Tag Archives: Leadership Skills


“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”  – Thomas Edison

There are many skills a quality leader should have — good communication skills being one of the most important — but perhaps the second most important skill that can help elevate the workplace is time management.

Why Time Management is Such an Important Skill for Leaders in Business

Time management is about learning how to use time wisely and manage your employees effectively. When you push too fast too hard to get things done, it leads to burnout, which is the antithesis of productivity. Once you or anyone on your team starts experiencing burnout, it can be challenging to turn things back in a more positive direction.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people in the workplace to end up pushing themselves harder when they start experiencing burnout for fear that they aren’t doing a good enough job. This, however, can make things worse and lead to long-term burnout, which can result in severe mental and physical fatigue, a loss of motivation, a weakened immune system, and frequent mood swings.

This is why time management is so crucial a skill to have as a leader — because it helps protect mental bandwidth, which is another word for your executive functioning and cognitive capacity or the ability to exert mental effort. When you’re burnt out because your time is not well managed, it can have a significant impact on your mental bandwidth.

When a leader has mastered time management, however, they lead their team to make smarter decisions, which fosters efficiency and productivity. When your cognitive functioning is working at full capacity, it enables you to better plan out your day so that the right tasks get done at the right time. This is effective time management — not working faster, but working smarter by making smarter decisions.

Tips on How to Master the Art of Time Management

There’s no single right way to develop solid time management skills. It’s a combination of efforts and mindful behaviors that can teach you how to better manage your time and your team.

Set Personal and Professional Goals

Your personal and professional goals can impact your time management ability. For example, if you aren’t enjoying personal time, not getting enough sleep, or not making time for activities or hobbies you love, this can impact how you feel at work.

Part of learning to better manage your time and mental bandwidth is setting both personal and professional goals for growth, such as learning a new software or tool, getting better sleep, and learning to set better boundaries so you have more time for personal activities.

Automate Processes When Possible

One great way to find more time in your day is to go through all the repetitive and redundant tasks you or your team perform every day and see if those tasks can be automated. It might seem like a minor adjustment, but over time, when you don’t have to worry about doing small things, you reserve more of your mental capacity for bigger things that matter.

Delegate Wisely

Learning to delegate tasks to the right people is a key time management skill. If you don’t have enough people to delegate to, it’s potentially a sign that you need to grow your team and hire more people. Additionally, if any staff members are interested in growing into a management position, start delegating certain leadership tasks to them a little at a time to mentor them and help them grow.

Make a To-Do List of Top Priorities Every Morning

Even if you think you remember everything that needs to get done, get in the habit of sitting down each morning and writing everything down. Doing so can be a huge mental relief and help you create a better plan for your day or week. Highlight the top priorities so you know which things need to get done first to avoid wasting time on less important tasks.

Avoid Over-Commitment

Deadlines are important, but be mindful that you are setting and agreeing to realistic deadlines. Pleasing your customers is essential, but not if it means over-committing and burning out yourself and your team. The quality of the work you and your team do will be much better if you allow for the appropriate amount of time to get things done.

Allow for Flexibility

Your list of top priorities should act more as a guide for your day rather than a hard rule set in stone. You will undoubtedly have days where timelines shift and new things pop up that take precedence, and your ability to be flexible can make your day much easier when this happens. It is not the end of the world if something changes and throws a wrench in your plans. Simply go back to your list and move things around.

Allowing for flexibility also means allowing for breaks and space to decompress. This is critical for you and your employees if you want to manage stress in a high-volume work environment. Your days and weeks must allow time for self-care, both at work and at home. If you can tell your team is being pushed too hard, make them take a break. Go outside for a little walk, do some stretching, refuel with a snack — something to just allow the mind to get a little reprieve to avoid mental bandwidth being over-expanded.

Effective Time Management

To remind yourself and your team every day how to be most efficient with time, consider making a list of the “golden” rules of time management and keeping it posted where you can be reminded each day. This might seem silly at first, but writing things down and keeping them where you can easily see them is one of the best ways to remember something often enough that it becomes a habit. At the end of the day, healthier and smarter work habits and behaviors are key to effective time management.

