Data – Don’t Ignore It

How do YOU feel about it?

Data - Don't Ignore It

Data. Love it or despise. Just don’t ignore it. There are often equal amounts of art and science when it comes to leadership. So, let’s take a look at the more scientific side for a few moments.

A Tale of Two Organizations

I often split my time between two very different organizations. One is completely data driven. It measures every little aspect of its operation. It can tell you what is happening at any given moment at any of its far-flung operations that are even at the fringes of civilization. It can tell you how its people and products are performing in absolute real time.

The other is the farthest thing from it. It can’t tell you with any real degree of certainty how many people attended its last event. It does a fairly decent job of the financial reporting of contributions. But it often has no clue how its people or programs are performing.

Now, in complete transparency, one is a commercial venture and one is a non-profit venture. But, just because a venture is set up to be a non-profit, does that mean that their demands for data and data-driven decisions would be any less than the profit-making one?

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You Can Conduct Valuable Team Meetings

A Few Easy Concepts

You Can Conduct Valuable Team Meetings

Almost 2 weeks ago, I discussed team briefings and the importance of communications in the process. But I really didn’t take the time to address the mechanics of conducting a valuable team briefing. So, today, let’s focus on that.

Create the Environment

As the leader, you must establish the proper environment. Think about the environment you want to create for these briefings. It doesn’t necessarily be a super-formal environment. But, it just needs to be a positive environment. People must understand what to expect when they attend one of your team briefings. Here are a few things that make for a good environment:

  • Ensure that you understand what is going on in the organization and that you have been properly briefed yourself. Make sure your team leaders know what’s happening at various levels, and with various other teams, throughout the organization.
  • Provide training or coaching on how to conduct effective team briefings.
  • Recognize and reward supervisors and managers for conducting effective team briefings.
  • Brevity is the soul of wit. If you can’t say it in 15 to 30 minutes, then a team briefing is not the right vehicle for a more complex message.

Have a Structure and a Process

As the leader, you must commit to a structure and a process. You have invited the team and they are gathered for information sharing.

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Leadership Lessons from Tidying Up

"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing"

Leadership Lessons from Tidying Up-2

Like many of you, I am still trying to work out some of the finer details from the goal setting that is so much a part of this time of year.  One of the goals that I have set for myself this year is to be more organized (less cluttered) in my own personal life. I have also set a goal of redeeming some of the lost time that I spend in my car while commuting to and from the office.  One of the ways that I am dealing with both of these goals is to listen to an audio book on tidying while I drive. Please don’t shame me, but I am listening to an audio book in the car is a first for me.

The book that I have selected is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant. She takes tidying to a whole new level.  She claims that if you properly simplify and organize your home just once, and you do it according to her “KonMari Method”, you’ll never have to do it again. Her method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results according to her book. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed back into their old cluttered lifestyle once they graduate from her class and the in-home process. Further, she claims to have a 3-month waiting list to have her consult with you in your home or office.

I love many things about Japanese culture. I value the simplicity of design and the almost stark or Spartan look to the interiors of many Japanese homes. For me, it is almost like walking into a hotel room. I am relaxed and energized by the uncluttered look and feel to a hotel room. Aside from a bed, a work surface, a TV and a coffee maker, most hotels lack many of the things that we feel we must have in our homes. Apparently, for me, that is not the case. In fact, I am usually extremely productive in a hotel room when it comes to creative activities and planning.

Why is that so?

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Building It By Hand

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Building It By Hand


I fondly remember the experience of constructing a rail line with a group of social cast-offs during two summer vacations. And in this concluding segment, I want to share with you a few final thoughts and the leadership lessons that I learned constructing a small rail system by hand.

I learned from the design and implementation of the activity. I learned from observation of the completed project when I visited the area. I learned from hearing the appreciation of tourists who commented on the opportunity to take a steam train ride in this rural community.

The project married a passion for trains (the historical society members provided this) and good old fashion muscle (the youth provided this). It has been said that strong backs created strong tracks on this project. Even today when I observe tourists riding the rails, a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work still results. Little is known about the workers who did this project, but the tourists do not seem to care.

A Change in Perspective and Practice

The experience impacted my perspective on business leadership in profound ways. The activity changed my practice and view of leadership in significant ways. Over time I became a more effective leader as a result of this project.

The most important result of this experience was

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Leadership Requires Making It Permanent

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Requires Making it Permanent

In previous installments, I have been trying to challenge you to accept and use tension as a tool for establishing best practices. In addition, I have challenged you to use constant evaluation for ensuring the course of business is following the stated business plan. In this installment, I want to challenge and encourage you to recognize markers for ensuring integrity long after the business plan is established.

