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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #168 (#2731 -2745)

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 #2731 – Clearly Communicate Company Goals

Communication is an important part of any business. Effective communication helps managers engage their employees and manage individual performance expectations. 

To improve goal alignment, company goals should be clear to everyone in your organization. This includes executives and senior leadership all the way down to front-line employees. There should be no question about what the organization is trying to achieve and when.

Goals and their progress should be accessible to anyone at any time. Consider utilizing a goals software to make your development more visible. Keep these objectives top of mind and gently nudge employees to continue driving focus.

Lean Tip #2732 – Link Individual Goals to Strategic Company Objectives

Communicating your strategic vision is only the first step. Employees are motivated by purpose. When employees understand how their work impacts organizational goals, they are more engaged and tend to stick around.

Company goals should inspire team goals, and team goals should inspire individual goals. Showcasing the connection between each level gives employees a clear sense of how they are supporting those goals.

When employees have input on their individual and team goals, buy-in is likely to increase. Managers should collaborate with employees during the goal-setting process. This helps inspire commitment and creates a sense of ownership. But collaboration shouldn’t stop there.

Lean Tip #2733 – Don't Set and Forget Goals

Goals aren’t crockpots. You can’t just set ‘em and forget ‘em. Goals, like our favorite recipes, take time to develop. Because of this, individual and team goals shouldn’t only be discussed once a year.

Managers and employees should make a point to discuss, examine, and adjust goals year-round. I recommend discussing goals and their progress at least quarterly—though monthly is better. 

Creating, communicating, and aligning goals across the organization is the best way to build a successful performance management process. When employees, managers, and teams feel connected to the company’s vision for success, they will be successful too.

Lean Tip #2734 – Focus on What You Can Control and Have a Plan For the Rest

For every workplace goal, there are factors you can control and factors that are out of your hands. Be clear on the distinction, and have a plan for what to do if the out-of-your-control factors don't line up.

Imagine that you are a supervisor within an accounting department in a hospital. Let's say you set a goal to shorten the month-end close timeline by two business days. Success will depend on the skill and collaboration of your accounting department (something you can contribute to and control), and on the ability of other departments to deliver critical data on time (something that is out of your control). It is smart to have a plan to coordinate the month-end close with other departments, remind them of the deadline and keep the communication lines open — but you must have a plan and an accountability agreement in the event they fail to deliver.

Lean Tip #2735 – Everyone Gets Recognized

Engagement is essential to keep a company growing and reaching for its vision. When employees aren’t recognized, they lose track of their purpose. But in contrast, when wins are celebrated, employees want to win more.  

A simple expression of gratitude, such as a thank-you note or gift, shows employees that management is paying attention and notices that they are consistently working hard and succeeding at their individual goals.

When recognizing top talent, explain how employees' efforts are pushing the company toward large-scale goals. Show how their performance is meeting and exceeding expectations to encourage more hard work and dedication.

Lean Tip #2736 – Look at the Big Picture

When you’re in the weeds, stressed, and juggling a million things, it’s easy to get annoyed by things that “just aren’t changing.”  You can talk to your team about things until you’re blue in the face, and sometimes nothing happens.

Typically, when you look at the big picture you’ll see that there’s a common set of reasons why you’re struggling to get team buy in and action:

·        Blame: No one wants to take it on, because if it doesn’t work, they take the L.

·        Authority: You may want to assign the problem to someone (or a team) to solve, but are they empowered to actually make the necessary changes?

·        Agreement: Does your team agree it’s an important problem? Do they see why it’s a big problem now and will only get worse?

·        Pressure: If your team has other major projects and tasks to complete, your “pet project” may be put off indefinitely.

·        Priority: You may say it’s important, but do your actions show it’s the case? 

Lean Tip #2737 - Show, Don’t Tell the Value of Change

People, who act on a vision are those, who believe in that change. It is important to support people’s believe by making the outlook of the results of that change tangible and realistic. Depending on what the given vision is, practical ways to do so are by sharing a case study of another company that has achieved something similar before, or by including screenshots or images. Depending on the vision, a vivid story about the aspired state for the business can also lead people to visualize this aspired state.

Lean Tip #2738 - Identify And Manage Risks

Nothing pushes away interested parties as fast as risks. While you can’t entirely eliminate them from a business venture, they can definitely be reduced to an acceptable level. To improve the success chances of a project, it’s crucial to take necessary risk mitigation steps to limit worrying potential threats. Prepare a summary of identified key risk factors, and document your premeditated plans to respond to them, should they occur. This shows responsible management behavior and will display a positive image to the senior management members. Demonstrating your professionalism in risk management makes it much easier to attain buy-ins from influential parties, especially sponsors and lenders.

Lean Tip #2739 – Stay Connected and Follow up.

Stay connected to ensure that everyone is clear about the mission that they are working toward. Keep an open-door policy as much as possible. If that's not feasible, consider making yourself available via email or during certain hours of the day. It's important that employees let you know when challenges arise. That's not to say you should listen to every gripe and complaint, but you can let everyone know you are empathetic to their concerns and are willing to work with them to find solutions. Further, encourage employees to bring a solution with them when making you aware of a problem.

Lean Tip #2740 - Be Prepared to Change the Change.

Just as employees resist change, sometimes we fail to realize that our own changes aren't working the way we want them to. Assuming you have the right workers on the right task, solicit their feedback. You have to be prepared to take the advice they give and adjust your own game plan. Sometimes that means midcourse corrections. Other times, it means scrapping the plan and starting from scratch. That's not defeat -- it's the ultimate sign that you value the buy-in your employees have for your ideas.

Lean Tip #2741 – Show Your Employees You Care

When you care about your employees, they tend to work harder and aim to exceed your expectations.   Employees want to be led by those who genuinely care about who they are and what they represent to the team and organization at-large.   Don’t just view your employees as tools and resources for your own success – but as people and valuable assets who bring unique capabilities and aptitudes not necessarily limited to their job functions. Employees want leaders who care about their general well-being and who can be depended upon during times of professional and personal hardships.

Lean Tip #2742 - Engage Yourself

Beyond caring, engage yourself in matters important to your employees.  When they share their opinions, ask questions and encourage them to elaborate and expand upon their perspectives. When you engage yourself more actively, hold yourself accountable and follow-up with your employees, they will know that you are listening, paying attention and attempting to understand what matters most to them.

Lean Tip #2743 - Ask for Innovation

Almost everything we do can be done better, faster, and smarter. Even the most routine tasks are open to innovation. A best practice to hone your listening skills is to ask for ideas. Managers often worry when they ask for ideas, they’ll get silly or impractical answers. But even these are an opportunity to help workers stretch their critical thinking skills.

When a staffer makes a suggestion that won’t work, rather than dismissing it out of hand, talk them through the process. In addition to actively listening, you’re helping them develop problem-solving skills that might lead to practical innovations in the future.

Lean Tip #2744 – Be Mindful 

Great leaders are extremely mindful of their surroundings.  They know how to actively listen beyond the obvious via both verbal and non-verbal communication. They acknowledge others via body language, facial expressions and nods.

Leaders that are mindful are not just hearing conversations; they are listening to them and engaging in the dialogue.  They don’t fake it, they are taking note of what is being said and how people are saying it  and are making continuous eye-contact and gestures.

As the leader, everyone is watching your every move and action.   If you appear disconnected, you are perceived as disinterested and not listening.   Never stop being expansively mindful.

Lean Tip #2745 – Be an Empathetic Listener

The workplace is fueled with the stress and pressure of each day.    Because every employee manages stress and pressure differently, it is important that you are empathetic to how these distractors impact employee performance. 

Empathy is a powerful display of listening.   I realize that many leaders avoid emotional interactions, but the best leaders know how to empathize and make themselves approachable to those who need attention.


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