*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.

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Asking the question, “What’s your why?” has become fashionable to the point of cliché. The intent is to explore purpose and personal meaning. In the workplace, companies are structured like ladders with each organizational layer asking (and ideally solving), “How, When, Who, What and Why” questions. Companies with work execution problems must resolve their “How–Why” gap to achieve organizational alignment.

Breaking Down The How-Why Gap

So what is the How–Why gap? Employees who ask a lot of “how?” questions are most likely working at the ground level – where the work gets done; making journal entries, receiving and shipping goods, or producing widgets. Employees who ask “when?” and “who?” questions, are likely planners / schedulers, front-line supervisors or entry level managers. People who ask “what?” questions are people who prioritize work – Senior Managers and Directors. At the pinnacle of the organization, members of the C-suite often find themselves asking a lot of “why?” questions to set strategic priorities and the purposes of the organization.

“The frontline often does not understand why, and the Executives often don’t understand how.”

When front-line employees venture to ask why questions amongst themselves in the breakroom, they often lack insight into the forces that drive the why strategies. By the same token, it is rare for Executives to understand how the work gets done. Simply put, the frontline often does not understand why, and the Executives often don’t understand how. The greater the misalignment between the why actions taken by the C-Suite and the how execution on the shop floor, the stronger the cultural cognitive dissonance throughout the organization. I call this the “How-Why” gap. Scott Adams, the creator of the workplace cartoon “Dilbert” became famous by satirizing the “How–Why” gap between Dilbert and the Pointy-Haired Boss.

Aligning the How, the Why and everything in between

Reconciling the “How–Why” gap is where USC Consulting Group shines. Many consultants offer Executives ideas on emerging strategies, but few consulting companies get to the how of a company’s point of work execution problems. USC does this by working hand in hand with shop floors, ground level staff and front-line supervisors. We trace activities from their origin through to their completion and identify improvement opportunities along the process journey.

But USC doesn’t stop at understanding how the work gets done, we move up the work ladder to address misalignments with the Who and When, the What and the Why challenges facing the organization. Once insight is gained into the current state, we dive deeply into planning and scheduling inefficiencies where who and when questions are resolved. As one of our senior partners is keen to remind us, USC stands for the “Universal Scheduling Company.” Not only is master scheduling and resource capacity planning our heritage, but it is literally part of our name.

Getting answers to what questions can be among the most challenging because these questions demand prioritization. Managers and Directors who are embroiled in answering what questions are often battling for limited resources (budget and headcount), trying to keep their personal initiatives high on the priority list. This rung of the ladder is where most corporate politics are fought out.

USC Consulting Group’s expertise is developing continuous process improvement action plans that narrow How–Why misalignments. As the improvements we recommend take hold, the cumulative brainpower of the human capital in your organization is unleashed improving cycle times, availability, throughput, cost, quality, reliability, or any KPI that measures the effectiveness of your company’s why. Front line employees can answer “how do we execute our why?”  Managers can answer “who will execute our why and when will we do it? Directors can answer, “what initiatives need to be prioritized to execute our why?” and Executives can effectively map the strategic course to answer, “what is our organizational why?”

This detailed infographic illustrates the importance of each role and how to achieve optimal organizational alignment:

The How-Why Gap Infographic

If your company needs help with organizational alignment and closing your How-Why gap, please contact us today.

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Leo Tolstoy once said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

How true that is. Sure, he was talking about the Russian Revolution, but the words of the author of War and Peace, considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, are just as applicable in today’s manufacturing workplaces as they were back then. It’s especially true when manufacturers are going through the process of implementing Lean Six Sigma.

When you’re talking about a culture change as big as Lean Six Sigma (LSS), it can feel a bit like your company is going through a revolution. And as Tolstoy so astutely pointed out, changing the “world” — your workplace culture, processes and procedures — is all well and good, but changing oneself and one’s role in it? Is that really necessary? As hard as it is for many managers and top leadership to hear, the answer to that question is “yes.”

