Monday, November 12, 2018

Great Leaders Have Empathy and Perspective

Trust and cooperation are not standard in our organizations and yet we know they should be. There are two attributes that every single leader has the opportunity to possess that will help them create the types of organizations we would be proud to call our own. Those two attributes are empathy and perspective.

I came across this YouTube video about leadership in business from Simon Sinek where he talks about leadership, empathy, and perspective.



Here are few keynote insights:

On Leadership    

“Leaders are so concerned about their status and position in an organization that they actually forget their real job. And the real job of a leader is not about being in-charge, it is about taking care those in their charge.”


When you are in your junior, your only responsibility is to be good at your job. Companies even give us tons of trainings on how to do our jobs, and then they expect us to be good at our jobs. And if you are good, the company will promote you. At some point you will get promoted in a position where you are now responsible for the people who do the job you used to do, but nobody really showed you how to do that. And that is why we get managers and not leaders. Because the reason our managers are micro-managing us is because they actually do not know how to do the job better than us.

One of the great things that is lacking in most companies is that they are not teaching their employees how to ‘lead.’ Leadership is a skill like any other. It is a learnable skill. And if companies practice real leadership, their employees will become great leaders, Sinek said.

But the reason why some do not want to a leader is because it comes with great personal sacrifice. Remember, you are not in-charge, you are responsible for those who are in your charge. That means when everything goes right, you have to give out all the credit. And when everything goes wrong, you have to take all the responsibility. It is like when something breaks and goes wrong, instead of yelling at your employee(s) and taking over, you say try again.


At the end of the day, great leaders are not responsible for the job – they are responsible for the people who are responsible for the job.

On Empathy

Companies need to fill their organization with the right people, BUT what if it is not just about finding the right people? What if the problem is the company’s environment?

Sinek plotted that companies should have an environment where employees can be at their natural best. Because companies are so quick to fire their struggling employees without knowing what they are going through.

“Why is it that if somebody has performance problems at work, why is it that the company’s instinct is to say… you’re out?”

“We do not practice empathy.”


Here is an example of a lack of empathy:

You walk into someone’s office, someone walks into your office and say: ‘Your numbers are down for the third quarter in a row, you have to pick up your numbers otherwise I cannot guarantee what the future would look like.’

How inspired do you think that person is to come to work the next day?

Now, here’s what empathy looks like:

You walk into someone’s office, someone walks into your office and say: ‘Your numbers are down for the third quarter in a row. Are you okay? I am worried about you. What’s going on?’

The point here is, we all have performance issues. Maybe someone’s kid is sick, maybe someone’s parent is dying — we do not know what is going on with their lives. And of course, it will affect their performance at work.

“Empathy is being concerned about the human being, not just their output.”


Great leaders should practice empathy towards their people (employees), Sinek suggested.

This simply means that leaders should create a good learning environment in which someone feels safe enough to raise their hand and say ‘I need help.’ It’s about helping people to be at their natural best.

On Perspective

It’s not about winning or losing.

In this point, Sinek explained that the game of business has no winners or losers. Mainly because companies do not know the game they’re in, and they do not have any set of rules.

There’s no winning in the game of business because there are no rules. So, how can a company declare that its number one when no one has agreed to the rules? It’s simply arbitrary. There is no winning because there’s no rule and there’s no end, Sinek pointed.


In other words, beating your ‘competition’ doesn’t make sense because you don’t have any, but yourself.

Moreover, great companies do not play to win or to be number one, but to outlast the game of business. They understand that sometimes you are ahead and sometimes you are a little bit behind. Those great companies understand that it is not about the battle, it’s about the war.


So, if you want to be a good leader, start with empathy and change your perspective, and play the game you are actually playing, Sinek ended.




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Friday, November 9, 2018

Lean Quote: Working Together is Success

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.


"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is process; working together is success" — Henry Ford

As an organizational change agent. I have assisted in the creation and development of teams at different levels in the organization. As a Lean Champion I have trained many teams. I have also been asked to help teams that were in trouble.  My passion has always been to work with teams – as a leader, coach, neutral facilitator, and contributing team member. I’d like to share a few simple but powerful personal lesson that I have learned over time:

Change is constant. Constant change makes progress possible.

The needs of the team are the needs of the organization.

Researching first prevents redoing later.

You need to be “alive” for lifelong learning.

Hear it, learn it, do it.

Improvement tools help every kind of team.

