Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘problem solving

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

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manwithproblememployee

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively.

This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader.

In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development.

Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures.

With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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 Foreword 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

Interactive Leadership is the Practice of Leadership By Example

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A developmental milestone is reached when the leader is able to build trust and motivation with their employees to the degree that they are willing to openly follow their direction regardless of circumstances. This is not achieved until a leader is able to demonstrate—through personal example—that they have earned their employee’s respect and admiration.

The practice of interactive leadership provides leaders with a distinct set of advantages that cannot be realized without their active presence. This enables them to establish trust, credibility and respect. These are all elements that buttress a leader’s ability to personally lead their organization and motivate his or her employees to follow.

It is one thing to lead an organization and quite another to motivate individuals to follow. The practice of interactive leadership demonstrates the character, ability and integrity of a leader and motivates individual employees to follow.

The practice of interactive leadership spotlights the individual leader and gives them the platform to shine by motivating their employees and effectively moving the organization forward.

Interactive leadership is also the practice of leadership by example, and places all a leader says or does under the close scrutiny of their employees. Effective leaders use this to their advantage by practicing the following techniques:

Sell the Vision

In the storms of change and transformation, the leader’s compass is his or her personal vision of the organization, its goals and potential accomplishments.

Interactive leadership provides leaders with ample opportunities to “proselytize,” or sell their vision to their employees every time the opportunity arises. This often means leaders are constantly talking about their vision and the positive changes that will take place when it is achieved.

The importance of a leader selling his or her vision cannot be overemphasized. As a leader, the goal is to motivate and lead employees. An essential part of motivation is selling employees on the vision and getting them to individually accept and “buy into” that vision as their own.

Since organizational transformation in the face of change is normally a lengthy process, leaders must take every opportunity to remind their employees of the direction in which they are headed, and motivate them to continually work toward the accomplishment of their shared vision.

Related: How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

Walk the Talk

Interactive leadership places leaders under the microscope of employees who are continually assessing integrity and credibility.

The practice of interactive management allows leaders to demonstrate their true character and build trust and loyalty with their employees. This is accomplished by a consistency in words and actions—the measure employees use to gauge a leader.

Consequently it is crucial for leaders to make certain they follow through on what they promise. If this is not possible, they have a good reason and take the time to explain why their promise cannot be kept.

Trust, credibility and loyalty are established when employees, associates and superiors know they can take what a leader says “to the bank,” and that what he or she promises will be done.

This trust is strengthened and a strong bond created when a leader clearly demonstrates by actions that he or she places their employee’s interests above their own personal agenda.

Related: How Credible Are You as a Leader?

Empower and Delegate

The practice of interactive leadership strengthens trust between leaders and employees when leaders actively empower employees and delegate tasks and assignments as needed.

Empowering employees, groups and teams “on the fly” and delegating assignments when feasible allows leaders to swiftly respond to the rapid pace of change—as well as resolve problems and frustrations as or even before they occur.

Related: Seven Key Benefits of an Empowered Workplace

Create Urgency

The rapid pace of change creates its own sense of urgency, but as transformation often takes time, leaders must motivate employees by further instilling this sense in them. This is best accomplished when leaders introduce new ideas and concepts, test them quickly, learn from the failures and move on to the next idea.

It is through this process of continual adaptation and refinement of ideas and concepts that a sense of urgency is developed that keeps the organization moving forward toward transformation. In the absence of this sense of urgency it is easy for employees to fall into complacency.

Related: Linking Structure to Action

Openly Communicating

Interactive leadership is built upon open communication and the ability of leaders to actively listen and respond to feedback and ideas offered by subordinates. This allows leaders to use all of their physical senses to observe and learn firsthand what is happening within their organization and to minimize the distortion of information.

Related: Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Removing Obstacles

When leaders are ever-present and openly and actively interacting with their employees, they are able to identify and remove frustrations and barriers impeding forward movement.

