Archive for February, 2013

Broken Processes and Broken Promises.

             brokenchain  Broken processes are like broken promises – they cause frustration and unnecessary anguish. What I mean by broken processes is organizational procedures that are specified one way yet occur another way in reality.  Two of my most hated phrases are “should have” and “supposed to”.  For example, “It should have happened like this (but that’s not how we really do it)” or “It is supposed to go through these steps (but we never do that)”. When we start injecting “should have” and “supposed to” into describing our procedures, it means we are ignoring the truth of what is actually going on. 

                When we view our procedures and practices through rose-colored glasses–laying out the perfect plan yet not adhering to it–we set ourselves and our teams up for failure.  As a process is established, the expectation is those are the steps that should occur to reach the desired outcome. When we have broken processes, like broken promises, what we expect and what we experience do not match. Using a simple example: A door marked Exit should allow us to leave a location. If the door does not open and stops us from leaving, we have to find another way around, which is aggravating.  We expected the door to open since the sign indicated it was an Exit.  However, the door did not open, and upon further investigation, it is missing a handle and needs repair.  This hypothetical situation gets even more frustrating if other people knew about the broken Exit door; yet the door remained out of order, and everyone else just found another Exit.

                Broken procedures and broken promises lead to a lack of trust. By specifying procedures and policies, we are stating the methods that are expected to accomplish goals. When those procedures are ignored or altered by us as leaders or by our team members, the precedent is set that following procedures is optional or just a suggestion.  While some organizational processes can be altered based on the situation or the person, many should be followed for safety, regulatory requirements, consistency, quality or other reasons.  The importance of this is that broken processes can directly affect the productivity of the team either through inefficient work or through an undercurrent of mistrust in the team. So the question is, what do we do about it as leaders?

                The first thing is to make sure we are leading by example. If there is a procedure, we need to follow it first.  Second, if the process occurs in an alternate way other than stated for whatever reason, we need to investigate and not turn a blind eye to it.  Potentially, it was a one-time occurrence due to extenuating circumstances, but if the process continues to flow in a manner that is not expected, it is our responsibility to figure out why.  Maybe the new process flow is actually better! In that case, it is up to us to handle the change management so the entire team is aware and expectations are realigned. 

                However, many times processes are altered because the specified flow was not feasible in the first place, and people just did what they had to do to get the job done.  With that type of situation, we need to be honest with ourselves and our teams.  We need to figure out the true state of affairs and outline what needs to happen and then create the action plan to change over.  The important thing is to communicate to the team, our superiors, and the organization so that broken processes, like broken promises, can be repaired.

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Changing Direction.

Direction.               I’ve been witness to people who lamented their professional position in life.  The root cause could be anything from wages, people, hours or the work itself.  The bottom line from all of those unhappy situations was the people were unsatisfied.  Something about their path was not fulfilling their personal desires.  Let’s be honest.  Sometimes we have to get over our personal desires in order to fulfill our obligations (i.e. pay bills).  What if you could change your situation? Would you? The optimist in our hearts yells YES, but the realist (or pessimist) in our heads keeps us from jumping off the proverbial cliff.

               This post is going to focus on the leader. Turn the above scenario around to someone in a position of leadership within an organization.  It is hard to consider leaving such a position.  However, there are times when for the good of the person or the good of the business, it is time to part ways.  Working hard and earning a position of leadership is a commendable accomplishment.  To transition those leadership skills to a new organization is a tough challenge.  Instead of being comfortable with the people and processes, starting a new opportunity is sort of like learning a foreign language. There is also a sense of proving oneself all over again–not always a positive aspect of change, but it can be. That fresh start and new ground may make all the difference in the world to the leader.  In that regard, it is exciting and thrilling to see the potential and the promise that a new opportunity holds.  

                Where does that opportunity lay?  It is not an easy task to figure out, because our heads and hearts are sometimes conflicted between what we should do and what we want to do. I believe that part of the overall success of great leaders comes from self-awareness: people who spend time understanding their own motivations and desires and figure out where those particular personal elements fit into the world. Those people are envied, because they are able to turn their passion into a career, which alters the entire landscape of the work environment.  When we feel satisfied or fulfilled by our contributions, our overall attitude toward work shifts.  Not to say every day is roses and sunshine, but the overall purpose of our efforts is valuable, which in turn adds value to us as people. 

                  To bring this point to a close, leaders should not fear changing their surroundings or breaking out of their comfort zone.  However, my recommendation is to find that one opportunity that makes your heart flutter, because that is where you will truly succeed.   

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Does Emotion Affect Leadership?

