Constant Improvement in the Workplace

A few years ago I was experiencing daily tension in my throat. It wasn't like a sore throat..not on the inside. It was more like I had on a turtleneck that was too tight but instead of being something I was wearing against my skin, the tightness was caused by my body itself.

When my health takes a hit, I focus on healing by playing closer attention to the big 4: nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress.

After 6 months of trying to heal myself, I decided it was time to see a Naturopath. The diagnosis from the Naturopath included a strained thyroid from endurance training and over-production of cortisol, and unbalanced hormone levels due to the beginning stages of peri-menopause.

The Naturopath made 3 recommendations for treatment:

1. The addition of 3 supplements to balance my hormones.

2. The addition of 3 specific foods to increase vitamins and minerals for hormone balance and thyroid recovery.

3. Reducing exercise intensity and duration to decrease cortisol production and give my thyroid a rest.

What does any of this have to do with constant improvement in the workplace?

Companies strive for constant improvement; always looking for ways of doing things better, faster, cheaper. In pursuit of this constant improvement, managers often engage on their own, or with their employees, in an analysis of processes. In their analysis, long lists of action items are often created.

The traditional approach to these long lists is for the manager to begin to assign out, to members of the team, action items to work on to improve the process. And soon enough, the whole team is working toward making things better, faster, cheaper. Several processes change at the same time. Most often leading to more problems than solutions.

Why is this?

Just like my Naturopaths' suggestion to change 3 things at 1 time, companies that change more than one part of their processes at a time, have no idea what change made the needed impact to the desired outcome.

Being a student of science and a particular fan of chemistry, when my Naturopath recommended 3 changes, I told her I would begin by implementing only 1 to see if that variable made any difference toward the desired outcome. I asked her which of the 3 recommendations she felt was NEEDED the most. That's where I started.

Turns out, that 1 change was the trigger boost my body needed to reach a better way of operating, and the tension in my neck, the in-balance of my hormones, and the strain on my thyroid, all went away. The other 2 recommendations weren't NEEDED.

Emotional intelligence consists of 15 skills; the one most important to being able to choose one thing from a list of 50, is IMPULSE CONTROL.

Impulse control is the ability to resist or delay an impulse, drive, or temptation to act. It involves avoiding rash behaviours and decision making.

The 3 skills that balance with impulse control are:

1. Flexibility

2. Stress tolerance

3. Assertiveness

When you are to be able to resist or delay the impulse to act and avoid rash behaviours or decisions, you are also able to:

- change your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions when circumstances are changing (flexibility); - cope with difficult situations believing you can manage or influence the outcome in a positive way (stress tolerance);


- communicate your feelings, beliefs, and thoughts openly, by defending your personal rights and values in a socially acceptable, non-offensive way (assertiveness).

If we put the skills of emotional intelligence into play for constant improvement, we quickly see that these abilities are not just critical to the individual, they are key to teams thriving and striving and constantly making the right choice in what needs to change, when, how, why, where, and by whom. The skill of impulse control avoids the all too typical "chicken with it's head cut off" syndrome of improper analysis and chaotic scattering of dart throwing, hoping something hits the target.

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