Tag Archives: leadership

Continuous Improvement

The past few years have proven challenging for many small business owners as they adjusted, pivoted, modified and realigned to meet the changes they faced.

Some businesses were not prepared for what 2020/2021 brought and sadly closed their doors. However, others positioned themselves to take advantage of the opportunity to rethink and reimagine their business to meet the needs of their customers.

While it may take facing a disaster for some business owners to examine and explore opportunities to improve their business, continuous improvement is a critical component to success in any business – regardless of size or sector.

Continuous improvement is an ongoing process that focuses on:

  • Identifying opportunity for improvement and planning for change.
  • Implementing small-scale change and analyze the results.
  • Applying the successful change on a wider scale.
  • Assessing continuously and beginning the cycle over.

I have seen several business owners work on continuous improvement even while going through challenging times. One woman closed her business in one location and found an opportunity to reopen successfully in another location by collaborating with an existing business owner. Another family business had just launched as the pandemic began spreading and they worked creatively for almost eighteen months to stay in business before they could safely open to the public.

These examples of determination and resolve to succeed were accomplished by people working together to achieve a goal. To some degree we could say that they were reacting to changes brought about by a disaster rather than by creating an action plan for change, but they made it work. All businesses could benefit by continually looking for opportunities to improve and analyzing the data to make sure changes bring about results regardless of what is happening in the world.

Businesses that have continuous improvement as part of their strategic plan are better positioned to withstand natural disasters, limited resources, or whatever comes their way. Even solopreneurs can work together with support teams – virtual or otherwise – to creatively look for ways to stay ahead of the business curve. Just think how much better businesses that already have teams in place are positioned to use their collective expertise to keep the business primed for success.

Does your business have a continuous improvement plan? This could be another tool to add to your toolbox. Let me know if you need support in putting together your continuous improvement plan.

Motivation and Leadership

What would you like to accomplish in 2022? What goals have you set so far? What motivation do you have in place to support your steps towards reaching your goals?

Are you motivated by rewards or restrictions (the old carrot or stick principle) or are you driven by passion, mission, and vocation? There is no right or wrong answer; the key is to understand what inspires you to reach your goals. Once you know what motivates you as a leader, the next step is to understand what motivates your team members as individuals – and collectively as a team. 

Motivation can be external or internal. Often we can be motivated by both external and internal factors and the important thing is that you understand your motivators and incorporate them to reach your goals. External motivation comes from rewards like honor, reputation, and wealth. Internal motivation is about what makes you feel fulfilled mentally, emotionally, and physically.

As a leader, it is important to understand and adapt to what motivates your team – as individuals and as a team. For example, say you offer financial incentives as an external motivator to reach a department or organizational goal but you find that none of your team members are motivated by external factors. The chances of reaching organizational goals are slim.  Things would have probably turned out differently if you had checked in with your team and found out what motivates them.

It is interesting to note that in“The Great Resignation” movement of today is more about internal motivation rather than external motivation. For the vast majority of people, it is not about pay or about status, but it is about enjoying the work, finding a work/life balance, and having personal happiness.  There will always be a need for compensation for work, but as a leader being able to motivate your team to tap into their intrinsic motivation is priceless.

As a leader, some of the ways you can cultivate motivation include:

  • Value and highlight the strengths and capabilities of your team members.
  • Create small steps towards a goal and celebrate the successes along the way.
  • Provide regular feedback on how progress towards the goal is going.
  • Use positive interactions instead of negative communication.

Combining internal and external motivators supports a productive work environment. And motivation is a key component towards reaching not only your own personal and professional goals, but those of your team.  

Contact me and let’s talk about how we can put the right motivators in place to help you reach your goals in 2022.

Tradition and Reflection

During the holiday season, no matter where you live, you will probably participate in some type of traditional event or practice. Many traditional events or practices are culture-based and passed down from generation-to-generation without much thought about the value or purpose.

