Employee Engagement: Pay Attention to These

The notion of Employee Engagement has been with us for a while now.

I noticed in a meeting last week that everyone was passionate when we started discussing "engagement". But the longer we talked, the less I was convinced that we were talking about the same thing. In fact, we all had a personal, sensible, gut level idea of what it meant. But the "definition gap" emerged when we began talking about how to approach the issue.

Engagement Motivation QuotePredictable, actually. Whenever you find yourself in disagreement about "how" to do something, it's a signal to back up a step and agree on a common definition of "what" you are working on. 

How Do You Define Employee Engagement?

The Conference Board researched the issue of definition and came to the same conclusion: different studies reflected different definitions of Employee Engagement. So they came up with a "blended" definition and some key themes that represented all of the studies.

The definition of Employee Engagement: "a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work".

That makes sense and is easily understood.

What I think is truly helpful to those involved in creating Employee Engagement is the Conference Board's synthesis of 8 key drivers of engagement. These offer concrete targets for development:

  • Trust and integrity – how well managers communicate and 'walk the talk'.

  • Nature of the job –Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?

  • Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company's performance?

  • Career Growth opportunities –Are there future opportunities for growth?

  • Pride about the company – How much self-esteem does the employee feel by being associated with their company?

  • Coworkers/team members – significantly influence one's level of engagement

  • Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee's skills?

  • Relationship with one's manager – Does the employee value his or her relationship with his or her manager?

Can You Work With Those Eight?

What do you think?

For those of us who have to turn theory into practice, I like the simple and concise one-liners that can lead to purposeful action. They provide starting points for meaningful discussions as well.

Bonus: If you want an ongoing look at what's happening in employee engagement, a terrific resource is my friend David Zinger and his Employee Engagement Network.

 

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Coaching Your People?: Manage Risks

We all want to stretch the capabilities of our team members. At the same time, think about minimizing failure when someone has a "stretch" goal with high risk attached. Any high risk goal can damage your reputation, your staff member, and even the organization. 

RiskManagement__300x285 (1) Manage risks by discussing the actions your person plans to implement. Then, monitor the results and agree on frequent reviews to catch anything that needs adjusting before things get "off track." Stretch goals are great confidence builders for everyone involved; they also require more follow up conversations than low risk goals. 

Speaking of low or lower risk activities: it usually works well to have the person you're coaching act first, then report back and discuss how things went and what was learned.

Important point: Solid coaching agreements include mutual responsibility. Show loyalty to your staff even if something goes wrong, then help them pinpoint lessons learned for the future.

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How to Boost Excitement About Creativity

This Post appeared earlier and was requested by a long-time subscriber.

 

You want to be creative and breed creativity in your workplace, right?Images7

Do you consider yourself to be "creative?"

Creative_baby
I was just talking with my cousin, Len, a long-time public school teacher and Principal. Len is also a master coach  He noted that if you ask first-graders how many of them are "creative," pretty much all of the hands in the class go up. They smile. They show their colorful drawings and finger painting and maybe even compose a song along the way.

What happens when the same question is asked of the same kids a few years later? The responses drop to nearly zero. And the kids are still in elementary school.

Fast forward to your business meeting. Someone says "Let's get creative about how to grow the market in Asia. We've got until 5 o'clock."

Are you and I seeing the same thing here?

We've got little kids who are convinced they are creative. Then we've got bigger little kids who don't think so anymore. Now we've got adults who are sure they aren't creative being asked to create--and with a deadline.

This post is a call for thought, not a rant. (Well, a little one). It seems to me that we have taken an entire population of creative youngsters, tell them to color inside the box (or else!), and now tell them to "think outside the box"--(or else!).

Nine things to encourage creativity

Silvano Arieti  wrote a book in 1976 called Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (you can get a used copy through amazon.com). Here are his nine conditions and the reasons why:

1. Aloneness. Being alone allows the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.

2. Inactivity. Periods of time are needed to focus on inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.

3. Daydreaming. Allows exploration of one's fantasy life and venturing into new avenues for growth.

4. Free thinking. Allows the mind to wander in any direction without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or concepts to emerge.

5. State of readiness to catch similarities
. One must practice recognizing similarities and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.

6. Gullibility. A willingness to suspend judgment allows one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.

7. Remembering & replaying past traumatic conflicts. Conflict can be transformed into more stable creative products.

8. Alertness. A state of awareness that permits the person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.

9. Discipline. A devotion to the techniques, logic, and repetition that permit creative ideas to be realized.

So now we go to our boss and say "I'd like to have some extended alone time for inactivity and daydreaming so I can come up with a creative idea for your strategy."

(Please let me know how that conversation goes).

You can act to create creativity

Then next time you have charge of a meeting or idea session, how about using some of the above items to lay a foundation for creativity.

  • Build in "alone time" by having people think about the task well in advance.
  • Suspend judgment and encourage the craziest ideas in the room, because
  • Alertness (number 8) will connect the "crazy" dots

I hope you'll use these to be intentional about creativity. It sounds almost like an oxymoron--"intentional creativity"--but according to number 9 it isn't.

Intentional Creativity--that's a lot easier to sell to your boss than some alone time.

Graphic Source: www.bhmpics.com

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Four Ways You Can Impact Learning

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?"

If they don't like the answer they may keep looking.

For leaders, managers, and heads of projects, helping people learn is a critical contribution to individual and organizational success.

So, here are Four Ways to Impact Learning that will serve you well.

Training02_small

 



Impact on Curiosity:
For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact on self confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact on motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact on Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into the topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps. When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

What are your unique methods for impacting learning?

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360 Feedback: All About the Conversations That Follow

Feedback_icon Finding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your company using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, and improved performance.

What has your experience been with 360 feedback? 

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Your Next "Aha!" Is the Beginning, Not the End

Exclamation02_2(Re-issued by request)

How many times have you studied, thought, worked, conversed, or meditated in order to reach an "Aha!" moment?

It seems to me that we have a tendency to treat "Ahas!" as if they are a result.  Yet when you look at them carefully, they signal a beginning; a sign that there may be a new path to pursue, something new to learn, or a situation to re-visit in a different way.

In fact, I received that "Aha!" in a conversation with no less than the Conversation Agent herself, Valeria Maltoni. Some time ago we were discussing just about everything from marketing to book writing to organization effectiveness when she wove her "Aha!"into the conversation. It was a beginning that led to today's post.