On the railroad project, the importance of this concept was evidenced in the need to set the rail in small units such that the shape and integrity of the track were established to carry the locomotive and passenger cars over the long haul. The project utilized spikes and spike plates every few feet to ensure the shape of the track was maintained. The project required the crew to think both short-term and long-term when securing the track. An outdoor track will experience a wide variety of weather and use conditions requiring each plate to hold its position and maintain the shape of the track. The same principle impacts effective business leadership.

Leadership requires individual and group markers to be established to ensure individual and organizational integrity long after the work is completed.

Tension created shape and shape allowed the crew to lay a course for the business of providing rides to tourists. A spacing tool ensured that our course was useful to the steam engine used to transport tourists from a loading zone back to the point of origination without disruption and injury. The final aspect of constructing the track reflecting leadership related to how the track was held in the designated shape long after the project was completed. In other words, getting the rail to the desired shape was only one part of the process. After the crew got it to the desired shape, there needed to be a method to hold it in place long after the crew left the premises.

The crew used spikes and spike plates to achieve the desired outcome.

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Leadership Requires Constant Evaluation

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Lessons from the Railroad-2

In the first installment of this series I drew a parallel between the tension needed to flex a straight piece of steel to create an oval train track and the tension necessary to create growth in business professionals and organizations. In the second part of this series I will discuss the importance of constant evaluation and review and compare that to the need for two tracks to be kept parallel and equally spaced to ensure the locomotive and passenger cars remain on track from point-to-point in a rail system.

Parallel tracks warrant that passengers will remain safe from point-to-point in a rail system. To ensure that a track is parallel requires the installers to constantly evaluate and assess the distance between the two rails. In our project, the construction supervisor kept assessing our placement of the rails before allowing us to drive spikes in the rail ties and secure the track in place.

LESSON #2Leadership requires constant evaluation and review to ensure the desired path carries the organization to the intended outcome.

The foundation that an organization establishes is similar to how we guaranteed the track was laid appropriately to carry the train from a designated starting point to the corresponding end point. The crew was required to certify every rail would safely carry tourists around the historical grounds. In laying the track, the tension and shaping of the rail was only as effective as the care given to ensure the tracks were parallel and equally spaced in relation to each other. The train, without parallel tracks, was sure to derail resulting in broken equipment and lives. The most important tool used in the project evaluated and assessed the distance between the two lines of rails.

The rail enthusiasts we worked with continually evaluated and assessed the distance between the two rails with a simple tool made from a piece of wood cut to ensure that when placed between the two rails the distance from one side to the other was constant and matched the width between the two wheels on the steam engine and the cars that carried passengers. Even the slightest divergence in the space between the rails required action to eliminate the deviation. It was not long into the project before the work crew knew the importance of the spacing tool and the need to measure our achievement in placing the rails on the ties in the appropriate alignment.

In organizational leadership, similar tools are required to ensure that the progress being made is measurable and meeting the desired outcomes. We measured in small increments to ensure that a small deviation did not result in a significant problem. In addition, we all faced the reality that honesty was better then denial in using the information we found using our spacing device. Evaluation and assessment do not always require complicated formulas or tools. Many times a simple device will provide the necessary data to achieve consistent performance. Consistent performance will ensure foundational results. And, foundational results will establish a long-term path to organizational and individual growth and development.

Adaptation to the benefits of tension and constant evaluation of progress ensure business practices guide individuals and organizations toward desired outcomes. Evaluation and assessment also aid the individual and organization in measuring progress toward ensuring the satisfaction of customers and elimination of issues related to defective products and services. The third, and final, lesson in this series will parallel the need to secure the track for the long-term and the importance of implementing a business plan which sets the course for practice and productivity.

My goal is that you will be able to identify tensions and how these opportunities contribute to the success of the established business plan. Additionally, I want you to be able to identify available methods for evaluation and assessment of a business plan to yield desired outcomes. In the final installment of this series, I will identify individual and organizational markers to aid you in securing a successful completion of a business plan long after it is established.

Special Guest Post by David Ruhman Bio PhotoDavid Ruhman – Please see his short bio below.  Reach out to him via email and check out his blog via the links below in his Author Bio.  And watch for more posts from Dave in the coming days.

I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Lessons from the Railroad

Effective leadership is fashioned through activities, which chisel away excess material revealing the masterpiece within. One summer I learned a lot about leadership working with troubled and troubling teens constructing a rail system for a local historical society in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What I learned about leadership resulted from specific steps executed in the construction of the track. The project revealed three distinct lessons regarding leadership. The result of the investment made in the project and the people was an increased capacity to exercise effective leadership skills.

