Lean Times Require Great Leadership

Don't Panic!

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

Lean times require leaders to step up and lead. Manage the process. Dig out and recover. Some tips to make sure your recovery in difficult times is successful include:

1. Avoid any type of panic. Stay away from words like crisis and avoid emergency meetings. These things reinforce how bad things are becoming.

2. Keep routines. Maintain as many regular events as possible. This sends the message that all is going to be alright.

3. Improve visibility. During tough times it is absolutely critical that leaders increase their visibility and approachability. Again, this will have a calming affect.

4. Increase communication. Leaders must use the impetus of a slow down as a chance to increase communication and insure that all team members are hearing the same message from the same source.

5. Think lean and not slash. Look at opportunities for improved efficiency and not just cost cutting for cost-cutting’s-sake. Aggressively attack vanity tasks. Better processes and leaner methods will last even when tough times subside.

6. Manage both sides of the income statement. The approach of looking only at the expense side is short-sighted. Look also at options in enhancing revenue. Is there income or income potential being ignored?

7. Use issue as a rally point. A challenge can be a great organizational rally point. When times are tough, use it as a single focus charge cry for all team members.

8. Refer to history. History (and old age) tells us that all downturns are cyclical. They come, they cause pain, and they go. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

9. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Unfortunately, tough times often bring out the worst in people. Some will become territorial. Some will throw others under the bus. Some will paint unclear pictures about their value. The only way to debunk these is to keep them close.

10. Return to basics and core values. Slow downs and down turns are great times to return to core organizational values and the basics of service delivery. Remember the reason that you are there.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Ways to Improve Resilience

Steps to Improving Resilience

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

Resilience is the ability to respond back to a productive and useful state after an incident or set-back. Many people, especially those in leadership positions, report their resilience has been hampered or reduced with increased time and stress on their jobs.

Steps to Improving Resilience:

1. Build and utilize relationships. People are the best possible support mechanism in times of difficulty. Rely on family, friends and co-workers.

2. Maintain physical health. A healthy system will greatly enhance the ability to respond.

3. Use humor as a coping skill. Laugh at the situation. Laugh at yourself and your response to the situation.

4. Provide assistance to others. Helping others often provides the esteem that aides in personal resilience.

5. Devote time and energy to other projects. A failure within a single focused individual can be devastating. Diversify your interests and seek satisfaction in other areas.

6. Obtain knowledge and history about the situation. Know about what to expect and past outcomes.

7. Avoid seeing difficult times as insurmountable. Difficult times pass as do successful times. All part of the circle of life.

8. Establish and maintain positive image and self-talk.

9. Maintain hope and optimism.

10. Accept and embrace change.

11. Continue headway towards longer term objectives. Even in chaos and difficulty, progress towards meaningful objectives.

12. Take decisive actions. Do not be a victim. Be active and do something.

13. Maintain perspective.

14. Keep routines during difficult times. Routines help grounding and grounding helps perspective. It is also a great distraction from difficulties.


Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Budget Woes Cut Training Dollars

What is the Best Answer?

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

The inevitable affect of a shrinking economy and the associated impact on businesses is to reduce the commitment to training and development.

When faced with the difficult decisions about what to slash and what to keep, consider the following:

1. The long term impact of reducing training and development investments.

2. The higher costs of mistakes, lost customers, labor issues and turnover associated with a lack of training.

3. What does a gap in training and development do to succession planning and the organization’s bench strength.

Although there are no easy answers in tough economic times, cutting training dollars is not the best answer.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Object Oriented Innovation

Simple approach to Success

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

An excellent resource in innovation and improvement is the use of Object Oriented Innovation. OOI is a very simple approach that yields the highest success in innovation and creativity.

The starting point of OOI is to define the end point. What is the desired outcome? What is the product or process that you need to achieve? What is the end game? Equally important as defining the ending point in which you want to achieve is insuring that the end point has value and is valued by the organization. You must connect the end product or process to the core values and mission of the organization. If it fits, you keep going. If it does not fit, you have to look to see if it should be eliminated, discontinued or repackaged in such a way that it will fit.

