The Number Twelve Motivator – “In the last year I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow”

Continuous Improvement applies as much to people as it does to organisations. Yet many organisations fail to understand this and to act on it. As a result, people tend to under-perform and hence the organisations they work for also tend to under-perform.

Effective Leaders understand how to get more from their people. Almost always, they challenge people to do better. And critically, they provide people with the right training, coaching, and support to achive those challenges.

Here are just a few of the many, many ways to help people to learn and grow:

Best Practice: providing opportunities to see what good looks like – perhaps in a completely different industry, sector or environment.

Peer learning: providing opportunities to work alongside colleagues from other departments or organisations

Secondment: typically a short-term transfer to another department or organisation. Maybe a one-year sabbatical?

Delegation: often a simple but very effective way to develop employees. Just make sure that you pass on some of the good stuff, not just the drudge work!

Training and Coaching: often, one of the best wayw to really understand something is to teach it to others.

Projects: typically, important long-term activities, often “above and beyond” the day job. Great for team-building too!

Just a few examples but not only do these approaches help to motivate the individual concerned, they can also provide huge benefits for the employee’s colleagues, for their boss and for their organisation. Try it!

… and if you’d like some help in developing your employees – and perhaps to create yuor own learning organisation – please contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com.

The Number Ten Motivator – “I have a best friend at work”

Maybe this is the only one of the Top 12 Motivators that isn’t always simple and easy to address in the workplace. In fact, one of the difficult challenges for first time managers is having to accept that they shouldn’t aim to be “everyone’s friend” at the expense of getting the job done.

That said, there are at least three things that we can aim to provide in the workplace:

  1. For new starters, a designated “buddy” who will be available for the first few days and weeks to help them find their way around. “Hold their hands until they find their feet” as one of my colleagues once put it!
  2. For the “rising stars” (and the owner or Chief Exec) an experienced mentor who can act as a sounding board and ask the right questions
  3. Regular, honest face-to-face feedback – providing in an open, professional manner some of the benefits of a “critical friend”. In other words, being prepared to challenge and to question, in the long-term interests of the other person.

So maybe we can’t literally be, or provide, a “best friend” at work, but there’s a lot that we can do in an organisation to provide many of the positive benefits of a “best friend”. And it’s also a great motivator for those taking on the role of the buddy, the mentor and the “Critical Friend”!

The Number Six Motivator – “There is someone at work who encourages my development”

Take an active interest in helping your employees to develop – you’ll boost their skills and their motivation!

Most of us like to feel that we’re making some progress in our lives and our careers. We want to keep our minds active and we want to believe that tomorrow we’ll be more knowledgeable, more skilled or more adept than we are today. And most of us feel happier when we’ve got something to aim for – “We feel happy to the extent that we are in pursuit of worthy goals”…

Ultimately we’re each responsible for our own career progression and development but it can be difficult to do it all on our own. And that’s particularly true if we’re not sure what skills we might need in the future.

Larger organisations may have HR staff with active “talent management programmes” who provide career counselling, well-planned training and development opportunities, and the like. But for smaller organisations there’s often very little help or it falls to the employee’s immediate supervisor or manager and often is low on their list of priorities.

An alternative approach is to provide access to a mentor or “career buddy” elsewhere in the organisation – ideally a more experienced manager that the employee doesn’t directly report to.  They will have an idea of the roles that are likely to be required in the future, and can guide their mentees towards how best to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to fill those roles. It’s also a great way of helping more experienced staff find new ways to make use of that experience. Try it!

… and if you want effective, bespoke training and development for your manufacturing employees, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com

 

The Number Five Motivator – “My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person”

We all like to feel that we’re doing something worthwhile, that what we do is important and that we’d be missed if we weren’t there.

But at work it’s sometimes easy to feel that we’re a small cog in a very big machine; that our efforts are insignificant and go unnoticed. Ultimately this might lead us to feel that it’s not worth making an effort, and hence we can become disinterested and demotivated.

One of the challenges for every leader – at all levels in the organisation – is to treat everyone fairly and equally, whilst at the same time treating each person as an individual. It’s helpful to get to know each person, and to find out “what makes them tick”. We don’t expect to delve into every aspect of our employee’s personal lives but it can be helpful if we have an idea of what else is going on in their world, particularly if we can celebrate some successes and help them over the odd bump in the road. Having an idea of – and perhaps recognising in the workplace – key events like Birthdays – can also help. And where we can, taking a long-term view and helping folk to balance the rewards and challenges of work and home increases employees’ sense of security and welfare, which is good for them and good for the organisation.