Some Aha! Questions to Ponder

1. When was your last "Aha!"?

2. Did it lead somewhere?

3. If  so, where?

4. If not, why not?

5. Is it time to re-visit it to see what you might have missed?

(Almost) Everything I Know About "Ahas" I Learned From Fourth-Graders

When I got out of the Army, I went back to college to complete the last few requirements for my degree.  I also went back to being a working--and paid--musician.  Life was good. Except for the next "Aha!."

You see, at that time in the history of the universe, there was a strange, quaint phenomenon known as dating.("Dating" was a very common ancient ritual that involved asking a young woman to go out with you alone to a movie, or a restaurant, or an event. The idea was that if you could get to know each other better, you might want to continue and develop an even deeper relationship. If this sounds strange and you want to learn more about it, go to a garage sale, buy a 45 RPM  record (they look like oversized CD's with a big hole in the center), and listen to the lyrics. Hint: you will notice that the lyrics rhyme. Oh, and you'll need to buy a 45 RPM record player,too.)

Sorry.

Back to the related "Aha!" which was known as:

"Come in and meet my father"

Me with mandatory strong handshake: "Hello, Mr. ____, nice to meet you. "

Father: "Hello, young man (fathers do not utter the actual name of the perceived weasel-disguised-as-a person. Now that I am the father of a daughter, I understand the dynamic. But I can't reveal it, otherwise I would betray the other fathers-of-daughters-about-to-be-dated-by-the-weasel).

"Tell me, young man, what do you do for a living?" (This is a man-question to determine the extent of your slackerness).

Me: (proudly): Mr. _____, I'm a professional musician and I play at ______and ________.

Father: (Silence)

Father again: (Continued silence, furrowed brow, followed by look of disdain).

Father, turning to wife while walking out of the room: "Ethel, tell him to have her home by midnight."

Aha!

I learned that:

a. "I am a musician" was not a good thing to say, no matter how much money I made.

b. I would have to do something that appeared to erase my perceived weaselness and make me respectable.

Aha!

I will be a teacher.

So I did a little stint at a Junior High School.

Aha! Working with 13 and 14 year-olds clearly wasn't going to do it for me. I concluded, rather hastily, that every existing 13 and 14 year-old should be universally housed in their own country or state--say, North Dakota--until they are 15.

Obviously, High School would work out better for me.

Aha! I apparently had a very short memory and forgot that, between the ages of 15-18, Homer and Hemingway were completely overshadowed by Heaving Hormones. That leaves:

Elementary School. Yes, but what grade?

Third graders still had "accidents."

Fifth graders were reaching puberty. And if I were to be somehow elected President, they would soon be sent to North Dakota anyway.

Aha! Fourth grade.

. . .and Here Are The 5 Things I Learned About Business from Fourth Graders

The kids--and all of us at work-- show up each day hoping that we'll have an Aha! experience. And that it will lead to something new, engaging, and satisfying. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to attempt to create the conditions for that in the context of what was to be learned. So I had to do five things:

1. Be crystal clear about the learning goal.

If I wasn't clear, the day didn't go well. Minds and bodies gravitated toward something that did seem clear. The world--even the world of fourth graders--abhors a vacuum.

2. Show them the connection between what they would learn and how it works in life.

If they couldn't see how "it" was real, eyes glazed over.

3. Understand each of the kids and how they learn.

Hands-on doers, Readers, Questioners, 10-year-old Cynics. They were all represented.

4. Create an experience that would allow #3 to be satisfied.

I always thought that this was the toughest part. How do you achieve the learning goal in the designated amount of time with so many different kinds of learners?

5. Manage the experience and follow up with each of the kids.

Once I put the activity in motion, I had to touch base with each of the students, check out how they were doing, tell them how they were doing, and then formally evaluate how they did.

Do Any of These Related Management Applications Give You an "Aha!"?

1. Managing starts with clarity. The time a manager spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in focused effort from increased understanding.

2. The Manager is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of  the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.

3. Managers Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn differently and work differently. Really successful managers take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value.

4. Managing Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? Managers, go ahead and add your favorites to this list.

5. Managers Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good manager out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

I hope that something has sparked a thought or idea that will create the beginning of something new for you.

And I hope you'll take a moment to subscribe using the Big Orange Button, email, or one of your favorite feeds. It will be good to see you back again.

Graphic Source: A Perfect World www.aperfectworld.org

 

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Presentation Success Tip: How To Help People Follow You

Create Transitions

 

 
"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue."

And-now-a-word-from-our-sponsors

How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering "How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience with you:

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next--and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it.

 

 

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Four Ways Leaders Can Impact Learning

Leaders, managers, and heads of projects constantly seek ways to grow talent and make a difference in organizational success.

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?" If they don't like the answer, chances are they'll keep looking.

So, I began reflecting on some recent speaking and workshop experiences. Four distinct factors came to mind as I thought about the give-and-take that led to learning for all of us. I hope you'll find these useful.

Learn_iStock_XSmall 

Four Ways to Impact Learning

Impact Curiosity: For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact self-confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into a topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps.

When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

So, pick one of the four and impact someone's learning today. You can.

 

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Keep It Simple Like Einstein

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.

Einsteinsimplicity

Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too. 

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.

 

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5 Ways To Be More Coachable

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?).

The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

Coachable Cats

 

Five Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

 

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

 

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

 

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

 

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

 

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Culture and Perception

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, a few years ago Canadian and Japanese researchers  confirmed some very specific distinctions.

East westWhen East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine theprinciples behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work.

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.

 

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Make A Difference With Differences

I've always been bothered by the seemingly well-intentioned books and workshops that fall under some variation of  "Managing Differences".

Have a look at the graphic and we'll continue. You  can click on it for a full-page view.

Deep Enough_Difference

Style vs. Substance

Style:

It would be safe to say that most "Differences" activities focus on issues of Style. These are attributes that we all see in each other and which become magnified when we try to work together in groups. It's a good idea to become aware of one's own inherent approach to these things and how others inherently go at them in a totally different way. I heartily endorse and, in my consulting business, practice that kind of understanding.

The Style issues reveal more about how you are. However, they're only the tip of the iceberg and that's not what sank the Titanic.

Substance:

 

These are the "Why" questions of life. They tell people who you are and what you believe and value, personally and professionally. It's the level of information needed to get past a surface relationship and into a real one.

