Teamwork, Productivity and Creativity. We have long paid these particular leadership concepts a lot of lip service, never more so than now, as insurance companies, banks, communications companies and hospitals struggle to do more with less. Alliances and mergers, for example, so prominent in today's business setting, are the very essence of teamwork. But there is a big gap between talking about this kind of leadership, learning the skills…and living it.
Well intentioned chief executive officers ask themselves: "I've set up incentives for creative problem-solving, used specific measures in assessing performance, initiated training in team approaches, yet I'm still not seeing an impact on my bottom line. What am I overlooking?"
More often than not, the answer is….their own behavior. For several decades, executives have sought to improve performance, especially that of their staff; but what about their own performance? Why is it so difficult to make changes?
First, many decision makers do not have an appropriate understanding of how to recognize and measure leadership performance. Secondly, the right behavior is not rewarded. Executives know they can and should improve their own behavior, but are not held accountable for achieving these improvements. Nor are these changes rewarded. When performance is tied to achieving results and executives are rewarded for these changes, only then will changes occur.
How can we Measure Leadership Performance?
Leaders treat people with care and respect. They are people willing to take risks to improve a situation, and seek creative solutions along the way. Frequently they are the quiet success stories that are rarely spotlighted.
Leadership can be measured and rewarded using the leadership performance criteria of Teamwork, Productivity and Creativity. Let's examine this Performance Management process briefly.
Measure and Reward Teamwork
Be a caring friend: Leadership begins with Teamwork, and teamwork begins with caring and respect. Start simply. Have fun together. Get to know each other. Become friends. Do what you can to help each other, whether it be a colleague, staff member, customer or supplier.
Example: An unidentified $2.88 charge continued to be billed on the AT&T/Qwest telephone bill, month after month. During a call to AT&T, the customer questioned this overdue charge, and refused to pay until it was explained. The representative listened carefully, put the customer on hold while she contacted the local carrier, came back on the line, explained the delay and asked for patience. When she returned, she requested that the customer call the local carrier and explained why she could not help further.
The Qwest (local carrier) representative listened to the customer's story and took the initiative to erase the past due balance, stating that it was more trouble to find the source of the problem. A win-win agreement was achieved.
Therefore key points are:
Process: Negotiating process
Measure: An agreement
Be respectful and build communication bridges: Learn how to speak respectfully and avoid roadblocks. Some roadblocks include: giving orders ("Don't write like that"), belittling ("That's silly"), reassuring ("You'll get over it"), denying ("You can't still be angry"), or giving solutions ("This is how you should handle it"). The effect of these roadblocks is that people learn not to come to you with their problems.
Example: Melissa, eight years old, was adopted from the streets of Calcutta, India in 1988. When she arrived in America, she spoke no English, had never been to school, and had lied and stolen to survive. Over the next five years, I loved and parented her as best I knew.
During her first year of school, her confidence and successes developed. In the following years, she commented that she 'didn't like school' and eventually refused to attend. By the time she was 12 in 1993, her behavior worsened. She ran away from home and school.
How could I build trust and influence the then-withdrawn Melissa to share her thoughts and feelings? The key to success was "getting acquainted", the second step of the negotiating process. I was determined to treat the now-teen Melissa with dignity, respect and tolerance. Instead of: "Put on your coat", I explained, "The forecast is for snow. You might think about…"
When I forgot to use this approach, she became defiant. I admitted my own mistakes, was patient with her mistakes, suggested alternative behavior and reasons why, and praised our smallest achievements. Most important were the humor, talks and laughs we shared. Gradually she shared her feelings and problems were resolved.
In corporate management, this function is known as counseling, mentoring, and building trust through fun, sharing and humor.
Therefore key points are:
Process: Negotiating process
Measure: Getting acquainted (talking)
Reward: Praise, fun
As a suggestion, make teamwork part of your performance criteria, and measure yourself by attempting to achieve an agreement though the process of negotiating-- illustrated by a handshake, a kind word, a smile, a hug or something in writing, and rewarded by praise or fun. Talking in terms of explanations, descriptions, experiences, and humor is the basis of developing relationships.
Measure and Reward Productivity
First let's examine what we mean by productivity, since it can represent different things to many people. Productivity includes structured processes, and knowing and understanding such processes; and specific productivity techniques and tools, including streamlining and simplicity.
