The 5 Leadership Phases of COVID

 

I’m sure few of us imagined that by this time, we’d still be in this COVID pandemic!  But here we are.

 

At High Performance Leaders as we’ve continued to engage with our partner leaders, we have identified five phases that most, if not all, leaders have experienced to one extent or another throughout this situation.

 

Phase 1 was the “Crisis” phase where leaders were faced with a rapidly changing situation.  They struggled to keep up with a developing situation and had to quickly and creatively develop new policies and standards to protect the health and safety of their employees while also trying to maintain their operations.  They were experiencing the change curve at almost exactly the same time as the teams they were leading.  This was uncharted territory for most leaders!

 

In Phase 2 leaders were thrown into “Establishing the new work environment”.  Setting up the infrastructure, technology and processes for them and their teams to work remotely.  Some leaders also had to lead through a hybrid situation where some of their team worked remotely while other parts were still required to be at the workplace.  Some had to revise the work week or working hours and establish new working standards and processes.

 

“Staying engaged” was Phase 3 where leaders time and attention was spent on figuring out how to keep their teams busy, productive, and focused.  They and their teams were still learning how to work remotely and stay in contact with each other.  New forms, media, and initiatives of mass and individual communication was needed to be established.  Many leaders struggled getting and keeping their teams aligned and focused beyond the normal day to day of what seemed like basic survival tasks.  Short term team goals needed to be established to motivate, inspire, and frankly become a distraction from what was now becoming a longer-term situation than people originally thought.  Important by Phase 3 and remaining relevant today was a reminder about the Stockdale Paradox.  As Jim Collins said “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.  Watch Jim’s Collin’s explain the Stockdale Paradox here.  (full video 6:41).

 

Phase 4 showed the impact the first few months of COVID had on leaders as the reality of the “New normal, new reality” had sunk in.  Many leaders were extremely frustrated by the on-going situation, were depressed and many were burning or were burned out.  Longer days, blurred lines between work and personal time, and not having any vacations to speak of had taken their toll.  Of course, continued governmental restrictions and protocols impacted the traditional social and personal escape routines.  The long-term reality of the situation had set in.

“Cultural tensions” define Phase 5 that I believe we are currently still in.  This is where opposing thoughts, expectations, and beliefs such as the need to wear masks or not wear masks are creating polarized views within society but also within our teams and businesses.  Some team members are more disciplined than others toward COVID standards and protocols than others.  We are all longing for the ‘old’ ways and want everything to be ‘open’.  Economic fallout is now obvious as layoffs, permanent closures, higher costs, and budget constraints are rearing their heads and must be dealt with.

 

It’s been a tough road and experts say, tougher roads lay ahead.  However, don’t despair, this too will end and we will get through it!  Here’s a few reasons why I really believe this.

 

I was blown away with the quick actions that most business leaders, companies, political leaders, and society overall took in the initial stages of COVID.  Many people and organizations stepped up and acted with integrity to do the right thing, to innovate and implement creative ways to keep people safe and employed, to make funds available to subsidize lost wages, protect against financial impacts.  Although some will feel it hasn’t been enough, it’s incredible though just what has been done in the time it has been.  It’s easy to be critical, but I encourage you to consider just what has been done!

 

Humans throughout all of time, have persevered, survived and prospered.  We will do it again.  We will change, adopt and discover.  Some of the best advancements, innovations, creativity throughout history have resulted from some of the worst and biggest challenges humans have faced.

 

There are many good and great leaders and people out there.  This is their time and they will step up!

