Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Is a Blind Leader better at driving engagement?

Are you familiar with Lean and the 7 Wastes? Have you learned to see these in action? The notion is simple really, eliminate waste and watch efficiency and profit margins rise, but what does it mean to see? With proven success, Toyota’s mapping methodology was translated by Mike Rother and John Shook in Learning to See, published in 1999. Learning to See visualized stream mapping and created a guide that could translate across industries based on the concept that seeing is key to success. What if there is still more to learn? From the standpoint of employee productivity, I would challenge you to think about if you are still learning to see. 
Daniel Kish has been called the real life Batman. Daniel is a blind man who learned to see through echolocation and is now able to function in ways never before imagined for the blind. His skills have surpassed all previous heights and he is able perform day to day activities that we would typically think of as requiring assistance independently, even riding a bike. Daniel’s story was recently told on NPR’s podcast, Invsibilia.  Daniel’s attributes his success to expectations. He believes essentially, that the low expectations of what blind people can or should do hold them back from doing things that we all take for granted.
After hearing his story, I asked myself about the expectations that we place upon our employees.  Employees are the most critical and valuable assets in our business. Are we seeing our assets through to their full potential? Do we create environments where the expectations for our valuable employees are to continually improve the business on a daily level or do we just ask them to meet the hourly requirements with the occasional request to assist with a special project in an often unconscious hope that they exceed expectations?  This is called the Pygmalion effect and our thoughts and expectations are essentially communicated through our nonverbal interactions. In the Pygmalion effect, the nonverbal communications of these expectations result in higher performance. With these high expectation employees, our nonverbal interactions vary subtly from those we do not hold to the same standards, the slight variations though often un-noticed hold power.

If we could somehow harness the power we hold when communicating with high expectation individuals we could bring drastic positive change to our business.  In practice, we don’t verbalize our lower standards to individuals and we have little control over our nonverbal interactions so how can we develop our communications to see the new expectations for all? How do we learn to see the full potential of the assets that are our employees?

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