This reminds me of the story I heard many years ago – you may have heard it also:

A young woman asks her mother why she cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it. Her mother told her that she learned it from her mother. So, the young woman asks her grandmother why she cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it and the grandmother said it was something she learned from her mother. Finally, the young woman asks her great-grandmother why she cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it, and the great-grandmother said it was because the ham didn’t fit into the pan she had to cook it in.

This is a wonderful example of what happens when we don’t question why we are doing the things we are doing and discover the meaning behind our traditions or rituals.

We have the opportunity as we step out of one year into another, to reflect on what works, , what doesn’t work, what we could do differently or what we should continue to do because it’s our “magic sauce”.  We need emotionally intelligent leaders. Perhaps it is time to  create new events or practices to help you as you grow as a leader, therefore I encourage you to:

  • Reflect – take some time and think about what you have accomplished this year. Even when we face challenges and obstacles, we still can learn from the experiences. Most often the things that cause us to grow are not our accomplishments but our challenges. Everything we do is an opportunity to learn and grow not only as a person, but also as a leader. What do you wish you could have done better? What are you proud of? 
  • Give Thanks – one of the best ways to boost happiness is to show appreciation for a job well done. As a leader, we can thank customers, colleagues, and co-workers for their contributions in the past year; be honest and sincere – maybe even go old-school and send a handwritten  note! 
  • Declutter – this is one I am working on right now! Start small. Clean out your inbox, filing cabinet, virtual or physical work space. You will be amazed at what this simple act will do for your mental health. The end of the year is a great time to assess what needs to stay and what needs to go. Create  a clean-out plan that allows space for possibilities and opportunities in the New Year.
  • Start a new practice – as a leader, what do you do to support your own personal physical, mental and emotional well-being? Could your existing daily practice use a boost? Try adding journaling, meditation, yoga, or working with a coach. Something  as simple as taking a walk to prepare for or  unwind from the day will help improve your well-being. 

I am thankful for the opportunities I have experienced this past year. As I look forward to the new year ahead, I am excited about connecting with new people, places, and opportunities. Let me help you step into your possibilities, lending you the support  you need to show up as your best self. Let’s see how we can make 2022 an exceptional year together!

Leading in Complex Times

Leaders continually face challenges and discover that some challenges are more complex than others. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no silver bullet, for the leadership challenges we face.

However, leaders facing these challenges learn two things: what works and what doesn’t work. The thing to remember is that what worked or didn’t work in the last challenge won’t necessarily work in the next.

Lynda Gratton is a professor of management at the London School of Business and wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review. In this article, she recognized that businesses are constantly challenged by change and crises. Lynda explained that leaders need to see what is happening from different perspectives and be able to work collaboratively with others even when they are under stress.

During a Tedx Talk, Matt Beeton described the importance of a leader to first connect and understand himself or herself before connecting with those in the organization. When a leader is able to focus on self-reflection, self-regulation, and self-perception, then that leader is able to receive feedback in a way that is constructive to the challenge at hand. Without self-regulation, a leader could take feedback as criticism and rather than incorporate the feedback, the leader may become emotional and disregard important details.

As a leader, connecting with people is necessary to create a cohesive, collaborative environment where people are able to dissect a challenge and identify solutions. While leaders may be liable for strategic decisions, they don’t have to make those decisions alone, and as Ms. Gratton points out, obtaining different perspectives or viewpoints often brings new clarification to a challenge.

Think about the challenges you face as a leader:

  • Do you try to work through challenges on your own or do you look for feedback and perspective from your peers, colleagues, and employees?
  • How often do you reflect back on your own performance as a leader and look for ways to improve your own emotional intelligence?
  • Are you able to control how challenges impact your professional – and personal – stress level?

The first step in becoming a leader who can navigate complex challenges is to develop one’s own emotional intelligence. Knowing your emotional triggers will help you skillfully navigate conversations and manage stress. When a leader is self-aware, it helps him or her to listen better, find solutions, and build relationships. Being able to accept other points of view often leads to new ways of thinking and overcoming challenges.