Acknowledging people every time that you see them is also incredibly simple but very important. Even if it’s a simple nod of the head and a “hello there” or “good morning”. Better still if you get to know everyone’s names. If you’re the senior leader in the organisation, it’s incredibly powerful – and well appreciated – if you can do this. I’ve known examples of business leaders, head teachers and politicians who make a point of learning every one of hundreds – or even thousands – of names. Try it!

The Number Four Motivator – “In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work”

The vast majority of people like to do a job well, and they like to be recognised when they’ve done a good job.

Unfortunately it’s too easy to overlook this important act – we might feel that “they get paid for it so why do they need thanking as well”, or we might not feel comfortable giving praise and recognition.

Here are a few ways to make sure that we recognise people’s efforts effectively:

The recognition has to be appropriate for the individuals concerned. Some people would love to receive an award from the Chief Exec on stage in front of an audience of thousands. Other people would be horrified at the very thought of such a public display. Make sure that the type of recognition will be appreciated by the individual(s) concerned. The same rules apply as for a gift – show that you know the individual and that you know what they would value.

The recognition has to be genuine. You need to understand exactly what the good job was, and why it deserves recognition. And don’t overdo it, or do it automatically. A routine, unthinking “thank you” every day becomes meaningless – like the dreaded “Have a nice day!” that’s churned out automatically.

And finally – particularly when you want to recognise the efforts of a team rather than an individual – get creative and make it fun!

New Team Leader? Want to be liked? Get yourself a dog!

One of the hardest career steps that many of us take is the very first – becoming a Team Leader or First Line Manager. One day we’re happily part of the team, next day we’re leading it.

Without the right training and support it can be a tough place to be. Because we lack knowledge, skills and direction we often veer off into one of two directions – “Nasty” or “Nice”:

NICE: Some of us are keen to remain friends with the team members so we try a little too hard, maybe not put too much pressure on getting things done, maybe turn a blind eye to some of those things that we were doing yesterday.

Result: team members may like us but we’re seen as an easy touch, maybe a “pushover”. Some folk take advantage of us so we lose respect and it becomes harder to get the job done.

NASTY: Some of us go the other way – “I’m the boss now – no more mister / ms nice guy!” We stamp out all of those little perks, cheats and short-cuts that we were doing yesterday.

Result: team members see us as unreasonable, a “dictator”. Some folk actively work against us so we lose respect and it becomes harder to get the job done.

For me, one of the hardest lessons to learn – and one that I tell every new Team Leader or Manager – is this: “Don’t expect to be liked!”. Hence my second piece of advice – “If you want to be liked, get yourself a dog!”

What you can – and should – expect is to earn the respect of those that you work with. To become a good Team Leader you need to understand what’s going on here, and what to do about it.

Let’s look at two aspects of how we manage the team –

  1. Challenge – how much do we expect from team members?
  2. Support – how much help do we give them?

In the first example. we’re all support and no challenge so we’re an easy touch.

In the second example we’re all challenge and no support so we’re a dictator.

But we don’t have to choose between the two – it’s not an “either / or” choice.

What we need to do is both – always challenge people to be the best that they can be, and at the same time help them achieve their goals.

Result: better outcomes, happy team and well-respected, effective Team Leader! … and your dog will still love you just the same 🙂

Andrew Nicholson is Managing Director of ImproveMyFactory.com, and regularly coaches Team Leaders and Lean Leaders to achieve more than they thought possible.

New Team Leader? Get yourself a dog!

Image

One of the hardest career steps that many of us take is the very first – becoming a Team Leader. One day we’re happily part of the team, next day we’re leading it.

Without the right training and support it can be a tough place to be. Because we lack knowledge, skills and direction we often veer off into one of two directions:

Some of us are keen to remain friends with the team members so we try a little too hard, maybe not put too much pressure on getting things done, maybe turn a blind eye to some of those things that we were doing yesterday.

Result: team members may like us but we’re seen as an easy touch, maybe a “pushover”. Some folk take advantage of us so we lose respect and it becomes harder to get the job done.

