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Monday, April 29, 2019

6 Surefire Ways to Kill Morale

You’re doing everything you can to make sure your talented employees stick around, your most enthusiastic workers have an infectious impact on morale, and your strugglers get the coaching and training they need to bolster their contributions. But while you work hard to staff your workplace, are you also guilty of these six simple blunders that may be standing in your way? Don’t take two steps back for every three you take forward. Watch out for these morale killers and stop them at their source: you.

1. Overworking people
Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work the best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing for them as it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for their great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford showed that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more. 

2. Micro-managing
To staff members or subordinates, nothing shouts "lack of confidence" more than your efforts to oversee everything they're doing. If you check everything or try to do everything, how will they people ever develop? More important, your lack of confidence will come through clearly. Therefore, unless you're really in a critical situation, let people learn and even fail if necessary. They will learn best that way and will have a higher opinion of you. If you don't give your staff some responsibility, and let them get on with what you are paying them to do, it can be hugely damaging for morale.

3. Withholding praise
It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right. This doesn’t mean that managers need to praise people for showing up on time or working an eight-hour day—these things are the price of entry—but a boss who does not give praise to dedicated employees erodes their commitment to the job.

4. Frequent threats of firing
Some managers use threats of termination to keep you in line and to scare you into performing better. This is a lazy and shortsighted way of motivating people. Making someone fear for their livelihood only causes fear, anxiety and distrust. When you make people feel like they're instantly replacable, they have little incentive to perform. It's easy to crush someone's spirit if you treat them like a number, and not a unique individual with distinct abilities. People who feel disposable are quick to find another job where they’ll be valued and will receive the respect that they deserve.

5. Setting impossible goals
Goals exist to encourage people to perform, but when employees are consistently coming up short because the bar's set too high, their morale is going to plummet. They'll feel like they're underperforming, even though they probably aren't.

6. No opportunities to learn
If you aren’t giving your people a path to advance their career within your organization, they are going to see their job as a dead-end one. If you offer your employees no opportunity to learn and improve their skills, they are going to lose interest. People want to improve, they want to advance their career – so it’s critical for companies to make that to happen.

This is a win-win for the company as well. Because, by providing opportunities to learn, the company is upskilling its workforce and allowing itself to promote from within, instead of having to hire external candidates. But that can only happen if the organization is prioritizing learning and development.  

A lot of these mistakes that managers make are so easy to avoid. It’s just about treating your employees with respect.

Cultivating and maintaining a high level of motivation in employees requires more than implementing a few new procedures or incentive plans from the Human Resources department. It requires managers and leaders to be different, and to cultivate in themselves the qualities they want in their employees.

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Lean Quote: Don't Think, Don't Hesitate, Don't Doubt.

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.

"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will." — Karim Seddiki

When you doubt, your mind believes what you feel and think and you will start to program yourself that your dreams are impossible to achieve.

Failure typically motivates you to try harder so that you succeed the next time you attempt to reach your dreams.

Doubt can sidetrack from your objectives. This can cause you to turn down the wrong path, or even to give up entirely.

When you fail, you become strong. And you make it one step closer to your goals. If you keep moving forward you will eventually succeed at reaching the prize.

Early Failure Examples Who Persevered:

Henry Ford: Failed and fell broke five times before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.

R. H. Macy: Macy started seven failed business before finally hitting big with his store in New York City.

Soichiro Honda: Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation for a job after interviewing for a job as an engineer, leaving him jobless for quite some time. He started making scooters at home, and only started the Honda motor group after being spurred on by his neighbors.

Akio Morita (founder of Sony): Morita’s first product was a rice cooker that burned rice. It sold less than 100 units. This first setback didn’t stop Morita and his partners as they pushed forward to create a multi-billion dollar company.

Bill Gates: The Harvard drop-out’s first business venture was a massive failure.

Doubt is early, it's before the action. Failure is later, after. Don't let doubt build up, nip it in the bud. Don't think, don't hesitate, don't doubt.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Measures of Success Workshop with Mark Graban coming to the Northeast!

Mark Graban is coming to the Northeast!

Mark's book, Measures of Success , comes to life through this interactive workshop, and we're thrilled to be partnering with him to bring this to you!
Learn More about the Workshop!
Do you feel like you're chasing your tail – reacting to every up and down in your performance data? Do you get frustrated with being asked to come up with explanations for every “below average” data point or any day that doesn't hit the target? Are people in your organization wasting time chasing metrics instead of working to systematically improve the system? This workshop will show you and your leaders a better way.

