Tag Archives: Innovation

Interesting Articles for November

Here are a few of the things that I’ve read recently that have caused me to sit back and think about things in a new light.  Hope you enjoy them.

  • I loved this video of Paul Castain’s that Tim Mushey shared on Sell, Lead, Succeed!  How true, if companies can make millions on selling water what can you bring to the table?  Paul Castain Says Screw the Water Go Brand Yourself.
  • Here is an interesting look at the tough side of leadership by Miles Anthony Smith on Great Leadership.  It really got me thinking about how often these things are overlooked in leadership training.  The 5 Perils of Leadership.
  • This is a great reminder of the power of the words we use when we talk to our team.  Make sure that the words you use bring out the best in everyone and help them reach their potential.  They will be eternally grateful to you for believing in them.  From Mike Rogers at Teamwork and Leadership.  Do You Make this Mistake with Those You Lead?
  • In this article Elizabeth Grace Saunders, on HBR Blog, points out the negatives associated with putting other people first.  Learning when and how to say no is one of the biggest steps for career success.  Stop Being a People-Pleaser
  • Do you value brains or results?  Often managers and companies hire the smartest people and yet this is not a guarantee of success.  In this article on Fast Company by Andrew Razeghi he demonstrates that innovation is being able to act on creative ideas; which can be more important than generating the ideas.  As well, he uses Edison vs. Tesla to demonstrate the impact of social skills on success.  Do You Hire for IQ or Klout Score?
  • When was the last time you took inventory of your management skills?   In this article Tina Del Buono on PPM Blog provides a great road map to examining your skills.  Examine Your Management Skills

What reading have you done that inspired you?

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Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Team Building, Time Management

Get to Know Your Customer

As a leader in your organization it is critical that you know your customers.  This means the end-user of your company’s products / services as well as all the internal customers.  While this is not a new concept it may be time to stop and reflect on what people need from you and your team.  When we are busy keeping up with all our tasks we can easily lose sight of why we are doing the things we are doing.  To make sure we are on track and doing the right things we must understand our customers.

To ensure your efforts are in line with what your customers need start with your closest customers.  Who inside your organization does your team support?  What do they need from you?  Have you asked their manager how things are going; is there something more that would help them do their jobs easier?  Having a frank conversation with them might reveal that some of the things you are providing are nice to haves but really add no value to your customer.  Here’s something that you may be able to stop doing.  You may find out that if your team provides a bit more, or on a slightly different schedule it would make it possible for your customer to get their job done more efficiently.  This improves the company as a whole.  Focus on what the internal customers need and you will find ways to improve the business as a whole.

Next, focus on the end-user of your organization’s products or services.  You may see these people every day if you are in a customer facing position.  Often however, we are several steps removed from the ultimate customer.  Do you know who the target customer is?  Do you know what they value in your products?  What makes them pick your company over another?  If you can get clear on these issues you may be able to find opportunities within your team’s scope of work to make changes that improve the customer’s value and save you time and money.  Without a clear understanding of the end customer making changes can cause you to miss the mark on your improvements.

In the daily hustle and bustle it is easy to just do what you’ve always done.  However, the world is always evolving and needs shift over time.  Make sure you are staying on course by checking in with your customers to see that you and your team are providing the things that will add value to them.  Strive to improve the experience your customer has with each contact.  Looking ahead to what is valuable to your customers will give insight into what you need to do.  To do this, start by getting to know your customer.

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Filed under Leadership, Time Management

Yes Man – No Thanks

We’ve all seen the person who agrees with the boss, no matter what’s going on.  We roll our eyes and silently (or openly) mock their behavior.  Given that we see through this behavior why do they still opo up in every organization?  There are bosses who love the unconditional support for all their ideas.  However, the great bosses of the world know these folks are poison to the team.

These Yes Men are poison for the following reasons:

  1. False Security.  The positive support leads the boss to believing their ideas are wonderful and without flaws.  This may be totally wrong and blinds people to potential risks.
  2. Stifles Innovation.  If the boss buys into the Yes Man’s support then they may stop looking for new ideas from the team.  Too much of this and the innovation of the team will dry up.
  3. Favoritism.  When the boss keeps hearing what he wants to hear from the Yes Man he may gravitate that direction.  This can leave other team members out in the cold.   