The common processes in the managing function include planning, designing (life cycle), negotiating, and creating. The planning process, for example, has a specific set of steps, each of which results in a written document. These documents--which also serve as measures of quality--generally include:
* Organization charts which identify function and sometimes the name of one responsible person
* Work breakdown structures which break down the work to be done into systematic tree-like structures
* Schedules, both master and detailed
Various types of reviews and tests are quality measures of the design-build life cycle which is integrated within the planning cycle. Nested within the latter is the writing cycle since most, if not all, of management and planning efforts result in a document of some kind. These processes are integrated, occur frequently, and constantly cycle.
Learn the Correct Processes: Some common processes in management include: the planning and controls process, known by various names; the life cycle or design-build process; the writing process; the creativity process; and the negotiating process. These are the same whether one builds airplanes, runs a hospital, or manages a bank. The difference is in tailoring.
Example: During the beginning of a facility relocation project at The Boeing Company, team members had limited understanding of the project and were unclear about details of work to be done and team member responsibilities.
A statement of work, or a project description document, was developed and used as a discussion document during the kick-off meeting to introduce the major details of the project to the team members. This document served to increase common understanding and minimized miscommunication by the project team.
Therefore key points are:
Process: Planning process
Measure: Statement of work
Result: Improved understanding
As a suggestion, make productivity (including processes) part of your performance criteria and reward yourself for learning and using the right process measures.
Measure and Reward Simplicity
Examples of some productivity tools and techniques include: mind-mapping, doing all the same function at one time, being selective with perfection, putting it in writing, having more than one use for something, streamlining and simplicity. Not surprisingly, everywhere people speak of their frustration with complexity-- complexity in writing, methods, excessively large teams, duplicate resources. Then, why not measure and reward simplicity?
Example: At The Boeing Company, a supervisor simplified the training schedules, eliminated abbreviations to improve clarity and communication, reduced schedules to one format, used an easier graphics software tool, enabling the preparation of schedules in under one hour instead of two days, and surfaced numerous existing meeting rooms that were available for use and were previously unused. This eliminated the problem of double-booking meeting/training rooms.
Therefore key points are:
Process: Writing process
Measure: Something written, clearly and simply
Result: Increased understanding, efficiency
Reward: Praise, personal growth
As a suggestion, make productivity (including simplicity) part of your performance criteria and reward yourself for all types of productivity. Examples of simplicity in productivity might include the size of a document, the clarity of writing, the size of teams, the number of resources used, and the types of rewards offered.
Measure and Reward Creativity
A leader could be defined as a person:
- willing to take risks
- who is productive, efficient and has personal standards
- who is a caring, respectful team player.
Leadership is not the same as management, and has nothing to do with status or title. Anyone can be a leader, if they have the courage to make changes.
Be creative and take risks. Admitting/forgiving mistakes build trust.
In the trial and error process of making improvements, leaders must take risks, be kind, tolerant, and admit (and forgive) their own mistakes. Lewis Lehr, former chairman and chief executive officer of 3M Corporation states: "I am tempted to say that innovation at 3M works in spite of top management".
Example: When the once- rebellious Melissa was asked what contributed to her willingness to be creative in terms of cooking and tasting new foods, developing school reports, and making creative gifts, she commented: "It was 'talking', in terms of explanations, demonstrations, and praise, and that it is all right for us to make mistakes because that is how we learn".
Therefore key points are:
Process: Creativity process
Measure: An idea
Reward: Fun, praise
As a suggestion, make creativity part of your performance criteria and reward yourself for all types of creativity and results. Admitting and sharing mistakes build trust. Creativity, humor, and fun reduce tension, promote trust, and help build friendships in the journey towards teamwork. Reward yourself with something fun when you achieve your own goals.
Assessing and Rewarding Our Own Performance
Many organizations and executives are seeking ISO certification and Baldrige criteria performance assessments to determine how well their corporations are doing in terms of quality. While quality seems to vary, the area that most needs strengthening is leadership.