 Key points include:
  • Learning how to separate signal from noise in management / performance data
  • Stop reacting to noise by asking for explanations to every up and down in the data
  • Working to improve the system to boost performance… which is different than asking “what went wrong yesterday/last week/last month/last quarter?”
  • Traditional management methods like threatening punishment, offering rewards, setting targets, doesn't sustainably improve performance in complex systems
My good friend Mark Graban; Author, Speaker, and Consultant; and Paul Critchley, New England Lean Consulting, have teamed up to bring Measures of Success to life. Legrand's Wiremold Factory (my company) will be hosting this wonderful workshop next month.

Date and Time: May 23, 2019, 8 am to 4:30 pm

Previous Measures of Success workshops have sold out, so you'll want to sign up early to ensure you reserve a spot! Spaces are limited to 30 people per session, so don't wait!

Use discount code "NELC" at checkout to save $50!*

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Monday, April 22, 2019

3 Steps to Culture Change

In business the only constant is change. That’s a good thing. Without change we don’t grow, and if we aren’t growing, we’re usually stagnating and dying. Changing your organization is difficult; I’ve heard it described as akin to turning and ocean liner -- it can be done, but not quickly, without jeopardizing your success. And while people will eventually accept change, they seldom forgive it. Here are some tips for changing your culture as painlessly as possible:

Make Case for Change
Many transformations start with a burning platform. The term is used to describe an extremely urgent or compelling business situation in order to convey, in the strongest terms, the need for change. The crisis may already exist and just needs to be highlighted. Using this process, you can get people's attention and build awareness of the need for change very quickly.

During times of change, leaders must conquer ambiguity. Use the burning platform to measure your commitment to the change rather than creating fear and uncertainty in your people. In the midst of culture change, leaders must construct clarity through their words and actions.

Articulate Vision
You cannot expect your team to change if they do not know the direction in which they are headed. Change has to have a purpose. It is up to the leader to set the course and give a bearing for the future. Great leaders spend time illustrating the vision, the goals and the challenges. They explain to people how their role is crucial in fulfilling the vision and meeting the challenges. They inspire men and women to become passionate entrepreneurs finding innovative routes to success.

Communicate openly, frequently, and consistently. Describe your cultural vision in letters, e-mails, briefings, and put it on notice boards, in newsletters, and everywhere else you can. Don’t be afraid to over communicate your vision because you can’t.

Plot Steps to Desired State
Understanding why the organization needs to change and being able to visualize a sustainable company that is able not only to meet emerging business challenges but also to thrive in tomorrow’s reality is essential. But it’s not enough to bring lasting change. For true culture change you must have a logical and methodical plan for bringing the change to life. These next steps will lead your organization to adopt the values and practices necessary for a new culture to take hold.

Many leaders find the term culture vague and difficult to get their arms around. And this is at the center of the problem – if you can’t name it you can’t get it. Understanding that an organization’s culture is known by observing the behavior of its employees and the processes used to get work done provides leaders with a concrete place to start the work of driving culture change.

Creating or changing corporate culture is challenging and requires leaders to have a strong understanding of current conditions and the desired outcome. Leaders at all levels must engage others in making the change and personally adopt the new behaviors and values in a visible and genuine way.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Lean Quote: Show Your Team Members That You Support Them And Are Committed To Helping Them Realize Their Goals.

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.

"Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals." — Author Unknown

The importance of demonstrating to team members that you truly care about them as individuals, that you want to help them improve their professional skills, and that you support them being architects of personally satisfying careers simply cannot be overstated.

Leaders who ask for their employees’ input when constructing development plans will gain commitment, loyalty, and respect from their team members. Leaders who treat their employees as extra bodies, on the other hand, will not manage to retain talented people for very long.

It’s crucial for leaders to listen, and listen well, to what employees really want from their jobs and their perception of how they can contribute to the organization.

Although it seems like a small gesture, leaders who ask employees to be actively involved in the creation of their personal development plans show these employees that their opinions matter and that they are at least partially responsible for ensuring that their careers are challenging and meaningful.
Sharing responsibility with employees in this way also frees leaders up from acting as enforcers who drag unwilling employees down career paths that they had no hand in designing.

Professional development is an ongoing responsibility for both parties, not a “once and done” task. As such, it’s important for leaders to remain available to employees once a mutually acceptable, challenging development plan has been developed and put into place. Providing guidance and genuine support all the way through the plan increases the likelihood that employees will achieve success with their development goals. 