Without deference to how it is done now or who is involved now, the next phase of OOI is to determine how the end point is achieved. Identify the needed steps to deliver the product, service or project. Again, the challenging point in this step is to ignore how it is currently being done or how it was done before and concentrate on how it needs to be done. The step must include identifying resources needed, labor and time, regulations, laws and other requirements.

Since no leader works in a vacuum, the next step in OOI is to identify the areas of impact. What other departments will have to change the way they do things? Is there an impact on customers and end users? Are there organizational considerations and the egos of other leaders that may be in play? What is the human resource impacts such as changed hours or more or less people? What are the financial considerations? The effective innovation leader must now reconcile these realities without overly compromising the desired outcome and make some good judgments and decisions about the next course of action.

The final OOI step involves converting the identified process steps to action and delivering the desired outcome.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Ethical Litmus Tests

Steps to Staying Out of Trouble

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

There are several ways to tell if you have made good ethical decisions or not. The most simple is a three step test that can be used by individuals for simple decisions or by entire organizations for more far-sweeping decisions.

The first step is the gut check. Sometimes known as the butterfly test or the sleep test, this simply asks whether you can live with the decision comfortably without life interruption. If stomach butterflies, tormented sleep or great anxiety exists, the decision likely has some ethical problems and may not conform with your company’s values. By contrast, if sleep, eating and life are not a problem, your decision was probably ethically correct.

There is one problem with this test because it requires a conscience. With people that have no conscience, personal value set or the ability to shrug away any concern with poor ethical choices, this test will not work effectively. One other challenge related to this ethical test step is that group decisions will often eliminate any guilt associated with the poor ethical choice. The personal reconciliation point is that the other two committee members voted for it so my responsibility is eliminated.

The second ethical litmus test is the authority test. This test asks how you would feel is someone in authority or someone that you hold in high regard would feel about your decision. A boss, your spouse, a trusted friend. How would they react to your choice? What would they say? Would they be supportive or would they question your actions? Would they be proud of you or disappointed in you? Those are the key questions that make this test step work.

Some organizations have actually codified this test step by creating an ethics officer or ethics manager in their company. Usually found in larger companies which also have to deal with a highly regulated environment, these people are the person in authority that adjudges decisions and directions as ethical or not. It is the responsibility of the ethics officer to ask the questions and test decisions against the values of the organization.

The final ethical test is related to media coverage. How would it look if your decision was on the front page of the local newspaper? Could you defend your actions to 60 Minutes without slamming the door on Morley Shafer? Would you have to say “no comment” or could you articulate your position clearly? These questions assume that we would choose more carefully if the media were watching our every move.

There is no perfect way to test for ethical treatment and ethical decision but when the three tests are performed sequentially, it is helpful in staying out of trouble. At the end of the day, ethical decisions are made by ethical people and unethical decisions are made by unethical people.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

The Courage to Say an Honest “No”

Self-Defeating Behaviors

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

Yes. Sure. You bet.

The easiest words to say in the English language. Makes sure that you remain popular. People come to you and you become the “go to person” in the organization. You take on all things asked.

Unfortunately, this is also a very self defeating leadership behavior. What happens when you can’t, don’t have the capacity or should not? Do you still say yes or do you deliver a honest no?

In the simplest form, the honest no needs courage when the boss asks you to take on something that you simply do not have the capacity to handle. In your attempt to please, you take on the project, move around other strategically important tasks to satisfy the boss or do a poor job on everything to just get things done. The better approach would be an honest no delivered to the boss with the explanation why. If the boss persists, you need to make the value decisions to move other things around to do a good job on what you were just given.