Leaders openly empower their employees to overcome barriers and delegate the creation and implementation of the solution to them. Often these barriers come in the form of minor problems and issues that can be handled by frontline employees without the direct intervention of the leader. This enables the organization to be more responsive and productive.

Related: Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

Celebrate the Little Successes

The open presence of the leader among his or her employees allows them to plan for short-term wins and successes. These are important since the lengthy term of transformation can cause employees to lose sight of their goals and motivation.

The celebration of short-term and minor successes maintains employee focus and keeps them motivated to continue to work toward the long-term success of the organization.

Related: 16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

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 Foreword 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

Why Organizations Need Critical Thinkers

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Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial or detrimental, robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans and initiatives, routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.

Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees.

At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

Related: Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone.

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces are full of employees who apply:

  • Contextual sensitivity — Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.
  • Perspective thinking — Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity — Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.
  • Alertness to premature ultimatums — Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept, which inspires further debate and assessment.

Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker

There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge upon obtaining it fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs or self-interests.

  • Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views, while at the same time actively monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.
  • Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.
  • Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at “inductive and deductive” reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at inductive and deductive reasoning will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate assumptions, conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers need to use deductive reasoning to: reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments and topics, define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts, draw a conclusion that follows known facts that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.

Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language

Organizations depend upon active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable. They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language needs to have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to: describe, inform and persuade.

Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to “their way of thinking” about a topic, idea, concept or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to “get closer to the truth” and to set “the record straight.” For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double talk and jargon. They also need to refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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 Foreword 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

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:

Alternatives

The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.

Emphasis

Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.

Disagreement

Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Agreement

There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.

Openness

In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.

Participation

The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Interaction

The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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 Foreword 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

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

with one comment

Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial or detrimental, robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans and initiatives, routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.

Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees. At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone.

Related: Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces are full of employees who apply:

Contextual sensitivity — Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.

Perspective thinking — Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.

Tolerance for ambiguity — Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.

Alertness to premature ultimatums — Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept, which inspires further debate and assessment.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker

There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge upon obtaining it fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs or self-interests.

Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views, while at the same time actively monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.

Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.

Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at “inductive and deductive” reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at inductive and deductive reasoning will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate assumptions, conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers need to use deductive reasoning to: reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments and topics, define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts, draw a conclusion that follows known facts that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language

Organizations depend upon active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable. They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language needs to have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to: describe, inform and persuade. Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to “their way of thinking” about a topic, idea, concept or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to “get closer to the truth” and to set “the record straight.” For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double talk and jargon. They also need to refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

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

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 Foreword 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

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

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What is your typical response when asked a challenging question?

  • A blank panicked stare followed by a profusion of sweat.
  • Whoa, that came out of left field.
  • I haven’t learned that yet.
  • I didn’t expect you to ask that.
  • Shall I make a few tries at it before admitting that I don’t know the answer?

All of the above responses tend to be real replies often given by employees during a serious or challenging question and answer process or session. Most know that it isn’t the best way to respond, but failed to know what else to say. To be considered fluent and knowledgeable, it is essential to avoid these responses.

However, before responding to a question always consider a response from the questioner’s perspective. In other words: Why is the person asking the question(s) in the first place?

In order to answer questions appropriately and effectively think about asking yourself these questions:

  1. What is the individual looking for?
  2. What past challenges might this person have had in the organization or with previous employees?
  3. What qualities, skills and experiences can you infer are important to the questioner from the question(s) asked?
  4. Are the topics or concerns being questioned about in his or her field of expertise, or out of it?
  5. Who is asking the question? The owner, manager or a peer or colleague?

Related: Not All Questions Are Created Equally

What to Avoid When Answering Questions

When answering questions try not to provide a superficial response to any question. This makes the questioning process muddied, as it slows the progress of getting to the issue at hand, as well as at the heart of the question. Avoid offering a broad or general response because an opportunity will be missed to demonstrate understanding about the topic’s concerns, ramifications and issues. Avoid not answering the question, or skirting around it as it implies to the questioner they are not being listened to and they will become frustrated, and will start to tune out the response to the question. Don’t give generic answers, which implies not mirroring the questioner’s words in the response. If the specifics in the answer are not addressed, the questioner will likely be left with the impression that the responder didn’t listen well, didn’t understand the question, or really didn’t care about the seriousness of the question itself. None of these responses leaves a positive impression on the questioner.

