Articles by Charlene McLauchlan
Strategic ThinkingClick to open Strategic Thinking
People who are strong in strategic thinking can quickly sort through the clutter to find the best route. This is a distinct way of thinking, of viewing the world. If you have this talent, you probably enjoy problem solving, planning, and getting involved in big projects.
A strategic person can see patterns where others see complexity. This mindset compels the strategic thinker to keep asking “what if this happened?” This recurring question helps a person see, plan and prepare for future situations. When others assume there is no way, the strategic thinker can find a way to move forward. A classic example of the use of this talent was when the engineers rescued the Apollo 13 by cobbling together a fix to get them back to earth.
The multiple challenges in the world brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated how crucial it is to have strategic thinking on your team. On March 15, 2020, we had no idea what we were all in for, or how long it would last. The supply chain challenges still plaguing the world’s transportation system has got the strategic thinkers working overtime to sort if all out.
Watch out for your blind spots. Some folks may think you are always wanting to do things a new way; the old way is just not good enough. It all comes together so quickly and logically for the strategic thinker; it is crucial to communicate the why and the how so that the rest of the team can catch up and be aligned.
Hindsight is 20:20; who would have predicted phones with a high-quality camera, using a watch as a health monitor, or the brilliance of the person that invented the shipping container. If you have this talent, good for you; if you don’t make sure you have a strategic thinker on your team that is empowered to challenge the status quo. Listen to them.
How to Thrive in these Turbulent TimesClick to open How to Thrive in these Turbulent Times
There is no question that running your business today is quite different that your predecessors 20 years ago. The bottlenecks in transportation right now… this situation is a good example of how intertwined our systems are, the definition of a complex system. With the dairy business clearly an interconnected global marketplace, how is this transportation bottleneck affecting your business?
Can You Empower Through Delegation?Click to open Can You Empower Through Delegation?
Last week, Matt Heemstra reminded us that “delegation needs to be just as much about the person you are delegating to as it is about you.”
How can you make it about the person? I am a big believer in using Clifton Strength Finders as a foundation for team culture. The Clifton Strengths assessment measures the presence of talent in 34 general areas that are most directly related to the potential for success. Everyone on the team has taken the assessment and we keep a team grid posted as a reminder of what themes are dominant in members.
Everyone has a specific personal development plan that includes investing in their strengths to achieve certain goals. When a project or task comes up, I review the team grid and the various development plans before deciding on who might be good to take over the project. I can position the delegated task/project as a win-win situation.
Strength Finders isn’t magic, if it is going to be foundational to the team culture, it is key to discuss any challenges and opportunities through the Strength Finders Theme lens. There is not an “ideal” strength profile for any specific role. People deliver the same outcomes using different behaviors. Research by the Gallup organization has found that employees who received strengths-based development were found to have up to 18% increased performance.
So back to the title, can you empower people through delegation:
- yes, if you base the delegation on the person’s strengths
- yes, if you allow them to figure out how they will accomplish the project (no micro-managing)
- yes, if you communicate clearly – the purpose, the timeline and any other expectations
Strategies to Develop Internal Talent PoolClick to open Strategies to Develop Internal Talent Pool
Performance reviews every 6 months can be very time consuming. I found doing them demonstrated my commitment to the people on my team, and my commitment to continuous learning and improvement. I think it is one of the most important ways to invest in people. Making a routine of really listening to employee’s ideas and getting their feedback helped me identify the leaders on the team. Getting to know and understand them better helped give me ideas for development opportunities that were customized for the person.
TeamworkClick to open Teamwork
Too often we talk about teamwork, however, we recognize and reward personal achievement over teamwork. How consistent are you with aligning your reward and recognition system with the culture you want to nurture? Behavior usually aligns with how people are rewarded and recognized.
Motivation vs. EngagementClick to open Motivation vs. Engagement
Ok, if motivation is the will to do something and engagement is the active agreement to do something, that is very similar to my behavior last January. I sign up for a membership at my local gym = motivation; engagement is my showing up 3X a week to work out.
As I can attest to years of good intentions to work on my fitness and to lose weight, being motivated is only half of the answer – getting on my bicycle and clocking the miles is engagement toward my goal to be stronger and more fit.
What about your employees? I am sure you can rank your employees as to who is the most engaged and who is the least engaged. How do you inspire engagement? How do you get someone who is motivated to move to the next level and be engaged?
I think we have to build a bridge for the person – step one is to identify the best person on the team to get started, the next step is to connect with their heart, next share the vision and then get out of their way. An employee who has the vision and the passion will be engaged, and their energy will be infectious to those around them. As leaders we have to be open to their vision and ideas and let them be part of the solution.
