How Do Leaders Create Continuous Improvement?

improvement_line drawing on chalkboard

I asked my readership, “How do leaders create continuous improvement?” It turns out there are many ways to interpret the meaning of continuous improvement. Read on to learn how Rich Teed, President of LBi Software, works to personally better himself, as well as foster a culture of improvement at his company.

The Pathways to Getting Better

Getting better is about learning and it’s evident that Teed takes this to heart. He says, learning “can be accomplished via various channels – reading books, articles and blogs, subscribing to podcasts, attending conferences, listening to people.” Which leads to Teed’s next point: the importance of listening to others.

[Related: free leadership development resources]

Leaders Create Continuous Improvement by Listening

Teed highlighted the vital role that listening plays in continuous improvement. “The key word is listening’. Listening to employees, customers, mentors, and industry experts,” he noted. Clearly Teed has learned the importance of listening more than talking. One of the best ways a leader can create a culture of improvement is to learn when to stay silent.

Developing Employees is the Linchpin to Innovation

In addition to listening and professional development, Teed also emphasizes how to make sure the organization is continuously innovating. He highlights these three tips:

  • Pick the right employees, coach them, empower them, reward them, and make sure they stay on the right track.
  • A good leader does not take credit for successes but instead gives the credit to employee(s).
  • You need to guide and teach them but do not smother or micro-manage – it is very easy to squelch people’s ideas, it is much harder to encourage ideas. Our company founder (my mentor) gave me a poster a long time ago and still hangs in our offices – “An idea is a fragile thing. Turning it off is much easier than keeping it lit.” Tom Peters, A Passion for Excellence 

Successful Companies Embrace and Take the Lead in Change

Finally, it boils down to mindset. “A successful company not only adapts to change it embraces it and takes the lead in change,” says Teed. “So, you need to create an environment that encourages innovation. Encourage employees to try new tools, processes, and come up with new ideas.”

Leaders create continuous improvement in many ways—through their own professional development (which models the behavior for their team members) as well as listening, and building out the skill set in others. Most importantly, leaders who view innovation and improvement as a core mindset will be well-equipped to lead change, which sets their team and their organization up for success.

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