Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #110 (1651-1665)

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 #1651 – Build Trust in Organizational Leadership.
People crave transparency, openness, and honesty from their leaders. Unfortunately, business leaders continue to face issues of trust. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, one in four workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. If leaders disengage or refuse to share their own ongoing learning journeys, how can they expect their people to enthusiastically pursue theirs? It’s the old adage of “lead by example.” If managers want employees to engage in learning and development, then they need to show that they are actively pursuing their own personal learning journeys as well.

Lean Tip #1652 – Provide Constant Feedback on the Positives
When people know what they’re doing well, they’ll keep doing it – or, even better, do more of it. Providing someone with a little recognition on what they’re doing well can go a long way toward boosting morale. This is not to say “ignore the weaknesses” – just don’t make the weaknesses the only focus area of feedback. This doesn’t mean you should not create accountability, it actually means the opposite – but, if all you do is criticize, people will learn how to hide their mistakes or shift blame.

Lean Tip #1653 – Collaborate and Share on Problem-Solving with Your Employees
When employees get the idea that their manager or leader is the one who has to solve all the problems, it takes away from their sense of empowerment, and ultimately is likely to decrease engagement over time. Encourage team members to take responsibility, and work through problems or issues on their own, or collaboratively. It’s not the manager’s job to fix everyone else’s problems.

Lean Tip #1654 – Develop “Soft-skills”
It’s unfortunate that these vital skills have been de-emphasized in corporate environments. Even the name “soft skills” makes them seem relatively unnecessary. Emotional intelligence at work is just as important as the intellectual know-how required to perform a specific task. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill all play a vital role in effective leadership and execution at all levels of the organization. When the team is in harmony, work gets done more efficiently and with greater ease.

Lean Tip #1655 – Provide Plenty of Context
Most leaders carry lots of information in their brains. Unfortunately, many employees don't get the benefit of all that information, yet they are expected to take action and make good decisions as if they understood every nuance. Great leaders figure out how to extract the important information from their minds and share it in a structured and consistent manner. An employee who clearly understands the core values, purpose and direction of the company can easily make consistent decisions and take appropriate action at any junction. It's on you as the leader to impart your vision. That's how you lead.

Lean Tip #1656 - Appreciate Your Team Members’ Efforts
Only by appreciating others and making your team members aware of the importance of their role can you drive your team towards success. Engage all your team members by sharing information relevant to your project and recognizing their participation through regular feedback.  Besides this, reward all members of the team for achieving specific goals to motivate them and make them more committed towards the project or the company.

Lean Tip #1657 - Facilitate Idea Sharing
Set up either physical or virtual work spaces to enable team members to get together to brainstorm, share ideas, or discuss progress on projects. An open-work environment is not always appropriate for team discussions, so you might need outdoor or remote spaces in the workplace to facilitate team meetings.

Lean Tip #1658 - Discuss Team Dynamics on a Regular Basis
Encourage open communication during team meetings to discuss team dynamics in order to make your team more effective and productive. Invite ideas and suggestions as to how team members could elevate teamwork to achieve specific goals. These discussions should always be used as a chance to improve team dynamics rather than criticizing someone in front of other team members.

Lean Tip #1659 - Welcome Questions, Suggestions, and Comments
Encourage everyone on the team to put forward their ideas, suggestions, and feedback regarding the project to identify and correct issues and increase the effectiveness of the team in a timely manner. Remember that all great ideas and improvements come up through questions or by looking at a situation from a different perspective, so encourage all types of input from each team member.

Lean Tip #1660 - Provide Learning Opportunities
By offering training or providing learning opportunities on an ongoing basis, you can strengthen team members’ skills and capabilities for consistent growth and development. Also, you can assign mentors or hire an external professional coach to develop specific skills and competencies within the team as well as individuals.

Lean Tip #1661 - Share The Vision With Your Team
The most important element of teamwork is sharing a common vision so that everyone can work together toward it. When everyone on your team knows your goals and vision, they better understand their role in realizing it.

Don’t be shy about communicating your true vision and goals to your team. Do you hope to be the best in your neighborhood? In the world? Do you want to provide the best experience for every customer that walks through your doors? Tell your employees, so they can all look to your vision for guidance and inspiration.

Lean Tip #1662 - Share Information With Your Team
No one likes to be kept in the dark, and withholding information from team members is a surefire way to create confusion and resentment among team members. It can also create competitive undercurrents in your organization, which is the antithesis of teamwork.

Be clear with everyone on your team about new information as it relates to your business and your goals. Your staff will appreciate being kept in the loop, and more importantly, it sends the message that you value and respect their place in the organization.

Lean Tip #1663 – Empower Your Team
When it comes to teamwork, one of the most detrimental forces is a management team that micromanages. A team functions best when they are empowered to make important decisions and complete the critical tasks that move an organization forward.

