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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Everyone is Handicappeed

Last week we began looking at adding Handicapped individuals to our team at Ebsco.  We hosted a meeting with representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabiltory Services.  It looks very promising and we hope to add new team members soon.

For this initiative to succeed it is important, to both the applicant and the company, that we do not change our standards and expectations.  The key is to do a detailed analysis of the jobs requirements and match them to the individual.  Exactly what we should do with any applicant considered.  When matching the applicants capabilities to the job you may need to make accommodations allowing them to be successful.  Again, the same for any applicant.  As management one of our primary responsibilities is to remove obstacles that impede success for our team members.

So what is different in hiring handicapped employees?  According to Encarta, the definition of handicap is "hindrance: something that hinders or is a disadvantage to somebody or something". 
My question is;
     "Isn't Everyone Handicapped?"

I had dreams of becoming a rock star.  I play guitar.  I practiced for hours when I was younger.  I never made it.  I didn't have the talent.  Desire and practice didn't make a difference. I was handicapped from being a rock star.  Most people have similar dreams of becoming a top athlete and don't have the physical attributes to succeed.  Are they handicapped?  Kim Peek, the inspiration for the movie Rain Man, is as a savant and posses incredible math and memory skills that most are unable to match.  Is everyone else handicapped and Mr. Peek not? 

I am in no way trying to diminish the obstacles the handicapped confront.  My point is that they posses qualities, talents and abilities the sames as every other person.  The defining difference is society.  The handicapped find obstacles in what society has established as "normal"  If everyone was in wheel chairs, buildings. cars, homes and everything in society would be built to accommodate wheel chairs.  The minority, not in wheel chairs, would be the handicapped.  If everyone had the ability to recall dates as Mr. Peek has, their would be no need for calendars and calculators. Those who did not posses Mr. Peek's abilities would be handicapped. The difference is accommodations.  Society sets expectations, processes and how things are constructed to the capabilities of the majority.  These decisions become the obstacles for the minority, the handicapped.

When you view handicaps as a simple issue of accommodations, you open a new source of labor for your company.  Most companies do not consider the handicapped worker.  This is a great opportunity for the companies that do.  Studies have shown that handicapped workers dependability, retention and productivity exceed non-handicapped workers.  They get the job done.  Obviously this is a generalization and you must look at the individual but isn't that what the employment process is all about.  Considering the handicapped workers adds several applicants to your labor pool.

When you view handicaps as a matter of capabilities and accommodations, everyone is handicapped.  Finding the right applicant is simply a matter of matching the job with the capabilities and the accommodations.  Considering the handicapped worker as another applicant is just good business.

Because after all,  we are all handicapped in some way.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Wolf Pack

THE WOLF
``Now is the Law of the Jungle---as old and true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back---
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.''
Rudyard Kipling

This is an exert from "The Jungle Book".  The Jungle book was published in 1894 by British Poet Laurette Rudyard Kipling. The Jungle Book represented a strong moral code for society presented by Kipling. It presented Kipling's vision for how society and leaders should act with strong moral codes.

I received a plaque with the "Law of the Jungle" exert, years ago from my previous employer.  It dramatically impacted how I have tried to act as a leader and how I perceive the teams I have had the honor to lead.  I consider this as a "light bulb minute" in my career.  The impact of these few words helped shape my future.  Since that time, I have hung posters of wolves on the walls of my office and always had this exert framed by my desk.  I have proudly named the teams I have been associated with as "The Wolf Pack".

Why the profound impact and reaction to these words?  What meaning did I find in Kipling's words to shape my actions?

"The strength of the pack is the Wolf".  It's synergy.  Synergy is defined in Encarta as "combined effort being greater than the parts". The "Pack" or team is made up of several individuals all contributing toward the goal with unique skills. In a successful team, the combined effort is greater than the sum of the individuals contributions.  The wolf pack is much more than several individuals working alone.  It always amazes me what can be achieved by great team working together.  The strength of the company is the employees.  It's as simple as that.

"The strength of the wolf is the pack".  Companies are made up of several individuals.  Each has unique skills and talents they bring.  Without the support of the team, their individual efforts accomplish little.  A great production team is of little value without a great sales team bringing them orders to produce.  A top notch IT department contributes nothing without an organization needing their services. Individuals can't shine without the support of a great team.  In football, the greatest running backs accomplish little without a great line.  The strength of the employee is never realized without the support of the team.

Embracing this, as a manager, requires that you realize your success is completely dependant on the team.  When you accept that your success is dependant on the team, you realize that these are some of the most important people in your life.  You begin to truly appreciate their efforts and input.  With this realization your roles becomes more defined.  A manager role is to serve the team.  As a leader, your team is your customer.  You serve the team and the team in turn serves the organization.

My strength is the team.  My role is to support, train and provide them the tools they need to do their jobs.  My commitment to them is to create the best working environment I can. If Ebsco becomes the place they want to work, they will make Ebsco successful.  If Ebsco succeeds, we all succeed.

The strength of Ebsco is the employees, The strength Ebsco's employees is the Ebsco team.

