Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘problem solving

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

with 17 comments

Critical thinking and working effectively with others relies on applying appropriate frames. Frames are cognitive shortcuts that individuals use to help make sense out of complex information and to interpret that information in a way that can be meaningfully represented to others. Frames help to organize complex experiences, occurrences and facts into logical and rational as well as understandable groupings and categories. By labeling these complex experiences, occurrences and facts it becomes possible to give meaning to some aspects of what is observed through them, while at the same time discounting other aspects because they appear to be irrelevant or counterintuitive. Frames provide meaning through selective simplification, by filtering people’s perceptions and providing them with a field of vision for a problem.

Frames significantly impact the critical thinking process. This is because they tend to be built upon personal beliefs, values, and experiences, where individuals often construct unique frames that tend to considerably vary. Frames normally exist prior to the processing of information and they highly affect identifying, assessing, analyzing, and evaluating information, upon which critical thinking is based.

Individuals tend to be separated not only by differences in personal interests, beliefs, and values, but also in how they perceive and understand things, both at a conscious as well as sub-conscious level. Within critical thinking, individuals generally apply framing not only as an aid to interpreting issues and information, but also at times, to generate or promote some form of a strategic advantage.

Framing is often the impetus for rationalizing self-interest, convincing others, building unity, or promoting a preference for a specific outcome. Numerous factors tend to affect how people frame experiences, situations and circumstances, which in turn, influences the path and direction that critical thinking takes.

The Importance of Framing When Thinking Critically

An essential element in critical thinking is understanding how and why frames affect decision making or problem solving development. In the context of critical thinking situations, disagreements often erupt. As a result, individuals tend to create frames to help understand why the disagreement exists, what actions are important to alter or negate it, why different individuals act as they do, and how individuals should act in response to what is occurring.

Within group situations and activities, frames serve as a type of strainer for information that is being gathered, assembled and analyzed. Personal framing tends to determine the development of priorities and ways to address and achieve them, which typically includes generating alternative solutions as well particular action plans for their implementation. Depending on the issue, problem or context of the task or goal at hand, framing may be used to conceptualize and interpret, or to manipulate and convince.

Framing tends to be tied to information processing, message patterns, linguistic cues, and socially constructed meanings. Knowing what the various types of frames are, and how they are constructed, allows individuals to draw conclusions about how they affect the development of critical thinking and its outcomes, as well as how they can be used to influence both. It is important to analyze existing frames from a personal perspective, as well as ones others use. Doing this offers fresh insight into the dynamics and development of group interaction, problem solving, conflict resolution as well as decision making.

The Sources and Forms of Frames

Many factors work to influence frames as well as their formation. Disagreements and opposite viewpoints are usually associated with a complex and reinforcing set of frames in oneself, and others, as well as associated elements of risk, what types of information should be applied to a given situation, and how decisions should be made. The frames that most highly influence disagreements and opposing viewpoints among individuals include ones of: identity, characterization, power, risk/information, and loss versus gain.

Identity Frames

Individuals tend to view themselves as having particular identities in the context of specific circumstances and situations. These identities spring from an individual’s self-conception and group affiliation. The more central the challenge to one’s sense of self, the more oppositional one is likely to act. Typical responses to threats to identity include ignoring information and perspectives that tend to threaten one’s core identity, reinforcing connections with like-minded individuals or groups, and negatively characterizing problems, issues or situations.

Characterization Frames

Closely related to stereotyping, characterization frames may be either positive or negative. Individuals view others as having particular characteristics and when they find themselves in disagreement or at odds with others often tend to construct characterization frames for them that significantly differ from how the other parties view themselves. Such characterizations often undermine others’ legitimacy, and cast doubt on their motivations, or exploit their sensitivity.

Characterization frames often tend to be linked to identity frames, which serve to strengthen one’s personal identity while justifying individual actions toward another, thinking for example, “I am a free thinker, but my opponent is closed-minded and because of it needs to be subdued or chastised.”

Power Frames

Because disagreement is often imbedded into critical thinking activities like decision making, individual conceptions of power and group control tend to play a significant role in them. Power frames help a disagreer determine which forms of power are justifiable, such as in the form of existing organizational structure. At the same time, power frames also help to determine certain forms of power that are likely to advance one’s own agenda or positioning, like authority, resources, expertise, or unity-building.

Risk and Information Frames

Disagreements that often erupt during critical thinking projects or activities often involve personal expectations about future events, where these events may either be risky, or where the likelihood of them occurring is quite uncertain. Within these types of situations, certain group members will often begin to construct risk and information frames that produce highly variable assessments about the level and extent of a particular risk.

From a positive viewpoint, risk and information frames work to indicate which sources of information tend to be reliable, and which ones are not. Risk and information frames depend not just on an individual’s points of interest, but also on the person’s level of training, expertise, personal exposure to the risk, familiarity with the risk, and the potential for disastrous or negative impacts due to it. Because of the ability to deeply analyze various risk factors and their potential consequences these critical thinkers tend to act and think in terms of the degree in which the risk is dreaded or feared.

