Leadership Storyboarding

Storyboarding

People become leaders – by title – because they’re good at . . . well, leading.  Well, in addition to this… you also need to be good at organizing, counseling, and many other things.  

But for now, I just want to focus on organizing.

Organizing projects and processes, that is.

Organizing Formats

As a leader, when you are able to organize and plan well, this technical capability helps many other things in your world fall into place more much more easily.

When you are good at “organizing things,” you will  have less “managing” to do.

Every leader has their own particular twist on organization. These organizational manifestations may show up as:

  • Well-placed sticky notes
  • Outlook tasks on your email
  • Synthesized spreadsheets
  • Hierarchical to-do lists
  • Google Calendar flashing on your screen
  • MS Project nipping at your heels

Telling Your Story

But to help leaders better prioritize their efforts and convey their vision in a linear fashion for all others to see, I recomend a better set of tools to help them convey their thoughtful ideas to their teams. For many projects, I like to use a technique that isn’t thought of very often, if at all, but is extremely versatile.

What I recommend is something called storyboarding.

“Huh? “you might ask. “What are you, a cartoon writer?”

No, but that is usually the context in which you would hear about storyboarding.  I use storyboarding, not for cartoons, but to “draw” and plan out each step of a process.

I am then able to see each step, one at a time, while also considering the entire process.  As ideas or resources change, I can then eliminate or move things around at any time to keep an up-to-date picture of the entire project. I can continue to experiment with various orders of steps and ideas.

If you observe the way people read or listen to things you’ll realize that there aren’t many of us with a linear attention span.

Unless you are blind, visual information is much more interesting than verbal information.

Remember – a picture is worth a thousand words.

Storyboarding

The storyboarding process actually started with Leonardo da Vinci but was revitalized and developed at the Walt Disney Studios in 1929 with the creation of Steamboat Willie. Since that time it has grown in popularity in movie and animation studios and has also moved into mainstream business.

Walt Disney World itself was planned exclusively via storyboarding in about 10 days.

Walt Disney and Mike Vance saw that storyboarding could be adapted effectively for business planning in a mode they termed “displayed thinking.”  Displayed thinking can be used for group problem-solving and strategic planning, such as in:

  • Decision Making
  • Strategic Planning
  • Decision Execution
  • Building Consensus and Buy-in
  • Processing Large Amounts of Information
  • Making the Plan Visible While it is Executed

There are 13 basic steps to the typical storyboarding process.  You can just as easily go through this yourself for an individual project as you can with a group for a larger project.  This is outlined well by the Iowa State University Extension:

1. State the Problem.

Be specific and concise.

2. Brainstorm and Post all Ideas.

Each idea is written in large letters on a separate card or piece of paper.

3. Share Ideas.

Participants talk about what they have written on the cards.

4. Review Each Card for Meaning.

Ask for clarification.

5. Sorting By Content.

In silence, participants begin sorting and grouping the items of similar content.

6. “Header Cards” Added.

Participants are given several “header cards” that are larger (and a different color) than the idea cards previously used.

7. Total Group Discusses the Groupings.

There may be a need to break some of the topics into smaller sub-topics.

8. “Symptoms” vs. “Causes.”

The focus should be on the root causes of the problem, not causes.

9. Vote for Consensus.

The group identifies the top three or four ideas.

10. Restate Header Cards Using A Verb.

Replace a noun with a verb.

11. Subtier Actions.

If subtier actions are necessary, post them under the header cards.

12. Assign Completion Date.

Assign a completion date to each item.

13. Post Dates and Name of Person Responsible.

Post dates and the name of the person responsible for each action item.

Remember what I said earlier about the way people think . . . “Tell” instructions and half of them will be forgotten – tell a story and it will remembered.

How do you involve your staff in process development?  Do you have effective process development?  Would you rather hear it, or see it?

**********

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources: designcouncil.org.uk

Leadership: How to Make an Elephant Fly

Flying Elephant

“I seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I seen a needle that winked its eye.
But I be done seen ‘bout ev’rything
When I see an elephant fly.”

                                                                         ~”Dumbo” lyrics

Have you ever made an elephant fly?  Probably not, but I know an organization that has.  Of course I’m talking about the Walt Disney Company, and it’s become a catch-phrase . . . Make an elephant fly.

Uncle Walt’s Wisdom

Walt once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and get started”.  Figure out what you need, what you have, get the creative juices flowing, and get going.  Good leaders ensure that this is being done.  You can’t get anywhere by sitting around complaining because you don’t have this or that.

