New hires, are making them feel welcome?

New hires should feel welcomed and expected on their first day on the job.

We have all been the new guy or new gal at work.  The first day in a new job is an exciting and sometimes terrifying experience.  As it is, the first day in a new job is overwhelming.  You receive so much information in a short period that you feel that your head will explode.  However, feeling overwhelmed and excited is normal.  Occasionally, new hires people see and experience things during that day that make them think if they should stay or go. 

On the first day in a new job, new hires should feel welcomed

Some companies use welcome gifts to make them feel appreciated.  Things like mugs, shirts, lanyards, squeeze balls, or a bag with the company logo make good welcome gifts.  However, other things are critical to making that feeling last.

There are things that leaders should ensure during the first day of the new member of their team. New hires should feel not only welcomed but expected. The hiring manager and supervisor should be ready to receive them. They show readiness by making time for introductions and providing information. For instance, walking the work area for quick introductions is a way to make them feel welcomed. Moreover, when new hires receive key information like an overview of the role and discussing the job description they feel expected.

Give people direction

People need to receive direction, little things that facilitate their introduction to the company. Anything that helps them to know who is in charge of what can help. For example, an org chart helps to learn that information.

Another handy piece of information is a cheat sheet with the contacts for payroll, benefits, IT services, and others. A different kind of direction comes from the department and personal goals. That communication should happen within the first month of the arrival.

New hires should not feel excluded 

Not feeling excluded or lost is critical to feeling like part of the team. Each industry has its jargon, and many companies use acronyms. There is nothing like not knowing those terms or understanding the conversation to feel confused. A glossary of the industry and company terms and acronyms should be part of the welcome package.

Arriving at your new job to find that your workspace and equipment are ready for you is another way to make you feel expected. People knew that you were coming and took the time to prepare your space, computer, and other details.

Leaders who ensure the preparation and execution of those details make new hires feel part of the team. Also, they show respect, a good sign that will make your new team member feel relieved and confident about accepting being part of the company.

Gratitude and leadership

I often remember my grandparents because they were my inspiration and role models. Through their actions and their stories, I learned about gratitude.   Even when money was often in short supply, food on the table was never a problem.  Therefore, saying thanks for whatever we had to eat that day was a meaningful part of our mealtime.  When I complained or said I did not like it, my grandma’s answer was always the same.  She will say that we must be grateful for what we receive and what we have.

Gratitude is being thankful for something you received or have.  This positive emotion occurs after acknowledging the subject’s value, what it means to you, and appreciating the people that make it happen.  One way to show respect to your team is by validating their accomplishments and showing gratitude.    

Show gratitude to be a good leader

Your team is critical to accomplishing the business goals.  This statement is true regardless of how much you know or how effective you are.

The boss does not need to know everything.  Humble leaders know that and do not care to ask for help when facing a problem.  Moreover, they are good at acknowledging the support and appreciating those who provide it.  Acting upon gratitude by saying it aloud is a way to show respect.  Also, it is a way to admit that you could not have done on your own, which only a humble leader will do.

Reflection and gratitude

One thing that does not come easy for a leader or anybody else is to stop and think.  It is far more common to keep going making decisions and moving forward.  Sometimes, this happens even when we are not sure if we are going in the right direction.  However, as with most things, you can build the habit of practicing gratitude.  

Good leaders keep a space on their leader standard work for reflection.  A continuous improvement culture is about learning, experimenting, and reflection on the results to keep learning and improving.  Gratitude and reflection go hand in hand.  While we reflect on the outcome of our actions, we realize the contribution of each team member and how it affects the result.  In continuous improvement, we win, or we learn.  For that reason, every contribution matters.  For instance, every team action led to accomplishing the goal or learning how to do it better next time.

But you need to act upon it

If we pause and reflect each day, that moment will impact our success in the long run.  As leaders, we cannot take our employees for granted.  Being thankful for their contributions, for supporting the business, and for being team members.  Appreciate their commitment to improving processes and creating value for the company customers. More importantly, express your gratitude, let them know that you recognize the value of their actions, and appreciate them.  As Gertrude Stein said, silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.

Using reflection to learn

You can use reflection to learn from your mistakes.

Do you remember the last time you felt defeated?  How did you feel after making a mistake?  Perhaps you felt angry, upset, or fearful.  How did you react?  What did you do after that mistake?  The way you respond during the heat of the moment is significant.  However, what you do after, is what is even more critical.  In continuous improvement, we use reflection to learn from our mistakes.  

Get in the habit of analyzing your mistakes.

