Does Counting Coins Make You More Money?

Technological advancements just keep on coming. And all the while we tout them as “more efficient” and “better.”

In many ways, though, the technologies seem to only take care of “keeping the lights on” tasks.

Wasting Our Time?

These are just mundane or routine undertakings that once “wasted” precious human time.

  • Are we really any more productive though?
  • What do these technologies do to our ability to collaborate and innovate?

Compare and Contrast

I recently took a trip to the grocery store with a year’s worth of change, and after about 30-seconds of dumping coins into a machine, I was given a total and a receipt for my 22 pounds worth of coinage. When I was younger, I would bring this same pile of change to the bank, and wait patiently while the teller spent 10 minutes counting it out. During this time, my parents would chat casually with one of the bank employees.

While this wasn’t a huge transaction, or even particularly important business for the bank, manually completing the task allowed time for relationships to be built between my parents (the customers) and various bank employees (the business).

Now the automatic coin-counting machine has replaced the teller for this task. Yes, that bit of technology frees up some time for the teller and allows him or her to “get more done,” but at the end of the day, is it really making any more money for the bank?

Getting More Done With Less

With all of these technological breakthroughs, most of us are able to be very self-sufficient in the workplace. We can accomplish dull tasks more quickly and more accurately than in years past.

With that tech-based efficiency, however, we’ve adopted this idea that the same amount of work can be done by fewer people – and therein lies the problem.

It’s true that technology allows us to be more “productive,” but what are the underlying costs to the organization?

No Bandwidth

A recent client of mine, an information technology group, reduced its team of database engineers from 55 to 45 employees. Because they are exceptional people with state-of-the-art technology, they were able to maintain the same level of customer and project support even with the reduction in staff. There was no noticeable drop off in performance or reliability. There were, however, some unintended consequences:

  • The team has little to no ability to take on new projects
  • Team member get over 400 emails every day, and that’s not including phone calls, instant messages, and texts
  • Career development is stagnant – not intentionally, but because there is no time to dedicate to it
  • Database interruptions, though rare, now take almost 30% longer to resolve

While the current workload wasn’t impacted, the reduced workforce left zero bandwidth available to take on anything outside of their narrowly defined roles. Customers were mildly disappointed in this lack of expandable service, and other IT teams found the group difficult to work with – because the level of stress (with no prospect of relief) has the team stretched tight like a drum.

Now What?

Instead of looking at how to get more done with fewer people, organizations need to start asking themselves, “what’s best for the company?”

In an emergency, sometimes layoffs can’t be avoided, but it’s worth considering that a team with adequate resources and enough members is far more capable of scaling to meet demand.

When every member of a workforce is operating at maximum capacity, there is no room for additional polish on a task, no room for an expanded market share, and perhaps most importantly, no time to devote to solving problems and innovating within the company itself.

Doing Things Better

Instead of looking for ways to do more with less, companies should simply be look at how to do things better. The push to “increase productivity” is a false measure of success, because efficiency is not necessarily akin to quality.

Productivity is not just accomplishing more with fewer resources, or in less time, but rather the collective result of taking on greater workloads, improving efficiency, and delivering a higher quality result at the end of the process.

There is an assumption that technology has made organizations more productive, but is this really the case? They may be able to get the same amount of work done with fewer people, but what about taking on more work? What about coming up with innovative solutions to customer issues? What about fostering relationships?

At what point does squeezing efficiency out of a company become strangulation? When does “trimming the fat” turn into cutting out muscle? How much staffing margin be in place to make sure your organization is primed for growth and opportunity? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Anil Saxena

Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

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On Leadership, Change and East African Wildebeest

Wildebeests

Like a wildebeest in East Africa, successful leaders must dare to change.

Great Wildebeest Migration

The spectacular wildebeest migration in East Africa has been touted as one of the seven new wonders of the world. Between July and October every year, up to a million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and cross the border into the Masaai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

In the Masaai Mara, the wildebeest have to cross the Mara river – sometimes several times – to get to lush plains on the other side of the river. Each year as they plunge across the river, many thousands drown or are killed by crocodiles lurking in the murky waters.

