Are You Crowding Out Your Team?

Like so many of you, I spent the holiday weekend planting flowers.  A lot of flowers. Before planting my annual flowers I had already renovated some garden beds and moved shrubs around. As I planted flat after flat of flowers I resisted the urge to revert to my past gardening habits.  I have a habit of filling in every empty spot in my garden with a plant. I hate empty spaces and holes. On the plus side, my garden is lush and full by summer’s end. The negative? Some of my plants don’t appreciate being crowded out and can’t flourish in their spot.

You don’t need to have a green thumb to know that cramming anything into a constricted place won’t work.  Plants, animals, and people need their space and room to grow. We have seen the results of overcrowding in so many areas of the world. Why do so many leaders still try to “plant” people so close without a second thought or neglect them and expect them to grow?

Have you ever had a manager that micromanaged you day in and day out? Perhaps they had sound intentions, however; their actions were stifling and wore you down every day until your passion was crushed. You dragged your feet to work feeling like you were crowded out.

A few years ago I had a manager that was obsessed with controlling everything that our team worked on. She went as far as standing over our shoulders when we wrote critical emails. She "coached" us on what to say and when in presentations. We had a difficult client at the time, and in her mind, she was protecting us to keep the customer calm. Needless to say, her actions had the opposite impact, and our group was being crowded out.

Micromanaging isn’t the only way that leaders crush growth. Unfortunately, the result is the same. People grow weary, lose their confidence and purpose, and end up leaving where they know they will have a chance to grow.

Here are some more ways that managers crowd out their people

·         Leaders may avoid challenging folks with new projects or opportunities

·         Neglect to offer vital resources or equipment

·         Provide minimal if any, guidance or critical information to assist in work

·         Fail to build strong teams that work together and support shared goals

·         Lead in front, not from behind. This pushes teams and clouds results

·         Neglect employee opinions and input

·         Refuse to listen to alternative options or points of view

·         Undermine employees to save face with other departments

·         Leaders who take credit for the achievements of their employees

·         Managers who refuse to support and back employees when crises arise

·         Weak leaders hold their employees to higher standards than for other teams

If you have ever felt crowded out or demoralized in your career, you probably have some more suggestions. As a leader, look at your "garden" of employees to verify that everyone has the resources and space to grow in their spot. Offer them the resources, support, and leadership that they deserve to sustain and grow those around them.

Are you ready to give your people space?

 

Photo courtesy of Vlado at freedigitalphotos.com

How Are You Growing Your New People?

Spring has arrived in the Mid-West, and people are scurrying around plant nurseries like frenzied squirrels preparing for winter. The sun and warmer temps along with a wave of nursery ads have convinced many of us to fill our carts with an array of colorful perennials, annuals, and fragrant shrubs.  Yes, I have been right in the middle of the chaos because gardening is in my blood. My reaction has been a bit different than my fellow shoppers. I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air and yell “No! They aren’t ready yet”!

Mother Nature has a way of getting even with us. Just because it looks and feels like spring, we need to wait until we know that the season is ready for planting. It was 29 degrees here last night and promises to be another cold one tonight. My fellow gardening aficionados that bought colorful plants and welcomed them into their gardens may have tears running as we speak. The plants that they bought can't take cold temperatures and are probably a lifeless brown color by now. Our actual frost date in Michigan is at the end of May. Trust me; I learned early on that you never put a plant in the ground until the plant and the environment are ready.

In many ways, our new team members are like a young plant. You are both eager to plant them where they will flourish. However, new people need some gentle babying similar to a young flower. New employees need to learn and become accustomed to your culture. Like plants, you can’t just pull them out of a warm greenhouse, plop them into the 50-degree soil and expect them to grow. You need to immerse them in the area with some dedicated mentoring until they adjust and are raring to go.

New employees should be planted in the right spot within your organization. You can’t plunk a Hosta in the middle of a hot spot in the yard in the midst of a cactus garden and expect results. Likewise, be cognoscente of your new player’s skills and strengths and place them where they can contribute and thrive.

Leadership responsibility doesn't end after your new team member is planted. They need periodic touch bases with you to learn how they feel in their new role and what support they require along the way. Periodically, you need to fertilize your people and nourish their growth and progress. Checking in with people should be planned, consistent, and heartfelt. You've invested a lot in your members, and you don't want to wake up some day learning that they are listless and leaving the organization.

