Tag Archives: leadership

Managing 360

In order to be effective in any organization, you must manage relationships in all directions.  First, take care of yourself.  Next, ensure proper alignment with your boss and a clear understanding of his or her expectations of you and your team.  Then, execute with your team – developing them into a first rate team.

US Starts with YOU

“80% of life is showing up.” – Woody Allen

In order to be effective in any organization, you must have people’s respect.  We are social animals and respond much better to one another if we respect each other.  How do you earn others’ respect?  Help row the boat – be a positive force on the team. Maintain good personal habits.  Take care of yourself.  Present yourself well.  Have good personal hygiene, express an interest in others, and don’t be rude.  Be on time to meetings and well prepared.  Do what you say you will do, and be accountable for it. Be careful not to bad-mouth your boss, or anyone else, for that matter.  Even if you’re the boss, you will find it much more difficult to lead and manage others without their respect.  Management by fear is only a short term tactic, and is not sustainable.  Use your power wisely.

Stephen Covey wrote of the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.  The better you take care of the business, the more effective you are at your job, the larger your Circle of Influence becomes.   The more you worry about things you cannot control, your influence lessens.


Those who succeed in organizations, those who get things done, will receive more and more responsibilities and a bigger and bigger role.  So the better you manage yourself and take care of your own business, the richer career (in every sense of the word) you will have.

Managing Up

The first rule of Leadership is Followership.  Know the company Mission and Values, and act accordingly.  Alignment of people and resources is critical to any effort.  That’s the way organizations work.  Know your boss’ agenda and make it yours – complete it first.  If the boss completes her agenda, the team completes their agenda.  If the boss looks good, their team looks good.  That doesn’t mean there is no room for dissenting opinions or constructive feedback, but you have to do it carefully.  Dissent can be positive – do it constructively by offering analysis and alternatives, and by communicating it in a non-threatening manner.  One important note:  never present a problem without first developing a possible solution.  After all, the first comment out of her mouth should be “how do you suggest we handle it?”.  Have a suggestion ready (preferably a good one).  Ideally the solution is already in motion.

It is the employee’s responsibility to initiate and maintain the communication – your boss is busy!  Establish clear structured communication with your boss with frequent updates, using what I have termed the Communication Triangle.  communication-triangleDone right, the triangle enables good, frequent communication without excessive interruptions and becomes the basis of healthy work relationships.

The first leg is daily communication.  This should be a cordial greeting – respect your manager’s time.  Be sure to produce a brief daily report of key production numbers with comments if necessary.  This in NOT a project update.

The next important communication is a Weekly Report. This should be brief – 1 page with bullet points.  Start with a brief review of the week’s major events – including KPI’s.  Then be sure to update your manager on each of her major projects – highlighting key milestones reached or variances and concerned.  This is taking care of your boss’ agenda – It’s OK to attach detailed update if necessary.  Now comes the good part:  here is where you can include updates on projects you have initiated and are moving forward.  You are setting your own agenda here, selling your projects.  Your boss will rarely comment on the weekly report.  The good news is no response = tacit approval for your projects.  Green light – go for it!  Each report becomes the template for the next update.  Be sure to close out projects in this update – don’t just stop mentioning them.  Do this every week, without fail, and your boss will come to rely upon them as a source of solid information, strengthening their hand with little effort.  Win win.

Lastly is a 1:1 personal communication.  This should be a scheduled, 20 minute conversation every week.  Devote all of your attention – no interruptions.  The Weekly Report can serve as the agenda, but this is an opportunity to get to know one another and is a good time to ask questions and share concerns – not to rehash the report.  During the week keep notes in preparation for your daily, weekly report, or the 1:1.  This allows reflection of your notes and eliminate knee-jerk response.  In addition, the structured communication cuts down on interruptions for both you and your boss – leading to higher productivity.  I had a boss who was very accessible to everyone in the organization, and he had trouble not being interrupted during our 1:1 conversations.  Eventually, we settled on a long walk together, first through the plant and then out through the surrounding neighborhoods.  Our talk was now both longer and healthy for us both.  It was so successful he scheduled walks with all of his direct reports for an hour each day.

Managing Down

“Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way” Ronald Reagan

Great people can be a lot of things.  If you are like me, you believe people are basically good and want to do the right thing.  If that is the case, it is your job as a supervisor to make clear how to do a great job at “the right thing”.  Perhaps the most important thing about managing down is to have clear expectations and communications – the same you would wish from your own boss.  That kind of direction and alignment comes through a shared vision and clear roles and responsibilities, including Leader Standard Work.

