Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lessons from a Paperboy: Create the Right Process For Your Work!!!

We all use processes - specific sequenced steps - to accomplish our work. However, very often our processes are painful, inefficient, and ineffective. Perhaps the example below will illuminate.

My First Work Process
I first used a work process when I was a newspaper boy in the 8th grade. The process looked something like this:
  1. Wake Up Late - Get up later than you need to, freak out, and move blearily into action.  
  2. Assemble and Load - On the kitchen table, assemble the separate parts of the newspaper, bind them together with a rubber band, and place them in the bag.
  3. Deliver - Using GIANT brand mountain bike, deliver papers to the appropriate houses.
  4. Deal With Dogs - Curse at the various dogs on the route, attempting to kick or otherwise injure the small ankle-biters. Bike like hell to avoid attacks from the large ones.
  5. Arrive Late to School - Walk in late to Ms. James' 8th grade typing class and receive a lecture about the importance of school and the relative unimportance of having a job as an 8th-grader.
  6. Receive Additional Lectures - Later in the day, receive a phone call from Stewart Reese of the Newspaper Agency Corporation to chat with you about the need to deliver the papers in a more timely manner. 
Here is a newspaper delivery boy. This isn't me, though. I didn't live in Toronto in the 1940s. I did my delivering in Kearns, UT in the 1990s. Image source:
As I look back at my experience delivering newspapers I have realized that (a) there were definitely things I needed to improve my process, and (b) I continued doing many of the wrong things for years.

Creating the Right Process
As professionals, we all use processes to perform our work, and these processes should be designed to minimize worker difficulty, create efficiency, and increase quality. However, just like my 8th grade self, many people and organizations continue to use processes that are painful, inefficient, and do not deliver quality results. And just like my 8th grade self, we continue to use these processes!

To be effective, you must select and create processes that minimize worker difficulty, create efficiency, and increase quality. What processes do you use in your work? Are they relatively painless? Are the efficient, or do they take more time than they should? Are they effective in meeting the goals of the organization? Analyze and document the processes you use and if necessary restructure and improve them. I would certainly have enjoyed my experience as a paperboy much more had I worked to improve my process. This is not to say that the dogs would have been interested in changing their own processes for attacking the paperboy...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What I Learned from a Dead Gas Station

I first pulled up to this full-service gas station about 3 years ago.  I have always pumped my own gas, so I half expected a team of guys in grey jumpsuits to jump to action and wash my windows, check the tire pressure, and fill 'er up. 

The closed gas station. 

An Unpleasant Experience 
It was a dark, early morning, and I immediately felt out of place. I pulled up to the pump and sat in my car, expecting to see the jumpsuit guys come running. After a few minutes of non-action, I hesitantly got out to pump my own gas. As I moved around my truck to the pump, a mustached man in a dark coat appeared behind the pump, which totally unnerved me.

He blandly asked if I needed service, and after a combination of gas pumping and awkward small talk, followed by an inordinately long wait while he ran my credit card, I pulled away and on to work.

Never Went Back
I never returned to the gas station. Whenever I thought of going there, I had this vague feeling that it would be uncomfortable. From then on I pumped my own gas for 3 cent per gallon more at the station across the street. I am a supporter of small businesses, and I always had a vague hope that this little gas station would succeed against the larger station.

But I never returned to the station because of that first uncomfortable experience. And a couple of years later, that station closed its doors for good.

The closed gas station.

What I Learned
How a person feels about an organization or experience is jugular. If a you feel uncomfortable with a person, then you will be much less likely to interact with or do business with them. There are a few things the mustache guy could have done that would have put me at ease and made it more likely that I would return, and I definitely recommend using these with customers and associates:
  1. Be professional- The clothes you wear and the language you use is absolutely critical. Look the part and act the part. 
  2. Be positive- Engage with others in a positive way. Smile!
  3. Execute your work - At the same time, do your work efficiently and effectively so that you are not wasting anyone's time.
  4. Teach - Respectfully help people know what you are doing and what they can do to be successful. This puts them at ease and helps them to know what is expected.

What do you think? Anything you would add to the list?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What Happens When a Server Drops a Tray?