I read an article from Justin Bariso regarding an online course he took from Garry Kasparov.  Kasparov is a chess strategist who uses reflection to learn from his mistakes.  Bariso indicated in this article that there is one lesson from Kasparov that stands out.  The lesson is that to improve at anything, you must get in the habit of analyzing your mistakes.

He recommends that the next time you commit a blunder, you should take some time to analyze it.  The analysis should start with asking yourself the following questions.

  • Why did I react the way I did?
  • What may I have misunderstood or have gotten wrong, especially in the heat of the moment?
  • What would I change if I could do it again?
  • What could I say to myself next time that would help me think more clearly?

Why using reflection to learn from your mistakes?

Making mistakes is part of our lives.   For that reason, we better learn how to deal with them.  When you are a leader, it is paramount to learn from those mistakes.  Moreover, to learn from the way we reacted to those mistakes.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those around you.  EI skills are a characteristic of good leaders and kaizen facilitators.  The reason is that people with a healthy amount of EI recognize their feelings and learn how to react to them.  Also, they understand how those feelings can affect other people.  

In a continuous improvement culture, you achieve your goal, or you learn.  There is no losing, and a reflection is a learning tool.  Kasparov’s provided a guide to learn from your emotions.  The answer to those questions will help you understand why you reacted that way and how you could do it differently next time.  This reflection will help to learn more about yourself and how you deal with your emotions.  Your top job is to guide and support your team.  Knowing your mental state will support your efforts to motivate and keep your team engage in the continuous improvement process.

Using reflection to learn from your mistakes and emotions

The truth is that reflecting upon your emotions is also a tool to guide your growing process.  It does not have to stop with our feelings after making a mistake.  I found that in our quest to be better human beings, it helps to learn how we react to some situations.  

For instance, we can learn to understand and deal with impatience, fear, anger, sadness, and others. Moreover, why do we feel joy and happiness from some activities?  In conclusion, through reflection, we can evaluate and learn from our mistakes and feelings.  Both things will help us to be better professionals and human beings.

How to promote innovation, a must-know for leaders.

Leaders must know to promote innovation and the attitude to never stop exploring, learning, and growing.

Innovation is crucial for the success of any organization.  Finding out-of-the-box ways to improve the operation or satisfied your customers can give you a competitive edge over your competitors. Innovation can produce a new product or service.  It can also help you to empower your team.  Regardless of the purpose, creative thinking is a must.  Given the competition out there, leaders need to know how to promote innovation as part of the daily processes.

To promote innovation, develop your team’s skills.

To empower the team, leaders need to ensure they have what they need.  How do they know what skills to develop?  Some skills, like problem-solving or data visualization, are easy to recognize, but others are not.  If you are not sure, go to the best source for this information.  Ask your team member what do they need for success?  What skills or knowledge do they like to develop?  Then, evaluate if the request is reasonable or worth the resources. Finally, approve the request or work with them to find a solution that fits their needs and aligns with the company goals.

Create a safe place to learn.

One of the rules for a kaizen event is to create a safe place to learn, voice ideas, and test their hypothesis.  A safe environment is fundamental for a learning experience.  Employees are more likely to engage in the problem-solving or creative process when they feel safe.  Creating such a place is one-way servant leaders show that they care about their team. The absence of fear of losing their job or retaliation is critical for innovation.  

Even when there is no fear of losing their job, exposing themselves to failure is a deterrent.  Although in continuous improvement, you win or you learn, it feels like a failure if you don’t get what you expected. To change that, leaders will need to step up and model the expected behavior.  

Promote innovation modeling the expected behaviors.

They can model them in two different ways.  First, they can show how to react when they face failure.  Great leaders do not hesitate to show their vulnerabilities.  Leaders make mistakes like everybody else.  When people see the boss has fears or insecurities about following his ideas but do it anyway, they feel good.  It is that aha moment when they realize that their boss is human and feels fear like they do.  

The second way to model correct behavior is by demonstrating the expected reaction when things turn out differently than expected.  During those times, it is normal to feel defeated or upset.  However, it is the reaction to that feeling what counts.  Instead of roaming your sadness or anger, good leaders show their team that it is ok not to win all the time.  Ask your team how they feel and let them vent their emotions.  

After that moment of relief, reset the mindset by showing them how to reflect on the lessons learned. With those learning on hand, adjust the plan and test it.  Moreover, show them to never stop exploring, learning, and growing!  

Ask without telling, the art of asking questions

To make good questions and help your team to develop their problem-solving skills, you need to know how to ask without telling.

One thing that everybody does every day is asking questions.  We ask questions to learn, clarify doubts, or obtain information.  As a leader, you ask questions to learn about a situation.  Also, you make questions to guide your team on their learning process.  However, are you asking or disguising your solutions as questions?  To promote a learning environment, leaders need to ask without telling.

