Are you priming your employees to be safe or to take risks?

Priming with wordsImagine you are part of a team that has been assigned a particularly difficult maintenance job.  It will take three craftsmen at least eight hours to complete this task.  Your supervisor (Jeff) is coordinating a long list of planned jobs as part of a large shutdown.  Before you go to the work site, Jeff provides a pre-job brief:

“OK, guys – listen up.  We have to replace the large pump in the northwest corner of the basement.  As you know, it’s in a very tight space with no head room and there isn’t much ventilation or lighting down there – so make sure you hook up a fan and some temporary lighting.  This is a critical path job, so I need you guys to get started on it ASAP.  The guys on the production line will be waiting on this job before they can start back up.  We’re behind on shipping customer orders, so there’s some heat from upper management to get in, get out, and get running. Don’t take any more time than is necessary to get the pump changed out.  Keep any breaks to a minimum.  I know you guys always work at a good pace.  That’s why I teamed you up on this job – to get it done quickly.  I’ll be checking on the job every hour to see if we are on schedule.  If you need anything, get me on the radio and I will rush whatever you need to the work site.  If you run into any problems and aren’t sure what to do – use your judgment and do whatever takes the least amount of time.  I know I can count on you guys to get this job done right and on time. I gotta go … but don’t hesitate to yell if you need anything! 

Oh…. and be safe.” Continue reading

How can we increase creativity and engagement?

Many ideasHave you ever been a victim of this circumstance?

Senior leadership issues a clarion call for new ideas.  “We need to generate more revenue!”  Or more likely, “Our costs are too high and we want your input on how to cut our expenses!”  But this is not just any request to submit some ideas into a suggestion box or idea database.  Instead, there is a sense of urgency and perhaps even an expectation that every person contributes.  Groups across the organization are assembled for brainstorming sessions. Perhaps edicts are issued.  “No one can leave the room unless they submit at least 5 ideas.”

What’s the outcome of these sessions?  Often it is disappointing.  Sure, the quantity of ideas is impressive.  But what about the quality?  The same recycled ideas are offered, with nothing offered outside existing paradigms. Continue reading

Do you find Joy in your work?

JoyIt’s a sad truth about the workplace: Just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job.

According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways.  These employees are negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.

What’s the reason for the widespread employee disengagement? According to Gallup, poor leadership is a key cause.

Richard Sheridan, Founder of Menlo Innovations, describes an antidote for this lack of enthusiasm.  He claims that “joy” is what is missing from the workplace.  In a recent interview, Sheridan spoke about some of the ways that he purposely designed joy into the way that people work.

Continue reading

How can I help? The primary question of a servant leader

Help is on the way

“How can I help?”

In what situation are you likely to hear someone ask this question?  Perhaps an associate in a retail clothing store would use this phrase to offer some assistance.  You could hear this phrase from a librarian while  looking for a book or reference.  Maybe you have called a customer service number to ask about a recent purchase.

However, would you expect your manager to inquire, “How can I help?”  when you walked into his or her office?  I wouldn’t.

Equally important, do you use this question as the opening for many of the discussions with your co-workers or those who report to you? Upon reflection, I only occasionally offered these words to my direct reports during the course of my career.

Continue reading

Are you good at multitasking? Think again!

Multitasking“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.

When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air.  Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.”  We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).

Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking.  His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist.  In fact, he calls it a myth.

If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so.  What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”

Continue reading

Should you invest in growth potential or talent?

 

“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

– Pablo Picasso

potential, mindsetAs the engineering manager of a large manufacturing facility, Rick had a knack for identifying talent.  Whether he was recruiting on campus or interviewing candidates with some experience, Rick had a set of criteria that guided his decision-making.  It started with GPA and class rank, but also included other accomplishments such as patent applications, publications, research grant awards, and other recognition.  Everyone agreed that Rick attracted the best and brightest professionals to join his staff.  Rick recruited for exceptional talent.

At the same facility, Karen provided leadership for a process control group.  She would accompany Rick on many of the campus recruiting visits.  Karen and Rick pursued their respective candidates from essentially the same pool. However, Karen had a different perspective.  She wanted to learn about each candidate’s work and social background.  She was keen to learn about how they overcame obstacles, struggled to succeed, and learned from their mistakes.  The candidates who received offers to join Karen’s group were often (on paper) “second-tier” talent. Each person had solid grades and had the skills needed for the job, but they were not exceptional.  Karen recruited for growth potential.

What happened when these employees joined the company?  It is a tale of two divergent philosophies.

Continue reading