Unless you’re extremely lucky to have unlimited resources, you probably already know that accurate project planning is essential when you have a new project.  This is illustrated in the way live-action and animated films are developed.  With live-action, you can shoot extra film and use editing to get the outcome you want.  You can’t do that with animation.  It just costs too much to produce extra footage that you know you’re not going to use.

Another Disney executive summed it up perfectly in preparing his team saying, “Within these boundaries you will create.  This is the budget, these are the limitations.  Make it work within this framework.”  In other words, “make an elephant fly”.  Sometimes you just have to do with what you have to make it happen.

How to Make an Elephant Fly – Project Plan

The key to a successful project is in the planning.  Creating a project plan is the first thing you should do when undertaking any kind of project.

Often project planning is ignored in favor of getting on with the work.  However, many leaders fail to realize the value of a project plan in saving time, money and often, many, many problems.

In The Disney Way, Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson outline the nine steps to the planning process called, the “Blue Sky” process.

Step 1 – Blue Sky

  • Ask “What if?” instead of “What?”
  • For a while, learn to live with the discomfort of no knowing, or not being in full control.
  • Take a trip through fantasyland by starting with the story.

Step 2 – Concept development

  • Develop research.
  • Evaluate alternatives.
  • Recommend an idea.

Step 3 – Feasibility

  • Reconcile scope.
  • Prepare pro forma.

Step 4 – Schematic

  • Finalize master plan.
  • Outline initial business processes.

Step 5 – Design objectives

  • Finalize design details, equipment, and materials.
  • Develop implementation strategy and budget.

Step 6 – Contract documents

  • Prepare contract documents.

Step 7 – Production

  • Construct site infrastructure and develop work areas.
  • Produce show elements.

Step 8 – Install, test, adjust

  • Install the show.

Step 9 – Close out

  • Assemble final project documents.
  • Monitor performance.
  • Get sign-off letter from operations.

I guarantee that no one LIKE’s putting together a detailed plan, but it’s the only way the team and all of it’s leadership levels (in and out of the project team) can stay on track.

Expanded Excellence

In expanding on the Blue Sky process I’d make note of a couple of things that will make life so much easier. Because easier is good…

1 – Document Everything

Keep records throughout.  Every time you change from your baseline, write down WHAT the change was and WHY it was necessary.  Every time a new requirement is added to the project, write down WHERE the requirement came from and HOW the issue was adjusted because of it.

No one will remember everything – so write it down and you’ll be able to look back at any time.

2 – Keep Everyone Informed

Keep all of the project stakeholders informed of progress throughout the process.  Let them know of your success as you complete each milestone, but also inform them of problems as soon as they come up.  Also keep your team informed.

Make sure everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing.

Having followed all the steps above, you should have a good project plan and be able to deliver consistently successful products and services.  Remember to update your plan as the project progresses, and measure progress against the plan.  And at the end?  CELEBRATE!

What elephant are you going to make fly?  Have you started planning yet?  Is your team on board? What steps can you take this week to get things going? How can you help others who need this help? I would love to hear your thoughts!

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources: johnlund.com

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The Leader’s Journey: The Fool On The Hill?

Fool On The Hill

During one of my personal contemplation sessions, I was taken away by the Beatles song “Fool on the Hill” which was playing in another room in our house.

It’s the Beatles playing, so of course I had to listen to the whole song…

A Different Perspective

But perhaps because of my state-of-mind or perhaps it was my lack-of-a-state-of-mind, this song resonated strongly. While listening, I started to hear it from a Big “L” Leadership perspective (See Big “L” Leadership at previous post The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit.)

I have no idea what the writer’s (Paul McCartney) perspective was when the song was written.  Maybe there is some deeper or mystical meaning in the song; maybe it is just about a fool.  As I let the lyrics play inside my head, I started to relate them to some of my experiences as a Leader, Leadership Development instructor and as an Executive Coach.

Please, put on your headphones and listen.

After all what our profession demands (I am talking to the Leaders Big “L” now) is hard to achieve and it requires a depth of knowledge and skill that the “carver’s hands” etches into our soul over time and experience throughout our life.

We are highly trained professionals. And as such, we are expected to deal effectively and ethically with many  issues like these:

  • Intra-psychic resistances
  • Denial and self-deception
  • Irrational behaviors and actions

We strive to be effective in improving cultures that do not support ethical values and fair treatment of people. We continuously work to develop high levels  trust and credibility in our relationships with a wide variety of people with whom we work.