Listen Carefully to What the Question Implies, States and Asks

Listening carefully ensures the question was completely understood and can then be answered effectively, or shows if the question is not as clear and concise as it should be. Listening well is an art that involves good eye contact, body language, and other nonverbal cues. It is essential to pay attention to both what is being said and asked and the manner in which it is delivered. As it may well provide valuable tips to formulate effective responses to the question.

Don’t Interrupt the Questioner

Interrupting someone is not just discourteous, but unprofessional. Not intentionally interrupting the questioner demonstrates the strength of one’s listening skills and ability to respond to the questioner’s inquires and to follow directions. If necessary, it is more effective to clarify the question or at the end, simply ask, “Was the question answered clearly enough?’

Provide a Complete and Precise Response

Take the time to formulate a response and remember that a moment of silence to collect one’s thoughts is always acceptable. Begin the answer with a strong, positive opener including key critical points. Be concise, direct and confident while still providing an adequate amount of detail. When answering a question that has multiple components, section it off to ensure that each point was addressed. For example, you might say, “First, I would ____ then I think I would ____.” After completely responding to one or more complex questions, provide a concise summary as to the whole of the topic or issue presented.

There are certain things to avoid when providing a response, such as: rushing through a response, providing only a superficial answer, trailing off at the end of a question, or not responding to prompts or signals that the questioner wants to hear more.

Related: The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Prove Experience with Examples and Factual Statements

Share some personal experiences while responding which helps convince the questioner that you have the skills or the ability to transfer your knowledge and reasoning into new avenues of applications, perceptions and thinking.

However, make sure not to: reference the example(s) given, repeatedly use the same example during the question and answer process, choose a poor or inappropriate example, or use a good example, but provide it at the wrong time.

Ensure That Explanations Are Optimized

Most likely it will be impossible to give all the answers the questioner desires. Because of this, it is important to convince the individual that you do have: the potential to find out more about the topic being questioned, the ability to transfer knowledge from one situation to another, and the desire to learn quickly and efficiently.

When providing an explanation do not create a link in experience and events from the past to the present and future or miss the opportunity to build confidence based on personal past experiences.

Volunteer More Information than Is Expected

Volunteer information that might not otherwise be asked about. If you have a particular accomplishment that qualifies within a response and it hasn’t come up in the questioning process, make sure to work it in. Modesty and humility are fine personal traits to have, but certain responses can also be used to “sell yourself,” which at times can be extremely beneficial and useful.

In response to a question don’t leave it up to the questioner to “fish” for information in order to get it or miss the opportunity to share unique details that might make you stand out from other employees or individuals.

Demonstrate Your Level of Knowledge

Within responses, bring in points that support your level of knowledge about what is going on within the organization, department and workplace. Take the opportunity during responses to share what you have gained, your knowledge of the industry, and especially your interest in the company. Express your interest verbally through the words you choose as well as in your actions throughout the question and answer process. If you don’t find opportunities to work in certain points of knowledge and interest during the ongoing question and answer process, address it at the end when you are given the opportunity to say something, (which is usually when you are asked if you have any more questions).

When responding to a question, make sure not to let your nervousness and response performance override your interest and enthusiasm during the questioning process or miss opportunities to share your understandings and viewpoints.

Related: Attention to Minor Details Averts Major Problems

Respond Positively to Questions

It is important to frame your responses positively. This can be challenging when asked a question that you do not have an answer for, or when asked about experiences that you don’t yet have. A person can prepare him or herself in advance by anticipating these types of questions, and learning techniques to respond positively.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

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 Foreword 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.

