Wednesday, January 23, 2019

7 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills and Your Business


Communication is the foundation of every single relationship you have in your personal life; it's no different in business. Without effective communication, there can be misunderstandings, problems and conflicts among your staff, your clients and everyone else you come into contact. Poor communication can make effective delegation, increased productivity and an enjoyable work environment virtually impossible.

Here are the 7 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills:

  1. Make communication a priority. Checking in with employees is essential. Meet with them regularly either in-person, inviting them to discuss their thoughts on their projects, tasks, and the organization as a whole. They want to be heard, and they want to share their thoughts and opinions. This will improve internal communication throughout your entire organization, as well as empower your employees and keep them comfortable in their positions.
  2. Simplify and stay on message. Use simple, straightforward language. The truth is that everybody cannot be on same page when it comes to vocabulary. Therefore, to be effective in your communications with your team members, use words that can be easily understood. When ambiguous words are used, you can be misunderstood and/or waste precious time having to explain yourself.
  3. Engage and encourage feedback. Don’t just talk and walk away. Draw your listeners and readers into the conversation. Ask questions and invite opinions. Solicit their feedback. It will also afford you the privilege of knowing if your message was well understood. Look for ways to clarify or rephrase what you are trying to say so it can be understood.
  4. Listen to your team members. Communication is intended to be a two way street. Don’t just talk because you are the leader without listening to anyone else. Encourage them to open up so you can be well guided when communicating in the future with them. You have two ears and one mouth –so you must listen more than you speak.
  5. Respect your team. Recognize your message is not just about you or what you want. You should sincerely care about the needs and the unique perspectives of those to whom you are communicating. One of the best ways to show your respect is simply by paying attention to what they say.
  6. Develop trust. Trust is the product of open and honest communications. So it is important that good communication channels exist. Also, trust is an essential ingredient of teamwork. If trust exists among business associates, teamwork and cooperation are much easier to achieve.
  7. Inform and Inspire. Communication is a form of information exchange. Explaining and clarifying your thoughts and ideas is important in a leadership role. But passing on information to your team is only half of the equation. As a leader, it's vital to your business that your communication efforts inspire your team as much as they educate them. Plan ahead for meetings and conversations so you can effectively mix information and inspiration.
Ultimately, effective communication can be one of the most important skills you use in your business. If your communication skills can use some fine-tuning, take time to analyze how you communicate, and the results of your communication. Then focus on ways you can improve it over time. You may be surprised how much that changes your relationships with staff, clients and colleagues for the better.

The ways in which your employees communicate with each other and with you is entirely dependent on the example you set and the atmosphere you deliberately create. Whether workplace communication is poor or outstanding, it can have a big impact on revenue, productivity, and employee satisfaction. So value your employees, set a good example, and above all, don’t just talk… listen.


When you communicate more effectively in the workplace, work gets done more efficiently. You foster a good environment where employees feel trusted and co-workers get along. Eliminate miscommunication and boost your business by implementing these tips now.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Taking a Leap of Faith


Today we celebrate and recognize the life and achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. MLK as they say was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. His quote below has always struck me as paramount to change.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase."

Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

Leaders may make bold and often unpopular decisions. Effective leaders require courage - to stand up for what is right, for what they believe in, and to take the necessary risks to be innovative and creative.

You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, challenge employees to grow. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Moving beyond our comfort zones is how we can best learn and grow. The challenge is to resist our normal human instinct to seek comfort rather that discomfort. The key is to continually push beyond the comfort zone and drive continuous improvement to develop and strengthen your Lean thinking.

It takes courage to be a change agent, to rise up and lead the way when others are filled with fear. It takes courage to walk in a different direction when others walk along a contrasting path. Most important, it takes courage to drive persistence to overcome resistance…to find comfort outside your comfort zone when the promise of reward is ambiguous.

When things are difficult, unknown, and perhaps unattainable we may turn the other direction. We must find the inner strength to overcome these perceived barriers. History has proven time after time that the power of a thought is the beginning for actions that will alter the future positively. Understanding this, and having the courage to keep going even in the face of all obstacles, allows us to accomplish anything we want.

The courage of true leadership is revealed while still standing in the midst of controversy and challenging circumstances. It is relatively easy and requires little effort to stay in your comfort zone or to do what is convenient. Courage is not required to stay comfortable. Leaders need essential people skills to get people to work together smoothly even if some compromise may be needed. However, it also takes courage to make a stand on what you believe to be right.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified what being a true leader of change is all about. His actions made him one of the great leaders of the 20th century, Time Magazine's "Man Of The Year" in 1963 and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Lean Quote: What are You Doing for Others?

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.


"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?"" — Martin Lurther King Jr.

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy includes this challenge to us: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” This quote is the essence of servant leadership.

 A servant leader is one who offers an inclusive vision; listens carefully to others; persuades through reason; and heals divisions while building community.

