiding principles. Governing documents misaligned with organizational guiding principles encourage people to act outside those principles. Well written governing documents aligned with core principles ensures people understand how to behave even when they do not know a specific rule. Written rules are shorter, easier to understand, and are more likely to be followed.

People soon learn what an organization’s real rules are regardless of what is written in SOPs.

Often SOPs, employee manuals, and other written rules take many pages. If the reasons a document is written is based on the core principals, there is no need to restate they whys. Employees who understand the guiding principals will see them in the rules without additional explanations. It is uncommon for all of those documents to be composed at the same time. If the whys are not all based on the common principles, then the authors need all those extra words and pages to spell out the whys for the rules.

Employees, volunteers, and contractors follow the rules better because the standards they establish are aligned with organizational principals. Training time is reduced and retention increased because there is less to teach and learn. As a result, employees will probably do the right thing without even knowing what a rule or procedure is.

Training begins when you first admit someone into your organization. Start with the core principles. Teach your new people what each value means to your group. Give examples of behavior that is compliant and non-compliant. Explain how complying with principles establishes trust across the organization allowing greater effectiveness.

New supervisors adopt leadership styles they see others using. Taking time to demonstrate leaderships styles you expect to be used in your organization reinforces guiding principals.

Training supervisors about core principles and methods of enforcing standards is also important. Nothing destroys trust within an organization than repeated reprimands conducted outside the organizational principals. Likewise, failing to correct behaviors outside expected norms slowly eats away at trust developed between key players. Supervisors and other key leaders need to know how to adjust their leadership style to the situation presented.

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard introduced the idea of situational leadership in the late 1960s. Since then, others have built on those ideas and demonstrated how to apply the principals of situational leadership to a wide variety of circumstances across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Taking time to teach your leaders how to adapt their leadership style to meet your organization’s objectives and within your guiding principals increases effectiveness.

After training your new people and leaders about your organizations guiding principals, those standards need to be enforced. When new leaders read statements like this they often envision a drill sergeant demanding basic trainees do push-ups for infractions, or a tough CEO calling an errant employee into the office, chewing them out, and then firing them. These are two possible methods of enforcing standards, but neither works well for long.

Good coaches address problems calmly so team members learn better and avoid similar mistakes in the future

On-the-spot corrections for misbehavior can be given in a calm fashion that shows respect and caring. A machine operator found working without eye and ear protection can be told to stop. The supervisor inquires about whether the employee understands what the standard is and why it is important to follow it. If the employee lacks the knowledge, the supervisor provides a quick refresher training and sends the operator to don their protective equipment before resuming their work.

A middle manager who observes such a violation might stop the work and inquire about who the operator’s supervisor is. The supervisor is summoned to the work sight. The manager can use this opportunity to coach the supervisor. In the end, the worker is protected, the organization accomplishes its mission, and the culture of compliance grows.

Making corrections in a respectful fashion and demonstrating expected behaviors helps create a voluntary climate of compliance. People know that following the core principals results in rewards. Failing to comply results in punishment.

Leaders need to work to build effective teams. It does not matter whether those they are leading are employees, contractors, peers, or volunteers. Leaders employ effective methods to influence others to find the right directions in every situation.

Some of you reading this are thinking about why the above statements will never work. You think the union will never allow such supervisory oversight. Some think that leading volunteers requires sometimes turning a blind eye. Others think that they are not in a supervisory capacity and therefore have no ability to influence others. If you are a real leader, you use what power you do have to influence others to comply with the organization’s guiding principals. That may require you to allow others to take action.

In the union example, there frequently are requirements for management to follow certain steps to reward good behavior and punish bad. Meet with union representatives frequently to ensure they understand you want the best people in the organization and the important role the union has helping you keep the good people and separating those who will not comply. The union has a responsibility to equally represent all the workers in their membership, those who perform well as well as those who feel slighted because they are not meeting expectations. Such engagements over time bring union representatives around to looking differently at employee-management relationships.

In the case of volunteers, first ask yourself if you really want a volunteer that behaves in such a way that they endanger themselves, others, or have the potential to cast a dark light on the good work your organization does. Think about ways you can influence volunteers to comply with your guiding principals. People who volunteer believe in the cause. They are easier to influence than paid employees, You have to learn to lead them. It is likely that the threat of separation has a greater impact because their association with you is indeed voluntary. Knowing bad behaviors will not be tolerated ensures compliance. Frequently organizations fail to train volunteers to the same level as employees. Is it any wonder that volunteers may not comply with guiding principals. It is hard to comply with standards they do not know or understand. Taking time to help them understand standards and providing examples of compliance improves trust and helps your volunteers work better. Volunteers who work well improve outcomes for those the organization serves.

Leading team members you do not supervise does pose special challenges. FEMA’s national emergency operation center occupies a large room in Washington, D.C. not far from the Capital. Few of the seats in the room are designated for FEMA officials. Most are set aside for leaders of organizations FEMA works with during disasters. Those members include representatives from the press, various classes of industry, financial associations, think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, non-FEMA government agencies, state, and major metropolitan governments and agencies, and a variety of other interests. None of them answer to FEMA; rather they all answer to their respective organizations. Regardless of who employs each team member, FEMA leads everyone in the room to accomplish the common goal of resolving the disaster, preserving life and property, and keeping elected officials and citizens informed.

Leading others with positional authority is easy. Learning to influences others using other sources of power is the mark of great leaders.

Accomplishing that kind of leadership occurs because the FEMA officials use a variety of sources of power to influence each team member. The FEMA leader needs to quickly learn about not only the interests of each organization but also the representatives. They have to apply a different leadership style to each situation. FEMA has often been attacked about ineffective post-disaster relief efforts, but when you think about all the competing interests, it is amazing they accomplish anything. To be effective, those leaders need to establish high standards, teach them to the team members, and then enforce them in such a way others willingly follow.

