Organizing: the Art of Systematic Functionality

Organizing can be a daunting task. We all know people who are so organized that if one thing is out of place they are unable to function. You know the types, the left shoulder of every shirt in their closet is closest to the door, any papers related to money are placed in green folders, or that on any given Saturday night at 8:15 they will be doing laundry. These habits help people become organized. Organization is an important management and leadership task. Leaders take habits like these and use them to create organization in the groups they lead.

Like an organized closet makes finding what you want to wear in the morning makes life easier, organizing your team makes operating easier.
-Photo by form PxHere

There is a reason softball teams, boy scouts, companies, religious groups and similar blocks of people grouped together for a common cause are called organizations; they have some level of, well, organization. All have common traits or organization. Sometimes the organization occurred accidentally, sometimes by virtue of the way the work to be accomplished, or because there was a law requiring a specific process. Responsible leaders ensure current the current organization of the organization best meets of required functionality to accomplish the group’s mission. There are three basic areas leaders organize, teams, structure, and processes.

Before we dig into those areas, let us start with a common understanding of the art of organizing. Organize means to arrange parts in a systematic fashion to create functionality to accomplish a desired outcome. You may notice I do not cite a dictionary resource for my definition. That is because I read lots of definitions preparing for this article and found none that really described organize for leaders.

Hasbro makes a game called Mousetrap. It comes with lots of parts. When assembled correctly, players can catch the mouse token of other players and eliminate them from the game. Assemble the parts incorrectly and the mouse trap fails to work. The game is like the organizing function of leadership. Like the game, organizations have many moving parts. If you organize them well, you will catch the mouse.

Teams

Teams are the most important part of the organizational mouse trap. In his book, Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus and then putting them in the right seats. Early in my leadership studies I read or was told that it is better to hire people with the right attitudes, values, and potential than the right skill and experience. The training indicated that if you hired someone whose values aligned with the organizations, had some demonstrated potential to master the required task either through work, volunteering, or learning experience, and had a can-do attitude, that person would be more successful in the long run and make the organization more successful than a person with knowledge and experience.

After a few times of going through hiring processes I found this to be true the hard way. As a young leader, I supported candidates that had skill and experience. Not all have values aligned with my organization and they did not last long. One time I recommended a young person right out of school who lack experience but seem to have the right attitude, values, and desire to learn. That person worked out very well. We were able to mold the person into the kind of employee the more senior people in our organization wanted working with clients. After that, I always recommended the person who had desired values, attitude, and demonstrated potential.

Structure

Another important aspect of organizing teams is determining how to structure them. The most important aspect is span of control. Every team has a captain who provides the vision, establishes priorities of works, and sets standards. Depending on the complexity of the task, the captain may only be able to adequately supervise two or three people or a dozen people. Complex, and highly skilled tasks require a smaller span of control. Tasks that are simpler and require less skill allow the captain the ability to supervise more people. In the work place, the captain might be called a supervisor or manager.

Structural organization determines spans of control, who belongs to which group, and who reports to whom.
-Chart by author.

Likewise, the person overseeing the team captains has a limited span of control. During the 1980s there was a trend to flatten organizational pyramids. Not all attempts worked. Much of this has to do with the span of control and the complexity of the work to be done.

Geography is another limitation. If parts of the organization are spread over a large area, the senior leaders may find it necessary to create geographic regions to improve planning, resourcing, controlling, and leading. Leaders who have the ability to stand in one spot and observe everyone they lead have an advantage over those who may have to go from one place to another to observe. As that distance grows, so does the time required to provide adequate supervision and leadership.

I use both supervision and leadership when discussing spans of control. Both activities are important management skills but they are different. Supervision is a process of observing the work of a subordinate and providing reinforcing and corrective feedback to performance. Leadership is the process of influencing others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish something even in the leader’s absence. All supervisors are managers and leaders. Not all leaders are supervisors or managers. The differences between the three will be examined closer in the leadership post.

Processes

Processes are the repeated actions required to achieve a predictable, repeated result. Ideally they should be simple and easy to understand. Of course that means simple to understand for the intended audience. For example, the process to start up the particle accelerator at CERN would be completely impossible for most people. However, to the people who work at CERN, the process is simple. Many of you have had fun purchasing something with the phrase on the box, “Some Assembly Required.” Some of you tossed the directions. Others called tech support because you could not figure out why tab A did not fit into slot B! That is why it is important to provide simple, easy to understand directions in processes.

Processes need to be thought out and though through so each step makes sense. I heard a yoga teacher trainer suggest that teaching a new yoga teacher required teaching them to think about telling someone how to walk. Because wannbe yoga teachers have been doing yoga for so long they no longer think about how to do yoga any more than most people think about how they walk.

Creating well organized processes helps people figure out how to put together the puzzle. Each piece has a place. The process provides the guidance to take a bunch of stuff and make it a whole picture.
-Photo by author.

As you work through your processes, periodically stop and test. Have people who are not familiar with the work follow the directions provided in your video, slide deck, or written instructions. If they produce an acceptable product it probably means you created a good process.

At various times in life, I found many tasks I needed to repeat for work that were sometimes only needed to be done occasionally like creating an annual budget, or completing annual tax forms. I found that by creating checklists for myself to follow on these types of tasks, I was able to complete such tasks faster and more accurately. When it came time to teach someone else how to do that task I had the beginning of a process to share with them. With a little work, I could take my checklist and create instructions about how to do each task. As a result, rarely have I been indispensable which means I was always able to accept a new role. My successor was set up for success. I could spend minimal time with them which allowed me to focus on learning.

