We’re in the home stretch of our step-by-step breakdown of becoming a more human leader. Step four is about setting goals to motivate and engage your teams while step five, takes a deeper look into what happens after those goals are accomplished. This step is all about continual improvement.
Continual improvement is the consistent pursuit of self-development, and it starts with you, the leader. In a workforce, this focus on personal development drives radical growth and innovation for the business.
To guide us on the journey, we’ll hear from Jason Treu, a Chief People Officer who works with teams all around the world on leadership and management training. Jason is an expert on creating a winning culture, and he joins Emplify’s Co-founder and Chief People Officer, Adam Weber to discuss the impact of continual improvement.
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[00:00:00] Nicole MacLean: welcome back to lead like a human, the latest season of insights, an original series by amplify I'm Nicole MacLean. And today we're continuing our journey into Adam Weber's newest book. We'd like a human, which is now an Amazon bestseller and also available on target Walmart and Barnes and noble we're in the home stretch of our step-by-step breakdown of becoming a more human leader.
Today, we're talking about creating a culture of continual improvement along the way. We'll hear from Jason Treu, a chief people officer who works with teams all around the world on leadership and management training. Now I'm sure heard the story of Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb. You know, how he tried thousands of times to get it right and failed before finally finding the right material to use for the filament.
What most people don't know is that the final product actually wasn't the first time that he and his lab team thought a light bulb work, but [00:01:00] previous successes burnt out in just a few short hours. And so it was back to work and took months of testing to get it right. If I can lean into this example just a bit further, here's what I pull from it.
Edison and his team, we operated in a culture of continuous. They weren't satisfied with just a few hours of light and despite multiple failures, they consistently drove to do more. This piece of the light bulb story illuminates, sorry, just had to what creating a culture of continuous improvement is all about.
So before we meet Jason, let's get really clear about this episode's theme of continual improvement. This term may seem self explanatory yet. What exactly are you improving? Well, in a word yourself, continual improvement is the consistent pursuit of self development in a workforce. This focus on personal development drives radical growth and innovation for the business.
[00:02:00] In step four, we talked about how setting goals can motivate and energize your teams. So what happens when you achieve that goal? Well, in a culture of continual improvement, you set a new one and this constant forward motion leads to engagement. As people dedicate their discretionary effort to improving themselves and in return.
Your business. So how do you implement this in your organization? This culture of continual improvement? Well, you might be surprised to find that it starts with you, the leader. Oh, wait. You're not surprised. Well, good. That means that you've been paying attention growth on your teams starts with growth for yourself.
And this requires an incredible amount of vulnerability.
Adam Weber: I think ultimately that stems from an outdated view of leadership, uh, where we try to project and protect like this kind of puffs out the chest and say, I have it all figured out. I have all the answers. [00:03:00] But what it actually does instead of instilling confidence in your employees. Is it actually creates distance from those you need to hear from the most, they feel shut off because of that projection that you show to them as a manager, you're often like, gosh, if, if, if my team finds out or if my boss finds out that I don't have all the answers myself, they'll realize that I'm a fraud and we all have this imposter syndrome.
That's a constant narrative that's running in the back of our mind. And there is maturity as a leader and realizing that this is everyone, that it's not just you and that you actually grow by naming your gaps to your team. And trust me, your team already knows what your gaps are, what they have, right.
I've seen is that alignment between you and them acknowledging those gaps.
Nicole MacLean: Adam makes a good point here. Your team probably already knows what your personal gaps are, but by owning them and [00:04:00] showing how you are committed to improving them, you actually create psychological safety within your team. Now you've heard me use this term before, but as a reminder, psychological safety is the sense that the people on your team can bring their whole selves to work without fear of negative consequence.
This not only increases engagement, but it gives your people permission to work on themselves. When you're open about your own development, you create common ground. Your team will likely be more open to direct feedback from you because they know that you're both aiming for improvement. One of the ways to create this direct feedback is establishing consistent and steady rhythms for it.
Jason Treu: You don't one on ones an hour are extremely critical, especially being in a remote environment. I think you have to structure them differently. You have to have one where you're giving them feedback, you know, on their career, at least once every eight weeks and what they have to do. I think you have to look at.