Creativity means moving out of the box.

Committee assessments kill innovative ideas.

Tools do not solve problems, people do.

Team recognition and rewards is part of the process.

Building effective teams is an important ingredient in developing a continuous improvement process for your company. Generating creativity and innovation by linking together employees from various functional departments – creating cross-functional teams – will assure you even higher degree of success. And sustaining these teams with policies that reward them to keep your teams dynamic, fresh, and effective.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Why Teams Fail?


In my experience there is not one single cause for why teams fail. Generally, teams fail for one simple reason – they do not start as teams. They start as someone’s idea to form a team, but they never build the commitment, skills, and consensus that is necessary for teams to be victorious. There is no single purpose for the team, no commitment that they must succeed. 

Secondly, and equally important, teams fail because whoever forms the teams puts them together to do whatever they are commissioned to do without ever giving them the necessary training and tools they need up front. It would be like a group of athletes being assembled and told their goal is to win a football game. No training, no understanding of why, or what a football game is, and no agreement on what each one will do to contribute to winning the game. If they win, it probably has more to do with individuals and less with team, and a good deal of luck plays a part in it.

Managers and team leaders are often uncertain of their role and the proper approach to be taken in managing teams. These are common mistakes I see:

Trying to build a team as a traditional supervisor would do it.

Not developing commitment to the team’s mission.

Dealing with team members solely as individuals.

Not developing and living by the team norms.

Pushing the team to make decisions too quickly.

Not supporting the team.

Trying to prevent the team from surfacing and resolving conflict.

Lack of clearly stated mission, goals, and team objectives.

Absence of a challenging but fair set of measures directly linked to the team’s goals and objectives.

Management must nurture reams through their life cycles. Ensure that your teams have a charter with a clear statement of the opportunity; a methodical process to follow; a measurement system for achievement; resources, constraints, and conditions that will allow for recognition and reward; and a planned disbandment when the team reaches and exceeds its goals.

Behind every successful cross-functional team is an ongoing training effort. It is absolutely necessary for teams to learn and practice the tools in order to have the skills needed to generate ideas and problem-solve, and also deal with conflict and other team dynamics that involve interpersonal and interfunctional relationships.

I strongly believe that every team should be rewarded regardless of the final bottom line result. Recognition and reward systems must be designed to be compatible with the culture and personality of the organization. It is also important to have teams involved in the design of said process from the beginning. The key concern (obviously) is that there must be sufficient reason for the recognition and reward, otherwise the reward system will lose its significance. Recognition and rewards must be part of an overall business plan with budget allocations assigned and honored. The process must move swiftly through the organization since a recognition and reward loses merit if not given immediately.

One way to value and reward your teams is to help them learn continuously. For teams to succeed, organizations need to be learning organizations in which teams and individuals can continuously improve and/or develop new skills. As individuals learn more companies should reward them more. The way you are rewarding teams for performance and learning.


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Monday, November 5, 2018

Is Your Organization Ready For Teamwork


The establishment of cross-functional teams requires a lot of thought and open communication. The probability of success depends on the readiness of your organization to implement major change and capability to establish teams.  Teams offer a competitive advantage to organizations:

Teams require less overhead than traditional organizations and give better service…

Teams give and advantage where quality is a major issue, where service is a major issue, and where cost is a major issue – and I don’t know any business where those there aren’t a major issue.

Further, teams offer a way for employees to enrich their work. They no longer have to “park their brains at the door” when arriving at work. These kinds of organizations allow people to make decisions and to function in a way that builds their self-esteem rather than in a way that erodes it.

To help organizations get started, try the following teamwork test:

Do employees depend on each other extensively within or across functions or departments?

How and where might better coordination (teamwork) enhance your productivity, quality, or customer service?

How and where would work teams benefit your organization and employees?

How would employee teams fit your organization’s long-term goals and strategies?

How will a team-based organization affect your resources?

What influence would employees teams have on job satisfaction and employee commitment?


The new team culture requires that employees contribute, initiate action, ask questions, solve problems, and share responsibility for the success of the team, department, and organization. It requires that they own their own behavior and become team players rather than individual experts operating in a vacuum. It means improving their coordination, communications, and decision-making within the context of a department team or multiple teams. The bottom line is that they become more accountable for what and how they do things and for sharing the responsibility for the culture change… the change in culture requires a journey for all organizational members.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Lean Quote: Apply Positive Thinking to Overcome Failure

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.