Leadership is more about who you are – rather than your title or what you do. In times of challenges and uncertainty people look to their leaders for purpose and passion – be that leader!

I would love to hear about your leadership journey, and let me know if you need support around the challenges you face.

Managing Your Soft Skills

As leaders, we should be consistently updating and upgrading our skills. If you haven’t accessed your skills recently to see where you could improve or collaborate with others who have the skills that complement yours, it may be time to think about doing so. 

So what skills should you focus on? You might take a skills assessment test – there are many out there that you can do for free.  I find that soft skills are in demand, and the five soft skills I like to focus on are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management
  • Sustainable Communication

These skills deal with how we manage ourselves and how we respond to the environment. I will touch on each of these briefly, but if you would like more information let me know.

Being a self-aware leader means that we understand our strengths and limitations, including setting boundaries around both. I don’t know about you, but I am better at working with my strengths than managing my limitations. Having back surgery and breaking my knee within a two-year time span made me have to deal with serious limitations!

Spending time at the end or beginning of the week to plan out my schedule helps me use my time more efficiently so that I can implement my strengths during times when I work best. I also make sure to schedule breaks in my calendar to regenerate and refresh my energy level throughout the day. As a leader, it is important to be able to accurately employ my strengths and not let external circumstances dictate my progress. It is also important to be in tune with my values and triggers so that I am positioned to respond rather than react to challenges during the day or week.

Self-management includes being calm and clear-headed during times of stress. In order to be able to accomplish this skill, we must have other things in place such as a healthy diet, sleep, and a way to manage stress through breathing, meditation or exercise. Stress can be brought on by too many changes or challenges that arrive at the same time, and being able to be flexible is key to managing or adapting to these events.

Being flexible is something that you may have learned or still need to learn. Flexibility as a leader is one of my superpowers and I have developed this power over the years. Meeting new challenges or seizing opportunities to stretch my comfort zone have helped me be more flexible. One key self-management strategy is to stay positive and look for the best in each situation regardless of what is happening around you.

A socially-aware leader is able to walk into a room and read the emotions of those in the room. This can be accomplished by looking for non-verbal signs of engagement or disengagement. People who are engaged and ready are usually watching you and have a relaxed posture. Whereas those who are not engaged are distracted and may have their arms crossed or a scowl on their face with little or no eye contact.

Since we don’t usually know what happened to each person in the room before you entered, you may find having a few minutes of ice-breaking comments or interactions gets people ready for you to interact with them. If you don’t already have a relationship with the people in the room, taking the time to create a connection with them is important.

Leaders who understand relationship-management are able to encourage teamwork and collaboration by bringing people together around a shared vision. Building relationships takes time, and is about finding common ground; people often bond over shared experiences, emotions, and knowledge. Relationship management is also about being able to identify the right people who can work together, so being able to identify complementary skills, leadership styles, and work ethic are important.

As a leader focused on relationship management, remember to cultivate abilities and skills through mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is usually a longer-term relationship where you may share your experience and knowledge on a regular basis with a team member who is looking to gain a better understanding of your business or for their own professional development. This is a great tool to use when working with succession planning. Coaching is often used for a specific task and specific time period, and is designed to help those you are working with move through a challenge or address a specific issue.

Leaders who communicate well have the ability to increase engagement. Communication is not only about speaking well, but is also about listening and writing effectively. Listening is about being present and actively listening – this means no distractions such as thinking about what is coming up next. Active listening means that you are seeking to understand not only the words but intention and emotion behind the words of the other person. Written words have an impact, and it is important to read over what you write before you send it regardless of what delivery format you are using – memo, email, text etc. 

I find that these five soft skills are valuable for leaders who want to make a difference in their organizations. It doesn’t matter how many people you are working with; you can always make a positive difference by sharing your insights with others. The key is to keep yourself in a professional development plan for improvement.

