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.

How to create the leader standard work?

Create the leader standard work with the team.

The purpose of the leader standard work (LSW) is to build the behaviors to drive continuous improvement and Lean thinking throughout the organization.  Moreover, it ensures that leaders keep an eye on the important things.  This document provides clear expectations of leadership behaviors.  In other words, it contains what leadership needs to do for a successful continuous improvement transformation.  How do you create the leader standard work document?

Who needs leader standard work?

The continuous improvement culture transformation depends on three daily activities.  Those are the leader standard work, visual management, and daily accountability.  Therefore, LSW is critical for the success of the transformation.  

This document is not for top leadership only. This statement is true regardless of the industry.  Every leader, from top leadership, to managers, supervisors, to team leaders, can benefit from LSW.   

Required information for the leader’s standard work.

Before you start to create LSW, you will need to gather some vital information.  First, get the site vision, goals, and key performance indicators.  Second, make a list of requirements that are critical for your business.  For example, to comply with FDA or OSHA rules or special requirements from suppliers.  

Finally, get the site calendar and each person’s calendar.  Many companies have a list or calendar with all the periodic meetings for each leadership level.  If you do not have one, you can always build it.  The LSW for every people with the same role is similar.  However, they are not the same.  It is common not to have all kinds of meetings or activities on every shift.  Also, people may participate in special projects or events.

To create the leader standard work, start with the activities

Look at the vision, goals, and performance indicators.  Are they aligned?  If they are, what behaviors or practices are needed to achieve those goals?  Also, what do you need to do to ensure compliance with requirements?  The answer to those questions unlocks one critical piece for LSW.  They are the backbone of the document.  

Some examples of such activities are gemba walks and participation in the daily management system. The morning meeting or shift meeting using visual management is an integral part of this system.  Other activities to include on those periodic tasks are coaching, participation in continuous improvement events, schedule audits, and participation in shift handoff meetings.  Also, to monitor how LSW and other continuous improvement systems are working.  For instance, to verify compliance with standard work, watch the start-up, and participation in problem-solving sessions.  

Building the leader standard work.

One more step before building the LSW is to revise all those meetings.  Analyze the objective, duration, and frequency.  Ensure that the meeting objective or purpose aligns with the site vision and goals.  Moreover, check that the duration and frequency are the right ones.  Who knows, maybe you can eliminate or combine a couple of them.

Creating the LSW for each leadership level is a team exercise.  Get the team together for a brief explanation of what we want to do and why. Then go through all the steps together.  To build the LSW, put together the daily, weekly, and monthly activities and tasks in the desired format.   

Self-Reflection and continuous improvement

One of the biggest differences between continuous improvement or lean and other business models or systems is that it recognizes the need for reflection.  Toyota recognizes that even if a task is completed successfully, there is a need to reflect on the results.  It is a structured way to look at the results with the purpose of learning from the experience.

Daily Self-reflection

It takes time to get used to the idea of reflecting on our actions as part of our daily work.  That is why reflection is part of the leaders’ standard work.  It is challenging to do it because nobody wants to think about what went wrong or failures.  The objective of this exercise is not to criticize the person or team, is to learn from mistakes to avoid future repetition.  Through reflection, you can create better plans for the future. 

Continuous improvement is about learning, experimenting, and using the lessons learned to change and adapt.  We will find a million reasons not to take the time to reflect, but self-reflection or team reflection is the vehicle that will drive us full circle in our learning journey.  It is not until we take the time to ask what went well and what didn’t that we learn through our honest answers.  While learning from what we did well is good, learning from our mistakes is better.  The answer to what you would do differently next time is where you will learn the most.  

Continuous Improvement through Reflection

Reflection is one of the elements of the Kaizen spirit.  The act or adapt step of the PDCA cycle is a reflection of what we intended to do.  Did we accomplish the goal?  Why not?  How can we fix the problem?  By getting into the habit of answering these questions, you keep yourself grounded to lean thinking.

Reflection is an important part of a learning organization.  Learning from mistakes is what helps us to prevent repeating them, and the process of recognizing that even if something is good, can be better is what keeps the continuous improvement process alive and kicking!

5 Tips to improve your time management

Use a calendar or agenda to make your tasks visible and improve your time management.

In my last blog, I discuss 5 symptoms of poor time management skills.  This time, I want to share 5 tips to improve your time management. This is a critical skill for entrepreneurs and managers.  

Tips to improve your time management

Set SMART Goals, Prioritize, and Focus

One important task for every manager or entrepreneur is to set business goals, or at least participate in the process of setting them.  Likewise, it is a good practice to set personal goals.  Both types need to be SMART, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.  Strategies fail because they are either not clear, objectives are unrealistic, or the communication is poor.  To avoid failure, it is key to follow a good strategy deployment and goal setting method.  Having clear goals helps prioritize and makes it easier to stay focused on what is important.  

Schedule your tasks

Break each goal into smaller pieces and schedule them through the year depending on priority.  Create and maintain a to-do list based on the tasks that stem from those pieces.  Make the objectives, plans, list, and tasks visible to ensure follow-up.  For instance, calendars, agendas, Leader Standard Work, and others can help with this purpose.  