Organizing is an art. Leaders figure out how to take all the parts required for a job and arrange them into a functioning system that achieves repeatable, predicable results that achieve the mission. Organizations rarely think about the organization of their organization. As leaders it is important that the teams, structure, and processes we supervise are arraigned to create a system of functionality. Ensure you have the right people on the team. The right person will learn the skills they need to do the job if their values are aligned with the team’s. See that the structure allows supervisors the ability to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to followers by developing reasonable spans of control. Create processes that are easy to understand by the intended users. Seek ways to improve your organization. Groups of people who share a common vision of the future and are part of well organized teams, that are well leadership, and execute appropriate processes will eventually succeed. Be the leader your team deserves by organizing well.

References and Additional Reading

CERN (2021) Seeking answers to questions about the universe. https://home.cern/about/what-we-do/our-research Retrieved 1/18/21

Collins, J. (2001) Good to great. Harper Collins. New York, NY www.jimcollins.com

Hilgert, R. Leonard, E. & Haimann, T. (1995) Supervision: Concepts and practices of management.(6th ed.) South-Western College Publishing. Cincinnati, OH (Particularly Part 3, Organizing)

Kinicki, A. & Williams, B. (2008). Management: A practical introduction. (3rd ed.) McGraw-Hill Irwin. New York, NY. www.mhhe.com

Raghunath. (2020) Men’s 30 day yoga challenge. DoYouYoga. https://www.doyou.com/creators/raghunath/programs/ (not able to find the particular video he made the comment)

(c) 2021. Christopher St. Cyr

The Skill and Art of Controlling

Note

As I neared the 1,200 word mark in my last post I realized I was not going to completely cover each of my main point about the importance of managing as a leader. I kept the post shorter than required to introduce each main point with an eye toward following up with a separate post for each topic in future posts. This is the first of those follow-ups.

Developing and implementing controls allows leaders to track important operational aspects while maintaining the ability to continue looking forward in order to identify threats and opportunities.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Frequently controls are those rules, laws, and regulations people only think about when something goes wrong. Controls are important and should be considered early in the planning process of any project. People do not like to talk about, develop, and implement controls because they feel they limit creativity and individuality. However controls unleash creativity by taking the away the need to make little decisions allowing more time to dedicate to bigger and more important work. Appropriate controls also permit decentralized supervision which allows organizations to respond to change and opportunities quicker, operate more effectively, and with originality. There are three types of controls leaders need to consider, laws, regulations, and local rules or procedures. Of the three, leaders only control the third local rules and procedures, and even then, your control may be limited on some based on your authority in the organization

Laws and regulations for the purpose of this discussion are controls imposed on all or sets of organizations by federal, state, or local governments or certain professional associations. Leaders rarely have the ability to have much influence on these controls. Rather leaders have the important task implementing ways to comply with laws and regulations that apply to their organizations. If leaders fail to ensure their organization follow these controls the penalties may result in the end of the organization.

Often we view laws and regulations as limiting factors like how many hours employees may work before they are paid overtime or what kinds of protections must be provided when using hazardous materials. Laws and regulations also specify what things organizations may do. Study and learn the permissions granted so you and your organization take advantage of every opportunity afforded by them.

Consider professional standards. Professional standards state acceptable behaviors, educational requirements for various jobs within the profession, and continuing educational minimums. Professional standards spell out behavior to be recognized as a professional. These standards are controls and serve as a road map for success. Following them serves as a basis for local rules, policies, and procedures. As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop helpful controls for your team.

I deployed as platoon sergeant in Iraq. The Army and my unit provided lots of rules and regulations about how we were expected to execute our missions. We had a unique mission that allowed us to live and work with Iraqi Security Forces. There was a requirement for us to provide protection for our post. We were given rules to use force. We conducted vehicle and foot patrols in our area of influence. We taught and mentored Iraqi Police Officers and Leaders. Much of what we were doing was new so we had to make up the rules as we went along.

Simple control procedures like how to load vehicles allows leaders to focus on the particularities of the current situation.
Photo by author

We developed simple, basic procedures about how we set up vehicles, how we set up our radios, and what gear we would bring with us before we left our tiny compound. This enable us to respond quickly during any emergency that occurred in the city. The Soldiers bucked the strict structure. The speed of our response increased as did the success of our responses. The Soldier began to understand the importance of our platoon practices. We took thinking out of the preparation and replaced it with rapid leader checks before every mission. Leaders focused on how to apply specified responses and communicate their plan with their team.

As a leader, developing local procedures is an expected but implied task. Few job descriptions specify that managers, especially front line supervisors, are allowed or expected to develop those local rules. However in the absence of those processes, front line leaders have no way to ensure those they supervise complete quality work.

Front line leaders do not need to develop the same type of in-depth procedures as their larger organization. They need to analyze what they did to achieve success in order to teach their proteges their secrets. Front line leaders are best positioned to break down complex tasks and make them understandable and possible for others. Breakdown complex tasks so others can complete them with competence. Effective controls require leaders to begin with the end in mind. In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R Covey states this is a critical principal of successful people. Beginning with the end in mind requires leaders to understand tasks so they can teach others and understand the risks associated with those tasks. Understanding risks results in effective controls to ensure the task is done a particular way to achieve the desired outcome.

Controls include processes to record time on jobs, meetings to gauge progress, and inspections to ensure employees use appropriate protective gear to keep them safe.
Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

So what things do leaders do to develop and implement controls? Examples of regulatory controls include things like maintaining time sheets, providing hazard communication training to employees, use of protective equipment, and anti-discrimination rules. Examples of professional standards include the quantity and type of education required to do a job, prohibiting certain conduct, and requiring documentation of peer consultations. Organization controls spell out how employees record time, whether by manually writing down hours on a form, using a time clock, or scanning a card as you enter or leave the work area; what kinds of reports employees need to complete and when; and what holidays employees may take off with pay. Examples of team controls may include a weekly meeting to report progress on a project, periodic one-on-one coaching sessions between employees and leaders, and how the leader selects team members for rewards such as out-of-town training events.