Seedlings are fragile and small in the spring, yet they can outgrow their space in a matter of months and become overly crowded and no longer thriving. Perhaps they are shaded by other companions or being choked out by weeds. Don’t let this happen to your newer teammates. Don’t assume that life is just humming along fine. Get out there in the trenches and see how your people are interacting and growing. What areas need attention? Is there some weeding that needs completing so that others can continue their work and grow? Do your people have the support that they need so that they can have an impact where it's needed? Are they receiving enough doses of information to succeed?  Get out into your “garden” every day to walk around and notice anything that just isn’t thriving.

A garden is a sanctuary for those that plan, prepare the environment for planting and spend precious time picking the right "plant" for the right place and nurture growth. You need to think of your team and ask yourself how well you are tending to your work "garden".

Photo courtesy of IMGPK via freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post from Kris Boesch author of Culture Works How to Create Happiness in the Workplace

Kris Boesch’s new book Culture Works How to Create Happiness in the Workplace is an engaging book that guides leaders to create unique and extraordinary work culture. Kris’s book will keep your eyes glued to each page as you experience some new innovative concepts, engaging stories, tools, and ideas “Action Jackson” activities to embark on with your teams.

Anyone can impact the culture of an organization and Kris has some very insightful ideas about a variety of factors that impact the organizations that we work in. Following is a guest post from Kris Boesch regarding taking things personally which can be a sensitive issue for most of us.

It’s Personal

·         When someone gives you “constructive” feedback, it’s personal.

·         When someone suddenly takes you off a pet project, it’s personal.

·         When someone talks behind your back, it’s personal.

We’re told to not take “things” personally – especially in the workplace.  And I would like to suggest instead that you take it to heart – especially if it’s tough to hear.  Feel the sting.  Don’t react.  Don’t run.  Don’t hide.  Don’t justify and defend.  Just see if it uncomfortably resonates.

And then if it does, thank the person for their candor and change your attitude or behavior.  To gain clarity on how to move forward, you may want to ask this individual, or those who are a stand for your success, “What would it look like if I were being a different way?  If I changed X attitude or behavior?”

And if it doesn’t, ask for more clarity – “Help me understand why this is your experience of me?  What am I missing?”  You can always let them know you don’t see what they see, and that it doesn’t resonate, but that you’re willing to try it on over the next few weeks to see if there’s something there.

Many would tell you just to “let it go”.  And the truth is, we don’t.  We fester.  We close off.  We fake.  We may even obsess.  Until you’ve actually considered the potential validity of what’s been posed, you can’t let it go.*  So consider it.  And thoughtfully respond.

And remember…

·         When someone praises you, it’s personal.

·         When someone promotes you, it’s personal.

·         When you’re asked to head a project, it’s personal.

*Confessions of a culture consultant:  I once had a close colleague tell me she didn’t know if I really cared.   I was horrified – me?  Not care?  How’s that possible? I’m Choose People, people! I did the “right” thing by my internal accommodator and I apologized.  Though I really couldn’t believe it – and so I apologized for that which I wasn’t sorry for. I wanted off the hook, without considering the validity.  And then I mentally obsessed and defended some more.  And I was mad – how could she think that of me? I care.  I care a lot.  (And I do.) I was sad and frustrated and definitely not feeling close to her.  This was personal. It wasn’t until I confessed to not really understanding her perspective and asked how she arrived at that experience of me that I was able to move forward. What would it look like for her to know I cared?  And surprise, I considered her responses as a way to improve myself.  Personal indeed.

Ever since, I start with curious inquiry rather than an accommodating apology.

***

Kris Boesch is the CEO and founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom line. Her new book, Culture Works, and accompanying workbook are available now on her website and will be available on Amazon around May 15.

 

Ready to Turn Conflict Into Compassionate Accountability?

If you are like me, you dislike conflict. Perhaps you even hate it. I know few people that revel in it and those that do tend to be lifelong instigators. Do you know a few? I do! Over the years I have been surprised to learn how many active leaders hate conflict. Even some people that I admire have admitted in confidence that they resent conflict. They tend to put it off or send in someone else to do their “dirty work” to resolve conflict. Even though I detest conflict, I am always the first one to jump in and try to soothe things over and quell tempers. Intervening is well worth the stress of conflict.

As a manager, I have experienced my share of employee conflict and drama. I remember years ago when two of my highest sales performers were in a fight in the break room. They were ready to come to blows because they both had volatile personalities and rubbed one another the wrong way. Naturally, I jumped in and separated them in the nick of time. We were able to eventually have a conversation where we agreed on some key points. They never became friends and merely tolerated each other but their conflicts rarely interfered with our team dynamics or success.

