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Friday, February 26, 2021

Lean Quote: Do Things That Make a Difference

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.

"What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.  —  Elizabeth George

“This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I want it to be a gain, not a loss – good not evil. Success, not failure, in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.” – Heartsill Wilson

You might think the difference you can make is insignificant. When we think about making a difference we fall for the myth that what we start out doing has to be enormous to have any effect. I’ve learned it doesn’t. The smallest acts of kindness can have a huge impact, maybe more than you can imagine.

Here are 10 ways you can make a difference in the world:

1. Start with yourself

First, make a positive difference in yourself. This will create an outward butterfly effect. Think about the things you would like to change about yourself, and then change them. Create space to bring in more positivity in your life.

2. Be kind to others

In these modern times, where we are often extremely busy, people tend to become quite self-absorbed. But kindness goes a long way. A simple act of kindness can generate so much positivity, even if you’re not always aware of it.

3. Smile

A simple smile can really change someone’s day for the better. Smile to the old lady you pass on the street, to the bus driver, to your co-worker in the break room, to the kid that always wants to pet your cat. Smiling is not only good for your mental and physical health, it has also been shown to be contagious.

4. Start to really listen to the people around you

People crave attention, because it makes them feel loved. Really listening to them, not just hearing them but actually understanding what they are saying, can make a huge difference. Take time to listen to your loved ones, and if the opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to listen to strangers, either.

5. Use your time wisely

There never seems to be enough time for everything you need and want to do. Therefore, the expression work smarter, not harder is definitely one to think about. Find ways to be more productive when doing the things to need to do. This leaves more time for you to chase your dreams.

6. Volunteer

Do something selfless, without expecting anything back. Volunteer at your local animal shelter, retirement home or homeless shelter. If everyone would volunteer every once in a while, the world would be a much better place.

7. Find charities you like and donate

There are many good causes you can donate to. It doesn’t have to be much; you don’t have to be a wealthy philanthropist in order to make a change. Find charities that are close to your heart. Think about wildlife preservation, cancer research, the Salvation Army, children’s hospitals, etc.

8. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind

How would you like people to remember you? For your professional achievements, your selflessness, your kindness? What about your resilience? When you are confronted with unforeseen challenges, don’t let it get you down, don’t start whining. Instead, show your strength and try to find the positive sides of what is happening to you. In the end, it is all about how you deal with setbacks.

9. Be passionate

Be passionate about everything you do! Passion is like a magical ingredient; once you add it to your meal, even the most bland and boring foods suddenly taste amazing. Don’t like your job? Then find one that you do like. Life is too short to spend time doing things you find no pleasure in.

10. Have a positive attitude

Life can be very challenging sometimes, and this can make it difficult to stay positive. However, if you choose to have a positive attitude, you’ll notice that you become a better you. It may sound strange, but daydreaming can help you with this. Visualize what you want, and add feeling to those visualizations. This generates positive energy, which in turn will lead to positive changes.

What will you do today, that you can look back on to tomorrow, knowing you made a difference?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Cultivating an Environment of Healthy Leadership

Image Source: Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/nMffL1zjbw4)

General George Douglas MacArthur once said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” This is as true today as it was back then, and for a business in any industry to survive, it must have a management team that is in line with this sentiment. Whether your business is growing or you are filling the position of a retiring leader, your company will need others to step up and follow this same mantra.

 This is why you need to cultivate an environment of healthy leadership, so you can have employees in your organization rise to the challenge and help your business thrive. To do so, you will need to not only create a great impression as a current leader but also provide opportunities and training to others so they can follow in your footsteps. Let’s look at how to create this trail to leadership.

Set the Example

Before a leader can even begin to tell others how to become good managers, they need to set expectations for how they act and conduct business regularly. Many attributes make up a great leader. To understand them, you can look at famous leaders of the past. Nelson Mandela embodied courage and strived for change that he knew may not be popular but would transform things for the better. Jane Addams had an amazing sense of empathy as she worked with the poor and homeless. A sense of empathy is as equally important as the need to make tough decisions, and a good leader will balance both.

In addition to making business decisions, good leaders motivate their teams to excel on current tasks and ensure that they have the tools they need to be as effective and happy as possible. Communication is key for a great leader. In addition to motivation, managers should also have an open-door policy that encourages their team to come in if they have issues and speak candidly about struggles they are facing in their position. When they come to you, active listening is just as important as your verbal response. 