Emotion                You bet it does. During this time of the year, we focus on love and the wonderful elation that comes with finding that special someone.  Love is just one of the more powerful emotions that we feel.  According to Aaron Sloman, who wrote Motives, Mechanisms and Emotions, “Emotions are analyzed as states in which  powerful  motives  respond  to relevant  beliefs  by  triggering  mechanisms  required  by  resource-limited intelligent systems.” Wow. That is an incredibly complex statement, but it does apply to my point.  Let’s go through this one piece at a time. 

                “Powerful motives respond to relevant beliefs.” Our motivations are a major driving force to our actions.  The statement is clear that our motivations are reflections of our relevant beliefs.  I agree with this definition when I think about who and what I fight for the hardest – those things or people that I believe in the strongest. Beliefs are shaped by our experiences, our education and, in some ways, our personalities.  When we think about a belief system or structure, the basic ideology of that system or structure defines what is right and what is wrong.  Therefore, we believe and understand what is right and what is wrong.  The conundrum is that not every structure of right and wrong is the same; the variety of religions proves that point. Putting all of this together, it makes sense that our relevant beliefs form the basis of our motives–sometimes powerful motives.   

                “Triggering mechanisms required by resource-limited intelligent systems.” This part is more of a tongue twister but is applicable to the point.  Sloman goes further to help define what this section means by writing, “The effects may interfere with or modify the operation of other mental and physical processes.” Simply put, while we are focusing on responding to the stimulus, we are taking away some of our abilities in other areas. We (as humans) are “intelligent systems”, but we only have so much attention span and understanding to work with. When our “powerful motives” are stimulated, we respond with the section of the brain called the amygdala (See my blog When Our Brains Work Against Us).  This makes more sense when applied to a situation like being around someone we love; we may lose sight of anything and everyone else. 

                To bring this back to leadership, does emotion affect leadership? Yes! Our leadership styles and abilities are also shaped by our beliefs, which in turn drive our motivations.  The hard part is to be aware of this and control it internally.  I’ve stated more than once that we, as leaders, are not made of stone. We will experience our own emotions and impulses.  The important thing to remember is to be cognizant of the effect of our own emotions or “responses to powerful motivations” and handle it accordingly.  We have a finite amount of brain power. Use it wisely.   

 – Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

A.  Sloman, `Motives Mechanisms Emotions’ in Emotion and Cognition 1,3,

pp.217-234 1987, reprinted in M.A. Boden (ed) The Philosophy of Artificial

Intelligence “Oxford Readings in Philosophy” Series Oxford University Press,

pp 231-247 1990.

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The Value of Integrity

                 Your word. Your bond. Your reputation.  In itself, integrity is an intangible thing.  It is impossible to hold out an arm and say, “Touch my integrity”, and yet we feel it and experience integrity just as much as a part of our being.  Integrity is one of those abstract concepts that we use to define our sense of self and our sense of right and wrong.  Integrity is not something that anyone can take from us, yet many times we are free to compromise our integrity or give it away.  Then we have to wonder, does integrity matter? I submit that the short answer is – yes.  The long answer explains why. 

                 As I stated, our integrity gives us a sense of self, along with our sense of duty and sense of pride.  Even the poorest person can maintain his or her integrity and keep that part of their esteem whole.  The reason is because it is an emotion, the difference is integrity is one people can control purely for his or her own sake.  There are many other emotions that make us who we are, but integrity is one that we keep for ourselves.  By holding fast to those promises and values that we believe in, we are able to maintain our dignity, even in tough spots. 

                When we do not value our integrity and are willing to compromise ourselves, the impact can be two-fold – how we feel about ourselves and how others view us.  Many lessons can be gained from how we behave and the choices we make when no one else is watching.  When we are ready and willing to cheat or to debase ourselves in private, I believe it is no better than doing so in public.  Just because there were no witnesses doesn’t mean we didn’t allow ourselves to give in to temptation – whatever that temptation may be.  When someone does find out about our transgressions, the impact can be swift and severe depending on the situation.  In all cases, if people go back on their word or is ready to back down from their convictions, it sows the seeds of doubt in others.  There will always be a question of trustworthiness from that point on which may never be fully forgotten.   

                As leaders, we are looked at to do the ‘right’ things in tough situations.  We are the example for others to follow. If we allow our integrity to be tarnished, we have lowered the standards for our teams.  I know that I value my integrity above all else.  I would rather hold myself to the true path and course, even if that means failing rather than cheating and having an empty victory.  One last point to keep in mind: Never be afraid to fail if it means keeping your integrity intact. Failure is a lesson taught only through a short-term battle, but maintaining your integrity is the way to win the long-term war.

 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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