Empowerment

Knowing That Leadership Has a Rhythm of Growth and Loss Holds One to Hope By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair


How is your leadership journey going? In our ever changing world being an effective leader is a daily challenge. Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockwell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair is a new book that speaks to leadership journeys with hope, during despair, and with forgiveness. Here is an some insightful information from the authors to help you become the leader that you were meant to be.

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By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

The hope of the gardener described in the next story is a wonderful metaphor for the place that hope dwells—a place that enables and encourages leaders to sow the earth knowing that some things will grow and some will flounder. Leaders repeatedly begin again and resow, knowing that the wind, rain, and sun can be nurturing friends or destructive foes. Sometimes leaders retrace their steps to find things they should have understood, and other times they strike out in new directions. In the garden, there is both hope and its shadow. Hope holds in its hands the soft earth as it readies it for planting; hope is open to the possible and deeply feels the moment of beginning, not the prediction of the end state. A leader described her leadership life as a gardener this way:

I am a gardener—one who nurtures, tends, plants, cultivates, and harvests. I am a leader who inspires, creates, celebrates, encourages, and invests. Gardeners and leaders have many skills and talents and values in common. Great gardeners are full of hope. It is genuine and considered hope that is the essence of how I see myself as a gardener and a leader. This is a hope that is based in reverence for life in its deepest and most profound meaning.

Some of my earliest memories of hope involve planting radish seeds as a small girl and waiting impatiently for them to sprout. I can still feel and smell the soil and relive the joy of the first shoots. In a similar manner, I can still visualize my first formal leadership role in my Brownie pack. The possibilities of making a difference, of helping others with their badges, of teaching them the rituals, of being there for them when they forgot their tams or scarves. Hope for the future was the essence of these early experiences.

The lessons of the gardener inform me in the lessons of leadership. Sometimes, despite all the necessary prep of soil, nutrients, seed selection, etc., the seeds blow away, the plant withers, and the bugs attack or the bloom fades before it flowers. The ground is fallow for periods of time and only a few stalks blow in the wind. I prepare again, gather more information, and make selections, try different nutrients, check the weather, except that for me roses do not do well—concentrate on daisies. This is hope. Next time, the garden will be great, it will be different, and it will grow.

My leadership is embedded in the hope of the gardener—learning to accept, to rethink, to reimagine, to redo, to undo, knowing that tomorrow is another opportunity full of possibilities and potential to discover and celebrate.

I have loved every job I have ever had—some lasted longer than others. In some positions there was more to plant, more to nurture, and more learning to be had. I have chosen to change jobs based on my assessment of the possibilities for growth for myself and others.

Much as a gardener decides their type of garden. All my life, I have been associated with some aspect of education, whether it be teaching pottery, swimming, or anthropology, or facilitating teams, or teaching others to teach and be leaders. For me, education is all about hope—for oneself, for others, and for a different world. It is the hope that sees me through to more possibilities and to uncovering the potential in others and providing me the opportunity to be a small part in realizing the possibility. Finding the seeds, nurturing their beginnings, tending the fragile shoots, staking their stems, and admiring their unique blooming beauty is the gift of hope and the reason to be. I will always be a gardener and revel in the possible, despite stormy weather, dry seasons, scattered seeds, and invasive pests. In leadership, I cherish the hope of the gardener, and this hope inspires my leadership and sees me through the tough times.

The practice of hope in all the multiple tasks of leadership is the recognition that hope can be nurtured in the early stages when the outcome is not known; in the journey along the way, where already some things have floundered and some have grown; and in the final outcome, which might be different than planned. It is undertaking leadership in all of these places with the heart of the gardener that can help sustain hope as the rhythms of growth and loss and the seasons change.

About the authors

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firmCockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors ofBuilding Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they'll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

Eight Reasons Why You Are Still In High School

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I remember years ago when I was in high school my mom telling me numerous times “these are the best years of your life!” Sure, spending day after day dealing with gossip, cliques, homework, disenchanted teachers, including kids who didn’t care much about actually learning was the best right? The sad thing is that many of us are still in high school only we call it work. Sound familiar?

Years ago employees hung out around the water cooler or coffee counter. Open office plans have flipped that practice upside down. Most employees have minimal privacy and are sitting on top of each other. It’s like sitting in a classroom all day working on homework assignments. Ultimately not much has changed since graduation, and you are still in high school.

Eight reasons why you are still in high school

1. Gossip. I think that corporate gossip is worse than in high school, we are just sneakier about it. Back in the old days, we didn’t have social media and smart phones to share what we heard. Technology has exasperated the spread of gossip and adults are savvier about making chatter sound like corporate strategy. These days gossip destroys people and careers. Don’t get wrapped up in its dangers.