Not long ago I worked with a team of interesting personalities with differing agendas. My role this time was different. I was part of the team, not in the team leadership role. In fact, there was clearly no leadership direction on the team at the time because our "leader" was too busy micromanaging and cleaning up after our client. I watched the team drama from the side. Depending on who was present my team members played a different role. For instance, when our boss or our client was there, one member, in particular, played the role of "saving the world" or had all the answers complete with political correctness. Conversely, she turned on our manager and client the minute they left the room and urged others to chime in.  It was literally like watching a soap opera drama on a daily basis.

 I recently read Conflict without Casualties A Field Guide for Leadership with Compassionate Accountability by Nate Regier Ph.D. Immediately the dynamics of my employee/team conflicts jumped back into my head and played like a motion picture. Nate shares that conflict doesn’t need to be a dirty word. It shouldn't be ignored, and we should snap to attention when it rears up. Conflict without Casualties shows us how conflict should be viewed as a creative force because there is energy behind it.

Nate asserts how conflict can be turned around and utilized to grow innovation, build trust, and further engage people. His views will change your perspective on conflict, people, and how it can be used to make us more accountable. Where was Nate when I found myself in some adverse situations? I could have used his advice on fighting drama as a result of people struggling against others, or themselves, without any thought as to how they come across or impact others.

Conflict without Casualties is a practical toolkit for managing conflict. One factor that jumped out at me was when Nate introduced the nuances of workplace drama through the “Drama Triangle” offered by Dr. Stephen Karpman. It illustrates the roles that people take on in the conflict process. People may play the victim, rescuer, or persecutor, none of which are healthy. The Drama Triangle is depicted above and may help you understand the dynamics of the roles people jump into. I am a visual person, and the triangle helped me to understand where people fit into unique roles at during conflict and how they switch roles depending on the situation. Yes, I was quickly able to label my cast of characters from previous drama encounters.

Here is a synopsis of our characters. Perhaps you have found yourself playing one of these roles?

·         Victim: Victims avoid conflict, try to hide in the background or play it safe, the second guess themselves, or just know something bad is coming down the pipeline. Their time in a role seems to protect them, or they have tenure that protects them. They may avoid everything.

·         Rescuer: Rescuers love to breed a culture of rescuing. They are frequently promoted because they are responsible and hard working. As leaders, they probably never learned how to empower others and prefer to be indispensable experts with all the answers.

·         Persecutor: Persecutors know that fear, guilt, or intimidation work. They love the feeling of power. People tend to be afraid of them, and they know it. No one will stand up to them, so they don't need to be accountable. These drama peeps are my worst nightmare!

Since learning about the Drama Triangle, I admit that when I encounter conflict, I quickly peg a role onto those involved. It assists me in identifying issues and motives. By knowing the role that someone may be playing I better understand how they feel, where they are coming from, and even understand a bit more about their motives. This triangle only scratches the surface of conflict. It’s a starting point.  Conflict without Casualties offers in-depth insight regarding not just how to manage conflict but leading with compassion and accountability. Nate offers an alternative of Dr. Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle called the Compassion Triangle. This triangle provides counterparts to our Drama Triangle of persistence, openness, and resourcefulness. These skills can be used in the healthy conflict, and Nate shows us how each of these competencies has strategies to "lean into conflict and out of drama."

Like death, none of us can escape conflict. It's around every corner and in every organization. What you can do is learn how to identify conflict and the roles that people take on. Once you understand this, you are on your way to turning negatives into actual conflict which holds others accountable, and you work together through conflict. We all need to bring some compassion and understanding into resolving conflict with openness, resourcefulness, and persistence.

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict: Research and Best Practices to Stop the Drama by Nate Regier

Nate Regier is the author of the new book Conflict Without Casualties. Nate's work sheds some new light on the conflict in the workplace and the costs that arise when we don't address it. If you have ever avoided conflict or don't understand how to deal with it pick up Nate's book today. Here is a guest post from Nate to help you start taking on conflict at work this week.

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict: Research And Best Practices To Stop The Drama

By Nate Regier

On average, employees around the world spend about 2.1 hours per week, or over one day per month, dealing with workplace conflict in some way. In the US, that number is higher (2.8 hrs/week) equating to approximately $359 billion in paid hours. Non-profit sectors experience the most workplace conflict, with nearly 48% of employees reporting conflict at work.

What is the actual prevalence of conflict in the workplace, what causes it, and what opportunities are there for positive changes? To answer this, I’ve studied the most comprehensive workplace conflict research I could find, a 2008 study commissioned by CCP Inc., one of Europe’s leading business psychology firms, and Fellipelli, one of South America’s leading business psychology firms. The study included survey data from 5000 employees at all levels of their companies in nine countries around Europe and the Americas and remains some of the most comprehensive and useful research available. Here’s a summary.  

