Active Listening

A leader has got 2 faces. The most common one is associated with the word itself: to lead. Quite a few  years ago I got asked, “What is your definition of leadership?” I still remember this because I focused strongly on the “to lead” aspect. My answer was: “To have a vision where we should be and guide the people I’m leading along the way.” This must have impressed the person as he hired me later 🙂

However, I realised later that my answer was just covering the obvious. To make that actually happen a leader must discover the “why”, “what” and “how”.

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Doing the right things

When I was still at High School my Dad explained to me the difference between efficient and effective. Or in plain English, doing things right compared to doing the right things. I could see value in both and debated about what is better. It took me some time and a fairly extreme example to understand the importance of the distinction.

These days lean manufacturing, lean thinking, and lean approaches are the holy grail. Since Toyota became the standard in efficiency there are few organisations that don’t follow that herd. And boy, there are some amazing savings to be made. Having the right structure in place and everybody knows what they should be doing it is like cogs and gears churning along at full steam.

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Some years ago I attended a conference where I was blown away by the keynote speaker. It wasn’t the world’s greatest conference as I forgot what it was all about. Although the keynote speaker stayed in my mind long after. He had a presence and a way capturing the attention of the audience that I have rarely seen or experienced after.

Can you remember a time when someone mesmerised you?

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Understand your customer

Passionately understanding our customer is a common rally cry of organisations. Although it is easier said than done. Groups responsible for delivering something for a customer think often in terms lik “they need to understand the technical complexity, process dependency, or compliance regulations” The issue that currently presents the biggest roadblock is in the forefront of the mind. In other words they want the customer to know how difficult or complex it actually is what they want. Viewing the need from an outside in perspective is the common approach overcoming this hurdle. It can still yield a limited result:

In a post  4 weeks ago Michael Michalko used this example of Toyota:

A few years back, Toyota asked employees for ideas on how they could become more productive. They received few suggestions. They reworded the question to: “How can you make your job easier?” They were inundated with ideas.

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