What Can Leaders Learn By Spending The Day With Their Team?

I recently presented a three day workshop for a bi-lingual manufacturing firm. The entire team attended the programs, senior leadership though supervisors. Although the topic we explored was Problem Solving, what stood out for me was how the team grew to understand one another. By tackling each of the exercises and learning together, so many critical issues emerged by accident. Here are a few of the noteworthy “aha” moments:

 

  • We have a language challenge: When the program began, some of the more senior leaders felt that team members were lazy and not communicating information. Information was constantly getting lost and oftentimes never shared. During our small group discussions and activities it became apparent that information wasn’t being purposely withheld, but rather wasn’t disseminated because it was never understood. Wow! It never occurred to senior management that their messages weren’t truly being absorbed by the team. This came out because there were language barriers while trying to problem solve. During the three day workshop, we spent a great deal of time making sure everyone, no matter their fluency, had a full grasp of what was being presented. We took the time to validate that everyone on the team understood the concepts and the directions for all the exercises. And this did take patience!
  • We need to re-evaluate some of the leaders’ responsibilities: Through the exercises and group work it became very apparent how difficult it was for some of the mid-level leaders to multi-task. Procedures were slowed down and performance compromised by the inability for some mid-levels to focus on competing tasks in their jobs. Wow! To think that a problem solving or decision making activity could bring this all to light.
  • We need to listen more intently to one another: Before the workshops, senior leaders were doing most of the talking. They felt they knew the direction that the company needed to move in and did not spend much time listening to concerns of their team. During the program and sharing of problem solving ideas, senior leaders realized how much valuable information and creative ideas the mid-levels had. Wow! They just were not doing much listening. This program gave the entire team the opportunity to openly share and offer ways to resolve some of the obstacles they faced on a daily basis. Every level, no matter the language of choice was encouraged to present their best and innovative ideas. 

So imagine how a simple three day seminar could help a company realize such important insights to the way they ran their business.  Has this every happened to you? What did you learn and take away from a simple workshop?

2 thoughts on “What Can Leaders Learn By Spending The Day With Their Team?

  1. Teri,

    This post reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. The organization I was working for had just recruited and relocated a young man from Puerto Rico and relocated him across the country. He had the best attitude and every possible indication that he would be extremely successful.

    A few weeks later his manager started to wonder why he was not progressing as quickly as expected.

    As we examined the situation we realized that although he spoke broken English, many of the terms he needed to use to describe his work did not translate directly from Spanish to English. And although we had provided a very skilled mentor for him, the mentor spoke fluent Korean and very limited English.

    Once we realized the root of the challenge, we were able to provide better tools and support for everyone involved. Not surprisingly – results improved!

  2. Hi Chery,
    First of all, thank you so much for stopping by to read my blog and taking the time to comment. It is so true that organizations don’t always get to the root of a challenge but oftentimes skirt around the issues. Your story brings to light the importance of welcoming diversity and addressing some of the obstacles presented by multi-cultural backgrounds. But diversity can also provide such richness to an organization. Thanks again for your wonderful insights!
    Terri

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