“- If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means "first Attempt In Learning" 
- End is not the end, if fact E.N.D. means "Effort Never Dies" 
- If you get No as an answer, remember N.O. means "Next Opportunity". 
So Let's be positive." — A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Throughout your life there will be failures - whether you like it or not.

How you view those failures and what you focus on will either help you overcome them or push you into a downward spiral where you don't think you can accomplish anything.

When you experience failure it's important to acknowledge what didn't go well. Learn from those mistakes and move forward by making changes in how you do things so that you don't repeat the same mistakes. Be positive by thinking about what you really want and knowing that you can achieve your desired goals.

Here are a few things you can do to overcome failure by applying positive thinking:
Look at the positive in every failure. This means really paying attention to what went well and not dwelling on what went wrong.

Learn from mistakes so you don't repeat them. The more you learn the better.
Think of what you can do better the next time.

Give yourself positive encouragement. Tell yourself you can do better the next time and put your energy into doing better the next time.

Think about what you want and not what you don't want. This means framing what you want in a positive way so that you apply positive thinking to phrase exactly what you want.

Don't give up. Push ahead and try again. You'll fail more often than you succeed. But if you learn from mistakes and apply positive thinking, your success will be greater than expected and will exceed any failures.

It may not be easy to simply start thinking positive or to apply positive thinking everyday but you have to get started. You may think it's difficult but it's a lot easier than you realize and once you get started it will get easier with practice.


As a wise man once said — Positive anything is better than negative everything. When you harness the power of positivity, its amazing the impact it has on your life and business. It makes every moment worth experiencing and every goal worth shooting for. You need to embrace the power of positivity to see how it transforms the way you look at things.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Lean Roundup #113 – October 2018


A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of October, 2018.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Lean is an Intangible Asset – Bob Emiliani talks about CEOs see Lean as an intangible asset, whether in the form of Lean tools or as a management system, that may or may not produce an income or other financial gain.

Humble Leaders are the Best, Says Lean and now the WSJ – Mark Graban discusses why humble leaders are the most effective leaders.

Three Core Beliefs Fundamental to Standard Work – Jon Miller says there are three core beliefs that create the set the tone or create the cultural environment in which standard work can thrive.

Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves – Gregg Stocker shares four main issues that lead to poor problem-solving in an organization.

If You Can't Save 1/10 of a Second, You Can't Save 1 Second – Dan Markovitz shares a story that serves a reminder for leaders that kaizen means *continuous* improvement, not necessarily large improvements.

Strategy in a Time of Explosive Change – Pascal Dennis talks about how you develop and deploy strategy in ‘interesting’ times,

Elimination of Muda is the Key to Efficiency – Pete Abilla describes the 7 types of Muda (waste) from Toyota Production System.

Kata in the Classroom – Ron Pereira talks about his experience teaching “Kata in the Classroom” workshop for a group of 15 students ranging in age from 7 to 13.

What’s the Best Way to Deploy Lean? TPS? DBS? HOS? Other..? – Jon Miller discusses the “best way” for an organization to start or accelerate continuous improvement.

One Way to Improve Your Lean Daily Management Board: From Lists of Numbers to Process Behavior Charts – Mark Graban shares a few photos from a Lean daily management board and what it means.


Ask Art: Does Lean Really Work in A Non-manufacturing Company? – Art Byrne says in his experience non-manufacturing companies gain much more from lean than manufacturing companies do.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #131 (1961-1975)

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 #1961 – Listen to the team.
As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directive, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice. One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don’t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.

Lean Tip #1962 – Establish an Impeccable Standard of Excellence.
Set high expectations at the outset and raise the bar on any crucial factors. The best way to establish a standard is by modeling the expected behavior yourself. Showcase excellence. When your actions have the potential to affect everyone around you and the bottom line, don't dabble in mediocrity. Reflecting excellence is critical to exercising effective leadership. This is ground zero for establishing influence.

Lean Tip #1963 – Promote Strategic Cooperation.
People often produce higher quality, more efficient work products when collaborating. Commit to this by actively embracing opportunities for healthy cooperation. Make teamwork an attractive aspect of workplace culture. Less burnout, increased trust among peers and enhanced interpersonal relationships will result.

