The Lean Leadership Training Series: A Practical Guide to Principles



Lesson 1: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means For Me

Lean Leadership Principle

Respect for all Team Members – Recognize that the team members who are directly connected with the work are the experts. Ask for and respect their opinion for improvement ideas.

Why is this important to me as a leader?

Lean teaches us that one of the eight wastes comes from not engaging our employees. Waste is created when we fail to engage our team members, fail to share best practices, and fail to work collaboratively.

It is essential to have our team members’ buy-in and sincere effort to keep pace with the growth and success that our organization strives to maintain.  We can’t afford to let them leave each day in a Rodney Dangerfield state-of-mind, “I don’t get no respect!” If team members do not stay motivated and involved, we lose the power of collaboration, thought leadership and organizational development.  The best way to encourage the positive environment that we want for our team members is to show an authentic respect for them as contributors to the company.  This starts with the basic assumption that our team members care about their work and are the process experts at what they do.

How do I respect my team members and keep them engaged?

In the People book, respect is defined as "having a high regard for someone or something."  Furthermore, it points out several key ways to demonstrate this respect within the construct of an organization:

  • Foster a safe working environment
  • Transfer knowledge to develop your people
  • Ask how you can help
  • Build trust
  • Let the process experts (the team members) solve their own problems
  • Encourage open communication
  • Give people the time, tools and resources they need for improving their processes
  • Motive and challenge the status quo

In practice, our  values should work in concert to foster the above environment with our team. 

Practical Application

Standard work ownership is a great way to demonstrate respect for your team members by acknowledging their subject matter expertise.  To do this explicitly, you should clearly transfer ownership of standard work to new team members when they take over a task and challenge them to make the process better.  In this manner, you are acknowledging their abilities and giving them the reins on continuous improvement.

Furthermore, when it comes time to establish new standard work and new processes, delegate this task to a team member that is closely related to that work segment.  Essentially, give them the power to take the first pass at launching it.  This allows the leader to delegate (awesome, right?) and play more of the role of a coach than of a participant. 

The autonomous responsibility of the team member shows them that you trust them.  And trust and respect go hand in hand.

Ideas for Action

Give these things a try:

  • Take a look at standardization/SOP compliance on your team and challenge your process owners to transfer their knowledge by creating/auditing documentation.
  • Take inventory of outstanding projects and tasks that haven’t yet been completed and encourage team members to own some of these. (Don’t be a project hoarder! It’s not healthy!  Really, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this.  This is an intervention.)
  • Have regular PDCAs with your team members with two-way feedback to check the temperature of the water. Ask them some questions about how they think the work is going. Use them as a knowledge resource for processes that you aren’t as close to.  (Egos be gone!)
  • See if any cross-functional project teams are being formed to tackle big projects, and work to get your team members involved.

Next week, we'll discuss the principle of Customer Orientation.


Looking for a formal Lean Leadership training course? Register for the next session of our Certified Lean Training for Leaders - Collaborative Learning Program.

This interactive and unique e-learning experience combines online modules and weekly coaching sessions with our Lean Deployment Executives. 

Lean Leadership with Coaching

Posted by LeanCor Training and Education

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LeanCor Training and Education delivers proven methodologies for individuals and groups to conveniently advance themselves and their organizations. With public and private offerings for the associate to executive levels, our curriculum and stories are rooted in our team’s collective operational and corporate experience. Training can be delivered in online, virtual, or classroom settings.

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