What's the answer? Consider using a leadership performance criteria that will discourage bureaucracy, cronyism and empire building, and measure your own performance. Reward yourself for your achievements. Explore using simple, yet fun rewards such as time off, free time, favorite work, fun, praise and recognition. If you find it difficult to reward yourself and have fun, perhaps you might start working on changing your own behavior.
Large staff and budgets erode morale. When there is a performance management system in place that rewards executives for teamwork, productivity and creativity-- and top managers exemplify this in their own personal practices--organizations will surely succeed. And learning teamwork by having fun and building trust is the best place to start.
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Teamwork, Productivity and Creativity. We have long paid these particular leadership concepts a lot of lip service, never more so than now, as insurance companies, banks, communications companies and hospitals struggle to do more with less. Alliances and mergers, for example, so prominent in today's business setting, are the very essence of teamwork. But there is a big gap between talking aboutJT Carr Articles
Managing people would seem to be just another discipline, just another area in which a body of knowledge, including theory, has been accumulated. This knowledge should form the basis for a set of discrete, definable procedures which if followed should yield the desired results. But "should" never occurs on any day of the week. If it had, there would be no need for my book.
If you want to become a mechanical engineer and are willing to invest 4 years and $100,000, there are a host of universities and colleges that will eagerly commit themselves to the task. I would say your chances of emerging with useful knowledge, assuming you graduate, are as high as 80 percent. After graduation, if I line up ten of you and direct you to analyze a machine with a problem, at least 6 or 7 will agree on the problem. If I make you all agree on the problem and ask for the fix, I may even get six of you to agree on the same fix.
The above can be done in many disciplines like accounting and nuclear physics. Don't try it in management of people. From what I have seen, the chance of getting even two of ten bosses to agree on the problem or on the fix is low.
The reason for this inability to agree is that management styles vary considerably and we are encouraged to pick one that suits ourselves, our personality or whatever. But who would recommend that a boss’s personality or style be taken down to a machine and used to determine what to do with that machine. "Hey stupid, don't pull that stunt. Just get yourself down there and try like hell to determine the problem using these specific tests and then determine the solutions based on this set of defined knowledge. It has nothing to do with you personally." But somehow when it comes to dealing with people, we want to superimpose our style and our personality, our likes and dislikes on the process. You dislike Phillips head screwdrivers, but you like flat head screwdrivers. I am certain that those feelings will not help you when you try to turn a Phillips head screw with a flat head screwdriver. The same is true for managing people.
The people management arena is strewn with hundreds of these EXCUSES, such as "I don't like to ---" or "I can't bear to ---". We have all heard them. The actions evaded range from not being able to get up in front of a group to not wanting to counsel an employee, from not wanting to terminate to not being able to provide succor in a time of need. The Excuses to justify these evasions range from personality to "I don't want to hurt someone" to "the moon was blue last night". There are also many people who would like to blame the sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, religious, consultants and others for their own management errors. Excuses will always be available to anyone who is looking for them, especially to those who enjoy the permissiveness of the "doing your own thing" vogue. But recognize that all of these Excuses are INVALID.
As with machines, Excuses will always limit your success with people, if not cause outright failure. Listen to yourself using them (we all do) and get as far away in the other direction as possible.
You must not decide what a person should be given based on what you have to give, only on what that person needs. Throw away your excuses and your management style. Use your common sense and the same logical, methodical approach required to solve technical issues.
THE NATURAL LAW
Believe it or not, the SCIENCE OF MANAGING PEOPLE IS THE SCIENCE OF LEADERSHIP, pure and simple, no more, no less. Whether or not the CEO or boss wants to admit it, the SHIP IS ITS CAPTAIN. This is what actually happens and the boss (CEO or lower) has no control over this. He/she can't stop it, modify it, wish or order it away. It is a natural LAW that operates inexorably and without regard for the human beings involved. The process that results WAITS FOR NO ONE. It just happens day in and day out.
Therefore, no matter what the actions are, the words, facial expressions, body language, verbal or written orders or policies, support for subordinates, habits, personality traits, inactions through silence, or other boss behavior, these are FOLLOWED by most juniors simply because the great majority of them are Followers. The subordinates become what the boss projects. If the boss works hard, they tend to work hard. If the boss has little knowledge of certain things, they have little knowledge of them. If the boss encourages, they will be encouraged. If the boss cannot bring him/herself to do certain things, they will not either. Followers clearly discern the implied Value Standards and set out to use them in their everyday routine. This sequence is a natural LAW, one that makes the boss either the subordinates' biggest ally or their greatest enemy or something somewhere in between.
The boss by virtue of appointment becomes the LEADER, whether great and fearless or tyrannical and unsupportive or whatever. It is the boss who decides how subordinates will act by Choosing his/her own actions. The boss can, of course, decide NOT TO DECIDE, the "what they see is what they get" or the "I was the one promoted so I must be OK the way I am" approach. The first quote represents a "to heck with the subordinates" approach, while the second is the height of arrogance. I don't mean to seem judgmental about this, but my true desire is to make crystal clear that each boss chooses what their subordinates will be led to do, consciously or unconsciously. That they will Follow the boss' lead has been preordained!!!
So! Do we really have a Choice on how we manage people? Do we get to choose a management style of our own? The answer is, the LAW dictates that we have no Choice. We can only choose how we make use of the LAW and this is a Choice of the Value Standards toward which we lead.
If we walk into a race track and the horses are in the middle of the race, I am certain we will all be able to agree on which horse is in the lead. It will always be the horse "in front" of the other horses, the "leader". The other horses are "following" the "leader". So leading implies being in a position Followers will try to attain. Two questions emerge.
- In what does the boss (CEO or supervisor) lead?
- What do subordinates look to Follow in a workplace?
Fortunately for us, these two questions are merely different sides of the same coin. The name of the coin is "Values". From the boss' view it is his/her leadership, while from the subordinates view it is what they Follow. It makes no difference which we analyze.
FOLLOWING OR LEADING
To start the discussion, recall that ninety percent or more of all subordinates are Followers, people looking to produce their behavior through copying that of others. This copying process is applied to Values as well as to actions. In the workplace, people want to find out as quickly as possible what is expected of them so they can meet those Standards and thus keep down the hassle, avert possible censure and keep the paychecks coming to feed themselves and their families. Conforming to peer pressure is also a part of this process. None of these are surprising revelations.
Remaining with the subordinates, how do they find out what's expected of them, what the Standards are for the different Values? The process is the same one used during childhood, the one which absorbs everything around them. After soaking up everything which is available, the brain's computer is used to sort out the "Do as I Say Not as I Do" events, consequences presented by management or peers, and other nuances.
Through this process, new employees can very quickly get to act like all the other employees. They check what is happening to others and what is happening on-the-job in terms of normal Values: attitude, cleanliness, industriousness, honesty, integrity, admission of error, knowledge, perseverance, fairness and all of the other ones. Their brain automatically performs computations and suddenly they know what the Standards are for each. They have, in effect, translated actual conditions into Value Standards.
So equipped, they begin to use these Standards to perform their work, STANDARDS for precisely the same VALUES all of us have. This is the Natural LAW. Followers do not use their own Value Standards to produce behavior in the workplace. Only non-followers do that and our goal is to make everyone into non-followers!!!
So, employees detect the workplace Value Standards and use them to decide how to carry out their work. If these Standards are high, we fly with the eagles, beat the competition most of the time and love our workplace. If these Standards are low or toward Bad Values, we walk with the turkeys, lose to the competition and generally dislike coming to work. Can the boss afford to leave this situation to the whims of chance? Can the boss take a chance on which Good or Bad Values and their Standards are utilized in the conduct of work?
The leader's only recourse is to commit to frequently and clearly communicating only very high Value Standards through the normal management actions of supporting, directing and developing. Actions speak far louder than words and the real truth is no one listens to words!! As children we didn’t understand the language of words and could only learn through the language of action, through what people do and their tone of voice and body language. This develops into a habit and is carried into adult life. Communicating Values is thus an action oriented process in which each boss must be proficient.
The boss’ actions range from one-on-one discussions to group meetings, from providing tools to training and benefits, from discipline to promotions and rewards, and from action or inaction when it's the employee’s day in the barrel to termination for cause. Both actions and inactions transmit Value Standards, the latter often being the loudest. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, these actions and inactions must repeatedly reflect 8-10 Standards for all Good Values if we expect to have EXCELLENCE in the workplace.
Carefully note the wide range of actions from which Followers extract Value Standards to use in performing their work. For high level bosses, what they personally say and do may constitute a very small part of a subordinate's sources. The leadership Value messages received by a person consists not only of the personal actions of their immediate boss, but also of what other people do to this person. "Others" includes staff, other bosses, peers and the rumor mill. Over the past few days, an employee may have received 200 messages on fairness, 100 on quality, 50 on industriousness and only 2 on humility, very few of which came directly from an immediate or more senior boss. The employee computes a new Standard for fairness using past data combined with the latest 200 messages and repeats this for each Value. If these Standards are low or reflect Bad Values, the bosses are in real trouble.
The Boss’ Only Choices
So the boss is the leader and leads in Value Standards, whether he/she wants to or not. Once appointed boss, he/she is the leader who will be followed and that’s the Law. The boss’ Choices are extremely limited. He/she can Choose the direction in which to lead, whether toward the Good or the Bad Value, for example whether toward humility or arrogance. The boss can also Choose the Standard for that Good or Bad Value from 1 to 10. Making the wrong Choice or Choosing not to make a conscious Choice is to Choose mediocrity or even anarchy with all of its attendant problems.
Leadership is simple. Unfortunately, it has been revered and placed on a high pedestal, out of reach to most of us common folk. If it was ever knowable, it has become less so over the years. There is some belief that it belongs to a previous heroic age and is incompatible with participative management. Some people also question whether concepts such as democracy and equality are compatible with leadership. Although I did for years share these concerns, they all disappeared as I developed and practiced the Whats, Whys and Hows of my book.
Changing Workplace Performance
Unfortunately, bosses tend to believe their job is mainly one of giving orders. This consists of Choosing the goals and the visions, directing actions by their employees to get there and then checking for the results. Bad results simply call for some form of re-direction.
But from the boss’s "leadership", their employees have already computed a set of Value Standards which they are using every day in the execution of their tasks. Let's call these the “HOW TO’S” of doing the job and admit that they will determine the success or failure of the employee's endeavors and that they emanate from the boss, not from the subordinate. “HOW TO’S” are how industriously, compliantly to rules, cooperatively, neatly, cleanly, creatively, safely, independently, resourcefully, confidently, qualitatively, compassionately, enthusiastically and similar standards.
So if the boss is unhappy with the results which subordinates are achieving, he/she must change the support and direct management functions so as to communicate higher Good Value Standards. Only after these changes lead subordinates to use higher Standards can the boss expect performance improvement. In effect, subordinates are always waiting for the boss to change before they themselves can change. An example may shed some light.
Bill joins the work force and soon is told by a foreman that the work cannot proceed because he must wait for a part. So Bill puts his hands in his pockets or sits down to WAIT. The foreman says nothing more. The next day it's waiting for a welder and so on. Soon, Bill gets the message that doing nothing is OK as long as there is a good Excuse. No matter that he could do something else or could figure out what's missing before starting a job and thus go to one that requires no waiting.
Bill probably didn’t believe he would be paid to stand around doing nothing. Likewise, Bill would not pay a plumber to fix his own sink if that plumber Chose to stand around doing nothing in Bill's house. But Bill as a Follower easily falls into becoming unproductive. What if Bill was a non-follower and used his own Value Standards to decide his actions? Would be doing a better job?
There may be a multitude of similar bad influences or low Value Standards being transmitted in the workplace. Bosses must be able to detect these problems and provide workable solutions to use in changing each and thereby improve the Standard being transmitted for each Value.
About the author:
This article is based on the book “Leadership Skills - How to Unleash the Power of People” by Bennet Simonton. Ben managed people for over 30 years, his last position being the executive in charge of 1000+ unionized employees responsible for overhauling the boilers, turbines and auxiliaries of fossil and nuclear electric generating stations for a large electric utility company. Ben now provides leadership coaching and training for executives, managers and supervisors. His book is available at http://www.bensimonton.com/
Managing people would seem to be just another discipline, just another area in which a body of knowledge, including theory, has been accumulated. This knowledge should form the basis for a set of discrete, definable procedures which if followed should yield the desired results. But "should" never occurs on any day of the week. If it had, there would be no need for my book. &nBennet Simonton Articles
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