Have you ever been in a restaurant when a server drops a tray of dishes crashing to the floor? I was recently at a conference in the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans, Louisiana, and that very thing happened. Everyone turned to stare, but what happened next was both interesting and inspiring.
Hyatt Regency servers rushed to aid their coworker.
Within 10 seconds of the crashing sound, three other servers members surrounded the mess and began cleaning while the supervisor checked with the server to see that she was okay. Soon thereafter, the supervisor rushed to the closet to retrieve a mop. And within a couple of minutes, the mess was cleaned and the team continued their excellent service to the guests.

Compassion, Service, and Teamwork 
I believe this brief example of teamwork is worth applying to other situations. For example, would this happen where you work? If one of your team members "dropped their tray" would you run to their aid? As the manager and leader, would you run to retrieve the mop, or send someone else? When a member of your family, team or community falters, do you ignore the problem or watch them struggle? Or do you rush to their aid and help them move forward? How would that employee feel after receiving such compassionate service from their peers?

I believe this kind of compassion, service, and kindness should be replicated in every organization. Good leaders and employees support one another. Good leaders and employees are collaborative and compassionate. And the result is that the work moves forward.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Leadership Development Program Resources

I recently completed the Leadership Development Program at Franklin University. Each month, we participants attended one of 10 excellent presentation by scholars and leaders here in Columbus, Ohio. It has been an excellent experience, and the presenters have been outstanding. Below I link to my notes from these presentations.

The resources below could be used as the beginning of any leadership development program. Each presentation includes general principles that can be applied to any leadership situation.
  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Dr. Karen Miner-Romanoff
  2. Business Writing and Communication - Tom McClain
  3. Leadership Theories and Decision-Making - Dr. Timothy Reymann
  4. Communication and Relationships - Dr. Mike Posey
  5. The Power of Mindfulness - Daron Larson
  6. Ethical Leadership - Dr. Alex Heckman
  7. Leadership Begins with the Heart - Dr. Jim Mahoney
  8. Practical Leadership Advice - E. J. Thomas
  9. Self-Awareness and Creating Your Personal Brand - Dr. Lynn Hull and Robert Coles
  10. Planning - Rick Sunderman
Other Leadership Thoughts
Below are some other leadership thoughts that I have noted over the past few years.
Reflections on Leadership Though Development 
As I reflect on the experience over the past year, these presentations and ideas were very influential the development of my own leadership thoughts. Along with these presentations, I also read perhaps two dozen books on leadership-related topics, and I have extended my own philosophy and awareness of my own leadership style. I am very grateful to have participated in this program and look forward to continually developing my knowledge and understanding of leadership concepts.

Leadership Development: Planning

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am currently participating in a Leadership Development Program (LDP) as part of my work at Franklin University. This week, I attended a presentation by Rick Sunderman, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Franklin University. He talked about how to plan effectively as a leader. He first spoke about the big picture approach to planning: Strategic Planning.

Strategic Planning 
All models for strategic planning seem to have similar components, and strategic planning is typically a top-down endeavor. You starts with the big picture of what you want to accomplish as an organization and break it down into smaller pieces until you have operational tactics. The point is to make it granular and focused so that you can take specific actions that you can do and measure. These specific actions should all feed back up to the big picture mission and initiatives outlined in the strategic plan.

Franklin University has a strategic plan that we have developed and revisited several times in the last 6 years. It was approached very systematically and included dozens of participants. I thought it was interesting to hear Rick report that we are 41 percent done with our strategic plan - the leadership of the university are continually meeting and revisiting out plan, to the point that they know exactly where we stand and what else needs to be implemented.
Here is the general sequence when creating your strategic plan:
  1. Clarify your Mission.
  2. Create Institutional Goals based on your mission. 
  3. Develop Major Strategies for reaching those goals.
  4. Undertake multiple Strategic Initiatives within each major strategy.
  5. Develop Supporting Strategies to support those initiatives.
  6. Employ Operational Tactics to fulfill those supporting strategies. 
If done correctly, this is a multi-year, involved approach to planning. Furthermore, you should be willing to adjust and revise your plan regularly to adapt to the volatile changes experienced in the environment. It is critical that you divide and conquer. Enable people to focus on their own aspect, and coordinate efforts.