Costs of workplace conflict

Conflict often escalates into personal attacks, insults, or absence from work.

  • 2.1 hours per week spent dealing with conflict (Belgium was the lowest at 1.3 hrs/wk. Germany and Ireland, the highest at 3.3 hrs/wk).
  • 90% of respondents experienced a conflict that escalated, most often into personal attacks and insults, sickness or absence from work, and cross-departmental problems.
  • Feeling demotivated, angry, frustrated, nervous, and stressed are the most common psychosocial consequences.
  • Negative conflict with customers is risky since it is less costly to keep an existing customer than to replace one who has left dissatisfied.  

Causes of workplace conflict

Personality clashes are the number one cause of workplace conflict.

  • Personality clashes and warring egos top the list at 48% overall, but much higher in Ireland (66%), the US (62%), and the UK (59%).
  • Stress, too much work without enough support, and poor leadership are also significant (around 30%).

Who is responsible to deal with it?

  • Everyone! 62% of respondents believed conflict is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Surprisingly, only 15% felt that HR should be the ones to deal with workplace conflict.  

What should leaders do to improve how conflict is handled?

  • Identify and address underlying tensions before things go wrong (54%).
  • More informal one-to-one conversations with direct reports (42%).
  • Act as mediators (40%).

Research reported in Harvard Business Review revealed that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees.

  • Provide more clarity and guidance over healthy behavior (40%).

* Twelve key leadership behaviors were highlighted by respondents in this study. Our PCM and LOD training and certification programs target all 12 areas.  

What have companies tried and how did it work?

  • Less than half of the employees surveyed (44%) have received any formal conflict training. Belgium and France have the lowest level of workplace conflict training (28% and 27% respectively).
  • 27% of those receiving formal training said it helped them feel more comfortable and confident in handling a conflict situation. Confidence is one of the biggest predictors of success (which is why our trainers use NEOS to measure changes in self-efficacy for their conflict communication training programs).
  • The most frequent positive outcomes of training were better understanding of others, improved work relationships, and finding a better solution to a problem.
  • 39% said training provided no help at all. We concur with the researchers that many conflict-communication training programs do not target the right issues and skills, especially personality differences and communication skills.
  • Conflict can generate positive outcomes. Three quarters (76%) of respondents had seen conflict lead to something positive.

In a nutshell

  • Conflict is costly.
  • Personality and ego clashes are the top cause.
  • Everyone is responsible.
  • Coaching and mentoring through daily conversations is the key to improvement.
  • Conflict can be positive and requires targeted training at all levels of an organization.  

Best Practices

Companies will make the most gains around workplace conflict by following these guidelines;

  1. Implement formal training targeted on understanding and communicating with different personalities.
  2. Focus not just on individual competencies, but skills to coach, facilitate, and mentor others during difficult conversations.
  3. Adopt a pro-active approach that recognizes conflict is inevitable, and is a source of energy for positive outcomes.

 Train these Core Competencies

Search for training programs that assess, develop, and measure these competencies:

  1. Self-awareness and recognition of positive and negative conflict in self and others.
  2. Awareness of personality, communication, and motivational differences in self and others.
  3. Ability to assess and respond to individual differences in and out of conflict.
  4. Ability to lead self and others out of drama and into positive conflict conversations.

About Dr. Nate Regier
Dr. Nate Regier is the co-founding owner and chief executive officer of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and leadership communication, executive assessment and coaching, organizational development, team building and change management. An international adviser, he is a certified Leading Out of Drama master trainer, Process Communication Model® certifying master trainer and co-developer of Next Element’s Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching. Nate has published two books: Beyond Drama and his latest work, Conflict without Casualties.

 

Eat That Frog! Guest Post From Brian Tracy

Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (3rd Edition) by Brian Tracy is one of the top resources in the market to guide you in planning your time more efficiently, setting goals so that you can surpass them, and fight procrastination. In the 3rd edition of his book, Brian addresses the nuances of technology and how to use them  when eating your frogs!

Take Control of Your Emotions Using Technology

By Brian Tracy

The following post is an excerpt from chapter 16 of Eat That Frog.

A word about frogs… It has been said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

Take Control of Your Emotions Using Technology

You must discipline yourself to treat technology as a servant, not as a master. The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier, not to create complexity, confusion, and stress.

Usually, to get more done of higher value, you have to stop doing things of lower value. Keep asking yourself, “What’s important here?” What is most important for you to accomplish at work? What is important in your personal life? If you could do only one or two of the activities available to you, which ones would they be?

