Lead the culture, change the culture.

Leadership

Everything we do contributes to the culture around us.  In other words, our actions play a crucial role in ‘what we look like.’  Many organizations build culture around their desired results, but forget to identify how to do it. 

Our culture isn’t just created by what we’d like our results to be. It’s created by how we act on the way to the finish line. What we do between point A and point B will create what we look like. 

Our culture is what we look like.  What we allow to happen and what we tolerate paints the picture of our culture.  Think of your culture like a reputation.  Whatever your reputation is will be a mirror image of your culture.  It’s how others see you. 

Teams must identify what they want their culture to be.  If you want to be a hard charging, inspiring, high performance organization you must create how you’d achieve that.  How you behave can be done by choosing the correct values that correlate to the outcome you want.  Each organization will have to collectively decide on the values they want to represent that best fits their desired culture. 

When you lead with values and act on the values the culture is changed.  It’s not an overnight process, but through time and holding each other accountable the culture will change.  It’s a team effort.  Leading by example is still the most powerful way to lead.  Everyone will need to lead by example, but the desired culture will need to be invested in by the top leaders and managers.  They must take the first step.  If they don’t lead by example no one else will follow the path and the culture will not grow. 

It’s crucial for leaders to lead the change.  It’s one thing to create what you want the culture to look like, but it’s another to act it out.  Action is key!  Leaders must take action and show others ‘how’ to do it.  You, as a leader can help transform any culture if you lay the path for what you want to change and then taking the first step to make it happen.  The more you model the desired culture, the more your culture becomes what you intend it to be.  Lead the culture(actions), change the culture(actions).  

5 Benefits of being Organized

Leadership, Organization

I posted recently 6 Ways to Stay Organized as a Leader.  This week I wanted to follow up with benefits of being organized and how it can actually produce great results.

Less stress. I want you to think about stress as if it’s weight that you carry and every time something stresses you, you add more weight to carry.  How much stress could you carry before you’re unable to walk, to move, to care for yourself and those around you, including your children?  Now think about everything you need to do, but you’re not tracking it except in your mind and every time you add something to your ‘to do list’ your eyesight becomes blurred.  The more you add, the less you see.  It would be hard to accomplish your tasks/lists without seeing.  So why not begin a path of being less stressed?

Being organized in not only the areas you work, but in your home can help you relieve that stress and when your stress is eliminated, good things begin to happen.   Creating an organization process, or ways to be organized can help you move forward in your agenda/goals.  Don’t let stress control you. 

Stress management is life management.  If you take control of your stress, your life will thank you for it. – Shereka Dunston

Time. Let’s say you have a huge list of things to do at work today.  You prioritize, you break down what’s needed to accomplish your list and you schedule time appropriately according to how long each task will take. Your plan is written down and you’re ready to go.  You have the vision now you have to put it into action.  You begin to cross off items on your list.  You then mark off the last thing on your list and guess what, you have 2 hours(example) before the work day is over.  YES!  You SAVED time!  Organizing your workload realistically can save you time depending on the projects/tasks you have to do. I mean, results will vary, but nonetheless, the better you plan the more time you can save.  Now the question is, what are you going to do with your extra time? Save time by being organized.  Plan well and maybe that minute organizing can save you an hour…or at least a few more minutes.  

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”  – Benjamin Franklin

Productivity.  When I organize my day and actually stick to it I get more things done.  That’s right!  Planning will open up the door to productivity.  When we create agendas for the day on what needs to be done we’re more likely to stick to it, thus doing more.  Time is lost when we spend it looking for things, getting distracted, not knowing what to do next and forgetting things you should have done.  We become reactive instead of proactive.  Be prepared so that things get done.  Planning provides the opportunity to maximize your potential and to prove to your leadership how hard of a worker you are. It paves the way for success. 

Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort. – Paul J. Meyer

Energy. There are many areas in our life that could be planned better.  The greatest thing about organizing one area is that it’s contagious and you’ll want to organize other areas.  I recently began planning my work week and I found it to be refreshing to know what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it.  It felt great.  I also began standing at work while at my desk instead of sitting.  This has motivated me to organize more at home as well.  I’m not really trying to micromanage every aspect of my life, but being organized makes everything better.  I feel energetic as if I’m in control.  I don’t feel stressed and I feel accomplished when I go to bed.  I love coffee!  Coffee gets me going, but when I’m on a roll of getting things done, I don’t even think about drinking coffee.  I get a natural boost of energy.  I have more energy and since I have more energy I control the day.  