Some of us go the other way – “I’m the boss now – no more mister / ms nice guy!” We stamp out all of those little perks, cheats and short-cuts that we were doing yesterday.

Result: team members see us as unreasonable, a “dictator”. Some folk actively work against us so we lose respect and it becomes harder to get the job done.

For me, one of the hardest lessons to learn – and one that I tell every new Team Leader or Manager – is this: “Don’t expect to be liked!”. Hence my second piece of advice – “If you want to be liked, get yourself a dog!”

What you can – and should – expect is to earn the respect of those that you work with. To become a good Team Leader you need to understand what’s going on here, and what to do about it.

Let’s look at two aspects of how we manage the team –

Challenge – how much do we expect from team members?
Support – how much help do we give them?
In the first example. we’re all support and no challenge so we’re an easy touch.

In the second example we’re all challenge and no support so we’re a dictator.

But we don’t have to choose between the two – it’s not an “either / or” choice.

What we need to do is both – always challenge people to be the best that they can be, and at the same time help them achieve their goals.

Result: better outcomes, happy team and well-respected, effective Team Leader! … and your dog will still love you just the same 🙂

Jack Russell Terrier (10 months old)

Lean Start-Ups: are they possible?

The short answer is “Yes” it is possible to start Lean and stay Lean. Here’s how:

It is important to keep it simple and stay organised. This can be achieved by adopting Lean 5S principles, which is a system to reduce waste and optimise productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues.

This includes making sure anyone can find anything quickly and easily. Keep things simple and visual – can people easily see at a glance what’s OK and what isn’t?

Focus on the following main three business areas:

• Sales – getting the work in / engaging with the customer
• Operations – getting the work done / delivering
• Finance – managing the cash, funding the growth

Employees should be made aware of how they fit into the company structure and what their contribution needs to be to make the business run smoothly, effectively and efficiently.

To achieve this:
• Write down each role and give it a name or a description
• Write down the main purpose of the role and exactly how its provides value to the customer
• Outline “what a good job looks like” – the best way / tricks of the trade, and pitfalls to avoid

Next draw up a grid with the roles along one side and people’s names along the other. For each job show with an R who is Responsible, with a D who Deputises, and with an A who Assists so employees know at a glance what their duties are.

Regular communication is key. For at least one hour each week talk about what’s going well, what’s not going well and what ideas you have to make things better.

By consensus, pick one improvement idea that is easiest to implement, has the highest impact and is affordable. Agree who will make it happen, and when, and get on with it.

Hire slowly, fire quickly. Be clear about values, expectations, Do’s and Don’ts. With new staff, have a one-to-one review for 15 minutes each day, then one hour per week, then one hour per month.

Make a conscious decision to retain or part company at the end of the first day, the first week, the first month. If it isn’t working in the first month, it probably never will. Let people take risks, make mistakes and fail, but expect them to learn and not to repeat their mistakes.

Do the absolute minimum required to add value for the customer – everything else is waste. Keep it simple, keep it electronic, and automate it.

Store data in only one place, share it and organise it so that anyone can easily find what they need.

Seriously consider scalable, cloud-based “pay as you go” systems. Use non-proprietary open systems where you can.

Similarly, do the absolute minimum that you need to do with a new product or process to see if it works. This is what Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries calls the MVP – the Minimum Viable Prototype.

Experiment quickly, fail early, learn as you go and keep on learning.

The key to Lean is the improvement cycle Plan-Do-Check-Act. In a start-up the most important thing is to get along the learning curve as quickly as you can.

Therefore, you need to cycle through these stages as quickly as you can. You’ll need some sort of plan to start with, but also be prepared to be flexible. This is because the reality is likely to be different from your original plan, so you have to learn as you go.

Have a tight control on costs by keeping fixed overheads to a minimum, outsourcing non-core tasks, “paying as you go” and avoiding long-term tie-ins.

Continually question the reasoning behind any action plan. Always ask yourself ‘does this add value for our customer’, ‘does it make us more profitable’, and ‘does it make things easier for us?’

Manage the cash every day, without fail. This can be easily one by using a simple spreadsheet.

The Lean process is all about keeping it simple, focusing on what matters, learning quickly what works and having the courage to ditch what doesn’t.