This article will detail the first in a series of three lessons learned during the construction of a small-scale, full-sized rail system for a local historical society. In subsequent installments, the second and third lessons will be shared. Each lesson stands alone; however, the three lessons combine to produce a compound effect. Personal application of each lesson is suggested to aid the reader in maximizing the transferability of the applied concept.

Lesson #1: To shape individual leadership skills requires varying amounts of tension.

The first observation on arrival to the site was

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My Greatest Organization and Productivity Booster for 2015

For many of us, getting organized and increasing productivity are two of our biggest goals entering each new year. They are probably only topped by “losing weight” or some other fitness goal. And I can’t really help you with those per se. The good news is that I can help you with organization and productivity in the coming year.

One of my goals for Leadership Voices in 2015 is to become even more practical in our approach to leadership development. And this article is the first in a series of articles that you will see in the coming days, weeks and months on one of the greatest productivity tools that I have come across since I purchased my first Day-Timer back in 1979.  I began using it in 2014 and it has had a profound effect on me and my personal productivity.  It only gets better the more I discover ways to integrate it into my daily life.

I am talking about Evernote. Evernote has become integral to everything that I do here at Leadership Voices. It would be integral to my day job, but for some strange reason, some folks there have not seen the value of Evernote yet.

To be completely transparent, you can do most of what Evernote does with other note-taking services such asMicrosoft’s OneNote, but (in my opinion) Evernote wins out with its huge platform compatibility – particularly with the mobile apps; and with the many integrated third party apps available across platforms also. And it’s FREE.

For the sake of organization and productivity, we want to be more efficient with the time and resources that we have, to enable us to spend more time doing what we want – in my case, spending time with family, leadership coaching, and writing. Evernote allows me to do a lot of “side-line” work while out and about and still keep everything together in one place that is accessible anywhere.

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Leaders Encourage Vigorous Debate

 

Vigorous Debate - 1Great leaders know how to focus on the positive, helpful, edifying and uplifting communication while managing the negative, destructive, decisive and demeaning communication in meetings.

Consider this advice from a seasoned old-timer to a young leader who was still early in his leadership career. It happens to be from the New Testament of the Bible.

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” 

Titus 3:9-10

Have you ever been in a meeting that digressed and evolved into almost a free-for-all? As a contrast, have you ever been in a team meeting where the leader encouraged good debates and successfully squashed useless ones?

Such well-managed teams tend to finish their meetings with good plans and they do it on time. The participants feel productive and actually like getting together because everyone feels like they were a part of something productive.

But, back to my brief Biblical text. The Apostle Paul (the old-timer) exhorted a pastor (young leader) named Titus to refrain from arguing about peripheral subjects that divided his followers.  And I think that advice is relevant to leadership principles today.

There is a branch of modern communication theory that seems to have grown out of the apostle Paul’s philosophy. In 1968, Sir Charles Geoffrey Vickers, an English lawyer, administrator, writer, and pioneering systems scientist introduced the concept of “appreciative systems”, which later became Appreciative Inquiry (AI). It was really further developed nearly 20 years later at Case Western Reserve University’s department of Organizational Behavior. It started there with an article in 1987 by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. They felt that the overuse of “problem solving” as a model often held back analysis and understanding, focusing on problems and limiting discussion of new organizational models. At its core, AI is positive debate that explores what an organization does well and how it can build on its strengths.

Vigorous Debate - 3As leaders it’s sometimes difficult to limit discussion and keep debates from getting out of control.

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Manic Monday: Evernote

Manic - Evernote - 1On of the things that is becoming more and more clear to me as I get busier and busier with my “day job” and the growth of Leadership Voices is the need to become more and more organized. I have been a fan and an aficionado of organizational tools for my entire adult life. And great organizational ability is needed for great leadership.

I was an ADD/ADHD kid. When I was in school we didn’t get medication for ADHD, we got sent to the principals office and paddled. So, I learned at a very early age to curb the “H” piece of that little 4 letter acronym. But the “AD” piece and the inability to focus on tasks in an orderly and organized fashion has plagued me my entire life. You may have seen a photo snapped of me recently working at my desk at home. It was fairly accurate of the condition of my desk and the surrounding work area. And it has caused me to reconsider and reevaluate my organizational prowess.Manic - Evernote - 2

I will never be the neat freak and have a spotless desk with every scrap of paper tucked away some pale neatly at the end of each day. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot be an organized person. It just takes more effort for me than for most.

The key for me has always been “writing it down”.

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