This is why the lyrics of the song hit me so hard.

Same Song, Different Place

Another Fool On The HillAs the song begins, the lyric “nobody wants to know him, they can see that he’s just a fool” made me think of all the times when my ideas and expertise were not popular nor accepted (maybe not well understood) within management and client teams and I was the fool nobody wanted to know.

Have you ever felt like the “fool” when you are trying to execute change and improvements and every way you turn you bang into resistance from others even the company’s leaders?

It takes courage and conviction to be the fool and to not become discouraged and give up.

So the Leaders (Big L) persevere in spite of the obstacles!

The song’s refrain is “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, Sees the world spinning ’round.”  This made me think of all the times when, despite my (and others’) best efforts working hard each day, we were unable to produce any meaningful actions or changes that would help the company (as the sun goes down).

And, we kept working as time (days) passed (with the world-spinning round) and it seemed that all our hard work and expertise failed to produce sustainable change.  There were the occasional “aha moments” and some of our interventions produced that feel-good factor that soon dissipated.

  • Does “the fool on the hill” suggest that we need to accept our limitations and get over ourselves?
  • Can we accept just how ordinary we are in some situations?
  • How hard it is to be a conscious, grownup Leader (Big L)?
  • How hard is it to admit to ourselves that we all fail from time to time?

Take a look around. Time shows us how little we control.

Not On My Cloud

The song continues with the lyrics “Head in a cloud, The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud, But nobody ever hears him, or the sound he appears to make, and he never seems to notice…” This perspective made me think about how optimistic and positive we have to be to take on the types of assignments that define our work.

Are our heads in the clouds?

We use the vast array of systems like:

Theories | Practices | Tools

Interventions | Training | Coaching

Analysis | Experience | Judgment

to attempt to make new solutions visible and viable in the client system.

But when we do this, are there times when we are just “the man with a thousand voices that nobody hears?”

And, as we persist in executing our plans, do we sometimes fail to notice what the informal system is saying about us, the value of our work and our expertise in the “fool” conversations at the water cooler that are so common in the culture of most organizations?

Above It All

As Leaders (Big – L), we are true believers in the power of our roles so we learn to hold our noses and bite our tongues. At the higher levels of growth, we learn to respond with kindness and compassion in these situations.

At its worst, this criticism and resistance tests our character . At its best, it is an opportunity to deepen our learning and consciousness growth.

Mirror of OurselvesAgain the refrain:  “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round.”  This reminded me that each day brings both opportunity and risk. Over time sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.  Regardless, we are obligated to put our best work on the table even if it is controversial.

The song continues with the lyrics, “And nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do, and he never shows his feelings…” This perspective reminds me of how lonely and alienated we can feel when it is an uphill climb to the bottom in some assignments.

In doing our work, our clients know we are obligated to hold up the mirror with the unpleasant image in it.

Dedicated To Purpose

We want to be liked and respected, but if it comes down to one or the other, the Leader (Big L) is going to choose being respected every time.  So we are obligated to do what we think is best for the client system including giving voice to the good, bad, and ugly we find in the organization.

During these times we may over-control our emotions (bury our feelings), smooth-over conflict, hold our noses, and try to take the high road when the client system may be better served if we were toburn their cover and bust their games.”

Thus the lyrics, “And he never listens to them, He knows that they’re the fools, They don’t like him,” This pretty much sums up how to be excellent in our profession, we have to become true believers in our dedication and commitment to stand for what we believe is right and just.

Lead Like A Leader

We need thick skin because the problem with change is that everybody thinks it is about somebody else, Consequently, someone is going to feel wronged in the process and blame us.

World Spinning RoundIn my experience in consulting and coaching, there are very few (little l) leaders that can resist playing the blame game or choosing a scapegoat in support of their false reality and their familiar comfort zone.

Once again the refrain:  “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round.”

Time goes by each day, the sun goes down, and once more, we offer up our very best making progress in some areas and not much in others.  So the world keeps spinning round for as long as we are here and we are responsible for everything we do.

So we “fools” follow Dr. Kopp wise recommendation and we, “learn to forgive ourselves again and again and again and again…”

Some questions to ponder:

  • Is our work a version of The Fool On The Hill song?
  • Are we the fool with “a thousand voices hoping we will be heard?”
  • Are we a fool to be disliked because we want to change the system for the betterment of all?
  • Are “they” the fools simply entrenched in functional blindness or the comfort of their reality?
  • Are we all fools in the game of life and the dance of ego, power, and the need to be always competent and approved of?