Setting and enforcing standards is a key responsibility for leaders. If leaders do not enforce established high standards, followers accept lower standards. Leaders establish trust by enforcing standards. In time, enforcement creates a climate of voluntary compliance. Training what behaviors comply and fail to comply with guiding principals ensures everyone knows what the expectations are. Knowledge develops into understanding and permits the organization to operate effectively with few written rules. People know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from others. Trust develops that others in the organization behave and perform at high levels and take reasonable risks. Learning to find the right leadership style for different situations allows leaders to coach, counsel, mentor, guide, and discipline others to comply with organizational standards depending on the circumstances. As a result, the people in the organization focus on taking care of clients and accomplishing the organization’s mission.

/——————— Photo Credits ———————/

  • Television Test Pattern: no photographer info available from pxhere.com CC0 license. Modified by author.
  • Open Text Book: no photographer info available from pxhere.com CC0 license.
  • Overhead Group Meeting: by pixabay.com from pexels.com.
  • Youth Baseball Coach: no photographer info available from pxhere.com CC0 license.
  • White Water Rafters: by Tom Fisk at pexels.com. Modified by author.
  • Turnout Gear: no photographer info available from pxhere.com CC0 license.

Three Ways to Improve Employee Performance

Locker doors showing repetition.  The idea is to repeat new knowledge and skills to create better habits.
Repeating new skills and knowledge helps develop new habits and improve employee performance.

Spaced repetition is a concept from Know, Can, Do by Ken Blanchard. It is a simple method instructors can use during training to help students retain what they learned. Few organizations have the money necessary to keep outside trainers available indefinitely. Organizations must rely on supervisors to identify ways to have employees repeat what they learned during training, to increase the return on the training investment. Here are three simple ways supervisors can engage employees and increase behavior changes desired from training.

The first method requires employees to verbally report what they learned to the supervisor. The second method is to requires the employee to type their classroom notes. The third way requires the employee to present the information and methods learned for other employees. Each way engages different learning strategies, increases retention, and reinforces desired behaviors.

When employees return from training they are excited about what they learned. They often do not have time to process how to connect what they learned with their job. As a result, desired changes in behavior do not occur. Plan time to meet with the employee after the training. Require the employee to tell you about the information and techniques taught in the class. Ask the employee to demonstrate the skills taught. Allow the employee to watch you do at least one of the tasks taught and correct your performance as appropriate.

Ask the employee questions about ways to implement the lessons learned into work routines. Ask how the skills can be taught to other team members. Before you end the meeting, task the employee with the second method of spaced repetition, note preparation.

Person typing notes to improve learning.
Typed class notes permits sharing knowledge with others, ensures you can read them yourself in the future, and creates an opportunity to present what your learned by using your notes as an outline

Preparing class notes is an important way to reinforce learning. Students should take up to a page of notes for every hour of class. More than that and they are not listening. Less and they have nothing to refer to after class. Typing the notes after class creates another repetition of the learning. Typing notes allows the student to share what they learned with others. Typed notes are easier for others to read. Typed notes can be stored in a file folder in a drawer, or digitally on a computer. Weeks or years from now anyone who was given a copy of the notes can pull them up as a reference.

Another great reason for preparing typed notes is to share them within your professional network. Teaching employees to share notes with their network provides an opportunity to communicate with people they do not see everyday. Their notes provide a reason to open a professional discussion with their peers and expand their influence. Your employees derive benefits when they share their notes with others.

Notes do not have to follow a formal outline, but do need an easy to follow format. At the top of the first page of note place the title of the class. Include the name and contact information for the instructor. Recording the instructor’s contact information allows the student the ability to contact the instructor in the future. It also provides the instructor credit for the ideas presented. Include the date(s), length, and location of the training. Tell your employee to take credit for the notes by including his or her by-line and contact information. People are more likely to contact the employee with topical questions before the trainer. Good notes establish the employee as a subject matter expert. When the employee presents the information, another repetition occurs strengthening the important lessons learned.

After the credit and training information, arrange the notes so they make sense. The note taker may find it make sense to rearrange some information. Create topical groups regardless of the order presented in class. Often instructors and classes deviate from the instruction model creating situations where information is presented out of order. Making those changes makes the notes are useful. Use topic headings if appropriate. Use different fonts or bold for topic headings. If the trainer used a slide handout, refer back to it rather than typing out all the points from the slide. This is especially helpful for diagrams.

Carpenter showing how to drive a nail.  The picture shows how allowing an employee to show others new skills, the employee's new skill improves, and others learn too.
Allowing the employee to show others what was learned presents another repetition of the skill and creates an opportunity for others in the organization to learn new skills and knowledge.

An added feature of the typed notes is that it allows the employee to prepare for the third step in the supervised, post-training, spaced repetition; the presentation. The employee uses the typed notes as an outline for the staff presentation at a selected time in the future. Schedule the presentation close to the date of the original training. The notes are the work of the employee and not subject to any copyrights by the presenter. That means the company can reproduce and distribute them without seeking additional permission. An exception is if the student’s note are direct quotes from the instructor or training material. Avoid plagiarism accusations by requiring the employee to use his or her own words.

During the presentation, the employee tells the others what he learned in the training. He tells how he has applied the lessons in his work and personal life and the results he observed. He shows others how to complete one or more of the skills. He provides each an opportunity, either individually or as a group, to practice one of the skills. Using this method expands the knowledge of the whole workforce for the price of sending one employee. Even if other employees previously attended the same training, this event serves as another spaced repetition, reinforcing the skills and knowledge learned. The presentation develops confidence in the employee and establishes them as a subject matter expert.

Pink flamingo pattern repeated several times to remind readers to repeat new knowledge and skills.
Spaced repetition is the secret for employees to develop new habits and improve performance

Too often organizations send people to training to learn but never follow up to reinforce those lessons. The three steps outlined here provide a model for supervisors to follow to ingrain those lessons. These three steps spaced over time reinforce learning. Meeting with the employee in a few days after the training allows them to show you what was learned. Requiring the employee to type class notes and provides another repetition. Sharing those notes allow employees to expand their sphere of influence. Conducting a brief training event reinforces the learning for the employee who attended the training, and also broadcasts some of those skills and knowledge across the organization. Using spaced repetition is a great way to increase your company’s return on its training investment.