Sometimes a leader needs to tell

Leaders have the responsibility to communicate, set direction, and provide a purpose.  To accomplish them, they tell information and share news or concerns with their team.  Moreover, there are times when they need to set direction.  Sometimes, there is a need to change a strategy or adjust a plan.  When that happens, the leader tells the group what the change is and why it is needed.  Also, how it will affect them and the new expectations.  During these situations, telling is the right thing to do.

Another responsibility of leadership is to teach and coach their team.   The objective is to transfer knowledge and create capabilities.  While facilitating the learning process, leaders tell new information.

Finally, sometimes leaders need to advise people.  It is common to share previous experiences or tell a story to illustrate a point.  If that is the case, say what you are trying to do, do not hide it behind questions.  The best leaders are humble and compassionate.  There is nothing wrong with showing your humanity by using past experiences to illustrate a point.

Why do you need to ask without telling?

A servant leader’s job is to develop more leaders by teaching, motivating, facilitating, and supporting the team.  By asking questions without telling, they promote learning.  Also, their team’s confidence in their ability to solve problems and create more value grows.  As their confidence grows, their participation in the improvement process grows as well. 

A critical step to change the culture is to empower the people.  While asking questions with respect, leaders guide them to find answers by themselves.  By allowing people to use their brains and participate in the daily management processes and innovation, they feel more engaged with their work and happier when they come back home.  

How can you ask without telling?  How to ask better questions?

When you ask questions that people can answer with a simple yes or no, they don’t put too much effort. Closed questions do not lead to engagement or promote thinking.  When you don’t receive answers, the next thing you do is telling people what to do.  On the other hand, with open questions, people need to think.  Use the 5W and 1H to ask questions.  That is, reframe your questions using who, what, where, when, why, and how.

To keep the brain’s wheels turning, ask one question at a time and give people time to think.  In general, we are not comfortable with silence.  Therefore, right after asking something, people jump to tell their answer.  To be successful in asking without telling, you will need to become comfortable with silence.

Sometimes it is easier to ask closed questions.  Therefore, you would need to stop and think about how to reframe it as an open question.  There are two questions that I used often.  The first one is, what makes you think that way? or ” What do you think we can do differently?”  The second question I often used is, “How do you think we can accomplish that? 

Ask without telling that is what we should do.

Contrary to common perception, leaders are not supposed to have all the answers.  However, very often, they have ideas or solutions to share with the team.  During those times, tell the group that you want to share something with them.  You can always tell people, here is a suggestion and then ask how they can improve it.  Do not hide answers using questions.  Let people think, promote learning and problem-solving skills.

By telling, leadership is not fulfilling their responsibility of teaching and coaching.  Once again, this is a stop-and-think situation.  Think about your idea, do you have any doubts about it?  What parts of it need fine-tuning?  Use your doubts or unknown parts to ask open questions.

A continuous improvement culture seeks to foster a learning environment.  Servant leaders teach, motivate, facilitate, and support their teams.  Show them that you care by helping them to develop their skills and grow.  Learning how to ask questions without telling is a way to achieve that.

Asking good questions, what is the value of it?

By asking good questions the right way, leaders can uncover the root cause of a problem, the later big product, and much more.

One way to build trust in the workplace is to listen.  Listening is the most basic way to show respect.  Another way is by helping your team to develop their problem-solving skills.  To help people to get to the root cause of a problem, asking good questions is critical.  Although solving problems is of great value, asking good questions brings more value than that.

Uncover the root cause of a problem and get more

It is necessary to ask comprehensive questions to uncover the root cause of a problem.  For example, use open questions to ask what happened, how, and how often. This kind of question makes people think harder before answering.  The thinking process may bring with it new ideas and different ways to see things.  Moreover, it unleashes the hidden talents of the people.  

When people feel that their work is meaningful, they feel better about themselves.  Higher self-esteem is part of a good mental health state.  Some benefits of good mental health are more clarity of thinking, better mood, and anxiety reduction.  People with good mental health also experience an improvement in relationships.  That is to say that something that started with someone asking good questions ends up helping not just the team but their family.

Ask good questions to build trust

If leadership often communicates with team members at all levels, they have the chance to create relationships beyond problem-solving exercises.  Informal conversations are the perfect vehicle to know the person behind each team member.  It is also a chance for those team members to learn the human side of their leaders.