It’s hard to hear and even harder to accept because, inherent in the concept of change is the notion that you were doing something wrong. People who have been on the job awhile, from the workers on the front lines to the people in the corner office, are resistant and, dare we say, defensive about that notion. But it’s not about companies doing something wrong. It’s about finding opportunities for greater efficiency, throughput and, frankly, profit.

At USC Consulting Group, we help companies implement LSS. Our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Dr. Frank Esposto, leads many of these implementations. But as Frank tells companies, LSS isn’t just about a new set of tools and operating procedures. It’s about culture change, too. And managers and top brass embracing that change is crucial to LSS success.

Lean Six Sigma 101

Here’s a quick rundown of Lean Six Sigma.

The whole concept of Lean started with either Henry Ford or Toyota, depending on who you ask. The idea was identifying and eliminating waste in manufacturing operations. Toyota called them the “seven deadly wastes” and that term stuck. At USC, we added an eighth. They include:

The goal is to create greater efficiency on the line.

Six Sigma is a set of techniques aimed at reducing (in a perfect world, eliminating) the probability that an error or defect will occur in the process.

Together, as Lean Six Sigma, the two methodologies pack a punch of efficiency and perfection. LSS enables companies to produce better product faster, increasing throughput and quality.

Learn more about LSS in our eBook – Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?

Why culture change is so important to LSS success

There’s a perception out there that Lean Six Sigma is simply a series of process improvements designed to eliminate waste and increase quality. It is that, for sure. But it also requires the aforementioned culture change. A change in attitudes and behaviors. Everyone, from frontline employees to the corner office, needs to be on board or this change won’t stick. You’ll slide back into your old ways.

It’s vital for the workers performing new processes to embrace those changes. But it’s just as vital for managers and supervisors and the top brass to change, too. Remember, you can’t change the world without changing yourself first.

What managers can do to embrace change

In order for the LSS changes to be sustainable, managers and executives need to demonstrate to employees that they’re on board. And that doesn’t mean sending out a memo of encouragement. It means changing daily work habits, just like employees are expected to do. A few ways to do that:

Walk the floor. This is arguably the most important piece of this puzzle for management. Get out of the office and onto the shop floor. Get into the trenches with your frontline employees. Show them you’re all in.

Ask senior employees for advice and input. You know who we’re talking about. The men and women who have been on your frontlines forever. Shift supervisors. Trusted workers. The people actually doing the job day after day. When you’re in the process of implementing LSS, their input is vital. Not only to the success of the project, but to their buy-in as well.

Roll up your sleeves. If it’s crunch time and you’re shorthanded, take off that suit coat, roll up your sleeves and help out any way you can.

Over the years, we’ve seen how companies that embrace change will succeed in becoming more efficient and profitable. Those that don’t may simply slide back into their old ways.

For leadership teams leading the charge for culture change, we lean on advice from Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Lean Six Sigma - Do You Really Know These Methodologies eBook

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To help companies reach their highest potential, executives need to understand the challenges that come with owning and operating a business. Whether it’s finding creative solutions for operations management, developing products that can survive a competitive marketplace, or building a team of directors and officers, it’s no surprise that in today’s competitive landscape, executives must always look for ways to improve their company (both internally and externally) if they want to take things to the next level.

That being said, there is more than one roll-up-your-sleeves type of leader who seems to have gotten it right. Of course, their success didn’t come without hardships, obstacles, or lessons learned but it can appear that way on the surface. Not all successful leaders have to be entrepreneurs but there is creative problem solving that goes along with the territory of risking it all for a venture yet to be navigated.

Allow this cohort of self-made billionaire startup founders to inspire you by noting their successes and hiccups. Based on their years of experience in the startup world, Embroker has gathered 13 lessons from these iconic startup leaders to point you in the right direction whether you are seeking a new marketing strategy, launching a new product, or recruiting new team members. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the lessons of the most successful entrepreneurs to overcome executive challenges.


13 lessons learned from the experiences of self-made billionaires to overcome executive challenges infographic


Learning from experience is pivotal to success when facing executive challenges. If you need guidance in operations management, contact USC Consulting Group today and put our 50 plus years of experience to work for you.

