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Looking Backward and Forward

The first month of the year is named after the two-headed Roman god Janus, shown here in an ancient Roman coin. One head looked back, the other looked forward.

One way to look back and look forward is with a Plus/Delta reflection, which can be done individually or in a group. Divide a flipchart or piece of paper into 2 columns. Above the left column write “Plus”; above the right column write “Delta”. Ask what went well in 2014, and write those bullets into the Plus column. And think of what you would like to change next time – write those bullets into the Delta column.

Notice – and this is important – you’re not making things “wrong”. You’re asking, “What would I like to change?” That’s why the column is called “delta”, not “minus”. This allows you to learn from all of your experiences. We coach clients to never use the word “fail.” When they try something, they get a result. If they don’t like the result, they can change something and try again. And if they get the result they want, they can still change something and try for a different result the next time! That’s how people, and organizations, learn. Learning organizations consistently outperform traditional organizations. And they’re a lot more fun to work in!

All of us at PCG wish you and yours a rewarding and “learning” new year.

Gary Langenwalter

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Crock Pot Leadership

I learned 3 important things about leadership from our crock pot.

1. We need the right ingredients. If we’re going to make vegetable soup, we need vegetables. In leadership terms, Jim Collins tells us to “get the right people on the bus.” Accountants have many skills, but a strategic planning meeting with only accountants in the room will usually not generate a well-balanced strategic plan. “Right ingredients” also requires the right amount of each ingredient. When making chocolate chip cookies, too much salt will ruin the cookies. (Of course, extra chocolate chips will only make them better!) Teams need the right mix of the right people.

2. We need to omit ingredients that are not in the recipe. Clams are great in clam chowder, but not welcome in a beef stew. In leadership terms, we need to insure that a team is free of people who will neutralize or destroy it from within.

3. Finally, and possibly most important, we need to define the process and then trust it. If we lift the lid on a crock pot every 10 minutes to see how it’s doing, we ruin the meal by releasing heat such that it will not cook properly. In leadership, we provide the resources the team needs, and then trust them to do their work within the prescribed process. Constantly looking over their shoulders, second-guessing their decisions (or lack thereof), or otherwise micro-managing is like lifting the lid off a crock pot – it guarantees that the result will not be what we want.

I hope you enjoy your holiday meals. And remember, leave the lid on the crock pot until the recipe says the meal is cooked!

Gary Langenwalter