Monday, December 11, 2017

3 Ways to Engage Your Team

Being a leader is much more than simply being the boss. One of the most important qualities of a good leader is the ability to engage their employees. How you lead impacts both your staff and the business. As a leader, your goal is to have a team that is able to follow direction and use company processes and procedures with effective results. A leader lacking the ability to inspire and motivate will have low-achieving staff. Not only will business suffer but an entire group of people will fail more often than succeed with deadlines, sales and project completions. 

Here are three leadership strategies that will keep your team engaged and focused on success.

1. Be Clear With Your Communication
No leader can be effective without first being able to give clear direction. Giving partial or unclear direction is like expecting your staff to know what is needed by telepathy.  It leads to frustration, guesswork and costly time-consuming do-overs. Don’t wait for your team members to point this out to you, via their numerous “I am clearly lost here” questions. Cross check your instructions before holding that meeting or sending that email.

2. Be Open To Innovation
Be different. Find a better way of doing things and open up new opportunities by seeing things from a perspective not visited before. The creation of new solutions can benefit business by meeting and exceeding requirements and accomplishing more. Innovation is also on par with efficiency and should be encouraged with others. Being the leader doesn’t mean you’re the only one with ideas. That kind of thinking squashes creativity among the staff and hinders business in the long run. Consider and accept creative suggestions from your staff and challenge them to find solutions to problems. Sometimes a few thoughts outside the trusty box of ideas is all you need to accomplish more than you thought possible.

3. Have a Positive Attitude
It’s quite easy to become wrapped up in the day-to-day work and lose overall focus. It’s even easier to be negative rather than positive when things get tough. One thing trusted, effective and well-liked leaders have in common is a positive attitude.  When sales or productivity are down, a cranky boss isn’t likely to help much. Remember, as a leader, it’s your energy and attitude that filter down to everyone else. When you’re defeated or angry, everyone else will be as well. If you choose instead to display a can-do attitude and encourage, rather than tear down, your inspirational energy becomes contagious.

No matter how long you’ve held a leadership role, or how many qualifications obtained, there is always more to learn.  If you’re willing to grab the opportunities that come your way with both hands, while implementing the above advice, you’ll be the kind of inspirational leader everyone admires and appreciates.  Your business will flourish as your team’s achievements rack up and failures are few and far between.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Lean Quote: Learning Experience Are Like Journeys

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now, and ends when the learner is successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more." — Julie Dirksen, learning strategy and design consultant

Learning is an on-going process, a journey, rather than a destination, where one can arrive at a given point of time. It requires active observation, sensitivity, and reaction to either internal or external cues instead of passiveness or withdrawal. 

Learning takes quite a lot of courage. It requires an open mindset and a fearless attitude. Ideally, one should not be afraid of making mistakes or failing. Failing, essentially, should be considered as an attempt to learn. Whereas failing may not lead to desired prestige or outcome, it is a crucial step in the overall process of learning that none of us can bypass. Ultimately, learning is a loop of interconnected phases, where errors occur. We learn through trial and error.

Besides boldness, learning entails dedication and motivation. By coupling the softer side of learning – namely, willingness for innovation and creativity – with the more rigid and tougher side of learning – that is, intrinsic persistence and discipline – truly remarkable and noteworthy outcomes may be achieved. Not only is hard work especially valued in a society, it also teaches us modesty and appreciation towards the learning experience. Ambition, herein, becomes central to success.

A culture that prioritizes learning results in a workforce focused on continuous improvement. When you're an active learner on the job, you see challenges more clearly, get more creative and strategic in your problem solving and ultimately work smarter.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Guest Post: 5 Safety Construction Measures Every True Leader Must Take

Vince West, a recent graduate at Mass Bay Engineering that I've gotten to know in my area, and I have been discussing worker safety. He's authored this article based on his experience in the construction industry. I think these safety measures are applicable in all industries.

Workers’ safety is a key priority for any team leader in the construction industry, mainly because accidents in a construction site can be severe and life-threatening.

The global population is on the rise, making the demand for new and modern buildings also go up. To optimally benefit from this market growth, a construction leader must make sure that his or her employees are safe from any safety hazard and that they have all their concentration on the job. Here are five ways construction company leaders can safeguard their staff members: 

1. Be Proactive and Where Called Upon to Act, Do It Swiftly

A good leader does not wait until a safety hazard occurs in order to act. Instead, she or he proactively anticipates future hazards and solves them beforehand. If you visit the construction site regularly, you will be able to tell which working areas need to be improved upon as a precautionary measure. Better still, workers will share with you on their safety concerns, and yours will just be to make the necessary amends.