 

Workplace rules and legislation exist to protect people from undue and ill-willed intrusion into some of these areas. At the same time, it's pretty tough to be "engaged" with other people if we don't know what they are really about. Taking time to find out hopes and expectations for teamwork; what each person values in interactions and task-performance; and some previous experiences that have led them to those concerns will go a long way toward deeper relational understanding without playing the "let's spill our guts on the meeting table" gambit. However, you might just find that each time you learn something more of significance about each other, the willingness to have even deeper relationships will increase.

Thank You For Your Service. We are Deporting You.

A number of years ago I accepted a 2-year consulting and training gig in the Middle East. It was suggested that we develop a "Time Management" program for the executives. This raised a flag for me since, culturally, the notion of "managing time" showed up nowhere in daily experiences, personal or professional; and, I don't believe in "Time Management." Time is finite and unchanging; one has to be clear about priorities and manage those.

If you are anywhere close to the training and development industry, you know that certain eras produce "must have" programs whose related buzzwords  go unquestioned. And so it was with Time Management. A program was developed and then advertised in the company curriculum newsletter. Which is when we showed up on the front page of the local newspaper with a headline that I won't fully repeat but which included the word Infidels (actually, a lot of companies would refer to their consultants that way) and other unflattering adjectives which had been attached to us by the Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and The Elimination of Vice.

Cut to the chase: Indeed, the notion of time management went much deeper than the typical "we move a bit more slowly in hot climates" type of thing. According to the Cleric who was the spokesperson, "managing" time was an affront to the god of their faith who was in control of all things related to time.

OK. We got it. No more Time Management. Instead, "Setting Priorities At Work" satisfied both parties' underlying beliefs. And we didn't have to pack up and head to the airport.

It wasn't a matter of Style, it was a matter of very deep Substance.

What needs to happen where you are to float your corporate iceberg a little higher in the water?

 

 

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Fear: Success or Failure?

Lets be honest:  All of us have doubts that block us from doing things. It's even socially acceptable to talk about some "fear of failure."

But "fear of success?"

Success-FailureIt's just as real. Being afraid to achieve the very things that we want.

How does it happen?

The Future/Change Factor: Personal

The good news is that when we experience this fear, it's because we're imagining a "better" future. We're actually thinking about change.

But we don't know what else that's going to bring. Since it's all about the future, we can imagine anything and everything about what might be. In the absence of factual information we fantasize, often negatively.

  • "I don't deserve it"
  • "If I achieve what I set out to do, everyone will know that I don't really deserve it"
  • "If I get it I won't be able to sustain it. Why try?"
  • "If I am successful, someone will come along who is better than me. Then, what will happen to me?"
  • "If I am successful, the nature and equilibrium of my relationships will change and I'll have to make new friends. My current friends would never accept a more successful (bigger, deeper, better, healthier) me."

(Feel free to list your own and others you've hear in the comments section).

What happens as a result of this kind of thinking?

  • Self-defeating thinking leads to self-defeating actions. Here are just a few:
  • Doing the wrong thing even when you know the right thing to do. That way, one can avoid having to deal with success.
  • Minimizing your accomplishments so they are ultimately negated. Then, you don't have to live up to being all that you really are.
  • Feeling guilty when you have a success. This creates a slowdown in momentum, hesitancy to act, and a self-fulfilling inability to move on to another success.

What you can do differently

Here are some suggestions that aren't complicated but do place the responsibility clearly on our personal shoulders:

1. Act in a way that will genuinely help build a sense of self: Find ways to encourage and acknowledge accomplishments of those around you.

2. Get an accountability partner--or maybe a couple. These people have your explicit permission to give you feedback--positive and negative --about how they are experiencing your progress. This is a reality check. Honest, factual, periodic conversations will help you replace the unknown negative fantasies with reality-based information.

3. When someone compliments you, respond with a firm "Thank you!" No false modesty or additional talk. Simply hear the compliments and let them begin to influence how you see yourself.

In the next post, we'll look at how this plays out at work and in organizational life. 

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Ten Life Lessons From Business

I'm not usually a list kind of guy-- and the title might lead one to expect thoughts on marketing, capital, or organization development. But business is part of life, not the other way around. So here are things that have emerged as important learnings for me over the past 30 years of organizational and consulting life:

%2210%22Ten Life Lessons From Business and Consulting

1. You can be in charge, but you're never in control.

2. If you have a Powerpoint slide with a graph whose curve always points upward, you're lying. Delete it.

3. If you look at people through your own eyes, you'll judge them for who you think they are. If you look at them through God's eyes, you'll see them for who they can become.

4. You can't be good at who you are until you stop trying to be all the things you are not.

5. Charge what you are worth. If you don't, you'll begin to resent your employer or client, even though you decided to take the assignment.

6. You can't control circumstances. You can control your response to them. Those who learn to respond thoughtfully and peacefully are the ones who are accorded trust and power.

7. Overt displays of position power show weakness.  Genuine humility shows power.

8. All groups aren't "teams". Often they are just collections of people who work really, really well together. Leave them alone.

9. No one can know how to be an effective leader until they've toiled as a dedicated follower.

10. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied with discernment.

What Are Your Business Life Lessons?

Do you have life lessons from business that you would like to add? By all means, click on the comment box and contribute what you've learned. You'll make an impact on other readers who are looking for real-life advice.

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What Makes Many People Successful?

What Do These Success Quotes All Have in Common?

Success Tree"I don't know the key to success but the key to failure is to try to please everyone." Bill Cosby

"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do." Bob Dylan

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives." Albert Einstein

"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." Benjamin Disraeli

"Success is the progressive realization of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals." Paul J. Meyer

I think the commonality is this:

1. Each person thought about what success meant to him

2. None of them defined it in terms of others' expectations

Have You Thought About Success In Terms of Your Own Expectations?

If you haven't, then maybe today is the day to start. If you don't, you are at risk.Think about it. Without a clear sense of what a successful life means to you, then everyone else can control your time, your choices, and your career. You have no firm basis on which to make decisions. And no way to tell yourself "I'm doing fine!"

That means that others can tell you how they think you are doing. And what they think you should be doing. Wouldn't it be nice to be clear about why they are so wrong?!

I believe that you already know what success means to you. The first moment you do something consistent with that will also bring the first sense of being the unique person you were designed to be.

Have a successful day life!

 

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Wholeness, Meaning, and Change

“Meaning is a peculiarly individual and subjective thing. I wonder, if every worker pursued their own notion of meaning, how would that affect the corporate world?"

That question was posed a few years ago by my online friend and EQ expert extraordinnaire, the late Galba Bright. 

It's a question that is related to the success–-or failure–-of every change initiative. Whether it’s about a new benefits package, introducing new technology, or figuring out where the entire family will go on vacation, meaning is the core issue.