October 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

You Can’t Hope Your Problems Away

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Managers are overwhelmed and burdened with many tasks and responsibilities in a constant quest to improve results. It is easy for managers to ignore the many challenges that confront them while hoping that issues will resolve themselves. However, rather than disappear, unmet challenges create a new set of problems that can represent a deepening morass from which managers must extricate themselves.

Problems and challenges are a regular and ongoing occurrence: some surface as daily tactical problems and issues, while others are more complex, time-consuming and strategic in nature. In all forms, problems can overwhelm the manager and sap their productivity.

Managers must create a systematic approach to problem solving to allow time for their regular duties and responsibilities. Without a detailed, time-focused approach that allows managers to break challenges down into more manageable components, they will quickly feel overwhelmed by the enormousness of the demands facing them.

The manager who hopes that problems will go away on their own will be faced with the following consequences:

Closely Controlled Information

The flow and control of critical information is a management issue. Many managers base their personal power on how they manage and control information made available to their people. Yet the free-flow of information to frontline employees is essential for success. Managers who attempt to micromanage their employees and limit the information fed to them, contribute to undermining the efficiency of the team.

Employees are hindered when they are not given the information they need to be competitive. Without the information and authority to make decisions on the spot, their efforts can be negatively impacted by delays. When decisions are pushed up the line for managers to make, bottlenecks are often created and critical decisions are not made in a timely manner; potential results include lost productivity or poor customer service. At a time when customers are increasingly demanding, this can be extremely problematic. Rather than make employees more effective by streamlining the process, managers often erect additional barriers that hinder performance.

Related: Power Must Be Shared for Organizations to Grow

Loss of Critical Skills

In response to slow economic conditions, many companies cut their discretionary spending and slash training budgets. Rather than focus on the development of skills that can have a direct bearing on the success of a company, many allow skills to become outmoded and ineffective during slow periods. Consequently, companies experience an additional decline in performance, which then necessitate further cuts.

Rather than focus on reducing training budgets, managers should seek to sharpen employee skills to achieve the same objectives. Studies have shown that a 2% increase in customer retention over the previous year’s performance levels will result in a 10% reduction in operating expenses. This is due to the additional retained business impacts of economies of scale.

Disconnection Between Company and Customer Base

With the changes in purchasing habits of customers and a closer examination of the roles and returns that specific products or services offer managers, those who fail to meet critical challenges can find themselves increasingly disconnected from their customer base.

Employees who fail to understand their clients’ profit economies and who are not attuned to the rapidly shifting complexion of business will find it increasingly difficult to meet their customers’ needs. As companies neglect training, they rob their people of critical skills at the apex of change.

Related: When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Inefficient Use of Resources

Not only are companies more demanding, but the use of various new methods and technologies have made for more diverse methods of collecting and disseminating information. The use of face-to-face meetings is in many circumstances no longer the most efficient use of resources. Phone and Web conferencing can supplement traditional meetings and free managers to pursue more essential activities.

Additionally, if managers fail to focus on the desired outcomes of their business processes and the behaviors required to achieve those goals, they are, once again, inefficiently using their resources. Failure to align desired behaviors and goals with compensation plans will result in a failure to meet objectives and negatively impact the organization.

Minimizing Profit Potential

The failure to meet new and ongoing challenges through heightened training can result in the minimization of profit potential. Employees who do not understand the profit economics of their products/services cannot comprehend how they might impact and improve the profitability of their own efforts.

Related: Seven Productive Responses to Change

Deterioration of Growth

Managers who neglect to deal with a new problem are either in denial of the situation or hope it will resolve itself. However, a failure to meet challenges will create a domino effect across the entire organization. All challenges are interconnected: each impacts the other. If solutions are not addressed in tandem, they risk failing. Consequently, when managers fail to meet the issues facing them head-on, they can easily undermine their unit and organization’s growth. The hazard is always present, but the consequences manifest themselves in increments, and the impact is only truly felt over time.

Excerpt: Risk Management: Pinpoint Sales Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

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 Foreword 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

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