Mistakes New Leaders Make: Undervaluing Your Integrity

April 13th, 2014

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

What is integrity? I have heard integrity defined as what you do when you don’t think anyone else is watching. With that in mind, all leaders are faced with the opportunity to make decisions that fall withing a spectrum I like to refer to as “the gray area” of decision making. These decisions may seem like small or inconsequential ones, but we must determine what is motivating us to make such choices. Are we hoping to impress someone or help move ourselves forward in the organization? Are we looking to avoid a more difficult and time consuming course of action? For me personally, the biggest challenge is valuing things above integrity. It isn’t that I intend to do damage to my integrity in how I make decisions, but it’s when my priorities aren’t properly ordered that I have to work to maintain integrity in my decision making.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In order to foster gratifying and successful professional relationships, we must trust one another to do the right thing. This is a simple, yet profound case for valuing your integrity as a leader. If you can’t be trusted by your colleagues to do the right thing, then you will do irreparable damage to your career and/or your company. After all, none of us can sustain successful levels of performance without the help and support of our professional colleagues.

How can you do it?

1.  Value the right thing above all else.

2.  Be mindful of your selfish motives in making decisions. Question your motives often.

3.  Don’t take action if you have doubts about the integrity of your decision.

4.  Find colleagues that you can engage in honest and thoughtful discussions about decision making. Empower them to challenge you and hold you accountable.

How does valuing the right thing ultimately produce better results?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Not Delegating

April 6th, 2014

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

As a new leader I felt the pressure to make changes.  I had been given a broad range of responsibility and tasked with optimizing our performance in various areas. I spent a few months observing and making note of changes that I felt would improve our performance. I consulted with coworkers on ideas and asked them to evaluate them critically. When it came time to make changes, I felt I was the best person to effectively implement them. Having this control seemed like the best way to achieve results.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Was I ever wrong! What I didn’t realize was that by not delegating to other leaders, I was effectively stifling them in their roles. Not only was it unreasonable to do everything by myself, it wasn’t producing the outcomes I had hoped. As a leader, we are only as good as our team. We must empower those who work along side us to be leaders. To champion ideas. To achieve results. If we don’t, they will disengage. At best, your team will settle for mediocrity. At worst, you will fail to perform at a level that your organization deems acceptable.

How can you do it?

1.    Build the right team. You must have people on your team who can get the job done.

2.    Recognize when your desire to be in control is holding you back.

3.    Actively prioritize your tasks. Ask yourself if your current task is something you should do or delegate.

4.    Don’t delegate everything. You don’t want to be viewed as a leader who isn’t doing their part.

How does delegating work engage your team to be more successful?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Always Saying Yes

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

It is natural to want to be liked. Unfortunately, this isn’t a trait that lends itself to successful leadership. As a new leader, I wanted to win over my coworkers and colleagues. This desire was so influential in my decision making that I often found myself not wanting to tell anyone no when they asked for something. I quickly found myself in a situation where I had over promised and under delivered to many of my colleagues.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You have a limited amount of resources to work with as a leader. With that in mind, over promising to your stakeholder will stretch those resources beyond their reasonable limits. One of two things will happen. You or your team will get burnt out trying to deliver on all of your promises or your stakeholders will lose confidence in your ability to deliver on what you have promised. Either way, you must balance your resources and priorities and say no when necessary.

How can you do it?

1.    Requests need to be evaluated through the lens of the organizational goals.

2.    Engage other leaders in the evaluation of requests if necessary.

3.    Know your resource availability.

4.    Just say NO if necessary.

How does saying no sometimes empower you as a leader?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Being Paralyzed By Fear

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

I did it! I got the job I wanted. A little over three years ago, I couldn’t wait to start my career as the Director of Plant Operations at Southern Ohio Medical Center. It didn’t take long to realize that my expectations for the job didn’t exactly match the reality that was in front of me. It is safe to say that I felt very overwhelmed. Instead of pressing on in the face of adversity, I became paralyzed by my fear of doing the wrong thing. Instead of embracing failure as a way to grow, I settled for maintaining the status quo.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As we said last week, our primary focus as a leader is to achieve results. In order to achieve results, we must constantly make decisions that require an evaluation of potential outcomes. We make decisions in real-time based on the information available to us. Sometimes we make the right call and sometimes we make the wrong one. When we make the wrong one, we must evaluate our decisions and learn from them. Accepting that failing is a part of being a leader allows us to lead more freely. Being free to take calculated risks (and sometimes fail) will ultimately empower you as a leader to achieve the best results.