Why?

WholenessBecause when we retain what is meaningful, we have a sense of wholeness. When we have a sense of wholeness, we can–-by definition–-bring our whole self to the game. Conversely, if meaning is subverted in some way, so are we. Our enthusiasm and commitment diminish; only part of us is left, and it’s not the part that is ready to add value to the situation.

A Helpful Way to Think About Meaning, Worklife, and Change

Corporations are in business to earn a profit. Without that, there wouldn’t be jobs or money for employees. Heck, there wouldn’t be employees, products, or services. Without high-performing employees, there wouldn’t be highly profitable corporations.

Which means that both are giving and getting something out of the relationship. And that’s where I believe the frustration begins. The same people who would spend days, weeks, and months wining and dining a new love–-gazing longingly into the other’s eyes–-too often spend about 5 minutes sending out an email announcing a change that will impact work schedules, careers, income, and the well-being of families.

I’ve been involved in corporate life for more than 30 years. Most executives I know do acknowledge the personal difficulties inherent with change. But here’s where it gets icky: somehow, along the way, a particular defense mechanism has been allowed to serve as an acceptable “reason” for all kinds of behavior. And that is the phrase, “This is a business.”

When that is uttered, somehow everyone within earshot is supposed to nod knowingly, acknowledging that the business gods–wherever they are–deserve whatever sacrificial offering is required to keep them looking favorably upon that company’s shareholder value.

“This is a business.”

Knock it off, we all know that. In fact, that’s why we’re all here!

We’re all here for another reason

"Business" allows us to fulfill some deeper sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. For some, it’s the work itself. For others, it may offer the means to buy a first home and start a much longed-for family. For still others, the location of the workplace may have meaning if one needs to care for elderly or suffering family members. And, yes, there are many who are working simply to have enough money to retire. They’ve decided that they’ll delay certain kinds of satisfaction so that they don’t need to worry during their later years.

Many of us will be sitting around the Christmas dinner table with family and friends or celebrating holidays in other ways, but still having conversations about the year past and the year ahead. As you listen--or add your own hopes and dreams--be aware of the differences in purpose and meaning. 

They are all personal and all valid. 

What gives meaning to your work? If the conversation slows down, that may be a useful question to ask. You'll learn quite a bit about each other.

 

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Be A Mentor, Learn A Lot

I have an idea.

You and I should simply decide that we will be mentors to someone.Mentor

Why be a Mentor?

1. Most of us want some help in some area of our work but, for various reasons, don't ask for it. That means that there are people who could use some guidance.

2. Your experience navigating organizational life is valuable to those who don't yet have it.

3. Many corporate programs are struggling. There seems to be something unnatural when we try to institutionalize mentoring.

4. You'll learn more than the person you are helping. It's not a selfish thing, but a fact. When you have to teach, you have to prepare. And when you prepare, you learn a lot.

5. You'll have the satisfaction of contributing something positive to another person's life.

How do you get started?

Look around.

Who could use some organizational know-how? Approach them with the idea that you've got some experience and would enjoy sitting down once in a while for a "how are things going?" cup of coffee. Keep it informal and see where it goes. Let the relationships last as long--or as short--as is helpful.

This is a very simple, but practical, idea. It seems as if we are always looking for a good charity or a cause to support. Why not contribute to the development of a co-worker?

You'll even have a chance to see the results!

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Get The Most From Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Online-assessmentAssessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation the two of you have ever had.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

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How About Those Difficult People?

For more than twenty years I've been working with clients on "How To Deal With Difficult People."

It sounds kind of grim but it's really satisfying. Why?

Because everyone has someone who "bugs" them. When they think long and hard about it, what bothers people most is actually something they really don't like about themselves. There are lots of ways to have fun with this and learn new behaviors  at the same time without navel-gazing. What I like best about the approach we've developed is that it isn't about coping with jerks. Why settle for coping? Coping doesn't change anything.

DealingDo You Want To Change Something?

Good. Here are five good diagnostic questions I hope will help:

1. What really drives your blood pressure north?

Identify the triggers are that push your buttons by thinking about past experiences in which your "favorite" person finally got to you. What did they do? That’s different than why it bothered you. Simply identify their actual behavior. Was it the way they approached you? Looked at you? How did they look at you? Maybe it was a certain voice quality or tone of voice?

2. How did you react?

Do you immediately blame them for how you feel? Do you act distracted or quickly find a distraction? Disavow what’s really going on? When they do their "special" thing, what do you do in response?

3. What do you want from yourself?

What’s the very best you can bring to the situation? Regardless of what they did, what would you do to be delighted with yourself after the interaction?

4. What do you really want from them?

Yeah, I know: "Stop that stuff!" Not going to happen. So,think about this relationship the way the Cheerios people do on their nutrition label. "What is the MDR (minimum daily requirement) of behavior you can hope for and accept? Then start expecting nothing more. (it's quite free-ing, really).

5. Has someone else learned a way to deal with this person?

How do they do it? Who might know how to do it? Describe your situation in a way that combines "behavior-then-how-I-feel." No need to dump on the offender; besides, it makes you less attractive and less of a good candidate for help. When you've reached a point where you have an approach, use it. We train our muscle memories to play tennis, golf, and other sports in ways that become unconscious. You can train your nervous system in the same way.

If you do just one thing differently you may change the entire pattern.

_______________________________

Remember: Success in life isn't what happens to us; it's how we respond to what happens to us. And you are in charge of your responses.

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Happiness At Work

I was checking the statistics here to discover the search engine queries that bring people to All Things Workplace. I figured that the keywords were going to be mostly about leadership or management.

I was wrong.

HappyCat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Job Satisfaction"..."Happiness at Work"..."Where Can I Find the Best Job?"..."Strengths and Weaknesses"..."How Can I Find A Job Where the Boss Listens to Me?"...those were the themes. Career issues--sometimes disguised as communications--turned out to be the number one driver.

Make no mistake. People are searching for how to feel good at work. We want to do well...and we want to feel good in the process.

Think about two variables

There's a relationship between how much you love your job and how well you perform. That's not a mystery. But there is a dynamic you need to know about in order to manage yourself and others:

1. Some people have to feel good about their job and their workplace before they can get busy and perform at their max.

2. Others have to have to first achieve super results in order to feel good about their jobs.

It's a "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" phenomenon. I picked up on this some years ago during a stretch where I was diagnosing "performance issues" for a client.