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Monday, April 8, 2019

6 Steps to Better Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving is at the core of human evolution. It is the methods we use to understand what is happening in our environment, identify things we want to change and then figure out the things that need to be done to create the desired outcome. Problem solving is the source of all new inventions, social and cultural evolution, and the basis for market based economies. It is the basis for continuous improvement, communication and learning.

The following steps are critical aspects of an effective problem solving approach:

1. Define the problem clearly.
Before beginning, make sure you completely understand exactly what the problem is. Sometimes it looks like there’s a lot of problems, but it’s actually just one with a lot of symptoms. Try to find the root cause of a problem instead of looking at a myriad of symptomatic issues. Ask questions like these:

–  What is the real problem?

–  What assumptions am I making that could be biased or inaccurate?

–  Where’s the latest information/research/data on this subject?

–  How long do I have before this becomes a bigger issue?

–  Can I ignore this problem?

–  Who and what can help solve this?

2. Gather as many facts as possible.
Collect information based on evidence… not on feelings. It’s easier to come up with problem-solving strategies when you’re not emotionally charged. An informed mind is much more capable of resolution than an uninformed one. Observe what is going right, or the positive aspects of the subject at hand, and to see if it gives ideas of how to fix what’s going wrong. Then, do the same with the negative aspects. Write them down.

3. Identify causes… especially the root cause.
Consider how and why it happened. Look at the problem from different perspectives. Play the devil’s advocate. It wouldn’t be considered a ‘problem’ if you knew how to solve it. This is why it’s imperative to consider other views and opinions. Others may see it differently.

4. Brainstorm solutions.
Before brainstorming, make sure you’ve clearly defined the problem and gathered solid facts. Ask others for input. Often how others view something is completely different than how you viewed it because you might be too close, tunnel-visioned, or too emotionally charged to make distinctions between the facts and exaggerations.

5. Take actions that are focused on a solution.
Select your solution and begin making a step-by-step plan of action to solve the problem. By making a plan, this promotes implementation of the solution. Remember to remain focused on one thing at a time.

6. If you can’t find a solution, go back and define what the problem is.
When problems cannot be solved, it is usually because they weren’t clearly identified. Anytime you hear someone say they’ve been dealing with a problem for quite some time, often the reason is because they haven’t slowed down long enough to carefully define the actual problem.

Problem solving skills and the problem-solving process are a critical part of daily life both as individuals and organizations. Developing and refining these skills through training, practice and learning can provide the ability to solve problems more effectively and over time address problems with a greater degree of complexity and difficulty.

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Lean Quote: Rules to Reduce Inefficiencies of Email

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.

"Email is having an increasingly pernicious effect. Not only is it having a perceptible effect on productivity, it's skewing what it is we focus on. The immediate increasingly crowds out the important." — Noreena Hertz

Email has become a huge part of our work lives. It's easy, it's fast, and people can read their emails (or not) when they have the time. Email has become the medium of choice for many business communications.

Email was not designed to be a collaboration tool, yet so many people use it that way. From managing projects to troubleshooting a problem, neverending email threads become inefficient, confusing, and bad for productivity. With many collaboration and project management products now available, email should never be the place you turn in order to stay on top of tasks and projects.

I thought I would shares some rules that can help you reduce the inefficiencies that email can cause. 

Some “Organizational Rules” to Reduce E-mail Waste 

Rule 1 – Limit “CC’s” to only those that are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Make a rule that employees can choose to BLOCK all CC e-mails. 

Rule 2 – No more than two “cycles” back and forth between correspondents. If the issue is not resolved by that point, USE THE TELEPHONE! 

Rule 3 – No unnecessary forwarding of attachments; use a hyperlink instead. 

Rule 4 – Always include the POINT and URGENCY of the e-mail in both the subject line and the first few lines of the text. 

Rule 5 – Consider using the first few sentences of an e-mail as an ABSTRACT that summarizes the remainder of the communication. Below the abstract, add additional detail with the comment, “More detail follows…”. 

Rule 6 – KEEP IT BRIEF! No e-mail should be more than 20 lines in length (consider using a network filter to block any that are longer). 

Rule 7 – Start the subject line with “ACTION” whenever immediate action is required by the addressee. Actions should be identified at the beginning of the e-mail. 

Rule 8 – Try using the SUBJECT LINE to communicate the ENTIRE message, followed by “EOM” which stands for “End of Message”. 

Rule 9 – Limit the number of times during the day that you cleanup or respond to e-mails. Turn off the e-mail alarm, so YOU control when you deal with e-mail. 

Fewer interruptions means more time spent at work on value added activities. Using these rules can help email from becoming a wasteful distraction that can cost companies and you lost productivity.

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