2. Bullying. Adults can be cruel. Bullying takes place every day in the form of intimidation, sabotage, belittling, and even subtle threats. Not long ago, I had a manager that was smooth one day and the next day would micromanage and throw out threats with a smile on his face. We would all do a double take to try and understand his game.

3. Cliques: We were all in a group in high school whether we realized it or not. Nothing has changed. You are in a circle at work. Look around you. Higher level managers stay in their corner; the interns hang together all day. The IT folks have their spot. These cliques often meet after work for “team building”.

4. Lackadaisical Coworkers: My twins love school. Fortunately, they are bright and motivated to learn. They also complain weekly about being in classes with kids who could care less about learning or growing. It brings them down and at times, interrupts their learning. We all work with people who don’t care. They don’t want to learn. They don’t care about growing and strengthening the team. They just show up.

5. Competition: The magical word. In high school, we see competition in every sport, and it permeates throughout the system. Most of the time it’s healthy, but not always. Competition encouraged with negative intent can impact lives. You know where the competition is and who owns it in your area. You have probably seen how a competitive team can thrive and accomplish. You have also been on the receiving end of spiteful and negative competition. I have seen people pay with their jobs from malicious competition.

6. Teachers: I remember some of my best teachers. They were passionate about my learning and growth and cared about preparing me for success. I also remember the poor teachers. They had tenure and just showed up every day for a paycheck. Managers are not much different. Some leaders thrive on growing and mentoring teams. Others don’t care and like a tenured teacher, just show up.

7. The Principal: I’m guessing that you either loved or hated your high school Principal. It probably depended on how much trouble that you created! You still have a Principal – your top leadership including the CEO. The Principal is the one that manages the culture of the company, makes or breaks your future in the company and can make your job easy or challenge you. They probably don’t know you well unless you are a troublemaker or….a suck up. Beware of the Principal.

8. School Board: The school board oversees the entire system and has no idea about the inner working of the company nor do they care how you function on a daily basis. They only know what they are told and generally go along with what they hear. They don’t tend to dig deep into the company culture or care about employee well being or team challenges. Making cuts, moving employees, cutting departments is all in a day’s work for them.

Hopefully, you loved high school and have positive memories. You may also be in the minority. I was eager to move on after high school and grow through my college years. As you read this and if you are at work, look around you, and I bet you will whisper to yourself “I AM still in high school!”

Why Don't Organizations Pay Attention to Processes? by Karen Martin

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Clarity First is the new book by Karen Martin. She addresses the pitfalls that leaders make in organizations in making change and bringing clarity to the company and teams. Here is a guest post from her new book. If you want clarity within your organization then pick up Karen’s book to get started down the right path.

Effective processes create such a dramatic boon, and broken processes such a significant bane, that I have long reflected on why process design and management as a discipline doesn’t get more attention. Over time I have discovered myriad reasons, subreasons, and sub-subreasons why, which together come down to a hard reality: most leaders lack foundational skills in process design and management, and don’t view them as institutionally important enough to learn. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. There are three reasons why.

First, many processes are invisible. They happen behind the scenes or beneath the visible aspects of the business. Most of them function well enough that problems are like a pin leak in a larger pipe. The loss immediately affects those close to the leak, but is less visible at the end of the line. People acclimate to that kind of slow leak.

The second reason why leaders and the organizations they work for have not invested more in having clear, high-functioning processes is lack of experience. Building proficiency in any endeavor—whether golf, guitar, or gastroenterology—requires practice, experience, and knowing what good looks like. Yet gaining that experience can be challenging because the models are few and far between. Process design and management are not part of the core business curriculum offered at most universities and graduate programs. When young professionals graduate into the workforce, the organizations they work for likely aren’t process-centric enough to fill in those education gaps. Fast forward 10, 20, 30 years and those young professionals have become leaders who have never thought much about processes and don’t know what well-designed and well-managed processes look like, let alone how to create them.

Career-long lack of exposure metastasizes quickly to produce the third reason why organizations pay less attention to processes than they need to for clarity: they have a specialist mentality. Leaders’ lack of direct experience has led them to believe that process design and management must be complex and difficult, and thus requires a specialist to do well.

Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, Clarity First, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.

Guest Post from Ken Blanchard

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Servant leadership has been around for decades, however, for many it is just becoming mainstream. It's leadership that focuses serving people not standing on a pedestal asking to be served. I'm please to host a guest post from Ken Blanchard who just happens to know a thing or two about leadership! Enjoy.

Servant Leadership: A Model for Leading in Today’s World

By Ken Blanchard

When I first began to teach managers back in the late 1960s, I met Bob Greenleaf, who was just retiring as a top AT&T executive. Bob talked about servant leadership—the concept that effective leaders and managers need to serve their people, not be served by them. It was entirely new thinking then, and in many ways Bob is considered the father of that term.

Today, it is much easier for people to see the importance and relevance of servant leadership. There seems to be general agreement that leaders have two basic roles in business: one of vision and the other of implementation.

In the visionary role, leaders are the definer of direction. They must communicate the mission, values and beliefs the organization aspires to for its people. They need to communicate what the organization stands for and how organizational values encompass the individual values of its members.

I once asked Max Dupree, who wrote a fabulous book entitled Leadership Is an Art, what he felt was the most important role of a leader. He compared the role to that of a third-grade teacher who keeps repeating the basics. "When it comes to vision and values, you have to say it over and over and over again until people get it right, right, right!"

Once people are clear on where they are going, an effective leader’s role switches to the task of implementation. How do you make the dream happen? This is where servant leadership comes into play. The traditional way of managing people is to direct, control and supervise their activities and to play the role of judge, critic and evaluator of their efforts. In a traditional organization, managers are thought of as responsible and their people are taught to be responsive to their boss.

We’re finding that kind of leadership isn’t as effective as it once was. Today when people see you as a judge and critic, they spend most of their time trying to please you rather than to accomplish the organization’s goals and move in the direction of the desired vision. "Boss watching" becomes a popular sport and people get promoted on their upward influencing skills. That role doesn’t do much for accomplishing a clear vision. All people try to do is protect themselves rather than to help move the organization in its desired direction.

The servant leader is constantly trying to find out what his or her people need to be successful. Rather than wanting them to please him or her, they are interested in making a difference in the lives of their people and, in the process, impacting the organization.

More about Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is a best-selling business author with over 21 million books sold. His newest book, Servant Leadership in Action, is being released on March 6. Ken is also hosting a free Servant Leadership in Action Livecast on February 28 featuring more than 20 authors, CEOs, and thought leaders speaking on the topic.  Learn more here!

 

Knowing the Self Who Leads by Shelly L. Franci

Have you ever found yourself wondering where inner wisdom and courage come from? Have you been in a situation where your real leadership blooms because you know what you value and believe in?

Shelly L. Franci's new book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity offers soul searching and a path you can take to find your authentic self and bring out your true gifts to impact others. Here is an excerpt from Shelly's new book.

The underlying premise of the Courage Way is that we all have a trustworthy source of inner wisdom that informs our lives and leadership. It is our identity and integrity, the sum of our shadows and light, our true self. Without knowing our true self, we cannot be an authentic leader.

Just as Ed came to recognize, leaders must find clarity about what they value, what unique gifts they have to offer, what contribution they wish to make. Strength and resilience as a leader come from knowing the ground on which you stand, the convictions you will act on with courage. But that’s not all. Resilience comes from being aware of and accepting your limits and what problems your shadows are causing. That is wholeness—and that comes from knowing your true self.

Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U, acknowledges this inner life: “We observe what leaders do. We can observe how they do it, what strategies and processes they deploy. But we can’t see the inner place, the source from which people act when, for example, they operate at the highest possible level, or alternatively, when they act without engagement or commitment.”

This inner place Scharmer speaks of is more than intellect, ego, emotions, and will. In the inner work of leadership, it is a light behind the eyes, the energy that animates us, or, as Howard Thurman puts it, “the sound of the genuine in you.” Instead of true self or soul, you could say inner wisdom, essential self, or even trusting your gut. Poets, musicians, and mystics have given words to the essence of who we are—our human spirits—when we take off the trappings of our resumes. John O’Donohue calls it the dignity somewhere in us “that is more gracious than the smallness / that fuels us with fear and force.”  William Stafford appeals to “a voice, to something shadowy / a remote important region in all who talk.”

Although Parker Palmer often refers to his inner teacher, he often says that what you call this core of our humanity doesn’t matter, “but that we name it matters a great deal. It’s important to recognize it: If we don’t name it anything, we start to lose the being in human being. We start to treat each other like empty vessels or objects to be marketed. When we say ‘soul,’ or ‘identity and integrity,’ there is something to make a deep bow to. There is a word for it in every wisdom tradition.”

Beyond being the sum of your life experiences, the true self is a mystery that simply is. How do you get to that underlying mystery of knowing people deep down? Intimacy is not necessarily the goal of every relationship in community, especially in the workplace. But respecting that each person has an essential core self, an undeniable dignity and humanity—now that is worthwhile.

But seldom, if ever, do we ask the “who” question. Who is the self that engages in leadership? How does this self impact the practice of leadership, for good and for bad? How is the self continually honored and renewed as we lead?

—Parker J. Palmer

About Shelly L. Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life.

 

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Women Need to Break a Few of Their Usual Rules - Jill Flynn

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Women continue to drop out of the workforce in large numbers because of the barriers that we face. Unfortunately, we don't help ourselves any because we are often our own worst enemy. We need to collectively take back control of our careers and use our strengths to become the influential leaders that we really are deep inside. Here is a guest post from Jill Flynn one of the authors of the new book The Influence Effect. 

There is almost nothing more crucial to success in any organization than developing excellent leaders. It is a no-brainer. But, although there’s no shortage of ambitious people with executive aspirations, what threatens the strength of your leadership pipeline may be a scarcity of senior-level women.

You may have seen the stats: Women are entering the global labor force in greater numbers than ever before; they earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men in many countries; yet, just 13 of 500 CEOs running Fortune 500 Global companies are women. In addition, the gender wage gap across the world remains significant. Some of this can be attributed to the type of age-old gender stereotypes and traditions that take generations to eliminate. But there are other culprits to consider—ones that are within our control to address right now that will significantly strengthen women’s chances of rising to the top of organizations.

Over the past decade, my colleagues and I have coached and trained over 7,000 professional women, traveled across the globe and to Africa to speak with women, and interviewed over 3,200 senior executives to find out how they believe women can be more successful. What we’ve found is that for women in middle management, and particularly those approaching the top, continued career momentum is not about adding technical skills. Many women are taught as children to behave in certain ways that don’t help them succeed as executives. What women need to do in order to succeed at higher levels in global business is to think differently.

The New Rules

In essence, we’ve found that women need to rethink the conversations they are having in their heads and tell themselves a new story. They need to challenge some of their outdated expectations and attitudes about themselves and the workplace. These are the rules women need to break:

1. Take Center Stage (Instead of focusing on others):  Many of the smartest women around the conference table focus too much of their attention on other people’s needs. They are assisting others, pitching-in and volunteering to pick-up other people’s slack. This leaves precious little time and energy to allow themselves to thrive professionally and personally. The instinct to put others first can work against women by keeping them from focusing on their own career goals.  The result is that too many women let their careers “happen to them” rather than putting themselves in the driver’s seat. We tell women to invest in themselves and have a written plan for their career. Women who have a clear vision for what they want to achieve are much more likely to own their ambition and work in ways that allow them to succeed.

2. Proceed Until Apprehended (Instead of seeking approval): In our coaching sessions we’ve worked with countless women executives who are exceptionally collaborative leaders. They like to be liked, but the desire for consensus can slow them down. In order to succeed, women need to retain that core strength of collaboration while at the same time acting creatively and decisively to make things happen. They need to stop “asking for permission” and instead demonstrate behaviors that exhibit leadership. In terms of career success, we tell women that remaining silently behind the scenes is much riskier than putting forward bold ideas and proactively campaigning for the big assignments.

3. Project Personal Power (Instead of modesty): We’ve found that many women who are motivated to move into leadership positions are ambivalent about projecting power. Modesty and self-deprecation come more naturally. In fact, some women act downright apologetic in the face of success—as if it doesn’t suit them or they don’t deserve it. To exude confidence and power, women need to pay attention to their non-verbal messaging. Stance, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions all send a message to others about confidence. In addition, women need to take credit for their many ideas and accomplishments. Taking credit for their success and being assertive will help women move more quickly into the jobs they want.

4. Be Politically Savvy (Instead of working harder): Many women are disappointed when their hard work and long hours don’t seem to pay-off in terms of career advancement. They dislike politics and try to remain above the fray. Yet, being politically savvy is actually about building relationships, achieving consensus and networking—women are great at these things. We coach women to build their careers as if they are running for office: create a platform of ideas, line up sponsors, put together a coalition – and then do it over and over again as their agenda and goals change.

5. Play to Win  (Instead of playing it safe): We hear in our interviews with senior executives that women need to get out of their comfort zones, be bold and take risks. Women can make themselves visible in this way by taking the lead on high-stakes projects and bringing in new business. Putting themselves out there means getting comfortable with risk and the possibility of failure. It may seem safer to let someone at a higher pay grade take the risks, but it is the major decisions that offer women the best opportunities to establish their credibility as leaders.

