If you want to cut someone’s hair, they need to be in the room
"If you want to cut someone's hair, they need to be in the room". I heard that phrase a while ago and it's continued to bounce round my brain nonstop since then because frankly it's brilliant. If you want to understand leadership, engagement and one of the most fundamental tenants of lean, respect for people, then that's the phrase, that I think, will do it.
You need all three
Would someone who doesn't respect you ever mange to make you feel engaged in what you are doing, where you are working? If you think about it, real leadership, engagement and respect for people can't exist without each other. You can't engage your teams if you don't respect them, if you can't provide real genuine leadership for them then they are never going to engage with you or what the organisation is doing, and if you have no respect for the person you certainly aren't a leader and you can certainly argue without that respect it's pretty hard to have a great team either. Think about leadership, engagement and respect as the three legs of the stool, take one away and the stool falls over, or at least gets hard to sit on.
Decisions from the Ivory Tower
How often have you heard or perhaps even personally said, well this is a dumb decision form the top, why don't they talk to the people that know?
Let's be clear, the direction of your organisation is set from the top, they decide what the direction is, what the end result should be, what the strategy is, that's their job, led by the CEO they develop these things. Businesses are not a democracy, someone has to be in charge, they have to make the final decision and select what is most important. I explain it sometimes as a benevolent dictatorship, you have no say in the top-level decisions, they are given to you, but you absolutely need to have a say in how you deliver the results that get you there. It doesn't matter if you are in a traditional or a lean organisation, they largely work the same in this respect, in both cases the goal and direction (sometimes called true north) is set at the very top. The difference however is in the way that this is delivered and developed.
If the direction comes from a place of an ivory tower where it is not only this is what we will do but how we will do it, who will do it and we won't' discuss it then you are in trouble. You are 100% making decisions about the organisation that you just can't possibly know the details about, there is no one in the room to have the counter discussion. It's right up there with deciding that your customer actually does want a device to take their goldfish a walk, they just don't know it yet (this product actually does exist!).
On the flip side, if the direction comes out, ok we are going here and we are going together, lets talk about what things need to happen to get there on time and together then it's an entirely different dynamic. That is where a lean organisation starts from, they use a range of processes, not least one called catch ball where the targets are basically bounced back and forth between different levels in the organisation as they discuss the implications of the requirement and how to meet it and if the target is the right target. It'll go up and down the levels and across those affected until a final decision is made.
Not every should to agree
Don't confuse the catch ball process with needing everyone to agree, you don't in fact you absolutely shouldn't other wise there is no discomfort, there is no stretch. With out the stretch there is no growth, if you aren't growing people guess what, you aren't respecting them. Through this process you gain both engagement and alignment, everyone is clear on what you are going to do, when, how and what their part of it is. They have been in the discussion, they have sat in the chair and said yep I'd like to get a haircut, they aren't on the other side of the door.
When to invite people in
The timing of when to get people involved in the discussions is to be fair not an easy one. It's always better to critique something that a blank bit of paper after all. You need to have something to discuss, to be ready to explain both in what you need to achieve but more importantly why it needs to be achieved at that level and by when. However you don't want things to be set in concrete, the decisions cannot have been made, then the discussion is about manipulation not participation and you have no respect and no engagement.
From Bottom up and side to side
Don't be lulled into thinking that this issue of making decisions without involving the right people is a top down only issue. It's not it goes from bottom up and from side to side as well. We see it in continuous improvement activity where a decision is made for what the best thing for that group or individual is, so an improvement is made. Unfortunately, the customer or supplier of the process where the improvement was created wasn't in the discussion, they weren't in the room. The result is that now their job is harder or will create more waste and cost. These silo decisions are exactly same style of decisions that people complain about in the ivory tower decisions, and the effects are just the same.
Always Seek to understand
The key to braking this process is thinking about who is impacted in this decision, change, improvement, how will they be affected and how will it impact them, will it be positive or negative. To truly answer this the very best way is to involve them in the discussion and ask them to pitch in on what would make it work. Can you imagine if tomorrow someone came along and asked you, hey look we need to change how this are is set up because of these new products we are going to launch, and the space is too small or wont flow. These are the products, this is what it'll look like let's figure it out so it'll work, can you help? You'd help right? You'd feel like you got to be involved, made some contribution, you'd be engaged perhaps you'd feel valued, certainly respected.
It's not hard to respect people, do it enough and over time people become engaged in what you are doing, do that enough and you become a leader. The easiest way to remember to do it, remember, if you want to cut someone's hair, they need to be in the room.
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