In some rare cases, however, neither you, nor your workers will be able to get their assessments right and end up ignoring a potentially high-risk area. The danger of that is that an accident may just occur out of the blue and injure some of the employees.
When such a disastrous thing happens, it is your duty as a leader to move swiftly and take the necessary steps. Having a rescue vehicle and a first aid kit at the ready will help you respond promptly to emergency safety concerns.

2. Have Proper Machinery and Equipment in Place

Some security concerns can be addressed by having the right equipment for the right job at the construction site. Well-maintained machinery reduces the probability of workers injuring themselves on duty to almost zero and improves efficiency in a big way.
As a true leader, making sure you provide non-construction resources such as water is a sure way of showing how much you care about your workers’ safety and comfort. In this particular case, water reduces dehydration amongst the workers thus improving their efficacy. 

3. Prioritize Employees’ Concerns about Their Safety

Incidents in a construction site cause injuries that can at times cost a fortune to treat. Now forget about that and think about what you stand to gain by maintaining high levels of safety standards for your workers. Consider these three benefits:

• Having basic safety regulations in place gives employees peace of mind and minimizes their turnover rate.

• Whenever employees complain about their safety, they are passing a message to you as their leader that you do not appreciate them enough. Granting their wish improves their perceptions towards the job.

• Employees become more engaged when they have no safety concerns to worry about. Statistics show that engaged employees are more innovative and productive.

4. Regular Inspections and Safety Training

Even when it’s a sure thing that a building has a strong foundation, a good leader will have experts inspect it on a regular basis and get a report on the same. While sharing the contents of the report with your staff members, have a trainer with you to shed light on the various safety concerns the report could have and most importantly, give solutions to some of them. Retraining is also necessary just to be sure that everybody is conversant with the safety situation at the site.

5. Get the Right Equipment For Your Employees

While working on the site, always ensure that your employees wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE) from top to bottom. You must ensure that whenever the workers do some grinding, cutting, or welding works, they all have face shields and safety glasses.
For foot protection, ensure that the workers wear slip-resistant, puncture-resistant, and safety-toed boots. When working with concrete or electricity, ensure that all workers put on protective gloves. Most importantly, ensure that all workers including yourself have hard hats at all times for head protection.


Many people consider construction sites as the riskiest place to work in. Potential workers are most often than not taken aback by cases of environmental and human-made disasters that claim lives and cause permanent injuries. Construction company leaders have the responsibility of looking into the matter and changing this general public perception.

Author Bio: Vincent West, a fresh Engineering Design graduate with a keen interest in all things practical, ergonomic and balanced, Vince is the brains behind He has been researching construction safety gear on his own for a while now.

He's eager to spread the word on what he has learned and continues to learn through practice and thorough research.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Guest Post: What Are Your Employees Working For?

What Are Your Employees Working For?
The answer to the above question is simple – money – but what else do employees work for? Do they work for the love of the company? Can they do so if the company doesn’t love them back?

For the average worker, going to work means paying the bills. Nobody does this for free, and nor should they. Going to work is what puts food on the table and keeps a roof over your head, but unless you enjoy what you do, the whole working malarkey can feel like a right old slog.

Positive Atmosphere
It’s no secret that if colleagues enjoy each other’s company, and the environment in which they work in, the team is more likely to be more productive. There is also a higher chance of valued employees staying, rather than looking for an opening elsewhere because they enjoy coming to work.

The question is; how do you make for a positive atmosphere? It doesn’t just happen overnight, and it certainly isn’t easy with so many factors to consider. Unless you are incredibly lucky, chances are that there will be personality clashes within the team amongst other issues. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that colleagues can work cohesively for the good of the team and, hopefully, enjoy it while doing so.

Look After Your Employees
Remember what we said right at the start of this post? Can employees love the company they work for, if the company doesn’t love them back? The answer is, only for so long. Just like any good relationship, there has to be an element of give and take – if the relationship between your company and its employees is completely one-sided, it isn’t going to last long.
Reward employees for their hard work and loyalty. There are companies, such as Paydata, that are there to help people like you reinvent your company’s bonus scheme and HR. Far too often businesses lose valuable members of staff because they feel undervalued, and not just in monetary terms.

Implementing a reward scheme, offering both financial and other opportunities, can go some way to helping you to hold on to valued employees, which can lead to growth within the company.

Their Success is Your Success
For some employees, it can feel as though the only person to benefit from their hours of hard work is their boss. This can be due to a lack of benefits or a lack of communication that can result in disinterest.

We have all heard the jokes along the lines of the boss telling their employees “if you work harder this year I can buy another Ferrari”, and it’s true that there are bosses that it can be applied to. No one likes working for them and, if the chance arose, would not think twice about jumping ship.