Use your technological tools to regularly remind yourself of what is most important and protect yourself from what is least important. Technology can be a simple way to get control of your emotions.

Many people fail to make technology their servant because they fear learning new skills. This fear can be mastered: refuse to let it hold you back. Everything is learnable, and what others have learned, you can learn as well.

Let your organization know that you are interested in learning about technological tools that will make you more efficient. If you have a friend, family member, or coworker who is a tech whiz, learn everything you can from that person.

Above all else, avoid the phrase “I can’t.” Technology is no longer optional; it is just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. And the idea that only certain kinds of people are good at technology is a myth. No matter your age, race, or gender, you have the power to master technology. If you do become frustrated, just remember that it happens to everyone; even expert programmers who are paid hundreds of dollars an hour will sometimes be frustrated by technology.

When you make technology your servant, it can be a source of positive, motivating emotions and increased productivity. Post your most important stretch goal on social media and promise your followers you will achieve that goal. Update them daily on your progress so that if you skip a day or slack off, everyone will know.

Posting on social media about your progress is a great way to reward yourself for making headway on long-term projects. When the payoff is far in the future, it can be hard to stay motivated, so getting likes or hearts from your followers on your daily updates can be a way to achieve a mini-payoff.

You can even seek out people in your field on social media and compete with them to see who can eat the most frogs. For example, many novelists like to share their daily word counts on Twitter so they can see who in their social circle is the fastest and most productive writer—and who gives in to procrastination.

Stop being enslaved by social media, and make it work for you instead. It’s simple: instead of posting something trite, post about your life goals and seek the social support to conquer them.

Brian Tracy is one of the top business speakers in the world today. He has designed and presented seminars for more than 1,000 large companies and more than 10,000 small and medium- sized enterprises in 75 countries on the subjects of Leadership, Management, Professional Selling, Business Model Reinvention, and Profit Improvement. He has addressed more than 5,000,000 people in more than 5,000 talks and presentations worldwide. He currently speaks to 250,000 people per year. His fast-moving, entertaining video-based training programs are taught in 38 countries.

Brian is a bestselling author. In addition to Eat That Frog, Brian has written more than 80 books that have been translated into 42 languages, including Kiss That Frog!, Find Your Balance Point, Goals!, Flight Plan, Maximum Achievement, No Excuses!, Advanced Selling Strategies, and How the Best Leaders Lead. He is happily married, with four children and five grandchildren. He is the president of Brian Tracy International and lives in Solana Beach, California. He can be reached at briantracy@briantracy.com.

Does "Going Green" Need to Cost You Green? By Nat Greene

 

I have an unwavering passion for growth in the garden and of people. Following is a guest post from Nat Greene that really speaks to me and the impact that we can all have on the world every day. Nat is the author of the new book Stop Guessing - The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers. His book reflects on how we should be solving problems and he offers 9 behaviors to push our skills to the next level. Nat's book is available on Amazon.com

I’ve seen environmental sustainability gradually added to almost every business's short list of bottom-line success metrics over the past decades, right up alongside safety, employee happiness, and profit. It’s a priority for many businesses to improve their environmental impact, but they often find themselves at a tough decision point: how much money should they invest in improving their environmental impact? How much will they demand of their shareholders, and how much should they put their bottom line at risk for the good of their community?

Environmental sustainability doesn’t have to be a trade-off between the earth and the business’s financial health. Most people believe in this fundamental trade-off because they don’t believe they can effectively improve their environmental performance using their current assets and business processes. So many businesses will upgrade to new infrastructure that runs more efficiently or uses fewer resources. They may switch their electricity to a more expensive alternative. Or they may switch their raw materials to a more expensive recycled or environmentally-friendly alternative. Even if these pay off in the long-term, they require significant up-front capital investment.

The reason many businesses only believe in shelling out money to improve their environmental performance is that they believe their business processes are nearly optimized. They believe their assets can only work with the amount of fuel or electricity going into them, that the waste they produce is inevitable, or simply that they can’t make more of their product without adding new systems to the mix. But, on the contrary, the performance of every business process has incredible potential to be improved. There are critical performance problems holding every process back from its best performance. Great businesses, instead of horking over money, solve these problems--leading to both greater profitability and better environmental performance in the same stroke.

If businesses develop the skills in their employees to identify and solve these problems, they’ll turn sustainability from a scary word into an addiction.

War Stories

Reducing wasted raw material:

At a business that makes rubber belts, they had a scrap problem. Their belt-cutting process intentionally created a significant amount of scrap in order to make sure the belts were the right width. They had accepted this as a part of the business until the plant’s leadership piled a week’s worth of scrap in the middle of the plant to visually demonstrate how much they were throwing away.