 

Through CEO Global Network, I recently had the opportunity to hear Randy Garfield, President (retired) of Walt Disney Travel Company speak on the topic of “A Legacy of Determination”.  He had some great and inspiring things to say about the current situation.  Here are a few that really resonated with me:

 

  • Times are tough, but times have been tough in every generation.  Our parents or grandparents lived through the dark tunnel of WWII
  • We need to maintain the long-term view
  • Don’t underestimate the power of creative solutions
  • Out of adversity can come incredible success
  • Don’t overlook survival guilt as many of our employees have never experienced a challenge like we are all facing. 
  • Crisis doesn’t make a great leader, but it can bring out the best in a good one

I’m not sure what Phase 6 will be, but there will be a Phase 6.  It may very likely get worse before it gets better, but we will get through this, together!  You can sit back and ride it out, or, help lead those around you out of this.  You don’t have to have all the answers, just lead the next best step.  What do you choose?

 

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‘Good is the enemy of great’ – Good to Great, Jim Collins. 

 

If we are already good, then why change?   We tend to react to crisis and take immediate action to lessen the impact or improve the situation (our current crisis is a prime example of this).  If things are ‘okay’ we tend to leave them. Why spend the effort if things are good?  What we may not realize is that not taking action has a cost.   

 

A typical first step of an improvement journey is to stabilize the way we do our work.  For example, a simple exercise in workplace organization will stabilize an area or process and help improve the ability to see abnormal conditions.   The ability to see abnormal conditions will allow for immediate problem identification and stop the problem from progressing. The first reaction - So what? We find the problems eventually, don’t we?   

 

Here is some quick math on the cost of not taking action.  What if not catching the problem right away results in additional time to contain and fix the problem?   What if that results in an additional 20 minutes in your day? (Most people spend more time than this daily just trying to find stuff).  When you do the math, 20 minutes daily results in 11 days over the course of a year.   If you have 100 people in your organization that experience problems, that could be up to 1100 days of lost capacity, not to mention the additional frustration and negative impact on your customers. 

 

Part of Continuous Improvement is having everyone identify improvements and take the step to implement the change.   What if we got everyone on our teams to identify and implement an improvement that could save 20 minutes a day?  Think of the cost if we don’t.        

 

Maybe things are not as ‘good’ as once perceived. Don’t let good be the enemy of great.

 

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The difference between a manager and a leader is the decision based on one question,  ‘Do you want to be a leader?’.

 

This is not an easy decision to make.    What if something goes wrong? Will you get blamed for actions that are not fully under your control? What if people won’t follow you? What if you make the wrong decision?  Many would-be leaders are afraid of the embarrassment and difficulties of failure.  

 

People have the capability of becoming great leaders but never accept the challenge.   They go through life with a fear that limits the success they could achieve and the positive impact they could have on others.  

 

Remember, with the promotion to the position of a people manager, everyone starts equally as a would-be leader and faces the same fears.  Those that are successful make a conscious decision to be a leader. 

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Take the Leadership Habit Challenge

Transformational Leaders develop an environment where their team members create customer value,  find meaning in their work and grow in the process.

 

The first principle of Transformational Leadership is ‘you set the example’.   Your team will copy the behaviour you set. If you are positive, your team will try to be positive.  If you focus on the future, your team will try to focus on the future.  If you demonstrate a Continuous Improvement mindset, your team will try to demonstrate a CI mindset.  

 

In order to master the principle, it is critical to practice and to develop specific habits so that you can consistently demonstrate the behaviour.

 

I am inviting you to take the leadership habit challenge.   To help you attain your goal, we have created a leadership habit calendar.   You will find the calendar in our tools page.

 

To participate in the challenge, choose an example you want to set for your team that will demonstrate the principle.   Define the specific habit that you need to create for yourself. Use the calendar to help you develop the habit

 

Let me know what you pick.  Once you have completed 30 days, send me the results.

 

Good luck!

 

Scott

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One of my favourite management thinkers is Peter Drucker.

 

One of his many philosophies is “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.     

 

In simple terms, it is up to you on how your future will unfold.  By coming up with ideas about what you want to achieve, you begin to plan. As you plan, you begin to take action. As you take action, you begin to create your future. 

 

As we approach the new normal, it is more important than ever for both individuals and organizations to embrace this thinking.  

 

Keep improving. 

