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Enterprise Excellence Episode 5: Cheryl Jekiel

Updated: Oct 16, 2020


Welcome to episode 5 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. It is a great pleasure to have Cheryl Jekiel on the show. Cheryl is the founder of the Lean Leadership Centre. Cheryl has developed throughout her career an expertise in developing cultures of excellence. Cheryl is the author of “Lean Human Resources: Redesigning HR Practices for a Culture of Continuous Improvement. The second edition of this book has just been released.


The passion that Cheryl shows in wanting to realise the potential of every employee within an organisation in this episode is truly infectious. Her absolute respect for every human, and her drive in wanting to develop communication and people skills for those in supervisory or leadership positions is encouraging for us all.

Cheryl was most effected by an early experience of what she believed to be quality of life. A forklift driver became involved with a leadership role. She remembers his shoulders went back, and he said, "I didn't know I could do this". He was so proud. Cheryl was inspired by this experience and was shocked when her HR department did not think that it applied to them. She recognises that sometimes you learn about what you do not want to do as much as wanting to learn more about an inspirational experience. Cheryl went headlong on to become a Lean HR specialist.

Cheryl is passionate about how people are treated are work, and how people do not fit into the bell curve. So many people can be placed in a box: you are this, or this is where you're at in the bell curve, and this is your potential. And she believes that this label stops people from striving to develop themselves and grow and get better. Everyone person is capable of things that we (HR) do not begin to tap into.

After years of working on talent management systems, Cheryl has developed a quicker and easier way to redesign the HR systems to be able to be modified, very well organized, very comprehensive. They have to be modified so regularly to handle the shift in behaviour and culture from traditional top down systems to bottom up movement, and this needs to be a gradual shift. Cheryl believes that HR systems that can keep up with it and help drive it are necessary, instead of the type that are reactive.

Cheryl's next project is to explore what feeling lean practices produce for people. She believes that feeling is a way to access the Lean system without the need for metrics, outcomes, or a specific mindset. It would become a recognition of the feeling of the improvement, or experience of it. She believes for example, that engagement is a real feeling, and that it feels good. People should be engaged at work, and that will produce good feelings, reduced stress and a genuine happiness in work. The way to really raise this bar is for the leadership to be a tight enough community, connected enough that they raise the bar together. Culture development is a team sport.

Cheryl has no plan to retire. She never tires of the feeling that people's work and personal lives are improving. Cheryl, thank you. It's been such an honour to talk to you. I really appreciate the knowledge and insights you've shared today.


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06:31 And what I know to be true is that the big value of lean is optimizing the contribution of the teams that if you had each and every team member optimized, they could create value that you can barely imagine like it's off the chart exponentially.

09:17 So lean drives engagement and engagement drives cash. So that's the deal. So that's why that's what the topic of lean HR is about.

10:24 The bell curve completely flies in the face of what we know to be true about humans, saying you know, you're all in the middle of the bell curve does not bring out their passion and their spark and optimal contributions.

11:02 Yeah, because the truth is, every single human is capable of things that we don't begin to tap into. It's really on the issue of the way the work is structured and how we work with people to pull out all that genius. They're loaded with it by nature. They're loaded with ideas and skills and abilities that we could tap into the idea that we make them average. It's just not reality. They're not mostly average. They have different ways they could use what they're good at to contribute.

12:37 I think, focus on how you harvest and let employees drive in their own ideas. It's fundamentally the people closest to the work know the most about it. And so hence, they're the most able to identify an issue and solve it. And realize most of the leadership interference with that is just habit. It's just a bad habit.

15:57;16 So you get in the water and you make some changes. You have some experiences, and you're progressing, and you're progressing More importantly, but just remember, it could take years before it feels like you moved at all, but you are moving. You just need to let those experiences happen and culminate, and keep at it, don't give up and just be aware of every piece of these experiences adds up together.

18:52 Letting people truly find what they're able to do is just, it's just worth doing. I mean, it's just part of quality of life. I think it's really about creating greater quality of life through a better work life.

19:30 And so it's become for me an interest in understanding more what this experience feels like. We talked about it a lot, like it's a culture or a mindset, or it's a set of outcomes or its metrics, but I, I think we would do well to consider how what it's like as an experience, and by the way, we're emotional human beings, right, it feels good. And things that feel good are good for us. So, I think again, probably with my background, paying attention to understanding the feeling of improvement or the experience of it, I think would give us a better understanding where it's real value comes from.

26:33 Certainly take ownership that most employees will do quite well. If the leader leads effectively like sets expectations, make sure trainings done effectively and coaches mentors gives effective feedback and uses positive reinforcement, the most powerful of all

30:02 If you want to talk about respect for people, make sure that what you ask of a person to do in their job like supervise people, that they've been given sufficient training to do that work. That's not respect to say somehow you're in charge of 40 people and how to coach them and develop them when I've given you almost nothing to go on.


Cheryl can be contacted via these forums:

Cheryl said to subscribe, but that you don't have to stay on the mailing list. Most of the content she sends out, are not about selling things. Cheryl distributes a lot of content. She turns a great deal of her work with clients into content and distributes it. Her book has a huge landing page of all kinds of free resources.

You can also just send Cheryl an email. She is always interested in both things you want to share that you think your organizations are doing well, as well as anything she can do to hook you up to others in the field.

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