It’s the Little Things

Team dysfuncWelcome Signtion is rampant and it creates a boatload of work for everyone. Doing little things consistently to assure your staff they are valued (assuming they are!) and to demonstrate the culture you desire can go a long way towards changing the dynamic and tone of your team.

Consider this sign that welcomed a new staffer, Marisol, on her first day. She was thrilled, it reinforced her decision to come on board, and staffers knew to seek her out to introduce themselves. And it cost what, $20?

Assign someone on your team to routinize activities for things like welcoming new staffers, celebrating and communicating promotions and departures, and creating holiday celebrations. Make sure there is backup if that person leaves. Regardless of how crazy work gets, try to make at least a cameo appearance at team events to show your buy-in.

Let’s not make work harder than it has to be.

Seemingly Stupid Decisions

Defending seemingly stupid decisions is one of the thankless tasks of management. It’s a tough position to be in–understanding the reasons behind decisions but being unable to share them. Especially when faced with naïve staffers who assume that communicating decisions is a simple case of “telling the truth.” You can’t share so your character gets called into question.

Many decisions seem stupid because they are bereft of context—sometimes for legal reasons, other times for strategic ones—making decisions seem not only stupid but capricious. Add in a general mistrust of management and it’s easy to see how staffers can become judgmental. Not that it makes it any easier when you’re on the receiving end—especially when you have the best of intentions. These types of misunderstandings happen every day and contribute to corporate suffering.

How can we bridge this gap? Read more ›

Holding Leaders Accountable

Will your company stay competitive in 2014 and beyond? After all, increasing profit margins through efficiency-based techniques–process improvements like Six Sigma, downsizing, and other structural changes—have been done to death. Often at great cost…both literally and figuratively.

Today’s workplace means dealing with uncertainty, urgency, and high stakes situations on a regular basis. No amount of process can solve those problems. It’s time to focus on effectiveness. More specifically leadership accountability for creating and sustaining a great culture.

Over 30 years of research has shown that high trust company cultures provide tangible business benefits. According to the Great Place to Work Institute, companies on the “100 Best Places to Work” lists provide:

• 2X the stock market returns
• 65% less turnover
• 2X better performance

versus the general market. The research is clear. Read more ›

MLK’s Impact on Our Corporate World

Few question the impact Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership had on drawing attention to the American civil rights movement. Segregation and discrimination were a way of life for many until enough people challenged the status quo. So it is with corporate suffering. You might take issue with the fact that I’m equating the two. I would argue that the impact of corporate suffering extends far beyond the workplace much like discriminatory policies and behaviors. Read more ›

Hire Autistics

Now that’s a directive you rarely hear. Yet companies—software giant SAP for one–are recruiting people with autism in order to take advantage of their particular skills. What’s the learning for the rest of us?

Everyone has something to offer.

According to Robert D. Austin and Thorkil Sonne’s blogpost on today’s HBR Blog Network “The Case for Hiring ‘Outlier’ Employees,” SAP understands that “people with autism have an exceptional ability to focus on the repetitive, detailed work of software testing.” It’s not charity; it’s a sound business decision. Read more ›

Good Intentions, Bad Outcome

A long holiday break allows us to regain our perspective. Looking back at all the “crises” and issues that drove me crazy last year has been enlightening. I’ve found that in many cases I created my own misery by not clarifying expectations, not communicating effectively, and letting deadlines slide because “everyone is so busy.” Not only did I do the wrong thing for myself, I did the wrong thing for the business. That’s what is so insidious about corporate suffering—you think you’re doing the right thing but all your good intentions end up exacerbating the situation. Read more ›

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly Book Cover Daring Greatly
Brené Brown
Gotham Books

Review: This is a thought-provoking discussion on intentional vulnerability. You may know Brené Brown from her incredibly popular TED Talks (if not, go watch!)

Her most recent book takes her topic—vulnerability—and provides insights, research, and practical examples using her own life story to illustrate her points. Vulnerability is not weakness," writes Brown. In fact, "Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences."

Brown makes the case for facing your fears in order to live a “whole hearted life” which she defines as one of deep attachment to people, the environment, and your work. It’s the difference between being “in the game” vs on the sidelines of life. Most of us try to be invulnerable so that we can avoid being hurt but the tradeoff according to Brown is that we end up feeling disconnected, unfulfilled, and unloved. We are all interdependent so real courage will always be needed in order to live a live without regrets.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy Book Cover Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
Richard P. Rumelt
Business & Economics
Crown Books

Review: Strategy is probably the most misunderstood business concept. If you’ve ever been told to be “more strategic” (particularly by a manager who can’t define what that means), this book is for you. It does an excellent job of clearly defining strategy and giving real world, easy-to-understand examples of both good and bad strategy. The author untangles strategy from other concepts that often masquerade or are confused as strategy eg performance objectives, competitive goals, etc. and helps the reader identify symptoms of bad strategy.

It’s interesting, thought-provoking, contrarian in many respects, both theoretical and practical—in fact there’s so much in this book I plan to reread it at least once if not more. Well worth your investment.

No One Cares

We can spend a lot of time, energy, and emotion trying to look good to others. “What will people think?” “What if I fail?” “How will I be judged?” becomes the endless loop we hear in our minds. This line of thinking keeps us incredibly busy but doesn’t make for a very happy existence.

When how you’re perceived by others matters most to you you’re likely to make consistently poor decisions about where to focus, where to invest your time and energy, and who to connect with. If you’re lucky you’ll realize early on that you are not the center of the universe and, in fact, no one really cares about you. This is not to say you don’t have friends and family but at the end of the day no one cares about you nearly as much as you do. This is a very, very good thing.

Why? Because it means that your definition of success is the one that matters. After all only you know what’s truly important to yourself and what will make you happy. When you achieve what matters to you you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction instead of never being satisfied no matter how many promotions, awards, or honors you receive.

It also means that you are free. You can make mistakes, change directions, try again, and create yourself ad infinitum. Since no one is really paying close attention and most have very poor memories, you can learn from your experiences and use them as stepping stones to your ultimate success.

Best of all those voices in your head go away. It’s ultimately not about what others think. Can you live with yourself and the choices you’ve made? If so, you’ve achieved success.

Comfort Zones

Comfort zones as defined by the esteemed Wikipedia are:

“a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk….A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security.

Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside their comfort zone, a person must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that occur within their environment.”

While business experts suggest we regularly step outside our comfort zone, in my experience very few do. After all, most of us aren’t comfortable with ambiguity. We’d rather stay in a bad situation than take a chance that the next one might be worse. When we choose to only play within the boundaries we’ve created for ourselves we deny ourselves growth, new experiences, and opportunities. The irony is that, as the definition above noted, we’re doing so because we believe in “an unfounded sense of security.” A comfort zone is just a mirage we’ve created to provide us with a sense of order, security, and risk-free living.

When you really think about it, isn’t everything you really want outside your comfort zone?

I’m not suggesting that routine isn’t important. It can provide a sense of security and be an efficient use of time. But when routine is the entirety of your life it can become a problem. Inertia is very powerful. Instead why not consciously recognize the box you’ve put yourself in and take regular small steps towards what you really want? Then you can take comfort that you’ve done what you could to live a life with no regrets.