While most higher-ups understand that they are required to organize their team and keep operations running smoothly, many also need to understand the difference between being a leader and being a manager. While a manager takes care of the day-to-day duties, a leader looks to innovate and find ways to improve those tasks for the betterment of the business and their staff. On top of that, a servant leader actively works to help the agents under them grow and evolve within the company.

Create a Development Program

So, how can you help the people within your organization evolve into the leaders of tomorrow? You can begin by creating a leadership development program. This training should include direct instruction on routine management tasks such as filling out reports, going through the hiring process, and meeting work quotas, but it should also give candidates a chance to practice less tangible managerial traits like how to show empathy, motivate employees, and find ways to bring out their unused potential.

The best way to do this is to have the candidate sit with current leaders as part of a job rotation where they see what each manager does during the day and how they think outside of the box to help their agents thrive. Once they feel comfortable, the trainee can also fill in for their manager when they are away or manage their own team temporarily during a small project and see how they do and provide positive feedback.

Communication is key when training a future leader. The current manager should speak to the trainee throughout the training and get their feedback on the program, ask them about areas where they feel they are falling short, and provide suggestions for improvement. Treat them as an equal during the program. Have brainstorming sessions where the current manager aims to inspire the candidate to come up with ideas on how to improve the team and their performance. If any of the ideas sound good and will work for the betterment of the business, then have your staff try it out. This will give the candidate an incredible sense of accomplishment.

Provide Guidance on Applying for Leadership Positions

If a manager finds one of their employees to be a perfect fit for a leadership position, they can help them see the best chance of success by coaching and mentoring them on how to obtain that position. Some managers may be afraid of having their employees move onto a different role as it will create more work in hiring their replacement, but the true sign of a leader is someone who takes pride in seeing their employees succeed. 

For starters, you can help the interested agent with their resume, so they have the best chance of getting noticed when new leadership positions become available. When creating a leadership resume, they need to take off all obsolete skills and instead focus on cause and effect. So, if during their time as a non-manager, they recommended a new way of doing things that led to a benefit for the company, you would want to include that. A bullet point could read something like, “Recommended a new electronic system that reduced filing time by an hour per day.” A management resume should also include soft skills, such as that you are an “effective listener” or that you “combine empathy with motivation to increase efficiency on the team.” 

When a candidate is interested in applying for a leadership role, their current manager must remind them of what the title really entails. While it may lead to more money, there are also the less glamorous aspects of the job, such as providing negative performance reviews, giving write-ups for attendance issues, and the fact that you will have the success of the team, or lack thereof, riding on your back. If the employee understands all sides of management and expresses their love of the challenge when speaking to a prospective boss, it will go a long way.

Leadership is not always fun, but when done right, there is nothing more rewarding. When current managers exude confidence, compassion, and honesty while on the job, the team will notice and follow suit.

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #167 (#2716 - 2730)

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 #2716 –Communication is the Key for Any Project

To run a project smoothly, consistent effective communication needs to take place between the stakeholders and clients and new changes should be communicated to the team members to avoid ‘surprise attacks’. Being a project manager, the best thing you can do is to ensure that the communication lines between you and the team members are always open so that anyone can walk up to you without any second thoughts.

Ineffective communication often leads to the failure of the projects. So, make sure everyone has the required information to make decisions and proceed with the project. Project status reports are a good way to keep everyone on the same page by keeping them updated about new developments in a project.

Lean Tip #2717 – Tap Into Team Members Strengths and Weaknesses

The success of a project largely depends on skills of the team members. An effective manager will always make an effort to get to know about his team members inherent strengths and weaknesses so that he can allocate work accordingly. As someone’s strength is someone else’s weakness thus an effective manager will make sure the work is given to the team member who is inherently competent and faster at completing it.

Tapping into the strengths of team members will definitely ensure faster task completion and better time management. With everyone in a team putting their best foot forward and making the most of their strengths, the project will be nothing less than a success.