When the business set about to solving the problem, they understood that they were cutting the belts because the process that made them was unreliable, and the width of the belt varied. They dug into how the machine controlled belt width, and were able to reduce variation almost entirely, allowing them to make the belts thinner and cut 90% less scrap.

Transportation optimization:

A consumer products company shipped materials from its plants to warehouses all over the country in order to deliver it to customers. They found that their deliveries were late over 60% of the time, but struggled to solve the problem--they manufactured each product in a day and could not safely and legally drive the trucks any faster.

They approached the problem by modeling their shipping network and schedule, and challenging every shipping route. They found that they were transporting many products from facilities much farther away than was necessary, and were sometimes even shipping twice to make up for shortages in other warehouses. They rebuilt their shipping schedule to reduce the total distance each product traveled, bringing their on-time deliveries to over 95% and reducing fuel burned per product by over 20%.

Reducing CO2 output:

A chemical upgrader has iconic yellow flares, that are used to alleviate pressure in the plant as variations occur. The business had accepted these flares as part of life, but when they analyzed how much money they were losing by flaring this gas rather than selling it, they found an urgency to solve the problem.

They dug into understanding what controlled pressure variations, and found they could greatly reduce variation by eliminating clogging in some of the smaller pipes. They searched for and found the source of the clogging, leading to smoother operation. This saved them millions per year in flaring, and eliminated enough excess CO2 production to offset the carbon footprints of everyone in the facility for their whole lifetimes.

Avoiding a new facility:

A consumer products business was planning on building a large new facility to take on additional volume. When they realized how much opportunity was in their current facility to produce more, they realized they could increase the production of their current assets and avoid the new facility altogether.

In the span of three months, they solved a number of large, valuable problems in the business that let them take on the new volume almost a year earlier than previously estimated, and eliminated the cost and footprint of a new facility.

Every business process can run more effectively by solving problems. No matter the business, the environmental impact per product can be reduced by increasing the performance of the process. Even in processes that have little marginal environmental impact can improve the impact per product by solving problems to produce more with the same overhead.

Improving Problem-Solving In Your Business

Businesses can improve their problem solving results by investing in developing their talent to become better problem solvers, and unleashing them on valuable problems in the business. Most problem solving efforts in business are held back by a habit of using brainstorming, guess-and-check, or more structured ways of “producing ideas” to solve problems. Such approaches waste time, often cost money, and frequently don’t work.

To solve these problems, teams need a new approach to stop guessing and improve their skills. To replace the guessing habit, teach your team a new set of behaviors that far more effectively solves problems. Help them practice by unleashing them on easier problems in the business, and progress them to harder problems as their skills and confidence grow.

Want to test which behaviors are your team’s greatest strengths? Use this quick quiz.

Nathaniel Greene is the co-founder and current CEO of Stroud International, and author of Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem-Solvers. Nat has a Masters of Engineering from Oxford University and studied design, manufacturing and management at Cambridge University, in addition to executive education coursework in Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management program.

 

 

Who Is Running The Farm?

Storytelling is an art and has been the engine behind knowledge being passed down for thousands of years. Stories exist to entertain, educate, impress, and engage. A gratifying story is a great joke, but not everyone can tell a funny joke or graciously bring a story alive so that we find meaning or grasp new lessons. If you love an engaging story, then pick up a copy of Farmer Able by Art Barter.  This book will engulf you and take you on a journey to discover the heart of servant leadership and show why the world is not all about you.

Farmer Able is an entertaining and humorous story that takes place on Farmer Able’s farm. It’s a fun book to real with a series of short chapters each with its lesson.

The pigs are running the farm. So begins the story of Farmer Able. Everyone on his farm -- people and animals alike -- are downright downtrodden by him. He's overbearing and compulsively obsessed with profits and productivity. He's a typical top-down, power-based manager, forever tallying production numbers in his well-worn ledgers. But the more he pushes the hoofs and horns and humans, the more they dig in their heels. That is until one day when he hears a mysterious wind that whispers: "It's not all about me." Can he turn things around and begin attending to the needs of those on his farm, thus improving their attitudes and productivity?

The following is an excerpt from chapter 6 of Farmer Able.

Foreman Ryder

Farmer Able’s troubles didn’t end with all things fuzzy, furry and feathered. No, the chorus of complaint rose up from humans as well.

There was Foreman Ryder, who Farmer Able had brought in a while back to manage his affairs. The word “manage” was something Farmer Able liked to hear. It had a certain ring to it that gave this little country operation an air of importance. He could tell his fellow farmers who hung out at the grain elevator that he had “Ryder handling things.” And this little fact, seeded into his conversations, placed him apart. At least that was the intent.