The wildebeest that survive the crossing make their way to the plains, where they are stalked and hunted down by lions, cheetahs and leopards.

Why Take the Risk?

Anyone unfamiliar with this phenomenon might wonder why the animals take a journey that is fraught with so much danger. Well, the migration follows change in the feeding habitat of the wildebeest, so the animals have to move from the South to the North where they can find adequate grazing and water.

Let’s consider their options.

  • Should they ‘choose’ to remain in the Serengeti and not migrate, the pasture will be insufficient to sustain all their numbers throughout the year. And any that survive will be weak and become easy prey for predators.
  • On the other hand, making the journey to the Mara exposes them to possible death – and thousands die annually along the way. The animals that survive however find adequate pasture and water to keep them alive.

Theirs is a world where, to borrow the words of Randall White, Phillip Hodgson and Stuart Crainer in ‘The Future of Leadership’ the wildebeest “…have to change to survive; and, paradoxically, where the very act of change increases the risk that (they) won’t survive.”

It is a world of risk and opportunity; potential loss and gain. In short, one where change is absolutely necessary, and yet takes great courage.

So, what lessons can we draw from these animals, as we consider our options in life?

Lessons for Life and Business

1) Recognize the Need to Change

Whether you’re leading a team, running an organization – business or otherwise – or working on a personal project, you know that change is imminent.

Resources run out, people working with you change or move on, the external environment changes.

Therefore, as you make progress in your chosen undertaking, put in place contingency plans to help you stay on course when the inevitable changes occur. Don’t be caught unawares and therefore become a victim.

2) Take Action

When it’s time to take the next step, follow through without backtracking. In the wildebeest migration, the dangers are real – the ranging waters of the Mara, and the crocodiles in them.

But the herds cross anyway.

When you take up a leadership position, know full well that you will be leading your followers to unchartered territories and face success or failure by taking risks. In so doing, you raise yourself to scrutiny, judgment and criticism. Face the fear and do it anyway.

Alternatively, you invest your money in a project with a high probability of either success or failure. If you’ve done due diligence up to this point and have no compelling reason to hold back any longer, proceed with your planned course of action.

3) Don’t Relax

Some people taste success and then relax, struck by the deadly “destination disease.” Even after the wildebeest reach the Mara plains, they still face predators. Some cows lose their young calves and decide to go back through the waters and along the tracks to look for them.

Away from the big herds, they become easy prey for predators and often don’t survive attacks. The journey is not over. Likewise in life and business, one failure or victory does not mark the end of the journey.

Rather, it prepares you for the next section of the trip that you must continue on. Take too much time lamenting a failure or celebrating a success and you become discouraged or complacent, unable to take the next step. So, whatever happens, don’t lose sight of the journey ahead. In the words of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela:

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Keep climbing. Keep changing. Keep growing.

Bonus – Fun fact

“Wildebeest calves gain their feet faster than the young of any other ungulate.” – Jonathan Scott’s Safari Guide to East African Animals. They stand within two to five minutes of birthing, and can run with the herd shortly thereafter – even outrunning a lioness!

What changes do you need to make in your personal or professional life? What is the next step in the plan and when will you take it? How will you handle potential setbacks brought about by either failure (discouragement) or success (complacency)?

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——————–
Joyce Kaduki

Mrs. Joyce Kaduki is a Leadership Coach, Speaker & Trainer
She enjoys working with Individuals & Teams to help them Improve their Results
Email | LinkedIn | Web

Image Sources: cdn.wanderlust.co.uk

Leadership Freedom Checklist – Where Are You on the Journey?

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——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Leadership Freedom Checklist [Infographic] by the team at FreedomStar Media

6 Ways to Communicate Better With Employees

Of all the contributors to business success, the ability to effectively communicate with employees is essential. Organizations that understand the importance of good communication tend to have highly unified workplaces.

They also enjoy more motivated, productive, and loyal employees than those companies that take communication for granted.

Still for many businesses, implementing effective employee communication practices is often easier said than done. To that end, here are 6 proven ways to better communicate with employees that any organization can put into practice right away.

