The Gift of Leading

What gifts of leading do you give each day?

Today I have several gifts of leading for you!

In the article below (originally published on LinkedIn), I share three takeaways that Isao Yoshino has shared with me about the importance of leading.

Plus I have some bonus gifts of leading (and learning) for you at the end of this post.

My First Gift of Leading (from Mr. Yoshino) For YOU!

Throughout the book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn, you will learn about the gifts of leadership Isao Yoshino was received and gave to others. My gift of leading today to you is downloadable bonus document that summarizes Mr. Yoshino’s leadership credo – outlining the 10 principles that define his approach as a leader. I hope they inspire you and your teams for what gifts of leadership you can give!

CLICK HERE to download Isao Yoshino’s leadership credo!

At the bottom of this post I have two other bonus gifts for how you can to invest in the gifts of leadership for yourself and your teams.

Article: The Gift of Leading

In this article — also published on LinkedIn — I share three takeaways about the importance of learning that I discovered through partnering with Isao Yoshino and writing the book “Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn.”

What is the best gift a leader has ever given you? More than any object, the best gift is likely something that leader did to help you improve, be successful, and grow into your best self.

Think about the leaders and managers that you’ve had. I’m sure you have had several who have left their mark in your life. Some have likely led in ways that you would never seek to emulate, while others have helped you become the person you are today. Leaders have the unfortunate power to halt a person’s momentum, but they also have the amazing power to propel people to reach their fullest potential.

In fact, have you thought that maybe you too may be seen as a gift to your team?

“‘Leader’ is more than a role or job title — it is a way of being.”

— Katie Anderson, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

Three Gifts of Leading

Through the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to have been guided by amazing people who have shown me, firsthand, what people-centered leadership is all about. And, I’ve had several leaders who have gifted me with the example of how not to lead.

Through my personal experiences, and deep conversations with Isao Yoshino, a 40-year Toyota leader, I’ve come to understand that a leader is more than a title. A true leader is one that embodies the gift of leadership and becomes one that others choose to follow.

Mr. Yoshino and I spent countless hours reflecting on his leadership trajectory, and in doing so, we walked away with several key insights into what makes a manager a leader that their team seeks to follow. While the book, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn: Lessons from Toyota Leader Isao Yoshino on a Lifetime of Continuous Learning, is full personal stories and meaningful insights on how to lead with intention, I offer you three takeaways that Mr. Yoshino has shared with me about the importance of leading.

1 – Have a Go-See Mindset

“Go to gemba” — or “go to the actual place” — isn’t as much of an action as it is a mindset. As a leader, it is easy to become bogged down with paperwork, required meetings, and strategic decision-making. Each of those aspects of your role is important, but if you don’t take time to “go to gemba” — to go to see firsthand what is happening within your organization and your team — you are missing a critical opportunity that leadership presents.

“One of the important jobs for leaders is to make sure that their people have a habit to ‘go to gemba’ to get firsthand information. It’s a golden rule to make the right decisions.”

— Isao Yoshino, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

As a leader, you get the opportunity to set the stage for ongoing learning. If you make it a daily routine to get out from behind your desk (or your computer in today’s current environment) and hear from your team, understand their challenges, learn about their work directly, and personally gather insights for yourself on what is happening within the organization, you set the stage for truly understanding how you can best support the team you have been gifted to lead.

Mr. Yoshino shared that while “going to gemba” can be beneficial on many levels, the true purpose is to demonstrate that you care about your people, which is at the heart of what people-centered leadership is all about. And in today’s current climate, while “going to see” may take a different form, I can guarantee you that your team will benefit from this deep level of caring.

2 – Embrace Mistakes as a Source of Learning

Let’s be honest, we are all bound to make mistakes. None of us is immune to making an inadvertent error, choosing the wrong path, or falling short on realizing a goal. Most of us come to work with the intention of doing a good job, however, over the course of your career (and sometimes even a day), you a destined to find yourself — and your team members — making mistakes. The question isn’t if they will happen; it’s what you will do when they arise.

“Managers need to create a culture where people are not afraid of making mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. We can learn many things from the mistakes we make.”

— Isao Yoshino, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

Isao Yoshino’s 40-year tenure at Toyota Motor Corporation was bookended by two mistakes — one as a new college graduate and the other as a senior executive towards the end of his career overseeing a multimillion-dollar venture. In both cases, Toyota’s senior leaders had a similar reaction to mistakes and failure: they didn’t blame and they took responsibility for their role in creating the conditions for success. And in both cases, the mistakes were seen as a source of learning and improvement for the future.

In his first major mistake at Toyota – made when he was a new hire just out of university – young Mr. Yoshino was responsible for preparing paint to be sprayed on newly assembled car bodies as they came down the moving line. The task to mix the paint and the solvent was monotonous — and in his words, “pretty boring” — but the day when an error he made meant the paint didn’t stick to over 100 cars was anything but boring! However, to his surprise, his manager used it as a teaching opportunity and, instead of blaming Mr. Yoshino, he thanked him for highlighting the need to better label the work environment. (If you’d like to read this story in detail, another gift to you is a downloadable sample chapter from the book about the paint mistake).