It is easy to spot servant leaders. In a room where others are jockeying for attention, they are the ones listening to someone others might consider unimportant. When faced with a problem, they look for solutions that benefit everyone. When something goes wrong, they take the blame. When things go well, they share the credit. They tell everyone the same story, even when it is inconvenient or difficult. They know that they don’t have all the answers, so they seek advice from others. They work hard and inspire others to do the same.

Asking “What are you doing for others?” is the key to servant leadership. In these six words that MLK made famous, you can determine and deliver the actions that make a difference to those on your team. You will affect lives far beyond what you can imagine. It really is that persistent, urgent—and powerful.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example of a servant leader. His life shows the extraordinary power of servant leadership to radically transform a nation. 

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

10 Changes for 2019 That Can Transform Your Culture


It’s that time of year again when many are making personal resolutions for change. But as I said the other day I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. For most managers the beginning of New Year means establishing a new set of objectives. This is a good time to reflect on your progress over the past year and plan how you want improve in the coming year. 

It is our role as leaders to reinforce cultural transformation in the workers perception of their work roles, to create structures for empowered workers to be accountable and successful, to communicate, support, reward and model this culture of engaged workers, helping to identify and resolve defects and eliminate waste. 

As we head into a New Year I wanted to share ten changes that Lean leaders should consider to transform your culture. These changes must have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; a process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation. 

1. Get Energized About Work. 
Getting energized about work usually results from a couple things. Primarily if a work culture is fun to be in, it’s a place you look forward to going because the people (and leadership) are authentic, caring and fun. And teams that are energized with what they are doing get excited by the opportunities that a day may bring. 

2. Planning is the Basic Step for Success. 
You won’t know where you are going unless you know where you want to go. Confusing? Well that’s exactly how your business would be, if you do not keep things simple and organized. Planning is the basic step to succeed in business and planning accurately and developing strategies will lead you to a healthy and growing business. That means reframing the top down objectives in your organization. Don’t just work with only the large goal in mind. Set immediate and short term goals that fire up your team. Celebrate achieving those goals and adjust as the culture and needs change… We live in a very fluid business world where things change fast. Create a team that is able to change along with it. 

3. Strive to Learn Something New Every Single Day.
It is easy to get bogged down in the same old, same old. In order to fully realize potential, you’ll have to add knowledge, skills, and experience. Don’t expect your potential to spring forth in a final draft; it takes time to hone your skills and build your confidence. This could come from formal schooling, from the school of hard knocks, or from both. Either way, your education is the house your realized potential will live in. The opportunities for learning are multiplying every day in this information/technology age. Learn at least one new thing every day. Improve your mind and enhance your skills. Never stop learning. 

4. Work Smarter Not Harder. 
Productivity comes from working smarter, not harder. That is the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. You can be effective without being efficient, but, the key to productivity is to do both. Sometimes, those job inefficiencies are not very obvious. However, if you can specifically identify them, then those inefficiencies can be eliminated and staff can become more productive. By distributing the tasks and responsibilities around, you not only become more flexible and able to respond to changes more quickly, but you involve more people in the improvement process. This can increase work satisfaction as well. 

5. Devote Time Each Month to Employee Development. 
 Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. Encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. You can make their career. In order to get the most from your employees, you need to invest time and resources in their development. Annual performance reviews simply aren’t enough. Make a point to sit down with each employee on a monthly basis (or more frequently, if possible) and provide them with specific feedback and areas of improvement. 

6. Learn More from Reading.  
Far too may business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of wondrous epiphany or other such flash of insight. Sure, great ideas can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books, attend seminars, and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. Read an article; discuss a new approach with a colleague; research what other organizations are doing on the Web. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you have under your belt. 

7. Try Something New. 
The world is moving forward, swiftly and consistently. As industry leaders, if you stop taking a breath, you will be left far behind others, competing in the race. Change is inevitable as so is it a scary concept. To overcome this fear, try doing something new. Take risks, explore ways to overcome the disabilities and move ahead. It might sound easy, but it is no less challenging. 

8. Get Out of Your Office.
When you get bogged down, distracted, or even discouraged rediscover the power of going to see. There is no better way to experience the flow of value (or lack thereof) than taking the same journey that an order, new product, patient or other takes through your processes. Spend as much time as possible with employees and customers. Learn the issues first hand. Expand your focus. Many look primarily at the steps in the value stream and ask how to remove the waste. Reflect first on the purpose of the process. You must ask about the support processes to get the right people to the right place in the value stream at the right time with the right knowledge, materials, and equipment. Work to solve problems when and where they occur. Pay special attention to the way people are engaged in the operation and its improvement. 

9. Focus Feedback on the Future. 
You want people to improve. In almost every case, people want to improve and do great work. Yet most workplace feedback is focused on something that can’t be changed -- the past. If you want to be a more effective coach to your team and help them make improvements in their skills and results, give them feedback, and about what they can do next time. 