One bad apple spoils the bunch, and it can take for only one disgruntled employee to rock the boat. Eventually, before you know it, you receive resignation letter after resignation letter, and soon have a whole host of job adverts in the public domain. This leaves you having to train up a number of new recruits to replace experienced hands, hoping that results and productivity do not fall by the wayside.

Their success is your success – or even better, it’s “our success”. The moment that you lose sight of that, you begin to lose members of staff who no longer want to work for/with you.

What Do You Work For?
Before trying to answer the question of what are your employees working for, ask yourself, what are you working for? Hopefully, what gets you up in the morning is the same thing that gets your employees up – the drive to succeed, to grow and, above all, enjoy what you do.
If your aspirations match that of your employees, and you are working towards the same goal, you may have stumbled on the recipe for success.

Author Bio:
Maise Hunns is a business journalist and works with many Team Building Companies to help broadcast the benefits of healthy employee well-being on a business. 

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Lean Quote: Pay it Forward in the Workplace

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here." — Jim Henson

Paying it forward in the workplace pays dividends in terms of enhanced employee performance and engagement. Workers who give their time and money through workplace giving or volunteer programs do two things:

They perform more effectively.
They identify more strongly with the company’s overall vision.

One recent study showed a 13 percent jump in productivity among workers whose employers consulted and included them in their company’s philanthropic initiatives. And companies could see a 15 percent increase in productivity if they offer charitable gifts as employee rewards.

If you’re worried that the drain on employees’ time will lead to business loss, know that the opposite is true. A statistical correlation can be drawn between high productivity, higher profits and pro bono work. And perhaps best of all: donating time and money to non-profit causes has also been proven to increase staff recruitment and retention.

Remember that every time you launch a fundraiser or matching fund drive, it’s a chance to interact with your workers, praise their efforts, and discover what they care about. It’s also a way to heighten their engagement and productivity.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Lean Roundup #102 - November, 2017

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of November, 2017.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Slowing Down to Speed Up – Gregg Stocker says slow thinking is what leads to the big gains that Lean thinking drives. 

Sphere of Influence – Tom Stoffel explains some keys to unlocking a strategic plan to drive significant improvement.

15 Lean Failure Lessons from Software Development, 1/3 2/3 3/3 – Jon Miller shares thoughts from an article about how software is written to shed light on the question of why Lean transformations often fail.

Frontiers - Lean & IT – Pascal Dennis encourages IT shops around the world to learn & adapt the powerful thinking methodologies of Lean.

Ask Art: Can Lean and “Make-the-Month” Co-exist? – Art Byrne explains why the make the month is so bad for so many things.

Oppsss the wheels fell off your lean initiative?  - Norm Bain says one of the biggest obstacles to long term success with lean is that many of the lean concepts are so simple to understand that you may fall into the trap of believing that they will be simple to implement.

Are You Overproducing Improvements? – Mark Rosenthal talks about the danger of batching improvements and why it is better to flow improvements.

Using a Checklist is Better Than Reprimanding Someone and Saying “Don’t Forget” – Mark Graban explains from a personal example how a checklist can be used to improve process adherence.

Standardization With a Systems View Allows Creativity to Flourish – John Hunter says standardization allows us to creatively improve within the context of the system and with an understanding that certain key factors will conform to those standards.

Wishing Everyone a Granular Thanksgiving – Jon Miller advocates instead of batching our gratitude once pear year, we can reflect on what we are thankful for each day.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #117 (1756-1770)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #1756 – Set Goals for Alignment and Motivation
For your team to be aligned, they have to be working for a common purpose and with a similar motivation.

The ideal team has come together, with each team member bringing a separate set of skills and expertise. Your team will be aligned when their common goal is known, and when they cooperate together to achieve it.

Goals have the added bonus of increasing motivation. You’ll find that your employees are more motivated when they have something to strive for.

If your team is working well together, and they are aligned with a common goal, you might find they individually exceed your expectations.

Lean Tip #1757 - Define the Responsibilities of Team Members
In order to work toward your common goals, each person on the team should agree to how you’ll meet the goal.

Once that happens, you can set individual responsibilities. These should be well-defined so there is no room for interpretation.

For the good of the team and motivation of all members, keep the individual tasks as evenly distributed as possible.

Lean Tip #1758 - Provide Encouragement To Your Team
As the team leader, your encouragement goes a long way in building your team and keeping members active and engaged.

Make sure that everyone continues to work together and remains aligned in goals and motivation.

Ensure that everyone knows they have a place on the team, and everyone’s opinions and work is valued.