Loss Versus Gain Frames

It is common for most individuals who work as a collective group in problem solving or decision making to focus on “threats of potential loss,” rather than on “opportunities for gain.” People tend to react differently to a proposed course of action when its expected consequences are framed in terms of “losses” as opposed to “gains.” Most times there will be individuals who hold firm to believing that preventing a perceived loss is much more relevant, significant, and high in value than securing an equal gain. This works to reinforce a psychological barrier in regard to taking a particular course of action or accepting a specific problem’s solution.

Reframing

Reframing is the process of purposefully managing one’s personal frames. With the help of reframing, individuals are more likely to find new ways to reach an agreement. Within critical thinking activities such as decision making or problem solving, the ability to effectively manage frames and the framing process can lead to important shifts not only in the frames themselves, but also in the impact that they have on group dynamics.

Reframing is intended to:

  • Clarify various viewpoints in order to bring about a more productive exchange of information by listening to ideas that were not previously considered. This includes expanding discussions to explore different courses of action or solutions that had not been previously addressed.
  • Enhance individuals’ understanding of their interests and how the forms of action they take are used to serve these interests, which is accomplished by examining potential processes for managing frames more productively and to reconsider patterns of interaction among other group members.
  • Identify concepts, issues, or informational areas that individuals tend to view differently, which is used to determine opportunities for compromise, negotiation or trade-offs, which can be based on these specific differences.
  • Identify differences to determine which ones cannot be bridged. As an essential part of reframing it becomes important to identify ways to reduce or eliminate areas of disagreement in a manner that does not violate these types of differences, which includes determining the degree of importance that is awarded to them.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 19.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about critical thinking techniques, refer to Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

with 5 comments

Leaders in the workplace hear several complaints every day. Some are minor and easily resolved; others are more complex, requiring complicated solutions. Leaders should have a specific procedure or decision tree set up to guide them through the resolution process fairly and consistently.

Decision trees come in different varieties, some more suited to particular issues than others. One type can be quite logical, providing the leader with a rather intuitive model to follow for simple problems. Difficult problems, on the other hand, require more complex models that give leaders the more intricate guidance they require.

Unresolved complaints are symptomatic of underlying issues in the workplace. When left unsettled, these issues fester and ultimately surface as major problems that can impact productivity, efficiency and performance, as well as expose an organization to legal liabilities. Leaders must always strive to resolve a problem; otherwise, employees who continually complain about the same issue yet don’t see action being taken likely have legal recourse. Even a seemingly minor issue can have potential legal ramifications that make the company liable for failing to address the complaint.

Effective leaders understand the importance of immediately addressing and resolving complaints. They know that lingering issues hinder the performance of their organizational unit by disrupting the harmony and balance required to maximize output. Additionally, the time invested in “nipping a problem in the bud” is well spent when compared with the time required to deal with a complaint that has exploded into a major problem. Good leaders furthermore understand that a quick and effective response to a complaint limits the company’s legal liability.

Undoubtedly, leaders are well-versed in dealing with daily operational problems (e.g. production, quality, scheduling and efficiency) associated with the organizational unit’s performance. And while it is possible these methods are effective at resolving related employee complaints, they are not the focus of this lesson. For present purposes, complaints will be limited to general workplace issues such as intimidation, harassment, bullying and other employee-related concerns.

When a complaint is initially brought to the leader’s attention, he or she will most likely immediately classify it as a problem that is either major or minor. This tendency is natural, as quick classification leaves the leader with the necessary time and energy to identify and resolve the problem.

However, leaders must take care not to minimize a complaint. They need to recognize that it takes courage for an employee to voice a concern. In fact, before the complaint is made, quite often the issue has been going on for a sustained period, with the employee making many failed attempts at resolving it. Hence, it is important that the leader carefully consider the complaint’s seriousness. Even if the individual tends to complain or whine about everything, each grievance should be examined on its own merits. If, after thoughtful consideration, the leader finds there isn’t much to the complaint, then it may be dismissed. But a repeat pattern of similar complaints may require further action on the part of the leader. On the other hand, some employees rarely complain, and when they do the problem may be more serious than it initially appears.

Once the legitimacy of a complaint has been established, several steps must be taken. A decision tree, as outlined below, guides the leader to the ultimate solution.

Preliminary Investigation

A preliminary investigation identifies underlying causes, the individuals involved and impacted, and the extent of the problem. When the problems causing the complaint are rooted out early, potential solutions can also be identified right away. If this is the case, leaders can act quickly to resolve the problem and move on to more pressing issues. If not, leaders must move on to the next step.

Documentation

If the problem is bigger or more advanced than originally thought, then leaders must begin to document its extent—that is, the activities of the individuals causing the problem, and the complaints and actions of the employees affected by the problem.

Effective leaders understand the importance of documenting the problem: the process helps develop objective facts necessary for a satisfactory resolution and protects the company if the termination of employees is required.

Interview All Participants

An initial investigation of a complaint and a documentation of the facts should include personal interviews with everyone involved in the issue. This gives all parties ample opportunity to express their viewpoints. Leaders must take care to stick with the facts and not be biased by previous experiences with anybody or let their personal feelings impact their decisions.