In some cases, you may need to be overt about empowering your team. Tell them that you expect and encourage them to be self-starters, to take tasks on themselves and to complete things without typical “approvals” (if possible). By doing so, you’re sending a message of trust and respect to everyone on your team.

Lean Tip #1664 – Listen to Your Team
As a manager, hopefully you’ve been able to build a culture of openness and feedback with your team. And since you’ve done so, you’re hopefully hearing the highs and lows of employee experience on a regular basis.

The important thing when it comes to feedback is not to glaze over or dismiss it. Your responsibility is to listen and really hear the feedback your employees have so you can address it in a way that improves the team dynamic. Be patient, and make sure your employees know that you’re there to listen and help whenever they need you.

Lean Tip #1665 - Clarify Roles and Responsibilities on Your Team
It’s tough to work well together when you don’t understand how someone’s role is different (or similar) to your own. Clarifying roles is an essential part of running a well-functioning team.

It’s important to be proactive in outlining team roles. If you wait for questions to arise, it means you’re losing critical productivity and team-building opportunities. As you outline new goals for your team, make sure you’re also outlining each member’s role and responsibilities in reaching those goals - either in a meeting, or one-on-one with each person.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

8th Year Blog Anniversary

It is hard to believe but tomorrow marks the 8th anniversary of A Lean Journey Blog and as tradition here each year I take the opportunity to reflect. The act of "self-reflection" is called Hansei is Japanese. It is the practice of continuous improvement that consists of looking back and thinking about how a process can be improved.

I’d like to think that I turned my naive endeavor to share learning along my own journey into a successful contribution in the Lean community. As I have said before this labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you.

I love statistics, so with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 1465

Most read post:  DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 27,000 views

followed by The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process (with over 27,000 views)

Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  223

Top 3 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 49%
United Kingdom – 7%
Canada – 5%

Total views:  Over 1,103,907 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 848,087

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 1,981

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,414

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,206

Total Tips Shared: Over 1665

I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this past year.  It has been a successful Journey this past year. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful next year.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Lean Quote: Keep Your Sense of Humor

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.

"Enjoy yourself. If you can’t enjoy yourself, enjoy somebody else." — Jack Schaefer

“Enjoy yourself. If you can’t enjoy yourself, enjoy somebody else.” Jack Schaefer
You’ve hear the line: “They said cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse.” An upbeat attitude and good sense of humor won’t keep you from getting hit by trouble, but they’ll help you handle it if you do get hit.

For years Reader’s Digest has been saying it: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Psychological and medical research solidly confirm this – humor is good therapy. It helps you keep things in perspective, and that’s important right now.

Change usually offers plenty of reasons to be upset, worried, and confused. You can laugh at the craziness of it all, or you could choose to cry. Either one would be an understandable emotional reaction to the situation.

Crying may be cleansing, but humor is healing. So choose laughter. It also helps keep you from blowing all the aggravations out of proportion.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dealing With Negative People

Some people exude negativity. They don’t like their jobs or they don’t like their company. Their bosses are always jerks and they are always treated unfairly. The company is always going down the tube and customers are worthless.

Very often, negative people do not realize how their pessimistic attitude can affect others, and therefore they do very little to try to change how they act. Luckily, there are certain tips and pointers that you can use to better deal with the negative vibes that are being emitted in their company.

So, how does one deal with negative people?

One obvious solution is to walk away from them. But this is easier said than done. You can’t always just “get rid of” negative people. Sometimes they are your family, friends, coworkers. People have bad days. Even you.

A more practical approach to dealing with them is to start by understanding the reasons for their negativity. In brief, almost all negativity has its roots in one of three deep-seated fears: the fear of being disrespected by others, the fear of not being loved by others, and the fear that “bad things” are going to happen. These fears feed off each other to fuel the belief that “the world is a dangerous place and people are generally mean.”

The fears that negative people harbor manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including:

• A thin skin, or the proclivity to take umbrage at others’ comments; e.g., “you look good today” is interpreted as, “you mean, I didn’t look good yesterday?”

• Judgmentalism, or the tendency to impute negative motivations to others’ innocent actions; thus, guests who don’t compliment a meal are judged as “uncouth brutes who don’t deserve future invitations.”

• Diffidence: A sense of helplessness about one’s ability to deal with life’s challenges, leading to anxiety in facing those challenges, and to shame or guilt when the challenges are not met.

• Demanding nature: Although negative people are diffident about their own abilities, they nevertheless put pressure on close-others to succeed and “make me proud” and “not let me down”.

• Pessimism, or the tendency to believe that the future is bleak; thus, for example, negative people can more readily think of ways in which an important sales call will go badly than well.

• Risk aversion, especially in social settings. This leads to reluctance to divulge any information that could be “used against me,” leading, ultimately, to boring conversations and superficial relationships.

• The need to control others’—especially close-others’—behaviors. For example, negative people have strong preferences on what and how their children should eat, what type of car their spouse should drive, etc.