Lean Tip #1964 – Freely Develop and Support Others.
Professional development is an extraordinary mechanism for facilitating growth. Demonstrate your commitment to expanding your reach and your team's by prioritizing opportunities for enrichment. Allot time and resources to make the process stress free. Challenge yourself and your team to overcome shortcomings at regular intervals throughout the year. Then acknowledge and reward proactive participation to build enthusiasm and encourage continued progress.

Lean Tip #1965 – Establish a Baseline of Excellence.
If you don’t want mediocrity from your team, don’t be mediocre. Whatsoever you do will be watched and emulated, so start with demanding excellence from yourself. Your team will notice, and do their best to keep up.

Leading by example is the fastest way to train a team. When you hold yourself to a high standard, your team will look to gain your approval by doing the same. They will rise to our expectations of excellence, integrity, and respect when you give them the same. And when your team is composed of excellence, you are sure to see success.

Lean Tip #1966 – Praise Improvement, Even Minor Improvements.
Psychologists discovered long ago that when you positively reinforce a desired behavior, people are far more likely to repeat that behavior. Most people want to do the right thing, which means you will find far more success in leading a team if you focus on using positive reinforcement rather than negative actions like threats and fear tactics.

Lean Tip #1967 – Create solutions.
Don’t dwell on problems but move into defining the solutions. Don’t be the first to offer up solutions, but ask thoughtful questions of your team to draw out their insights and ideas. When you are a leader, offering your solutions first will often inhibit other ideas.

Lean Tip #1968 – Leaders Take Risks
Inspire change and innovation by taking calculated risks – it will demonstrate your commitment to a larger purpose and will breed a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. If those around you see you put your head above the parapet and be counted, they will be encouraged to do the same. This entrepreneurial mindset will catapult your business to new heights.

Lean Tip #1969 – Be Persistent
Try, try and then try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team, rather your successes do. As a leader it is your duty to keep morale buoyant and encourage your team to keep plugging away towards the company’s end goals. 
  
Lean Tip #1970 – Always Appreciate and Recognize
When there is no appreciation and recognition at an organization, self-motivation can become a fairy tale.

You can’t expect people to keep on doing a great job without getting recognized for their work. When people don’t receive recognition for their work, they come to your workplace just to “do their job”.

Your appreciation, recognition and the practice of rewarding them for their efforts can change their mentality, and convince them to go the extra mile.

Lean Tip #1971 – Instill Confidence Among Employees
A great leader can easily instill confidence among the staff. In order to maintain the positive work atmosphere which inspires creative thinking and new ideas, staff members have to feel confident about their work. A leader that simply nitpicks about everything and demonstrates extremely negative reactions for every mistake made will eventually ruin the positive energy in the work environment and ruin the self-confidence of the majority of staff members. A great and effective leader can inspire staff members to improve their performance and productivity by actively working on their confidence improvements. Publicly acknowledging those who perform well in certain areas can significantly contribute to this cause.

Lean Tip #1972 – Leaders Must Exude Honesty & Integrity
In order to be a great and inspirational leader one must be honest in the first place. This means that the true leader has to acknowledge their personal mistakes and always be willing to work on self-improvement. By showing a dose of humble and humanlike honest behavior, a leader can be better accepted among the team members. When a leader demonstrates honest and ethical behavior, others will be inspired to follow. This may be a cornerstone for creating a successful company culture that inspires a positive and ethical attitude of all staff members in various aspects and situations.

Lean Tip #1973 – Demonstrate Clear Goals & Vision
Creating a successful business is usually a result of clear goals and oftentimes, leaders who achieve such goals have an outstanding vision of new ideas, technologies, and industry specifics. A visionary leader can recognize new, emerging technologies and find ways to apply them in certain areas at early stages of development. This can give a competitive edge to such businesses and may inspire employees to easier gain trust in such leaders and excel in what they do.

Lean Tip #1974 – Excel With Team Building
In order to have a successful business, a true leader must be able to recognize a promising talent in those who get hired. While oftentimes, leaders seek for team members with complementary skills, sometimes it may be extremely beneficial to have some diversity between various team members, which may bring new and better ideas to the table.  Having a healthy discussion over certain ideas or procedures may be very useful when trying to pick the best approach.

Lean Tip #1975 – Communicate the "Why" Behind your Idea.

Regardless of the brilliancy of your vision, your team needs to feel part of it and not that they're merely being told to do something. If you're giving them the opportunity to really understand why the process is happening, you're also hopefully giving them the tools to be able to innovate on that process and drive even more value back to your organization.

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