Pinpoint the Causes and Solution

After interviewing all participants and listening carefully to what they had to say, leaders should be able to pinpoint the underlying causes of the problem. Sometimes the issue to be dealt with is obvious; in which case, immediate action is advised.

In more serious cases, leaders may need to consult with their superiors or the human resources professionals in their company to determine further action or attain recommendations. When issues of legal liability are involved in the solution, leaders must seek counsel from others more familiar with the issues. Effective leaders understand the limits of their responsibilities and the importance of calling on others with more expertise. When in doubt, it is best to call human resources to get their view on possible courses of action.

Implement the Solution

Depending upon the seriousness of the problem and who is involved in crafting and implementing the solution, leaders must take action as soon as possible. Clearly, the solution can take many forms and have a variety of actions. As a result, leaders will often have to sit down with the people affected, either individually or together as a group.

In these sessions the problem will be plainly laid out, the findings and extent of the problem will be reported, and a discussion of the possible solutions initiated. In certain cases where the problem is very serious, solutions can be presented without options, leaving the people who are causing the problem with clear instructions to cease their behaviors or face specific consequences. In other cases, the parties will discuss and agree upon a solution.

Once again, leaders aren’t doing this alone: they are guided by the seriousness of the problem, instructions from their superiors, and the legal liabilities and ramifications if the issue is not resolved. Each area offers unique guidance that, along with understanding the particular circumstances surrounding the problem, will help leaders identify the final resolution and the actions they need to take.

Monitor the Solution

After a solution has been implemented, leaders should actively monitor the solution and periodically interview the employees affected to assure their satisfaction with the outcome. The leader’s central purpose here is to ensure that the problem is completely resolved. If unresolved, then further action must be taken. Consequences may need to be revisited and more drastic action may be called for.

Leaders must understand that every complaint and problem is unique. Dealing with workplace issues means working with complex human behaviors that often have no simple or straightforward solutions. While some solutions are mandated by company policies or management direction, others require the leader’s persistent application of logic until the problem is completely solved.

Excerpt: Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about techniques to manage and handle negative employee behaviors, refer to Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

“Dissent, Even Conflict, is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

with 8 comments

In addition to allowing themselves to have their own thinking challenged, the great leaders also challenged the thinking of others, to help them to consider all possibilities and options. Consider the example of Ray Kroc (McDonald’s). “Suppose someone comes up with a proposal that McDonald’s should serve turkey sandwiches… Everyone on the board of directors can think of nine good reasons why turkey sandwiches would be a bad thing for us. They would blow the idea out of the water immediately. But Ray would say, ‘Wait a minute; let’s examine what this might do for us. Maybe we could make it work. If not turkey sandwiches, maybe we should try turkey hash.’ He wouldn’t let go of it until all possibilities had been considered.” 1

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) illustrated this point of challenging the thought process, when he remarked, “One must create the ability in his staff to generate clear, forceful arguments for opposing viewpoints is well as for their own. Open discussions and disagreements must be encouraged, so that all sides of an issue will be fully explored. Further, important issues should be presented in writing. Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.” 2

Peter Drucker commented, “Dissent, even conflict, is necessary, indeed desirable. Without dissent and conflict there is no understanding. And without understanding, there are only wrong decisions. To me the most fascinating parts of [Alfred] Sloan’s [General Motors] book [My Years With General Motors] are the memoranda in which he first elicits dissent and then synthesizes dissenting views into an understanding, and in the end, into consensus and commitment. Sloan implies that leadership is not charisma, not public relations, not showmanship. It is performance, consistent behavior, trustworthiness.” 3

James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) was “never one to fill his staff with employees who were afraid to state their minds, Burke enjoyed having different viewpoints on board. ‘My style is to encourage controversy and encourage people to say what they think,’ he told Fortune (October 24, 1988). He always wanted his employees to fight for what they believed in, without fear of repercussions.” 4

Henry Luce (Time Magazine) was known to challenge other’s thinking. It was reported, “‘Far from being pained by new ideas,’ Mr. [Hedley] Donovan [Editor in Chief – Time Magazine] said, ‘Harry Luce rejoices in them. He welcomes argument so ardently that it takes a certain amount of intellectual courage to agree with him when he is right, as is bound to happen from time to time.’ This was also the impression of Gilbert Cant, a Time editor for many years, who said: ‘His decisions may have been unidirectional but, by God, he thought a hell of a lot. Conversation with him was utterly maddening because he was always aware of the other side of any proposition he was stating, and he frequently tried to express both sides at once.’” 5

  1. How He Made McDonald’s Sizzle (Success Magazine, March 1, 2009)
  2. Admiral Rickover H.C., Doing a Job (management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering, 1981; CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)
  3. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)
  4. Watson Stephanie, Business Biographies: James Burke (http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/A-E/Burke-James-1925.html)
  5. Whitman Alden, Henry R. Luce, Creator of Time-Life Magazine Empire, Dies in Phoenix at 68 (The New York Times, March 1, 1967)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 29.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about the intellectual honesty and openness of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews’ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

April 3, 2012 at 11:44 am

Five Reasons Why Team Communications Can Deteriorate

with one comment

Since leaders are dealing with individual personalities in the team environment, it is unrealistic to expect that communication will never break down. Even within the most effective and efficient team environment, issues and situations will arise that will cause an entire breakdown of team communication.