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Some amount of ego can be beneficial to your organization. It can portray a sense of confidence and gravitas. However, too much ego can be toxic. As you climb the ranks of your company, you could fall victim to Hubris Syndrome, a phenomenon in which your ego grows as people listen to you and try to please you more often.

Here’s why that’s bad. An overinflated ego warps your ability to make business decisions. You might distort facts, looking for ones that mesh with what you want to believe. You become a target as others seek to exploit your cravings for attention and affirmation. You could become difficult to work with, micromanaging and criticizing others.

Luckily, there are a number of different ways to deflate a rapidly growing ego. Perhaps most importantly, you should hire people who disagree with you and who aren’t afraid to voice those disagreements. As a leader, it’s also helpful to practice gratitude often.

Check out the infographic below to determine if your ego has become too big for your business and how you can deflate it.

Business Ego assessment infographic

Guest Author: Meredith Wood

Bio: Meredith Wood is a vice president at Fundera. She is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and frequently contributes to SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, and StartupNation.

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Professionals who ascend to the heights of their respective industries often develop healthy egos on their way up. An inflated sense of self-confidence can be an asset in certain situations, like when company leaders are looking to inspire staff – an important executive capability that 70 percent of professional development experts believe is critical to C-suite success, according to researchers from Harvard Business School.

But corporate egoism can also cause problems. In fact, many executives who suffer serious career failures can link these collapses to unhealthy pursuits of power or status, Entrepreneur reported.

Collaborating with consultants is perhaps when most business leaders flex their well-developed egos to the detriment of the organization. Even while they suffer from operational deficiencies, business leaders often balk at the idea of taking advice from external parties, including those with decades of experience and demonstrable successes. This prideful approach can start leaders down the path toward greater dysfunction and even organizational failure. To cultivate strong relationships with third-party consultants, executives must check their egos at the door. How? Here are some tried-and-true techniques:

1. Know the signs of egoism

Having the ability to identify the point at which confidence unravels into arrogance is key to tamping down egotistic tendencies. Leaders who effectively work with outside experts know the signs of unbridled egoism, including constant complaining and an overwhelming urge to intervene in projects just to take credit, according to The Business Journal. If these inclinations sound familiar, it’s time for leaders to take a step back, evaluate and correct their behavior before things get out of hand.

Oil & Gas Company Gets Lean To Fuel Significant Savings {Case Study}

2. Model the ideal collaborator

Few professionals enjoy working with narcissists. Many executives today probably remember a time when they worked for or with an egomaniac, but have since lost sight of the damaging power of egoism as they climb up the corporate ladder. Some even take on the qualities of the executive despots they once detested.

Business leaders who find themselves in such positions can reverse the damage by going back to basics and modeling positive collaborative behavior, Inc. contributor and Voray CEO David Olk found. Olk himself learned that by avoiding defensive, self-centered action and focusing on relationship building, he could accomplish more as a leader. These and other similar strategies ultimately make for fruitful collaborations with third-party consultants.

3. Take a step back and support

Consultants enter partnerships with one primary objective: helping the business address its operational pain points. They do not function in the service of executives. But leaders sometimes act as though this is the case, attempting to lord over external contributors by questioning decisions with which they do not agree, which can hurt the organization when it’s at its most vulnerable. The advice of experts goes unbidden, and without buy-in from top brass, their efforts for operational improvements never materialize.

Business leaders looking to improve their organizations with help from consultants must revert to a supporting role and focus solely on the company for optimal results. How? Maintaining an open mind and asking questions are two good places to start. Additionally, leaders who accept that they have blind spots are usually more open to ego-less collaboration and therefore more likely to facilitate consulting success.

Executives who are considering bringing in outside operational experts would be wise to embrace these techniques and strive for improvement, ego-free. Here at USC Consulting Group, we’ve spent the past 50 years helping companies achieve sustainable growth through the implementation of strategies centered around supply chain, operational excellence, and more. Connect with us today to learn more about our experience and how we can help your business find firmer footing in the marketplace.

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