Scott

 

 

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It goes without saying that this is an extremely trying time for all of us.  We are all experiencing a high degree of emotion as we try to understand and navigate what this change means for us.   Now more than ever it is critical to Lead with Empathy – to walk a mile in an other’s shoes to get an understanding of what they are experiencing.  

 

How we react as leaders and organizations will be remembered by our people long after the world resumes to whatever the new normal will be.   It is important that we don’t leave our team members, our customers and our communities with the impression that we have an ‘empathy gap’ or that we do not care. 

Here are a few things you can do to help avoid the empathy gap.  

 

1. Communicate with simple, clear and sensitive messaging. The fewer words the better as it leaves little room for interpretation.  Approach the message from the position of those that will receive it and try to anticipate their reaction.

 

2. Keep the goal clear and your communication focused.   Always keep in mind our team members safety and what we are actively doing to help our organizations come out of the crisis as best as we can.

 

3. Connect at all levels of the organization to understand the climate or mood of all our team members. Don’t just depend on your immediate team for their interpretations, go and see (virtually) different areas of the organization.

 

4. Be seen and heard.  Make sure that people can see you when you speak whether in person or by video and speak without notes were possible.  

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Take care and keep connected.

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LeadWell Series - Gemba Walks

 

Combining HPSC’s “build strong” and HPL’s “lead well” philosophies, the two companies collaborated to launch the “LeadWell Series” on 29 January 2020, to deliver short burst skill development opportunities for leaders.  Starting the series with the topic of “Gemba Walks”,  30 leaders representing over 10 companies participated in a gemba walk skill development segment, best practices sharing, and a gemba walk at Baylis Medical to practice their skills and to “go & see” the linkage between Baylis’s tier 2, 3, and 4 level leader boards. 

 

The LeadWell Series is intended to provide leaders with opportunities to improve their skills rapidly (3-4 hours) in areas of most interest and importance to them and then put them into practice at their operation immediately.  Topics are selected based on leader input and requests.  Each LeadWell Series topic is structured around

 

3 key pillars:

  1. Short burst skill development on a topic of leader interest
  2. Bench marking and best practice sharing
  3. A commitment to implement a best practice

 

What attending leaders are saying they liked about this “LeadWell Series – Gemba Walks”:

 

“Real-life examples”

“The guidance provided during the presentation of best practices for effective and ineffective gemba walks which framed the ‘go and see’ element of the event.”

“New ideas and concepts I can try right away”

“Interacting with other leaders to discuss do’s and do not’s, lessons learned, and strategies that have proven successful.”

“Seeing what everyone is struggling with despite the company they belong to.”

 

Special thanks to Baylis Medical for hosting and sharing their boards and progress with everyone!

 

Leave a comment and let us know what LeadWell Series topics you would be interested in?

 

 

 

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Do you want to get yourself better organized this year so you are ready to lead more effectively?  Then these two tools will help you!  Yes you!

 

At High Performance Leaders Inc., we help develop leaders to be more effective, everyday!  Although there are many important aspects to being an effective leader included in our program, one straight forward but critical way is to get and stay organized.

 

Unfortunately, too many leaders say they want to spend more quality time with their teams, have more focus on their top priorities, and feel less overwhelmed.  Sound somewhat familiar?  Two vital tools that can dramatically assist with these far too common issues is Leader Standard Work (LSW) and a personal planning sheet and routine.

 

To assist in these areas, download these free basic LSW and personal planning templates and start off the year more organized!

 

Download tool here

 

Leader Standard Work

 

If you think LSW doesn't apply to you or your position, you are missing out on a very helpful tool.  LSW is not only for first line manufacturing supervisors.  It's a powerful tool for any leader in any business at all levels.  Another myth is that a leader's job is not standard, so therefore LSW will not work.  Absolutely there are aspects of a leader's responsibilities that are not standard, however, there are likely many responsibilities and actions that are standard when you step back and evaluate what needs to be accomplished.