The breakdown of communication in the team environment often occurs when trust and respect are diminished or ignored by individual team members. Breakdowns also occur when chronic conflict has not been resolved within the team.

Another source of communication breakdown is when team members feel their personal interests are stronger than the needs and identity of the team. These individuals are motivated by their personal desires and will do anything to achieve them, including disrupting the team environment.

It is important for leaders to recognize that communication breakdowns will occur within the team environment. In the early stages of team growth, communication problems and breakdowns are more frequent, as individuals struggle to obtain position and retain power in a new and changing environment. However, in more mature and structured teams, leaders will find that the team itself will deal with the communication problem according to its defined boundaries, rules and standards.

Leaders should be aware that a breakdown in communication can have long-term ramifications on the structure and effectiveness of the team. Therefore, it is important for them to recognize potential problems and the symptoms in order to anticipate issues, such as those discussed below, before they occur.

Loss of Trust and Respect

If leaders allow problems to fester and lead to a breakdown of team communication, they will experience a corresponding breakdown of trust and respect among team members that can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore. These circumstances can be fatal to the team and might require the formation of a new team in order to overcome them. Broken trust requires prolonged periods of time to be reestablished. Leaders need to be aware of this and take appropriate action to reduce the occurrence of chronic problems that can result in the loss of trust and respect among team members.

Hindered Free-Flow of Ideas

Once communication has broken down among team members, leaders will observe that discussions become more emotional and subjective rather than objective and factual. When discussions are based on emotion rather than fact, brainstorming will diminish to the point that there is no free-flow of ideas among team members. This effectively halts the team process until the issues causing the breakdowns are dealt with.

Intimidation

Leaders who experience a breakdown of communication observe that certain members will attempt to take control of the team process, subjugating the team to their personal agendas and perspectives. Once done, these individuals will use emotional responses to intimidate other team members into accepting their points of view. This is where the bonds of trust and respect among team members can be broken. The communication breakdown destroys the team structure and subjects it to the will of one or more members.

Bias

Once the breakdown of communication has led to the destruction of the team order by one or more team members, a specific bias is created that supports the personal agendas of these individuals. When members allow the team process to be subverted by particular individuals, they undermine the entire team effort.

Faulty Decision Making

The breakdown of communication in the team environment inevitably leads to faulty decision making. Specific biases that hinder the free-flow of ideas prevent teams from considering all options and alternatives when making decisions. Consequently, decisions are impacted by the biases of the specific individuals controlling the team. In these circumstances, decision making and outcomes will be flawed.

Individuals who have hijacked the team process will use the team environment as a cover to mask their activities when decisions produce faulty results. As they do not want to be held accountable for their behaviors and actions, they will place blame for the decision on the team environment.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about enhancing team communications, refer to Boosting Team Communication: Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

with 5 comments

A leader’s specific roles are determined through the four basic leadership responsibilities of directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Specific responsibilities will fall into one of these four categories. In leadership practice, one must master skills in all areas in order to effectively lead others under their direction.

Effective leadership is not happenstance; it follows specific rules revolving around these four basic areas of responsibility. Leadership skills can be learned and developed, even if an individual does not have a natural tendency toward leadership. More importantly, once learned and applied, these rules make a leader more effective and productive as he or she learns to work, direct and guide others toward the mutual accomplishment of goals and objectives.

Developing strengths in each of the four leadership roles allows a leader to read specific situations accurately and know what communication style is best applied.

Directing

Directing refers to how to keep work tasks and activities on the right track. A leader’s direction is what makes or breaks problem solving as well as determines the effectiveness of an approach to an assignment or task, the maintaining of momentum until its completion, and whether it is done by deadline. There are several ways to generate good direction techniques. These include:

Explain things completely and include the ‘why’s’

Leaders learn early on that the best way to gain support and trust from their employees is to explain all things in their entirety. Once people understand why something is important or necessary, they generally rally to the call of that which needs to be done or addressed.

Remain visible

Leaders understand the power of their presence at all times. Nothing deflates the workforce’s motivation and desire to achieve more than to be left on their own with no visible means of support or direction.

Objectively consider opposing points of view

Leaders consider situations, problems and solutions from various viewpoints, as the input from as many individuals as possible expands their capabilities to effectively frame their direction.

Coaching

Coaching refers to when a leader knows where he or she wants to go and remains in control of the task but needs to lead others in developing a mutual support network. Coaching instills the desire to achieve and builds a dialogue bridge between the leader and those under his or her charge. This motivates employees and positively changes attitudes toward the work assignment. To do this effectively a leader must make an effort to:

Incorporate the word ‘we’ into all conversations

Effective leaders eliminate the word “I” because it denotes a singular rather than cooperative effort. The very meaning of the term “coaching” implies a team effort.