I welcome your comments and thoughts.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”  — Friedrich Nietzsche

——————–
Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He helps with Performance Improvement, Change Mgmt Consulting & Coaching
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Have You Capped Your Potential?

11 Madison Avenue

There’s an unusual looking building I often walk past in New York at 11 Madison Avenue.

And it got me thinking recently…

All Base, No Stride

Today the stout-looking building in the picture above is home to Credit Suisse’s World Headquarters. Back in 1909 the Met Life Tower on the site was the tallest building in the world.

In the decades that followed, the enormous base of what was to be a record-breaking 100-story tower was constructed… but then the Great Depression hit.

As the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building soared to new heights, the decision was made to cap the Metropolitan Life North Building after finishing only the 32-story base of the planned tower. So here it stands today with the all the potential and foundations in place for a structure more than three times its final height.

11 Madison Avenue is a beautiful building inside, but it is not the tour map icon it would be if it had reached it’s potential.

I wonder if you have settled for reaching only a third of your potential as a leader? Have you capped your potential?

Are you stuck at 11 Madison Avenue?

Some People…

There are many reasons why leaders cap their potential.

Some fear failure and settle for achievement that’s comfortable.

Some suffer failure or disaster and don’t want to experience the pain again.

Some are plagued with self-doubt or insecurity.

Some dwarf their plans in tough times.

Some get jaded and lose that child-like faith that they can live a life worth noting.

I wonder what your real potential is?

I wonder what future plans are gathering dust and not gathering momentum?

I wonder. But you know.

——————–
Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York
Email | LinkedIn | Website | Blog | Twitter | +1 917 913 4598

Why Leadership Is A Tool

Leadership is a Tool

Getting stuff done within an organization requires resources, people, and planning. Sometimes it is easy, and sometimes… not so much. In any case, it always requires leadership.

Something Easy

Easy ButtonSimple projects like finding out what office supplies need ordering and getting them into the stock room on the right shelf at the right time (and at the right price) is straight forward and relatively easy to carry out.

Assigning tasks to team members for small projects can be a bit harder than getting office supplies, but it is also relatively easy to carry out if one uses common sense.

But many things need to get done that are much more difficult to do. Some things seem nearly impossible.

Something Impossible

Mission ImpossibleImagine coming in to work on a Monday and finding out that you are in charge of opening up a new call center in Bangalore, India using a brand new ERP computer backbone; closing another call center in Mumbai, India due to some sort of government demand; and get all the computers in the Mumbai center through customs in the US and get them up and running on the new software system in the Austin, Texas office. And you have 21 days to do this.

In this scenario, you would need to get a serious plan in place and execute on that plan quickly. You need results and you need them now.

Executing Strategic Initiatives

A strategic initiative is an endeavor that aims to deliver benefits to important stakeholders. The outcome?  A transformed, higher-performing organization. I tell people, leadership is an essential element for transforming vision into results. I assert that:

“Leadership causes results.”

Think about the premises and propositions for that statement. As the following table shows, there is a linkage between leadership elements and organizational benefits. The left-hand column lists key elements of strategic initiatives, and the right column shows leadership attributes.

Strategic Initiatives involve:

Leadership Functions

Stretch goals that require creativity and innovation Inspiring others to bring out the best of people’s energies
Dealing with harsh, frightening threats and realities Showing courage: Bravery is needed to venture into the unknown. Truth telling is necessary revealing unpleasant information.
Working with vision, ill-defined problems, emerging opportunities, and other abstractions Helping people to overcome ambiguity and develop common mental models of vision, metrics, and methods.
Gaining the support of important stakeholders that are external to the organization Reaching out, listening, and promoting compelling ideas. Cultivating personal relationships and making promises
Accountability for results Modeling and expecting integrity
Different points of view about the nature of the problem and the solution Sharing and building values and ideals

As I watch executives, I see that some “use” the leadership functions listed in the right column more skillfully than others. There is a direct correlation between the skill in the listed function and the quality of the result achieved.

Stated differently, leadership could be considered a means to an end.

Your Opinion

Now to the next assertion and argument: Tools help in the performance of a task; they are also a means to an end. Therefore, if leadership is a means to an end, and tools are a means to an end, a provocative question is:

Is Leadership a Tool?

My short answer: Of course leadership is a tool. It helps in achieving the expected result. A person is more likely to achieve the intended results of a strategic initiative with leadership than without it.