Training, either formal or informal, for your team is crucial, but does not have to be costly nor time consuming.  I love the naivete behind the saying “What if we train them and they leave?” The obvious retort is “What if we don’t train them and they stay?  I ensure to include some training in every meeting with my employees, and often assign outside readings for group or individualized discussion.  See my blog on training for some ideas.  In addition to training, it is important to develop individualized coaching and mentoring programs to develop each of your direct reports and to closely monitor results.  Establish clear Key Process Indicators (KPI’s) to track performance, and review them regularly.  Ensure your people have the resources to be successful.  Be mindful of Ronald Reagan’s words – give them room to grow, but also water and fertilize them.

However hard we as managers try, it is likely not everyone participates equally in the effort or produces the same results.  This is in part due to the natural variation between people and their individual capabilities, and sometimes in part due to variation in their behavior.  Consider the group rowing the boat in the figure below.  Three are obviously rowing (perhaps at slightly different rates), one appears to folding his arms, and, finally, one appears to be playing in the water.  As Supervisors and Managers, where should we spend our efforts?


Judging from most work places I have known, we try to help everyone – even the one taking advantage of the rest of the team.  Somehow the one in the water gets a pass, or gets shuffled to another department like a pedophile priest.  To be fair, the one on the boat might need training or proper tools to fully contribute, but it begs a few questions as well.  How many workplaces are like this, where three do the work of five?  Isn’t this what we so often see in the workplace?  Why is that?

The way to break this chain is through accountability.  We need to be clear on expectations, take away reasons to fail, and help them get going.  Teach the one in the boat to row.  Be clear your expectations of the bather.  Measure the change – if there is no improvement, if they don’t row or choose to stay in the water, move the boat over to shark infested waters and be done with it.   Swimmers are going to swim.  You will never be effective if you don’t hold your team accountable to their actions and their results.  The rest of the team, those who are rowing, will thank you for it.  Addition by subtraction – works every time.

Managing Across the Organization

Teamwork is a relay race. It doesn’t matter who drops the baton – you all lose.  So your first job is to ensure your team runs a fast leg – completes their part of projects on time and under budget.    The best way to help others is to do a good job in your own work.  Get your own work done, but always go the extra mile to help others.  —I’ve usually run operations – as such I always had the biggest team and the most resources, and we were always called on as source of muscle, regardless of the task.  My team often complained to me they were overtaxed, but my response was always the same:  ALWAYS help others.  As you help others, your influence will grow – no need to advertise.  Go the extra mile to ensure the baton does not get dropped.

—What if your boss does not challenge you?

—“No Problem” is a problem.  —If your boss does not challenge you, she may be mirroring “survivor” tactics she uses herself.  It may be your manager has developed a “glass ceiling” for the department – and it may be time to look for a more challenging role elsewhere.  Prolonged low-risk management leads to marginalization for a manager AND her team.  Explore ways to grow your role and take on more responsibility – it is important to make waves at times in order to keep on fast track to advancement.



Leader Standard Work

“The culture of a company is the behaviour of its leaders.  Leaders get the behaviour they exhibit and tolerate. You change the culture of a company by changing the behaviour of its leaders. You measure the change in culture by measuring the change in personal behaviour of its leaders and the performance of the business.”  Larry Bossidy (former CEO of Honeywell) and Author of the book Execution.

Think of a lean system as a house with a foundation, pillars and a roof.  If the system is not ‘tied together’, it becomes weak; even if one wall or pillar is strong.  If something is missing and you don’t know what it is, it may be poor habits of its leaders.  Standard work is the nails (or glue!) that holds the lean structure together and gives it the leverage and strength to maintain gains.  Structure amplifies our efforts enables change.  In this case, the structure is Leader Standard Work.

Value added work is done on the shop floor, so standard work must start there.  Each level of standard work must support and overlap the level below it like shingles on a roof to ensure alignment of efforts and full coverage of initiatives. It also serves to identify opportunities of improvement, training and coaching, and serves as an audit mechanism.  Together, we walk the walk.

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and Responsibilities vary throughout the organization.  Leaders closest to the shop floor or value added operations have pretty clear and explicit and easy to identify day to day tasks.  What often gets lost is building systematic problem solving and improvement into daily routines, and standard work can help.