Listen for objections and areas of misunderstanding

Effective leaders who coach well develop the skill of eliminating objections by developing an effective dialogue and creating clear and concise responses.

Offer explanations addressing the ‘why’s, what’s and how’s’ of the problem or task at hand

Good coaching depends upon complete understanding. Motivation and confidence comes from understanding the expectations a leader has of those involved in a given task, assignment or problem solving situation.

Supporting

Managers cannot be effective leaders unless they actively hone their supporting skills. People look warmly on leaders who actively work to support them emotionally as well as physically. When leaders actively work to support the people under their charge they:

Acknowledge individual efforts with comments of praise and positive support

Leaders are not afraid to say “thank you,” or “you’re doing a great job,” or whatever it takes to instill confidence in an individual.

Disclose their own feelings openly and honestly

Leaders are not afraid to reveal their “inner self.” Trust and loyalty are built on disclosing inward feelings, concerns and desires. Readily and honestly opening up builds encouragement and perseverance on both sides.

Never hesitate to ask, ‘What’s wrong?’

Leaders allow themselves to get into the thick of a situation or task, and are quick to share the decision making responsibility, but know when to relinquish control in order to gain extra participation and involvement.

Delegating

Leaders know and understand their people. They know their strengths and weaknesses as well as what motivates and frustrates them. Effective delegating relies on the ability to select the proper person for the specific task or role. Leaders develop good delegation skills by:

Briefing the delegate

Leaders leave nothing to chance when they delegate. When delegating, it is vital to explain exactly what expectations the leader has of the delegated individual.

Having confidence in the person they select

Leaders do not select individuals for an assignment according to their job descriptions or the salaries they command, they look for people with the skills, abilities, perseverance and motivation to get the job done and done well.

Not abdicating responsibility, but allowing individuals to decide a best course of action for themselves

Leaders monitor and weigh these individual decisions, but never advance their own leadership position for a particular course of action unless they assess it to be the best one.

Excerpt: Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about understanding your roles and responsibilities as a leader, refer to Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 15, 2012 at 11:07 am

Eight Problem Solving Traps

leave a comment »

The process of problem solving can at first blush appear relatively simple: the difficulty is defined, facts and evidence are collected and analyzed, and a solution agreed to. However, because imperfect people make decisions, the entire process is fraught with traps that can lead to serious errors in judgment.

Problem solving is not to be taken lightly: it is a step-by-step process that when properly sequenced and followed should produce solid results. Unskilled problem solvers will often misinterpret the issues, attempting to solve symptoms rather than root causes, and makes the situation more confusing than it has to be.

It is important for individuals to understand that effective problem solving often consumes more time than most people are willing to invest. Rather than go about it properly, many just want to react and deal with the problem quickly. However, the time invested to thoroughly investigate and solve a problem more often than not produces a more successful solution—and happier employees and customers.

Individuals can easily fall into a number of common problem solving traps. The resulting consequences are often faulty decisions based on poorly framed questions, inadequate analysis and a host of other factors. Rather than solve anything, these traps often complicate the problem, making it more difficult to resolve.

‘Plunging In’

In this case, individuals begin to gather facts, data and information and form conclusions without thoroughly exploring the problem. They are in a reactive mode and desire to quickly dismiss the problem, which leads to faulty decisions based upon unsubstantiated assumptions. Such hastiness can worsen the situation and make the solution more elusive.

Wrong Problem

Individuals set out to resolve the wrong problem because they have established a mental framework for their decision with little or no forethought: they incorrectly frame the problem or use the wrong boundaries and reference points, causing them to overlook the best options or to lose focus on the issue.

Lack of Definition

Individuals fail to consciously define the problem in more than one way. In other instances, their definition is biased or unduly influenced by others.

Problems must be viewed and framed from a variety of perspectives to adequately define and resolve the problem. When definitions are limited, so are the available solutions.

Overconfidence

Individuals are too sure of their assumptions and opinions and they become overconfident, failing to collect key facts, data and information. They trust their intuition and the most readily available information or convenient facts without taking the time to fully investigate the problem.

Lack of Adequate Analysis

Rather than taking a systematic approach to problem solving, many individuals instead believe they can keep the facts straight in their heads. Consequently, they believe they are making intuitive judgments based upon the information available and don’t engage in careful analysis. Here, one often overlooks key evidence that can impact the ultimate solution.

Groups that fail to use good problem solving skills and processes can also fail to make sound decisions, or they fall into a groupthink mode where everyone agrees with one another without using critical thinking skills.

Faulty Interpretation

There are instances when people refuse to properly interpret the results of their analysis because it runs counter to their beliefs or does not fit their own set of assumptions. In other cases, pride gets in the way of arriving at an appropriate decision.

Failure to Keep Track

Many individuals assume they will automatically remember their past experiences. Research has demonstrated that when individuals maintain systematic records that they periodically review, they can distill valuable lessons that could be applied to later situations.

Failure to Have a Formal Process

People who fail to develop a formal problem solving process that they can use fairly and consistently will often repeatedly fall into the problem solving traps detailed in this lesson.