Either you run the day or the day runs you. – Jim Rohn

Creativity. There are many ways to be creative and there are many ways that prevent creativity.  Being disorganized can be an element that prevents creativity.  Creativity takes time and if we don’t have time it is very difficult to spark ideas.  This is why being organized is important to our ability to be creative.  When we organize, we gain time which in turn gives us the opportunity to be creative.  Another reason we are less creative is that we get distracted by the objects around us.  Having a clear work space is like having a clear mind.  It gives you room to think, breathe and create fresh ideas.  Don’t let the clutter of objects, tasks and time be the preventing factor in your ability to create. 

Everyone has creativity in them. It’s just a matter of unlocking that creativity. – Christina Canters

7 Ways to Foster an Open Door Policy

Leadership, Organization, Tips, Tricks

Communication is one if not the most important part of being in a team and or being a leader/supervisor.  You’ve probably heard dozens of times from your new boss or your supervisor that they have an open door policy.  An open door literally and metaphorically.  What that means is that their door is open for you to openly communicate about ideas, problems, information, etc.  It’s a simple idea and a very important avenue for bringing up issues as well as solutions among other things.  Sometimes it may just be to make small talk.  That three minute discussion on the weather is more important than you may realize.  How often is the phrase I have an open door policy really used to its greatest potential?  I am a firm believer in solving issues at the lowest level possible, but there may be certain cases where the leader/supervisor must be in the know on what’s going on.  In the specific cases of needing to speak to your leader/supervisor anyone should and must feel safe approaching their leadership to discuss matters.  In reality, issues or no issues, everyone should feel comfortable approaching their leadership.  Here are a few ways you, as a leader, can remove the hinges from the door and encourage, build and provide a place for open communication. 

Small talk – If the door was never opened you will need to create the culture in which your team knows they can come speak with you.  In order to build an environment for open communication you must initiate in some way the idea that talking is good for the team.  Making small talk builds the comfort level so that everyone is comfortable talking.  As a leader, engaging first is important.  Topics can be anything.  Sports, whether, news, movies, etc.  This shows your team that talking with leadership can be quite normal.  Often, team members feel as if talking with their leaders is foreign and unnatural.  Which is usually a sign of a disconnection between leaders and their teams.  If you’re building an open door relationship everyone must feel welcome and it must become a normal feeling.  Build that trust and comfort level with small talk.

Put the nerf gun away – Plain and simple.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  If people are fearful of your reaction to them bringing you information they’ll never want to speak to you when critical issues come up.  Allow them to say what they need to say without putting blame on the person bringing you the newspaper.  The purpose of an open door is to foster and encourage your team members to come to you.  Put the nerf gun away, you won’t need it. 

You have two ears and one mouth – I heard this in a church sermon once.  You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.  If someone is approaching you with any dilemma, you should first listen.  Listen intently and with your utmost attention.  Perhaps the occasion doesn’t require a lengthy response.  It may just require your blessing with a simple, yes or no.  Whatever the case, listen first without distraction.  Turn to the person speaking whether you’re standing up or sitting down so that they know they have your attention.  Put down the electronic devices, perhaps even turn off your computer screen to avoid looking at it.  In any instance, listen. 

Everyone’s time is valuable – It is difficult to have an open door open every minute of every day.  You certainly want open communication, but at the same time you don’t need to be interrupted a hundred times a day.  In this case, leave the door open anyway.  Let’s face it, as a supervisor and leader of a team, your time matters just as theirs does.  You will be busy and there may be times when you may not have a moment to stop what you’re doing.  In this case, if you are busy and you can’t provide your undivided attention set up a time that allows enough time for discussion.  Don’t just tell the person no, or you can’t talk, but explain to them why you can’t talk that moment and that it’s not because you don’t want to.  Setting specific open hours dedicated to listening to your team may be something you have to do.  It’s okay to do that.  It will give your team members time to form their thoughts so they can bring it to you in an organized manner.

Empower your team – It’s probable that not ever problem needs immediate elevation to the leader or supervisor.  Ensure that your team knows that solving the issues at the lowest level is important.  Empower your team members to make decisions that are within their area of responsibility.  An effective team works together.  Encourage innovation and information sharing including ideas.  The solution may rest within another team member and may not need to be elevated.  Fostering open communication between team members is just as important as the communication with leaders. 

When your door is open you can walk out too –  Along the line of the team using each other’s skills in the group to resolve issues, you should do the same.  Your team matters.  Sometimes you may have an issue that you just can’t solve by yourself.  Instead of going to your leadership, if any, go to your team.  Your team can help you.  That’s what they’re there for.  Asking for their help ultimately removes the hinges from the door.  Imagine how you feel when someone walks into your office and needs your help.  You feel good.  You feel valuable.  Your team needs to feel that as well.  When you open the door, the door is open from both sides. Feel free to walk into their office. 