My conclusion: Managers hadn't caught onto the validity of the two approaches to performance. Naturally, the "feel good first" people were perceived as weenie-like non-performers. However, they actually had a huge commitment to doing well. They just needed something else to help them be able to get there.

What was it? They wanted the managers to understand who they were and what made them tick. That went along way to having the "right feeling" about the job.

The second category of people wanted a scorecard. They weren't about to "feel" good until they checked off their tasks and accomplishments.

Target yourself and your people

1. Which approach most naturally fits you? Figure out what that means to the way you work and the way your work is managed. Then talk with your manager about your desire to excel and how you might use this natural preference to make that happen.

2. Managers: The next time you're in a meeting (or one-on-one), have an informal conversation about the two approaches. Let people talk about what comes first for them. You'll learn a lot about how to manage each person; and they'll get more of what they need in order to hit the top of the job satisfaction/high performance curve.

Do you come onto the work scene each day with one of these in the front of your mind? How does that play out for your job satisfaction and performance?

__________________________________

This post first ran in June, 2008. Workplace Happiness is still thriving as an issue across the entire range of social media and professional publications, so I thought a little "re-visit" might be worthwhile.

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Are You Strong Enough To Ask For Help?

Employee engagement, management engagement, leadership, passion in the workplace. . .

These rallying cries fill books, blogs, and backroom banter. The real issue: "How can we get done what needs to get done and create a sense of "we're in this together" at the same time?

It's actually quite simple:

To Get Something Done, Ask for Help

There is nothing that sparks the human spirit--and thus adds meaning to a task--than the satisfaction of providing help to someone who needs it.

Help-sign
Yet my experience--at least in many western cultures--is that it is somehow viewed as  "weak" to ask for help. After all, if I'm a guy who gets things done, I don't want people to think that I can't get things done.

I know you already see the fallacy in this. Most textbook definitions of management include some version of: "Management--getting things done through others."

Hmm. As a manager that means, by definition, I need your help.

What Actually Happens Vs. The Simplicity of Help

See if this isn't a little closer to the norm:

Manager: "Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. You supervise the customer service reps. You need to be able to support that. Make it happen."

Now, that 's not too bad a directive at all in the grand scheme of things. (For those who only respond to warm and fuzzy, it's probably not). It's fairly specific, understandable, and has an action attached. However, we've got an entire generation of management research that everyone has been exposed to through workshops and reading. The essence of that research is that people want to be respected,involved in solutions, and have a sense of meaning in what they do.

So, I suggest:

Manager: Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. I need help. (Shut up).

Note to managers: Really, you do need help. You're getting paid to make the 8% happen--through other people.

Andrew: How can I help?

Honestly, if the manager & Andrew have a decent relationship, "helping" is about as meaningful as life can get at that moment.

Manager: You supervise the customer service reps. We need to be able to support that 8% bump. How would you go about doing that with your people?

  • Statement one: Places next level of responsibility where it belongs.
  • Statement two: Specifies the  issue.
  • Statement  three:  Involvement and  more meaning. (In the event that Andrew struggles a bit, this is the "teachable moment" for coaching).

What will you do?

What someone does for a living is part of the working agreement. How they do it is why they--as individuals--were (hopefully) hired in the first place. When you allow someone to exercise the personalhow, you have created the intersection of individual meaning and engagement .

Are you strong enough to ask for help today?


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Business or Busyness?

Recently I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

People-walking-fast-blurred

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you handling this in your life?

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Still Doing More With Less?

Hope you can join us on the Ken Blanchard Livecast:


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Leadership's "Big Three"

BrownDogTalkingtoBlackDog331x222 We say we want a mentor, a coach, a trusted advisor.

We want to grow and become more effective.

We ask for help. For "feedback."

This is what you need to make it a success:

The patience to listen, the humility to hear, and the courage to act.

Do you have all three?

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Grow By Subtraction

Most career inventories and branding activities are additive. They ask you to identify success factors by adding up your talents, hopes, and goals. That's part of the process. 

100%One of the desirable ingredients for personal and business success that we constantly hear shouted from the rooftops is "authenticity" (being real).Fine. But in order to "get real" we first have to "get honest" about all of the things we are not. Authenticity is nothing more than a buzzword until we acknowledge:

1. What we think we should be--but we are not.

2. What someone else told us we should be-- but  we are not.

3. What we think others want to hear that we are-- but  we are not.

4. What we think we can become--but we know we cannot.

Let's face it: self-knowledge is a never-ending journey. Accurate self-knowledge makes it a healthier one. Part of that journey is humility. (Humility is not false modesty--false modesty is unauthentic). Humility is  the element of self-knowledge that frees you from carrying the heavy burden of "What I want you to think I am" and allows you to relax and be "Who I am."

Before you continue adding, do some subtraction. The answer will be authentic.

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Managers: Increase Feedback, Reduce Stress

"Whatever is unresolved becomes a stressor"

Managers add stress to their lives by postponing important conversations and letting them build up until their heads start to feel like a balloon waiting to burst. Or, we try to submerge those thoughts until we discover that they tend to pop out in strange and often harmful ways. How many times have we received--or given--a terse comment that really was the result of some long- unspoken feeling?

Why Does Feedback Matter?

Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket's course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay "on course" is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

Here's the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. It's our best chance at knowing whether we're on track or not.

Feedback Where's Mine_600x425

So, What Gets In The Way of Giving Feedback?

1. Let's face it: few of us enjoy hearing about those areas of work life where we're coming up short. It's human nature. The flip side is that managers are people, too, and they have the same thoughts and feelings. So it's not exactly a peak experience being the proverbial "messenger" even though it comes with the job.

2. The term "feedback" has morphed into "Here's what you need to correct" instead of "Here's how I think we're doing."

3. Feedback has been institutionalized to the point where it is often done at yearly or semi-annual performance reviews. That's usually too far away from the actual performance for a person to make the kind of changes that will alter an outcome. So, it become  a "Gotcha!"

4. It takes a relationship built on trust to have meaningful conversations about performance.

Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do. And if something goes wrong, one person points that out to the other. They talk about what to do differently. And they learn that, even if something does go wrong, they care enough to bring it up and do something about it. I've said this before: The people you trust the most are the people who tell you the truth--good and bad. If it's good, they offer encouragement. If it's bad, they offer ways to work with you to sort things out.

5. Lack of ongoing, natural conversation about work life gets in the way of building relationships that breed the level of trust we need to have ongoing, natural conversations. It's circular.

What Can You Do?