There is nothing better than to have all the employees on the dairy with a passion for the welfare of the animals; they won’t tolerate someone mistreating the cows. Imagine if everyone who worked with you would do whatever was necessary all the time to make sure all the animals are safe and well treated…. how much better would you sleep at night?
I believe the best path to a highly engaged workforce starts with recruiting highly passionate people. This is the one of the most challenging roles of a leader and is never ending!
Benefits of Effective CommunicationClick to open Benefits of Effective Communication
As a leader, we don’t want to just say words, we want to communicate; to get someone to understand the what, the why and the how. With so much email, have you had the experience of being misunderstood; taken out of context? Now with multiple virtual meetings, there are even more skills needed to communicate and possible ways to be misunderstood. With virtual communication, how do we check for understanding? I find it pretty difficult to check facial expressions or get feedback on a virtual call.
The Ability to Monitor YourselfClick to open The Ability to Monitor Yourself
Do you know what triggers you? What are those peculiar circumstances that “all of a sudden” you are not behaving according to your own set of standards? I am sorry, but even the best of us have people or circumstances that are “red hot buttons” that for some reason stimulate our negative emotions. As a leader, having good Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a game changer. “EI is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, an to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Daniel Goleman helped popularize the concept of EI in his 1995 bestselling book: Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ.”
Inspirational or Authoritarian Leadership?Click to open Inspirational or Authoritarian Leadership?
I am sure everyone has had the experience of working or living with someone who is all about authority. They use their position to extract compliance or obedience from you.
How did that feel? If you would, indulge me for a few minutes in a simple little exercise. Try standing up and look into a full-length mirror as you reflect on that experience. As you look into the mirror, notice your posture, the position of your shoulders, any tension in your back or abdomen. What does the expression on your face look like? Jot down what you notice; what you are feeling.
Now, think about someone who has inspired you; really feel how you are when you think about that person. Again, look into the mirror- notice your posture, the tension or lack of tension in your back or abdomen. Now what does the expression on your face look like? Jot down what you noticed and what you felt.
I am confident there was a big difference between the two lists. I know when I have worked with an inspirational leader, there is no limit to how hard I would try to get the results we were working toward. With the authoritarian leader who just tells me what to do, I am resistant from the beginning.
So, what kind of leader are you? Would the people in your workplace describe you as inspirational? How would they describe you? This is an example of how valuable it is to get open and honest feedback from people in your organization. How can we improve if we are unaware of how we affect others and don’t have any awareness of our blind spots?
Everyone knows the saying “1+1=3” in regards to teamwork. If there is a challenge at hand, taking the time for the team to be involved in developing the plan and creating the solution is a way to be inspirational. You are demonstrating your trust and confidence in them. You are demonstrating the ability to listen to solutions that are not your idea.
Imagine if you just gave out assignments and declared “this is how we are going to do it.” Think back to the first exercise – how did you look in the mirror; how did you feel when you were imagining the authoritarian leader?
Creating a winning environment is everyone’s job, every day. Inspiring and empowering the people in your workplace to prioritize creating a winning environment maybe a lofty goal, but it will be a game changer for your organization.
How to Lead in Uncertain Times Click to open How to Lead in Uncertain Times
Uncertain times seem to be the new normal. How have you changed your leadership style?
Often when we feel uncertain and challenged, it is easy to default to “command and control.” Just start dishing out orders and assignments. How has that worked for you?
When I have tried “command and control,” it always backfired…sometimes sooner than later. Maybe it would be different if I was the captain of a sinking ship, but in my business the situation was never that dire.
In looking back, I now recognize that if my anxiety was high because of chaos, my people are even more anxious. The best results were when I stopped and took a breath. I hit the pause button; breathe in and out. I sat down with my people. I singled out the challenging people and the leaders; I met with them individually. I got them talking about all their concerns, worries and hopes. Then I met with the team as a group and got them talking. It was hard, but I really listened to them. We brainstormed as a group what we could control and what we couldn’t control. As a group, we created a path forward. We agreed to check in once a week to monitor progress and tweak the plan if needed. It took about 7 months, but we navigated our way out of a very tough situation.
I know it is tempting to think there is not time for all of this team involvement, all of the communication and brainstorming when you are inside the pressure cooker. But think again. This experience really changed my team. They shifted to more authentic communications with each other, increased trust and accountability. Instead of me having to create the solution, I tapped into the brain power of my whole team…. you can’t beat that. And, most important, the team had skin in the game! You can’t put a price tag on working with a very high functioning team.
This past year has reinforced how unpredictable the world can be and how interconnected everything is. It has highlighted for me that it is important to be “sharpening the saw” as often as I can because I can’t predict what it around the corner. What are you doing to keep your leadership skills sharp?