Photo Credits

  • Lockers by Jan Laugesen from Upsplash.com with Upsplash license.
  • Typewriter by rawpix from Pexels.com with Pexels license
  • Carpenter by rawpix from Pexels.com with Pexels license
  • Flamingos by Designercologist from Pexels.com with Pexels license

Value of Changing Habits for Leaders

Character is the intersection of a variety of factors. Habits and values are two of those factors. Other people make judgments about your values from by observing your habits. When you tell people you value providing quality feedback to your followers, that is a statement of a value you hold. People who hear you observe your behavior and decide if you really value coaching and counseling your workers. When they see you counseling others, they know you value that behavior. On the other hand, if you never

A military leader using a battle drill. Battle drills are effective habits learned through repetition.

coach and counsel your employees, everyone knows you are all talk and counseling others really is not important to you. Given that habits are nothing more than routines people use to simplify life, then deciding to change your habits enables you to align your behavior with your stated values. When those habits involve influencing others, you become a better leader.

Anyone can apply the principals in this post to any habit they want to change or create. For the purpose of discussion, I will continue to use the counseling example from the introduction because it is a leadership task often overlooked by supervisors. The steps are simple; the principals sound.

The principals for changing habits are the same as those for problem solving. Work on one habit at a time. Understand what habit you want to change and why. Know the desired result. Develop a solid plan to implement change. Identify people for support. Steps for habit change include:

  • identifying the habit you want to change,
  • identifying the motivation for change,
  • identifying the cues or triggers, what is the routine, and what is your reward
  • identifying where in the cycle you can make a change,
  • developing a plan to implement the change,
  • evaluating your results.

Like setting a goal, you need to be specific about what habit you want to change. Provide answers to all the who, what, where, why, when, and how questions. Write down those answers. Writing down things helps organize the thought process. When you write down things, you can let those thoughts out of your head and delve deeper into your analysis of the habit.

In our example, you want to become a better counselor to those you supervise. Counseling helps them become better employees that work independently. Employees that work independently allow you to focus

Creating the habit of counseling requires leaders to examine hurdles that prevent execution. New habits continue once the ball starts rolling,

on the future so your group remains relevant to the organization. Your planning ensures mission accomplishment which creates happy customers. Happy customers develop loyalty improving everyone’s job security. So employee counseling is important.

Simon Sinek encourages us to start with why. Understanding WHY allows you to focus on your motivation. This helps you identify what is important to you. After you identify what is important, compare those values to your habitual actions in different situations or events. Ask yourself if those actions are congruent with your values. Sometimes your habits align with your values. Sometimes your habits run contrary to your values. You do not realize this until you analyze your habits.

In our example of counseling employees, you say it is important, yet at the end of every evaluation period you realize you did not counsel your employees. You identify it as a habit you want to develop. You identify your motivation for developing this habit as becoming an effective leader. You know effective leaders improve organizations.

Every habit has a cue or trigger. The cue is the signal to begin a routine outside your thought process. When the routine is complete, you receive some sort of reward. To change your habit, figure out the cue or trigger, identify the routine, and the reward. Take time to write down the answer to each part of the whole habit so you can better understand what happens.

In the case of counseling employees, identify what cues block counseling sessions. What actions or events prevent you from taking time to prepare and execute employee counseling? What rewards can you establish to encourage you to change your behavior? Write down your answers. Use this information to create cues to execute the counseling. Calendar reminders are simple and easy triggers to begin a habit you want to start.

Now that you understand the habit and your motivation for change, focus your attention on change you can invoke. Common strategies include recognizing where the cue or trigger is initiated and avoiding that trigger, substituting a different routine, or changing the reward for the old routine so the habit is not rewarding. Treat this part of the process like a science experiment. Try different approaches at different parts of the habit cycle until you find something that works. Be easy on yourself. Habits form to reduce the work our brain has to do. It takes time and repetition to break an old habit and create a new habit.

Preparing to counsel employees is a time intensive process. Once you develop a habit cycle, the process becomes easier because your mind creates shortcuts to execute the key parts of counseling. In addition to calendar reminders, notify the employee of a date and time for the counseling. If an employee knows about the ‘appointment’ they will help you prepare. The employee will remind you. They may offer ideas about topics they want to discuss during the counseling. Learn to take notes about performance during the week. Figure out which cues work to develop routines to make counseling easier.

As you move down the time continuum, measure the progress you made with your new habit. Figure out how it made your life better. Use this success to start a new habit cycle to align another habit with your values.

As you start to counsel your employees, you measure your progress from the documented counselings. Each session documents the time and person counseled. Use the data to learn whether you are meeting the intervals you wanted, or if you need to tweak your routine a bit to meet those time hacks. Figure out how you can measure the employees improvements from their regular meetings with you. Compare their new behaviors to those occurring before you started your counseling. At the end of a rating period, you find you have plenty of documentation to validate your evaluation.

As your habits become more aligned with your values, you develop character. People will believe you will do what you say because what you say, you do. They develop trust you are the person you say you are.

People follow leaders that walk the talk. You need to do what you say to develop power in order to influence your workers, peers, and senior leaders. Your habits either put you out front or at the end of the line.

As you begin to habitually counsel your employees, they learn you care about their success. They know you listen to what they say. They trust you to look out for their welfare by helping them improve. You become their role model; someone who has character. You developed the power to influence their behavior and they follow you. Your senior leaders heed your advice because of the improvements you demonstrated increasing your influence.

