Continuous Improvement, Workplace

Everything will be ok

As leaders, there are countless ways we influence our teams.  As human beings, there are countless ways we can influence our teams.  Leadership is a key element in continuous improvement initiatives, those who can manage their emotions are likely to be more engaged in their work.

Our mood is different every day; and our energy level, positivism, and focus will be affected by it.  As leaders, we cannot let our emotions control our actions.  The workplace is full of opportunities to derail our continuous improvement efforts; different levels of engagement within our team, roadblocks in the form of people who do not believe, machine downtime, last-minute orders, absenteeism, lack of support from management and toxic work environments.  How we manage those challenges will determine the success of our efforts, but more important is the way we manage our emotions.

People are watching our reaction every time something arise, positive reactions will influence positive behavior in our team.  The ability to react on a positive way is a learned behavior, requires practice.  The more we learn how to identify and understand our emotions the more we learn about how those emotions influence our behavior and ultimately how we can control and use them in our favor.  Those who understand their emotions can capitalize on them to overcome obstacles keeping a good mood and modeling positive behaviors.

The ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others is known as emotional intelligence (EI) and is a very important trait for leadership success.  People with a high degree of EI know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean, and how they can affect other people.  Every day will come with a different challenge, sometimes the same challenge over and over; emotional intelligence is what helps us to work with them expecting a positive outcome every time.  Keeping your cool when things go differently from expected is not an easy task but if you can manage to do it, your team will learn how to do it too.  A good leader is also honest, there are times on which expecting a good outcome is impossible.  When we hit those, it is ok to accept it, regroup, make a new plan and keep going.

How to keep yourself calm on difficult situations is a huge challenge, in my humble opinion (by no means an expert opinion) is that everything comes down to how well you know yourself.  The critical step is to know your emotions, to identify how you feel and learn how to control your feelings.  When I recognize that I need time to control myself, I take a walk.  Waking through the plant, talking with people almost always make me feel better, helps me to calm down and gain a different perspective.  Sometimes I even talk about the situation with them, and the conclusion is that everything will be alright.  Train the mind to use positive words and stay clear from negative ones is a way to keep you and your team moving in the right direction.



Motivation, Workplace

Bullies in the workplace – How they affect productivity?

Have you ever experience one of the following on your workplace:  personal attacks like yelling or threats, insults, laughing at you when you fail, spreading rumors, sabotage, personal information like performance appraisal made public, unrealistic deadlines or being the push to complete a task for which you have not been trained.

Those are examples of bullying, and it does exist in the workplace.  The perpetrator can be someone who feels threatened, is jealous, insecure, unable to do his/her job or not feel competent enough to be successful.

Consequences from this behavior go from personal issues (health complications, self-esteem, emotional) to productivity loss.  Targets are very skilled people, highly competent, perhaps a new employee who has been very successful in a similar role, likable people or with a lot of technical knowledge and/or experience.  Targets are usually the kind of people who are more prone to support continuous improvement initiatives.

I have been a witness of this kind of behavior, it is horrible.  It not only affects the target but the people around as well.  It takes away your peace of mind, your focus and makes you feel that if you are successful enough; you will be the next target.  It creates stress, which we all know is a source of hypertension, depression, and anxiety.  Sickness creates attendance problems, work will accumulate, due dates won’t be met, maybe will affect customers.

This cost money:  higher absenteeism rate usually creates over time and more use of medical insurance will increase premiums and compensation claims.  The team stress level increases, losing focus and decreasing morale.  The whole situation creates a hostile work environment which is a step away from possible lawsuits.  Eventually, bullying targets resign and with he or she, the motivation to work and practice continuous improvement goes out of the door too.  And what is worst, the bully stays and with he/she stays the fear, incompetence, inefficiency, and lack of commitment.

As leaders, we need to be in the lookout for bullies and stop their behavior, for the benefit of our employees.  It is our responsibility to promote a healthy work environment and bullying is the opposite of that.  No lean journey will be successful if we allow this kind of behavior, respect for the people is the most important mindset for continuous improvement and bullying is disrespectful behavior.


Why diversity is necessary?

cats-and-dogsDuring these days diversity in our work areas is more relevant than ever.  The entire nation is talking about diversity, some believe that is what makes this nation great, and others think different.

One of the first courses for my master degree was organizational leadership.  To pass the class, we had to analyze a merge from the company’s culture point of view.  I chose the merge between two technology companies.  I started by reading everything I got about the buying company culture, and it was pretty clear that they believed in a diverse workforce.  They believe that their competitive advantage is achieved through their people and that they drive innovation through diversity.  Those statements were the first time I recognized there is something called diversity.

Many times after that I read about the advantages of having people from different backgrounds, race, nationality or gender together, like for example in this article from McKinsey & Company,, and  Industry Week.  If we only associate with people with our same belief and point of view, we will never grow, we will never learn.  We all need the exposition to different ideas.  We need to force yourself to listen to ideas coming from people from another country, from a different political party or maybe just with a different neighborhood.  Some of those ideas or points of view may teach us something, may help us to see the world through a different color glass.

In our work areas, it is particularly important to have people with different beliefs, different gender, a cross-cultural team that stop the group from falling prey of alike thinking.  No diversity means seeing the world from one color glass only, always the same thing, no variety.  The group will never try to break the status quo because nobody sees the necessity to do it, condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over because nobody thinks different.

During my lean journey, the best ideas almost always come from the most unlikely person, the one that does not know “anything” about the process, the one exposed to a different environment, or with work experience on a different industry.  Perhaps coming from the quietest person, that one that does not like to talk or feel fear to do so.

During brainstorming sessions, it is common to see the think alike group trying to shut people with completely different ideas.  They will go nuts to hear the “crazy” proposition, they won’t let the person talk.  We have to develop a thicker skin, learn to listen even when we don’t like or agree.  Every idea needs to be discussed for its own merits, with facts, not emotions.

Our companies, neighborhoods, and countries are better and stronger when we embrace diversity and tolerance,.  Not accepting it, is like walking with a blindfold, we will miss half of the great things we have around.