 

LSW is simply an organized list of the most important responsibilities, actions, or tasks that a leader needs or wants to accomplish, and the frequency with which they need to be completed.  This list then is used to remind the leader what they need to get done.  When integrated into a robust scheduling and personal planning routine, it will result in improved results, accomplishments, and feeling of accomplishment.  It will also avoid important things from falling off the radar over time or when things get hectic.

 

Read more here on developing leader standardized work

 

Download template here

 

Personal Planning

 

Surprisingly many leaders also only use their calendar and maybe a note book for personal planning purposes.  This can lead to losing control of your time and schedule, and not having time to get to those things that are most important to get completed.  Important tasks or follow-up items may get buried within the notebook and get overlooked or forgotten.

 

A regular personal planning routine of reviewing your LSW, scheduled and new meetings, your priorities, outstanding actions and follow-up, is critical to being an effective leader.  Coupling the routine with a single page weekly planner can have a dramatic impact on a leader's effectiveness.

 

Update and revise your personal planner once per week, print it out and then keep it up-to-date throughout the week using the old pen and pencil method, or maintain it live on  your computer.  Your choice.  Add tabs to keep a log of actions or tasks that need to be completed at some point in the future, but that you don't need on the current week's planner.  Categorize the tabs based on key areas of your life such as, "Follow-up", "Actions", "@Computer", "Errands" etc.

 

If this sounds basic to you, great!  You should be all set and maybe already effective in this regard.  However, indications are that many leaders lack a robust planning and organizing routine.  A 20 minute weekly planning routine is all that is required to get organized and stay on top of the important things.

 

Read more here on personal planning

 

To assist in these areas, download these free LSW and personal planning templates and start off the year more organized!

 

Download template here

 

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Leader Standard Work & Hitting Targets

 

Combining a robust leader standard work routine with setting and hitting targets can be a powerhouse that delivers results!  It's not just a shot in the dark!

 

If you have followed my posts, you'll know that I've been a strong proponent of leader standard work (LSW) for a long time, however, I was reminded recently of the power of combining standard work and the setting and hitting of targets.

 

Each month I reset my standard work for the new month.  It starts by reviewing the previous month and reflecting on what worked, didn't work and why, and identifying any new priorities.  Then the baseline is revised by making some adjustments, adding or deleting tasks, or changing the frequency of some tasks.  I also include certain non-work items within my LSW.  These are things that are for personal or professional development, important family responsibilities, or when I'm trying to create a new habit.

 

Although this is a personal example, it still shows the power of combining LSW and targets.  At the beginning of last month when I was doing my LSW review I found that I was not happy with my daily exercise results.  It had been very inconsistent.  Although I was running, the frequency was very intermittent and inconsistent.   There were always reasons why for each miss, but when seeing the results for the month, none of them mattered, the result was the result and it wasn't what I wanted.  So,  I decided I needed to do something about it!  First, I added a "Daily Exercise" task to my LSW, and second, I set a distance target for the month.

 

The month started off well.  I was exercising more regularly and I was well on my way to achieve my distance target.  It was working!  Then, by conscious choice, I missed about a week.  With about a week to go in the month, even if I got back to my routine, I wouldn't make my distance target.  At least, not doing what I had been doing before the break in the routine.  I couldn't make up for the days I didn't exercise, but I could do something different for the days remaining in the month.

 

I changed the time of day when I would exercise.  This helped overcome some of the challenges (a.k.a excuses) that were creating barriers to my daily exercise.  Then, I started running further than I had been before to make up some of the distance.  Some may consider running further than usual was somewhat cheating, and perhaps it was since the intent was not the distance per se, but rather to exercise regularly.  However, on more than one occasion in that final week of the month, I exercised when I probably wouldn't have.  I had a strong desire to hit and exceed my distance target, AND, I wanted to check off my LSW each day indicating that I had exercised.  It worked, I exceeded my distance target with a day to spare, but I ran the last day of the month anyway so that I would have exercised every single day for that last week.