6 Ways to Communicate Better With Employees

1) Promote Genuine Face-to-Face Interactions

There’s no denying that there’s a number of new and novel ways for people to interact and communicate using technology. However, when it comes to communicating in the workplace, no technical tools are as effective as good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction with employees.

As efficient as texts and emails can be, their impersonal nature does little to strengthen working relationships the way that real-time, face-to-face communication can.

In addition, when managers take extra time and effort to talk face-to-face with employees, the employees tend to feel more valued and respected by the company, which in turn makes them more engaged and productive.

2) Promote Openness and Inclusion

Nothing motivates an employee more than feeling that what they do has a direct benefit to the company. Being open and inclusive with employees with respect to corporate objectives gives them a better understanding of the big picture and the role they play in moving the company forward.

The key is to communicate regularly, as this promotes engagement by keeping employees updated on how their efforts are contributing to the achievement of corporate goals.

3) Exchange Opinions and Ideas 

Along with feeling appreciated for their work, employees like to feel that their ideas and opinions matter. Companies where management solicits and listens to employee feedback—without employees fearing retaliation for negative comments—are making wise use of a valuable communication tool.

Comments made anonymously through surveys and suggestion boxes are also effective in making employees feel that they have a real voice in how things are done.

4) Break Down Walls 

By definition, there will always be walls between employees and management. More often than not, these walls can become real barriers to communication by making management appear more isolated from employees than may actually be the case.

Therefore, a vital role of management is to break down these walls so that employees can feel comfortable about approaching them with any issues or ideas they might have.

5) Action-Based Communication

Few things can stifle communication more in the workplace than management that fails to take action with respect to employee feedback. Employees who feel that their comments are falling on deaf ears will soon stop trying to communicate, because what’s the point?

This can lead to a drop in morale and productivity, which could potentially spread throughout the workplace like a virus.

Managers wishing to maintain a workplace of frequent and open communication need to act on what they hear—or soon they won’t be hearing anything.

6) Express Employee Appreciation

While many of the above communication techniques can help employees feel more appreciated, nothing takes the place of managers directly communicating employee appreciation for a job well done.

Open and ongoing communication in the workplace helps to ensure that, when the time for recognition comes, employees will be rewarded in personal, relevant and meaningful ways.

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———————
Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web

Edited by Valentina Hoyos

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Women Leadership – Is it different?

Women Leadership

I finally got around to reading the book Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It was a good read and it got me thinking about my journey as a female leader.

The interesting fact is that I never thought about my gender while studying or while working in the corporate world.

Focused Thinking

While studying for engineering in India, females were a huge minority. But I didn’t have time to think about my gender. All I thought about was how to be ahead of the curve.

Even in the workplace, I never felt that I missed out on any opportunity because of my gender. I was always given an opportunity if I had demonstrated potential and I showed interest. I believe that this is what Sheryl was alluding to in her book that it is very important for females to ask for those opportunities and more importantly believe that they can perform.

Having the confidence and grabbing the opportunity are both equally important.

Universal Leadership Skills

Let’s shift our focus to leadership skills. The question that came to my mind was this:

Are leadership skills different for women versus men?

During my career, I came across a couple of male co-workers who ignored my opinions for what seemed like a gender bias. But in the majority of the cases, my opinions weighed as much as others. I tend to think of these two cases as error in judgment.

I remember once a female co-worker came to me for advice on dealing with a male colleague. When I heard her concerns, I didn’t see anything that she was doing wrong specific to her gender but it was a generic leadership skill she needed to work on.

My conclusion from my experience is that leadership skills are consistent across the board whether we are talking about female or male leaders.

The same soft skills that work for male leaders also work for female leaders as well.

Thinking Internally

The aspect that women need to keep in mind is how they think internally. Are they constantly thinking about their gender or are they thinking of themselves as peers to other colleagues. Keep in mind that your internal thoughts seem to always have an external effect.

Whenever I was in a leadership position, I never thought “How am I going to be perceived as a woman.” I always thought about “How I am going to be perceived as a leader” and it always worked for me. I made similar mistakes as potentially a male coworker would and I learned the same way as he would.