Lean Tip #2718 – Manage Potential Risks

Risk management being one of the imperative project management practices today is essential for project success. Risks are the potential threats that can creep anytime and can jeopardize the whole progress in a project. To make sure your project is successful, potential risks need to be identified beforehand so that effective measures can be taken if they arise in the need of the hour.

With considerable experience and expertise with similar projects, you will be able to foresee when the risk is imminent and when corrective measures need to be taken. After realizing the importance of risk management, many organizations are now paying special attention to it so that it doesn’t come in the way of the success of a project.

Lean Tip #2719 – Evaluate the Project Afterward

Each project can be a learning tool. An effective manager will always review the project as a whole, as well as analyze various project components. By doing so, he can note down the successes in a project, what went wrong in the project, and what can be improved for future projects.

Evaluating every aspect and the nitty-gritties in a project can be resourceful to ensure success for future projects as well.

Lean Tip #2720 – Stay Ahead of Problems.

A wise project manager once told me, "If 'everything's fine,' keep digging." When people report no problems, you can follow up with, "That's great to hear, but, really, there are no issues at all?" Team members may be hesitant to share problems, especially when they're small and still solvable. A project manager's job is to uncover small problems to help solve them or accommodate them instead of letting them grow into bigger problems.

Lean Tip #2721 – Understand the Right Problem

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein

I know it sounds very simple and philosophical but believe me; many problems remain unsolved because there has not been a focused effort to really understand the problem itself. I still remember solving math problems when I was young and every time I couldn’t solve a problem I would ask my Dad for help. He would never provide me a solution straight away, but instead ask me to go and read the question again at least three times. I used to feel frustrated, but invariably, half of the time, reading the question properly would lead me to the conclusion that I had actually been trying to solve the wrong problem. The minute you identify the correct intent of the problem, the right solution will follow. So ask yourself the fundamental questions about the problem and spend some time understanding the real problem with your team in order to solve it.

Lean Tip #2722 – Get Out of the “I Know Everything” Mentality

Try and understand the fundamentals of the process pertaining to the problem area. Confirm how it works or exists in its very basic and current form. Get out of the mind-set that you know everything, because if you did, you would know the problem area, cause and its solution as well. Understand the nuances of the techniques which exist in the process. Ask all the basic questions to really understand the problem and note significant points of the process which would then bring immense clarity to the part of the problem you are attempting to solve.

Lean Tip #2723 – Visualize the Problem

Try and document a picture of the process depending on the problem. This may or may not be relevant, but we all know pictorial representations often help. Draw a simple diagram without worrying about technical conventions, specific constraints etc. A simple picture diagram can help visualize the most complex of problems in any area. Use any simple tool like PowerPoint, white boards, sheets, and papers and never shy away from starting to draw these on the fly if understanding a problem is becoming a challenge.

Lean Tip #2724 – Be Simple But Creative in Your Solution

Building a simple solution does not mean trivializing the problem which you are looking to solve. The majority of the time, complex solutions are devised for a problem if the above points i.e. understanding the right problem, understanding the fundamentals of the problem, articulating the problem and focusing on the root cause, are not considered.

Be creative in your problem solving. This has got nothing to do with how much creative ability you have, it’s basically about thinking of solutions from a different perspective rather than a perspective with which the problem you are looking to solve was built or on how the problem came into existence.

Lean Tip #2725 – Find the Opportunity And/or Lesson Within the Problem.

I have found that there is almost always a positive side to a problem.

Perhaps it alerts us of a great way to improve our business or relationships. Or teaches us how our lives perhaps aren’t as bad as we thought.

Finding this more positive part of the problem reduces its negative emotional impact. You may even start to see the situation as a great opportunity for you.

When you are faced with a problem ask yourself:

  • What is the good thing about this?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What hidden opportunity can I find within this problem?

Lean Tip #2726 – Make it Clear Collaboration is Expected

It may seem like a no brainer in today’s workplace, but some team members might need a gentle reminder that collaborating is the default setting for the company. Some people may work faster and do their best work alone, and that’s great for when actual work needs to be done. But there are other parts of work where working together is crucial. Set that expectation and people will get behind it.

Lean Tip #2727 – Don’t Use Meetings for Status Updates

A collaborative manager avoids using meetings for status updates. They use meetings to address issues that apply to all attendees, so no one’s time is wasted. Use strict agendas to keep the conversation on point and the pace quick. Again, structured, time-compressed meetings are the most effective.