Rick noted that research indicates that up to 90% of strategic plans fail due to lack of execution. This is critical - the implementation and execution of a plan is the most vital piece. It appears that Franklin University has done well at following our strategic plan, which is encouraging.

Project Planning and Scheduling
Effective project planning enables you to implement specific components of the strategic plan. project planning typically includes the following major steps:

  • Define to Scope - what are you trying to accomplish? Who is involved and has a stake in the outcome? What is the budget? What are the goals of the project? What artifacts of products will you create? This is what we call an analysis in the instructional design world - establishments of gaps and goals.
  • Design - This is the phase in which you plan everything that is needed for the effective completion of the project. How it will the completed project look? How will it achieve the goals and close the gaps you have already identified?.
  • Roles and Responsibilities - Be sure to establish what all participants are responsible for. Who will do which part? How will each part be accomplished? Who receives reports and tracks progress? 
  • Schedule - create a specific and clear schedule of how each step of the project will be created. Be aware of the steps that are contingent upon the completion of a previous step and plan the steps in the proper sequence.
  • Communication Plan - Develop a system for communication progress regularly to the project manager. This reporting should happen regularly to keep the project on schedule. Rick's rule of thumb is that he becomes concerned when a projects is off by 80 hours (2 weeks). 
Project scheduling
A critical component of successfully complete a project is project scheduling. Major aspects of scheduling include:
  • Identify project phases - what are the big milestones or steps for the project?
  • Identify key activities - what must be done to complete each of the phases?
  • Identify tasks - what specific tasks will facilitate accomplishment of each activity?
  • Assign tasks - who will do each of the tasks?
  • Identify dependencies and sequence - what tasks need to be done first? what is dependent on the completion of previous tasks?
A good manager works to know the details of the project that his employees are working on. The work you do up front in the analysis should be pretty detailed and comprehensive so that there is a solid grasp of what will be required. A good manager also follows up on employees' projects regularly, provides support, and removes obstacles wherever possible. 

30 Seconds of Reflection
We have been doing 30 seconds of reflection at the end of each leadership session. Here is what I wrote for this one: It's all in completing the project. You must deliver on the project - your team must produce the results required. I'll now be working with the instructional design faculty members as their department chair, and I will need to be as effective as possible in my support to them. I am blessed to be working with EXCELLENT faculty members in i4, and I look forward to working closely with them over the coming months.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Position - Department Chair, Instructional Design - International Institute for Innovative Instruction

I was recently asked by the Associate Provost for Academic Quality to serve as the Department Chair of Instructional Design in the International Institute for Innovative Instruction (often called i4).  Dr. Rob Wood will be taking over as the Program Chair of the Instructional Design and Performance Technology program at Franklin. I'll continue to work with Rob as well as our outstanding instructional design faculty in i4. I will be reporting to Dr. Karen Miner-Romanoff, the Associate Provost for Academic Quality at Franklin University and Executive Director of the International Institute for Innovative Instruction.

I'm excited for the opportunity - the faculty and staff in i4 are wonderful to work with, and I look forward to working with them. Karen is an outstanding individual, and I am excited to learn from her over the coming months.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Analyzing Joel

(Note to reader: I don't necessarily expect you to read this blog post. I am mainly writing this as a way to self-reflect. Feel free to read (a) to gain some ideas and tools for self-reflection, or (b) if you are a creepy stalker who wants to profile me for evil purposes.)

The Importance of Self-Awareness

A key capacity for personal success and self-leadership is self-awareness. This is usually accomplished through self-reflection, experience, and feedback from others. One excellent way to increase self-awareness is the use of self-assessments, which are designed to assess various aspects of an individual, including strengths, thinking preferences, personality, and leadership styles. I have taken several of these self-assessments over the years and have decided to place the results from several of these here.

How Accurate Are These Instruments?
I always assume that the self-assessments I take are mildly accurate. I do think that some of them are useful. For me, self-awareness becomes clearer over time through experience, self-reflection, and feedback from others. These self-assessments can be useful ways to codify or explain some of the things you learn about yourself, and though one assessment might not reveal a lot, several together might be very useful.

