Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • When a team or company grows, at some point they find themselves asking the following questions:  Why are we not making as much forward progress as we think we are capable of?  Why is performance stalling?  Why are we operating in silos?  Why are we not moving in the same direction?  At the heart of these questions is the notion of values.

    As leaders, we are just one of many people in a company.  We certainly cannot be part of every discussion or decision, nor should we ever want to be.  Rather we need to cultivate a culture to nurture and foster the behavior that is needed for personal and company growth and success.

    Developing a set of common values provides both a common vocabulary and understanding of the expectations for each and every employee.   Values provide individuals with a framework for approaching day-to-day responsibilities and decisions.  Eventually, it becomes the way in which individuals respond to any challenge.

    So how do you get started?

    [1] Do a little research to understand how other companies use their values to enhance success. Before you engage in the effort of developing values for your organization, you need to really believe they will be beneficial.  Many company’s values are easily accessible on-line.  Here are some of my favorites.  Check them out and see if they resonate with you.

    YAHOO!:  http://docs.yahoo.com/info/values/

    Gemma Power Systems:  http://www.gemmapower.com/index.php?id=26#/

    Zappos:  http://about.zappos.com/our-unique-culture/zappos-core-values/

    Google:  http://www.google.com/about/company/philosophy/

    [2] Pull together a group of employees to create the values.  Creating a set of values for an organization cannot be done by one person.  Let the entire organization know that you are launching the effort.  Be inclusive and allow feedback.  The more you involve others, the more support will be given by all employees.

    [3] Once developed communicate the values constantly.  In order for the values to become part of an organization’s daily culture, they must be discussed continually.  This can be achieved by leaders explaining actions in context of the values.  This makes the values come to life.

    [4]  Do not accept behavior that is in conflict with the values.  In order for a culture to truly develop you must praise desired behavior but most importantly you must confront behavior that is not consistent with the values.  To respect an individual’s dignity, this may be done in private.  Leaders lose their effectiveness if they do not address behavior that is at odds with expectations.

    [5] Periodically seek feedback on the values.  Feedback allows leaders to make course corrections as necessary.  Ask a diverse group of people for input.  It can be very instructive to ask customers or vendors what they perceive.

    The biggest benefit of a common set of organizational values is to build a culture that allows employees to approach issues and decisions with a common set of ground rules.

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  • I have just finished a marvelous week of bicycling in the Finger Lakes.  Camped with 8 friends at Taughannock Falls State Park and cycled 40 to 50 mile loop rides every day.  The leadership lessons found on vacation and in everyday life are abundant.  Being able to create metaphors and analogies from common experiences helps leaders communicate more effectively.

    [1] Find common ground:  This is an annual event for us so we all meet about 5 months before the trip and decide upon what we want to do.  This includes timing, location and length of rides.  By doing this we all have a common set of expectations.  In the workplace, common expectations helps a collection of individuals evolve into a high-performing team.

    [2] Play to and value everyone’s strengths:  Each of the riders/campers has a strength.  We play to each other’s strengths.  In this way, everyone is a full participant.  It also lightens the load of preparation since we all share in the work that needs to be done.  In the workplace, everyone needs to feel they are making a meaningful contribution.

    [3] Create detailed daily plans:  One of the riders is really good at creating cycling routes.  It involves ensuring that we stay off of heavily trafficked roads, do not have excessive elevation gains and have a convenient place to stop for lunch, even though we do make our sandwiches every morning.  Map sets and cue-sheets are then created for each rider.  This comes in handy when something unexpected happens, such as a significant detour due to a bridge being out.  Which in fact happen on the trip we just finished.   When working on a project it is also important to lay out the steps or map to be followed to get to your destination.

    [4] Recalibrate:  At the end of each day, we ask ourselves if there is anything we need to change to make the daily tours better.  Modifications are then made as needed.  This is also critical in the workplace.   Nothing can be planned to perfection ahead of time.  You need to create a decent plan and then get on with the work.  However, on a daily or weekly basis, monitor your progress and make course corrections if required.

    The skills of life and the skills of leadership are interchangeable.  Use your life stories to create leadership lessons that will resonate with you and your teams.

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