Leader standard work varies by management level.  At the very lowest level of management, daily tasks are more explicit.  Checklists are a quick, easy way to organize leader standard work, and can be adapted to any environment and management level.  Would you want to fly in an airplane that had not gone through a rigorous pre-flight checklist?  How about surgery?  We should treat all of our operations environments the same.

Group and Team leaders have daily checklists emphasizing startup, material supply, process audits, and first level problem solving.  Supervisor standard work centers on problem solving and process improvement. “How can I help you improve your process?” should be on her lips every day.  In addition, she focuses on coaching and mentoring her team, along with several deep dive process audits.  Production manager standard work is broader still, focusing on problem solving and team development.

The point of the checklist is to build good habits and organize thinking.  Were we ready to go at the start of the shift?  Are we ready to go next shift?  Are we getting our materials promptly?  One checklist can serve for the entire week and should serve as a quick view of major themes – not a detailed drill down of a specific issue.  Those should be handled in Problem Solving sheets or other documents.  Spend a little time at the end of the week to review the standard work sheets – some themes may come up repeatedly requiring a deeper dive in problem solving or other improvement opportunity.


Leader standard work also helps to ensure goal and efforts are aligned throughout the organization.  In fast moving, matrix organizations this is especially important to ensure we avoid the dreaded “death by meeting”.  KPIs associated with Leader Standard Work should be tracked via the SQDC Boards.  Kaizen Newspaper should track problem solving efforts at all levels.



“Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says “Go!” – a leader says “Let’s go!“ – E. M. Kelly

One of my favorite subjects is Leadership – the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.  How to be a better leader?  I devour books on the subject in my search for self improvement.  In the process I have developed a leadership model based loosely on John Bucciarelli’s Leaders are Made, in which I establish a foundation for leadership and a series of building block management skills, which can be both learned and reinforced through practice.



Ethics and morals form the foundation:  trustworthiness, honesty, respect for self and others, taking responsibility, playing fair, caring for others, and being a good citizen are basic foundational traits and and form basis of character.  Character, in turn, drives all behavior.  As Coach Dick Vermeil states in the movie Invincible, “character is tested when you are up against it”.

I have found you either have good character or you don’t – most everyone I know has generally good character.  Yet I have witnessed leaders at close hand who just don’t have the same value set as I do – they see leadership as a power game (it is not) where the strong push around the weak, whatever the cost.  If you don’t have the same sketchy morals, following such a leader will create a discordant stress within you – one you just can’t shake until you find yourself on another team.  Those with good character, who treat people right and are honest and straight forward, will find they have a solid foundation for leadership, and their followers will have little trouble hitching their wagon to the team.

We all make mistakes.  We all have setbacks.  —Confidence in our ability to learn from our mistakes and overcome our setbacks is what makes us successful in the long run.  —No matter what your self-confidence level is right now, you can probably improve it, but you need to believe in yourself and your capabilities before anyone else will.  Remember, if you want to lead others you must start with the man in the mirror.  “There are two types of pain in this life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret

It All Starts with Why”  What can I say?  Simon Sinek nails it like few others.


One of the greatest gifts you can give another is your undivided attention – not your advice! Oftentimes just talking about an issue helps your partner formulate his/her own solutions.  —”Being listened to feels so much like being loved we can’t tell the difference” -Oxberg

Communication – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” What indeed?

Ernesto Sirolli Want to Help Someone?  Shut up and listen!  Reminds us of the basics…

Killer Presentation Skills by Douglas Jefferys – Don’t forget 60% of communication is non-verbal


“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them.  They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Take Initiative!  The importance of taking the first step to make things happen!

Where Do Good Ideas Come From? by Steven Johnson helps us understand creativity.


Without the guidance of emotions, reasoning has neither principles nor power.” – Robert C. Solomon

Giving  Awesome video…

Service Leadership  Makes you think – do you really know what others are going through?  Does it matter?


People don’t do things unless they want to do them – remember that when trying to influence others – make it in their self interest.

Amazing Teamwork Indian Construction Site reminds us where there is a will there is a way.

Attitude is everything.  Negative people create more negative people.  Is that the kind of leader you wish to be (or follow)?  Attitude Makes All the Difference – Zig Ziglar at his best.