My Perspective

My Myers-Briggs is ENTJ type, and I value competencies, capabilities, capacities, skills, and ingenuity as they relate to performance.  That’s just how I make sense of the world around me.

ENTJs are 5-12% of the population, and the other 8-95% of people would see leadership differently.

Other temperaments might see leadership in spiritual, nurturing, and sensible paradigms.  For instance, check out the course description for an executive course called The Soul of Leadership (Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business) declares that the learner will gain the “Understanding the soul as a confluence of contexts, meanings, relationships and archetypal themes.”

I can see that understanding relationships, context and meanings are important leadership ideals. But it doesn’t ignite my passions.

If I’m standing in front of the CEO, I’m sure that I want to talk about gaining results and not touchy-feely abstractions.

I want to get things done, and I want the tools that will help me.

So, do you think that calling leadership a tool soulless? Given a specific task or situation, can you choose to use or not use leadership? How would you get those computers in from Mumbai? i would love to hear your thoughts!

——————–
Greg Githens
helps organizations turn vision into results.

He does this through coaching, seminars, speaking, and consulting.
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Blog | Web

Image Source: to55er.files.wordpress.com, starkgray.net, gallery.photo.net

Confessions of a Leadership Coach

Leadership Confessions

Do we live in a professional world of magical thinking?

Consider this:

Our leaders reduce complex issues into sound bites and slogans.  We cheer and applaud as if something significant has occurred.  We anxiously execute change programs, performance improvements, training and development, coaching and other interventions with the highest of hopes and beliefs that we will develop better leaders and organizations.  And yet, nothing much changes, at least over the long-term.

We even offer transformational outcomes in our programs.  Wow could it get any better than that?

Raising Up Leaders?Very Happy Office People

As good professionals trying to deliver effective programs as organization and leadership developers and coaches, we continue believing we will make difference.  Our motives (for the most part) are honorable.  Our goals are noble.  Our efforts are sincere and the work is hard.  We’re motivated and dedicated professional helpers caught between the dog and the tree.

As survey after survey tells us that employees are miserable, cultures are unhealthy - even toxic, work environments are filled with fear, favoritism, abusive power and other types of dysfunctional leadership behaviors from incompetence to grossly unethical, greedy and self-serving behaviors.

There are criminals who are called great leaders before they are busted.  So while crime may not pay, it appears that slime does in many cases.

This begs the question for all of us who wear the developer/change agent brand;

  • Do we really know what we are doing?
  • Is leadership development some mythical idea that few of us have ever seen?
  • Or, are we all part of the great game of collusion and false agreement where each of us gets something positive (from an ego perspective) for playing our role cheerfully and enthusiastically?

As Sheldon Kopp reminds:

“By learning to pretend, I became the character I was miscast to be.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Some Serious Questions

Is Kopp talking about us?

So will the real Leadership Development gurus please stand up?

Or, just sit down so the game within the game can continue.

What is leadership?

Is it just another dumbed-down word for the qualities of whoever is in charge?

Or, is there something meaningful and valuable here?

We have all had good bosses/clients and bad bosses/clients.

So what?  The organizations considered many of them leaders some maybe even excellent leaders.

Is leadership just us filtering (biases and all) personality and behaviors to see who makes the cut by our personal standards and learning experiences?

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Trust Me

Really?

In my experience much of what passes as development is rooted in behaviorism and by design is partial and reductionistic.  I fall back and you catch me and now I trust you.  Really?

I build on your strengths and not your weaknesses (a Drucker idea in case you skipped the classics) and now you are motivated and fully engaged.  Really?

We have a conflict and with help, we “confront it.”  Now there’s no disagreement and we’re buds.  Really?

I want to be an HR consultant, coach or an OD practitioner.  I read a book or several, attend a seminar or school, buy a credential.  Now, I’m an expert and ready to help executive leaders wake up and grow up.  Really?

Is there any wonder that executives are skeptical about our profession?  Look how long it took Jack Welch to wake up.  If my remarks sound critical, please know that I am firmly in the boat with you.  And, I don’t like it!  I know we all work hard, most of us are lifelong learners, and we all try to honor the “first do no harm” rule.  But where’s the depth?

A Higher Calling

So maybe all I am suggesting is that we work harder to “get over ourselves” so that marketing higher order outcomes ceases to be an ego need as we seriously take up the practice of our profession.  Putting the “helper in a box” tools away for good.

Or, maybe the operating question is one that we were taught to ask repeatedly in evaluating our effectiveness as HR and OD practitioners, “whose needs are being served by our behavior?”  Peter Block reminds:

“If there is no transformation inside each of us, all the structural change in the world will have no impact on our institutions.”