How can you do it?

  1. Assess the situation at hand. Keep in mind the big picture results you’re trying to achieve.
  2. Identify all potential solutions. Embrace calculated risks as a way to achieve a desired outcome.
  3. Consult with a trusted colleague about your options.
  4. Once you have identified a plan, take action.
  5. If your plan fails, you have opportunity to learn and grow.

How have you embraced failure and used it to become a more successful leader?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Losing Sight Of The Big Picture

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

Go here. Do that. Reply to another email. Check. Check. Check. Another day complete, another list of tasks marked off. But was any progress actually made? At times, it has been easy for me to become consumed by the task of completing tasks. What I mean, is that I get so caught up in the act of completing my tasks that I can’t even remember what I was trying to accomplish. Or even worse, I mistake activity for productivity. After all, if I had a busy day, I had a productive day, right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The primary focus of every leader should be to achieve results. Period. Without results driven leadership, an organization will likely wander aimlessly through their market. Perhaps it will be more successful in some years than others, but it will ultimately not reach its fullest potential. This is why it is important to clearly define goals and focus on achieving them. As a leader, it is your job to focus on these goals to produce the most desirable outcomes for your organization.  Any task that does not contribute to reaching your stated goals should be reevaluated.

How can you do it?

  1. Make goal-setting a regular part of your routine. Include members of your team in this process. This will help you identify the best goals as well as engage your employees.
  2. Once you identify your goals, make sure that your tasks are properly aligned to help you achieve them.
  3. Monitor your progress toward each goal. You should do this through data collection and reporting. A dashboard is a great tool for this!
  4. Communicate your progress with your team.
  5. Hold yourself and your team accountable for performance.

How has keeping the big picture in mind helped you as a leader?

 

Organizational Results: Innovation and Employee Engagement

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to doing this?

Leaders want employees to spend their time at work doing their jobs.  Taking time to innovate away from work time may decrease productivity and efficiency.  As with any leadership topic, there are conflicting thoughts about innovation. While some believe that only leaders should focus on innovation, others believe that employees are imperative for successful innovation.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Front line employees often see things that leaders don’t.  They can offer a unique perspective from being involved in the process or service daily.  When employees believe that their perspectives matter and their ideas are incorporated when possible, an innovation culture begins to flourish.  Innovative cultures result in innovative organizations and innovative organizations produce results.

How can you do it?

  1. Include front line employees’ perspectives when looking at opportunities in the organization.
  2. Incorporate employees’ thoughts and ideas into your multidisciplinary team meetings and give them credit.
  3. Follow up with employees on why their ideas could or could not work as a solution.
  4. Recognize employees when ideas result in innovative solutions.
  5. Continually encourage employees to question when processes don’t make sense, speak up when there are failures, and share their ideas openly. 
  6. Remember that building an innovative culture starts with YOU.

How do your stakeholders participate in innovation at your organization?

Organizational Results: Don’t Underestimate Small Innovations

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to doing this?

When thinking about innovation, it is easy to believe that only big ideas count. Think about innovation right now.  Do big, corporate businesses come to mind?  When we think about innovation in businesses, we often think about technology and other costly ideas that have contributed millions to the bottom line.  Big ideas are great, but it is easy for us to underestimate the value of small innovative ideas that pay off big for the organization’s bottom line. 

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Not every problem needs a big idea to solve it.  Some problems are just small problems that need novel ideas that result in an innovative solution.  If we start with small ideas, we can begin to build a culture of innovation that leads to the big ideas we so often hear about.   Just remember that small innovative solutions can work just as well, can be easier to implement, and can improve your results.      

How can you do it?

  1. Look at your areas of responsibility critically to spot inconsistencies or small problems.
  2. Set aside time to study the problem or inconsistency.
  3. Take the problem to a multidisciplinary team.
  4. Brainstorm with the team to develop more ideas, a list of pros and cons of the potential innovative ideas and any implementation issues.
  5. Implement the solution and measure your results to show how small ideas can pay off big.