I hope you find these five soft skills helpful, and let me know if you need any more information or would like support around developing your soft skills. Be sure to check out any upcoming events.

Prepare for the Future

Back in the 1990’s, Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, explained that “only by changing how we think can we change deeply embedded policies and practices” and “radical change in how work is done inevitably leads to the definition of new jobs with new skills requirements”.  Fast forward to 2021, and these words still have meaning.

During the 2020 pandemic, many businesses were trying to function under existing policies and practices which no longer served their employees or their customers. Rather than creating a strategy to deal with the changes brought on by the pandemic, many businesses found themselves reacting to the change based on those existing policies and practices – and we know how well that works!

Over the years, we have seen the need for new jobs and new skill requirements. Moving from highly industrialized process-driven work to more technology-based critical thinking work created the need for the up-skilling or retraining of workers. Along with these ongoing changes, colleges and universities find themselves struggling to prepare their students for careers that continue to evolve – or perhaps have not even been envisioned yet. 

In my father’s generation, workers often stayed with the same company until they retired; in my generation the calculation was that we would change careers at least three to five  times. As we move forward, the current and future generations are going to experience far more change in the workplace as businesses adapt to changes in technology, organizational structure, environmental concerns, and  changes yet to be identified.

Change can be challenging, but it also offers new opportunities, so how can we prepare ourselves for the future? In my experience, I find that when people are doing what they love to do, are interested in learning , and are thinking about things that interest them, they will be productive regardless of what is changing around them. Working in what is called a “Zone of Genius” means that you have an innate talent that is focused on your passion, and at the end of the day you feel energized rather than depleted.

We need to decide if we are going to react to change and add skills as we have to, or be proactive and consistently learn new skills that can be used in a variety of industry sectors. For example, understanding and building your emotional intelligence can be used no matter where your work takes you, as well as good communication and problem-solving skills.

Are you stuck in your career? Do you need help in developing a strategy to help you change or grow? Contact me and let’s talk about how I can help you to refocus your energy and find work that you love!

Why a Butterfly?

Someone recently asked me why I chose a butterfly as the logo for Wise Women Leadership, and I thought that might be a good blog post for this month. For me, butterflies are the essence of change and transformation, and as the focus of my business is about changing or improving performance, I feel the two have a lot in common. 

Like butterflies, many of our businesses don’t just happen overnight, and they go through some significant changes to get to the end result. My idea around creating a supportive network for entrepreneurs and leaders to grow and change began as a seed many years ago. 

Like the caterpillar that eats its way through leaves to gain energy for the transformation, I spent time and gathered knowledge and experience about leadership. I have applied what I have learned about leadership with various business sectors and have found that there are underlying topics that cross business types and industry levels. For example:

Leadership is not about a title as much as it is about a skills, values, and communication.

Planning is something that takes resources in the present to preserve resources in the future.

 Self-care is as valuable a part of leadership as any knowledge or experience.

Each leader brings to the organization his or her own unique experience. For me, my unique self is adapting to change. For as long as I can remember I have had to adapt to circumstances and cultures, and this has given me a distinctive advantage when working with clients. I call it my magic sauce!

I was also asked why I chose the color purple. Purple signifies wisdom, creativity, and would you believe – magic! I believe that wisdom comes from life-long learning combined with experience. We are never too young or too old to learn something new every day, and when we keep connecting with people and places, our experience continues to grow. 

To me, creativity is essential for enjoying life.  I am at my best when I am learning something new, meeting new people, making new connections, or creating new offerings. When I am at my creative best time flies by quickly, my passion is in full bloom, and my energy is high. Even my hobbies allow me to explore my creative side; I love to garden and watch how plants grow, and I love to make quilts out of different colors and textures of fabric. I know I am at my lowest when I am not creative and things are tedious or too routine and this is when I look for ways to bring creativity back into my daily work and life.

What makes your creative energy flow? What excites you about your work or your life? Drop me a note and let me know mailto:jillian@wisewomenleadership.com .