Sunday, August 26, 2012


For several decades now continuous improvement programs have helped businesses around the world improve their productivity and efficiency by eliminating waste in their organizations.  Without continuous improvement initiatives many companies would have failed to remain competitive or survived during the poor economic climate we have experienced since 2007. Implemented correctly continuous improvement has also been a great process to get employees involved in the business; to bring people, their ideas, and improvement together for the good of all.
However many businesses today are finding it hard to keep the momentum and energy going for their continuous improvement programs.  The “low-lying fruit” as they call it has been picked.  I believe there are several main reasons why continuous improvement is running out of steam:
1.       Many employees feel they have been used by their company to increase profits while many lost their jobs through lay-offs and terminations due to the economic conditions of the last several years.
2.       Leaders often don’t recognize that if productivity and efficiency improves providing the business with increased capacity, and sales aren’t growing, jobs are usually eliminated. Leaving people to ask, “We did what we were asked but we lost our jobs anyway,” creating a loss of trust between the workforce and leadership.
3.      People are losing trust in leaders in all areas of our society. It seems almost daily we see examples of leadership failure on TV and in the newspapers.
4.        Many leaders are frustrated in their roles because they are not finding the joy and happiness they thought having a “title and telling people what to do would bring.”
5.       Many leaders are focusing on the wrong things, “tasks versus people.’ 
6.       Many companies do not have the “right training process” in place that can help leaders become the kind of leader that energizes, motivates ,mentors and helps their people discover and reach their potential.
7.       Middle management has a major impact on people and the results yet they are the least prepared and trained. I call it the "Tarzan Effect". We let them raise themselves.
8.       Many companies have forgotten that developing LEADERS takes a Purpose, Passion,  Plan and A Process. It is a journey that never ends. It is not accomplished through a couple days per year of training. The greatest athletes in the world practice constantly to improve their skills and potential. Business should be no different.
In the servant leadership training I conduct with companies and leaders there are several main points I want them to understand and think about first:

·         As leaders we get what we allow. Look in the mirror first.
·         People behave the way they do because we as leaders behave the way we do. If we want to change their behavior, we have to change our behavior first.
·         Leadership is about helping your people discover and reach their potential.
·         Most people don’t come to work to produce a bad product or provide poor service. It is up to leaders to create the environment that allows people to thrive not fail.
·         Leaders must transfer ownership for the work and results to those who do they work.
·         You cannot have your people waiting on you to tell them what to do. Help your people use their personalities, brains, passion and abilities. See their diversity as a strength.
·         Leaders today must become a ‘Coach”. Caring for, teaching, modeling behavior and building relationships with those they lead.
·         You must be developing the “right kind of new leaders.” 
Servant leadership development done right helps people feel they have a “Voice” in decision making and the work they perform. If that happens their commitment for the business and feeling responsible for the results will grow.
Servant leadership provides momentum by helping people develop new skills, new experiences, better communication between leadership and the people they lead. Leaders will listen more (one of the greatest skills a leader can ever have.) Greater team building will take place and a new trust and respect will be developed helping people give their hearts and passion, something that is missing in many companies today and is keeping organizations from closing the gap between their vision and results.
Simply put, servant leadership helps move your company and its leaders from the “making people do things model,” to the” helping people do things model”. It can truly make a difference in the lives of those who walk through the door each day to produce your product and serve your customers. The answer, help your people feel a part of something bigger than they ever thought possible. Then get out of the way and watch the excitement and results as they move mountains.



  1. Very interesting issues discussed. Two items I would add.

    First; the reward system often rewards the wrong thing(s). For instance, I once worked as an engineer at a truck manufacturer. Plant manager's bonus was, in part, based on how many trucks "came off the line." Even if the trucks needed extensive repair work before being shipped the manager got his bonus.

    Second; what you say and what you do (how you act) are in conflict. An example was a staff meeting that was called began with the manager stating how everyone was important to the program. Then immediately followed with how the single most important metric that would be tracked was "hours sold" to the customer, and if you didn't like it you could leave.

  2. Great Post Bill,

    Far to often leaders think they need to search for " a throat to choke" as I discuss in my blog
    I find this most often in people trying to lead salespeople.
    I have practiced the servant approach for close to 20 years and in each company sales grew, profits increased, and the best employees became more engaged.
    thanks for the post

  3. Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
    Regards,Ashish Leading Training Company -