More complicated no responses are those delivered to team members. It is easy to grant a little time off, allow a deadline to be moved or accommodate other requests. What takes significantly more leadership courage is to say no and deny the requests when needed. It will harm your short term credibility but it will maintain your long term effectiveness and respect.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Continuous Process Improvement

Elaborate Procedure Replacements

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

Continuous process improvement is the process of insuring that procedures, processes and operational elements are always working at peak efficiency and delivering the highest quality product.

Many organizations have implemented elaborate procedures and established committees to insure that they are always improving their processes. This section will describe a simpler method with equally powerful results.

Big time wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts all utilize a champion/challenger system. Each of these sports (?) have a champion by weight class or experience level or by endorsing agency. This champion has established himself as the current best in the sport.

In order to continue to be the champion, the current title holder must take on challengers. If the current champion wins, that person remains the champion. If the challenger wins, that person will become the champion and prepare to take on new challengers.

The current way in which you do a thing is the champion. It does not have to be a big thing or it can be a very big thing but it is the champion. An innovative approach to continuous process improvement requires you to test a challenger against the current way that you are doing a piece of your business. If a new way or challenger is better, it becomes the new method. If a new way is not better, you stick with the way you are currently doing it.

The best part of this method is the lack of risk involved in the process. If the challenger is not better, you have not abandoned the existing methods. You have just challenged them. The champion/challenger method also insures that you do not engage in change and innovation for change and innovation’s sake.



Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Change Resistance

Underlying Factors of Change Resistance

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

To fully understand change we must examine why people are resistant to change and there are many reasons and underlying factors.

In a working environment, change is resisted because it will lead to a loss of power. A person is currently performing at a high level and has achieved expertise in their area. With a change to a process or function, they will no longer have that level of expert power and they fear that their personal performance will no longer be recognized at a high level. Visualize someone typing along at 85 words per minute on their IBM Selectric typewriter and how they feel that their performance and expertise will be threatened by the introduction of the personal computer and word processing software.

Another primary cause of change resistance is found in a basic human dynamic. Humans need to have levels of stability in their lives. Attachment, connection and some predictability. For many people that stability is found at home or in connections outside of work. They have stable relationships with friends, relatives and community members. They have lived in the same place for a good chunk of time. There is predictability outside of work.

Other people do not have that stability at home and thusly seek it at work. Imagine someone who’s life is chaotic outside of work. No stability in relationships or predictability in routine or interactions. They come to work to seek the stability and attachment that is not there in their personal lives. These people will tend to be a little more resistant, if not down right hostile, towards change. This is another example of how important it is for a leader to know and understand their team members to lead effectively, especially in a changing environment.

Among the most common factors in change resistance is also a personal dynamic related to human behavior. I am married. I love my wife but there is an aging factor that occurs in relationships with individuals and organizations that is related. Early in our relationship, I opened all the doors, bought flowers for no reason, purchased mushy Hallmark cards and beat a path to be helpful around the house. Twenty five years later I still love my wife but my diligence on some of those early behavior has waned.

What occurs in interpersonal relationships, like with me and my wife, is comfort develops after performance is stabilized. Far more dangerous is that complacency follows comfort in most instances. In organizations, a person develops comfort in their job, performance and methods. Complacency and an auto-response type approach frequency follow. Another day, another dollar. Going through the motions. Punching the clock.

Any element of change rocks that complacency. It forces people off of the treadmill and requires them to think instead of auto-process. It makes the complacent uncomfortable.

Fear of the unknown is also a common factor in change resistance. When the future is defined and clear, with a known path towards it, there is little fear. When the future or even just tomorrow is unknown, clouded or veiled, the little darkroom of fear begins to process potential outcomes. Those outcomes, for a variety of reasons, is most often negative consequences associated with the change. That is where the “oh my gosh, I am going to loose my job” and “things will never be good or the same” type of comments originate.

The final change resistance factor is rather odd because it does not occur universally but it does occur with high frequency. Some people resist change because they fail to recognize any positive outcome from the change event or the changed process. They focus only on the loss of the current and not on any benefit derived from changing and evolving. My mother hates computers. Not for any particular reason but she hates them and everything about them. She will not touch them and experiments to help her embrace email and on-line banking have failed miserably. She see no benefit and only bad. Her identity will be stolen, viruses will infect, it costs too much, it wont work correctly.