Thank You Wolf Pack.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mentoring at Ebsco

In business, the definition of the word Mentor is "a senior or experienced person in a company or organization who gives guidance and training to a junior colleague". In Greek mythology, the character Mentor was placed in charge of Odysseus' son.  Because of this father-like, teacher relationship the word was adopted in English to mean a trusted friend, counselor or teacher. Some great pop culture examples of mentors are;
   Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid
   Master Po in the series Kung Fu
   Chubs Peterson in Happy Gilmore
   Morpheus in the The Matrix
   Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings
   Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars
Each of these examples were trusted confidants and authorities to the Mentee.  The key to their relationship was;
   The Mentees success depends on how well they are taught
   The Mentors success depends on how well the Mentee learns.
A true mentor relationship is inter-dependent of each party.  Only when the mentee succeeds does the mentor find success.
Mentoring is growing as a part of our culture at Ebsco.  For our purposes we will use the following definition,
   Mentoring is a career development method whereby less experienced employees are matched
   with more experienced colleagues for guidance.
The mentors take on the roles of Counselor, Guide, Role Model, Supporter and Confidant.  They do not do the work for the mentee, solve the mentees problems or advise the mentee on personal matters.  Through this relationship the mentees develop competence and comfort in new areas quicker, are provided structured learning and develop problem solving skills.
It is essential that the mentors enter the relationship with the proper mind set.  Every mentee should be considered a "10".  When we make a decision as to ones potential, we will then go about proving that assumption correct.  When you make the assumption the mentees has "10" potential you will begin to see them as who they can become in the company. You will be quicker to give them the benefit of the doubt and focus on their strengths.  With this positive influence the mentee will give their best effort in order to please the mentor. Assuming the best in them, gets the best out of them.
For a mentor relationship to be successful their must be;
   Genuine interest from both parties
   Management support
   time to participate
   Confidentiality between both parties
   Commitment from everyone involved
   Clear 2-way communication
   Clear, mutually established goals
During the process the mentor most pay close attention to verbal and non verbal communication from the mentee.  At times the mentee will become frustrated and the progress must be slowed, allowing the mentee to catch up.  At other times the mentee will show signs of boredom and the mentor should speed the process up to keep the mentee engaged.
Our Team Lead position at Ebsco is a mentor role with a few additional responsibilities.  Our Team Leads focus is on developing the talents of their team members.  In addition we are assigning individual mentors to each new employee.  This provides an additional person vested in their success.  An additional resource for their learning.
Mentoring is not a common skill.  Everyone utilizes parts of mentoring in their life but few are acquainted with it as a process.  Realizing this Ebsco has begun formal training on our mentor program.  We have completed the first training session with the Team Leads and are completing a training module to share with our other mentors.  Adding responsibilities without training is one of the surest formulas for failure.  We are not going to fail.
We have committed ourselves to training at Ebsco and the Mentor program is a key to this effort.  In a successful mentoring program the mentor, the mentee and the company all win.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Teach a Man (or Woman) to Fish

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.
Teach a man to fish: and you have fed him for a lifetime.
Let's put it another way
Teach a man how; he will complete the task. today
Teach a man why; he will complete many tasks and build a career.
How teaches the repetition of tasks to complete a function.  When you go beyond how, to why, you teach reasoning skills to go much farther.  Robots know "how" but lack the intelligence to reason.  Teaching why allows the individual the power of reason.  The power to solve problems and find new and innovative solutions.  Organizations that teach their employees why, increase their potential. 
Innovative companies are now going beyond what and why and attempt to unlock the full potential of their team.
Organizations are made up of several departments with distinct functions.  Traditionally, employees were trained in the tasks and functions of their department.  The best companies trained the whys behind the whats within an employee's department.  That's not enough in today's competitive environment.  Individual departments never operate alone. Each departments impacts and interacts with every other department in the organization. An effective training program goes beyond an individuals assigned department and teaches the functions and interactions of all other departments.  It teaches the process and defines the companies goals and vision.
That's the goals of Ebsco U.
Ebsco U is an ongoing comprehensive training program designed to reach beyond traditional training and create a team that understands the entire organization.  With knowledge beyond ones department comes true team work and progress. Ebsco U encompasses all Ebsco training.  Most areas will continue to expand and develop with time. The following are current elements of Ebsco U.
  • New Employee Orientation. Our new employee orientation consist of a full week.  Several team members play a role in the orientation. The program is designed to bring the new employee into the team instead of focusing on simply teaching job skills and rules. One of the keys to our orientation program is the assignment of mentors to each new employee.
  • Safety Training. No new or innovative topics here.  Most on the job injuries are from basic inattention. Our safety program focuses on basic safety topics. Repetition is the key to effective safety training.  It's employee driven from the safety team
  • Ebsco U The Coarse.  Ebsco U consists of several ongoing units and is attended by all employees.  It introduces all departments and their functions, the processes, machinery and the science of springs.  It provides detailed information on Human Resource topics.  Ebsco U has just begun but initial feedback looks promising.
  • Evaluation Process.  Ebsco has launched an innovative evaluation process that focuses on goal setting.  This is new to most employees.  Ebsco has addressed this with an orientation session to help employees get the most out of the process.
  • Team Leader Training.  The Team Leader position is new and unique to Ebsco.  Our monthly training session will supply our Team leads with guidance and tools to effectively perform in their new position.
  • Management Training. Effective management skills don't come with the position.  It is essential to continually develop ones skills.  Our ongoing management training program will address diverse topics focused on building management skills.
  • Mentor Training. With our new orientation program we will utilize mentors in each department. Our new mentor training will identify the experienced employees in each department and provide them with the tools to effectively mentor our newest team members.
  • Coiler Training.  Going beyond the usual on the job training, we will begin to conduct coiler training classes.  These sessions will be held when we are not running production to allow participants to focus on the material.  We are developing classes from basic skills to advanced techniques.  Our coiler training will have something to offer everyone.
Ebsco U will continue to evolved based on the input from our employees.  I am really excited to see the enthusiasm and commitment from all of our employees and management on training and developing our capabilities.
In our analogy a man was given a fish or taught to fish.  Ebsco is doing all of that and teaching agriculture and proper diet.  Effective training goes well beyond what one does today and tomorrow. Effective training looks at everything related to what you are doing and examines how they interact.
We have the best team, they deserve the best training.

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