Leadership to Challange Business Organizations

There are five ways in which a manager shows respect for people in an organization that desires continuous improvement and commitment from their staff.  Leadership makes an organization worthy of the talent and energy of their team.

Much is not new, but repeating key attributes is critical, especially for those desiring to move in the direction of Lean or simply wishing to be a better leader. Most don’t realize that it isn’t about a belt or a training class. It is a philosophy that becomes intrinsic to a leader who embraces the habits, beliefs, and thoughts required of an outstanding (and “Lean”)organization.

  1. A manager should not reward or say “great job” when a problem is not solved. Our role as leaders is to create an environment where it is not only an expectation of our team but to create an environment conducive to analyzing a problem, driving to the root cause, and implementing appropriate countermeasures to solve problems. We should not be rewarding the act of simply performing our job or expected activities. We also shouldn’t be financially incentivizing staff members for simply doing their job.

  2. Good leaders challenge team members at every step for learning: asking for deeper thought and discussion. When we run lean events or support teams in their daily work, we are always looking for reflection, learning, and desire to make things better. We often don’t have time to think or make time to think. The only way to solidify and reinforce learning is to reflect. Writing down or voicing those reflections and learnings is even more effective. I close every activity, workshop, and project with a review of accomplishments and key insights or lessons learned. Earlier in my career, I was criticized by a Lean “expert” who questioned the value of closing each day in this manner. He was someone who focused on the mechanism or the tools and not about the people. I followed that instruction one time, and the next day returned to my standard. The team left the day slightly disjointed and unsettled.  The ritual of closing the day with reflections provided grounding and closure for the team. I never miss an opportunity to extract reflections and insight from people spending their time in a room, in a project, or event. If we aren’t learning, we aren’t growing. If we aren’t growing individually, our companies cannot thrive.

  3. This one may sound contradictory. But, engaging staff members in the problem-solving process is actually the highest form of respect. On my study trip to Japan, Mr. Yoshino, a prior manager at Toyota, really emphasized this to our group. And Katie Anderson, who led the trip, reminded us that “a problem with leaders, coaches, and frankly as humans, is that we are far too much in the habit of telling rather than truly developing people’s capability to solve problems”. Read her post here that highlights 3 tips for changing our habits. One key that resonates with me is asking “WHAT/HOW” questions rather than providing my idea into the question. I’m still practicing.

  4. A manager is not in an appropriate position to solve most problems. We are not close enough to most problems to know facts. I wish in healthcare, we could educate physician-owners on this concept. Just because we are intelligent, doesn’t mean we always know the answers. Go where the work is done (GEMBA), observe, ask questions, and seek facts. Only then can problems be appropriately solved. Better yet – develop and rely on your team so you don’t make decisions that have your staff scratching their heads. The staff can’t necessarily solve their problems alone either. When we are so close, we often can’t see the bigger picture. Most complex problems require a cross-functional team to drive the best outcomes.

  5. We must respect a staff member’s knowledge of their work to make them a real part of problem-solving. I’ve seen too many managers who find that developing people just takes too long. This concept is the opposite of what a dictator or command/control leader considers. Involving is engaging, and engaging is a two-way street among colleagues who desire the same outcome.

I always think to myself “people don’t come to work just to annoy you or their peers, most want to do a good job”. Therefore, if they are struggling, identify the gaps, give them the tools they need to do their job, assess their skills, and allow and facilitate their development so that they can thrive. That is respect.

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