The foundation of leadership is character. Two defining factors of character are your values and habits. Your habits tell others what your values are. They see your values in everything you do. Creating habits aligned with your values increases the influence you have with senior leaders, your peers, and those who report to you. Often leadership instruction sounds much like personal self-improvement. However, when you create new habits you develop power and influence, create trust, and cause the change you desire in others through your own actions. When your words and actions influence others you are a leader regardless of your title. Analyze your habits. Increase your influence. Become a better leader.

Photo Credits

  • Red Smoke — Pxhere.com, CC0, no additional attribution available
  • People Talking — by mentatdgt from Pexels.com, CC0
  • Geese in Formation — Pxhere.com, CC0, no additional attribution available

Recent Posts

Strategic Planning for 2019

Last January I wrote a post on creating a personal development plan by picking a future destination for your life and figuring out what goals and task steps you need to complete achieve your plan. I mentioned that my inspiration was the process of beginning the development of a strategic plan for an organization I run. We just completed that plan, which again made me think about the importance of goals and planning not only in our lives but for organizations. The important lesson from this process for me was that quality long-term plans require long-term effort to complete. The ideas I had a year ago only slightly resemble the final plan. The benefits of developing such a plan go beyond having a road map to follow on your journey through time. The process established priorities and revealed unknown strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. If you follow the steps in the process outlined here, you will find hidden treasures as you plan your organization’s future. This is not an overnight project, but rather a short trip to identify what is important. As a leader, you have an obligation to set up your organization for future success. The principals are the same as developing your personal development plan, but more people are involved in the process.

Every strategic planning process begins by gathering facts to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This process is called a SWOT analysis. Use other people to work on the SWOT assessment. Others have different perspectives on your organization. Vendors probably have a better understanding of you supply lines. Customers see how well your customer service responds to problems customers face. Line workers know what quality controls work, and which need improving. Managers know about the quality of employees and challenges of training and retaining good people.

When working on your SWOT assessment, think of strengths and weaknesses as internal issues. Gather information from your employees and internal contractors. Opportunities and threats are external issues. Key people in your organization may have some perspective on opportunities and threats, but your best information comes from those outside the organization. Ask your vendors and customers about things you do well and things you can do better.

There are two major theories about identifying strengths and weaknesses. The first is that you should ignore your weaknesses and only continue to develop your strengths. The second is you should build your weakness in order to become more rounded and effective in more areas. A third theory is to focus on your strengths, but examine your weaknesses to identify those that have the potential to destroy you. No matter how strong your strengths, some weaknesses prevent you from reaching your full potential. You need to develop those weaknesses to allow your strengths to propel you higher.

For example, you might run a small retail store and know little about employment law and accounting. You contracted with an HR firm to help you with employee issues and a CPA for accounting. Even with their help, if you do not know some basic principals you may find you still end up in trouble. You might deny an employee a right because of an on-the-spot decision that results in a law suit. Your accountant discovers you do not verify your monthly financial report and starts to divert your money to his or her accounts. Your accountant ends up with the beach villa and you end up in debt.

Analyzing threats and opportunities is challenging. The challenge lies in the fact that what appears on the surface to be a threat may be an opportunity in disguise. Like strengths and weaknesses, you can focus on responding to either, but it is probably better to recognize and conduct some risk mitigation for a few threats and focus on your opportunities.

Reach out to your vendors and customers. Develop a short online survey and ask them to complete it. You may learn of a feature customers want but you do not offer. A vendor may tell you about a potential problem in your supply chain not known to you.

Your facts help you determine where your organization is right now. Facts do not tell the whole story. No person ever has all the facts, not even Google. People fill in gaps with assumptions. It is dangerous to blindly assume anything. Use facts and good judgment to reach reasonable conclusions. As you gather more facts, reassess your conclusions and assumptions in order to continue being successful.

Role up your SWOT assessment as a grid with the SW in the top two quadrants, and the OT in the bottom two quadrants. This allows you and others to visualize the relationship of all the facts.

I attended a few classes on leadership when the instructor encourages students to write their own obituary. Organizational leaders need to do a similar exercise by envisioning what they want others to say and think about their organization. This exercise allows leaders to pinpoint their organization’s future. There was a time when people talked about The Phone Company when referring to AT&T, or dreamed of paying off their Sears card. Instead today, people have a choice of phone companies, and the executives at Sears dream of extracting themselves from their debt quagmire. When Walmart opened its first store, Sears, Newberry’s, and Woolworth’s were the retail giants. No one ever doubted they would stay in business. That is why it is important for organizational leaders to see the future of their organizations.

Values, or guiding principals, are an important part of creating your organization’s strategic plan. An exercise I use in my training requires students to select their values from a list on a worksheet I provide. This is an awesome group activity that needs to start before any planning retreat. Include this as part of a pre-retreat survey. Ask survey takers what values best reflect the organizations and provide a list. Limit them to a few answers to focus on the most important, three to five. Provide a space for them to enter an answer not provided. During our values focus group, we struggled to narrow down three similar values into one. One participant spoke up and suggested we keep them all because they are necessary to the work we do as a team. BAM! Teamwork had not been offered as a value or principal, yet it was the very term to describe what to describe what we were trying to say.

Now that you have an idea about where you want to lead the organization in the next few years; you understand the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and you know what guiding principals are important, you can start to chart the path. Identify two to five activities or achievements your organization needs to accomplish to reach their destination. Think of each of these as milestones. Each should build on and support the others. Limit your strategic goals to five or less.

For example, you decide you want to become the premier craft brewery in your region. You spend one or two years learning about medium levels of producing brew. In the second year, you develop your brand and marketing plan. In your third year you develop a pub menu that comes from local suppliers and appeals to your target audience. In your fourth year you renovate your space to make your customers comfortable and encourages repeat visits. Each goal depends on the previous goal to reach success. You cannot do all of them at the same time well, so you focus on one area, building on success each year.