Directing Our Emotions

I remember attending a leadership program designed only for women. I distinctly remember the first day, the coordinator of the program pointed us to boxes of tissues on our table in case we needed them. I was put off by that comment.

Why would the coordinator assume that we as female leaders would be shedding tears?

I tend to think if we want to be emotional, we should be directing our emotions towards excelling and leading right.

So what do you think about women leadership? Do you find that you have less or more control over how you focus, learn, react, and perceive things? Or are you more inclined to think otherwise? How does this type of thinking impact your level of influence where you work? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Aditi Chopra

Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | Blog | Twitter | Books

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Engaging Adult Learners: Avoiding the Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole Learning

What comes to mind when you think about designing coursework and presenting the staff development content to a group you’ve never met? 

Perhaps is it nervousness? Dread? Excitement?

Designing for Adults

It can be a challenge to design learning sessions for adults whom you don’t know personally. I’ve experienced the good and the bad when it comes to presenting. Facilitators, trainers and instructors can face a myriad of challenges that can make them wonder if they are truly being effective.

And not all of the post-training survey questionnaires (aka “smile sheets”) really provide the kind of honest feedback needed for course or delivery improvement.

So what is the best way to configure and design the most effective course content for adult learners? Well, a lot of answers pertain, but probably the most important one is participant engagement.

5 Ways to Engage Adult Learners

Here are five ideas that have helped me engage a crowd:

1) Backward Planning

Decide what it is you want the audience to know, understand, and be able to do at the end of the training. Be very specific with this. Then plan the training so as to maximize time and achieve the goals.

Show others you value their time by not wasting it on unnecessary tasks that don’t lead to a greater and deeper understanding of the topic or training. Comedians are not the only ones who face “tough crowds.”

Don’t be a time waster! Instead, be a bucket filler!

2) Have a Hook

In his book “Teach Like A Pirate,”  Dave Burgess emphasizes the importance of capturing a student’s attention with a hook. The same technique is important (and just as effective) when working with adult learners.

The first few minutes of any training determine whether or not you will draw them in-or have them thinking of what to fix for dinner instead. I have used funny videos that relate to the topic, pictures, and even storytelling.

What matters here is that your choice is relevant, brief, and motivating.

For example, recently I delivered a training on progress monitoring and examining data. Not very exciting stuff.  So I used storytelling  to pique interest. I started the session off with this:

“For the next few minutes, I want you to imagine progress monitoring in a way you never have before. Imagine it as a map. A map you will develop and use on your journey toward maximizing student progress.”

My audience was quietly listening and immediately intrigued by this. They wanted to hear the rest of the story. They wanted to become a part of the story.

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3) Respect Learning Styles

Students are not the only ones who fail to flourish with the “sage on the stage” type of instruction. Engage your audience using activities that draw upon multiple intelligences.

  • If you present with slides, make sure the have limited wording on them…maybe even only an image. The audience will remember what you have said by having an image to which they can relate the thought. There is no need to include every word you are saying on your slides.
  • For every ten minutes you talk, allow an equal opportunity for participants to engage in dialogue with those around them and with the larger group. Be comfortable in the role of “facilitator.”  This is easy to say and most would agree, but often times we fail to do this. Whether due to nerves or time constraints, this seems to be an area we want to cut corners on. Don’t do that.

4) Establish Importance

Nothing helps motivate learners more than seeing a real connection between what is being learned and their own lives. Better still if you can share personal testimony on how you have experienced it.

The National Criminal Justice Reference Center writes this:

“A key principle in adult learning is that the ultimate educator needs to develop an appeal, a “need to know” in the learners—to make a case for the value in their life performance of learning what is offered. At a minimum, this case should be made through testimony from the experience of the instructor.”

5) The Closing

Just as we embrace the importance of the closing in our lessons in class, we must also give this consideration when working with adults.

Allow plenty of time for your participants to ask questions, share insights, and debrief with others.

I often encourage people to use social media both during and at the end of the session to share out their own takeaways. This builds ownership and solidifies the learning while allowing you an opportunity to address any lingering questions.