Some of my mother’s octogenarian peers have discovered the joys of social networking, the efficiency of email and the fun of creating photo albums on the computer. Not my mom, all she sees is the negative outcome.


Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Self Regulation, Control and Discipline

Hold Your Tongue

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

The best definition of self control is resisting the urges to act and speak when not appropriate. This is about holding your emotions, your tongue and desire to behave when you know it is inappropriate or even when you have doubt on the appropriateness of the behavior.

One of the most important concepts for leaders to embrace is that of hot buttons. We all have them. They come in a lot of shapes, sizes and colors. Some even have the names of people attached to them. A hot button is any event, issue, subject, situation or person that will evoke a negative, sarcastic or edgy response from you. A person or event pushes the hot button and you react in an adverse manner.

A critical point about hot buttons is the transfer of power that occurs when pushed and a reaction occurs. The button pusher gains power and situational control when you react. You lose power by reacting to your button being pushed. They win. You lose.

Related to this phenomenon is the learning that occurs by the button pusher. Whoever pushed your button and you reacted will remember this event and return to that newly learned skill again and again. Those of us that are parents understand this circle well.

An effective leader must identify their personal hot buttons and do everything possible to not react when those buttons are pushed. That includes avoiding situations and people that push buttons and confronting button pushers directly and tell them to cease pressing your buttons. Remember, we condition others that button pushing is effective and we can also begin the process of reconditioning them to cease pressing.

One of the most common occurrences in management, leadership and supervision is over-emotionalism. Often labeled with the highly scientific and technical term of crack pot. Effective leadership and over-emotionalism do not work. A leader must be calm and cool in all situations and events and be level-headed in all interactions.

A crack pot leader will fly off the handle and become angry when things do not go his or her way. They often blame that on being passionate about their job but in reality these type of bosses are alienating their followers. They will reduce their approachability and actually have their team avoid any contact out of the fear of an angry reaction. When upset by an event or circumstances, you know it and deal with it by going for a walk, workout, take some time off or get some coffee. Anything to blow off your steam except to interact with your team.

When angry or disappointed it is also important to resist the urge to vent unless to a trusted friend, peer level leader or family member. Venting to a team member is never appropriate and credibility may be lost when venting to your boss.

Another symptom of the crack pot type leader is pouting. Hiding in the office. Avoiding all contact. Sullen and unapproachable. Often occurs when things don’t go quite right or when a leader has suffered a set back. Remember, your team looks to you for tone, optimism and hope and if you pout, you are telling them that things must really be bad.

As a sub-type of the crack pot type leader is the Chicken Little. You remember from either the childhood story or the Disney movie, Chicken Little is the predictor of the sky falling. Chicken Little predicts doom and gloom at every opportunity. As with the character, a leader that loses his or her calm when times are difficult will lose credibility.

Our team members look to us for calm and optimism in time of difficulty. They do not want a leader that commiserates and sees only the negative. They desperately want their leaders to pick them up and pull them through the difficulties.

The concept that we most often teach and coach is battlefield cool. This important leadership skill comes from the American civil war when the government forces under the direction of U. S. Grant camped a little too close to their Confederate adversaries. One particular morning, the command tent of General Grant was overwhelmed with cannon fire. The scene was chaotic and confusing. General Grant’s primary aide was decapitated.

General Grant’s response? To make a pot of coffee. He responded to the most hectic and desperate events by making coffee. When asked about this, he indicated there was plenty of time to withdraw and he was not going to be shaken by immediate events.

His troops response? To rally behind his battlefield calm and rout the Confederates that morning.
Poise under pressure and difficult circumstances is tough but it is a necessary competency of effective leaders.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Postive Feedback: The Unchained Melody and Eligible Populations

The Big "But"

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

Unchained Melody
One of the most important rules of coaching involves connecting positive and corrective feedback messages. This method has been used for years and even achieved a name: The Sandwich Method. This describes the abhorrent practice of placing corrective feedback between two pieces of positive feedback.

