The pandemic has brought many changes to how and where people work. One such change in my household was that both my husband and I had to work from home in the office space (meaning the same room). Like the rest of the world, while we initially expected it to be a few short weeks, this arrangement has become much more permanent than we initially thought. We’ve worked in our respective fields for 15+ years and realized in our close quarters that we didn’t have an real understanding of how each other’s teams function. I have had the ability to observe and listen to their weekly team meetings. Every week it’s the same story: someone surfaces a problem or something that is perceived to be behind and the finger pointing begins. Was it sales’ fault, their team’s fault? Who on the team is involved? Never is the approach to first focus on the process.
This example illustrates the type of behaviors that occur when people are not following the Shingo Model principle of “focus on the process.” So what leader behaviors are seen when we follow this principle instead? Let’s look at some leadership behaviors and steps they can take to focus on the process, especially in a group or team setting.
Probe the problem using humble inquiry
First and foremost, always ask questions that are not accusatory and are open-ended, in nature. Margie Hagene has taught various workshops over the years which focus on asking effective questions. A personal favorite question of hers is: What does better look like to you? Asking questions to truly learn about and understand the process and problems facing their team can really open a leader’s eyes to barriers they may be able to remove or help alleviate. If you need a list of effective questions to jumpstart your thinking, try this list we put together.
Respect everyone’s ideas
One of my favorite exercises is the “7 Ways” exercise which was introduced to me a while back by one of our leaders. Participants in the brainstorming session come up with seven ways to solve a particular problem. It is used to encourage and spur creativity. Sometimes it was easy to come up with seven ways, other times it is mentally exhausting. Either way, when the group comes together and shares their respective “7 Ways” some really great ideas are generated and combined that others alone wouldn’t have ever thought of. Both the leader and members of the team needed to thoughtfully consider and embrace each idea that was brought to light in the process. As a leader, it is your role to set the tone of respect, inclusiveness and open sharing of ideas.
Open lines of communication
We all know that each person takes in and processes information differently. Some may not feel comfortable speaking in front of the group or raising problems, especially if they are new to the team or organization. It is the leader’s responsibility to establish open lines of communication with your teammates, letting them know how and when they can talk to you with the group and individually. It is also the leader’s responsibility to respectfully communicate when needs or goals are not being met and what the expectations are of the team.
Create a safe space to collaborate and share opinions
In order to get members on the team to open up, you have to establish a safe space and culture for them to share. You need let individuals know that it’s okay to not do and achieve everything on their own. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for help. Teams need to feel sheltered, supported and guided before they will begin to open up and surface problems or what they perceive to be failures.
Energize and encourage others
Not everything will be smooth sailing. There will be nay-sayers, there will be those that challenge or sow distrust. A leader needs to stay focused, encourage others and be the team’s biggest cheerleader. At the end of the day, the positivity and charge of a leader can really set the tone for a team and their embracing of change.
Hopefully once lines of communication are opened within your team, and you’ve created a safe space for the team, they will begin to share opinions and surface problems regularly. Everyone on the team needs to be open to receiving feedback, including the leader. Sometimes things won’t work the way you envisioned or might end up a bit rockier than when you first started tackling a problem. Every member on the team should be open to pulling the andon cord and also sharing what they like or don’t like about the situation and the changes at hand.
Share results and success with others
In the end, once the problem has been solved, without pointing fingers at who or what, the result of the why and how you do something should be shared and celebrated. It’s similar to when someone tells me they have a stupid question. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Chances are that if they are asking it, someone is wondering the same thing. If we share the question and answer it, this could help someone who wasn’t as comfortable or didn’t have the chance to ask yet. You never know who or what team within your organization is impacted by the same broken process or could benefit from hearing your solutions to create their own adaptable solution. Spreading learning in the end can only help other teams and push the organization forward.
Principles and Behaviors of Organizational Excellence virtual workshops
Principles and Behaviors of Organizational Excellence on-demand in Catalysis Academy