Controls are an important management function. They do not ensure everything will always go as planned or as expected. They are neither well liked nor glamorous. Having guidelines allow leaders to evaluate and analyze processes to figure out what things work and do not work. They identify shortcomings in the skills of others, their organization, and potential risk for loses. Leaders work within a series of controls which they are responsible to enforce and develop. Not all controls can be selected by the leader; the government and organization provide many. That does not remove the burden from leaders to develop processes, procedures, and limitations to execute work. The controls leaders develop must allow others to do work that creates results the leader envisioned in the beginning without crushing creativity. Effective controls allow organizations to execute quickly to changing situations by allowing decisions to be made at an appropriate level, allow people and organizations to take pride in the work they create, and establish important protections to mitigate risk. Leaders understand the importance of controls. Embrace the freedom controls provide to focus on more important things that make a difference. Use of proper controls ensure others become the best they can be.

Additional Reading

Bratton, W & Knobler, P. (1998). Turnaround. Random House. New York, NY

Covey, S.R. (2004) The 7 habits of highly effective people (25th Anniversary Ed.).Simon & Shuster, New York, NY. https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/

Willink, J., Babin, L. (2015). Extreme ownership: How U.S. navy SEALs lead and win. St. Martin’s Publishing Group. New York, NY. https://echelonfront.com/

Good Leaders are Good Managers

Not every good manager is a good leader but every good leader needs to be a good manager. Frequently leadership students look down on management studies based on the axiom that anyone can be a manager based on position but not everyone can be a leader. However a leader that does not also establish and enforce controls; organize people, processes, and material; plan how to accomplish this mission; execute within established controls with existing resources; and provide necessary resources will fail. The reason many good manager manage to succeed even though they are not good leaders is that leadership is only one element of management. Those good managers find other people to compensate for the less than great leadership which in turn means the organization has good leadership. Likewise leaders who lack other management skills find people who are at least good and look for those who are great to compensate for those weaknesses in the leader. Whole textbooks are written on each of these areas, so dear reader, please understand these thousand or so words only provide you with a starting point in your understanding of becoming a good leader who is also a good manager.

Controlling

Establishing controls early ensures leaders can measure performance and effectiveness.
Photo by Benjamin Lehman on Pexels.com

In the beginning of a team or organization, when the group is comprised of two or ten, controls are easy. Simple, informal rules established and enforced by the team. These early controls include things like the 10:00 meeting means that everyone is in the conference room getting coffee and danish but don’t have to be in their seats until 10:15, or if you make a mess in the microwave clean your mess, or how expenses will be reimburse, and every other such thing. As an organization grows, it needs to formalize rules so new employees understand the time they are expected to show up, understand how to receive reimbursement for the sales trip they took last week, and everyone understands the process to approve expenditures.

When people think about controls, they focus on those created by the organization to help things run smoothly. There are other controls we may not think about until they are violated. For example labor laws establish minimum wages, safety standards, and rules for paying taxes. Various government regulations require businesses to comply with environmental rules, advertising, and interactions regarding doing business in other countries. One of the least thought about controls are imposed by insurance companies. Those controls require organization engage or refrain from engaging in certain practices in order for coverage to be in effect. If the organization violates the terms of coverage, their insurance company will not cover loses.

Generally control are those rules, laws and regulations that ensure resources are conserved for use as long as possible. They are created by the organization and establish norms for behavior, the government in forms of laws and regulations, insurance companies, and other sources that limit individual and organization behaviors. There are certainly more sources of controls. These few paragraphs are just a sample of common sources of controls.

Organizing

Organizing involves more than establishing a quality filing system. It means developing processes to accomplish things; groups, teams, divisions, and other such operating groups; establishing priorities of work; organizational hierarchy, and things like that. Organizing includes establishing spans of control, supervisory authority, and developing operating principals. Additionally, there is also the responsibility to establish a process to file important documents, track orders and sales, ensure employees and bills are paid, and establishing means to track contact information for everyone working for and with the organization. Spans of control and authority relationships determine the structure of the organization by how the branches of the organization interact and who answers to whom. Various controls may impact how organizations are organized.

Organizing is important because the established reporting chain, controls, principals, and groups know how to operate. The organizational organization is like a computer’s operating system. It tells those who interact with the organization what to do, how to do it, when to do it, who is responsible for it, and who pays for it. It also establishes standards for success. Without organization, your organization is only a mob!

Planning

Planning, organizing, and resourcing are an important leadership skill regardless of the size of your operation.
The National Guard Collection – Unattributed military photographer

Dwight D. Eisenhower is quoted as saying, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (azquotes.com). The reason plans them selves have little value is that even the best plan rare work as planned. So one has to if plans are worthless why is planning so important? A good planning process allows leaders to learn things and think their way through problems to find good solutions. Normally more than one person creates an organizational plan. As a result leaders in different parts of the organization come together and work to identify a wide variety of solutions to a perceived future problem. More people mean more ideas and points of view. That means the big leader has more options to chose.

The planning process also helps develop cross function relationships. All to often logistics guys hang with logistics guys, the people in HR only hang with other HR professionals, and the folks executing the work are separated from those who plan the work. These cross function relationships help organizations respond faster in crisis so even on short notice they develop responses to crises faster and better than organizations that lack cross functional relationships.

