LEAD, LEARN, LOVE What You Do: Never Be Content
By Nina Mapson Bone | Managing Director
Constantly ask, “What can be improved? How can it be improved? What is changing? How is it changing? Are customers and staff wanting new and different things?” If you don’t ask these questions, be assured your rivals will – reaping the benefit of improvements and efficiencies that could have been yours.
The Japanese have a word for this - Kaizen (改善). Kaizen, according to Wikipedia, is the Japanese word for "continuous improvement ". In business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers.
This was one of the lessons I covered in my leadership blog “Lead, Learn, Love What You Do” and is the topic of today’s instalment of the series. It is one of the tenets of successful leaders that they are always striving to do better, achieve more, and improve. However there is a challenge in this quality in that it can be a double edged sword. If driven by needs such as the need for perfection, the need to feed one’s ego, or an overstated fear of failure those motivators will show through to your team. In fact, this may affect your other leadership qualities and ultimately, give you the opposite outcome of that which you desire.
So, please don’t misconstrue my missive to never be content. The drive for improvement must first and foremost be both physically and emotionally sustainable. Otherwise it becomes a vicious circle.
That said, if the motivators for success are positive then the willingness to never be content can be a significant contributor to better results, better outcomes and better products and services. Think of the now fabled stories of Kodak or BlockBuster. Had they been a little less content they may have adapted in time.
At Beaumont People we have three core pillars that shape our very business – contribution (the way in which we contribute to the industries and communities we participate in), customers (our clients, our candidates, our suppliers, our internal staff) and continuous improvement (small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results). It is these pillars that form the main motivations for our desire to never be content.
For example we will ask, “In what ways can we better contribute to the industries we are involved in? How can we get better outcomes for our customers? What can we change or adapt to ensure we stay on the path of continuous improvement?” Every single staff member in the organisation – and a significant number of our customers outside of our team - provide ideas and feedback based on these pillars. We reward and recognise based on these pillars and we measure and report back on them internally to all staff regularly and through a variety of mediums. We review the motivations to ensure they based on a desire to serve, coupled with looking at the processes in place to ensure they happen and get executed.
In doing some research for this blog I came across the work of KaiNexus and their belief that the there are three essential ingredients to a culture of improvement: methodology, leadership and technology. While my blog is just about the leadership quality required to drive this, their thoughts seem sensible to me and rang true to the process we run internally outlined above.
So, if you are thinking about how you can better drive results, and how you can use your discontentment for a positive outcome start by checking your motivations, then ensure the team is united in the approach, seek feedback and put in place measures and reporting for continued further improvement.
Hopefully we will all improve so dramatically that this advice will soon be outdated, but in the meantime I better get back to some of our customer feedback surveys…