10 Ways to Become a “Great” LSS Leader

followershipOne of the best leadership books I’ve read recently is Measure of a Leader by Aubrey and James Daniels.  Aubrey Daniels is, in my opinion, one of the best authors of leadership material, specifically, material focused on understanding human behavior.  In their book the authors write from a unique perspective on leadership, which they argue should be measured by not what a leader does, but instead by what their followers do.

In this post I want to share some of their thoughts on how you can take action to increase your leadership impact in not only the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) projects you may be working on, but also from a general leadership position you may have in your work, home, school, church, etc. environment.

To some degree we are all leaders.  We lead in our organizations, at home, and in our communities, and how well we lead is not a measure of what we do, but is instead a measure of what those who are following us do.  The authors define a “great” leader by three factors:

  1. Magnitude of impact.
  2. Duration of impact.
  3. Number of followers.

Great leaders have a big impact on their followers.  The impact of a leader can be seen in the results of their followers.  A great leader is also someone who has the ability to make a significant impact that lasts.  This is especially critical in LSS projects where there can be a tendency to lose sustainability after a project ends.  Great leaders achieve great results that keep on delivering long after the Control phase ends.

A final element of great leaders is the number of their followers.  No one can claim to be a leader without followers, and having more followers is one indicator of the effectiveness of a leader.

10 ways to increase your leadership impact.

So what are some simple ways you can become a more effective leader?  The authors offer 50 things to do to increase your leadership impact.  Listed below are my 10 favorite ideas from the list.

1. Find your followers’ positive reinforcers.

In a previous post I introduced you to a tool I call the personal charter.  The main focus of the charter is to get a better understanding of each individual team member and what they want from a project and what drives their behaviors.  One of the questions centers on what they find to be positively reinforcing, in other words, what do they like to have happen after they do something good?

Research suggests that 80% of behavior is based on what happens to the performer after the behavior is done, and knowing how to positively reinforce the behavior increases the chances of it happening again.  By simply asking people how they like to be reinforced (i.e public praise, hand written notes, etc.) you can tap into the discretionary effort available within each of us.

2. Reinforce every behavior until the performers reach a high-and-steady rate.

This is simply suggesting that through audits, performance evaluations, giving feedback, etc. you need to consistently and frequently reinforce behaviors until you reach what is known as a high-and-steady rate (i.e. new habit is formed).  Keep reinforcing the behavior and at some point you won’t have to do as much reinforcing because a new “normal” will start to take place.

3. Develop a system for discovering people who are giving discretionary effort.

This is a great way to identify who is putting in the extra effort to succeed.  Simple ideas here include online systems to nominate people when they observe others going above and beyond expectation and random email reminders to be on the lookout for catching someone doing something good.  You should also reinforce those who are doing the nominating to drive more of this behavior.

4. Build reinforcement into processes and procedures.

This is a great suggestion that applies to LSS projects where often we develop / revise procedures to implement and sustain improvements.  We almost always document what to do, but when’s the last time you created or modified an SOP that described how to reward and reinforce those who are doing what they are supposed to do?

5. Create the opportunity for multiple sources of social reinforcement for followers by managers, suppliers, peers, and customers.

Reinforcement doesn’t need to come just from leaders; it can come from multiple sources.  By sharing how to give reinforcement with these other sources, and also what the performer finds to be reinforcing, you create an environment where it’s more likely to happen, and when this happens you are more likely to continue to get more of the behavior you desire!

6. Track percentage of commitments met.

How many times have you worked on a LSS project and had to chase after individual team members to get them to complete their action items?  This is one of the most common frustrations my clients face in managing projects.  Keeping “score” is one way to provide reinforcement fuel, both positive and negative, to get more (completed actions) or less (no action) of the behavior you want.

7. Make smaller commitments.

This is one that goes against the idea of “stretch” goals so many leaders use in today’s business environment.  The problem with stretch goals is that they provide less opportunity to give positive reinforcement, exactly the opposite of what we are striving for!  We need more, not less, opportunities to give positive reinforcement, which is easier to do with smaller goals.

8. Recognize those who meet their commitments.

Big or small, every commitment that is recognized will increase the likelihood of future commitments being met.  By recognizing someone for doing something “small” you increase the probability of them doing something “big” in the future.

9. Reinforce all improvements, no matter how small they are.

We all know the power of Kaizen in that making small improvements and stacking them on one another leads to big impact over the long term.  The same applies to the behaviors that are linked with smaller improvements.

10. Make suggesting improvements easy.

This can be difficult in that we seem to be wired to immediately critique every thing we hear, read, and see.  Not every idea needs to be critiqued immediately, so work to make it a habit of asking why a person believes their idea is one that will help accomplish a goal instead of telling them why it won’t work.

Focus on your followers to measure “greatness”.

Becoming a great leader takes time and focused effort, but the rewards of seeing the results in the actions of your followers is some of the most satisfying work you’ll ever do.  There’s not one single silver bullet that will lead to becoming a great leader, but what is evident is that if you focus on yourself and what you do instead of what your followers are doing or not doing it’s unlikely you’ll ever find greatness.

3 thoughts on “10 Ways to Become a “Great” LSS Leader

  1. ask.fm wiki

    Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you are a great
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  2. Joshua Martinez

    I have really enjoyed reading all posts during this LSS BB course. I’ve found your insight and quick summary of books you’ve read to be extremely insightful and helpful. I’ve made a list of things that I want to start implementing and practicing them slowly but surely. I think all of these tips and thoughts are things that can be applied in many areas for many years to come. I hope to continue to grow in my career to many levels higher keeping many of these ideas in mind. Lastly, I’d like to say that I have book marked all the internet resources and articles that you have mentioned during the class. The best thing about these posts is that they are short, sweet, simple and to the point. Quick easy reads that can easily be refreshed every few months during down time (i.e. in airport reading emails, etc.)

    Thank you!

    1. Scott

      Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, the journey never ends when you are seeking perfection. Keep moving forward and your progress will fuel your future steps.

      Also, don’t forget to share what you are learning on your journey with others. That’s where the true value and purpose begins to materialize in helping others instead of just focusing on what’s in it for you.


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