Written by Jason Haines

“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.” -Napoleon Hill

Over the years I have seen many managers, not leaders, who have thought of discipline as the key to managing their workforce. Many of these people are no longer in their position or are still in the same position today because they have never learned. Using discipline as coercion is never a good thing and forcing people to do things is irrational to say the least. Many people will do what they are asked for a little while but will eventually push back and things will go back to the way they were before - fear is not discipline.

Fear is wrong to adopt into any realm of life and will always be. People who are driven by fear will do irrational things that they wouldn’t do in any other circumstance. We can look at our past in this world and see many things that people did out of fear because their leadership made them worried if they didn’t, they would suffer consequences. There are many things people will fear and do anything to avoid the consequences. Whether it is in our daily life, the country we live in, or the organization we work in we all have some sort of fear. Fear must be driven from anything in our life but discipline must be accepted into our life.

As the above discipline can come in a very bad form, but it can come in a good form, by way of self-discipline. Self-discipline is when we start to hold ourselves accountable for what we do and not others accountable. We must work on our selves before we work on anything in our lives and before we lead others. The reason we must have the self-discipline before we lead others is to know what we want, what we will sacrifice, what we will do in certain situations, and what we expect of people. People want someone who knows their worth because if you are a mealy-mouthed politician in your organization all people will know you only care about yourself. Remember people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them.

With Lean management we begin to show people how much we care by improving the jobs that they do. Respect for the people is one of the main pillars in the Lean house, and we must have the discipline to be able to stay the path to achieve near perfection. With this discipline we will also find freedom. The freedom from many things that we were doing in the past that either harmed our health, our jobs, the way people seen us, and many other things. These freedoms will also help us find that we can work on two things more than we had before, ourselves and the business.

With this newfound freedom we will have empowered others to make key decisions that will allow us to have the time to find ways to make improvements to the processes. It will allow us to work on things that are integral to the future of the business, so everyone has a feeling of security and hope. Many times, when we as leaders get busy, we seem to forget that there are others watching us and the business. These people are the people who are doing the frontline work and want to feel secure in their position and jobs because they have others to support. That is why we must have the discipline to show a strong front to all that are following us in our organization.

It takes discipline to do what is right, and not just what is right for you, but what is right for everyone. Making sure that all people, including stakeholders, will be involved is not always the easiest decision to make in any role of life. But when we make decisions that are based on a win-win for all parties involved, and not a winner and loser to get more buy-in to our company. As we go through this process we need to, as leaders, have morals and values that will represent our beliefs. We cannot be flip flop with these morals and values because they will be our guideposts of the direction that we are going to go in as an organization. As leaders we must have the discipline to follow our beliefs, but also adjust if we are wrong in any way. My way or the highway type of management does not work.

With my way or the highway management we find that many organizations are driving the ship by fear and not by what is best for the stakeholders. This type of leadership likes yes men and does not allow for any type of disagreeing parties. These yes men come from the fear of losing their jobs if they step out of line and go against what the leader wants. At the end of the day this is not an efficient way for any organization to run; as leaders we must steer away from being inflexible. Don’t be as flexible as a politician, where you say what the person wants to hear and never really do anything, but be flexible in the sense where you may see that you were wrong in some thought or opinion.

Even the great leaders in time have listened to the people around them because they know they are not always the holder of the best decision, idea, or information on many things. Many great leaders are generalists who allow those around them to handle the in-depth parts of their jobs. Such as Andrew Carnegie, of steel making fame, he knew nothing of how to make steel but could sell it to anyone and make the proper adjustments to what was needed. Carnegie allowed his subordinates to make the steel and change the process while he concentrated on working on the business. He had many capable people working for him and allowed them to do as such. At one time it is said that Carnegie had forty-three millionaires who worked for him.

Another great leader and one of my favorites, John Wooden, was a great teacher of the fundamentals of basketball and life. He had the discipline to know that you needed the basics to set the foundation for his players. This foundation taught them the discipline that they would need later in life as well as in the game they were about to play. This can be said for Lean management, the leaders are developing and starting with the fundamentals of how things are being done within an organization. Lean works on this through standard work and having a baseline to start from so the chaos of the job can be reduced or eliminated. This is where we as leaders and frontline employees start to find the discipline of working on a better organization and process.

At the end of the day we most of us want to have the same things from our jobs and provide for our loved ones. We also know we must work together to reach those goals. It is better when we have win-win situations and come to a compromise of things rather than having my way or the highway attitude. As Jocko Willink says, “Discipline equals freedom. Freedom is what everyone wants- to be able to act and live with freedom. But the only way to get to a place of freedom is through discipline.” Discipline is a key to freedom in life and in our work.

Helping grow your business through process improvement!!