Nothing could be more ineffectual than combining or enjoining types of feedback. The self-critical will only remember the corrective piece. The halo effect types will only remember the positive feedback. At a bare minimum, the person receiving the feedback will be confused. “Did
I receive praise or did I get chewed out?”

The most common expression of chained feedback comes in the form of “you did a great job with that customer, but you needed to complete the order form in a more timely manner.” The big but. You can even see some team members expecting it. When they hear a piece of positive feedback, they wait for the other shoe to drop and hear the but statement.

The interesting part of this method is for whom it is designed. It certainly does not help provide a clear message to the team member receiving the feedback. It certainly doesn’t insure good spirit and the replication of great results from the person receiving the feedback. This method was designed for the ease of delivery from the person providing the coaching. Easy; yes. Effective; absolutely not.

Feedback needs to be delivered in separate event formats. If the performance was good, the team member receives positive feedback without chained conditions or comparisons. If the performance was not good, the team member receives corrective feedback without glossy coating. Positive feedback and corrective feedback. The two shall not be joined together.
Correctly so, some people have discussed performance where the bulk of the performance was good but there were legitimately some things the team members could have done better. This is a situation in which the leader must use some judgment and decide what type of feedback is most appropriate and what type of feedback could be better deferred to a teaching or mentoring type of session. When the bulk of the performance is positive, provide positive feedback and wait on any discussion of things that could be tuned or done better.

Eligible Populations-The Superstars
One of the bigger stigma points related to positive feedback is wrapped around the eligible populations and who receives it.

Most organizations, regardless of type and size, have between five and ten percent of their team members that are exceptional contributors. The “A” players. These are the people that consistently achieve more, work harder and generally aspire to higher responsibility levels. Not only do they receive positive feedback regularly, they often demand it. They are the team members that will often tell you what they have done well or the leader is well aware of their awesome performance.

One temptation to avoid is to take superstar type of performance for granted. Believing that these star players provide their own internal feedback or that more feedback for more good performance may spoil them will lead them down the path of “why bother.”

Eligible Populations-The Average Joe
Most organizations also have a large population of team members that are “just doing their job.” Nothing spectacular. No superstar status. Just doing what we need them to do. These team members are often the polarity of a working unit and are likely to be eighty to ninety percent of a total team population.

The epiphany question about this population is whether or not they are deserving of positive feedback. The simple answer to this is yes. The more complex answer is yes.

The population of standard performers is the population that is most at risk of leaving the organization because they are not appreciated, engaged or acknowledged. They toil away at what we need and ask of them but rarely hear from us unless something is wrong. This population is also at risk to deteriorate their performance to levels beyond acceptable.

The only way to encourage their continued contributions to organizational success is to provide them with the positive feedback earned from achieving their objectives.

Eligible Populations-The Problems
To complete the bell curve, we also have between five and ten percent of team members that perform below standard or are problematic on behavioral levels.
A typical pattern develops with these team members. After they have been coached, counseled and documented, supervisors and managers go out of their way to hyper-scrutinize their performance. Looking for additional mistakes, stumbles and failures. When found, more coaching, more discipline and more forms are engaged.

And that course of action has achieved what? Further disgruntled and detached team members. Team members that feel hopeless. Team members that become our biggest critics and are toxic in the working environment is what we are creating with this method.
Documentation and formal discipline has a place and need. It is necessary from a compliance perspective. It is necessary to show good faith and fairness. What it does not do is make someone a better or more successful team member.

With the same vigor that is used find more mistakes and issues, effective leaders go out of their way to provide positive feedback when a problem team member does something well. This technique will have a greater success rate than the continued hyper-scrutiny of a team member’s performance. Not a panacea with tough team members but another tool to use.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.