Lean Tip #2728 – Over-Communicate

Collaboration, at its core, is effective work communication. To clarify, this doesn’t mean we should interrupt each other whenever we have a thought about something. We should still use communication etiquette and boundaries.

But, as we work, team members and managers can rarely trust that information is shared in an effective and timely manner among team members. This issue is so widespread among enterprises that, according to one survey, 57% of project managers cited poor communication as the leading cause of project failure. The solution is better, frequent communication.

Lean Tip #2729 – Don’t Automate Bad Processes

Not everything should be automated. Examine current manual processes to make sure you’re doing it the right way to begin with. Automating a poorly designed process with a work management platform won’t make it easier to work with others, it will only make it worse. The right kind of automation facilitates collaboration by freeing up time to align and brainstorm about critical work.

Lean Tip #2730 – Measure What Matters

The only way to know if what you’re working on together is working is to focus on the metrics that matter to the efforts you’re all putting in. Avoid focusing on vanity or busy-work metrics. Focus instead on milestones or engagement for example.


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Friday, February 19, 2021

Lean Quote: 99% of Failures Come From People Who Make Excuses

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.

"99% of failures come from people who make excuses.  —  George Washington

Presidents’ Day, celebrated every third Monday in February, was originally intended to remember George Washington’s birthday. It has since become an occasion to celebrate all American presidents. Great lessons can be learned from looking back through history and many leadership principles are timeless.

As mature adults, we all understand how difficult it can be finding success when we keep making excuses.

After reading many studies and articles on the subject, I’ve come up with these conclusions:

1. It’s easier to feel acquitted of our failure, if we can come up with a good enough excuse.

2. It’s psychologically easier to live with our past, if we have justifiable reasons for our failure.

3. It’s easier to get people to overlook failure, if we come up with an acceptable excuse.

4. It’s so much easier to shift the blame to something else, rather than accept it as our own.

It seems to me that the more we make excuses for ourselves, the more we will NOT build a positive self-image. Self-image is not built by success at every turn. Our self-image is empowered by accepting, and then dealing with our own short comings and failures.

Making excuses may make us feel better, but they will not make us become better!

If we want to fail at every turn, then we should go on making excuses for ourselves and those around us. However, if we want to succeed, we must be willing to stop the blame game and personally accept accountability for our own actions. Sometimes we need to squash those excuse ridden thoughts and emotions.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

6 Ways To Earn Respect As A Leader

In order to be a good leader, respect is essential. Don’t take it for granted that your status will automatically earn you the respect of your colleagues, as it is something that must be earned over time and without it, it’s likely that you will have little authority and your colleagues will feel less inclined to place their trust in your ability to lead the team.

Great leadership creates a climate of respect, an environment that sets high standards and supports everyone in doing their best. Here are six tips to help you be the leader who earns respect rather than just demands it.

1. Be consistent.

If you find you lack credibility, it’s probably because you are saying one thing and doing another. People do pay attention to what you say until you give them reason not to by doing the opposite. You don’t have to be predictable, just don’t be a hypocrite.

2. Be punctual.

Nothing makes me lose respect for someone faster than being made to wait. Time is the most valuable commodity for successful people. Missing appointments or being late demonstrates a total disregard for the lives and needs of others. Get control of your calendar.

3. Be responsive.

The challenge with contact management today is there are too many ways to communicate. Between Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, text, phone, Skype, and Facetime, people are in a quandary over the best way to reach you. And even with all the channels, some people still don’t respond in a timely manner, leaving colleagues hanging or chasing them. Limit your channels and respond within 24 hours if you want to appear communication worthy.

4. Be right most of the time, but be comfortable being wrong.

The simple way to be right is to do your homework and state facts that are well thought out. You may have to make a best guess now and then even when information is too scarce to know for sure. Take it as a qualified risk, manage expectations, and if you’re wrong, smile and be happy you learned something that day.

5. Forgive others and yourself for mistakes.

If you’re not erring, you’re not trying. Healthy leaders encourage experimentation and create environments of safe failure. Encourage people to take mitigated risks, and set an example for how to shake off a failure and bounce back.