So, below are several instruments that I have used for self-assessment over the past few years. I'll describe the instruments individually and share my results. At the end of the post, I will attempt to bring everything together into some kind of conclusion. (I am not sure how I will do that - this will be interesting...)

HBDI Self-Assessment

I took is the HBDI self-assessment in 2015. It assesses an individual's thinking preferences and helps the individual have a better sense of how they like to approach work and problem-solving situations. I thought it was interesting and was surprised to find that I am pretty balanced among the preferences. The image below shows my results, and I some of my analysis results are outlined below. 

I scored as having a high preference in D - Experimental Self (holistic, intuitive, integrating, synthesizing), C - Feeling Self (Interpersonal, Feeling-based, Kinesthetic, Emotional), and B - Safekeeping Self (Organized, Sequential, Planned, Detailed). I scored in the middle range for the last quadrant, A - Rational Self (Logical, Analytical, Fact-based, Quantitative).
Specific characteristics of my thinking preferences, according to my results printout, include: imaginative, synthesizer, spatial, reader, conservative, controlled, logical, and analytical.

Apparently my profile is the clear majority profile for the female population. Weird.


Another great instrument for self-assessment is the Clifton StrengthFinder.  I took this self-assessment around 2004 or 2005. The goal of the assessment is to identify what the individual's natural strengths. It assumes that there are 34 naturally-occurring strengths, and that everyone has these strengths to some degree. The assessment takes the reader through a series of questions and identifies which of these strenghts are most dominant. Below are my top 5 strengths, according to this self-assessment:
  1. Focus - People exceptionally talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.
  2. Analytical - People exceptionally talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
  3. Learner - People exceptionally talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
  4. Intellection - People exceptionally talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
  5. Harmony - People exceptionally talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

Emotional Intelligence

I took the SEI Emotional Intelligence Assessment by SixSeconds in 2014. The results were very interesting - I found that I was at least functional in all areas, and I scored skilled in the categories of Give Yourself and Choose Yourself. I scored as an expert in the skills of Engage Intrinsic Motivation, Exercise Optimism, and Pursue Noble Goals. This makes some sense to me - I have what might be a stronger than average ability to set goals, to remain optimistic about my ability to achieve them, and to have an inner sense of motivation to work toward the accomplishment of these goals.

Bolman and Deal Leadership Styles

In early 2015 I attended a presentation by Dr. Wendell Seaborne at Franklin University who discussed a leadership self-assessment that assesses and individual's leadership according to Bolman and Deal Leadership Styles, which include structural, human resources, political, and symbolic styles.

My results indicated that I am high in human resources leadership style and average in the structural and symbolic styles. I am low in the political style. This makes sense to me - I tend to focus on the people in a given situation and believe that they are ultimately the most critical resource in the knowledge society. I also tend to overlook political aspects of organizational work.


I recently read the book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. In this book, Adam Grant outlines his belief that there people tend to relate with others in three general ways: "givers give more than they get, takers get more than they give, and matchers aim to give and get equally; all can succeed." He goes on the submit that our society tends to underestimate the success of people who fall into the giver category, those who have a fundamental desire to give more than they receive from others. 

I took Grant's online self-assessment, which indicates whether you are a giver, taker, or matcher. It appears, based on my results below, that I am a giver. I think this is largely true - I go out of my way to assist others in any way I can. I usually do this in the form of knowledge sharing, active listening, and supportive action (where possible). I am also fairly goal-oriented, which I believe tends to (hopefully) off-set the possibility of my becoming a pushover.

What Does It All Mean?

I have found that self-reflection and self-observation all increase self-awareness. These kinds of assessments can be very useful in helping me understand myself. But I have a hard time trying to draw conclusions about what I have found. Many seem to confirm what I already knew or illuminate it in another light.

So, how does one effectively use these results? Do they really enhance our ability to change? I have no way of measuring whether they have actually helped. I can tell which ones have resonated with me on an emotional or spiritual level, but does that mean I have somehow changed or improved as a result? At any rate, these self- assessments are fun and illuminating, and I will probably keep taking them.