While scheduling your daily tasks, allow enough time for completion. Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. If necessary, track your time for a while for a better estimate of how much time you need. Be realistic about your available time to work on your daily assign tasks. We all know that things happen, so do not schedule activities for the entire day. Also, minimize stress by setting up meetings and events in your calendar 30 minutes earlier.

Checking your schedule should be the first and last thing you do every day.  Check on what you have on the agenda, complete tasks, incomplete, or those you did even start.  Establish a cadence or times throughout the day to check emails and adjust your schedule if necessary.  Above all, always think about the objectives and priorities.   In other words, before you change your itinerary or jump to do something else, ask yourself how that activity will support your goals or priorities.

Stick to your plan

One tip to improve your time management is to create a plan. However, you can have the best plan it can be, but it is no good if you don’t follow it. The top causes for walking out of a good plan are distractions and procrastination. Avoid distractions by turning off notifications. It is very tempting to read that organizational change email or chat with an old colleague, but either of those things will help you to complete your tasks.  Read the post, how do you deal with distractions in the workplace? for more tips.

To overcome procrastination, learn what types of activities you put off. Maybe you are postponing things that you don’t like to do. Another possibility is that they are too complicated or will have a big impact, and you don’t want to fail. Either way, find out what is bothering you and seek a solution. Sometimes, all you need is to ask for help or clarify the purpose or objectives of the task.

While executing your daily plan, focus on one thing at a time.  Multitasking does not help you to be more efficient.  People who multitask decrease their productivity by 20-40% and are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time.

Choose your tasks wisely

Every day you receive invitations for meetings or assignments thrown your way. Therefore, you are at risk of ending with too many things to do. It is better to say no and be honest about your ability to do something than jeopardizing the quality of your work.

If you feel that the meeting or task is important, you can delegate it to your team. Take the chance to coach and train them to gain more skills. Sometimes, outsourcing is the answer to be able to complete some tasks.

Create healthy habits

One way to overcome some of the symptoms of poor time management is by ensuring you have healthy habits. Sleeping and eating habits influence your energy and focus levels. As a result, if they are poor, they will negatively affect the quality and quantity of your work. For that reason, it is worth the try to change them.

Having an exercise routine is another healthy habit with lots of benefits for our work. Reduces stress, anxiety, improve your mood, give you more energy, and of course, helps your overall health. If you don’t have one, start with small steps, like going for a short walk in your break. You can also set a daily steps goal and measure it throughout the day for motivation.

Conclusion

If you want to improve your productivity, follow these tips to improve your time management. The 5 tips are, set SMART goals and prioritize, schedule your tasks, stick to your plan, choose wisely what to do, and create healthy habits. It takes time and consistency to create new habits, but you can do it. The benefits overcome the inconvenience. In summary, managing your time effectively will help you to accomplish more in less time, giving you the opportunity to enjoy yourself with family and friends.

What is Leader Standard Work?

The fundamental ingredient for a successful lean implementation is creating a continuous improvement culture.  It is impossible to create a culture without the active participation and support of leadership.  Most of the time, leaders at all levels have to learn continuous improvement principles and tools along with their team.  But that is the easy part, the challenging one, is to move away from traditional thinking and adopt a completely different way to behave, think, solve problems, communicate and relate to others.  

In other words, leaders looking to use continuous improvement and lean thinking need to build a new business persona.  This journey will help you to reflect on how you manage or supervise now and build new habits for the future.   Some people say it takes 21 days to build a habit, while others claim it takes up to 66 days.  I don’t know the right answer, but I know that building the habits required to successfully change a culture takes more than a couple of months of practice.

One tool that helps with leadership changes in behavior is Leader Standard Work.  Standard work ensures consistent results and is the baseline upon which improvements are made.  Leader standard work is a description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to drive continuous improvement and Lean thinking throughout the organization.

Leader standard work is usually presented as a form or checklist with daily tasks, as well as space for additional tasks specific for the day.  You can divide the daily tasks by time-specific, like meetings and non-time specific.  A different approach is to divide tasks into sections.  For example, before, during, and at the end of the shift.  Like many other things with continuous improvement, you can select the format that makes more sense for you and your business.

The following are things that you should include in your Leader Standard Work because they support and promote continuous improvement.

  • Daily team meetings
  • Walk the area where value is created
  • Observe out of normal situations
  • Support continuous improvement activities
  • Follow-up performance vs. objectives
  • Set direction, ask and answer questions
  • Reflection
  • Plan the next day

Although many can say that using a form to guide what you have to do through the day is too restrictive and takes away the flexibility to deal with daily problems, it is the contrary.  Remember, you are building a new habit, a new way of doing business.  The form will help you to create that habit and make you focus on those things that will help to identify out of standard situations before they become a problem.  It will take time, but in the end, you will see the benefits of seeing things by yourself and not relying on reports with outdated information.  Lean is about learning, experimenting, and reflection on the results to keep learning and improving.  As a leader, you set the example by doing what you expect your team does.

This is like whey you are trying to build the habit of jogging or have a walk daily. It is hard, but over time you will get the benefits, will get used to it and doing it is almost like breathing.