Skill sets and functions. You want them to [00:05:00] build out quarterly and have a plan and be meaning with them inside it. And I think you have to take a look and start to see where they need to be with their next position and positions after that. And what tracks and what opportunities
Adam Weber: can you give them
Jason Treu: before they're ready and give them
Adam Weber: work to try
Jason Treu: and they're going to fail, but you need
Adam Weber: to help
Jason Treu: them move
Nicole MacLean: forward.
Jason touches on some great insights here. And I want to hone in on two things. One, give them opportunities before they're ready and two allow them to fail while moving forward. This goes back to Thomas Edison and his team. The fact that failure is a crucial element for continuing improvement. As you build these relationships and established safety and trust with your people, and they start to see that failure is not a negative when it propels you forward.
There's another key insight here as well. We're not saying it's okay to accept that standard [00:06:00] work or lower. Our expectations of people were saying that failure isn't really failure. If it helps you improve.
Jason Treu: There are things each person's going to have to do better. You're going to want to start to stretch certain people and give them opportunities before they're ready.
If you look at the research, exposures and numbers, one way to actually get people to move faster, or,
Adam Weber: you know, you could think about it in a promotion faster,
Jason Treu: but I look at it as a performance level. Well, doing more than they're currently doing. They've got to do it. And be exposed to it in order to gain that knowledge of it and to be in the seat.
And the key thing is them being able to share experiences with each other, because that's what builds trust, someone's vulnerable and share things. And I think you can do that in several ways that will help
Adam Weber: you move it forward.
Jason Treu: Questions such as tell me about one and you learn this year, that's the most important to you and why?
If you have one person to thank for [00:07:00] becoming the person you are, who is that person and what do they did? Like what's your biggest setback in the last three years? And how did you overcome them? And I think by sharing these things, you bring people together.
Nicole MacLean: Trust creates an environment where improvement through failure and growth is possible.
It lets people know that progress is the priority, not just the results. And that's where they start to understand that you're not accepting failure. Rather you're encouraging progress. Another way Adam recommends building this trust is by putting yourself in the shoes of your people. Now, this is more than just a metaphor.
He means actually doing their job on a regular basis for at least a day or two.
Adam Weber: It's all about bridging the gap between what your employees experience every day and what you experience as a leader, especially when performance is lagging. It's so easy to get disconnected from your employees, begin to judge them and just wonder, like, why won't they just insert fill in the blank?
Like work harder, do [00:08:00] more, do the right thing. And the reality though, is as time passes, there's just a wedge that's created between the leader and the employees, and the leader becomes disconnected from the everyday experience of the employee. And so if you want them to improve, I think as a base level to get them to be receptive to your feedback, there's a question to ask, which is, do you truly understand their world?
Or are you making assumptions about their world? And one of the ways you do that is to make sure that you do their job, like get into their shoes, understand their world, ask questions, be humble, show them that you understand. And then that opens up the lines of communication. It creates a psychologically safe environment.
Nicole MacLean: There it is, again, that term cycle magical safety. It really is a huge piece of this puzzle that we're putting together on what it means to lead like a human, especially when we're talking about continual improvement. [00:09:00] If you're building a high performing team, there can't be a culture of status quo. Your teams are never static.
They're either getting better or getting worse. Which one do you want? I
Adam Weber: have this fundamental belief that to create high performance teams, the people on your team have to get better. And the way for them to get better is through continuous improvement. And it makes sense, right? Like the team as you have it now is not a static thing.
It is a living, breathing organism. And for them to accomplish all that they're capable of, they all need to be committed to improvement. And so, and that's just a fundamental belief. I have that things aren't static. Things are either getting better or they're getting worse. And the way to make sure that things are getting better is to create a team that has that mindset and candidly for a leader.
It's not just about instilling that in your own team. It's about instilling it inside of you as well. Like you also, as a leader, have to be committed to [00:10:00] improving
Nicole MacLean: that my friends is another mic drop. The way to create cultures of continual improvement is to create that same mindset in your head, by showcasing your commitment and demonstrating that to the team.
You'll be well on your way. Now, there are even more tactical insights on this topic from the book that we just couldn't fit in this episode, like breaking down how to run a successful one-on-one. But I hope that this has shown the importance of intentionally focusing on continual improvement and its impact on your team.
So to dive even deeper and get access to those specific tactics, be sure to pick up your copy of lead like a human. All right. We are heading into the final leg of our journey. Next episode, we get into our favorite topic, data, find out why you need it and what you need from it. As we tackle the unknown surrounding engagement in your organization.