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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #159 (#2596-#2610)

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 #2596 - Push Employees To Their Attainable Limits.

Although you don’t want to overwhelm employees, you should push them to the edge of their comfort zone. Bored employees are much more likely to disengage—they need to be challenged to grow. Identify each employee’s experience and skillset, and have them take on new tasks or assignments that help them expand. Be available and willing to help when questions arise.

Lean Tip #2597 - Encourage Employees to Learn From Others.

No two employees are exactly alike. They come from different backgrounds and have varying personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Have them interact frequently so they teach each other new skills or approaches. Simply connecting employees with their peers opens new possibilities and creates a more connected workplace.

Lean Tip #2598 - Don't Do Employees' Work For Them.

When you notice an assignment is proceeding slowly or heading in the wrong direction, you might be tempted to take it into your own hands and simply complete it yourself. This might be beneficial in the short term, but employees need to learn through trial and error. Instead of taking the task off their hands, teach them how to handle the situation by offering guidance.

As you coach employees and provide feedback, it’s critical that you instill them with confidence. Look for opportunities to recognize employees for strong performance and extra effort. Acknowledging employees’ contributions boosts their confidence and sets them up for success. 

Lean Tip #2599 - Tolerate Occasional Failure.

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. Mistakes will be made and deals will fall through – it’s just a part of work. But how you respond is what really matters. Don’t accept failure and move on, because this can create a lower standard for performance expectations. At the same time, don’t crush employees for their mistakes. Instead, have them explain what went wrong and explain how they could have executed better. Remain positive and solution-oriented. 

Lean Tip #2600 - Ask How You Can Help.

Good coaches don’t just throw their players into a competition and say, “figure it out.” They’re actively encouraging and searching for solutions to help athletes succeed. Let your employees know they can come to you with questions or concerns. You’re there to help them, and they should feel comfortable asking for advice and or assistance.

If you hope to get everyone pushing in the same direction, you need to show them where to go. Goals are the most clear and effective way to do so. Sit down with employees to create personal goals that help them develop and further their careers, as well as goals that will contribute to the benchmarks of the team and the organization as a whole. 

Lean Tip #2601 - Ask Guiding Questions When Coaching

Open-ended, guiding questions lead to more detailed and thoughtful answers, which lead to more productive coaching conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and what kind of attitude they have towards their work.

This is where communication skills and emotional intelligence really come into play. Managers must guide conversations both by asking questions and listening, not by giving directives. Employees learn and grow the most when they uncover the answers themselves.

Lean Tip #2602 - Recognize What’s Going Well

Coaching well requires a balance of criticism and praise. If your coaching conversations are completely focused on what’s not working and what the employee has to do to change, that’s not motivating, it’s demoralizing.

Your recognition of the things your employee is doing well can be a springboard into how they can build from that to improve. We’re not talking about the compliment sandwich here, though, because that coaching technique often devolves into shallow praise that comes off as insincere.

Giving compliments that you don’t actually mean can have a worse effect than not giving any at all, so take the time to think about specific things that are going well, and let your employees know that you see and appreciate them!

Lean Tip #2603 - Listen and Empower Employees

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

Lean Tip #2604 - Coach in the Moment

If an employee comes to you with a question about a process or protocol, use this opportunity to teach them something new. If you’re not able to stop what you’re doing right away, schedule time with them as soon as possible to go over it.

Better yet, keep a weekly one-on-one meeting scheduled with each employee so you can go over questions and issues regularly, while maintaining productivity. Coaching employees with a goal of improving performance means making them a priority each week!

Lean Tip #2605 - Commit to Continuous Learning

Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments, and professional success.

Lean Tip #2606 – Empathy is Essential for Leaders

For leaders of the current workforce, empathy is essential. Here are three key reasons why empathy is so important for leaders: 1) the increase in the use of teams 2) the rapid pace of globalization with increased cross cultural communication and 3) the growing need to retain talent. Empathy also enables leaders to create environments of open communication and feedback, understand and navigate the problems employees face, validate what their employees are going through, and anticipate the needs of teams.

Lean Tip #2607 – Put Yourself in the Person’s Shoes.

It’s easy for us to comment and judge. We can say “This is no big deal” or “I don’t see why you feel this way” or “You’re over-reacting.” However, put yourself in the person’s shoes and walk a mile. Maybe they are undergoing great pain and difficulty. Maybe they are experiencing deep problems from other areas of their life. Maybe there are little issues that led them to behave this way. Without knowing the full details of a person’s problem, how can we make a conclusion? Imagine you are the person. Imagine going through this problem right now, and try to understand things from their perspective. This will allow you to connect with their emotions and perspective better.

Lean Tip #2608 – Acknowledge the Person’s Feelings.

One of the biggest problems I find in communication is that many people don’t acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Acknowledging means to recognize the importance of something. So for example, someone says “I feel so frustrated with X.” Acknowledging this feeling means saying, “Why are you frustrated?” or “I’m sorry to hear that. What happened? “On the other hand, when you brush off or dismiss that emotion (e.g. “Relax,” “What’s the big deal?”), or you try to avoid the topic or say something irrelevant, you are not acknowledging — or respecting — their feelings. Think about emotions as the connecting point in a conversation. How you respond to an emotion is central to whether the person continues to share or closes off. When someone expresses an emotion, like “I’m sad,” “I’m angry,” or “I’m frustrated,” acknowledge the emotion. For example: “I’m so sorry that you are feeling this,” “This must be really frustrating,” or “What happened?”

Lean Tip #2609 – Master the Art of Asking Questions

Exercising empathy for coworkers means not only being a good listener but also asking the right questions to get to the root of your colleagues’ problems.

When you ask thoughtful questions of your coworkers, you’re basically saying, “Okay, I hear you. What can I do to help? How are we going to take care of this?”

Questions asked of your employees should be specific rather a blanket, one-size-fits-all response. Workers deserve to have their concerns heard and understood.

Lean Tip #2610 – Accept That Empathy Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Your quest for a more empathetic workplace is a marathon, not a sprint.

Learning how to develop empathy skills such as patience, keen listening, and asking thoughtful questions takes time. The more you interact and become comfortable with your team, the easier it becomes to show them compassion.

Don’t let one bad experience or toxic coworker wreck your otherwise positive outlook, either. Consistently showing up and responding to coworkers’ concerns will ultimately lead to empathy, influence and respect. Once you’ve kindled positive relationships with your coworkers, everyone else in the office will be more likely to return the favor.

The end result? A connected, compassionate workplace.

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