Lean Tip #1759 - Increase Motivation With Realistic Goals
You’ll find that your employees are more motivated when they have something to strive for. Make sure your goals are specific and attainable.

Goals that aren’t reachable are motivation killers. You want your team to be successful, so make sure your goals are realistic.

Generally, you’ll find your team members want to be successful, and your goals will motivate them to reach for excellence.

You can always offer some time of reward if your team meets your goal.

Lean Tip #1760 - Align the Team for Maximum Teamwork
Consider the team who can’t reach its goals unless every member of the team works together, finishing their tasks on time.

This is a team that is aligned with a shared motivation. When your team realizes their goals can only be reached with maximum teamwork, you’ll have a better chance at success.

Lean Tip #1761 - Lead by Example
It is vital that your senior leaders model any change initiatives for your employees. If your senior leaders do not “walk their talk,” employees will quickly stop trying as well. Your staff will think, “Why should I make these extra efforts if the people running the organization aren’t bothering?” Leaders who don’t back up their words with actions lose employee trust. A change initiative requires a team effort, and management should be fostering trust and leading their teams. Senior leaders can introduce a change process, but it’s their active participation that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to change.

Lean Tip #1762 - Communicate Consistently to Avoid Confusion
It’s likely there will be some confusion during a change process. Employees may feel disoriented as your organization lets go of old processes and embraces new procedures. In order to help your staff feel more comfortable, make sure to communicate with them often.

Think of your organization as a sailboat, and you’re simply changing your course. When you turn your boat, the sails often luff or flap as they adjust to the shifting winds. As captain, you can keep your crew from panicking by reassuring them you’re headed in the right direction. Employees will feel safer knowing that someone is at the helm.

Lean Tip #1763 - Provide Education Whenever Possible
Executives usually don’t want to admit that they don’t know what they don’t know. Keep in mind that many leaders, especially those who do not have a manufacturing or engineering background, may not have had much exposure to the lean and Six Sigma tools. So, improvement leaders may need to dedicate some one-on-one time in order to address any deficiencies. Another good tactic is to suggest that all company leaders attend training in order to show their support and to help build a common culture and understanding.

Lean Tip #1764 - Tie Improvement Efforts to Strategic Goals
One of the first company functions that needs to be exposed to the improvement tools and methodologies is the finance group. Many improvements (5S for example) may prove difficult to calculate a hard dollar savings. So, if an improvement team has an accountant type resource as one of the members, they have a better chance to show the business executives that the savings are real. Otherwise, you may be accused of trying to use “smoke and mirrors” to validate the efforts and justify the costs of the training and resources.

Lean Tip #1765 - Empower Employees to Contribute.
Control of their own jobs is one of the five key factors in what employees want from work. So, too, this control aspect follows when you seek to minimize resistance to change. Give the employees control over any aspect of the change that they can manage.

If you have communicated transparently, you have provided the direction, the rationale, the goals, and the parameters that have been set by your organization. Within that framework, your job is to empower the employees to make the change work.

Practice effective delegation and set the critical path points at which you need feedback for the change effort - and get out of the way.

Lean Tip #1766 - Create an Organization-Wide Feedback and Improvement Loop.
You must maintain an open line of communication throughout your organization to make sure that feedback reaches the ears of the employees leading the charge. Changing course or details, continuous improvement, and tweaking is a natural and expected, part of any organizational change. Most changes are not poured in concrete but there must be a willingness to examine the improvement (plan, do, study, take additional action).

Lean Tip #1767 - Listen Deeply and Empathetically to the Employees.
You can expect that the employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee's response to even the most simple change.

You can't know or experience the impact from an individual employee's point of view. Maybe the change seems insignificant to many employees, but the change will seriously impact another employee's favorite task. Hearing the employees out and letting them express their point of view in a non-judgmental environment will reduce resistance to change.

Lean Tip #1768 - Provide Great Training and Equally Great Support
Putting the change in place is just the beginning. There needs to be systems in place to help support your employees and make sure that the change sticks. Most changes don’t fail in the implementation, they fail in their execution. Training and support help ensure the change will last.

Lean Tip #1769 - Show the Results for Positive Reinforcement
Depending on the change, you want to keep some sort of metrics to show the results to everyone in the organization. The more positive results seen by employees, the more enthusiastic they will be about not only this change, but any others that take place down the road. Nothing speaks quite like results!

Lean Tip #1770 - It Pays to Reward Success

Remember, success builds on itself. By rewarding success, you will create internal champions from among those who are higher risk takers and more aware of the value of the new outcomes. They will become your role models and persuaders. Others will follow them more easily.

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