What say you?

Bookmark Confessions of a Leadership Coach

——————–
Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He helps with performance improvement, change mgmt consulting & coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Web

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Leading Below The Radar

Radar

As far as customers are concerned you are the company. This is not a burden, but the core of your job.  You hold in your hands the power to keep customers coming back – perhaps even to make or break the company.

~Unknown

Nothing Up My Sleeve…

As funds to purchase services have become more and more scarce, customers with dollars to spend expect to receive a high level of service from the companies they hire and the individuals they deal with.  Whether you are involved in direct sales, skilled trade services,  or professional services, your ability to develop relationships and retain customers is critical to your personal success as well as the success of your company.  If you are a service provider, you know that a great deal of work occurs behind the scenes, or “below the radar“, to adequately prepare yourself and your team for interactions with your customers.

My perspective on this topic is in the context of an Architectural design firm.  A lot happens in the time between client meetings to make an extremely complex process appear effortless.   It is not uncommon to spend hundreds of hours preparing for a 30 minute presentation to a client.  A successful design presentation must be inspiring, address a client’s immediate issues, acknowledge his or her previously expressed concerns and anticipate potential future challenges.  Preparation for a relatively brief customer interaction often involves weeks of analysis, research, creative problem solving and coordination with other design professionals.

In an Architecture firm, as is the case with many service providers, it is typical that a leader will be responsible for multiple projects with multiple clients.

Regardless of how many customers you have, each one should receive the quality of service that you would provide if he or she was your only customer.

This does not require a leader to be a superhero or a magician.  However, leaders in service industries must work to develop their “juggling” skills.  Multi-tasking and efficiency is key.  Organization and time management skills combined with the ability to instantly switch from one project to another at any point in the process are all critical to successful leadership below the radar.

I’m Just A Bill…

When I was a boy, my brothers and I would watch cartoons every Saturday morning.  During commercial breaks the station would occasionally broadcast short educational cartoons set to music called Schoolhouse Rock.  One of these songs described the process that occurs for a Bill to become a Law.  While I was too young to understand exactly what the song was about, I recall that it sounded very complicated.  Starting out as an idea introduced in congress, Bill gets reviewed, modified, reviewed again, passed from one committee to another,  voted on several times and eventually becomes a Law.

This is very similar to the design process that Architects and Engineers go through.  Clients hire us to manage a very complicated process so that it progresses seamlessly toward a desired outcome.  Sometimes we do such a good job of not exposing our clients to “how the sausage is made” that they question if we’ve actually done enough work to be paid our fee.  However, this is the exception to the rule.  Most clients understand the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes and are fine with not knowing all of the details of the process.  As one client told me not too long ago while we were leaving a meeting together,

I don’t need to know about transformers, voltages, circuits and wire gauges, that’s why I hired you.  I just want to flip the switch and have the lights come on.

Doctors, Attorneys, Accountants and other service providers all “lead below the radar” most of the time as well.   The end result is what is important to the customer and is typically what determines if the feedback will be negative or positive.  Did my Doctor help me get better, did my Attorney keep me out of prison, and did my Accountant show me how to pay less taxes?  At the end of the process, as long as the switch turns on the lights, everyone is generally satisfied.

Recalling the quote that I opened with, if you are the primary customer contact for your company, to the customer you are the company.  The quality of service you provide to your customers can often determine their opinion of your entire company.  It is a great responsibility to be entrusted with serving a customer and should be approached as such.  Every interaction will strengthen or weaken your relationship.  Peter Drucker said that “the purpose of business is to create and keep the customer.”  The work we do “below the radar” is the preparation that will determine if we succeed at accomplishing this objective.

How do you prepare prior to meeting a customer?  Do you anticipate questions and issues that will come up at the meeting and arrive ready to provide solutions?  Do you communicate to your team the importance of the work they do “below the radar” and how it relates to strengthening the company’s relationship with the customer?  Have you ever been in a meeting where someone was completely unprepared?  If so, what was the result?  How can you reinforce to your team the need to be thoroughly prepared before interacting with a customer?

Bookmark Leading Below The Radar

——————–
Ken Jones, AIA, LEED AP
is a Vice President at Grimm + Parker Architects in MD
A service-focused leader, Ken helps create meaningful architecture + client  success

Email | LinkedIn | Web | My Blog

Image Sources: grimmandparker.com, faqs.org, stuffwelike.com

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