Foreman Ryder came with a resume forged in the school of hard knocks. He had worked his way up from a field hand. To hear him tell it, he’d spent many a year under the hot sun, in the sweltering haymow, in the freezing winters, in the cold spring planting and frigid fall harvesting. Ryder always thought of things in terms of hot or cold. And the more he told his stories about the arduous labors of his youth, the hotter or colder every rendition became.

Yes, he had pounded out a living busting dirt, and because of all his years paying his dues, he felt it was his right to bust heads. The way he saw things, he had earned this privilege, and he made a point of making sure everyone under his charge knew it. Including the animals.

He slapped the cows to get them to hurry into the milk barn and whapped them to hurry out. With the horses, if they didn’t behave, he’d get out the twitch. This draconian device had a small loop of rope secured to the end of a sawed-off shovel handle. He would twist it tightly around a horse’s upper lip to get him “to behave.” And the poor chickens . . . well, he could just pick them up and toss them where he wanted them to go. Yes sir, Foreman Ryder had not been spared from a hardscrabble life, and neither man nor beast should be spared either.

Farmer Able was largely oblivious to this ill-tempered woe. He welcomed Ryder’s “git-er-done” attitude—at least at first. But as anyone knows, hiring power inevitably creates a power struggle. Though Foreman Ryder knew the hierarchy of things, in the grimier recesses of his mind, he certainly didn’t embrace it. A man who feels a need to lord over another inevitably smarts under the one who is over him.

*****

Art Barter believes “everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” To teach about the power of servant leadership, Art started in his own backyard by rebuilding the culture of the manufacturing company he bought, Datron World Communications. Art took Datron’s traditional power-led model and turned it upside down and the result was the small international radio manufacturer grew from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in six years. Fueled by his passion for servant leadership, Art created the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI).

To learn more about Art and his new Servant Leadership Journal, as well as his book on servant leadership, Farmer Able: A Fable About Servant Leadership Transforming Organizations And People From The Inside Out, endorsed by Franklin Covey, Ken Blanchard Companies, and John Maxwell Co., visit www.artbarterspeaks.com.

 

Are You Ready to Say Hello to New Growth?

For many of us, spring is just popping up, and old crabby winter has moved along. Spring is my favorite season. I continued to be enthralled by how life slowly unfolds and reaches up to the cloudless sky praising the sun. Small creatures start to rumble about and the insect's twirl by with ease and zest. There are so many fresh smells, and nothing beats hearing birds tweet just as the sun is rising. I am always mesmerized by the sound of croaking frogs in our woods even though our neighbors behind must beg for headphones to drown out the constant chatter.

I have a great friend that recently shared his video with me (above). Greg Heeres is a leadership aficionado and rascal with a passion for bringing out the best in others and sharing leadership lessons. He shares short snippets of video lasting only seconds but sharing what takes most several minutes to offer advice. Greg is a proponent for growth and walks the talk. His video connected with me because spring is such a season of newness, freshness, and growth. Spring is a better time to set new goals, make a change, and renew your life than New Years. What better time to grow and fertilize those around you than a time when you see and smell new growth every day.

As a gardener, I feel alive and ready to get outside planting, fertilizing, growing, and pruning. As Greg shared, it's a time to reflect on what kind of growth that we want to experience. It's looking at what tools we need to grow and what impacts others. Just like our plants, spring is also about fertilizing those around us according to their needs and what motivates them to grow. You just can't plant a cactus in the shade and expect growth when it craves the sunshine.

Moreover, pruning can be a painful process because we become accustomed to what we are comfortable with and like around us. The initial pruning is stark or painful, and we don't always know if our efforts are worth it. Isn't life like this? That to which we hold close to us is the hardest to let go. This includes behaviors, thoughts, and habits. 

I encourage you to make spring about you. Here are some ideas for bringing on some "newness" this season that will set you up for long-term growth and enable those around you to flourish.

·         What negative habits or thoughts are dragging you down? They are like diseases in the garden, and you need to address them to ensure your growth.

·         What needs pruning from your life right now? Maybe personal time is non-existent, and you are slowly sinking into the ground. Set your priorities and make a list of what you can minimize at work to maximize your personal life.

·         Who are you mentoring or coaching? You have the power to "fertilize" others, and it's amazing how you feel when you see someone grow in front of you.

·         Become more diverse. Beautiful gardens take time, planning, and patience. You need to bring in a variety of plants and have enough diversity in your yard for beauty and for the health of your plants. Are you engaging with diverse groups of people? Are you lifting others up and making efforts to expand your world? It takes time, and a concerted effort but the rewards are incredible.