Dan Pink Ted Talk:  The Puzzle of Motivation

“What we do in life is determined by how we communicate to ourselves.  In the modern world, the quality of life is the quality of communication.”  Tony Robbins’

Why We Do What We Do  Master Speaker – thoughtful message.

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? by Daniel Ariely – understanding what really motivates us – and what does not.  Really powerful.


—Delegation is the true force multiplier for leaders at all levels. Push decisions down to the lowest level possible.   “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.” – Ronald Reagan.

Good videos on delegation are hard to come by – very dry and not much distinguished from the literature.  An exception is How to Micro Manage Like a Real Ass  Well, it gets its point across!


Judgment is the ability to combine hard data, questionable data, and intuitive guesses to arrive at a conclusion that events prove to be correct.

  • Common Sense is not all that common.



Plan the entire job…

—Start with the outcome in mind and time frames set.
—Get everyone involved in a one-philosophy system.
—Think everything through, first things first, from the beginning to the end.
—Expect, then inspect, and adjust accordingly.



—“Chronically disorganized people are a serious liability to their organizations…They waste an enormous amount of time…To compensate, they work longer hours but never seem to get caught up.” – Alec Mackenzie The Time Trap.
  • Activity ≠ Work
  • EAT YOUR PEAS – focus on key tasks.  Do difficult tasks first.
  • Focus 80% of your time on the 20% of your tasks that yield 80% of the results.

Business Literacy

Understanding Business, cost principles, and measurements and its impact to each function and bottom line results.
  • Know where to look – basic financial and cost accounting, KPIs and KPMs, Pareto analysis for time and energy
  • Know how to look – understand cost drivers (Bills of Materials, time and labor sinks, quality issues), variance analysis
  • Know what to do when you find savings or opportunities for growth

Technical Competence

Though leadership transcends technical boundaries, technical competence increases your self-confidence and the confidence of your followers in our ability to lead them.

Administrative Control

Manage your boss with clear, concise, regular reports.  The first step in accountability is self reporting.  Aids planning and communication.

Control is for Beginners. —”With too much control, you don’t get jazz”.  -Scofield

  • When we don’t give our people the space to take calculated risks, learn, apply, and iterate, we are really risking our future. 
  • In our push for perfection, we over-engineer.
  • Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

We’ve all heard about it… here is the video…Cowboys Herding Cats

Problem Solving

As a leader, you must be a problem solver, not a problem maker.  Don’t bring problems without offering solutions.  If You Can’t Win…Change The Rules:  think anew and get creative.  To prevail against the old rules get rid of them.

“Doing things the way you did them last year is just an excuse for not thinking.” – George Koch.

“The defining factor is not resources – it’s resourcefulness” – Tony Robbins

Tom Wujec’s Build a Tower, Build a Team challenges us to rethink the way we solve problems and shows the importance of rapid experimentation.

Failing to practice is practicing to fail” – John Wooden

“—I will > IQ” Kraig Kramers

—Involvement ► Ownership.  —Agreement ►Authority

Physical Stamina

How do you feel in the morning?  How do you wish to feel?  Hard work takes stamina.  You need to take care of yourself first if you wish to lead others.


—When in charge – take charge.  Make a decision and move on.  If the decision is wrong, say “oops”, take corrective action, and move on

Mission Accomplishment

It is easy to know What to Do. (Strategy).  —It is quite difficult to know How to Do It (Implementation).  A poor strategy well executed is preferable to a good strategy poorly executed.

If you want to get things done, work on culture.  “Culture eats strategy for lunch”.  But I am here to tell you structure builds culture.  Stick to the basics, over and over, and you will drive a continuous improvement culture that enables a winning strategy.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (McChesney, Covey, and Huling):

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important.  The more you try to do, the less you accomplish
  2. Act on the Lead Measures.  Activities your team must do to reach the goal.  Predictive and actionable.  Leverage efforts.
  3. Keep a compelling scoreboard.  Simple, visual, and visible.  Keeping score leads to Engagement.
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability.  Frequent and regular team meetings for peer accountability and adjustments.  Trim the sails.

It turns out you actually must do something.  You can’t merely intention your way to extraordinary (Bruce Sullivan)


The first rule of Leadership is Followership.  Every good leader is a good follower.  Leadership is service – followership is optional.

First Follower:  Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy says it all.

And, for some perspective, The Happy Secret to Better Work by Shawn Achor is not to be missed.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.“ Engineer at LinkedIn.

