Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Posts Tagged ‘Leadership

Dual Residency

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Been in process of updating / doing a blogger’s version of a 5-S. Newer stuff is here: One Pond-Ripples. http://onepondripples.wordpress.com/ Focus: influence and impact, values based leadership and engagement, community and this wonderfully esoteric thing called The Greater Good.

I will be pulling a few posts from this blog forward after updating so stay tuned!

CraigA

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How Countable Are You?

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“Countability” was coined by John Maxwell in The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork:

9. The Law of Countability. Teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts. Is your integrity unquestionable? Do you perform your work with excellence? Are you dedicated to the team’s success? Can people depend on you? Do your actions bring the team together or rip it apart?

My leader has asked the questions many times: what exactly is “accountability”? What does it mean to hold someone “accountable”?

It’s time to take a swipe at this snipe called accountability.

I am your leader, I am counting on you to make the best possible decisions within your area of responsibility. By the same token, you can count on me as your leader to clearly define what’s expected of you, and to make sure you have the information, skills and tools to deliver on those expectations. A good leader does not count on more than their followers can deliver. A good follower delivers no less than what they are capable of.

Don’t expect me to make decisions for you when you are capable of making the call yourself. That’s just abdicating your responsibility. And, no offense but I have more important things to do. If you make a decision to the best of your ability, within your defined area of countability, you will not be chastised if the decision turns out to be wrong. We need to figure out WHY it was a wrong call, and learn from it together.

We have more than enough definition and structure: work instructions, standard work, targets, ISO9001, leader certification, hourly associate performance expectations and assessments, salaried performance management, policies. All we need to do is execute consistently every day to the best of our ability. No exception to this is acceptable or justifiable on the leaders’ or followers’ part.

Our success hinges on clearly defined expectations and responsibilities and leaders supporting the team–providing what they need, enabling followers to get the job done. A leader cannot succeed without ensuring the success of their followers and having a team that is countable. That is a leader’s number one job.

A company cannot succeed without people who are countable, people who do what is expected of them, up and down the line. When people deliver the goods, they need to know it. When they fall short, they need to know it. And if they need help to pick things up a notch, they need to get it.

Countability applies to all levels of leaders and all followers. No rocket science, nothing more than fundamental chain-of-command.

How countable are you?

Written by Craig

July 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

What Drives You?

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Connecting is a personal thing, the essence of being human. Connecting is the fuel that keeps the fire of high engagement burning, and engagement is the great difference maker in peoples’ lives. Lasting engagement is driven by connecting—first connecting with myself, then with others one-on-one, in up close and personal relationships.

This thing called ‘connecting’ is what drives me. I can look back on my path and identify significant things that have happened and helped shape the person I am.

What drives you? What experience(s) really stick in your mind and have a good deal to do with who you are, what you think, what you do? Of the two drivers that really stand out for me, one is more personally impactful than the other, therefore tougher to relate. I’ll start with the less challenging of the two.

Cipher

I first came across a short story called Cipher in the Snow by Jean E. Mizer in a college textbook that has been long lost. Even though Cipher is fiction, Cliff Evans has haunted me since. My fear is that this fiction all too often reality.

I was a substitute teacher for a couple of very rewarding years. Teachers would typically pass along their insights as to who to watch out for…the problem students. I was expected to be the regular teachers’ surrogate iron fist for these problem students, and march them to the office at the first sign of insurrection which, they assured me, was sure to come.  

A school administrator once told me the toughest thing to accept for any educator is that you cannot win every battle. I was just a substitute but the story of Cliff Evans drove me every day, not those all-knowing cautions.

If I am heading into battle, I first develop a strategy. My favorite substitute strategy was to convert any alleged Enemy I received intel on. If successful, the battle is won. So I made special efforts to connect with those tough cases I was warned about, those who had been written off. More often than not, I won.

That was several years ago. Still, when I run across one of those tough cases now and then we are genuinely glad to see each other. They remember and appreciate that I cared enough to connect with them. We still have a genuine connection.

What really drove me in education, and what still drives me in business and socially, is this burning question posed by Mizer in Cipher:

How do you go about making a boy into a zero?

     The grade-school records showed me. The first and second grade teachers’ annotations read “sweet, shy child;” “timid but eager.” Then the third grade note had opened the attack. Some teacher had written in a good firm, hand: “Cliff won’t talk. Uncooperative. Slow learner.” The other academic sheet had followed with “dull;” “slow-witted;” “low IQ. “ They became correct. The boy’s IQ score in the ninth grade was listed at 83. But his IQ in the third grade had been 196. The score didn’t go under 100 until seventh grade. Even shy, timid, sweet children have resilience. It takes time to break them.