What are some small innovative ideas that resulted in big outcomes at your organization?

Organizational Results: Innovation and Collaboration

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to doing this?

It is often difficult to get a regular meeting scheduled where a team of individuals come together from different specialties.  It is even harder to make sure there is regular attendance at the meeting and that representatives from key areas are present in the room.  Some leaders do not see the value that collaborating with other specialties brings to the organization until they are placed into a meeting with others that results in an innovative idea.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Collaboration utilizing a multidisciplinary team approach is key to making innovation a successful part of the organization’s culture.  Having members present from different areas of the organization helps introduce new information, different perspectives, and helps spark insights that lead to innovative ideas.  A multidisciplinary team can also assess the pros and cons of the potential solution and determine if the idea is a reasonable and feasible solution to the organizational problem.  If key members are not present, the team could spend time working through a problem with what they believe is an innovative solution, only to find out it is not possible.  Collaborating with members of the organization who innovate regularly and who represent key areas is instrumental to building your organization’s innovative culture.

How can you do it?

  1. Find key leaders at your organization who are creative and innovative.
  2. Make sure you have representation from key areas throughout the organization, but not so many representatives that the group cannot think and brainstorm freely.
  3. Select a time to meet every week and make it a standing meeting on your calendar.
  4. Select one person to present an organizational problem to the group each week.
  5. Spend time brainstorming and talking through the problem and the potential solutions.  The multidisciplinary team approach will trigger insights in members of your team that will ultimately lead to innovative solutions, if they are needed.

How has an innovative idea led to an improved result at your organization?

 

Organizational Results: Giving Time to Innovation

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to doing this?

Many of us have lengthy task lists and reprioritize daily.  We check one thing off of our list and start on the next, while our list is constantly growing.  Setting aside time for one more thing isn’t appealing, especially when there isn’t a guarantee of success or complete evidentiary support to give you confidence in giving your time to this activity.   

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If we all devote a little time to innovation, simple ideas can pay off big.  While many ideas will not be as fruitful as we would like, the only way to find the big ideas that are is to set time aside and focus on identifying novel solutions to problems that plague your organization.  When you do give yourself time to really think critically and brainstorm innovation solutions to problems, your confidence and organizational results will both improve. Innovative ideas, big and small, can make a positive difference in your bottom line.

How can you do it?

  1. Make a list of key opportunities for improvement at your organization.
  2. Select one and spend an hour thinking about the problem and potential solutions. 
  3. Read, exercise, or meditate.  Do what you need to do to get your creative juices flowing.  Many ideas and insights are triggered by other activities. 
  4. Create a multidisciplinary team to dissect the problem with you.  This will help you to gain unique perspectives from others and identify innovative solutions you couldn’t see without new information or insight.
  5. Set aside time each week to focus on innovation.  Your innovative ideas will inspire and encourage others to participate.  The culture change starts with you.

How has an innovative idea led to an improved result at your organization?

Organizational Results: Balancing Process Improvement and Innovation

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to doing this?

We have been taught to focus on process improvement and to implement best practices as the primary ways to improve results.  Taking time away from activities that typically result in some positive change for the organization to focus time on potentially risky ventures with less than certain outcomes isn’t always the favorable or cost conscious route.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Innovation continues to transform industries.  Take a look at some of the world’s most innovative companies, and see how well they are performing. When you take time to focus on innovation, you may develop insights that lead to true problem resolution and you may even dream up solutions to problems you didn’t even know existed.  Balancing the focus on process improvement and innovation is the key to long term organizational success.

How can you do it?

  1. Balance your time between process improvement and innovation.  The organizational culture change starts with you, and you don’t want your organization left behind.
  2. Create a group of individuals who are key innovators with knowledge and experience, coupled with young innovative minds.  They can learn from each other.
  3. Embrace reasonable risk taking.
  4. Accept that some innovative ideas will fail.  It is difficult for most driven people, who are laser focused on results, to accept that many ideas will not end up working.  Learn from these failures and remember that the most innovative idea may grow out of the failure of another.

How has an innovative idea led to an improved result at your organization?