For this series about the crossover wisdom between work and life Ted Stiles talks about learning to lead through trial and error, paying attention to root causes and seeing the big picture. Ted is a partner and vice president at Stiles Associates, a retained executive search firm. In addition to filling senior-level positions, Ted helps his clients understand how to build a lasting lean transformation and leadership infrastructure. He speaks about leadership at industry conferences and is a frequent guest lecturer at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
Track What Matters. Be Transparent and Inclusive.
I’ve had a huge opportunity to learn from experienced lean and operations thinkers who I’ve met and interviewed over the past 12 years. After a while you start to see patterns, particularly when talking to them about their second or third runs at implementing a lean management system, and trying to unlearn top-down, command-and-control leadership behaviors.
As a firm, we have learned from these individuals while trying to help improve the performance of our own operations at Stiles Associates. We have a tremendous amount of variation and resistance to standard work. After pushing standardization with limited success, we decided to start tracking and sharing high-level delivery metrics (lead time and other indicators of productivity).
We now have a visual management board in our office and share weekly metrics with the team. Simply doing this let us have a better understanding of what is actually happening in the operations and where we need to focus and provide support.
We also stopped pushing standards and asked the team to help address the performance gaps via value-stream mapping and kaizen events. This helped us realize that certain things we had always done were non-value-added. For instance, we discovered that writing long, expository candidate reports were not valued by our clients and created an unnecessary burden on our team to produce.
It is all a process of trial and error but along the way we’ve had better overall results and more valuable conversations as an organization about the barriers to continued improvement.
I am sure my wife is tired of me asking, “What is the problem you are trying to solve?”
For this series about the crossover wisdom between work and life, we talked to Michele Linn about focus and making space for meaningful work. Michele is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research which helps marketers develop and publish original research that grabs their audience's attention. Previously, she led the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute (CMI). She has written hundreds of marketing-related articles and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences.
Work on the Right Things, One at a Time
There are busy people and productive people. Busy people always talk about how busy they are. Productive people get things done.
As a marketer, it’s easy to be busy. We all have a to-do list a mile long that reflects all of the things we could do. To be productive you need to identify the right things to work on instead of moving from one shiny idea to the next.
As Joe Pullizi [founder of CMI] once remarked to me, we need to be like “a horse with blinders.” Know what you want to accomplish, get laser-focused, and then knock them off our list one-by-one.
I’m in the midst of starting a new business. We have a plan for how we want to grow and what we want to be known for.
You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
Robert Martichenko is founder and CEO of LeanCor Supply Chain Group. He is a frequent conference speaker, a poet and author of several business books and a novel. For this series about the crossover wisdom between work and life we talked about how his creative side and his professional life have come together, leading by example and how problem solving can build respect.
All In: Bring Your Whole Self to Work and Life
I believe I was touched by the muses. My novel Drift and Hum poured out of me. It’s 193,000 words and I never once stared at the screen and asked, “Now, what am I going to write today?” The only reason it took so long to write was because of my slow typing.
If you read my novel, there are two story lines. One is about the boys growing up and the other one is about Sam at 50 years old. It is a book of fiction, but a lot of it is fairly autobiographical.
When I decided that I would self-publish it, I was worried about LeanCor. I have a brand. I’m known as a lean thinker and business owner in the supply chain industry, which is fairly conservative. If I negatively impacted the company somehow, that would be very bad.
I was going to use a pseudonym; I came up with “Hunter Karmack.” Then some friends asked me, “What are you doing? Be proud of the different depths that you have as a person.” I’m a business owner. I write business books, I wrote the novel and I also write poetry. And I have a degree in mathematics.
“I can bring more joy to myself, and maybe help others, if I give people my whole being.”
Rebecca Morgan has been a strategic consultant to manufacturing companies for over 25 years. Prior to that she worked in leadership roles for Perdue Farms, Cleveland Trust, Stouffer Foods, TRW and Precision CastParts. We talked about her role as a consultant, asking questions and what lifelong learning means to her.
Start Where People Are
I’ve learned several things in consulting that have helped me become a better person. One, you always need to start where the client is, not where I wish they were. I have to start where they are and move at the speed they can move. I can’t act disappointed because they’re not where I think they should be, or when they don’t reach a certain point by some deadline. Most deadlines are arbitrary anyway.
I have absorbed that into my relationships with family and friends and everyone. They are where they are and that doesn’t make them wrong or bad. The same goes for people who are far ahead of me in certain areas. That doesn’t make them superior to me. We all start where we are. I have become much less judgmental in my personal life by being less judgmental in my business life.
Finding the Best Solutions Starts with Vulnerability
When I was younger and had a “real” job I thought I had to know everything. I thought I was supposed to have all the answers. As I learned what makes leaders great and what makes companies great, I began to understand the power of questions and the power of vulnerability.
There are a lot of people in leadership jobs who believe they have to know everything. They look at a given situation, think they understand the problem and come up with a solution. I used to be like that.
The strongest people I know are the ones
I am an independent leadership and management writer, editor, researcher and journalist. For the past ten-plus years (wow, has it been that long already?) I have helped business leaders and companies tell powerful stories.
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