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Continuous Improvement: Being Human, Being Vulnerable

So, what draws me to continuous improvement? No question, I mess up every so often and hope to be able to improve. I grew up on the old saying, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” But, does continuous improvement have to be this robotic? No, of course not.

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Continuous improvement approaches can be more positive; allowing us to be human, to be vulnerable.

“We need to normalize feeling vulnerable and having the courage to be our authentic selves.” Karen Ross, Author, Lean Coach and Co-Chair of Women in Lean

I admit it, I ran into some controversy. I was devastated and more than ready to put away my pen. Negativity seeped into my thoughts and my conversations. I began to wonder if I was good enough, if I didn’t have the right knowledge or experience, or if my judgement was at fault. It was a bad week. But, not entirely. I met and talked to some inspiring people who live the values that support continuous improvement. But, most of all, I cherished those who were willing to make me see that I was valued and that I needed to continue in my journey toward a better understanding of continuous improvement.

Everyone and every culture have their own values and ways of demonstrating these values. But, are there some basic human values that support continuous improvement?

Based on my experiences this past week with my colleagues, I have put together the following list for myself.

Kindness: I need to be kind when I approach people about continuous improvement. There are ways of nudging people to be better without calling them out directly. I need to better appreciate other people and what they bring to the table. I need to let them know that they are special and have done some really good things. I can also believe that people are kind and willing to help out. But, most of all I need to accept kindness and be kind to myself. I don’t have to be perfect all of the time. I can let go and let others help me out.

Empathy: I should put myself in other people’s shoes. I need to think about what they may be thinking and feeling about what I am doing or asking them to do. I need to see change as they do and recognize how the process may be affecting them. I need to think about how I can identify the causes of their fears and work to address them. I need to recognize also that it isn’t always about me.

Sharing: I can share my thoughts, my knowledge and expertise without reservation. I can also bring people together and encourage them to share. I need to remember that the sum of the individual parts is greater than the whole. We are stronger together must be my mantra. I don’t have to go it alone.

Patience: I need to recognize and accept that not everyone is at the same level or can make the same progress. I need to give then the space they need to go at their own pace and to make their own discoveries. I can be patient with myself and encourage others to be patient with themselves and each other as we move forward on our improvement journey.

Integrity: I must try to match my words and actions. People are quick to spot a phoney.  There is nothing worse than Do What I Say, Not What I Do. I should walk the walk and talk the talk; serve as a model for others as often as I can and inspire them. At the same time, I need to be proud of who I am and where I came from, be my authentic self.

Resilience: I need to remind myself to just do it, try it and keep going in my efforts to improve. Who knows, I might just get there and bring other people with me.

Well, now that I have poured my soul out. What do you think about your own values? Do they match my list? How do you interpret the values that support continuous improvement? Would you approach your to do list in the same way?

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