Use some of the information from your SWOT analysis to focus your strategic goal setting. You may recognize that you seek to achieve a particular task, but one of the critical resources was identified as a weakness. Strengthening that weakness will help you achieve your goal. Use product ideas from your external surveys. If your customers are asking for it and you are not figuring out how to meet their demand for it you can bet your competitor will.

Just because the focus is on one goal does not mean you ignore everything else. Complete activities to support your main effort, and prepare for the transition from one goal to the next. Figure out which supporting activities are essential for the completion of the main effort. Schedule those tasks on your organization’s calendar. Assign a person by name or title to supervise and complete each task. No matter what, the main effort needs to be the main effort.

You only have to plan the task steps of each goal as the start date approaches. Many things may happen in the world as your strategic plan becomes reality. Action plans at this stage only require two to four steps.

A final step in strategic planning is resource allocation. Knowing there can only be one main effort, every resource in the organization must be poised to support that effort. You cannot plan on your master brewing becoming an expert on using modern technology to brew old fashion recipes and then slash your travel and training budget the next year. The two ideas are incongruent. Ensure your resources are aligned to support the main effort.

Strategic plans are like road maps in that they are only helpful when drawn out. Anyone who has tried to follow verbal directions knows how hard it is to remember whether you were supposed to turn left at the third traffic light, er was it right? When your plan is written you can refer back to it to remember what comes next. A document is easier to share with others increasing understanding across the organization. You can use your plan to lure investors, employees, and customers. Even if you leave the organization, your replacement knows why certain things are being done, and understands what comes next.

Strategic plans can be a one-page document, or a multi-page report. You want enough detail so there is no question about why the organization is changing, how it plans to change, or what changes are coming. If you have a small organization you can farm out the work to a consultant. There are benefits of hiring someone outside the organization to write the plan even if you have the resources to do it yourself. They can remove jargon making the messages clearer. That fresh set of eyes serve as a common sense check.

December and January seem to be the time of the year people pause and reflect. As one year ends and another begins people recognize the importance of planning for change. I provided some ways your organization can plan for the future by analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Gathering and analyzing facts allows your organization to reach reasonable conclusions and make informed decisions about future objectives. Aligning short-term goals with long-range objectives ensures your main effort has support. Clarifying your values helps develop the direction. Creating a written plan ensures you have a solid picture of how to use your resources over the next few years. The plan serves as your map. With your map (written plan) and compass (values) in hand, navigating the uncertain of the future is easier. Take some time this season to draw your organization’s map before it starts the journey in 2019.

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Photo Credits

Starting line by Martin Roz from Pexel.com CC0 License

Builders by Michael Gaida from Pexel.com CC0 License

SWOT by Author

Map Saddle by Author

Character — the Foundation of Leadership

Character Character Vennis the sum of a person’s habits and qualities. It is the center of a Venn diagram of your skills, knowledge, abilities, values, relationships, past experiences, habits, and personality. Developing good character helps develop a good reputation, which helps gain influence. Others determine whether or not you are a good leader, or have the potential to be a good leader, by observing common traits in the character of other good leaders. Developing good character traits is within your control.

In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek tells a story about the order leaders in the military eat. He reports that without orders or instruction that enlisted military members eat before the noncommissioned officers, and noncommissioned officers before officers, according to rank. The reality is, those lessons are taught to junior leaders. As a brand new howitzer section chief, I decided to eat during a break in firing, before the rest of my section. I reasoned they could go to chow when we resumed firing, but I needed to be on the gun to supervise operations. As I neared the front of the line, I was approached by my platoon sergeant. He noted he had not seen several of my Soldiers yet. He sent me back to my gun without chow and directed me to eat after the rest of my section. The military trains leaders well, and learning to take care of troops is a key lesson that is taught.

The battery resumed firing before I was able to eat. I still had Soldiers going to chow. I did eat that evening. The last guy from my section brought me a plate of food because he knew I would miss chow during the fire missions. I learned the lesson of why leaders eat last. When leaders take care of their troops, their troops will take care of them.

DOD-2009-USMC by SSGT Greeson-flickr.jpgThat first lesson I learned during field feeding taught me the importance of taking care of those you lead. When your followers know you are taking care of their needs, they know they can focus on their tasks required to accomplish the mission. They know you have their back. That only happens when leaders receive trust from those they lead. Trust turns into respect. Respect creates disciplined organizations. Disciplined organizations accomplish great things in the face of adversity.

Anyone can build the kind of character that encourages others to follow them. Look at each element of character. To acquire any of those attributes, potential leaders need to act. Action is the key to leading others.

Knowledge

Leaders need education. Three pillars of gaining knowledge include institutional education, personal development, and real world assignments. Each provides different opportunities to learn.

Institutional education provides general information about the topics included in the course of study. The lessons learned in the classroom provide a background to help people think and reason when problem solving. One learns the theory behind the practice.Roberto-Saltori_Knowledge_Management-flikr.jpg

Real world assignments provide opportunities to apply classroom lessons. New graduates are given low level, simple issues to resolve. They are closely supervised to ensure they understand the expectations as they apply their knowledge. These opportunities allow people to apply their classroom knowledge and make mistakes on low-risk assignments in order to develop deeper understanding of underlying principals in their lessons.

Self development describes a variety of educational means. Examples include reading topical books and journals, asking for extra assignments to meet stretch goals, field trips to locations relevant to the work, and self selected training events or conferences. The smart young leader figures out what knowledge s/he needs to improve his or her performance and finds a way to gain that knowledge. Self development is viewed by more senior leaders as a key indicators of younger leaders potential for greater responsibility. It is demonstrative of their diligence.

Skills and Abilities

Most of the skills and abilities required of leaders have little to do with doing the work of the organization. Knowing how a machinist works a piece of metal, a warehouse employee finds a widget, or what day employment taxes need to be filed generally are important details for others. Knowing those things need to be done and finding the right people to do them is the leader’s job. Leadership requires skill to develop effective processes, the ability to apply influence to seniors, peers, and subordinates alike, and ensure resources are available.