How about beyond education? How much influence does ranking individuals drive the reality of who they are and how they perform? Can we make a worker a “zero”? It seems we are obsessed with making people “average” starting very early in the education system and continuing with traditional performance assessments and competency-based development.  

All in all, we’re just another brick in the wall.  If this link is still functional, it is a powerful piece on human mass production.

A while back I revisited Cipher. It’s easy to Google. I had never forgotten the story’s title, or the lesson. Or Cliff Evans. But I had forgotten just how powerful Cipher really is.

How could a person not care?

Driver #2: Steely Dan

I’ve lost good friends I played music with, some of whom self-destructed. While I’m rather fond of Steely Dan the band this is about Steely Dan the man, and it is a tough one to relate here. “Steely Dan” remains deeply unforgettable thirty years later.

Dan had destructive habits. I believe we must chart our own course, and I felt back then there were personal space lines I shouldn’t cross. So I was the bandmate who was always there to pick Dan up and put him back on his stool. No judgment, no criticism, no meddling.

I wasn’t there the last time Dan fell off his stool. I was hundreds of miles away. Just like Cliff Evans, he collapsed in a snow bank one cold January Iowa day and died. I realized I had been an enabler. I didn’t connect with Dan like I could have.

Those things have shaped me, along with my professional experience in influence-wielding prior roles. When is it my responsibility or duty to step up, voice my concern, get involved? Conversely, when do I need to make the choice to shut up and let it go? And, can I live with the results of shutting up?

 These drivers have set the stage for a great internal conflict, and it is a continuing source of stress for me. Life really is all about choosing your battles wisely, about being able to deal with the reality and the consequences of not winning them all. But when you are driven to connect, driven to be the great problem solver and wise counselor for all, how do you survive?

Still looking for the answer. If you join the search please let me know if you come across the key to this dilemma. There’s a lot at stake.

Written by Craig

January 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Was Darwin Right?

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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change. (Darwin)

Following is a real-world dilemma, once again using the bell curve. What would you do?

You’ve been tasked to research leadership development material for a rather “young” group of leaders in a startup operation. Based on comments and observation you are concerned with the varying levels of team leader buy-in to the training. Your original focus was “what is the best way to get everyone on board?” But the initial effects of the kool-aid have worn down and now you’re beginning to wonder “can we realistically expect everyone to happily hop on the bus and go to Disneyland with us?”

Framed in terms of variation and natural distribution, below is the bell curve of leader buy-in. The left tail is comprised of nay-sayers and no-wayers, while the right tail has visionaries and natural leaders. The largest population is the fence-sitters in the middle.

 

Would it be more effective to offer elective leadership development to any interested person, regardless of whether they are currently leaders? The “deadwood” on the left can choose to participate and improve, and we may convert some of them. But if they don’t want to or can’t get on the bus, we can’t drag them on board and expect good results.

I really hate to ask this…would we be better off developing from scratch those with potential and the right attitude, rather than attempting to shape and mold miscreants against their will?

This is a major shift for me, may lose some sleep. Your thoughts?

Written by Craig

June 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Primers for Engaging Conversations

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 The following is posted at the 4,000-member Employee Engagement Network. It is an invitation to contribute to an e-book, topic described below. Go check it out and if you aren’t part of the EEN community, come on in! Sign up and contribute.

 High on the list of a leader, manager, or supervisor’s daily work should be having meaningful conversations with others, beyond the regular small talk. Taking time to talk with a person goes a long way and is even more powerful if the conversation targets what matters most. This says to the other person I recognize you, I care about you, I am committed to your success, and I support you.
Our next e-book is Primers for Engaging Conversations: Questions or Conversational Primers to Help Others Engage


What question or statement would you use with peers, reports, bosses or others as a conversation primer to help them engage more fully in work, relationships, customer service, organizational goals, results, etc?

Write your engaging conversation primer question in one sentence. The ideal question or statement should be written in a conversational style that reads the same way it sounds if it was voiced.

Submit one question or statement at a time. 
This book will be co-edited by Craig Althof and David Zinger with design by John Junson.

Written by Craig

February 7, 2011 at 12:46 am

Posted in Engagement

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