When implemented Continuously, Minor Improvements can have Large Effects on organizations. Master Facilitator & Master Black Belt David Galloway observes how strong leadership, innovative thinking, and lean six sigma principles can be used to drive significant safety and process improvements.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
All of us have a fear of some kind. It is only a matter of what causes our fear and to what degree we are affected. We are acutely aware of the presence of these fears in our lives. As leaders, we should also be mindful of potential fears as we encourage others to engage in learning, self-discovery, and continuous improvement. The following story brought this to life for me.
I was working with a group and helping them to learn how to use a structured approach for leading a project team. One of the elements of using this specific approach (Rapid Action) is that the team leader and all the team members take turns reading aloud a script that walks them through the process. While unorthodox, it has proven to be a very effective method for getting everyone engaged and in using basic project management techniques. As the three-day workshop was winding down, one of the participants came forward and wanted to speak with me privately.
Clarence was an operator who had signed up for the class with the intent of using this method to work on a problem with a small team. I had noticed that he was not participating in the class exercises and I wanted to speak to him about this anyway. His body language clearly indicated that he was uncomfortable. I soon learned why Clarence was not engaged. It was fear. As he spoke, his words came out in halting phrases…
“I just…just wanted to let…you know that…I really…really want to do this…but…but…I have problems with…with reading…in front of people…and…and…I’m not sure…that…that I can do this,” Clarence stuttered.
It’s a sad truth about the workplace: Just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job.
According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways. These employees are negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.
What’s the reason for the widespread employee disengagement? According to Gallup, poor leadership is a key cause.
Richard Sheridan, Founder of Menlo Innovations, describes an antidote for this lack of enthusiasm. He claims that “joy” is what is missing from the workplace. In a recent interview, Sheridan spoke about some of the ways that he purposely designed joy into the way that people work.
In what situation are you likely to hear someone ask this question? Perhaps an associate in a retail clothing store would use this phrase to offer some assistance. You could hear this phrase from a librarian while looking for a book or reference. Maybe you have called a customer service number to ask about a recent purchase.
However, would you expect your manager to inquire, “How can I help?” when you walked into his or her office? I wouldn’t.
Equally important, do you use this question as the opening for many of the discussions with your co-workers or those who report to you? Upon reflection, I only occasionally offered these words to my direct reports during the course of my career.
What are you curious about? Do you have a hobby or avocation that captures your interest? Is there an activity where you willingly devote many hours of your time without any kind of extrinsic reward or compensation? Most of us can think of something that meets one of these criteria.
We know from experience that we find it easier to learn when the topic is something about which we have a curiosity. Avid hunters can go into great detail about their firearms, ammunition, and strategies for tracking game. Imagine if we sent one of these hunters to a seminar to learn the latest information about these topics – and then quizzed them on what they learned. We would be astonished at what they remembered.
Likewise, we could do the same thing with a baseball enthusiast. This person would relish the opportunity to further their understanding of the game at a convention where like-minded fans are gathered. Their retention of new baseball-related knowledge would be equally impressive.
But what if we sent the hunter to the baseball convention and the baseball fan(atic) to an outdoor show? We could predict that their respective recalls of any new information would be significantly less. Why? In this case, neither individual is intrinsically motivated to learn. (They are not excited to learn just for the sake of learning). Continue Reading
“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.
When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air. Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.” We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).
Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking. His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist. In fact, he calls it a myth.
If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so. What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”
“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
– Pablo Picasso
As the engineering manager of a large manufacturing facility, Rick had a knack for identifying talent. Whether he was recruiting on campus or interviewing candidates with some experience, Rick had a set of criteria that guided his decision-making. It started with GPA and class rank, but also included other accomplishments such as patent applications, publications, research grant awards, and other recognition. Everyone agreed that Rick attracted the best and brightest professionals to join his staff. Rick recruited for exceptional talent.
At the same facility, Karen provided leadership for a process control group. She would accompany Rick on many of the campus recruiting visits. Karen and Rick pursued their respective candidates from essentially the same pool. However, Karen had a different perspective. She wanted to learn about each candidate’s work and social background. She was keen to learn about how they overcame obstacles, struggled to succeed, and learned from their mistakes. The candidates who received offers to join Karen’s group were often (on paper) “second-tier” talent. Each person had solid grades and had the skills needed for the job, but they were not exceptional. Karen recruited for growth potential.
What happened when these employees joined the company? It is a tale of two divergent philosophies.