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10 Leadership Tools Every Leader Should Know How to Use in the Workplace

leadershiptoolbeltIt’s amazing/startling to see, when we go into an organization and begin to work with their leaders, managers or teams, the lack of knowledge people have around basic leadership tools that they could be using to produce better results.  Tools that if applied correctly and for the right challenge, can quickly turn a long, results-lacking meeting or work session into a bountiful, action-oriented planning session.

Usually we hear from clients and readers that our tools, our ability to apply and facilitate them and then provide steps for moving forward (at a very quick turnaround) are what attracts them to us and makes them stick with us.   Likewise, you could become an expert at utilizing tools that would make you valued-added in any leadership scenario.

For today’s post we thought we’d share with all of you some of the basic leadership tools we use daily with clients or with our own team to drive innovation, provide clarity of thought, enhance processes and encourage employee engagement.

#1 – Skills Scan
Challenge: Unable to break down silo thinking, not sure of talents people bring to the table; only getting siloed contribution

Solution the Tool Provides:   The Skill Scan chart asks each person to identify job experiences, knowledge, hobbies and activities, and even personality preferences that would contribute to the success of the team, project or topic.   Through this process of everyone providing their own personal talents, the team can quickly see the amount of talent and resources around the table.  Then you simply ask:  would you be willing to contribute these skills and talents to help our work.  The answer is always “yes.”

#2 – OPS (One-Page Strategy) and RASCI Chart
Challenge: While people may have seen a PowerPoint slide show on the organization’s mission, vision and plan, it’s long forgotten after the meeting.  And nobody really knows who is responsible, accountable, expected to support, be consulted or informed (RASCI).  It’s not surprising that 70% of employees report they are disengaged.

Solution the Tools Provides: On a single 8×11 piece of paper record the mission, vision and values, the core strategic areas of focus, the goals and the key initiatives for the coming year.  Have everyone hang it up near their desk as a reminder of what to be focused on.  Then after the OPS is completed, do a RASCI Chart to define all the stakeholders and what their role is at every step of the project.  If only one person carries all of the As (for accountable), you know the project will be in trouble.

#3 – SIPOC Map
Challenge:  While we’re told to work faster and cheaper, we often don’t really understand the whole process of the work flow for a product or service we offer.  As a consequence, problems in the system early on will emerge as bigger problems in execution.  We’re not always sure of who our internal customers are and we rarely sit down with our internal suppliers to have a heart-to-heart on the quality of their work.

Solution the Tool Provides:  The SIPOC Map creates a picture of the process flow from one point in the process to another.  Then it defines the Inputs for each step in the process as well as the Outputs, beginning with the first supplier and ending with the direct customer.  We often ask people to identify on a SIPOC hanging on the wall, all the areas where problems exist.  We once had 106 in 10 minutes on a 16 step process!

#4 – Fishbone Cause and Effect Diagram
Challenge: Unable to organizing a large list of problems/issues and getting lost between what’s a symptom and what’s a root.  When that happens the team often loses focus and discussion breaks down into arguing.

Solution the Tool Provides: This tool focuses the team on the causes and not the symptoms.  It also creates a ‘big’ picture of the current collective knowledge of the team around the problem and helps facilitate team member identification of a solution.  The team might use Materials, Machines, Manpower, Methods, and Environment as the key categories and within them – along the fishbone – they identify the problems in each area.

#5 – Implication Wheel
Challenge: Unable to see what effect a decision might have down the road; unable to identify implications of an idea, problem, or situation.

Solution the Tool Provides:  Allows the group to explore potentially negative outcomes in a positive, dynamic fashion. It allows worries and concerns to surface and get addressed without overwhelming the group.  Begin with the problem in the center of the wheel and then expand out asking:  what is the impact of this problem in the center?  As ideas are identified, then a placed on spokes around the wheel.

#6 – Force Field Analysis
Challenge:  Sometimes people think we’re dreaming when we create ideas as leaders; they are probably saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me that X believes we can do that too.”  It’s helpful to measure the forces that will support a change and how to strengthen them and, likewise, the forces that will resist the change.  Which are greater?

Solution the Tool Provides: Force Field Analysis encourages the group to identify the driving forces that will move the project forward and the restraining forces that will resist any success.  Once you know these, the team can begin to address them – building upon the strengths and mitigating the weak spots.

#7 – Criteria Decision Matrix
Challenge: When was the last time you saw someone whip out a criteria matrix in the middle of making a decision?  Most people don’t, yet the will stumble along with their decisions, often being unclear about the actual decision that was made.

Solution the Tool Provides: Focuses the team on defining the criteria for making a best decision and then provides a way to score each option the team is considering.  If all options score too long, then it’s back to the drawing board.

#8 – 5 Why Diagram
Challenge:  Many times we get focused on symptoms – too many mistakes, poor communication, customer upset – rather than work on defining root cause.  5Whys is simple:  just take the problem and ask “why – for example, why are there too many mistakes?”  Let’s say the answer is “there’s not enough time to check my work.”  Now ask another why and keep that going for 5whys.

Solution the Tool Provides:  By the time you get to the 5th why, you’re down to the root of the problem.  Many times when you look at a broken process and follow the 5Why process for a couple of the symptoms, you’ll see that they have many common roots.

#9 – 4-Blocker
Challenge:  When people are talking and sharing ideas in a meeting, it can seem like everything is getting equal weight when, in fact, they are not equal.

Solution the Tool Provides:  The 4-Blocker sets up criteria on each axis – such as impact on the organization and ease of implementation, with a high and low on each.  Then the ideas are sorted into the 4 blocks with those ideas in the High Impact/Easy Implementation getting the nod to go ahead, while the ideas that have Low Impact/Hard Implementation get thrown out.

#10 – Action Item Chart
Challenge:  We sit in meetings, talk about things and never move to actions, with owners and deadlines.

Solution the Tool Provides:  The Action Item Chart is a handy tool to record all the actions associated with each discussion or decision made by the group, including who intends to own the task and the deadline for completion.  A meeting with few or no actions is an indication that not enough is getting accomplished.

None of the tools are rocket science.  They all can be found online just be typing in the title.  So, arm yourself with a few tools for your next leadership moment and transform the discussion and results.  If you have great tools you’re willing to share, please pass them along to all of us as well.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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