If you find someone like this on your team you need to nip the behavior in the bud.  It’s highly likely somewhere in their past they were rewarded for this behavior so they will naturally go there again.  Here are a few tips for handling this behavior:

  1. Ask for Ideas.  Instead of accepting the Yes Man’s support, ask everyone on the team to come up with one idea for improvement.  Hold them accountable.  Push for outside the box thinking.
  2. Promote Others’ Ideas.  Instead of putting your ideas out there as best, let the team provide the idea for what should be done.  Using ideas generated from the team will stir creativity and engagement.
  3. Use Collaborative Decision Making.  Take the time to get input and ideas from all the involved people.  Get ideas out on the table and seek collaboration from the team.
  4. Analyze Risk Rigorously.  When evaluating all decisions; establish procedures for analyzing the risks associated with the decision.  By always looking at what can go wrong with an idea the team will generate better solutions.

By being proactive in getting the entire team involved in finding the best solutions and analyzing the risks, the Yes Man has no real place on the team and they either move on or change their ways.  In any case, you have a team that will seek innovation and strive for new ways of doing things.  This is a winning team.

photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Win Over the Experts

One of my recent consulting assignments  isto standardize some of the documentation throughout the client’s organization.  This means working with people in the US, Europe and Australia.  While many of the people I’ve been dealing with are excited about the project there are a few who are a bit resistant to the change.  These folks created much of what is in existence today and are truly the experts in their fields.  Unfortunately the organization’s needs have outgrown the capabilities of the current format; now there is a global reach needed that can’t be supported.

To be successful I have to get these experts on my side.  Their senior manager has told them it will happen and he wants it done this new way, but that is getting compliance not commitment.  They are working with me because they have to, but they are not very engaged.  It’s up to me to change that!

Here’s how I’m going about getting them on board with the new program:

  1. Use their information.  I’m using what they created in the past to build the new versions.  This shows that their work is respected and is the building block of the future.
  2. Never be negative.  It is so important to avoid criticizing what’s been done in the past.  Focus on what is right about it and how it can help move everyone into the future.
  3. Get their feedback.  To give them a chance to comment I’m meeting with them about once a week.  This gives them time to review what’s been updated and then they have me as a captive audience for feedback.
  4. Sell, sell, and sell some more.  Part of what I’m doing is to show them what’s been done in other areas already and let them see the benefits of the new materials.  Also, I keep reminding them of why this is being done.
  5. Appeal to their loyalty.  These folks love the products they work on and the company they work for, so I am showing them how the updates will be strengthening the branding of the company.  The professional and uniform appearance of the documentation will be seen world-wide, sometimes by customer personnel, and will increase the image of the products.  They like knowing this helps improve people’s opinion of the company and products.
  6. Play to their knowledge.  The biggest factor to my success is the fact that we are using their information to educate everyone world-wide on the applicable products.  Now they will be impacting people around the world without leaving home, their knowledge will have an even greater reach.

So far it’s going pretty well.  Still working on building the relationships and looking forward to what will come in the future.  I remind myself each day to be positive about their contributions so that I can stay focused on what can be instead of the roadblocks that are really just speed bumps in the road.

What things have you done to get an expert on board with a new idea that wasn’t theirs?

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Taking a Stand

There comes a time when the group is going one direction and you think it would be best to go another direction.  How do you handle that one?  You can go with the flow and hope for the best or you can stand up and say what you think would be best.  The first is the easier path, and it gives you the chance to say “I knew it wouldn’t work” if things go wrong at a later date.  The second choice is much harder, and yet it can be much more rewarding.  The key to being effective in this is to be professional in your handling of a dissenting vote.  No one really listens seriously to the constant naysayer, however they will listen to the person who can state their opinion clearly and concisely when appropriate.