Another benefit of planning is that more people know about the expected reactions when the plan is triggered by an event. None of the people know all the details about the whole plan but enough people know enough details of the plan they start action sooner which provides time to take stock of the situation as it develops. Instead of trying to figure out how to react, junior leaders take the first steps detailed in the plan which allows senior leaders time to evaluate the situation. The evaluation period serves as a buffer for the planners to determine if what they planned is effective, if they need to make little tweaks and course corrections, or scrape the plan because it does not match the facts on the ground and this is where those previous planning sessions come in handy. An earlier rejected idea might be the solution to the event as it unfolds. Because the planning team spent some time evaluating that solution it is faster and easier to flush out the details on the fly.

Execution

Execution is an often overlooked aspect of management. In my management studies over many years I do not recall it appearing in a single textbook. You can do all the planning, controlling, resourcing, and organizing you want but if no one does anything it is worthless. People come together to develop teams and organizations to accomplish something. The operations process is how those things happen. Execution is the actual implementation of all those other management skills under the watchful eye of a skilled leader who understands how to tweak here and there to make things happen.

If you go to YouTube and search for Aikido you will find more videos than you could watch in a lifetime about the martial art. After you watch a few you may be able to execute a few of the techniques. You may experiment with some of your friends and find that sometimes a tactic works on one but not another. This is the operating process minus the qualified leader.

When I was learning Aikido I frequently was in situations where something seemed to work on one person but not another. Sense would walk by and move my thumb ½ an inch on ukie’s arm or kick one of my feet a couple inches forward and unkie would crumble. Sense is a qualified leader who understands the deeper principals of the process. She understands how those small adjustments affect the technique in more situations than the novice. Sense doesn’t just stand at the front of the mat and challenge students. Sense walks among the students providing guidance in their practice which in turn allows them to operate more effectively.

Even though execution is overlooked in the business world, it is studied in military circles. It is true that textbooks do not cover this important aspect of management, but the military has written many manuals over the years on executing. They describe processes for selecting leaders, training troops and leaders, gathering required resources, planning for contingencies, and accomplishing missions. Execution is where thing happen. Without execution there is no need for the other management functions.

Resourcing

There is an old saying to the effect of, “We the willing, led by the unqualified are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We accomplished so much for so long and so little that we are capable of doing anything with nothing.” Too often in too many workplaces this cute quote is reality. If you do not plan for and provide resources as a leader and you hire qualified people, they will find ways to make things happen, but eventually they will leave.

Resources are important to accomplish things in the same way plants need water to thrive.
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

Several years ago a group of community leaders came together and established a small nonprofit to fill a need. They developed a plan to create a safe place for crime victims to meet with investigators. In the beginning there was a need for lots of stuff and the Board of Directors worked with the staff for find lots of funding. After the first couple of years, the Board started cutting budgets not because they no longer thought the program was important, rather because all the BIG stuff was purchased. They survived on grants that provided enough resources to operate the program but did no additional fundraising. The leaders of this organization missed an important resourcing requirement, planned replacement of the big stuff. After about five years, the CEO retired. The Board hired a new CEO who found in his first two years that many of the big ticket items the program relied upon to deliver services were reaching the end of their usable life. As a result, the new CEO developed a plan to not only replace the aging equipment, but also a plan to diversify funding streams to ensure the organization had a cash cushion for future emergencies. Part of the replacement plan included a schedule to replace expensive equipment just before its projected end-of-life. As a result, on those occasion when something did die early, the organization had funds set aside to make an early replacement. However, as the replacement schedule matured, premature equipment failures lessened and allowed the program to better serve its clients.

Resourcing involves more than just the big stuff. It includes annual budget, staff, systems of communication, work space, all the way down to staples and paperclips. You can tell the real values of an organization by the way it budgets and spends money. Compare the one that sends all its C-level people to an annual event and another that sends at least 50% of it workforce to off-site trainings annually. Which one values people more? Amazon is good example of this as they built their delivery services over the last few years. They wanted better control of how and when products were delivered to ensure customers returned to Amazon for future needs. That action shows they value rapid delivery of products. If Amazon just talked about quick delivery but never put any money behind developing a reliable delivery network, people who value quick delivery would look for a company that does deliver quickly. That is why resourcing is important.

Have the courage to stand up front and lead. Understand that also means you have to manage.
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Being a good leader means one also needs to learn to manage. There are many aspects to leadership beyond standing up in front of your group and giving them a pep speech. As a leader you do need to develop the skills necessary to influence people to accomplish your organization’s mission. You cannot do that however with out a clear idea about what needs to happen, how to measure performance and effectiveness ensuring progress, what the next steps are to move forward, execute plans, and ensure you and your people have the things they need to do their work. Simple words to help remember all these things are Controlling, Organizing, Leading, Planning, Executing, and Planning (COLPER). Hannibal would never have successfully invaded Rome, Vanderbilt would have laid much less rail, and we would still think Apples are something to eat had Jobs, and the others, not understood how to manage things while leading their people. It is not necessary for every leader to be skill in each of these areas. Those just mentioned surrounded themselves with smart people in each of these areas. Like it or not, leaders also manage the talent of their people as part of their leading ability. Take a look at each of these areas in your leadership practice. Identify those things you can build upon and find others to fill in your voids. It is important for you to be a good leader to also be a good manager.

References

AZ Quotes (ND). Dwight D. Eisenhower quotes about planning.https://www.azquotes.com/author/4403-Dwight_D_Eisenhower/tag/planning Retrieved 11/15/20

Hilgert R, Leonard Jr E, Haimann T, (1995) Supervision concepts and practices of management. South-Western College Publishing. Cincinnati, OH.