© 2013 and 2017 Paul Yandell.  Call 760-500-6006 or email pryandell@valuestreamfocus.com



The Guerilla Manager:  Leading from the Middle

Leadership opportunities abound for middle managers. If you are feeling stuck it’s only in your head.

You probably can look around your company and see a lot of things that need changing – there is always room for Continuous Improve­ment. But there’s just one minor problem. We’ve been taught that changes, to be effective, must start at the top. An effective MRP program must have Top Managements full support. We are taught that Total Quality Management (TQM) will fall flat on its face if Top Management’ doesn’t fully support it with training or if it opens and closes the tap due to a need to boost quarterly results. Without Top Management’s attention and backing Just in Time’s (JIT) implementation is due the same fate.  And on and on. But the other vital ingredient to successful Continuous Im­provement is Middle Manage­ment. Middle managers form the link between Top Management ideals and shop floor reality. Even with Top Managements’ backing, there is no way to implement major change in an organization without Middle Management.

The problem occurs when Top Management is not effec­tively leading team efforts to improve manufacturing or service operations. First of all, Top Management may feel that change in the plant or process is unnecessary. Even if they know major changes are in order, Top Management may not be able to lend effective support to efforts to improve the shop floor. They may lack the imagi­nation, time, or skills to direct effective change. In this case, all too frequent in companies today, Middle Management can and must implement major change from below. The middle man­ager must transform himself from being the “missing link” between Top Management and the shop floor to being a “guerrilla man­ager.” We are in a time of total economic warfare on a global scale, and we must use every tactic available to us to win for our companies, our fellow employees, ourselves, and for our children.

By guerilla management, I don’t mean strong arming employees or battling with Top Management (that would be “gorilla management.”)  Guerilla Management is, quite simply, leading from below.  It is a grass roots improvement effort. Guerilla Managers must cajole, teach, or otherwise make the people on the shop floor or in the office realize that they can make a difference, and in so doing instill the values ­and winning attitudes that pave the way for major changes. They must identify and win little battles to start the company down the right road. They must lead the fight from below. As positive results achieved, Top Management will take note and, hopefully, get on the team.

The guerrilla manager shows the way-to improvement by example, by improving things within his (her) own area of influence. It occurs in the absence of direction from above. It is pro-active problem solving; independently driving Continuous Improvement.

Guerrilla Management begins with talking with the people around you and on the shop floor, either in a formal or informal setting, to see what their problems are, and then moving to solve some of them. In the beginning, it is important to’ ‘choose problems which are’ ­within the guerrilla manager’s scope of influence and yet will have a visible impact. More difficult problems will follow as the movement catches on. Some examples may include simply documenting the work process in a clear, easy to follow manner to enable rapid cross training and training of new recruits, or the establishment of statistical pro­cess control in one section of one department to solve a problem. It may be by instituting a simple Kanban system for maintaining subassembly stocks or by reorga­nizing a department into cellular manufacturing centers. Or the guerrilla manager may start things rolling by cleaning up the clutter in a department – returning obsolete stock to the warehouse, reducing excess shelf spaces, labeling shelves with part numbers, etc.  The use of color may also help effect change. Bright colors may be used to distinguish product lines or to identify reject codes (try colored flags or bins.) There are literally thousands of ideas, most of which cost little or nothing to implement. . The key is to start somewhere and then keep on trying different things.

Another key to successful ­guerrilla management is to develop other guerrillas within ­your organization. Take stock of your fellow managers. Ask yourself, who is on the beam? Who is a risk taker?  Who is doing clever things with their departments? ­ Who is striving to improve things?  Who is listening? These people are your allies. Work with them to achieve demonstrable results. Serve as a mentor to sharp junior managers, supervisors, and leaders, developing them as much as possible.  Encourage them to take advantage of outside educational opportunities, either local Junior Colleges or Trade Associations. And by all means, do so yourself.

Middle managers, by their example, can convince Top Management to endorse the very programs they should be leading the charge on. Even in the absence of leadership from the top; middle managers must have faith in their own abilities to effect ­change by employing guerrilla management techniques. It is true that Top Management’s full participation is imperative to achieve World Class Manufactur­ing. But something is better than nothing. Better Quality Management though far short of Total Quality Management is better them No Quality Management. Baby steps are better than no steps at all. Who knows? Once Top Management sees that you are walking in the right direction they just may join you.

Copyright 2012 Paul Yandell.  All rights reserved.