Posts Tagged emotional intelligence

Guest Post: Fall Foliage and…Organizational Development

Fall colors, at least here in southern New England, are beginning to lose some of their brilliance. It’s the normal course as we approach November. But don’t despair, my friend and colleague, Chuck Wolfe, has captured some beautiful, peak foliage with his camera and added some simple, but poignant thoughts on organizational development.  Enjoy his pictures and his prose. You can access the PDF in the link below.

Organization Development article with fall pictures

By  the way, Chuck and I collaborated on a Defense Industry Daily article back in February called, “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” Chuck also co-authored the Kaizen Event Fieldbook’s third chapter on Transformation Leadership with me.

Related post: The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

Charles J. Wolfe is CEO of Charles J. Wolfe Associates, LLC. Chuck is internationally recognized as an expert in applying emotional intelligence to organizational change, leader development, coaching, and teambuilding. Chuck created the Emotion Roadmap™, a unique methodology, featured in his workshops, publications, and radio talk show. He can be reached at cjwolfe, over at cjwolfe dot com, or via 860-985-3747.

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Good Lean Leaders Come from Good Lean Followers

My oldest is a fourth class cadet (actually a “swab”) at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He is (hopefully!) enduring a 7 week orientation (think boot camp) called Swab Summer in which he becomes a member of the armed forces, prepares to join the Corps of Cadets, and is readied for the academic year.

It is not easy and there is no guarantee of success. More than a few of the 290 swabs will DOR (drop on request), get medically discharged, etc. It’s extremely challenging physically, intellectually and emotionally. But, that’s one of the reasons that the USCG is the best coast guard in the world!

A common theme that is expressed around the Academy is that in order to become good leaders, the cadets must become good followers – especially in the important fourth class year (freshman). It’s a bottom up learning experience. Academy graduates are commissioned as ensigns within the CG.

So, why is followership so important? First of all, not everyone can be the supreme leader. That’s just plain impossible. You’ve got to have effective followers, ones who know how to follow individually and, more importantly, collectively as a team. It’s a prerequisite for execution and for developing an exceptional culture.

Given the dynamics of hierarchy and the fact that leadership is often a shared responsibility (we don’t want a bunch of lemmings), many folks will serve as leaders to others. And here’s a blinding flash of the obvious – if you don’t know how to follow, it’s really hard to be a good leader and mentor. Poor followers  often have a significant challenge understanding what their followers do and deal with within the  technical and emotional realm. Great leaders have a clue about the principles, systems and tools and they have empathy.

Another blinding flash of the obvious, when one is made a leader, it is not eternal and all encompassing. No one walking on this earth is perfectly complete. This means, every leader must be a follower at some time, in some way. It’s how you learn, how you grow and how you leverage the collective, value-creating strengths of the organization.

So, where am I going with this (especially in a lean context)? Effective lean leaders must also be good followers. The renowned Steven Spear‘s recent blog post (looooonnng title), Why C level executives don’t engage in ‘lean’…Two reasons: Delegate to ‘technologists’ or trained to decide, not discover and develop…, touches upon a bit of this phenomenon.

C level executives are often absent from ‘lean initiatives,’ ‘lean transformations,’ and the like.

This is unfortunate given the truthy cliche, “what is interesting to leaders, is fascinating to followers.”

The question is, “Why?”

Let me suggest two reasons:

  • Lean presented as a kit of system engineering tools which senior leaders feel they can delegate to technologists.
  • Senior leaders not taught/trained for an environment of continuous improvement/discovery.

Presumably, if C-level executives were better followers when it comes to lean, they would be better at truly leading lean transformations…and not bastardizing the implementation.

So, what followership things can executives do to boost their lean leadership effectiveness? Some thoughts:

  • Genuinely seek out other true lean leaders at bona fide lean organizations, visit, observe, ask stupid questions, and listen…with humility.
  • Fully participate (clear the calendar and bury the Blackberry) within kaizen activities (including values stream analysis) as a team member. Make it clear that you are there to contribute and to learn…and then do just that.
  • Consider hosting president’s kaizens with your staff, as facilitated by a respected sensei who will keep you and your staff honest (relative to kaizen standard work, lean principles and group dynamics) and ensure that you get meaningful stuff done.
  • Actually READ and STUDY those lean books that are on your book shelf.
  • After getting certified through a train-the-trainer process, train some of the folks in the organization in Lean 101.
  • Conduct routine gemba walks with your sensei (internal or external), listen, get grilled, try to answer and learn.
  • Spend a day or two as a front line associate, dealing with the stuff they deal with (warts and all) and following their standard work.
  • Spend a day or two as a mid-level lean leader, dealing with the stuff they deal with (warts and all) and following their leader standard work.