6. Have a Both/And Perspective (Instead of all-or-nothing thinking):  One phrase that has crept into dozens of our coaching files over the years is the notion of having it all. It’s no coincidence that many of the women who are trying to have it all are also the ones who get burned out. There’s no one right way to succeed, but avoiding black and white thinking – and remaining flexible – can help women establish leadership credibility. Because complexity and constant change are everywhere today, dealing with ambiguity has become skill that all of us (not only women) need to master.

As these new rules illustrate, we’ve found that most high-performing women don’t need to make major changes in order to give themselves a better chance to succeed. Small adjustments in how they think about themselves can have a big impact on their everyday behaviors and lead to visibility and continued career momentum. And that outcome will be good for everyone.

From a bottom line perspective, paving the way for more women at the highest levels in leadership is a net positive for business. Women are natural consensus builders and collaborators, so they are well suited for the nimble, less hierarchical workplace of the future. And research proves that companies with more women leaders have a higher return on equity and a better return on sales. There’s no doubt about it: when women get ahead it is good for business.

About Jill Flynn

Jill Flynn is a founding partner at FHHL and a co-author of Break Your Own Rules and her latest co-authored book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. Jill previously served as Senior Vice President at the nation’s fourth largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where she established their leadership development, diversity, organizational consulting and employee satisfaction initiatives. As the corporation grew exponentially during her tenure, Jill and her team prepared a cadre of high-potential leaders to assume senior positions. Within a three-year timeframe, the number of women in these roles increased from 9% to 26%.

 

It All Matters: I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone by Paul Cummings

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I'm always drawn to books that can help me find clarity, focus, and more confidence. There are so many distractions pulling at us from every angle. Our brains become fuzzy, our goals fall to the wayside, and we feel disconnected and off track. I'm excited to share this insight from Paul Cummings on how you can start to see clear again and the importance of doing so.

I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone

By Paul Cummings

Do you know who Johnny Nash is? In my opinion, he is a genius who provided a tremendous life lesson hidden in the lyrics of a great song. If you investigate the meaning behind the message, you’ll discover the impact of his words.

Have you ever realized that your perception of life is the lens through which you view your life? Our perception truly shapes our reality. Is your lens clear, and do you like what you see? Or have you allowed circumstances in your life to cloud up your lens and change your viewpoint and perspective?

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone.”

I love this lyric. Here is a person who has cleaned his lens. The rain was blocking his vision of life. When the “hard rain” is pouring down all around, it’s easy to miss the beauty around you, the opportunities open to you.

“I can see all obstacles in my way.”

This person has arrived at a moment of clarity. Now that the rain is gone, he can finally see the obstacles preventing him from the goals and dreams he has been pursuing without success. Once you define and acknowledge your obstacles, you can create a compelling plan of action to turn these obstacles into tangible opportunities.

“Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.”

Wow, this is such a powerful use of words! We have all experienced "dark cloud" moments in our life. We have been hurt and disappointed. We have experienced losses and unexpected moments of sadness. We have been this close to a major victory only to fall short and have to start over. To me, these powerful words represent a message of hope. The dark clouds in our life will disappear. We will maintain our faith and belief that things can and will work out in the end.

“It’s going to be a bright bright sunshiny day”

Beautiful optimism! What an inspiring and positive outlook this lyric project. This person has cleared off the lens, recognized the obstacles, removed the dark clouds, and replaced his blindness with a powerful vision. The road ahead is bathed in bright sunshine.

Johnny Nash's words are open to interpretation, but I believe the rain could have been a series of negative emotions. The obstacles could have been the source of that (rain) pain. The dark clouds could have been the acceptance of those negative emotions causing blindness to the possibilities. The bright sunshiny day could be the moment the person said, “No more! From today forward, I will take hold of my life and choose to look through my lens with the hope, faith, and confidence that a bright future brings.”

Clear your lens and embrace your future - every day. What song has a lot of meaning to you?

Make A Difference Today,

 ~Paul  

More about Paul Cummings

Paul Cummings is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Paul D. Cummings World Wide Enterprises, a global training and teaching company that has motivated and inspired hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses to make real and lasting change. Fueled by his personal and corporate desire to give to others, Paul developed skills and techniques in Leadership, Goal Setting, and Sales Techniques, including his Grid Square Technology.

Paul continues to revolutionize the way people and businesses learn by making learning simple, affordable, fun, and efficient. His Level 10 philosophy has become the benchmark that others have aspired to achieve. His latest book, It All Matters: 125 Strategies to Achieve Maximum Confidence, Clarity, Certainty, and Creativity releases October 9, 2017. The book provides an all-encompassing framework for achieving the life of your dreams offering strategies to inspire professionals—and help them develop skill sets, build knowledge, improve attitudes, and develop work habits that pay off.

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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!