Streams

Image by cowins on Pixabay

On this particular job site, each member of the team has a job to do. Each morning assignments are given. As each task is completed, the next task is assigned. The leader of this team must plan out each day, and give out the next part of the plan as every individual task is completed.

This approach has been in place for a while. Let’s call it the “wait until you complete this task before you get the next one approach” for lack of a better, more concise term.

To makes things even more interesting, certain members of the team became better at particular tasks. As the assignments were issued, those who were better at certain tasks were always assigned those tasks.

This system has revealed a few issues.

  1. Members of the team have developed skills, but a very narrow set of skills. They can do certain parts of the work, but not all of it. When someone is out or busy, work can come to a halt.
  2. Projects have become more complex. The work accomplished on day one has to connect to someone else’s work the next day, and it wasn’t matching up. There was a lot of doing work, then going back to fix it the next day.

Once identified, the leader came up with a better plan.

Streams. That is what we need.”

I paused to wait for the explanation.

Streams. A continual flow from the start to the finish on these various projects. I realize that by just assigning tasks, individual parts were completed, but there was no connection into the larger project as a whole. No real understanding of how these part fit together. No ownership of the whole.”

I paused again.

Streams. I could map out the beginning and the end, and let them flow through the entire part or project. I bet they would be happier. I recently heard some grumbling because when parts don’t fit together they have to redo work. I bet this will help them develop more well rounded skills . I have to go create these Streams.

Where have you assigned tasks instead of Streams? How could creating a flow of work from the start to finish increase satisfaction, performance, and connection to the whole?

Let’s try giving members of the team Streams instead of tasks and watch them develop and flow from the beginning to the end.

Culture, Performance, and Employees

Culture Performance Employees

The Culture of an organization is important. Culture orients us to the organization, its purpose and goals. But Culture is not just what an organization says, Culture is what it does both internally and externally.

How does the organization treat its customers, even the difficult ones?

How does the organization treat its employees, and not just those at the top of the ladder?

Performance is important.

Making the numbers. Bringing in revenue. Achieving goals.

Performance keeps us in business.

Employees are important.

Employees do the work. Employees make the calls. Employees interact with the customer.

Actively managing Culture, Performance, and Employees and keeping these three in balance may be the most important responsibility of a leader.

But some leaders forget all three.

Some leaders only remember one.

Some leaders focus solely on Performance.

Culture Performance Employees (2)

Performance alone creates a different Culture.

Performance alone can treat Employees like numbers.

Performance alone can turn the Culture against Employees.

Performance alone blames Employees (for the Culture and lack of Performance).

Performance alone can lead to Employees leaving for a better Culture.

Great leaders realize Employees matter.

Great leaders realize Performance matters.

Great leaders realize that Culture can take care of the other two.

Great leaders strive for Culture that rewards and values Employees that can lead to greater Performance.

Great leaders know where to start.

Hard Choice Ahead

Hard Choice Ahead

(Images created on roadtrafficsigns.com)

The interview went well. They answered the questions. They were hired. After a few months their performance begins to fade.

You hear from a few people around the office that deadlines are missed. Others are covering the work that is not getting done.

RESENTMENT IS BUILDING

A few of your peers come and talk to you about the issues and what you are doing to correct the problems.

YOU ARE BEING QUESTIONED

Your boss sends you an email asking about your department’s performance.

YOUR TEAM IS UNDER SCRUTINY

There were signs.

Looking back you may be able to see them.

Unfortunately, signs don’t always show up along our journey with bright colors and with enough repetition so they cannot go unnoticed. Failing to see the earlier signs prevented corrective action.

Maybe it was a relationship. Maybe it was a project that has not taken off. The specifics are yours to fill in.

Missing the earlier signs tends to result in one final sign: Hard Choice Ahead.

The choice won’t be easy.

But it needs to be done.

The choice will have consequences.

But it will bring the resolution.

Maybe next time we will become more attuned to watching for those earlier signs.

 

The “My Way” Blind Spot

We all have blind spots.  You have them, I have them, we all have them.  The hardest part about blind spots is that we do not see them.  I suppose that is why we call them “blind spots.”  When this happens while driving, another car can essentially disappear from view, yet be right beside us. If we turn or change lanes, the damage will be immediate and severe.

When our blind spots are personal, the damage is no less great, but they can occur gradually…almost without our notice.  Until we discover our personal blind spots (typically because someone else points them out) we tend to just plug along not realizing the damage we are causing by this inherent flaw in our perspective.

Recently I discovered that I suffer from the “My Way” blind spot.  This was reluctantly pointed out to me by my team after I wanted a project to be done a certain way.  The banter between them went something like this…

“You mean you wanted it done the “Carl Weber Way?”

“Yeah, it is like Carlito’s Way, only with less violence.”

“Most of the time when you assign a project we will end up doing it your way in the end, even if we have other ideas.”

I was stunned.  I resisted the natural urge to defend myself and just listened.  Arguing about your blind spot is as foolish as turning your car into that crowded lane because you just know there is no car there…while hearing the crash.  Instead I listened.  I really listened.  It became clear that the “My Way” blind spot was real and having an impact on others.  My tendency to delegate without freedom created tension and a lack of trust.  Over time, this can create followers who feel unable to be creative or do things their own way.

Identifying the blind spot was the first step.  The next, and much harder step, is trying to figure out how to change a pattern of behavior that I didn’t know existed.  It will not be easy, but leading well never is.  I will have to check those mirrors a little more often before changing lanes.

What is your blind spot?  Where are you speeding along without seeing what is right beside you?  Are you causing unaware damage?

My advice today is simple: Listen and look.  But be prepared to deal with what you find.

Fly Your Flag

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time in the car.  Commuting, shuttling kids around, running errands and my job requires me to drive around…a lot.  To put things in perspective, my car is a 2005 and I have 172,000 miles on it.

Making the most of this time has become an art.  Listening to podcasts of my favorite speakers and teachers, thinking about upcoming talks, or projects top the list of ways to use this time.  I have also learned to use this time to connect with others.

There are a few people I call regularly during these drives to get centered, be accountable as a leader, dad, and husband, or just deepen the relationship.

Today was one of those days, with one of those calls.  I will try to paraphrase some of it.

“Sometimes it would be so much easier in life if people had little flags that popped up and told you what kind of mood they were in.”

“Why?” I asked.  (I know, I know, pretty deep question.)

“That way when I am angry people would see the flag and know to leave me alone.  And if they were in a certain mood, I would know how to talk to them…or avoid them altogether.”

After a few minutes of trying to quickly patent this new device and develop a business plan around the “emotional flag” idea, we laughed and agreed I would show all of you the prototype.  It appears below.

Maybe we were on to something. Knowing someone’s else emotional state while revealing our own, might just be the secret to great communication.

Go ahead.  Fly Your Flag.

The View is Different from the Top

I was meeting with an executive the other day to discuss their behavioral style.  We talked at length about how this style may work in certain situations, but over the long-haul is the kind of style that may wear people out.

I could tell that it didn’t really sink in, so we covered it again.  That is when the real issue became clear.

“Well this is all well and good, but people who work for me need to deal with my style.  I get results, and I cannot be concerned about developing a relationship with any of them.”

The view is different from the top.  When you are in charge or in control, the temptation is to make everyone bend and conform to you.  As an employee you may see the need to change your behavior in order to be more successful, to fit in, to become part of the organization.  But as a leader, you may have one of the more prominent blind spots: You and your view from the top.

To compound the problem, if you are in charge, and have an intense style, no one around you has the guts to challenge you.  Well maybe once, but I bet they are no longer around, or learned right away to keep quiet.

Understanding that our views are different, also means understanding that the issues, strategy, and hard decisions may not be as apparent and understood by others who do not sit where we sit.  If you are somewhere else (besides the top) in an organization, your more limited view may not provide you with all the facts.  So be careful about drawing the wrong conclusions about those above you.

This clash of views can create real tension.  Soon we will talk about the power-distance created in our organizations, but for today, just realizing that our views are different and not necessarily wrong is the first step.

By the end of our session, the executive began to see the blind spot inherent in the top down view.

“So, what you are saying is my drive for results while intentionally distancing myself personally from my employees may give them the impression that I am kind of a jerk?”

“Yup.”

Progress.  One step at a time.

Anger is My Primary Emotion

Anger.  Yup, it is a part of my world.  Let’s face it, one of the problems with learning about different styles is coming to grips with your own.  All styles have great things and not-so-great things at the same time.

According to Marston and the DISC assessment, there are four styles.

Essentially, it can be summed up with four P’s or how you deal with:

Problems, People, Pace, and Policies

How we score impacts the intensity of each category.  Do you jump in to solve problems or are you more reflective?  Are you the life of the party or do you need a break from people? How about your ability to adapt to change or have consistency from day-to-day?  And then there are the rules, do you follow them, or do you consider it nice that other people need them?

“All people exhibit all four behavioral factors in varying degrees of intensity.”

W. M. Marston

All of this helps us understand who we are, how we lead, how we follow, and how we communicate with others.  It is applicable in the workplace, our relationships, our families, and how we interact with everyone around us.

One of my more intense behaviors is the D or Drive.  It is what helps me push to solve issues, find solutions and get results.  But it has a price to pay: Anger.  The great part of having this internal urgency to get things done is unfortunately combined with the not-so-great part of frustration and impatience.  Learning to balance or modify our behaviors can be the difference between success or failure.  (See post Missed Opportunities, Missed Expectations to watch this play out in the workplace.)

When I sit with people, especially leaders and review their style, I hear them consistency say, I wish I knew this earlier on in my [career, life, marriage, college major, or relationships].”

So think about who you are, and what you bring that is both great, and not-so-great.  Don’t wear your particular style as a badge of honor.  There is no one right style, all have a downside if you are unaware or apply it in the wrong situation.

But if you know yourself, you can change the world.

I try to be pretty up front about who I am, the good and the bad.  If you are interested in assessing your own behaviors, let me know.  It is a pretty fun ride.  When I brought home my own assessment for the first time, I let my wife read it.  She cracked up.

“I think they must have followed you around all day.”

And better yet, our family was at an attraction up north.  Out of the crowd came a person that attended a seminar that I had given a few months prior.  This person walked straight up to my wife (right past me), winked at me and shook her hand and said:

“You must be the most patient person on the planet.”

Yes she is.  Thanks for putting up with me.