1. Managers: Start the conversation from Day 1.

Set the tone for the future early on by asking, "How are things going with project x?" What didn't we anticipate? What's going well? What isn't going well, so we can find out how to get it on track? Then make sure that both of you do what you say you'll do.

2. Employees: If there isn't a conversation, start one.

Turn the questions in #1 into statements. For example, "Here's how project x is going." "Here's what we didn't anticipate." Sure, maybe your boss doesn't like bad news. Here's a secret: Surprises are worse than bad news.If you start the conversation, you have a better chance of putting your boss at ease with the whole idea of "How are we doing?"

3. Keep talking about having conversations, not feedback.

Language conveys feeling. The whole notion of feedback has degenerated to the point where the word contains more negative connotations than positive. Why? Maybe because it was never meant to be associated with the human condition in the first place. From the time we're kids we have conversations. We talk about "What's going on" and "How are things going?"

4. Start having ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. Start now.



I absolutely guarantee you that two people of goodwill can increase their combined performance and reduce their stress-inducing baggage by having regular, honest talks about their progress and the factors impacting it. These kinds of talks are the foundation of every good relationship, on and off the job.

Bonus Thought: The longer you wait, the larger the "negative" becomes and the more difficult it is to discuss. Regular, frequent conversations mean that the problem areas will be smaller and easier to talk about!

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Professional Assessments: Are You Getting What You Need?

How is your organization using professional and leadership assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So:

Assessment

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Assessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making behavioral changes is an individual's choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation you've had with that person.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

Go for it!

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"What Do I Want To Be?" or "What Do I Want To Become?"

Which question are you asking yourself?

Your choice will help determine the depth of your life as well as the comfort-level of your career.

Bigstock-Growth-5437176

I've been watching a new CEO client begin his tenure at a global company. He is very comfortable listening, talking, giving direction, and saying "I don't know. That sounds good to me. Go ahead and do it." (Whatever the "it" is).

What I'm really seeing is a man who has, over a lifetime, decided to "become" the kind of person he wanted to be. I know for a fact that he didn't set out to be a CEO. In fact, he was invited into the role. The reason he received the invitation, I believe, rests in great part on who he is to the people around him.

Yet "who he is" was shaped by not ambitiously jumping into a position that was too far ahead of "who he was" at the moment. His career path shows a progression that was slow and steady, building solid relationships and new knowledge along the way.  And each step on the ladder reflected genuine accomplishment.

Now he has become a CEO; he doesn't have to play the role of CEO.

And that's the distinction between where the two questions above will lead you.

Who do you want to become?

Or do you want to play a role?

Think about the how the difference will affect your life.

 

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360 Feedback: It's About the Conversation

Finding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

Feedback_icon

 


1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your organization using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, learning, and improved performance.

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Paying Attention to People

I received an email from a reader requesting "a post I recalled reading about 'paying attention to people.' " I think this was the one from December, 2009. The original experiment and its impact on management and human behavior is timeless. 

In the 1920s, physiologist Elton Mayo conducted experiments at the Hawthorne Electrical Works in Chicago.

He was trying to confirm his theory that better lighting led to greater productivity. So, he had the lights on the factory floor turned up. Voila! As he expected, production levels increased, too. Done deal?

As an afterthought he decided to turn the lights down just to see what would happen. Production went up again. In fact, he found that whatever he did with the lighting, production increased.

 

 

Mayo

Novel thought: Mayo discussed his findings with the workers who were involved. They told him that the interest Mayo and his researchers showed toward them made them feel more valued. They were accustomed to being ignored.

While the increased lighting no doubt made things brighter and healthier, it was the increase in morale that most impacted improvement in productivity. This became known as the Hawthorne Effect

Most people schooled in management & organization development are well aware of the studies.  However, I'm finding more and more business folks who haven't been exposed to them; I thought it might be a good idea to revisit what is the beginning of the "human relations"  movement in management.

While scientists and pseudo-scientists have argued everything from methodology to the number of toilet breaks employees of that era received, the simple learning is this: When you pay attention to people, tell them what you are doing, and ask their opinion about things, the response--all else being equal--is a boost in morale and productivity. I dare say that Elton had stumbled upon Employee Engagement long before the term became popular.

I'm wondering: after 80+ years, why isn't this fundamental learning a part of every organization's modus operandi?

photo source: www.library.hbs.edu

____________________________

Bonus:

 

Kudos



 

Kudos. Over the years, we've actually set up systems for certain clients who needed a tickler that popped up on the calendar reminding them what to do, when, and how regarding "recognition checks." That's not our core business, but it was a helpful solution for many.

Would such a solution be helpful in your company? Look no further. 

How about a systematic approach with a tech solution for the "recognition challenged"? Check out the folks at Kudos who have created a terrific way to help manager who may not "feel" it but darn right well out to "do" it. Hat tip (well, "kudos") to Co-CEO Tom Short for cluing us in to their approach. 

Disclaimer: Neither All Things Workplace nor The Steve Roesler Group has a business arrangement with, nor gains revenue from, Kudos.


 

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5 Ways To Be Coachable

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

Advice_catsFive Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. If so, take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.

 

 

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Relax! Can Actually Cause Stress

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. --William James

Bill may have been right.

But what happens when you are given thoughts?

The Irony of Trying to Relax

We're living in exceptionally stressful circumstances right now, and the workplace is hardly an exception. No doubt we've had someone suggest cavalierly, "Oh, just relax."

Sometimes that helps; sometimes it doesn't. There's a reason for both.

It turns out that the order to "relax"  can produce everything from anxiety to insomnia as a result of stress.

SkinTwo studies conducted by Wegner, Bloome and Blumberg found that "intentional relaxation under conditions of mental load or stress produces ironic increases in skin conductance level (SCL).

Note: Skin conductance  can be described simply as sweat gland activity. Using electrodes placed on two fingers of one hand, one can measure the tiny changes in the electrical activity of the sweat gland cells located in the deepest layer of the skin. Sweat glands are activated through inputs from several areas in the brain including the frontal lobes. Skin conductance is associated with arousal, mental activity, stress, fear, and positive and negative affect, which makes it a relatively simple yet informative psychophysiological measure.

The experiment was rather simple.

1. Participants in one group received progressive relaxation instructions.

2. Then they were told, "Now I'd like you to remember a number, and this is an important part of the experiment, so I'll keep repeating the number until you memorize it."

3. Participants in another group weren't given the relaxation instructions, just the task.

The outcome: Those instructed to relax under the high load of rehearsing a long number had higher SCL than those under a high load without instructions to relax.