Many have said that leaders lead people, and managers manage things. Someone can be a good manager and a bad leader. Leaders who are poor managers never become good leaders. Managing resources is an important skill so your followers have required resources to do their jobs.

Habits

I had a friend, Gerry Berry, who often said something like, “You always make time for the things that are important to you.” This would often come up when we would discuss doing something together outside of work; we being a few of us. It was rare that our little group of friends could always find the same day and time to do something with everyone. He would direct that line to those who had previous commitments as a way of reminding all of us about the importance of how we choose to use our time. Others determine what we value by the choices we make including how use of time.

Gerry developed an aggressive form of cancer while he was still young. He dreamed of building a barn for his wife and son so they could move the horses they loved to his home. Several of his friends developed a plan to build the barn before he died. At no time were all his friends present on the property at the same time. However, over the course of a week, everyone found some time to participate in some way. What do your habits tell others what you find important?

Experience

wing-cloud-sky-adventure-wind-old-593601-pxhere.com.jpgUnlike the other factors discussed above, we only have limited control of our experiences. A person may seek out experiences, but sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time with an open mind and properly prepared for some experiences. There are plenty of experiences people can control and obtain. You can choose to hike the Appalachian Trail and gain that experience. You can choose to develop a speaking program and present it to several local civic groups to demonstrate expertise in a subject area. Not everyone can go to Harvard, but most people can complete college if they really want and have a college experience. Not everyone can perform in Carnegie Hall, but there are plenty of performance venues if you want to perform.

Trying new things and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone allows you to understand more things in life. You become more emphatic with the plight and victories of others. You learn and gain knowledge. You learn about abilities you did not possess and you learn about others. There are plenty of things you can do to broaden you experiences.

Relationships

I often heard an expression that one can tell much about another by the way s/he treats those who can do nothing for them. Too often we treat co-workers better than friends or family members and our bosses better than co-workers. We believe we have to display our best behaviors at work, and we should. If we go back to the integrity thought, our treatment of friends and family is really a reflection of what we do when others are not watching. Yes, you have to be on your best behavior at home.Leonora(Ellie)Enking-alesalbanianwaiter-flickr.jpg

People of character treat everyone with respect and dignity. That does not mean you have to agree with everyone all the time about everything. Actually, to give that impression is disrespectful and not helpful. How you disagree with others is a true indicator of your respect for another person. It is okay to agree to disagree. People notice the character of your relationships to determine whether or not they should develop one with you. People want and need to interact with others. People who value others, find others value them. You demonstrate your value others by paying attention to them. Ignore your phone. Your social media feed will wait until you are alone. Focus your attention on the person in front of you.

Be on time. When you tell someone you will meet them at a certain time, do it. Adopt the idea that being early is being on time, being on time is late, and being late is unacceptable. Never keep your boss, a client, a friend, or a family member waiting.

Do what you say you are going to do. If you fail to fulfill promises, no one will trust you. It is better to under promise and over deliver than miss a deadline.

Personality

There are lots of personality tests out there. People take them for many reasons. Your tested personality is irrelevant. Many personality test questions ask what you prefer. What you prefer does not dictate what you do. What you do matters, even if it is not your natural preference.

Learn to take charge of your preferences, control them, and do what is necessary in any given moment. There are times to speak and times to listen. There are times for action and times to wait. I think this ends with, “There is a time to every season under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). These lessons are from ancient knowledge. Wisdom comes from learning when and how to apply them.

nature-forest-house-building-hut-village-1216943-pxhere.com-cropped.jpgThe foundations of character date back eons. Periodic reviews, such as this blog, keep lessons fresh in people’s minds. Each of us can change our behavior to improve our character.

Character is the foundation of leadership because it forms a solid base of power to influence others. Character is the focus of your knowledge, skills, abilities, values, relationships, and personality. People are predisposed to behave certain ways in situations based on each of these factors. Because people are self-aware, they can judge how their behaviors in each area affects their chosen path. People can choose responsible character building behaviors rather than their preferred responses. Successful leaders understand when and how to match their behaviors to those required for best results. Application becomes easier with practice and reflection. People make mistakes. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Work on your character in order to build a strong foundation as a leader.


Photo Credits

Venn Diagram by the author Creative Commons Attribution

Chow Line from US DOD by SSGT Greeson, USMC public domain

Knowledge Management by Roberto Saltori from flickr.com CC Attribution Reuse

Wild Blue Yonder from pxhere.com CC0

Nature Forest House from pxhere.com CC0 — cropped by the author

Improve Decision Making Skills

paint-chips_pxhereDecision making is a critical leadership skill. Use your decision making abilities in and out of the office to improve both your work and personal lives. People making good decisions inside and outside the office derive many benefits. Learning to make good decisions is a first step to becoming a well respected leader.

There lots of benefits of being more decisive. Making conscious choices allows you to shape your life path reflecting your values and priorities. Without taking action, you find yourself drifting through whatever circumstances come along. Learn to set goals and develop action plans to achieve those goals. Writing down a plan of action for a goal is easy. Choosing to implement the action steps is what make your dream reality. There is lots of information available in the internet about setting and achieving goals. I contributed some of that content by sharing things I do to accomplish my goals and dreams. Here is a link. https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/time-to-reflect-plan-act/

hourglass-cropped_pxhereSome decisions should be delayed, but most can be made quickly. Making decisions at the correct point frees the time by avoiding waffling that robs not only your valuable time, but also energy. Avoid going back and forth over the same options. Making a decision at the appropriate time eliminates stress, confusion and anxiety you feel about making mistakes. Most decisions fail to work out as planned requiring adjustments along the way. Taking greater control builds your trust with others and your confidence to make good decision. Decision-making skills are like exercise. When you exercise more, you develop fitness factors that increase your physical ability. Making decisions increases your self-confidence and your ability to make better decision. You create positive momentum because it’s easier to make decisions when you believe in yourself and your abilities.


