Blog Archives

Balancing the Roles of an Internal Lean Consultant

For several years, I have played the role of internal consultant within four different companies.  While have the same type of role, my responsibilities have changed quite a bit.

In the first two companies I was asked to execute lean tools and concepts and drive business results directly.  The influencing only occurred when the business partner had natural curiosity and wanted to learn.  My scale was heavily tipped to the “Do It” side, which at the time was great.  I was learning myself, so this allowed me to make mistakes, learn, and then correct them.

The third company had a Six Sigma culture that was very strong and asked me to help them incorporate lean into their program.  It was a corporate position.  Having been heavy on the “Do It” side, I had to learn how to influence and move to the other side of the scale.  For two years, I pretty much abandoned my “Do It” skills and moved to “Influence” causing the scale to tip in that direction.  I wanted to learn how to influence well so I overcompensated.

My current company would like to see a balance of the two.  As great as it sounds, I had to realize that by reading between the lines and then learn how to balance them.  It hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes the customer thinks they want a person to execute something when they really want an influencer or vice versa.  Once I learned  different parts of the company want different roles, it allowed me to be more direct and upfront.  I can now ask questions getting to the type of role the customer wants.  Once I have an understanding, I can ask directly if they want a “do it” person or an “influence” person.  Now we are setting expectations upfront before the work starts.  It has made for better results and less confusion between me and the customer.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  How do you handle it?

Coaching and Influencing People Around You

The lean philosophy is one that wants to see everyone get valuable and honest feedback in order to improve.  Giving honest feedback to a person shows respect even if the person may not want to hear it.

When coaching this can be very hard to do, but it is needed.  Steve Roesler posted a blog entitled “How to Build Your People.”  In the post, Steve mentions his thoughts on what a coach should do.

I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does–or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

I agree with Steve on this point.  Putting it into practice can be a very hard thing to do.  Sometimes people think they already know it all.  They have don’t know what they don’t know, making influence a much harder task to accomplish.

Sometimes the mindset is they got there by doing things the old way so why change.  This can be hard to overcome too, but in my experience these mindsets are easier to overcome.

Here is what Steve has seen:

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual’s contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance–and then receiving direction to “close the gaps.” I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical–but good–teaching, only to go back to work and say “what do I actually do with that?”

To me this is a third category of people.  These are people that want to learn and apply but just don’t know where to start.  These are people that can be influenced.

It is not only a task of a coach but also of the individual to let people see their value.  Steve believes that letting people know who you really are is a way to show your value.

If you want your talent to be valued, you’ve got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

This goes back to being transparent and honest.  If we want to build the people around us we must know who we are and then understand who the people we are helping are and get them to see it too.