Kinicki A, Williams B, (3rd ED, 2008) Management a practical introduction. McGraw-Hill Irwin. Boston, MA.

Create Inspiring Presentations

As the hour draws to a close the speaker comments on what a great bunch your group has been. She was so concerned things would not go well because she was not sure what she had to offer would meet the needs of the of the team. She asks of there are any questions; there are none, and thanks you all for coming. You stand up hoping to sneak out of the room before your boss has an opportunity to corner you about the poor performance of your direct report during the monthly senior staff training. Too late. He yells across the room to meet him in his office in five minutes. What went wrong?

Leaders often make presentations. Use a presentation objective to stay on target and inspire your audience.
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Making presentations in the workplace is a common function of those in leadership potions. We all suffered though those that miss the mark time wise running so much longer than necessary, were totally boring, or left us wondering what the the point of the presentation was. These presentations are intended to keep fellow workers up-to-date on hot topics from a subject matter expert. Powerful presentations are not guaranteed just because the presenter possesses expert knowledge. Their lack of understanding how to create and deliver quality presentations deny the members of the organization the inspiration to do great things with what they learned. Even when the person makes a great presentation, they may end up talking about everything except the one or two areas of concern for your organization. Taking the time to identify objectives of what you want participants to learn helps you and the presenter focus on material that will enlighten, educate, and inspire. Steven Covey calls it beginning with the end in mind.

It may seem too simple to write out a comprehensive presentation objective. Doing so focuses the efforts of the presenter on the information which helps the audience achieve the final goal of the event. The end result is a focused presentation meeting the needs of the audience.

There are three important parts of every presentation objective, whether it is the capstone objective, or a smaller piece of the puzzle. The parts are action, condition and standard. The action is what you want the student to learn how to accomplish when they complete the training. An example might be something like, “The clerk will complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.” The conditions for the task or action to be completed should include the environment and any tools or resources available while completing the action. Finally spell out how someone will know when the staff achieved success by stating the standard. This can be performance steps, standards for a finished product, a score on an examination or any other means of measuring performance. Often in a staff development event this may be as simple as, “The employee responds correctly to questions during discussion.”

This is a sample of an objective for a staff meeting presentation where there will be no formal testing.

Action: Complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.

Conditions: During a staff development event and random questions from the instructor.

Standard: Correctly answer questions related to taking a customer order on the phone and entering the data into the computer.

Ideally action statements start with a verb. Conditions describe resources available to complete the action. Standards should be measurable and attainable, very much like setting SMART goals.

As a leader, it is important to talk with your people about your expectations before they present to a group. Teach them to create an appropriate objective.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Establishing learning objectives when assigning someone to conduct training improves communication and enables the trainer to understand the perceived needs of organization. Given an objective such as the one above instead of some generic statement like, “Hey Smith, I need you to give a class on that new software at the next staff training conference next week.” With the first, employees should walk out of the training understanding how to take customer orders using the new software. Who knows what you will get with the second. When you are tasked to provide training, have an understanding of the process. It allows you to develop an appropriate objective so you can run it by the person who assigned it. The objective helps you focus your attention on what is necessary to meet expectations.

Developing objectives for your presentation helps you focus on sharing important information in the time allowed for staff to achieve a given task. When assigned, both the leader and the presenter create a shared expectation of the finished product. Quality learning objectives contain three parts, the action, the conditions, and the standards. When assigned by your leader to present to others, using a presentation objective ensures you and he understand what is expected. Do not let your next presentation flop. Take the time to develop an objective for the time you are given to teach others.

References

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. electronic edition. New York, NY: Rosetta Books, 2012.

http://www.grayharriman.com/ADDIE_Writing_Learning_Objectives.htm

The Path to Great Leadership

The road to great leadership is not smooth.
Photo by Guillaume Meurice on Pexels.com

Have you ever noticed that the hero leader in any war movie is less than perfect yet seems to motivate and inspire their team to accomplish impossible things? Whether it is Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge, Patton in his namesake movie, SGT Kelly in Kelly’s Heroes, or MAJ Charles Whittlesey in The Lost Battalion each leader is flawed in some way. It does not matter whether the character is real or fictional they, like all real leaders, have strong points that help them successfully lead others in great adversity and flaws they learn to overcome through their strengths and deligation. One could argue that the main characters in these movies are less than an ideal mentor or role model, but others would argue each is the very definition of a great leader. The military is full of commissioned and non-commissioned officers who are less than perfect yet meet the definition of great leaders. This article seeks to identify why the military successfully develops so many leaders who meet this definition.

Before looking at the reasons the military generates so many great leaders, a review of great leadership is in order. Great leaders build enduring greatness by placing the needs of the organization and their followers above their own. They blend humility with personal will-power influencing others to accomplish things they thought impossible. They do the things that need doing, establishing demanding standards. They allow mistakes but learning from those mistakes and continuous improvement. They bask in the reflected glory of the successes of those they lead. They create sustainable leadership development programs ensuring competent leaders continue their success long after their departure. Great leaders are well respected attracting others who want to follow them.

MAJ Charles Whittlesey. -By United States Army – United States Army, Public Domain

Even the real life leaders mentioned above are fictionalized for the entertainment value for their movie’s success. Their exploits might be exaggerated but typical of many military leaders. They are humble about their achievements by acknowledging the fact they could have only achieved success through the efforts of their followers and subordinate leaders. They set high standards and expect others to meet them not occasionally, but every day. They accomplish those things that need doing whether pleasant or distasteful. They demand their followers achieve excellence and continuously improve their performance. They provide junior leaders opportunities to lead, allowing them to make mistakes, hold them accountable, and permit them to try again until they succeed. These actions set an example for future leaders to follow when promoted.