Here are a few ideas for how to make this work for you:

  1. Pick your battle carefully.  It is important to make sure you are going against the grain when you have solid reasons to believe the chosen path is wrong.  Just because it wasn’t your first choice doesn’t make it wrong.
  2. Have facts.  Back your stance up with solid information.  If you can cite studies, data or other reliable information that supports your position then you will be much more credible.
  3. Timing is everything.  Make sure you bring up your concerns before the ball is in motion.  If you wait until the change has started it may be too late and you will not be well received.  Also, speaking up without all the facts can cause you to look like Chicken Little.
  4. Speak calmly.  Presenting your cause with conviction and facts will go a long way to getting your point across.  People who rant about why something is wrong make their audience defensive and they will tune out.  It’s okay to be passionate about it, just not overly emotional.  You want to be taken seriously, not taken as the little kid who didn’t get his way.
  5. Concede graciously.  If after making your case and no change in direction was made, you need to get on board with it.  All you can really ask for is to be heard and your thoughts considered.  If that was done then support the team decision.  Keep any “I told you so” thoughts to yourself if they arise.  People really hate poor losers.

When making your case you can use the formula of “Here is what I think, here are the facts supporting it, and this is the benefit of going this way.”  If you focus on the positives of your ideas and stay away from attacking the other idea then your ideas will be better received.  Attacking someone’s decision will always make them defensive and close their minds to new ideas. 

Personally I really respect people who will take a stand against popular opinion.  These folks are confident in their convictions and I want to hear what they are thinking.  Often this is where some of the best ideas and innovations will come from.  So listen carefully to that dissenting voice.  It may be the voice of reason.

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Decide Already

Jim Rohn
It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.

Too often we get into the analysis paralysis trap.  We think if I get a little bit more information I’ll make the perfect decision.  Collect a little more data and the decision will become clear.  Lots of activity is going on, people are working hard but nothing is really moving forward.  It can feel like being the hamster on the wheel, running and running and yet getting nowhere.

So how do you get off this treadmill?  Here are a few tips to help you get to the business of making decisions to move your organization forward.

  1. Focus.  First know what it is that needs to be decided.  Is it what project will support the strategic goals best? Is it how to allocate the limited resources of the department?  Is it who to hire to round out the team?  Whatever it is be clear on what is the question you need to answer.
  2. Get Information.  Making any decision without information is risky, it’s like playing a slot machine – maybe you will win, probably you will lose your investment.  So once you know what question you are answering you can determine what information you need to know to find the right answer.  Now that you know what’s needed start to collect the information. 
  3. Evaluate.  When you get about 80% of the information you identified as needed take time to evaluate what you now know about the decision.  Do you have enough data to make an educated decision?  If so organize the data and get ready to move on.
  4. Identify Risks.  Now that you have identified some of the possible decisions you need to explore the risks associated with each one.  What is the risk of taking this action?  What is the risk of not taking this action?   Weigh the risks of moving forward against the risks of inaction.
  5. Decide.  You now have information; you know what’s at risk so now you can decide and getting moving forward.

Rarely will you have the luxury of getting all of the information you would like to have before you must act, so get comfortable with weighing your options and evaluating risks.  When you have 80% of the information and you look at it closely, along with the risks, you will see what the best course of action is. 

At times you will fail.  The key then is to learn from it and apply it to the next action.  Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   Waiting for perfection is the biggest failure of all – so decide already!

picture from iStockPhoto.com

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Nurturing Innovators

Often teams are formed to improve a business process which requires innovation.  So how do you create an environment conducive to new ideas being brought to the table?  Part of the solution is to get good ideas from the team and the other part of it is to nurture innovators. 

As a team leader it is critical for you to be on the lookout for the innovators on your team.  Some people have a natural tendency to look for new solutions; they will challenge the status quo in the quest for improvement.  Here are some things you can do to help keep these team members engaged and innovating:

  • Give them room to work.  Innovators often want to be given a direction and then have the boss get out of their way.  Let them go and see where it takes the team.  Regular checks can make sure resources are being used appropriately, but they need room to move.
  • Remove obstacles.  Often innovators get discouraged because there are so many roadblocks to change.  As the team leader your job is to help clear their path. 
  • Provide resources.  When your innovators have ideas or things to be tested or prototyped, provide them with the resources to prove out their ideas.  These resources have to be done within the limitations of the business, and yet it is critical to allow innovators to demonstrate their ideas.
  • Encourage new thinking.  As a team leader you are responsible for getting ideas from the team and being open to new ways and at times radical thinking is critical to nurturing innovation.

Businesses grow and prosper when they are innovating and finding new ways of doing business.  To keep that growth happening all organizations need innovators, those people who are willing to step up and say “What if?”   Encourage this behavior on your team and you will be nurturing the future of your company.

How do you nurture innovation within your organization?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com.

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