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about problem solving techniques, refer to Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

Creating a Culture of Innovation

with 4 comments

Effective leaders are the key influence in bringing about innovation and opportunity. Their search for ways to advance and grow the organization takes them far beyond the traditional structures, methods and concepts that have worked in the past. In today’s fast-paced market climate, empowering members to test new approaches and ideas is critical. This creates the innovation, creativity and opportunity needed to drive change.

The forces of change come from both inside and outside the organization: customers are the source of demand for product and service innovation; process innovation generally comes from within the organization itself and through its employee members. There are definite factors needed to create the innovation—in essence a willingness to break from past methods—to effect positive change and incremental transformations.

A major function of the leader’s role is to stimulate innovation and creativity, to bring about incremental transformations that improve an organization’s products, services and overall quality. This is necessary in order to meet both external and internal customer needs. Accomplishing this is done through developing an empowered environment that instills and reinforces innovation.

In order to create an environment conducive to the full empowerment of its members, leaders must depend on consistently influencing others while keeping all communication channels between units, divisions and upper management open. Leaders realize that employees doing the frontline work are the best resource to utilize in designing more effective processes, generating creative ideas and quality improvement concepts, and implementing the best solutions to overcome inefficiencies.

Only when employees take an active role will creative innovations, new ideas, processes, services and product improvements consistently flow within and out of the organization. Whether this state is successfully attained or not depends on whether leaders acknowledge the factors generating imagination, resourcefulness and risk taking in their employees.

There are three chief characteristics of an environment supportive of innovation, creativity and risk taking. Successful establishment of this environment is dependent upon leaders building recognition of these factors. They include:

Experimentation and Breaking Away from Constraints

Leaders are experimenters by nature. However, they need to instill this desire in employees to experiment with new approaches to old problems, to accept the challenge of trial and error. Throughout this process, leaders actively help employees remove the barriers to creativity and innovation by identifying and breaking down self-imposed constraints on personal perceptions, thinking habits and patterns.

Outsight and Insight

Because innovation depends upon creative ideas—most of them coming from outside general conventional thinking—innovation within an empowered environment depends heavily on what is referred to as “outsight.” Outsight is the ability to perceive external realities. It is the necessary forerunner to insight, or the ability to apprehend the inner nature of things. An awareness and understanding of outsight forces comes through openness and flexibility. It is up to leaders to open the doors to the world beyond conventional boundaries and expose employees to a broader spectrum of situations, problems and concerns.

Developing a ‘Hardiness Factor’

Uncertainty and risk are part of the price both leaders and employees pay for being innovative. Leaders generally thrive on uncertainty and risk, but it is often another matter for employees. To overcome feelings of insecurity in regard to these two areas, the question becomes, “How do employees within the organizational unit learn to accept the inevitable failures and accompanying stress of creative innovation and the circumstances surrounding it?” The answer rests in cultivating a sense of hardiness and resilience.

When a healthy sense of hardiness reveals itself, it will be observed through actions and beliefs mirroring the sentiment that “uncertainty and risk are more interesting than being fearful.” Employees know they do have a definite influence on specific outcomes, which motivates rather than intimidates. They see uncertainty and risk as opportunity.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

The Key Components of Virtual Teams

with 2 comments

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who, committed to common purpose and performance goals, hold themselves mutually accountable. Virtual teams on the other hand are teams of people who primarily interact electronically and may occasionally meet face-to-face. They include teams of people working at different geographic sites or a project team whose members telecommute.

Virtual teams effectively deal with the realities of time compression, distributed resources, increasing dependency on knowledge-based input, a premium on flexibility and adaptability, and the fact that most of the information they use is in electronic form.

They take advantage of the electronic infrastructure, which enables them to work in parallel rather than serially, having continuous access to the latest and best knowledge and information. This allows individual team members to participate from remote sites without abandoning other aspects of their work and home lives.

The flexibility of virtual teams allows them to bring new team members up to speed through the online record of ongoing work. The fact that they are able to capture their collective work electronically—often in real time—makes it easier for other teams to access their efforts.

This is important since the rationale for virtual teams centers around the differences in time and space for team members. Team members may not be physically connected, so it may not be practical to consistently travel for face-to-face meetings. The fact that individual team members may be working in different time zones and work shifts poses additional challenges for leaders who manage these teams.

Skill Sets

There are four basic components for the success of virtual teams:

  • The selection of the right team members
  • Identifying and communicating a clear and common purpose
  • Developing an appropriate high-performance technical infrastructure
  • Ensuring that the organizational culture supports the information sharing required by the team

Selection of the Right Team Members

Best practices in the management of virtual teams derived from the review of a number of corporate case studies reveal that the virtual team environment is not for everyone. Not all individuals are equally adept at handling the uncertainty and responsibilities associated with virtual teams. Past participants who require a significant amount of structure in their work environment have reported feeling lost in this type of less structured work environment. For the right candidate, virtual teams can provide the freedom, flexibility and challenge to maintain his or her interest.

