I recently read an article written by a dear friend and colleague, Thomas J. Furnival. Tom spoke about the ABC’s of Leadership, which are Awareness, Behavior, and Community.
I would like to extend on these thoughts to fellow leaders by discussing three additional words that I feel important as leaders, especially during these trying times. As I speak to different groups in training events, conferences, working with clients, I use this as a base from which to drive continuous improvement efforts on whichever topics we may be discussing. The three words should apply to everything we do, not only in business, but in personal life as well.
Those three words are COMMUNICATION, and COMMON SENSE
The first word bridges all facets of life. Think about it. If we were better at communicating very well, at the right times, to the right people, with the right message, how much better would your plant run, or how much better would your personal life be as well?
Too many times, we work and live in silos and are content to be there in that comfort zone, and yet we are continually frustrated that those things don’t work or progress the way they should. If we are to ever change that, and start improving, we have to open up and improve our communications.
This requires building new partnerships and strengthening existing ones, by learning to work together and have open dialogue. I use hand gesture often when teaching seminars. That gesture is pointing my finger at people, as if to blame them for what’s going wrong. I then ask the question; how many fingers are pointing back at me on that hand? The point being, before we communicate in a negative manner, we should always look inward before accusing others.
On those fingers pointing back, ask your selves things like, 1) Did I contribute to this problem in any way? 2) If someone did something poorly at work, did I ensure they were trained and competently skilled to be able to accomplish the task? 3) Is there something I could / should have done which would have prevented this problem? We should always look at those fingers and ask those types of questions, before attacking someone with the proverbial accusatory finger.
For one thing, you might find that YOU are the problem, or at least partly to blame for it. Secondarily, you will likely come to a better place before speaking to that person, or blaming another department at work for your department’s problems. Communicating together, without casting of blame, and with a sense of purpose to solve a problem (I call them opportunities for improvement) will go a long way in making things better.
The second and third words are Common Sense. These words have often been the butt of jokes about people not having it. I do believe there is some truth to the fact that some people have more than others. Some people are extremely intelligent, but lacking in what we call “common sense”, so to many, they seem “out of sorts” in the world, they don’t understand what appears to be plainly simple to others, or the appear “awkward” in communicating with “normal people”.
In my opinion, it simply means we were not all born exactly the same. We should learn to accept each other for our strengths and use them together. If I have a team of exceptionally intelligent people who work well with a group of people that have strong characters of common sense, what is the chance we will have a strong team, but only if we play close attention to the first word already discussed in this article!
Relating this to business practices, many times companies do not rely on their people to help them understand the daily issues in the plant and they bring down edicts that seem to the people on the floor that there was no evidence of common sense used in the decision.
Typically, it is not a lack of common sense, but a lack of understanding, due to a lack of communication. Had the leadership brought the problem to key subject matter experts on the floor, presented what they would like to do to improve, and then did one simple thing; ask the SME’s for the solution, there would likely be a much better outcome! Leadership many times is perceived as not having common sense, when it is simply a matter of being disconnected from what is really going on out on the plant floor, thereby causing them to make poor decisions in a vacuum.
As we think about these three words and how they are intertwined with each other, we need to identify first how to improve our communications skills, which simply by doing that, will assist with becoming a community that has “good common sense”.
Leaders should build strong ties between their people that have that extreme intellectual background with those that have more shop floor intellect. They should encourage departmental relationships that ensure everyone one understands there is no “us vs. them”, there is just US. WE have to work together to make things better at our plants, as well as personally. If we can build teams that have these 3 words embedded in them, you will see great things happen.