Some leaders are nervous about asking their people for ideas.  This hesitance many times comes from the fear of being weak or not worthy of their position.  However, when a leader asks for help, it is shows vulnerability which helps to build trust.  In other words, they show that they are honest about admitting that they know everything.  Also, asking for help Is a sign of modesty.  Good leaders are humble and trustworthy.

The value of asking good questions

Asking good questions is a skill that every leader should have.  By asking, they help their team develop new skills and learn new ways to do things.  Most of the time, those learnings are applicable not just at work but also in other settings.  Problem-solving Is one of those skills that are helpful everywhere.  

Team members that learn more and participate more from the site decision process through brainstorming and other activities feel better about their jobs.  The feeling of being part of a group and have a meaningful job brings the added value of good mental health.  An individual with good mental health has better relationships at work and home.

Finally, problem-solving is a team activity.  Therefore collaboration, creativity, learning, and trust are added benefits of the idea’s inquiry process.  For the business, the value of asking questions Includes better efficiency and lower costs.  Above all, it can impact employee satisfaction and retention.

By asking the right questions in the right way, leaders can discover the next big idea for their business, the solution to what stops them from sleep at night, or how to change their company culture. Moreover, they will positively impact their team by helping them to grow.

What are the characteristics of good communicators

Good communicators convey their thoughts clearly and with honesty.  Those are only two characteristics of good communicators.

Effective communication is one of the key elements for a successful continuous improvement transformation.  Therefore, being a good communicator is essential for leadership.  What are the characteristics of good communicators?

Characteristics of good communicators

Every step of the way during the transformation, leadership communication needs to be effective. Clarity is one of the characteristics of effective communication.  Convey all the necessary information with clarity is not easy.  Not only that but being concise and clear is even more difficult.  Good communicators master the art of getting their ideas across while being concise.   They share clear ideas, direct to the point, without fancy words.

To spark curiosity and the desire to learn and discover, asking the right questions is critical.  A good communicator knows how and when to ask.  They listen to the answers and use them to keep asking questions.  With this process, they guide people to learn lean thinking.  That is to say that asking questions is another way to communicate ideas and share information.

Honesty is always good!

Honesty is another characteristic of this group.  Changing minds and behaviors is not an easy task.  Influencing people to change requires a good dose of honesty while being respectful.  It also requires having tough conversations at the appropriate time.

In continuous improvement, root cause analysis is an everyday activity.  While investigating the reasons for failure, focus on the process.  Most of the time, this or the materials are the culprits.  However, sometimes a person did make a mistake.  Those times, you need to be honest without criticizing or blaming.  The way you present the facts will determine how the person feels and react in the future.  The trick is to provide feedback while motivating the person to keep learning and improving.  

Practice the characteristics of good communicators

Good communicators create a safe environment to have courageous conversations.  They are honest, empathetic, and compassionate.  Also, they practice active listening, convey their ideas with clarity and concisely.  The best communicators ask questions to understand and learn.  They are mindful of the tone of their words and the timing of the questions.  We all can learn to be better communicators.  With practice, we can become good ones.   

How can you help your employees to improve their workplace?

Help your employees to improve their workplace by creating a safe space to  test new ideas.

When leadership move away from command and control and empower their team, amazing things happen.  Once the team feels trusted and supported, they gain more knowledge about their capabilities.  This condition is critical to have them creating improvements in their areas.  However, it is not enough to ensure sustainability.  Leadership still must do more to help employees to improve their workplace.

Create a safe space for learning

A continuous improvement culture is about learning, experimenting, and reflection on the results to keep learning and improving.  In other words, continuous improvement promotes creating a learning enterprise.  To learn, the team needs to feel safe.  

People will share their ideas and expose themself to failure only when they know that there will be no retaliation.  Therefore, you must show with actions that testing new ideas and learning from failure is ok.  Better yet, that it is not only ok but encouraged.  

When things don’t go as planned, help the team to understand what happened.  Make them feel safe by focusing on the process, never on the people.  Do not talk about how the company metrics suffer, but how much knowledge you gain. 

Help your employees to improve their workplace by listening to them

As a leader, one of your responsibilities is to go to gemba every day, see for yourself and ask questions.  When you do, actively listen to your employees.  Listen to their concerns as well as their ideas.

They are the best source for ideas on how to improve their work area or processes.  Your job is to guide them by respectfully ask questions.  Ask them what help they need from you to succeed?  This help can be resources or training.

Help your employees to improve their workplace, learn what others are doing and share it with them.

Although there is no better way to learn than doing, learning from others is good too!  Being a member of a professional association has several advantages.  One of them is that you can get information about best practices in your industry.  Also, if your business has more than one location, create a structure to facilitate ideas sharing.  Although not always what others are doing is 100% transferable, you always learn something.  