6. Show respect to others when they are wrong and right.

Disparaging people who make errors will reflect worse on you than those who err. On the flip side, any jealous tendencies toward those who succeed will surely be noticed by others. Live as if in a glass body. Assume everyone can see inside your heart.

Too many people today assume leadership positions without consideration for their impact on others. The leadership vacuum in business today allows them to stay as long they manage acceptable results. Ultimately, your personal leadership legacy will not be remembered for your MBA, your sales numbers, or the toys you acquired. Most likely, it will be the positive, personal impact you created, one follower at a time.

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Monday, February 15, 2021

President’s Day: 5 Leadership Lessons From Past Presidents

Past leaders can teach us a great deal about how we can become leaders today. Biographies, memoirs and documentaries abound which underscore the achievements and abilities of the numerous outstanding leaders who came before us. The history of the United States in particular is filled with past presidents who are excellent examples of great leaders. Their various qualities and characteristics are often cited as the key to their leadership abilities, and these qualities are often emulated by others.

Anyone can learn to be a leader. After all, the often quoted phrase says “leaders are made, not born.” This is in part because leadership is not a single trait, but it is an over-arching skill set comprised of multiple abilities. As such, the lives of different leaders exemplify different elements of leadership. Elements of leadership include the ability to take criticism gracefully, to communicate well with those around them and to have a clearly stated goal or vision. These elements of leadership can be learned through studying the lives of past leaders who used these elements to alter or redirect the course of history. Here are five leadership lessons from past presidents which highlight a particular skill used during their time in office.

1. Abraham Lincoln imagined what could be and made it happen with civility. When Lincoln set out to create the Emancipation Proclamation, he imagined a reality that so many couldn’t, and one that many refused to. Not only did Lincoln change the course of history through this movement, but he did it with such grace against great opposition.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin writes of Lincoln in her book “Team of Rivals,” that in the days leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation the president would often say, “To win a man to your cause you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.”

As a leader, Lincoln showed us how to see through a conviction with grace and civility.

2. Franklin Roosevelt possessed financial wisdom. Roosevelt was our longest-serving president, leading our country through a tumultuous era. Roosevelt was elected during the Great Depression and remained in office until his death, just months before the end of World War II in 1945.

Even during our country’s most vulnerable seasons, Roosevelt discovered ways to strengthen our financial protection by increasing the role of the federal government and instilling programs such as Social Security.

It was Roosevelt’s financial stewardship and wisdom that helped America to rise from such a trying season.

3. Thomas Jefferson remained innovative. Most widely known as the author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson is also remembered as a creative. Some even refer to Jefferson as “the last Renaissance man.”

Having mastered six languages and playing the violin, Jefferson also designed the architecture of his home. Jefferson’s innovative and renaissance spirit shaped much of what America is today. He paved the way for many new steps in America and all the while continued to never lose interest in learning, growing and trying new things. Jefferson once said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

An innovative entrepreneurial spirit can lead a nation or a company where it’s never been before.

4. Ronald Reagan embodied constant character. Although presidents of the past have led with character as well, Reagan may be most remembered for possessing this vital leadership trait during trying times.

In an essay, Peggy Noonan wrote on the courage Reagan held to reinstate a conservative nation following a wave of more widely-accepted liberal leadership. Noonan wrote, “Yes. At the core of Reagan's character was courage, a courage that was, simply, natural to him, a courage that was ultimately contagious. When people say President Reagan brought back our spirit and our sense of optimism, I think what they are saying in part is, the whole country caught his courage.”

Reagan’s spirit influences leaders and even politicians today that staying true to your values and vision requires courage and character.

5. George W. Bush led with empathy. Many may have considered Bush’s emotional tendencies as a negative trait, but his passion and empathy were strengths he possessed as president.

Bush often wore his heart on his sleeve and embodied a great passion for people during some of America’s darkest days. Leading the nation through the terror and tragedies of 9/11, Bush’s empathy brought peace to America at a time when little would. He put himself right on the scene in New York City and cared for the people impacted by this event.

While it may take you out of your comfort zone at the time, lead the people around you with compassion and empathy.

There is no doubt that something is to be learned from each man who has led our nation, but some men simply stand out above the rest. It’s not based on their religious beliefs, their party affiliations or even their charisma, but it is based on how they chose to lead.

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