At the end of his career, when a more significant “mistake” — or rather a series of mistakes — resulted in a failed business venture, the President of Toyota thanked Mr. Yoshino for his efforts and acknowledged that the company too played a role in the failed business outcome. In both cases the mistakes and resulting business failure were a seen sources of learning and improvement for both the individuals and the organization.

As a leader, you set the tone of your team’s culture. When mistakes happen, how do you handle them? Do you use them as an opportunity to blame others, or do you find them as moments of opportunity for deeper learning, leaving the blaming behind?

3 – Support others

There is a saying at Toyota: “monozukuri wa hitozukuri,” which means “we make things through making people.” This fundamental leadership principle at Toyota means that supporting others to learn and grow — helping people learn how to think more deeply to solve problems and achieve their goals — is a vital effort in service of making a good product. This principle of people-centered leadership is illustrated by the mindset, behaviors, and experiences that underly Mr. Yoshino’s experiences over 40-years at Toyota.

“My role as a leader was to help others develop themselves.”

— Isao Yoshino

Mr. Yoshino said it best when he acknowledged that his role as a leader was to invest in his people so that they could reach their fullest potential and achieve the business outcomes that were needed.

I am a firm believer that 1 + 1 = way more than 2. In fact, this became a saying between Mr. Yoshino and me when we were creating the book, and it has become my motto with my coaching partner Karyn Ross in our “K2C2” (Katie and Karyn’s Coaching Community) cohorts. When people come together, their shared ideas create a new level of innovation that just isn’t possible elsewhere.

High-functioning and collaborative teams help organizations reach their goals and create value for customers. As a leader, if you focus on your people — really focus on helping them develop the skills and competence to learn, collaborate, and lead their own teams — then your organization will likely find a level success your people didn’t know was possible.

Give the Gifts of Leading

This holiday season reflect on the gifts of leadership that you can give your team daily. These gifts could include focused purpose and a sense of direction. You could gift them with self-confidence and support when mistakes occur. They would value the gift of trust and guidance, I’m sure. The gift of loyalty goes a long way, and pair that with the gift of patience and your team will be forever grateful. The ongoing gift of learning, especially learning through failure, is the gift that will always keep giving. The gift of open and clear communication brings a team together, and the gift of opportunity allows them to try new things. Finally, the gift of caring is at the heart of people-centered leadership and is truly invaluable.

And don’t forget to gift yourself with the gift of personal development and the gift of learning as well. When you invest in yourself, you are also investing in your team, for as you hone your leadership skills, you are gifting your team with the best leader they can possibly have.

Give Yourself the Gift of Learning to Give Your Team the Gift of Leading

Give the gift of leadership and learning to yourself and your team!

I invite you to give the gift of learning and leadership to yourself or your teams.

Announcing two courses in the early new year:

1 – Introduction to Hoshin Kanri: Getting Started with Personal Hoshin

Are you curious what hoshin kanri (strategy deployment) is all about? Are you a lean practitioner who wants to learn about how Toyota practices hoshin kanri? Are you interested in learning how you can apply strategic planning to yourself?

Kick-the new year off 2-hour live mini-workshop led co-led by me and Isao Yoshino on January 13th (Mr. Yoshino’s birthday!). You’ll learn about the fundamentals of hoshin kanri (strategy deployment) and get started on your own personal strategic plan. Use this link to get more information and to register.

2 – Leading to Learn Accelerator (60-day leadership learning program)

Accelerate your personal growth as a leader and learner and become the people-centered leader your team needs!

This interactive 60-day course will include a blend of self-study and personal reflection, interactive group coaching calls, access to both me and Isao Yoshino, and engagement within a network of like-minded leaders also on the path of learning to lead with deeper intention.

Learn more and register here to take advantage of another gift: $100 discount if you register for the Leading to Lean Masterclass by December 31st, 2020! 

Whether you have already read Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn and are seeking to deepen your reflection and practice, or you have not yet had a chance to dive into the pages, this course is for you if you are committed to your personal development and that of those around you.

Take your learning off the pages of the book and into your everyday practice to become a better leader or coach. Course runs Feb-March 2021.

Learn more and register here to take advantage of the $100 discount by December 31st, 2020! 

Plus all Accelerator participants get to join the Hoshin workshop on January 13 for just $97 upon registration.

Give the Gift of Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn!

Isao Yoshino’s stories of learning and leading are a gift to us all!

I have learned so much from Mr. Yoshino starting back in 2014 when I first met him at a conference and then our first meeting in Japan, to the culmination of years of purposeful interviews and collaboration in the book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn.

Give the gift of learning to yourself, to your team, and to your friends this holiday season! You can buy you copies on Amazon or your favorite online retailer.

And don’t forget my gift of learning to you is a sample of the book that includes Mr. Yoshino’s Letter to the Reader and the story of his first mistake at Toyota!

CLICK HERE to download the book sample!

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