 

Maybe a simple personal example, but combining LSW and targets is a powerful tool and is equally effective in a business environment.  The target will give you the motivation to keep working at it and to find ways to achieve it, while the LSW will give you the reminder and sometimes push to take the necessary steps, or to complete the appropriate tasks, necessary to achieve the target.

 

In summary, here's a few key points to consider:

 

  • Reflect on your LSW each month and reset it based on lessons learned and new priorities.
  • LSW can include personal and professional items.  It's yours, so make it work for you!
  • Set challenging targets, then look at how to combine with LSW to assist in achieving the targets.
  • Don't beat yourself up for missing some LSW items when looking back, but rather figure out why you missed them and implement mitigation actions to achieve them going forward.

 

See more of Glenn's posts, HERE

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A highly engaged and motivated employee is the most formidable weapon that an organization can utilize to compete and win. An engaged and motivated employee is more focused on doing their work, more productive, and is more likely to have a better work and home life.  However, less than 30% of an organization’s people fit this category. Less than 5% of organizations sustain high performance over the long term. One of the limiting factors may be your management system.

 

Here are a few simple steps to start to build a strong management system.

 

First, it is important to understand the purpose of a management system. In simple terms, your management system is in place to make sure you are dong the right things for your customers (or clients or patients). It does this by connecting everyone in your organization to your vision, strategy and big outcome measures to allow everyone to understand how they can impact the vision and connect to the big outcomes. The management system engages our humans through solving their own problems. The most effective way to do this is through 'low tech, high touch' planning and measurement white boards.

 

Here are the steps to start building or improving your management system:

 

1. Identify your customer and understand what value they need from you.

 

I find in a lot of cases, there is not a strong understanding of who the customer is.   Your customer is who gets direct benefit or value from what you do. For example, in health care, the patient receives the direct value from the care they are given.   If my role is a support operation in manufacturing, such as engineering that develops product drawings, it is the people who build the product from the drawings.    If my role is production, I deliver value directly to the end customer for the product.

 

2. Understand how you can easily measure the value you provide to the customer.

 

Our customers are easy. They want simple things.  They want their stuff NOW. They want it PERFECT. They want it WASTE FREE. They may also want a good experience during the process.

 

I recommend you start with NOW as it is the easiest.    We should all have a plan to deliver what our customer's need when they need it.   My customer needs their drawings today to build their product.   My patient wants to continue to get better.  All you need to do is measure how well you delivered on your plan.   I would also recommend using a planning white board to show your commitment to your plan.

 

3. Graph your results to understand how you are doing.

 

What does a good day look like?  Did we have a good day? Typically it is getting done what we need to accomplish for our customer.  If you started with NOW, on your next white board - performance board - graph how well you are doing.   Measure for a few weeks so you can start understanding a longer term trend in performance.

 

4. Start understanding why.

 

Why did we not have a good day? If you did not have a good day and did not accomplish what you needed to do for your customer, start understanding the  reasons that are blocking your performance.  You should start seeing some recurring reasons.  For each reason, understand how bad it is by adding a bar or Pareto graph under your performance graph to track the number of occurrences.

 

5. Run some experiments to make it better.

 

Once you have a good understanding of the reasons why you are not having a good day, start running some simple experiments to fix the problem.  Below your bar graph, document the experiment and indicate when you started the experiment on your performance graph. This will allow you to see if the experiment had the results you hoped for.  If it did, adopt this as a new why to do your work. If it did not 't, try new experiments until you learn what does work.

 

6. When you are ready, add your other measures.

 

NOW, PERFECT, WASTE FREE.   Keep it simple and do not add too many additional measures.  Fewer measures are better, but it is important not to have a lonely number so you need to provide some balance.  For example, if you measure NOW, balance it by making sure you are also delivering what you customer needs PERFECT.

 

Remember - a strong management system is elegantly simple and is driven by the daily connections we make with our people. 

 

 

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