In the movie Heartbreak Ridge, Gunny Highway’s first impression of CPL Jones and the other members of the platoon was unfavorable. As the new Platoon Sergeant, he established high standards and through his will-power influenced them to achieve those standards and succeed. The platoon went from being the laughing stock of the post to a well-respected organization capable of meeting any challenge presented. He developed other leaders such as Jones and his Lieutenant who tripped when presented problems but learned the value of adapting, improvising, and overcoming to achieve success.

Each of these leaders inherited teams that were expected to fail. They were given missions that appeared impossible but success was necessary to achieve victory. Each leader found ways to put themselves in harm’s way and set a personal example of expected behaviors. Each lived up to the standards they set and expected their people to achieve. Each worked to develop relationships with followers in their organizations. Each personally developed other leaders that ensured subordinate level organizations had reliable leaders and that someone was prepared to replace the top leader. Each understood how to build their teams through hard work and shared challenges. While each had flaws, they did not allow those flaws to hold them or their teams back. Instead, they used their strengths to overcome their shortcomings and found processes and people to make up for those weaknesses.

LG Patton meeting with a troop. -By Army Signal Corps – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 531335., Public Domain

The true measure of a leader is the legacy they leave behind. We can surmise that in the case of Gunnery Sergeant Highway he retired and CPL Jones went on to become a great leader. With SGT Kelly, he lost his gold and continued to fight the Germans. GEN Patton was killed in a post-war auto accident. His legacy lives on in the Third US Army. MAJ Whittlesey drowned while traveling to Cuba. The 77th Sustainment Brigade, the successor to the 77th Infantry Division still honors the accomplishments of Whittlesey and his Soldiers in 1918. You may not be perfect. Do not let that hold you back from accepting the challenges of leadership. Learn to lead from your strengths. Develop other leaders in your organization. Set and enforce high standards. Build your team through hard work. Find processes and people to fill the voids left by your weaknesses. Never quit. Following each of these principals will help you start on the path of becoming a great leader but it does require you to take that first step.

The Art of Delegation: Seven Steps to Delegating Better

Delegation is an art. Like a sculper, you begin by seeing what could be within the stone, not the stone.
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Leaders accomplish things through other people’s efforts. In order for others to accomplish a task or project, the leader needs to know what the project will accomplish when complete, understand why the task important and should be completed by someone else, establish dates for progress checks and project completion, establish authority and responsibility, agree with the person doing the task what success looks like, have the person back brief her understanding of the task, and write down the details of the project. That is a long sentence and sounds like lots of work. Both statements are accurate. Delegating a project to another requires the leader to think through lots of issues so he can effectively communicate certain details to the person receiving the work. Leaders fail at delegation because they do not think about what is involved in accomplishing the project. It is easy to acknowledge something is not working the way you want it to work. It is harder to tell someone what it would look like if it was working better. As a result, MANAGERS pick at the problem instead of delegating and the problem persists. Leaders make the time to think about these issues, identify someone who has the potential to complete the task, communicates that vision to the other and turns them loose to do great things.

Start with a clear understanding of what you want the end state to look like. I regularly report program information to my Board of Directors. We serve several communities. I was looking for a way to more effectively show which communities received the most services from us other than the table containing the names of the town and the number of services provided. I was looking at an annual report for another organization and noticed they used a map. The light bulb went off over my head. The next day I sat down with one of my people and explained to them I wanted them to develop a map the would allow us to present data about services provided by town that is easy to change for each board meeting. Once I understood what I wanted, it was easy to tell someone else.

Understand why you entrust someone else to do this task. Face it, you can do it better and faster than anyone else; or can you? In the map case, I could easily do it. I have some background in that kind of geographical work but I am not good at it. I also have other responsibilities that only I can do. This task can be accomplished by someone else. That gives me time to do other things that benefit the organization. That is why it is important for someone else to do it. It was an important task because the program report would be easier to understand by both members of the Board of Directors and our supporters. When I sat down and gave this task to the other person I explained both of these issues to him. As a result, he understood why he was selected and why the task was important. and communicate both with that person.

Follow these simple steps next time you delegate a task or project and your workers will more successfully meet your expectations giving you the freedom to do other things only you can do. Chart by the author.

I picked the individual because he was new to the organization. Working on this project allowed him to develop a better understanding of our customers and what communities we serve. He also possessed a level of technical expertise he learned in college but had not had an opportunity to use those skills on a real world project.  When this project was complete, this person had the opportunity to transfer classroom learning into real world skills and understood our service area better.

It is important to set time limits. Time limits are necessary for any real goal. Some projects can be completed quickly and only need an end date. Other projects last weeks or months. In the case of those longer projects establish dates to meet with your employee for progress reports. This provides you an opportunity to make adjustments to the time line, understand resource requirements, and provide input and guidance. It provides the worker with the opportunity to make sure the work is meeting your expectations, ask questions, and keeps them focused by determining what parts of the project need to be done by certain dates to meet the overall deadline.

When you delegate a task to someone, you also delegate authority and responsibility necessary to accomplish that task. That delegation may include authorization to spend money, use certain company resources to include people, and connect with others who may help move the project along. For a new person, this creates risk for the organization. However, you can place limits on the employee’s authority which allows them to grow and make mistakes without sinking the organization.

An example of this is selecting a new supervisor to plan and annual company party. You give him the authority to establish a ticket price, select a venue and menu, the date and time for the party and things like that. You provide limits by setting a desired price per person and an absolute upper limit, a window of dates that work best, and limit how far the venue is from the workplace.

As you work through the delegation process both you and your selected agree on what success looks like for this task. In this way you both understand what is to be done. You both agree on the limits of authority and responsibility. You establish what support you will provide as the employee works on the task and other relevant details. Do not place so many details that the person tasked becomes overwhelmed.

Like a roadmap, a written plan shows your workers how to successfully complete a task the way you envision it to be done.
Photo by Jessie Crettenden on Pexels.com

I was once tasked to develop a leadership development trip. My boss provided a date range, transportation requirements, target audience to include the maximum number of people who could attend, and a menu of activities to complete and venues to visit. Our company had written limits on lodging and feeding during such business related travel. The boss gave me the task about nine months before we made the trip. In this way he gave me the authority to make reservations, connect with other departments in the company, and the limitations of my power. We agreed on what a successful trip looked like which kept me focused on the important things and allowed me to ignore fluff stuff.

Once you give everything to the employee stop talking. Allow her to absorb what she just heard for a minute or two. Then ask her to repeat back what the task was, why it is important and why they were selected, what authority and limitations they have been given, the time line, and a summary of what success looks like. As she talks, write down the plan. The written plan is record of what you both agreed to do and what a successful project looks like. It forms the road map for the employee to follow and becomes the report card you can use to judge their progress.

Delegation is a critical leadership skill. Leaders who fail to learn this skill fail to develop others and end up doing too much work themselves. Following the simple process of identifying what the project will accomplish when complete, understanding why the task important and should be completed by someone else, establishing dates for progress checks and project completion, establishing authority and responsibility, agreeing with the person doing the task what success looks like, having the person back brief her understanding of the task while writing down the details of the project. When you follow these steps you have a better idea of the work that needs to be done. You know why someone else should do it to include understanding how the project helps develop that person professionally. You have more time to focus on those things that only you can do. You become a leader instead of a manager. Delegating is not easy but with some thought and reflection it can be effective.

Education and Training; Preparing People for What Happens Next

The world continues to spin wildly around us. In spite of all the turmoil leaders can do things now to set their people and organizations up for success when things begin to settle down and return to normal. Begin by identifying facts and assumptions. Use that analysis to identify possible courses of action in the future. Figure out what training and education are required so those you lead will be ready to jump when the light turns green. Using this uncertain time to train and educate people now sharpens your organization’s edge.

In periods of chaos, leaders use education and training to teach their people to find ways to work in the new normal. Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Let’s start by distinguishing between training and education.  Training are lessons taught to people with the intention of creating skills and behaviors that allow them to change. For example, teaching someone how to operate a machine is training because they develop the skills to make the machine do things. Teaching a person about the types of materials required to make the machine operate well, the mechanics the allow the machine to work, the theory of the machine’s operation, and such other information is education. Education teaches people information expanding their knowledge. That knowledge alone does not develop the skills required to execute actions. For instance, one can read about how to perform an appendectomy, but few of us really want the doctor that has only read about removing an appendix to perform such surgery on us. We want to know the doctor conducted some sort of training to develop skills before he cuts into us. So education is about imparting knowledge. Training develops skills through hands-on practice. Both are required to develop quality workers.

Let’s carry the medical example further. Doctors spend years gaining knowledge about anatomy before they every cut into their first cadaver. They learn where organs are, how muscles work, why certain genetic mutations cause cancer, and a host of other lessons.  It is important for the doctor to know anatomy as she seeks out the appendix in the abdominal cavity. Her knowledge of how skin grows, which direction the abdominal muscles run, and what organs are between the belly and appendix allow the surgeon to locate the problem, remove it, and return the body to a status that encourages healing.

In all areas of life education is important. Without certain knowledge one cannot complete tasks easily.  However, if one wants to become a surgeon one does not study auto mechanics.  Understanding how a fuel injector works does not provide the doctor with the required knowledge to execute surgery.  Medical students need doctors to teach them such things just like a mechanic needs another mechanic to teach him the principals of the internal combustion engine. Both jobs require specialized knowledge. It is important to ensure you have the right people educating your people in order for them to learn the right lessons.

Creating a quality training and education program for your organization requires leaders to do some work ahead of time. You need to identify the skills, knowledge, and attributes you expect people to know at the end of the training. Do this by complete a simple job analysis. Compare what is happening now with the way the organization what things to happen.  Develop learning objectives using the Task or Knowledge, Conditions, and Standards model. Develop a big learning objective that is supported by enabling learning objectives, little learning goals that make the big task easier to accomplish.

Using a template, like a stencil, helps create consistent learning objectives. From pxhere.com. Cropped by author.

Creating a learning objective is not as daunting as it seems. In the Task or Knowledge statement a simple single sentence stating what skill or knowledge you expect the student to have when the instruction is complete.  Continuing the medical example above, a Tasks or Knowledge Statement for conducting an appendectomy might look like this:

“Upon completion of this block of instruction the student will be able to successfully remove an appendix from a person following proper procedures to prevent death, infection, or other complications.”

In fact, creating the Task Statement is the easiest part. What follows is harder, developing the steps required to complete the task. I cannot begin to offer the steps required to remove a person’s appendix given the extent of my medical training, advanced first aid! However, I am sure that there are steps in a text book somewhere detailing the steps a young intern follows to complete this task. A common error when writing task steps is the authors assume the reader knows about implied tasks. 

Recently I was conducting an inspection before a movement of vehicles from one location to another. A new leader was assigned to lead the convoy. In his mind it was a straight forward task that simply required the other vehicles to follow him. I asked the leader to rehearse the briefing he was giving before their scheduled departure time. He could not because he did not know briefing drivers was a requirement as a convoy leader. There were a long series of implied tasks he did not know about because it was the first time he had led a convoy. We worked together to ensure he and the drivers were clear on what was going to happen and developed a briefing as well as a number of items to check before departure.  The senior leader who tasked this rookie to lead a convoy assumed it was something this person received in training and knew how to do the task. The company had written procedures about moving serials of vehicles. The senior leader reasoned everyone knows how to do it. Now the new leader knows where to find the written information and will do better in the future because of a little bit of training and education.

Even leaders need to learn.Without education and training, leaders will find they communicate ineffectively and influence poorly. Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Events seem out of control right now. At some point a sense of normalcy will return.  Even though many organizations are not able to operate the way the usually do does not mean you should do nothing. Smart leaders are using this time to analyze what the future holds, identify opportunities, the skills and other resources to take advantage of those opportunities, and training their people to be ready to take action when those opportunities present themselves. Training does not have to be a big wiz-bang production. Leaders can use simple techniques to educate and train their people. What they need is a clear idea about what tasks they what the others to learn, the steps required to complete those tasks, and an understanding about what the completed task looks like. Know the difference between training and education and how to use them together to change behaviors. Some of your competition has already started. Get ahead of those who have not and develop your people during these uncertain times. In the end, you will benefit from your effort.

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For more on developing learning goals click here: https://saintcyrtraining.com/2013/08/27/inspire-others-to-go-forth-and-do-good/

Focusing Power & Influence

Machiavelli cast a dark light on leaders who acquire power. However power is necessary to influence others. — By Santi di Tito – Cropped and enhanced from a book cover found on Google Images., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9578897

Wise leaders understand and obtain power at many levels. While the opening statement may sound Machiavellian and cause some to turn away, power is necessary to influence others to accomplish tasks that grow and improve the organization. Leaders set agendas. Without power, leaders cannot influence others to do the work required to accomplish organizational goals and mission. By definition, leaders do not work alone. A solopreneur is not a leader. If you are a solo act there are not others to lead. If you want to lead others, you need to acquire and harness power to influence others.

Influence is the tool required to use power to effectively inspire others. Think of influence like the lens of a spot light and power as the light source. The leader uses influence to focus the power like a lens focuses light illuminating the objective so followers know where to go and what to do.  Leader have five sources of power: referent, expert, coercive, legitimate and reward. Leaders who understand each power source and how to effectively weld it will successfully influence others to take actions that result in task accomplishment.

Referent power is likability. A more common word, is charisma. This source of power may get you in the door, but rarely lasts long except with those who are weak. A leader who relies solely on referent power loses followers when he has to start making unpopular decisions. Everyone wants a raise every year but sometimes raises hurt the organization. If people become upset because the leader made the unpopular decision not to give raises the leader loses all his power. Referent power is a great asset but must be supplemented with other sources of power if the leader expects to sustain success.

Expert power stems from one’s special or in-depth skills or knowledge about at topic or area. This provides power in two ways. The first is like the artillerymen of old who guarded the secrets of their craft so their skills would always be in demand by armies. If the battlefield commander wanted to use artillery, he had to rely on those with that special skill and knowledge. The second yet potentially fleeting source is through the ability to teach others your skill or knowledge. When you share those secrets that have made you successful, you have the potential to create rivals and replacements. Alternatively, you could also develop collaborators who desire to achieve more than either of you could alone. There is a saying that a manager is measured by numbers or things produced, sold, fixed and similar measures whereas a leader is measured by the number of leaders he creates. Even if others develop the same skills and knowledge as you, if you continue to perfect your skills and knowledge you will always be ahead of those you teach.

Legitimate, reward and coercive often go together but not always. Legitimate power is granted when someone is place in a recognized leadership position within an organization. A CEO, General Manager, or Shop Foreman all have legitimate power. It is power given to them by the organization to make things happen. With this power, people do things just because you say to do them.  Like referent power, this source is also limited. You lose control of people when they quit and go work with another organization. Consequently, leaders in positions of legitimate power use reward and coercive power.

Water uses the power provided by gravity to influence the motion of the waterwheel. Without the power of gravity water would not fall and the waterwheel would not turn. Focusing the power of gravity allows people to use the waterwheel to create a wide assortment of things. — Photo by form PxHere

Examples of reward power include the ability to dole out pay raises, promotions, cool assignments, and prime parking spaces. Examples of coercive power include employment termination, demotions, and selecting someone else’s pet project. Reward and coercive power does not solely rest with recognized organizational leaders. Sales reps can influence behavior by offering a better price or withholding the latest product based on previous purchasing decisions.

Each of these power sources have advantages and drawbacks. Sources of power are like tools; the more you have in your tool box, the greater your abilities. A leader who wields legitimate, referent, and expert power will likely be more successful than the leader who only has referent power. Good leaders learn which power sources to use in different circumstances. Their influence grows as they increase their ability to use each source of power enabling them to accomplish more and influence more people.

As leaders practice their leadership skills they increase the power options available. Using a variety of tools shape followers into quality employees, volunteers and future leaders. When they show those future leaders how to use the full spectrum of leadership tools, they prepare the organization for continued success well into the future as new leaders learn to adjust the focus and intensity of the organization’s spotlight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fine Tuning the 10 Minute Rule

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

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by author

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

Ten Minute Rule: Adopt Habits of Successful People

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

“Go play your horn Joseph!”

“Mom I just want to finish this level.”

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

“But Mom I’m almost done.”

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

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

…Crickets…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

3 Steps Leaders Use to Teach Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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