Know your people – There may be days when no one needs to talk, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to know if your team members need to talk.  Knowing your people will help you see and know if something is up with any of them.  If it’s personal most people won’t come forward right away, but an open door policy includes personal issues.  You may not be an expert in the problem, but allowing them to vent may be the thing they need.  Get to know your team members.  Use feedback sessions to talk a bit about them.  Use small talk to learn facts about them.  The better you know them the better you can lead them. 

At the end of the day if your team isn’t coming to you for any reason you need to reassess why.  Great leaders are great communicators which means communication should be a fluid action.  Ensure that above all, as a leader, you have an open door that fosters an environment for creativity, idea flow, information sharing, trust, and growth.  

5 Ways to Help You Lead in a New Environment

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization, Social, Tips, Tricks

It would be naive to think that one leadership or management strategy is going to work exactly the same from environment to environment.  It’s just not that easy.  Every organization, work center, company, and or course, the military will have different ways of operating.  After all, they all have different missions.

I am now working in my fifth work center in the last six years. I didn’t have a full spectrum of the mission or what I’d be doing.  I did have to put my learning cap on and embrace the change. A question that has come to mind lately is how do I lead in an environment that I am unfamiliar with?  After brainstorming with my mentor and close friend I have narrowed down some ways. Here are 5 ways to get your foot in the door into leading in a new environment.

Learn the mission!  You have to know what the overall mission is and you have to know your role in the mission.  Know your limits of responsibility and know your strengths and weaknesses given the new mission.  Everyone has a specific amount of responsibility over their area. Know where your role begins and ends. Ask yourself what you bring to the table? What are you good at and what do you need work at? You will need to self assess your strengths/weaknesses in this new environment. Play your strengths when you are able and learn when you are unfamiliar with the process or directions. Ask questions when you don’t know an answer or a process. It’s okay to ask other agencies how they fit in the mission. You need to see the big picture and not just the area around you. Knowing the mission and knowing your role will ultimately help move the mission forward.

Introductions! Aside from knowing the mission, you have to know the team you’re a part of. In order to work on a team you’ve got to know the team and the team has to know you. First impressions are very important, but we can never truly know someone by a simple greeting.  After personal introductions have been made, lay the foundation of your work ethic. Begin to show your work ethic. This is where people will truly get a sense of who you are. Lead with values, not authority.  Values provide a standard of positive behavior. Use them and add other values that instill a strong work ethic. Get to know how your team members operate. Seek what drives their performance.  Ask them questions about their passions, their family, their background.  Leading is ultimately about taking care of people.  One must know their teammates on a professional and personal level in order to be effective at taking care of them. After all, leadership is about taking care of people. Know your team!

Be proactive, not reactive!  Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do something.  Take initiative in your area.  Seek out and find what needs to be done or what could be done.  There is always someone who needs help.  Go ask them if you can help or if there is anything you can do to help.  If you know what needs to be done, do it.  If you don’t, then ask someone what you can do to contribute. This is why knowing the mission is important.  It will give you an idea on what needs to be done.  When you’re proactive you stay ahead of the game.  Doing so can often help save you and others time in the future. Being proactive means you’re prepared.  No one likes the feeling of being unprepared. Take initiative every chance you get!  It may lead to some great opportunities! Nothing is more satisfying to a supervisor than seeing a subordinate take charge.  This not only tells them you have a great work ethic, but that you are capable of leading. Be proactive!

Communicating clearly.  Communication is a very hard skill to master.  For someone to put thoughts or an idea into words, or better yet, action, it can be quite difficult if you don’t understand how each member of your team listens or learns.  To clearly get your objectives across to your team can be very delicate.   Make sure you take time to get the correct words down before you speak your objectives/tasks/ideas, etc. The precision of your communication can make or break the success of your team.  And always make sure that your team members know to ask questions if they don’t clearly understand the objective.  That is also another part of communication.  It’s a two way street.  Ensure you communicate clearly and ensure your team knows how to seek answers from you by asking. Listening and hearing are two different things.  Listening is an audible action, hearing what’s said is the process of information into a structured concept.  Communicate clearly so that your point is heard.

Be willing to learn!  A leader’s job isn’t to know all of the answers.  Leaders must show they are willing to learn from their team members.  Listening and learning from the members on the team builds trust.  When teams learn from each other it strengthens their ability to adapt to overcome challenges. It creates a teamwork environment.  When leaders and members of the team are open to learning from each other it also creates a culture of learning.  Learning is how we grow.  Show them that if you can, they can.  Learn together!