10. Follow Up and Follow Through. 
The primary criticism of leaders is that they do not follow up or follow through on promised actions and information. How well a manager follows up or follows through on promises is part of the test to determine if they will be a quality leader. Another reason follow up is so important is that old saying “out of sight, out of mind”; leaders need to remind employees that their interested in improvement. 

Change can only be successful if it’s truly desired. Change isn’t easy but positive changes are always worth the effort. It can be motivating to add up and consolidate all the gains that have been made so far and to acknowledge how far you have come. Lasting changes require continued commitment. Keeping your commitment isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends. 

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Forget Resolutions, 4 More Effective Steps to HIt Goals


With the hustle of the holidays over we turn to the New Year, where many individuals are honing in on their New Year’s resolution. For many, it may be an opportunity to assess their struggles of the previous year or to wallow in their triumphs. Unfortunately, many fail to keep those resolutions. 

Personally I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. The solution is to have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; A process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation. 

A popular tool for doing just this is the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. This is often referred to as the Deming Cycle or the Deming Wheel after its proponent, W Edwards Deming. A closed loop system, it emphasizes four repetitive steps: 

First, start with an idea and create a PLAN to make it happen. 
Then, DO adhere to the plan, and take corrective action when necessary. Next, analyze and CHECK progress toward your goal and identify the root causes of obstacles. 
Finally, take appropriate ACTion. If the outcome matches expectations, then standardize the process to maintain the gains. If the results were disappointing, then modify the process to eliminate the root cause of remaining problems. In either case, repeat the process starting again with PLAN

While these steps appear in a linear sequence, when implemented the phases are best thought of as concurrent processes that can continually be improved. This is the key to seeing your resolution through to the end. 

It is important to remember as you start 2019 you begin with a vision of what you want to accomplish. Whether it is a personal New Year's resolution or a new business objective you need to set a goal or target condition. Lawrence J. Peter said, “If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” 

Resolutions and goal setting may seem similar, but resolutions typically take a let's start something and see what happens approach, while goal setting is about planning a specific path to success. Keeping your resolution isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends. 

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Lean Quote: Four Agreements for Love and Happiness in Your Life

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.


"Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do the exact opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action. And that’s the reason why they don’t do their best." — Don Miguel Ruiz

About 20 years ago, Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements. It explores the modern meaning of the Toltec teachings in order to create love and happiness in your life. Many people have found that committing to these four agreements have changed their lives and made them happier, more loving human beings. Adopting and committing to these agreements is simple. Actually living and keeping these Four Agreements can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. It can also be one of the most life changing things you will ever do.

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

As you practice living these four practices your life will dramatically change. In the beginning these new habits will be challenging and you will lapse countless times. With practice these agreements become integrated into your being and every area of your life and become easy habits to keep.



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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek believes leaders should be more than just authority figures—to earn the trust, respect and cooperation of their teams, leaders should first make selfless sacrifices and put the needs of the people around them ahead of their own.

There’s a difference between good leaders and most leaders. Most leaders make their employees scared. This is usually not on purpose. But it still happens. Sinek’s point is that good leaders make you feel safe.

In his TED Talk, Sinek explains why making employees feel secure in their jobs is a key attribute of a good leader.



Below are three key takeaways from Sinek's talk:

1. “When people feel safe and protected by the leadership in [an] organization, the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate."

Employees living in constant fear of losing their jobs are not performing at their best—plain and simple, Sinek says. During an unpleasant encounter at an airport, when an airline agent snapped at a customer who tried to board the plane out of turn, Sinek confronted the agent, only to realize that her behavior was a direct result of her fear of being let go, should she break the rules.

This level of pressure creates a stress-filled, ineffective work environment. To ensure that employees focus on doing their jobs well instead of on just keeping them, make them feel secure in their roles. Empower them, Sinek recommends, by trusting them to make on-the-job choices.

2. “Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people."

Leaders that prioritize the wellbeing of their employees end up with a more loyal workforce, and one that's more invested in company success. When they're valued and respected, workers are more likely to give it their all on the job, Sinek says, which benefits the organization at large.

If you inspire and support them, your employees will too do whatever it takes to see your company's vision become reality, simply because they know their leader would do the same for them.

3. “Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank."

Good leaders worry about others before they worry about themselves, Sinek says. When Barry-Wehmiller, a large manufacturing company in the Midwest, was hit hard by the recession back in 2008, the company had to save 10 million dollars to make up for losses. Instead of considering layoffs, CEO Bob Chapman came up with a plan to require every employee—including leaders—to take furlough time to save money and people's jobs.


Employees understand that the health of a company is unpredictable, but they should always be able to trust their leaders to make the best decisions for everyone when times get tough. Be transparent about difficult calls, and put people before profit. According to Sinek, that's what sets good leaders apart.

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