Create a safe environment where the team is not afraid of sharing their ideas.  Listen to what they have to say and do what you can to help.  By testing new ways to do things, you win, or you learn. 

Influence to be effective as a leader

Motivate and inspire people from a position of influence rather than authority.

For most of my career, I was responsible for one or various departments within the organization. During that time, I share a vision with my team and work alongside them to make it a reality.  When things did not go as planned, I always had the option to use my authority to change course.  But when I started to learn about continuous improvement, I realize that CI is a peoples’ system.  The leaders’ job is to care about your team and help them grow and learn new skills.  Therefore, you do not want to use your authority to achieve things.  You want to use influence to motivate and inspire your team.  In other words, I had to learn how to use my authority less and use my influence power more.  

Influence as an effective way to gain followers

Effective leaders must be able to influence others’ behaviors.  Power is the ability to influence others to behave in a particular way.  When leaders are looking for support, the right way to gain it is from a position of influence rather than authority. Using your influence power, you can motivate your team and inspire them to learn and do new things.

What you need to be able to influence

When you are not honest, many people can see it through you.  Therefore, if you want to motivate people from an influence position, honesty is a critical ingredient.  Be authentic and sincere about your intention and goals.  Convince people to collaborate by explaining to them the complete picture. First, communicate why you want to do it.  Second, explain the pros and cons of the proposal.  Third, let them know what is in it for them.  That information is always critical to gain support.

A good leader practices those behaviors or attitudes that he or she is asking the team to have.  Be fair and flexible, do not ask the team to do something that you are not willing to.  Roll up your sleeves and work alongside them to figure out the best way to do it.

The future is in your hands

Provide your team with the goal, a collective vision of where the company will be in the future.  Once they know the target, empower them to find answers by themselves.  Coach them to find those answers but let them figure them out.  Remind them of the vision to ensure alignment between those goals and the company’s vision.

Your actions determine the future of the company.  The way you choose priorities and work to achieve targets is critical to success.  Moreover, how do you treat your team is the secret ingredient for a successful company.  Motivate and inspire from a position of influence rather than using your rank in the organization.

Good communicators listen, are you a good listener?

Are you a good listener?

Continuous improvement and lean need effective communication for its success.  Lean is a people-centric system, which means that the way you treat and communicate with people is critical for success.  Therefore, for a successful continuous improvement journey, you need to be a good communicator.  One of the characteristics of good communicators is that they listen.  Are you a good listener?

When you go out to the office, shop floor, or construction site, AKA gemba, you ask questions to understand what is happening.  However, you can ask good questions, but if you don’t listen, you are missing the point of visiting gemba.

What is a good listener?

Many people believe that being a good listener is let the other person talk without interruptions. Furthermore, nod or repeat a few words.  It is a common belief that a good listener repeats a few words to confirm that you understand.  But a good listener does more than that.

Continuous improvement fosters an environment of learning and discovery.  Asking the right questions helps to promote curiosity and observation.  Leaders are expected to teach and guide their team through questions.  Good communicators are thoughtful about the questions they ask.  The purpose is to understand and help the speaker to gain a deeper understanding of the situation.  In addition, you want to guide them to uncover more details.  For example, think about the priorities or benefits versus risks. 

A good listener uses active listening

Active listening occurs when you suppress the need to dominate the conversation or provide ways to solve problems.  Instead, you listen and focus on the speaker.  Be empathic with the other person.  Notice the speaker’s body language, tone, and emotions while it speaks.  Recognize the implication of the words by understanding how he/she feels.  

Create a safe environment to have an honest conversation.  Listen with curiosity and ask questions to understand.  Also, watch your body language.  For instance, maintain eye contact and use appropriate gestures.  Show respect by keeping your whole attention on the speaker. 

But there is more to it than listening and asking questions

In addition to asking questions, there is something more a good listener does.  A conversation is an exchange of ideas.  Clarify your doubts and restate their thought to confirm that you understand.  Provide feedback to keep the conservation going.  However, resist the urge to tell what to do.  Build upon the speaker’s ideas, help them to build their self-esteem. Answer their questions honestly and clarify their doubts.

Listening and cultural transformation

Effective communication at every stage of cultural transformation is crucial.  People need to know what, why, how, when, and who.  During the process, leadership work to facilitate the team’s work and develop their skills.  To increase their engagement, daily Gemba walks supported with effective communication are key.  

The team needs to know what the problem is and what you want to accomplish with a continuous improvement strategy.  Moreover, leadership needs to listen to what the team has to say.  If you don’t practice active listening and do something upon the subject of that conversation, the transformation will be broken.