·         How does it smell around you? Spring is a time for freshness. Are your ideas still fresh? Do you take the time to lighten up with those around you? Do you make a concerted effort to maintain a positive aura around you or lend positive words throughout your day?

·         Plan for future growth. Before you can plant a new garden, you need to prepare the soil. The same goes for growing new leaders. Are you purposeful in building others up so they can jump into your role some day? Are you purposefully looking to bring out the strengths in others?

·         Be the sunshine in someone's life every day. Smile, and you will light up those around you. Likewise, work the soil so that people have a strong foundation from which to sprout.

Breathe spring in and not only grow yourself this season but plant, fertilize, grow, and prune all around you!

Compassion and Service Go Hand and Hand

It's no surprise that culture is the key to driving service, sales, growth, and empowerment in organizations today. Culture can make or break those within the company which in turn impacts client and vendors in the marketplace. We all have our favorite culture needs but have you given any thought to championing for compassion within your organization?

How many companies have you read about that even have compassion as a goal? I still remain stumped and never gave thought to compassion being a key component that organizations are lacking until I read the new book Awakening Compassion at Work by Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton. Below is a guest post from the authors and I would love to hear your thoughts!

If Your Business Competes Through Service, You Need More Compassion at Work
Monica C. Worline & Jane E. Dutton

Try this thought experiment: First, remember the last time you ate at a restaurant with poor service. Second, remember the last time you ate at a restaurant with great service. Which one would you rather return to today?

Many organizations, like those restaurants, depend on delivering high-quality service to build their competitive advantage. But managers and leaders often overlook or undervalue compassion in service encounters as an important aspect of distinctive service quality.

When Sarah’s grandmother died, she spent time cleaning out the house, immersed in memories. Sarah’s children were young and mystified by what was happening. The family stopped at a nearby restaurant for a much-needed bite to eat. Five-year-old Sonia started to cry, missing her great grandmother and the chocolate milk that had been their favorite treat together.

Lindsey’s shift had just started when she took the family’s order. It struck her that the young mother had asked for a dish that hadn’t been on the menu in years. Lindsey brought drinks out and the children were crying. Asking the little girl what was wrong, Lindsey learned of the death of Sonia’s beloved grandmother, who used to make special chocolate milk. After sharing hugs and telling the family how sorry she was for their loss, Lindsey stopped at the manager’s desk. She arranged to get them chocolate milk, and also for the restaurant to take care of their bill. That act of compassion as part of the restaurant’s service made a distinctive impression and won them a loyal customer.

It turns out that wasn’t the end of the story, though. Leaving Lindsey a sizable tip that night, Sarah wrapped the money inside a napkin with a simple note: “Thank you for your kindness and compassion, and the love you showed to complete strangers tonight.” A few months later, Sarah and her family were wrapping up details related to her grandmother’s funeral and they stopped at the same restaurant. Lindsey had just started her shift. She delivered water and menus to her new table, then she stopped in her tracks. Hugging broke out. She welcomed the family by name. She remembered their favorite foods and brought Sonia her chocolate milk.

At the end of the meal, Lindsey showed the inside of her black order pad to Sarah. Taped inside was Sarah’s note from the napkin. It buoyed Lindsey up on every shift, and helped her keep her calm when she encountered difficulty customers. One act of compassion had rebounded, helping bolster both the giver and the receiver.

Research by the Gallup organization shows that genuine expressions of compassion such as this one, when delivered authentically as part of high-quality service, create brand loyalty and forge lasting bonds with customers. These emotional bonds are far stronger aspects of great service than almost anything else organizations can do.

The great news is that research supports the idea that when employees give feelings and actions as gifts to customers, like Lindsey did for Sarah, employees feel better about work as well. Daniel Homan and Lonnie Collins Pratt in their book Radical Hospitality remind us about the power of service as a meaningful aspect of work: “It isn’t just the food that we pass out that nourishes or impoverishes the human heart. … Work is always for the service of others.” Making room for compassion as part of your customer service strategy opens the door for work that is more genuinely meaningful and customers who are more genuinely delighted and loyal.

If you have story of compassion and service quality, we’d love to read about it in the comments.

 

*****

Monica Worline, PhD, is CEO of EnlivenWork. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Executive Director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work.

Jane Dutton, PhD, is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. She has written over 100 articles and published 13 books, including Energize Your Workplace and How to Be a Positive Leader. She is also a founding member of the CompassionLab.

Their new book, Awakening Compassion at Work, available now on Amazon, reveals why opening our eyes to the power of compassion is smart business.