What This Means for Business and the Business of Life

Mixed messages breed stress.I once watched a very well-intentioned manager start a team meeting by saying, "Here are the results of the 360 team feedback. I know some of the information may be thought-provoking, but just relax."

Had the statement only included the informational part, the immediately observable level of anxiety may not have occurred.

Multi-tasking as part of "Quality Time." Telling your spouse that you are going to relax while putting together your financial presentation and watching a DVD together is a lie. You may have sensed it before--now you know it's a scientific fact. Just hope (s)he doesn't have a polygraph with a couple of those finger electrodes nearby. If so, you better hope the gift shop is open late.

Telling someone to feel good may have the opposite effect. Hopefully, we all know that it is fruitless and even demeaning to try changing how someone feels by telling them how they should feel. According to the implications of the study, we can actually make someone feel worse (stressed) as a result of trying to get them relaxed while their minds are at work. This applies to managers giving performance feedback, parents disciplining children, and coaches working with clients. Healthy people are designed to live and learn by living and learning through the depth and breadth of their emotions. Attempting to alter the truth of what someone is experiencing will inhibit their process. And you won't be seen as helpful.

So, just relax. If you feel like it.

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Really Smart People Keep Learning

Is that just too obvious to you?

The impact on organizations is huge and, I think, grossly underestimated.

Hiring "smart people" often consists of hiring recent grads with high grade point averages or candidates with related experience.

LearningMy consistent observation within organizations is that this is only a fraction of what's needed--and frequently meaningless.

More and more, especially with ongoing change, the path to performance is learning. But there is a cry continuing to be heard in board rooms and hallways: "But (name) is so smart. Why can't (s)he get what we're doing?

The answer lies in willingness and ability on a person's part to:

1. Recognize that something new requires learning

2. Understand that "new" means it's time to learn again

3. Suspend judgment and try  a different way of doing things

This isn't an issue of IQ. It's an issue of EQ.

When I created the tag line "Teaching Smart People Practical Ways to Become Extraordinary", the response from clients and colleagues was positive. The question that does pop up is : How do you decide who is smart and who isn't?

The answer: I don't know who will fit into that category until I start working with  an individual or an organization. When facing a challenge or simply wanting to grow, those who are willing to make the necessary changes look awfully smart to me. And it's the willingness to learn that defines "smart".

Under the same circumstances, those who dig in and make excuses for why they shouldn't at least give it a try fall into the opposite category.

Would your organization be willing to define "smart" in a similar way?

Bonus:  Mary Jo Asmus lays out a key leadership skill that will make a difference in your career, regardless of your position in the organization. Check out The Key Missing Piece

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Why You Should Keep It Simple

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.

Einsteinsimplicity

Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too.

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.

 

 

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Get The Most From Professional Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

AssessA lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Assessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation you've had with that person.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

Go for it!

And...a warm thank you to Ellen Weber at Brain-Based Business for making me one of this week's MITA Millionaire Bloggers . As I mentioned in my "thank you" comment to Ellen, I wish my  Mom were still alive to see "Steve Roesler" and the word "Brain" on the same page.

I know she'd have a comment, too!

 

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Ten Life Lessons From Business

I'm in the process of completing a program design for a university where I'll be working with business students on bumping up their game when it comes to professionalism and organizational savvy. The activity prompted me to think back over years of managing, training, and consulting, and what kinds of Ten life lessons were learned along the way. (Business is part of life, not the other way around). 

So, I thought I'd share the list that emerged after thinking over the past 30 years in business:

Ten Life Lessons From Managing and Consulting

1. You can be in charge, but you're never in control.

2. If you have a Powerpoint slide with a graph whose curve always points upward, you're lying. Delete it.

3. If you look at people through your own eyes, you'll judge them for who you think they are. If you look at them through God's eyes, you'll see them for who they can become.

4. You can't be good at who you are until you stop trying to be all the things you are not.

5. Charge what you are worth. If you don't, you'll begin to resent your employer or client, even thoughyou decided to take the assignment.

6. You can't control circumstances. You can control your response to them. Those who learn to respond thoughtfully and peacefully are the ones who are accorded trust and power.

7. Overt displays of position power show weakness.  Genuine humility shows power.

8. All groups aren't "teams". Often they are just collections of people who work really, really well together. Leave them alone.

9. No one can know how to be an effective leader until they've toiled as a dedicated follower.

10. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied with discernment.

What Are Your Business Life Lessons?

Do you have life lessons from business that you can add? Click on the comment box and use your experience to contribute to someone else's development.

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Four Ways Managers Can Impact Learning

Leaders, managers, and heads of projects constantly seek ways to grow talent and make a difference in organizational success.

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?" If they don't like the answer, chances are they'll keep looking.

So, I began reflecting on some recent speaking and workshop experiences. Four distinct factors came to mind as I thought about the give-and-take that led to learning for all of us. I hope you'll find these useful.

Learn_iStock_XSmall 

Four Ways to Impact Learning

Impact Curiosity: For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact self-confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into a topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps.

When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

So, pick one of the four and impact someone's learning today. You can.

 

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Four Ways To Impact Learning

Leaders, managers, and heads of projects constantly seek ways to grow talent and make a difference in organizational success.

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?" If they don't like the answer, chances are they'll keep looking.

So, I began reflecting on some recent speaking and workshop experiences. Four distinct factors came to mind as I thought about the give-and-take that led to learning for all of us. I hope you'll find these useful.

Learn_iStock_XSmall

Four Ways to Impact Learning

Impact Curiosity: For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact self-confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into a topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps.

When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

So, pick one of the four and impact someone's learning today. You can.

 

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How To Build Your People

Steve suggests: Start by seeing clearly who they really are

Magnify

Ponder this for a moment:

  • How many people at work know who you really are?
  • How many people do you see clearly for who they are?

I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does--or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

If that doesn't sound very "business-like," it probably isn't in the traditional sense of "business-like."

And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the "people are our most important asset" blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures.Then they  sign on with high hopes.

What happens later on that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for "talent?" Weren't they talented when they were hired?

Here's what I see.

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual's contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance--and then receiving direction to "close the gaps." I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical--but good--teaching, only to go back to work and say "what do I actually do with that?"

In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character,  the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap."