Include a way to further the conversations after the session ends. You may consider using Today’s Meet, your website, or another back-channeling tool. The learning shouldn’t stop at the end of your session.

Focusing on these five simple areas has helped me tremendously in engaging a group and leaving them inspired and informed…and also avoid many rabbit holes along the way.

What strategies have you found particularly effective when delivering adult training? I’d love to connect and share ideas!

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———————–
Traci Logue

Traci Logue is an educator at Northwest ISD
She has twice been named Teacher of the Year
Email| LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog | Web

Image Sources: 

Adams and Jefferson Leadership Traits: Which One Was the Better Leader?

Adams and Jefferson

American presidents come and go throughout history, but think about the presidents that you regard as great leaders. Regardless of their political persuasion, do historically successful presidential leaders have common natural talents and traits? 

Accomplishments Compared

More specifically, let’s compare presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson*. Both presidents were successful on many points. Here’s a brief look at their accomplishments :

John Adams

  • Massachusetts Delegate and Leading member of the Continental Congress
  • Leading advocate and signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Author, Massachusetts Constitution
  • Diplomat to France
  • Negotiator and signor of the Paris Peace Accord ending the war with England
  • Minister to England
  • First U.S. Vice President
  • Second U.S. President
  • President of the Massachusetts Society of Arts and Sciences

Thomas Jefferson

  • Delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress
  • Author of the Declaration of Independence
  • Governor of Virginia
  • Diplomat to France and delegate to the Paris Peace Talks with Adams
  • U.S. Secretary of State
  • U.S. Vice-President
  • U.S. President (2 Terms)
  • Founder of the University of Virginia
  • Godfather of John Quincy Adams

“Interesting Fact – Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4th, 1826. Adams was 90 years old, and Jefferson was 83 years old.”

The Inevitable Comparison

For most of us in society, we tend to have a list of requirements in our minds about the traits of great leaders. Some of them would be –

  • Strong
  • Charismatic
  • Decisive
  • Bold
  • Fearless
  • Intelligent
  • Delegator
  • Great Communicator

Then, we translate those same traits into our everyday lives and assume that we must have those same traits to be an effective leader; and if you don’t have those traits, then being a leader isn’t your destiny.

Nothing could be further from the truth—we’re all leaders whether we realize it or not.

While Adams and Jefferson each had similar noted achievements, they had very different leadership styles. Through their own personality struggles and challenges, they still found a way to achieve greatness as leaders.

Significant Leadership Trait Differences

In David McCullough’s book, John Adams, he takes an interesting, deeper look at the natural and learned traits of these leaders. Take a look at these behavioral traits and note the remarkable difference between them** –

John Adams

  • Take-Charge Personality
    • Assertive, self-assured, got results
    • Intolerant of indifference
  • Outgoing
    • A talker and entertainer
    • Passionate and good sense of humor
  • Fast-Paced
    • Controlling, Never learned to flatter
    • Cranky, impulsive, tactless
  • Spontaneous
    • Struggled with bringing order to his life
    • Had difficulty staying  focused on one thing at a time

Thomas Jefferson

  • Cooperative
    • Subtle, soft-spoken
    • Moved slowly, cautious
  • Reserved
    • Remote, little sense of humor
    • Rarely revealed his inner feelings
  • Patient
    • Gracious, rarely disagreed with anyone publicly
    • Avoided dispute and confrontation
  • Planned
    • Always polite, diplomatic
    • Neat, kept letter perfect records, detailed

Obviously, both leaders had their own unique set of strengths and struggles, but they worked within their traits to emerge as accomplished individuals in their own regard.

So, What’s the Point?

Where your leadership is concerned, it’s important to remember this:

  • Know your strengths and struggles, and manage them well.
  • Lead from a place of humble yet confident authenticity.
  • Balance your leadership by bringing others around you with different talent and traits.

As we remember and honor our nation’s leaders on Presidents Day this month, think about the president that relates closely to your own leadership style and be encouraged to fulfill your own leadership role in society. Please share your comments in this forum. 

*More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to FreedomStarMedia.com/Training.

**Traits described in the book “John Adams” by David McCullough, © 2001 Simon & Schuster, New York

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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