I am sure there are a bunch of other follower activities that can be added. What are your thoughts?

To the United States Coast Guard, thank you and Semper Paratus!

Related posts: Lean Leader Principle – Show Them Your Back, Humility, or What Does Dirt Have to Do with Lean?

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The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

human side PicYesterday, Defense Industry Daily posted the first half of an article which I co-wrote with Chuck Wolfe, “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” The second half will be posted next week. Within the article, Chuck an I explore that which is beyond the more obvious technical side of kaizen event management. We delve into the realm of emotions (and emotional intelligence), respect for the individual, humility and lean transformation leadership – all which must be properly considered and leveraged in order to conduct effective kaizen events and, most importantly, develop a lean culture.

Now I don’t want to steal any thunder from the article, but I would like to share 11 questions that all lean leaders must answer in order to enjoy kaizen event success and ultimately drive a lean transformation. These questions are aligned within the basic phases of kaizen event management that are detailed in my Kaizen Event Fieldbook:

  • Strategy. 1) Why, how, where and when should lean leaders employ kaizen events to drive value stream improvements and satisfy strategic imperatives, while also positively exposing and engaging stakeholders within the process?
  • Pre-event planning. 2) How can lean leaders best select kaizen event team members for event, employee development and change management impact? 3) How should lean leaders communicate to event-affected employees the what, why, how and when of the planned event? 4) How can lean leaders best train event team leaders and participants so that they are ready for the challenge of the event (discomfort is expected, anxiety not so much . See Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people)? 5) How can lean leaders identify existing feelings in key stakeholders? 6) What feelings are likely to generate forces to push forward and what feelings are likely to hold back positive change? 7) How do lean leaders eliminate/manage negative feelings and create the ideal feelings supportive of changes they wish to make?
  • Event execution. 8 ) How will lean leaders conduct the kaizen event in order to best satisfy and then sustain the event targets while also engaging, challenging, stretching, supporting and developing team members and the organization?
  • Event follow-through. 9) How can lean leaders best recognize the event participants for their effort and accomplishments? 10) How can lean leaders ensure process adherence (to the new standard work) and process performance as well as completion of any “newspaper” items and therefore sustain the kaizen team’s hard earned gains? 11) How can lean leaders continuously improve the kaizen event process, its effectiveness and stakeholder satisfaction…so that they will want to participate in future kaizen events?

So, am I missing any relevant questions? What do you think?

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Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people

stretch armstrong pic Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the renowned Hungarian psychology professor is noted for, among other things, his research on work and flow (continuous flow from the perspective of the worker being completely absorbed in a task and within a state of intrinsic motivation – “being in the groove”). He addresses the dynamic between the level of skill and challenge. For example, if an employee’s skill level is high for a task in which the challenge is low, there’s a real risk of boredom. If the challenge is very high and the skill level is low, then we end up in the realm of anxiety – usually not very productive!

So, one test for lean leaders is how to match the skill or readiness with a given challenge. How do we stretch the employee, so that they learn and grow…without breaking them? In other words, how can we effectively straddle the zone of anxiety and the zone of boredom or frustration?

There’s at least five things that the lean leader can do:

  1. Provide the employees with an understanding of the challenge. Think change management basics – proof of the need, vision, strategy, impact on them, etc.
  2. Train and coach the employees in order to increase their skill level and readiness. In Lean, there are new ways of thinking, a new language and a host of tools, systems and principles. A large part of an effective lean leader’s job is to humbly deliver teaching. And, by the way, we can’t expect people to become experts right away. Frankly, most everyone does not have to become an expert, but they need basic competency.
  3. Provide a safe, but appropriately challenging forum to apply the new skills. Kaizen events are a great real life place to learn the art and science of continuous improvement. I often tell kaizen team members that the greatest skill that they can bring to a kaizen event is common sense and a passion for improvement and that we will learn together. No use wigging out.
  4. Make people think. Don’t give people the answers. Help guide and challenge them to apply PDCA thinking – to become experimentalists. This means that people will often fail. Lean leaders must see these failures as learning opportunities.
  5. Apply emotional intelligence.  Lean leaders must be attuned to the emotions of their employees.  Using something like Chuck Wolfe’s Emotion Roadmap, they can identify the current feelings (i.e., anxiety), understand the gap between them and the ideal feelings (i.e., enthusiasm) and then work to close the gap.

So, what do you think? What are some of your strategies for effectively stretching people?

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