Many years ago, in a previous life, I had the privilege of working for two Japanese-based companies - Sony and SMC Pneumatics. Both of them shaped much of my "early" business sense. Both of them focused and emphasized on continuous improvement. They had fancy names for "systems" and "processes" and utilized a Japanese phrase "kaizen" which means change for the better.
For the better.
I don't blog often anymore. It's amazing to me that nearly 1,000,000 (that's a million for those of you that care) hits have happened in my little ol' blog in the last few years. That's crazy. I don't have a lot of useful things to say.
That said - I want to be better. I want to grow, and change, and adapt, and become. What do I want to become? The jury is still out ;)
A while ago I reached out to some friends (many of you that read this) on social media and conducted a little experiment. I played "20 Questions with DW" and asked you some tough leadership questions. An excerpt of what I asked is:
"In recent years, I've been transitioning my career from engineering & service delivery to more focus on consulting practice and organizational development. I work hard to make good, wise choices related to technical direction, help cultivate our company culture, and help (cliche' alert) push the ball down the field in many different areas like sales, engineering, operations and R&D efforts. I'm finding myself a bit restless. I have a lot of capacity and want to grow in my own leadership and help in more big picture things. I am straining against the box I find myself in - and that's good. In my efforts to understand if I have what it takes - the capacity to serve in new areas - I am seeking some feedback from you. I've had the honor of sitting at the "big table" at several organizations but I always want to hone my skills sand seek advice from others. I am malleable and want to be better today than I was yesterday."
For the better.
Here are the questions I asked and that some of you commented on. I am thankful for you that responded and invested in me.
1) What keeps you up at night? Or what do you think should keep a senior leader up at night?
2) What are you doing daily, weekly, quarterly to ensure your growth and development as a leader continues?
3) What is one mistake, habit, or pattern that you still haven’t overcome after years of leadership? We all have one. What’s yours? What are you doing to help/compensate?
4) As a leader, what is one question you wish you would have asked someone before you got into your role/position?
5) Who do you consider a mentor / role model in this season (the last 5-10 years) of your life? How and why do they impact your life?
6) What are the most important decisions that you face daily/weekly as a leader in your organization?
7) How do you maintain your (and your team’s) focus and inspiration and motivation despite obstacles, pushback, annoyances, and setbacks?
8) How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organization? How do you share and implement new and fresh ideas?
9) What is most important to you and your organization – mission/vision or core values? Why?
10) How do you assist new employees to understand the culture of your organization?
11) What factors do you consider most often when planning on the future? Not just business focus – but also personally if you are willing to share.
12) What qualities do you look for in the people you hang out with – both at work and community?
13) How do you show others that you believe in them?
14) When is breaking the rules okay?
15) Why do you do what you do? What motivates you to come to work every day?
16) How do you keep those pesky feelings from clouding your decision making?
17) Do you set aside specific times at work to cast vision and communication values?
18) What is one (only one) characteristic that a senior organizational leader (COO, President, Chief) needs to have?
19) What is one (only one) characteristic that is a detriment for a senior organizational leader (COO, President, Chief?)
20) If you could do it all over again (whatever that means) what would you do differently?
Interesting questions. Interesting responses. I have grown. I have been challenged.
I read and re-read your responses every once in a while. I hope to somehow "summarize" and share some of them soon. But for now, I'll leave you - my random readers - with some impactful words of wisdom I've read recently.
"Simple Concept: Things Evolve. Don't get left behind."
"Stop Griping. Don't gripe about what you allow. Don't complain about what you tolerate. Do something about it."
"Explore your passions. Encourage curiosity!"
Do good. Invest in others. Watch them succeed. Celebrate them. Encourage them.