Process Improvement Is A Leadership Sport by Jason Kilgore

I’ve written over 30 blog posts since I began this blogging journey.  Most of those posts have outlined a step-by-step approach to various aspects of process improvement.  I recently attended our annual leadership conference.  In the hours and days since, I’ve given much thought on the human side of process improvement.  Yes, the skills required to streamline processes are somewhat specialized and impersonal.  However, the softer skills of leadership are even more important.  I’ve been blessed to work with and for some great innovators.  Here are six common themes I see in them.

  1. Persistence:  Constant, steady goals that don’t change with the season.  We admire leaders who set clear targets and push until the objectives have been achieved.  Changing goals flippantly and failing to hold the team accountable creates division, lack of focus, and frustration.  Great leaders set the vision and steer the ship.
  2. Pragmatism:  Everyone appreciates a pragmatic approach to solving problems.  Great leaders think and speak in terms their teams understand.  While getting the results may require complex planning and execution, a great leader knows how to break down the issues, communicate effectively, and not overwhelm the team with extraneous minutia.
  3. Persuasion:  Sometimes, the team needs to be persuaded.  Persuasion (not to be confused with coercion) is the ability of the leader to inspire his or her team to willingly perform the work to be done.  Process improvement is tough.  Change requires courage.  The power of persuasion is an valuable tool in ensuring great results.
  4. Personality:  People respond to people they like.  Many times, process improvement requires leading people who get discouraged.  As such, being able encourage the team is critical to keep the team moving forward when the project gets tough and the eventual success is in question.
  5. Personal integrity:  The leader’s personal integrity bonds the team around a common purpose.  An effective leader is transparent, up-front, and honest with the team.  Kind, yet clear – the leader is able to prevent dissention among the team by treating team members fairly, listening to their ideas, and giving each the opportunity to perform optimally.
  6. Patience:  Get it done fast, but get it done right.  Patience is the ability to balance results-orientation and time for thinking it through.  We tend to swing between two extremes:  hurriedness and analysis.  Finding the sweet spot somewhere in the middle is the key getting results expeditiously and getting the results desired.

There have been a million books written on leadership.  All of them likely have some good information.  But there is not a book that can replace watching the great leaders in our own lives, learning from them, making our own mistakes, and improving our personal leadership style.

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