Every time you make a decision, you learn. You learn about how your decision affects others. You learn what information is important when making future decisions. You identify sources for help and advice. Your choices reveal your character to yourself and others. A big lesson learned is how your willingness to learn from adversity provide valuable feedback about areas you can improve.

Becoming more decisive is simply a decision, your first important decision to be more decisive. The most difficult time in any moment of decision is the space between deciding to do something and making the first step. Law enforcement calls this space the Fatal Funnel.doors_choices_choose_open_decision_opportunity_choosing_career-546878 It is that space between being outside of a key engagement area such as a room, and being in the engagement where you gain control. It is like being in the doorway. You are neither in the room or out of the room, but that space is the most dangerous because you are completely exposed. As soon as you step left, right, or move forward, the danger decreases. Motivate yourself because once you take action, you recognize more opportunities. You can only see the doors in the next room by fully stepping through the door directly in front of you.

Generally one makes a decision because a problem or opportunity comes into your awareness. Do your research. The first step to making a good decision requires properly identifying the problem or opportunity. You requires the correct information to properly frame the situation. Obtain facts and figures researching on your own or consulting those with the relevant expertise.


You will never have all the relevant fact and figures available in a moment of decision. Learn to analyze the available information to develop reasonable assumptions. Plenty of analytical tools are available to reach reasonable conclusions. Learn what tools are available. Identify which ones work bestCynefin-Model.png in different situations. Each situation requires a unique solution, but frequently problems and opportunities fall into five categories; simple, complected, complex, chaotic, or disordered. Different skills are required for each category. Developing skills and understanding for each category is easily each a topic for additional blogs.

Start with small, simple decisions in areas where you feel confident and where the consequences are relatively minor. I encourage those who follow me to be brave, make a decision and learn lessons from the consequences good and bad. I frequently have new employees come to me with their tails between their legs because a decision they made went wrong. My first question always is, “Did someone die, become seriously injured, or did something blow up or become seriously damaged?” Most of the time the answer is no. That means we have time to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. This allows employees to practice and work their way to more significant decisions. Working through the problem or opportunity with them builds their confidence. Trust your judgment and accept any consequences or criticisms that may arise in order to learn important lessons for future decisions.


Making timely decisions is important. Give yourself a timeline, but do not make it artificially short. If you have 12 months to find a speaker for a training conference, identify when you need to make that selection. Speaker bureaus may require three to six months notice for most speakers. That provides you up to nine months to complete your research which includes the perimeters such as cost, expertise, and other requirements for the speaker. In fact, the first step in your research requires you to identify what information you need to gather to decide who your speaker should be. That means you probably should not select the speaker in the month following the date you were assigned to make a selection. Use the time to gather facts and information. However, do not put off a decision of little consequence that can be made today, such as the pattern of the paper plates for the snack table. Use more time to make a choice for those decisions of great consequence. 9cd72001ef8b5fc00d4fe85767d2-1433771Do not waste time with decisions of little consequence. Learn the difference between the two.

Face your fears. You will make mistakes. Baseball players who only hit a base hit three times for every ten times they face a pitcher receive large paychecks. They fail 70% of the time! There was a time Babe Ruth held the record for the most home runs batted in Major League Baseball. He also held the record for the most strike outs. Tim Ferris claims to periodically go without food for days while sleeping in a tent at night to remind himself that if a decision he makes results in the loss of all his wealth, he can still survive even if it means not having food for several days and sleeping on the ground. Fear of making mistakes is a barrier to becoming more decisive. Mistakes are a part of life. Unfortunately people often learn more from failures than from victories because they analyze what went wrong when they fail, but rarely analyze what went right when they succeed.


The best way to become decisive is to decide to make decisions. Decision making is a skill required of all leaders. Leaders who make decisions develop a reputation as being decisive. Every time you make a decision, you learn from your mistakes and successes. Making decisions is simply learning a process then accepting the results of the process and acting on them. Decide to be a respected leader by making decisions.


Photo Information

All photos from pxhere.com used with a 0CC license.

The Cynefin Model graphic was created by the author and is based on the work of David Snowden and Mary Boone.  For more on this model read A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making at https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making.

All Leaders are Front-line Leaders

TassieEye.Flickr.jpg

Organizations promote good leaders front line leaders into senior leaders. As leaders move through the levels of leadership, they need to adapt to their leadership style to meet the level they reach. Front line leaders address the challenges facing the organization here and now. Mid level leaders prepare the organization to face expected challenges in the next few days to several weeks. Senior level leaders anticipate problems for the organization months and years from now. One thing all levels of leaders deal with are those problems that occur today. At every level, all leaders need front line leader skills. Whether you are on your first day as a new shop foreman supervising ten machine operators, or the CEO of a major corporation with ten vice presidents reporting to you, you directly supervise and lead people every day. There are three basic attributes front line leaders at every level must understand, possess, and use; character, leading skills, and action.

Character is the foundation of leadership. Character is the collection of habits and actions taken by a person commonly defined by their hidden and stated beliefs. A habit is simply something a person does repeatedly.

A mid-level leader in a leadership workshop confessed his surprise hearing the expressions from his employees about how much he cared. He received a promotion and was moving to a new assignment. During his last days in that assignment, almost all of his workers approached him at some point and told him how much they appreciated the personal attention he provided regarding some sort of personal issue. They each said it showed he cared about everyone of them. He told the crowd of other mid-level leaders he did not remember most of the issues for which each thanked him.

hand-leg-finger-food-produce-care-1028578-pxhere.com.jpgHe told his classmates he devised a simple system using spreadsheet software to track employee issues. Every morning he made a list of people to contact to follow up on those issues ensuring they were addressed. His actions allowed employees to focus on their work, not their problems. His habit of tracking people’s problems and checking with them periodically, resulted in a reputation of being a compassionate leader. He only spoke with others who had a reason to know about the problem in order to provide support to the employee or help resolve the problem. He did not gossip. His habit of keeping his mouth shut gained him the reputation of being trustworthy. His habits and actions told others the story of how he felt about resolving people’s problems, not a speech delivered from a soapbox about being there to help his people. His character was defined by what he did, not what he said.

