I think a common challenge is how do we as a new quality professional joining an organization replicate the same success we have had in past roles
Quality requires a support structure, and I think it is easy to underestimate the impact of the absence, or the lack of, that structure. Just parachuting quality professionals into different organizations where they are left without the scaffolding they’ve implicitly grown to expect and depend on can lead to underperformance. Some adapt, of course, but others flounder, especially when hired with daunting short-term expectations, which can often be the case in organizations looking to remediate gaps in a fast way. I think this is only exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.
Culture can have a steep learning curve and being able to execute requires being very well-versed in the culture of an organization. You have to know how your organization works in order to get it to work diligently like a well-oiled machine to execute the higher-level quality vision.
Learning the culture doesn’t mean simply parroting the oft-repeated mantras received during orientation, but truly internalizing it to an extent where it informs every small decision and discussion. At the best of times, that’s difficult and takes time, particularly as there isn’t usually a single monolithic culture to learn, but myriad microcultures in various different parts of the organization. Doesn’t matter the size, this is a challenge.
In the worst case, where an organization has a culture diametrically opposite to that of the previous workplace, “learning the culture” also requires un-learning almost everything that led people to get to their current level in the first place. The humility to strive to turn themselves into the leader the organization truly needs, rather than the leader they’ve grown to be over the past years, is a hard one for many of us. Especially since we are usually brought on board to build and remediate and address deficiencies.
To be a successful agent of change one has to adapt to the current culture, try experiments to accelerate change, and do all the other aspects of our job.
This is hard stuff, and a part of the job I don’t think gets discussed enough.
I am speaking with the ASQ’s Human Developlement and Leadership Division on August 4th at 3 pm eastern on “Trust & Adaptability: Servant Leadership Lessons from Joining an Organization During a Pandemic” exploring from what Steven M. R. Covey wrote in Ken Blanchard and Renee’s Broadwell’s book Servant Leadership in Action that the key outcome for a servant leader is trust. Trust and servant leadership are both built on intent. The Trust built will allow your organization to be more adaptable. Adaptability builds resilience and allows innovation and transformation.
This talk will mostly focus on my continual learnings as I’ve worked, and usually struggled, to build trust during this pandemic in an environment where I’ve never met most of my co-workers.
Take responsibility. Say, “I was wrong.” (Don’t say “mistakes were made” or “it didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated” or any other version that deflects or minimizes your personal contribution). Offer a brief explanation, but do not make excuses. Acknowledge that your error had a negative impact on others, and be willing to really listen, without defensiveness, to others’ recounting of that impact. Do not interrupt. Apologize.
Address what you need to do right now. Taking responsibility is critical, as is taking action. This is core to crisis communication, even if your mistake doesn’t constitute a major crisis. Tell others what you are doing right now to remedy the mistake, and distinguish between the parts that can be fixed, and those that can’t. Include what you are doing to address the substantive impact (money, time, processes, etc.) and well as the relational impact (feelings, reputation, trust, etc.) of having been wrong. Be open to feedback about what you’re doing. Over-communicate your plans.
Share what you will do differently next time. Being wrong is messy. Being wrong without self-reflection is irresponsible, even if you hate self-reflection. Take some time to think about what your contribution was to this situation, and identify how others contributed as well. (Try to stay away from using words like “fault” or “blame” — which tend to put people on the defensive.) Then tell those impacted by your error what you’ve learned about yourself, and what you’re going to do differently in the future. For example, you might recognize that you tend to dismiss the input of someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with, and that in the future, you’re going to actively engage her, and consider her perspective. Ask for help where you need it. And ask others to give you frequent feedback down the road on the commitments you’re making.
The biggest thing I am working on is situational humility. How do I successfully balance the subject matter expertise my organization needs with the humility to truly lead? It is clear that such humility is critical to building psychological safety, and psychological safety is critical to building innovative teams.
For most of my career I’ve been prized for my subject matter expertise, but there are huge limits, no one can know everything, so I am cultivating the following behaviors in my practices.
To build Humility do this
And I do this
Know what you don’t know
Resist “master of the universe” impulses. You may yourself excel in an area, but as a leader you are, by definition, a generalist. Rely on those who have relevant qualification and expertise. Know when to defer and delegate.
I have a list of key topics that are both in my space and overlap and individuals who involving in the discussion is critical.
I’ve created a “swear jar” for every time I say something like “I have an answer” and at this rate I’ll be taking a lot of people out for drinks by the time this pandemic is over. It is all IOUs right now because I don’t remember the last time I used cash and I don’t think I’ve seen a dollar bill in 11 months.
Resist falling for your own publicity
We all put the best spin on our success — and then conveniently forget that the reality wasn’t as flawless.
This is an interesting one for me. Having joined a new company 10 months ago it has been important to avoid the spin on my joining, and to not exacerbate it.
I’ve taken to keeping a list of problems and who is the right people who are not me that can solve them.
The world is filled with other hard-working, knowledgable, and creative professionals
I purposely look for opportunities to meet with folks at all levels and ask them to collaborate.
Embrace and promote a spirit of service
Focus on finding ways to help others to succeed
I’m all about the development. Crucial for me here is stepping back and letting others lead, even if its more work for me as I spend more time coaching and mentoring than would actually take to do the job. But lets be honest, can’t and shouldn’t do anything.
Listen, even (no, especially) to the weird ideas
Only when you are not convinced that your idea is or will be better than someone else’s do you really open your ears to what they are saying. But there is ample evidence that you should: the most imaginative and valuable ideas tend to come from left field, from some associate who seems a little offbeat, and may not hold an exalted position in the organization.
I love the weird, though maybe most when they are my weird ideas. Been working to strengthen idea management as a concept and practice in my organization.
Be passionately curious
Constantly welcome and seek out new knowledge, and insist on curiosity from those around you. Research has found linkages between curiosity and many positive leadership attributes (including emotional and social intelligence). Take it from Einstein. “I have no special talent,” he claimed. “I am only passionately curious.”
I’m a voracious reading machine, its always been a central skill.
How I am trying to teach others to be curious and turn it to their advantage.