Managers should choose individuals for virtual teamwork carefully. Individual team membership should be based on the core competencies needed to achieve the desired outcome. However, in selecting the right candidates, qualities like responsibility, dependability, independence and self-sufficiency crucial to the viability of virtual teamwork should be considered. Individuals who possess the needed skills and appropriate temperament should be recruited regardless of standing or title within the company. In many cases, an employee’s manager on one project may be their staff on the next. The bottom line is that virtual teams are developed based upon the skill sets best suited to meeting the project’s requirements.

The Virtual Team Concept

Virtual teams typically follow a three-part model, the components of which capture the essential qualities of successful virtual teams. They represent the capabilities and behaviors needed to succeed in complex knowledge work in virtual environments. The three components include:

  • People
  • Purpose
  • Links

People

People populate small groups and teams of every kind at every level.

Purpose

Purpose holds all groups together, but for teams, the task that expresses the shared goal is the purpose. The purpose should be defined according to the cooperative goals set at the beginning of any successful teaming process. Interdependent tasks enable teams to accomplish the desired purpose initially defined with outcomes and measurable results at the completion of the project.

Links

Links are the channels, interactions, and relationships weaving the fabric of the team as it develops over time. The greatest difference between conventional teams and virtual teams is the nature and variety of their links. It is what makes virtual teams distinctive. The electronic infrastructure accessed by virtual teams makes their distance-related interactions possible.

Trust in Virtual Teams

The world of virtual teams has many benefits in bringing together people of talent, providing international perspectives and saving a corporation the expense of physically bringing the team together.

However, virtual teams can’t work together until trust is established between its members. The dilemma faced by leaders is how team members build trust when they seldom if ever get a chance to meet the other person and observe their actions and behaviors. Before trust is established in virtual teams, individual team members must be able to answer three questions about one another:

  • Value – Do you have anything to offer me?
  • Commitment – Can I count on you?
  • Thoroughness – Will you get it straight?

Value

The initial conversation with a team member is the first place that value is displayed. Before any discussions and dialogue take place, qualifications of all team members should be shared with the team. This may be in the form of a resume, profile or professional listing that all can access.

Individual team members should be encouraged to communicate with each other and learn more about each other’s jobs, their personal goals and what they want and need from each other.

Leaders should inform team members that because most communications will take place electronically, their tone of voice, energy level and enthusiasm does much to transmit the value they are bringing to the team.

Commitment

Participation on a virtual team means that an individual’s work and contributions are not readily observable. This degree of freedom comes with added responsibility for individual team members. There is no one there to appreciate the efforts that one person is contributing to a project. The question becomes whether individual team members are committed to the success of the team. Other team members can only judge by what is related and shown to them. Team members need to be accessible, especially through instant messaging, to remind other team members that they are on the job.

Delivering large projects in smaller pieces is also advisable. Due to geographic constraints, personal commitment to the success of a virtual team takes additional work and increased expectations. It is up to team leaders to monitor the activities and output of individual members to ensure that all are committed to the success of the project.

Thoroughness

In the virtual world the most common response to something going wrong is silence. The burden of any mistake is more likely to fall on the absent person who “didn’t get the job done.”

Virtual team members must take control of their circumstances, double check and follow up more than in a face-to-face world. They must listen for concerns and questions from other team members. They must advise other team members of potential problems before they occur. Attention to minor details is more critical on virtual teams, since they can readily turn into major perceived problems by the rest of the team.

Once trust is established on a virtual team, its benefits will be realized. Things will work more smoothly with everyone sharing a positive attitude. The team will be more productive, respond to more significant opportunities and grow in both capabilities and confidence.

Excerpt: Managing Virtual Teams in the Global Economy: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about how to effectively structure and manage virtual teams, refer to Managing Virtual Teams in the Global Economy: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

Six Key Benefits of Performance Management

with 3 comments

Managers are inundated with a high volume of information and required to make multiple decisions daily. It is often difficult to be fair and consistent in decisions when the manager is operating on a reactive rather than proactive basis.

Performance management gives managers a specific set of parameters to make decisions and act in an active rather than passive mode. This allows them to take the initiative by making quick and effective decisions that positively impact their unit’s efficiency, profitability and overall performance.

Managers who utilize an effective performance management process and program will find that rather than complicate their lives, their jobs are made much easier. Decision-making is greatly simplified by performance management, as it provides a specific set of established parameters with which to make consistent and focused decisions that move the unit forward to the achievement of its goals. These parameters include:

Alignment of Goals and Objectives

The overall purpose of performance management is the alignment of unit/department goals and activities with the overall goals and objectives of the company.

The role of the manager is to ensure that all goals and activities of his or her individual employees directly contribute to the overall success of the unit. In this capacity, the manager establishes the individual goals and targets to assure that the overall objectives are obtained. Once this has been accomplished, any decisions to be made regarding the performance of individual employees must be made with each of their goals in mind. Managers are able to make decisions to ensure that every action and activity an employee makes advances him or her toward the accomplishment of their unit’s goals.

This decision-making parameter prevents individual employees from becoming “loose cannons,” ignoring their unit and company goals and performing in a way they view as expedient. It keeps the employees in line and focused. It also allows managers to fairly and consistently manage and evaluate individual performance against overall team goals.

