Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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October 31, 2013

Og Mandino, “A Better Way to Live”, I love all of Og’s books

Filed under: Food for thought for friends — Alec @ 3:36 pm

But this one has 17 Rules to live by. Rule # 1, “Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you area and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forwrd toward the life that God intended for you… with grace, strength, courage and confidence.”

October 28, 2013

Recommended Reading: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Filed under: Professional Development,Recommended Reading — Alec @ 8:32 pm

I can’t say this is one of my favorite books, but it is packed with meat. I wish I had read and taken to heart 40 years ago.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler is all about talking to people and communicating with people when the stakes are high. In the book, crucial conversations are defined by a 3-legged stool and each leg of the stool represents one of the following: when there are opposing opinions, when emotions are high, or when the stakes are high. I can’t tell you the number of times this applied directly to me, in business and in my personal life.

The book discusses a lot of instances when nurses don’t speak up to the doctor when the doctor is about to make a mistake, are not following hospital procedure, or they do say something and the doctor ignores them. This is an example of a crucial conversation.

Communications are a predictor of success in your company. Arguing reduces your immune systems effectiveness. When you have more and more bad conversations, it becomes a death spiral of emotion and option. So, once you have a single bad conversation, it carries over to the next and to other topics. Thus the death spiral.

Good leaders are skilled at handling emotional and political situations. For example, this idea is referenced in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or you know of Greg Cobbs’ advice to lower your voice and talk slower when someone is emotional. An outstanding predictor of project success was if people spoke up; most people shy away from conflict, especially with the boss when it is crucial conversation.

Companies who are good at managing crucial conversations and creating open dialogue are 5 times faster to recover economically. They are considered safer places to work and they make more money. Restructuring and reengineering, etc. seldom work, unless you can alter the way the company communicates. Sometimes it happens when you change people…but it is as likely to get worse as it is to get better. In the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable. They talk!

The definition of dialogue is the free flow of “meaning” between two or more people. When we pool the “meaning” of a group, we increase the IQ of the group. Individually people can do some really stupid things, but in a healthy group that has open dialogue, it is much more difficult to make stupid decisions.

In relationships you are bound to bicker. Everyone argues occasionally. It is not IF you argue, it is HOW you argue. The way you argue impacts your health, so the way you talk or don’t talk can literally kill you. Martin Luther King was quoted saying, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

Pages to Note:
Page 25: People tend to hold back their comments and ideas when talking or with people of power
Page 33: “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret” – Ambrose Bierce
Page 38: 10 minutes into kindergarten, we learn we must spout the right answer if we want the teachers attention. It is not about individual winning!
Page 42: When you are cornered, ask a question (slowly, softly) without emotion (ask yourself why)
Page 43: Three questions: What do I really want for myself? What do I really want for others? What do I really want for the relationship?
Page 48: Remember it is sometimes the boss that must accept criticism
Page 49: Clarify what you both want
Page 51: Self-knowledge is not common! “I have known a thousand scamps: but I have never met one who considered himself so. Self-knowledge isn’t so common.” – Quida
Page 57: When your emotions rise, key brain functions shut down
Page 63:  your style under stress, interesting, and a great self introspective
Page 72: Listen to the tone of a conversation, especially the speed and volume
Page 77: How can others feel safe when they feel others are out to harm them? We must really care about others (if we wish to communicate with them).
Page 79:  You can’t have Crucial Conversation with someone you don’t respect (also coined by Jim Fox in TROOP: Total Respect of Other People)
Page 113: Admit it when you have lost your temper
Page 133: Good communicators are humble at the right time
Page 138: Good communicators are the least controversial and least insulting
Page 157: Be sincere, be curious of facts
Page 177: (This is a BIG point) Just because you are excellent at communications, does not mean your team will take action
Page 191: You don’t have to say it, your body language will show anger
Page 214: Apologize when appropriate, share your facts

 Things I have learned along the way:

• When things don’t go as you planned, it is easy to lose control

• Every time you lose your temper, you lose money. Every time your people go silent, it costs you money.

• Others are not the source of all our problems. We are. Work on improving yourself first.




Who’s to Blame?

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Professional Development,Six Sigma — Alec @ 8:05 pm

Maybe 10 years ago we were having a rash of big scrap issues. Percentage wise it was not terrible, but it seemed we would scrap the whole order of a production run. The root causes were always a little different, but unfortunately they were usually human error.

My 6 Sigma background would always push me to ask questions and look for the secondary cause. I rarely would accept “employee error” as a root cause. After about 3 occurrences in one month of having scrap issues that cost us a whole order, I began to dig deeper. At our weekly production meeting someone mentioned that the operator had typed in the wrong offset on the new tool and not done a first piece. The prior 2 scrap issues had a similar human error tone.

One of the Managers repeated what I had often said, “What is the real root cause? We can’t blame the operator. Was he trained properly?” I was fed up and said without thinking, “I have had enough of this no blame bull pucker!”. There was a big laugh and it eventually became a joke phrase in the future. But the thing is, I was half sincere. We must hold people accountable.

I don’t want to blame people for their errors. In fact, I want them to take calculated risks. In other words, the reward of success is significant and the consequence of failure is small. But, I want them to be accountable for what they say, do what they say they are going to do and do it when they said. Or just be honest and tell me they are not going to do it.

See the Rick Lochner article below titled: “This accountability crap is for the birds…” it brought back memories of my “No blame bull pucker” moment.

Fail Your Way to Success

I love Dilbert. And I also love Scott Adams’ outlook on success. So when this article appeared in the WSJ on 10/12/13 I had to read it twice. (For your reference

I had a boss 40 years ago at Chevy Flint V8 Engine that told me it was much easier to be infamous than famous, and both people would be equally rewarded. I did not believe him then, but I do believe him now especially in the context of Adams’ article.

I like employees who have a passion for work. It’s great when they have passion to serve the customer, a passion to sell, and a passion to make money. I never had the desire to take the risk and start my own business from scratch. My passion was and still is cars and bicycles. I even wrote a business plan to start a business to make tandem bicycles. But, the business plan showed me that it was high risk, highly competitive and carried a low reward. So I decided against the business.

I enjoyed the part where Adams talks about defeats, what we learn, and luck. In my career I had lots of defeats (a good work to describe them), and lots of successes. I have looked back many times and realized that many of the successes followed defeats. They were the product of necessity and opportunity. I only once left a job on my own for a better job, and that ended up a bad decision. So, half my promotions came from taking risks when seeking a new career opportunity.

Take risks! Calculated risks. Know the potential reward. When opportunity presents itself, reach a little higher. In sales, sell to the rich. Or at least sell to those that can pay. Sell to those that can buy renewals. If you sell door–to-door vacuum cleaners, you don’t get a lot of repeat clients. People won’t buy another vacuum cleaner for years. However, if you sell door-to-door food, they will buy every week. If you are a small business have a passion to serve your customer. Anticipate their future needs and prepare.

“Show me a man who has never failed, and I’ll see a man who has never attempted anything”

— Unknown

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