Notice a common feature across all of these manifestations of negativity: the tendency to blame external factors—other people, the environment, or “luck”—rather than oneself, for one’s negative attitudes. Thus, negative people tend to think, “If only people realized my true worth, if only people were nicer and the world wasn’t fraught with danger, and if only my friends, relatives, and colleagues behaved like I want them to, then I’d be happy!”

Being around negative people is toxic and can negatively affect us. As practitioners, we can often find ourselves living in a bubble of positive, like-minded people, which makes it a little more difficult to have patience for people who are the opposite. It is one of the many challenges in trying to implement Lean, but it is also a wonderful reminder for us to go back to the lessons we learn through respect for people.

Not letting that negativity affect us is not easy, and encouraging negative people to change is even more so. Approaching both with kindness, non-judgement, and our own positivity can make things a bit easier.

How do you deal with negative people in your life? Share with us below!

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Express Your WARMTH When Communicating

The importance of effective communication is demonstrated by the many articles and books written on the subject. Recently, I have been reflecting on the possibility of reducing effective communication to a simple formula or acronym to help a person remember everything that is important. The result is the title and substance of this post. With an acronym, we frequently are more able to think through important communications in advance and make sure we are addressing all the considerations for effective communication.

Express your WARMTH when communicating:
Wear a smile
An open posture
Rise and lean forward
Make eye contact
Territorial zones/touch

Wear a smile – A smile is one of the strongest communication tools. You don’t have to spend the entire time grinning like an idiot, but there is nothing quite as infectious as sharing a smile. Dale Carnegie said, “It costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

An open posture – Keep an open body position. Closing up your body profile—becoming smaller—looks like you lack confidence. If you keep your arms folded, you appear to be defending yourself against the other person’s communication.

Rise and lean forward – Your posture should be upright but not stiff. Don’t slouch; but don’t sit like you’re at military attention. Stay relaxed and lean forward a bit.

Make eye contact – Your eye contact is the single most effective indicator that you’re involved in the conversation. By avoiding eye contact, you appear anxious, uninterested and bored. Your eyes always talk and provide valuable cues as to your approachability.

Territorial zones/touch – Find the appropriate balance of distance; too close invades personal space, while too far may seem like you’re not interested. Is the communication formal enough for an office or would you be better off meeting in a coffee shop?

Head-nodding – There is plenty of research into the part nodding plays in communication. Nodding tells the speaker that you are listening and that they should continue to speak. If you increase the speed of your nodding, it signals you are ready to speak.

A Parting Thought
It is tempting to think of effective communication as the job of leaders, managers, and supervisors. While it is their job, it is not theirs alone. Effective communication is everyone's job. It builds trust, teamwork, and high-performing organizations. If culture drives an organization, effective communication is the fuel.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Lean Quote: Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Weaknesses

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.

"As you’re the only one you can really change, the only one who can really use all your good advice is yourself." — John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

The abilities, work habits, or loyalties that served you well in times past may outlive their usefulness. The winds of change reshape circumstances and present different problems. New personalities come into the picture. Even if your job title and duties remain the same, the situation calls for something new out of you.

Be sure to shift your job’s priorities to match the changes in organizational priorities. Align yourself with any changes in values and culture. Adjust your approach to fit the personality and management style of new leaders. Get busy developing new competencies if your skills become outdated. Tom Peters wrote, “Only those who constantly retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead.”

Be alert. Catch on. Refocus rapidly. Examine your job and identify the critical few, make-or-break factors important for job success. Chances are something there has changed.

Continuing to focus on “doing what you do best” might be one of the worst things you could do.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

8 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

Given all this listening we do, you would think we'd be good at it! In fact most of us are not, and research suggests that we remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal!

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.

The way to improve your listening skills is to practice "active listening." This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.

How do you develop active listening skills?

Rule #1: Stop talking. If you really want to be an effective listener, stop what you are doing. Eliminate distractions. Give full attention. Show the person that you really want to listen.

Rule #2: Put the person at ease. Get relaxed yourself. Use door-openers like, “What’s up? Anything I can help you with?" Don’t rush, give them time…unhurried. Be alert to posture and nonverbal cues.

Rule #3: Don’t interrupt, especially if the person is upset. Allow for ventilation to occur. Remember, it’s only words. Be patient.

Rule #4: Empathize. Make a statement of regret. Be genuine. Ask them for their help. “I’d like to understand your problem; will you help me?”

Rule #5: Paraphase. Try to summarize what you’ve heard and restate it to the person to his/her satisfaction.  This often helps defuse tension. It also aids in showing employees that you’re trying to understand their situation.

Rule #6: Ask open-ended questions. Use questions for clarification and understanding, “What do you suggest we do?”

Rule#7: Use silence. Don’t be afraid of tension. If any tension exists, time perception get terribly distorted.

Rule #8: Allow reflection. In many case the best role we can play is that of a sounding board for our employees. This even allows for a little pressure release.

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What's more, you'll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!

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