Front-line leaders need to find ways to organize information and their schedule or people think they are unreliable. Discipline is critical to repeat effective actions until they become habits and create your character. Learning how to relate with others enables leaders to motivate and influence people them by finding how individual needs, interests, and abilities align with organizational requirements and mission accomplishment.

In order to influence others, a leader needs power. @wewon31-power-linup_flickr.jpgPower is commonly obtained in one of a few ways. The first is positional power, that which an organization give an individual in supervisory positions. Another is expert power. If you are an expert by means of knowledge on a topic, or possess a critical skill that you use and share. You sway others by your expertise. A third source of power is attraction. That ability some people have to draw the positive attention from others and to make others want to be liked by them. Often called charisma, it enables those endowed with it to influence people by bestowing attention on those seeking their approval. A final source of power is reward and punishment. This sounds like something a boss can do, such as providing a wage increase, or dismissing an employee. In this example it is not someone in a position of authority. People who use rewards and punishment for power include people like playground bullies, or a grass roots community activist. Each finds ways to reward and punish people they influence outside traditional organizational structures. Some example include using force in the case of the bully, or endorsing a political candidate in the case of the activist. These rewards and punishments lack official sanction. The power comes from the personal traits of the individual such as strength or speaking ability. 102_0158.JPGLearning to develop power across several sources is a skill necessary to influence others. Each has benefits and limitations depending on the skill of the wielder, the situation, and the audience. Each is a tool. One cannot build a house only using a saw; likewise, one cannot lead well with only one source of power.

A final critical skill for all leaders is communication. Leaders need to write well, speak well, understand how others use words to indicate problems and answer, use body language, customs and courtesies that make others feel welcome or insulted, and adapt their communication style to their audience. Use different words and sentence structure recruiting in a college classroom full of young and presenting a financial report to your board of directors comprised of older, experienced professionals. New line workers need different instructions than veteran equipment operators. Respect shown to all you deal with speaks louder than all your words.

An instructor at an officer candidate school charged the class to develop the best order to direct a platoon to erect a flagpole. Each candidate was given 30 minutes. After 30 minutes each student made their presentation. Each had multiple slides in a deck explaining the process of digging the hole; others had lengthy material specifications and work plans; and others had maps, charts, and diagrams showing how they would move the pole, position equipment, and stand the pole. When the students were finished the instructor congratulated them on their hard work. He asked them who the audience was for their order. All agreed it was for the members of their platoon. The instructor pointed out their slide decks and other media were great if they were briefing a general about how they planned to install a pole. The assignment directions were to issue an order to erect a flag pole. The instructor shouted, “Platoon Sergeant, POST.” The platoon sergeant ran to the front of the class and reported to the instructor. After exchanging salutes, the instructor said, “Sergeant install that flag pole,” and pointed to the flagpole, “over there where the grade stake is located.” The sergeant saluted, said, “Yes Sir.” and left to start installing the flagpole.

Community-Bible-Church_Flickr.jpgThis story illustrates the importance of knowing your audience and the message they need to hear. As the instructor pointed out, if the message is what the candidates needed to request to install a flagpole, the communication is different than directing a Soldier to emplace the flagpole. Of course if the Soldiers were less experienced than the Platoon Sergeant, the instructor needed to provide more direction. The senior person in the story understood he was directing another experienced person to complete a task. Detailed instructions were not required.Pete-Birkinshaw_Flickr_YouRangSir.jpg

Action, the process of making things happen. Anyone can sit in their cubical all day and plan for the future. Only those who step outside their cubical and take action accomplish things. Reflection is important. It allows us to see what is, and what could be. Without action, what could be remains a dream. One only gains character by doing something. Character is the sum of our habits, the things we do. Without those actions, one has no character. Developing character requires action.

Planning is action, but planning without execution is planning resulting in nothing. Executing results in success. There are plenty of things individuals execute alone and help develop character, but one is only a leader when others are motivated to help execute. Leaders provide motivation through communication. Communication is action. Leaders share their vision of the future, a vision that inspires others to follow the leader on the path to success. Leaders execute communication by coaching and counseling their direct reports. Coaching and counseling are actions. Leaders set up their direct reports for success by taking action to ensure resources are available to accomplish tasks. Resourcing is action. Leaders act and set the example by pxhere-actionconfronting unacceptable behaviors and addressing uncomfortable truths, such as failures to reach revenue expectations. Setting standards is action. Leaders execute by jumping in, getting their hands dirty and shoes messy. Doing something dirty is action. Leaders develop power and influence by doing things; acting, not just talking and planning. If you are not doing, you are not leading. Leading is a verb. Verbs are action. Actions, executed properly at the right time by the right right people result in success. You can plan. You can talk. You can be virtuous. You accomplish nothing until you act.

No matter how high one climbs the organizational ladder, one is always a front-line leader. CEOs have VP s and staffs reporting to them. Middle managers have front-line supervisors to lead. Every leader has someone who reports to them about something, or they would not be leading. In order to lead, you must have followers. The direct leadership required of a VP probably is not the same as a new hire on the cook line, but both need proper supervision and leadership from their boss. Provide regular front-line leadership to your direct reports as you prepare your organization, or your part of an organization, for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Build your character so you are worthy of respect. Communicate so they understand. Act by counseling, coaching, and executing. Use your front-line leader skill at all levels and be a leader who succeeds.


Photo Credits

Birds in line by Tassieeye from Flickr.com  CC License

Holding hands from pxhere.com 0CC License

Powerlines by @wewon31 from Flickr.com CC License

Tool Box by author  CC License

Network by Community Bible Church from Flickr.com CC License

Old Telephone Box by Pete Birkinshaw from Flickr.com CC License

Action Biking from pxhere.com 0CC License