Focus on the Target Market

Most corporate goals and objectives are designed to move a company forward, while maximizing the utilization of human and physical resources to enhance productivity, efficiency and profitability. In this pursuit, companies are increasingly gearing specific products and services to profitable niche markets where they can gain a competitive advantage.

The use of performance management techniques allows managers to redefine or refine the target market so that it is aligned with the objectives established by senior management. As a decision-making parameter, managers can guide and direct employees through plans to better focus their efforts on these intended niche markets.

As markets are increasingly more competitive, rapid changes and shifts in marketing strategies are often required. The use of performance management criteria allows managers to shift their people’s focus and ensure all decisions they make are consistent with this impetus.

Guidance

The company’s mission statement, goals and objectives provide guidance to the manager and the basis for their performance management program. Additionally, these provide managers with specific parameters with which to guide and direct their own actions and those of their employees, while also giving them the guidance they need when making decisions. There will be times when senior management may need to clarify issues and concerns, but the progression of goals and objectives should flow smoothly from senior management to the individual employee.

Benchmarks for Performance

One of the keystones of performance management is the ability to benchmark the individual work of each employee. These provide managers with the tools to monitor and evaluate performance as well as the basis for any decisions and actions that must be made.

The specific performance of an employee influences all decisions a manager makes concerning that individual. An employee performing at a high level will be given more leeway in the decisions made about him or her since results are being produced. A poorly performing individual will have more stringent decisions made about him or her.

Pinpointing Performance Problems

The use of specific metrics in a performance management program allows managers to make decisions regarding performance breakdowns. Initially, it allows the manager to pinpoint problems and take the proper corrective actions to immediately rectify them before they become a major issue.

Providing Focused Feedback

Performance management allows managers to make decisions and focus their feedback on issues directly related to the achievement of the individual employees goals and objectives. Any other issues distracting the employee that don’t contribute to the unit or department’s performance can be quickly and effectively handled and eliminated.

Excerpt: Performance Management: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about how to use performance management techniques to increase results, refer to Performance Management: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Mistakes as a Source of Innovation

with 4 comments

Jeff Bezos - Amazon.com

Effective leaders adhered to an unalterable expectation that mistakes and failure need to be an acceptable part of the process of innovation. They opposed “zero tolerance for mistakes” policies, many of which are still being practiced in many companies today. They considered these to be hindrances to innovation.

“It’s easy to believe that Jeff Bezos is one of the great innovators. But that’s not exactly the case. His rise into Fortune 500-dom actually has little to do with innovation and more to do with iteration. If anything, Amazon demonstrates how a cutting-edge Internet company – of all things – can succeed slowly. The trick is taking a million tiny steps – and quickly learning from your missteps.” [1]

The mega-inventors of the 19th Century are also prime examples of this philosophy. “[George] Westinghouse (Westinghouse) built on his engineering skills, learning how to design and evaluate industrial trials. Time after time he turned trial failures into commercial successes. Even his competitors hailed his problem solving skills…” [2] “[Thomas] Edison (Edison Electric) viewed even disasters as an opportunity for learning. On one occasion his lab stove went out in the dead of winter, causing an assortment of expensive chemicals to freeze. On another occasion unprotected chemicals were damaged by sunlight. Instead of bemoaning the losses, Edison put aside all other projects to catalogue changes in the properties of the bottled substances… ‘He knew how to turn lemons into lemonade.’[3]

Walt Disney (Disney) took a proactive approach toward mistakes. “Walt found a way to push improvement without laying blame. [He] take(s) a look at what [someone says]… not glossing over a problem with the gag. He implicitly acknowledges it could be better. But rather than indulge an employee’s criticism of another worker, he demands a positive, forward-thinking attitude – ‘what we can do to make it better…’ Walt kept employees engaged and contributing by not shooting down suggestions, but instead steering employees toward improving their ideas… Walt’s approach to suggestions as the difference between responding ‘Yes, if…’ or ‘No, because…’ [4]

As Sam Walton grew Wal-Mart into a retailing giant, he realized that “not all of his ideas worked. The minnow buckets didn’t sell. People in Wisconsin didn’t go for his Moon Pies. But when he saw he was wrong, he admitted his mistake and went on to try something else. And he wanted his associates to be the same way. He’d get them together on Saturday mornings to share their success and admit their failures. That culture of candor produced a great environment to capture ideas. It helped that he had ‘very little capacity for embarrassment.’[5]


[1]  Quittner Josh, The Charming Life of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (Fortune Magazine, April 15, 2008)

[2]  Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (Algora Publishing, New York, 2007) p. 61

[3]  McAuliffe Kathleen, The Undiscovered World of Thomas Edison (Atlantic Magazine, December 1995)

[4]  Niles Robert, Disney Legends Recall Walt Disney and the ‘Yes, It…. Way of Management (Theme Park Insider, November 19, 2009)

[5]  Walton Sam Made in America. A Money Book Summary (character-education.info)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2012)

If you would like to learn more about the power of innovation displayed by the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 21, 2012 at 10:53 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,069 other followers

%d bloggers like this: