Leadership Reflection

Reflection-Theophilos_Papadopoulos.jpgReflecting on past mistakes and successes teaches leaders how to adjust behaviors improving successful.  Few new leaders understand the importance of reflection.  As a result they do not understand which traits lead to success so they can repeat them, nor which actions impede them preventing them from avoiding similar actions in the future.  Leaders achieve effective reflection by following some easy steps.

Record what happen.  In another piece, I described how and why to conduct post event reviews (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/review-action-record-results-learn/).  Another example of recording what happened is a leadership journal.  Use a few minutes every day to write down something you learned, someone you helped, how someone helped you, an important task you must accomplish, or anything else you feel you may want to remember.

Document how you can use what you recorded.  Think about and write down ways to modify your behaviors to improve success.  How you can implement a lesson learned?  Decide which behaviors you helped another person.  Identify behaviors of others that were both effective and not effective.

Path-J-O_Eriksson.jpgPeriodically review your reflections to adjust your course.  Taking time to figure out where you are is an important step in the goal achieving cycle.  Reviewing things you allows you to consider the path to achieve a goal.  You may see a lesser traveled trail is more effective.  You may realize a new behavior provides access to the express lane.  Either way failing to apply what you learn unnecessarily lengthens time of achievement.

Recording reflections on successes and mistakes allows leaders to become more effective.  Using a leadership journal is one way new leaders can improve their reflective skills.  Writing down key ideas on your journey ensures they are captured for future use.  These lessons and ideas help leaders adjust course seeking to accomplish goals.  A few simple steps, and a little bit of time, allows improvement of success for leaders through reflection.

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Photo Credits

All Photos are from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.

Reflection by Theophilos Papadapoulos

Path by J-O Eriksson

 

Envision Effective Training

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Steep-Rocky_Paul-Irish.jpgThe task is like climbing Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. The task is simple but not easy.  Mt. Washington is a deadly peak showing little mercy for those who may make even a small mistake. High winds, sub-freezing temperatures, and snow are common even in July. The terrain steep and rocky. The views approaching and above tree line are dramatic, distracting, and just plain awesome. The task is simple really, inspire your students to learn what you are teaching and incorporate the lessons into their daily lives to become better at what the do. However, like trails to the summit of Mt. Washington, the path to successful training not easy. Adult learners are distracted in many ways. Some dealing with problems at home. Others deal with problems at work. Problems are like the tremendous views causing students not to pay attention to the trail. Some students do not feel they need to learn what they were sent to learn at your training, while others may think they know more than you do about the topic (and they might). Both groups are like large rocks tripping you if you do not pay attention to your student’s needs. Like to cold in July, some students remain cold through out the class. Vision is often discussed as a leadership tool to help employees focus on what is right. With vision comes passion. Vision in training and education accomplishes the same result as it does in leadership. With learners, vision creates a desire to pay attention, focus on the learning, and demonstrates you are prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you.

An example of casting a vision that catches the eyes of your student could be as simple as the opening of this blog. It is a short glimpse of an exotic place rife with danger. Showing (showing is a vision word) how your lesson connects to something exotic captures your students attention. It also provides you the tool the show your passion for the subject.

Instructors with passion retain the interest of students longer. In order for your training to affect the behaviors of students, they first must receive the information you provide. Passion for your topic, demonstrated through your vision, keeps their attention on your message.

As a believer, an instructor provides opportunities during training for students to practice new skills. Simple practice exercises allowing students to try skills keeps them focused, and reinforces you know something about what you teach. Skills students master during training are more likely used in life outside the classroom. They leave with the courage required to accomplish change.

BeachHammock-Kok_Chih_and_Sarah_Gan.jpgMost people want to learn to work better, rather than harder. Paint a picture of a hammock  strung between two coconut palm trees, the wind gently swinging them back and forth as they sip a cool tropical drink on a quiet, sandy beach. Let them leave your training with the passion, vision, and confidence that using your ideas and skills will lead them to that hammock. Students who understand how your lessons creates a simpler life encourages them to pay attention and learn more. Some say life on the beach is better than climbing mountains. Creating a vision of success inspires your students to implement the things they learned from you.

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Photo Credits

Both from Flickr.com using Creative Commons License

Rocky Trail by Paul Irish

https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_irish
Beach Hammock by Kok Chih and Sarah Gan

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gandhu

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Building a Foundation for Character with Organizational Guiding Principals

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Guiding principles, or values, lay the foundation of character for every organization. A wide variety of people make up organizations, coming from different backgrounds, and bringing different personal and cultural values to the group. An organization’s guiding principles establish what things are important for the organization. Successful organizations establish and ingrain compliance with their guiding principles through training. Using a daily or weekly meeting is an easy way to train employees about the organizations principles.

Let’s say the organization has three guiding principles; loyalty, quality customer service, and finding winning solutions for everyone. Supervisors hold meetings every Monday with their staff. In addition to the regular items, modified_meeting_torimiddelstadt_uaf-school-of-managementthe supervisor includes one of the guiding principles on the first Monday of the month. The supervisor provides the company’s definition of the principles and facilitates a discussion about ways employees can incorporate behaviors into their work lives to live up to the principle. This week they discuss loyalty. The conversation includes loyalty to the company, the smaller group, customers, and shareholders. The meeting breaks and employees go about their work.

During the week the leader moves about the work area looking for opportunities to recognize behaviors that comply with loyalty issues discussed during the weekly meeting. The leader notices a technician on the phone who appears to be talking with a customer. He tells the customer how much he appreciates his loyalty by sticking with company. He explains that he cannot do the repair work for free but will research a discount because of his loyalty.

During the next Monday meeting, the supervisor continues the discussion on loyalty. He starts the conversation by telling the story of the technician who found a way to stay true to the company while rewarding customer loyalty. Next he goes around the room asking others for stories of things they did during the previous week to live the principle of loyalty. Not everyone had a story, but all participated in the conversation. He also facilitated a conversation about how their views of loyalty changed during the week as they focused on different ways to be loyal to all the company stakeholders. The conversation was lively. Eventually the supervisor had to cut them off so they could conduct the business of the company.

The following week, the leader may start the loyalty discussion by telling a story of an experience he had where the principle was the focus of the situation. He opens the floor for others to tell stories. One way to ensure there will be some discussion is to have a chat with one or two employees during the week ending by asking them to share their story at the next weekly meeting.

On the fourth Monday, the group engages in a conversation wrapping what they have learned about loyalty. Again there should be time to allow story telling of application of the principle, but the conversation should shift to lessons learned and how to apply them. Using these steps allows people to be taught about an idea, followed with examples of how to use the idea and concludes by them practicing what they learned. The discussion allows corrections to be made so everyone becomes better and also recognizes behaviors meeting expectations for the particular guiding principle.

On the first Monday of the next month the supervisor introduces the next guiding principle, quality customer service. He follows the same format during the month when they learned about loyalty. The employees are told about quality customer service. They are shown examples of quality customer service. They try and report on their efforts. They are praised for success and coached to improve when they fall short of the standard. The process is repeated the next month for the finding winning solutions principle.

Change up things after going through the guiding principles once . Ask one of the employees in the group to lead themodified_geese-flying_john-johnson conversation when you return to the first guiding principle. Allow that employee to discuss and introduce the guiding principle. She could lead the conversations about how others engaged in behaviors exemplifying the principle. Repeating the process instills a deeper understanding of each principle and allows employees to further ingrain that principle into their daily lives. As new employees come on board, they learn not only how things are done, but why.

Creating organizational change is difficult. Helping employees improve their understanding of an organization’s guiding principles is one step leading to change. As employees begin to live the principles of the organization, the culture changes. Reinforcing each lesson through reflection of behaviors supporting compliance with organizational principles ensures lasting change. Employees see how small changes improve working conditions and organizational cohesion. Focusing attention on a guiding principle at daily or weekly meetings results in easily training teams about each principle. Try it at your next group meeting.

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Photo Credits

All photos from Flickr.com with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Granite wall by Wolfgang Tonschmidt, cropped by author

Group meeting by Tori Middelstadt at UAF School of Management, modified by author

Geese by John Johnson, modified by author

Finding the Path

“No!” replied the client and hung up.

“I quit!” said Bill out loud. “I haven’t made a sale all day.”cubical-drewfromzhrodague

Jill, Bill’s big boss, happened to be passing his cubical as he announced his intent to terminate his employment, or at least sales calls for the day. “Bill,” said Jill, “We don’t quit. If you are having problems, I expect you to find a way to over come them. Getting to YES is an important principal of our division. I want you to spend the rest of the afternoon examining what what you have been doing and work with your team leader to figure out what you can improve. Both of you will report to my office in the morning with your findings.” Jill did not wait for a response. She turned and left. When she returned to her office, she called Bill’s team leader and told her about Bill’s problem and her expectations for corrective action.”

Jill said, “Getting to yes is an important principal.” She did not scold Bill for breaking a rule, but rather for failing to comply with a guiding principal. Guiding principals liberate leaders and employees from restrictive rules that require and prohibit behaviors by establishing clear boundaries, not rules. Employees operate within their boundaries established by guiding principals without fear of breaking some arcane rule. Employees use the principals to break the molds of past successes improving the organization. Sometimes people make mistakes, but in principle based organizations, leaders allow people to learn from errors, reorient themselves, and continue on the path to success. Guiding principles establish boundaries, not specific routes, for people to travel to achieve successful outcomes.

In the example at the beginning of this post, Bill probably violated several rules in his organization. Jill elected to call out Bill for violating a principle instead. According to Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, “A rules-based organization is a safe place to work…because as long as you follow the rules, you’re never going to be criticized. You go to the General Counsel for each opinion, so you never have to take any personal risk.”1   boundry-jesse_loughborough Rules tell each employee what to do and what not to do in a given situation. The problem with rules is no organization can write a rule for every situation, and organizations like the VA have tried. Often rules conflict in a given situation. When faced with a situation not covered by a rule, or one where the rules provide conflicting guidance, people have to make decisions. That is why guiding principles are necessary.

Guiding principals, sometimes called values, are a short list of ideas that establish behaviors for employees to accomplish the organizational mission regardless of the situation. In some organizations, they establish their guiding principals a single words like, duty, honor, country. Others may use short phrases like, get to yes, respect all stake holders, continually improve. Organizational leaders boil down ideas until only those most important remain. An area cannot be established with less than three points. More than seven and people will not remember the principals; the area is too large.

The following morning Bill and his team leader Jane were waiting outside Jill’s office when she arrived. After being invited into her office, Bill explained to Jill that he and Jane spent the afternoon reviewing his sales pitches. They discussed some small improvements he could make to be more effective. Jane told Jill that she would check in with Bill a couple times in the next week to review his progress and make additional refinements to help him get to yes. Bill said, “I’ve learned the importance of seeking help when I need it to deal with frustrations.” Jill smiled. Bill’s outburst helped her develop Jane’s leadership skills and Bill’s sales skills. Had she just reprimanded Bill for disturbing other sales representatives, neither Bill nor Jane would have grown.

Leaders who use guiding principals establish markers to follow allowing freedom of choice cairns-sean_munson.jpginstead of rules that fence in options. Guiding Principals develop effective organizations. They create a climate for employees and junior leaders to safely take risks within established areas. Leaders use mistakes as learning opportunities for the employee and others. Employees respond to increased trust by finding improved ways to accomplish the organization’s mission. All stakeholders receive the results they expected. By using guiding principals, people find their own route to success within establish boundaries. Now is a great time to review your organization’s principals and determine how you can improve them for increased success in the coming year.


Footnote


Photo credits

Cubical: Drew from Zhrodague from Flickr.com

Fence: Jesse Loughborough from Flickr.com

Cairns:  Sean Munson from Flicker.com

All used under Creative Commons Licenses.

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Leadership at Every Level

The newly elected President of the local civic group calls a meeting of his key leaders. The Vice-president, Secretary, Finance Officer, Program Director, Membership Chair and Information and Relations Director are all invited. In real life, the new Prez is a successful executive and understands the importance of focusing the energy of leadership of the organization on the organizational mission. The Vice-president and Finance Officer don’t show or call. The Program Director calls moments before the meeting starts saying she will be late and the Information and Relations Director shows up late without a call. All accepted these positions because they said they supported the vision of the yet-to-be-elected President in the weeks leading up to the election. Working with and leading volunteers can be difficult because of situations like this. Strong leaders use these opportunities to hone their skills, influence others to meet their obligations and achieve success for their organization whether a volunteer civic group, a municipal committee, a non-profit or a billion dollar cooperation.ShellVacationsHosp

There are lots of lessons in the above story that we will explore in the next few editions of this blog. This month, attracting the right people. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the importance of identifying good leaders for organizations and guiding them to where they will most help the organization grow. Sometimes that requires pushing people out of their comfort zone. For example, someone who has demonstrated strong leadership with a background in engineering but desires to work operations. The engineering section lacks quality leaders but great engineers so she would better serve the organization (at least for now) heading up engineering. As the organization improves and she develops younger leaders to replace her, the head of engineering may be transferred to a supervisory position in operations.

In order to achieve this success both the Chief executive of the organization and the head of engineering need to identify the future leaders within the section. After they are identified they need to be coached, mentored and trained as leaders. In great organizations they will be sent to train with the best whether it is in seminars, college course work or operational assignments, the next generation leaders will be groomed to move ahead.

Some reading this now are in positions of leadership and may ask, “Well what happens if we spend all that money training someone to take over the section and they leave taking our training with them? Look at all the money we wasted.” Every organization needs some depth on the bench, so you should be looking at the section leader’s replacement today. However just imagine if you did not train that person to lead the section and they are promoted when the current section leader leaves. Without the proper education and training you have set them up for failure which may result in the failure of the organization!

Jerry.PansingAs the leader of an organization, any organization, your most important responsibility is the selection of those who will lead your units, sections, divisions or any other name you give your areas of responsibility. Your next most important responsibility is to develop your bench. Identify the future leaders. Train them and mentor them. Give them some operational opportunities to make mistakes where it matters little so they learn to lead, make decisions and learn from their mistakes. Remember to always share your vision so they are all following the path to success. If you are one of those one the bench, seize the opportunity. Step up and lead.

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Photo Credits:  Jerry Pansin, Shell Vacations Hospitality, from flickr.com.  Creative Commons License

Check Your Map…Achieve Your Goal

At the beginning of the year I pitched a way to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions. (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/time-to-reflect-plan-act/) 0322141247One of the steps I suggested was to periodically check your list to measure your progress and adjust your course. That time is upon us. I know because the reminder I set in my calender alerted me to check my progress on my goals.

I use a goal setting check list to help me focus on task steps and measures for success. I used to keep them on paper, but as time and digitization have progressed, I have found using a word processor or even better, the task list on my email client work great. Your worksheet does not have to be fancy. I combined the format I learned in the Army to evaluate training with some of the great ideas Ken Blanchard pitched in his book, The One Minute Manager with a couple of theories I have learned about SMART goals. If you did not put your New Year’s Resolution in writing in January, you still have time to do so. The benefit of having your goal in writing is being able to sit down periodically (like now) to review your progress.

For those of you who did make some notes, dig them out and lets check your progress. I have learned several things throughout the years I have used this process. Your work sheet is like a map. As you travel you find roads exist not appearing on your map, and some roads on your map are more like mountain foot paths. For goal setters that means you may have found some of the steps you planned to take were not required, however things you did not know when you began the journey require you to complete tasks you did not anticipate, and that is okay. Just like our journey on an previously unknown but shorter or better road, as one works towards a goal and finds a shorter or better way to complete the task, you do. Note the changes on your map during your review. Enter comments about the progress of each task and check off completed steps. Open your calender and schedule time to complete the next series of activities on your journey to completing your goal.

An important question to ask as you check your progress is, “How will I recognize success?” The answer to this question becomes the measures of the success for your journey. If you goal is to improve your health (a common New Year’s Resolution) how will you know you are healthier? Some metrics may include a target weight, the ability to lift an amount of weight, the ability to be able to run a certain distance in a given amount of time, the measurement of your waist so you can once again fit into your High School jeans, your blood pressure number or the levels of cholesterol. What ever standard you select, make it specific and measurable by some recognizable value.Image

Checking the progress of your goals on a regular basis is important to your success. By having a map in the form of a goal checklist you improve the chances of your arriving at your intended destination, your goal. Your check list should include the route of travel and measures of attainment so you stay on track, or recognize when you have to adjust course. If you don’t know where you are going, it is impossible to know when you have arrived. Take a few minutes today to review and update your goals. For those of you who have yet to do so, set ONE goal today and develop your route and metrics. I have posted a sample goal setting worksheet on SlideShare. Check it out and use, change and adapt it to your needs. Move forward by taking that next, charted step to your personal success.

Photos by author

AW…do we have to plan AGAIN?!

“Plans are nothing; Planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower. Planning is one of the fundamental functional areas of management. Leaders at all levels plan. Depending on the event and their level in the organization determines how they plan, but the planning process should remain the same. Whether you want to develop a new vision for your organization, or you are putting together a small meeting for your staff, planning is the process that identifies the needs for what is desired in the future, the resources necessary to accomplish the task, actions requiring completion, controls and guide posts to watch for along the way and a statement of success. One of the reasons planning is valued more than the finished plan is understanding that no battle plan ever survives past first enemy contact, but in the planning process, key leaders have opportunities to evaluate different courses of actions allowing them to change course as the situation evolves. This topic deserves more than the few hundred words dedicated here, however my intent is to provide readers a general direction for their own planning processes.Image
The first step in any plan in to identify the objectives. Plans are only required if there is difference between the current situation and what you expect in the future. The purpose of the plan is to change the future. At the strategic level, leaders develop mission statements, share their vision and establish guiding principals. At the operational level, leaders develop work processes, gather resources, train workers and establish goals and task steps.
Once the object is identified, develop alternative actions. Often this is done during brain storming sessions although other idea generating activities also work. Ideas do not have to appear practical or traditional. The important action at this stage is to developing ideas. You may find that some of what originally appear to be flaky ideas in the beginning, when paired with other ideas may work the best.
Now that you have several alternatives, take time to evaluate them whether alone or in a group. Identify their efficiency, alignment with organizational guiding principals, likelihood of success and other factors selected by the group’s leaders. During this stage you should start to develop the measure for success. As alternatives are eliminated the better ideas become evident. The completion of this step should involve a completed written plan. The plan does not have to answer all questions but should provide enough information for those charged with implementing understand the intent. Remember the old saying, “An imperfect plan delivered on time trumps the perfect plan delivered a day late.”
Action is the next step in the planning process. A complete plan is not required to begin action. The great thing about mission and vision statements are they provide everyone an idea about which direction they should be traveling even if they lose the directions to the final destination. Once the decision has been made to move towards a certain goal, action can begin. Starting movement is the hardest part of any change. Starting movement is they only way the plan will succeed.
Once things begin to move it is important to monitor progress. The plan should include specific check points where staff gather to report progress. Like any journey, if you don’t take the time to check your compass and read the road signs you may find you took a left when you should have turned right in Albuquerque. These controls may include checks on spending, use of resources, percent of quality improvement, number of units sold or any other metric that measures progress.
A final and critical step in the planning process is obtaining commitment from stakeholders. Too many projects fail for lack of this important support. Ensure the key leaders understand the resources requiring commitment for success. Obtain contracts from customers if necessary. Lock in resources from suppliers early.
A finished plan may not be fancy. It may not be complete. What matters is the process used to arrive at the plan. Follow these steps and you increase your plan’s success. Start by determining the objective. Identify alternatives to reach the objective. Evaluate the alternatives selecting the one most in line with organizational values and vision. Begin action as soon as there is commitment. Obtain commitment from key stakeholders. Check your progress regularly and plan those check-ups. As your project rolls along, you may find success lies off the road you selected to reach your destination, but through your planning process you identified detours and side trips. In the end you will find your planning helped you make small adjustments along the way and reach your destination.

 

Photo by author