Here are my thoughts as a result:

1. The character issue
 can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get a coach to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn some skills. My question is this: does the day-to-day interaction at work model, support, and reward good relationships? A coach can impact that issue--or help the individual see that another role--maybe even in another organization--would be a better match. It's the coach's job to see those things clearly and to help the other person gain the same clarity.

3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. None has ever changed my own behavior very much. But I have learned a lot that has helped me think differently and more clearly. When do they work? When a manager or coach shows someone how to actually do what was taught--in the context of the organization's strategies and culture.

Manager As Coach

Before you get the idea that this is a treatise on why you should hire me, let me propose this: Managers can coach if they choose to see their people clearly by building relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don't have the time or inclination, then get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It's probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

And that brings us back to the opening:

If you want your talent to be valued, you've got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

If you are a manager, start thinking about intentionally "seeing clearly." And if it's tough, then get some help.

You and I wouldn't build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.

As always: weigh in. Share your thoughts on clarity, talent, and building people by seeing them clearly. Let the community learn from what you've learned. Click on Comments and join the discussion.

 

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Too Busy Doing Business to Do Business

I just met with a corporate Executive VP in Philadelphia. I'll call him Les. Les said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was constantly being called into meetings to deliver lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business.

Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

The Fallacy of "More Is More"

Multitasking_delays In a well-known graph about productivity and multi-tasking (from a 1990′s Harvard Study by Steven C.Wheelwright and Kim B.Clark), two researchers showed the benefits of multitasking – but only in situations where the subject worked on two things at once. Any more than two, and productivity declined. A lot.  This graph shows the results of productivity as related to number of tasks. 

The Lesson: People who multitask actually do far worse on performance than people who eliminate distractions and focus their attention on one or two things.

What to do?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness. It's almost impossible to say "no" with confidence unless you are clear about what's really important.

4. If you are in Les's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

What priorities will you clarify today so that you do the right business?

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Learning How To Develop Others

"Developing Others" ranks dead last on just about every organizational skill level survey with which I've been involved or have read. 

It's not because people lack awareness of its importance; quite the contrary. It's because development takes time. It involves getting to know people and their capabilities at more than a surface level. To develop people, you have to follow a few fundamental steps.

Growth-1-300x227 Here's How To Begin

1. Start with an accurate picture of the person's strengths and weaknesses. They can't grow if they don't have good information about themselves. And managers can't help them develop without the same kind of clarity.

2. Get ongoing feedback from multiple sources. The key words here are ongoing and multiple

Ongoing: Performance improves with information that is provided as close to an event as possible. That way, the situation is still fresh and the details clear. If I get feedback in November about something that happened in February, what am I really supposed to do about it? And I have to ask myself: "If it's so important, why did you wait this long to tell me?"

Multiple sources: We all have bosses and peers; if we're managing, we also have direct reports. When I do 360s for clients, I always insist on feedback from people outside of the person's direct chain of command, even external customers if there is a lot of customer interaction. When someone is working across boundaries on a project, there's a wealth of information available about the ability to build relationships and influence outside of the "power" sphere. 

3. Give first-time tasks that progressively stretch people. In a series of leadership conferences we conducted between 2006-2009, participants told us that the single most valuable contributor to their leadership growth was a series of stretch assignments. No one grows from doing the same thing more and more. '

4. Build a learner mentality. Encourage your people to think of themselves as professional learners as well as (job title). In meetings and one-on-on one, ask:

  • What are you learning that's new or different?
  • Where have you seen yourself improve most in the past year?
  • What have you learned in one situation that you can now use in others?

5. Use coaching, mentoring, classroom, online, books, coursework, and stretch assignments to promote and reinforce learning and development.

One of the byproducts of developing your people: you gain satisfaction and stature as a result of their success. 

Who will you help today?

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The Value of Self-Awareness

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Dog-mirror1 What recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.

Helpful resource: Chris Musselwhite was ruminating over similar issues back in 2007, and wrote a terrific article on Self Awareness in Inc. Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/yj2st6x

____________________________________________________________

A quick note on comments: Due to a heavy travel and speaking scheduling, plus the holidays, I've been remiss in responding to comments in a timely way. My apologies to all who have taken time to weigh in and add to the conversation. All Things Workplace has always been a forum for discussion. I'll be getting caught up this week and we'll get the conversation rolling again. Thanks to everyone who has added their expertise and thoughts in the comment section. 


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Honestly, How Many Choices Do You Want?

The rallying cry of sales reps, product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

Choices

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

_________________________________________

If this is something important to you, you'll also want to read:

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 1

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 2

 

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Managing & Coaching: It's About Support

If you are a manager, a coach, or a manager who (hopefully) coaches, the biggest help you can provide is offering support without undermining your employee or client's sense of self -responsibility. 

It's easy to see "support" as jumping in and bailing out someone who is struggling with a situation. Instead, create an up-front agreement telling when you'll be available as a sounding board to sort out ideas or explore solutions to problems. That way, you serve as an energizer: enabling learning versus directing it.

There will be times when your seniority or position power will be needed to influence others in the organization. When that happens, provide your support. In organizational life, managers can often be most helpful by removing barriers for their people.

Roadblock

Successful On-The-Job Coaching: 3 Things To Do

1. Ask your employee to pinpoint issues and tasks where support is needed.

2. Let her know when when you're available to provide the needed support.

I just came across the next one as a result of a team diagnostic. The team leader thought there was some conflict within the team. He was right.

3. Make sure others on the team are working toward the same goal. Really. 

My leader client had, unwittingly and without malice, laid out a plan of action that forced a few team members to focus on cost-cutting while others were focused on growth (it was a sales team). He resolved it quickly by pulling everyone together and re-visiting the larger goal (profitability) while facilitating a discussion with the account reps to identify how they could best support each other while hitting the individual and group targets. He offered about 30% of the solutions based on deep experience; the team members worked out the other 70% themselves.

What to take away: The combination of support and self-responsibility is the key to growing people. Make sure both are abundant.

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Do You Really Know The Norms?

So, you've got a sense of the culture in your organization. Good.

It's time to go one level deeper and begin to see clearly the norms that come together to create that culture. If norms influence the culture, then you need to be aware of how to influence the norms.

Norms are rules that a group uses to define its appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. The catch: Those rules may be explicit or implicit. And those unspoken norms will bite you every time if you don't find out what they are.

Norms are so important that a failure to stick to the rules can result in severe punishment, the most feared of which is exclusion from the group. A common rule is that some norms must frequently be displayed; neutrality is seldom an option. Think about what "business casual" means in your company. Khakis and a golf shirt? Logo shirt? Jacket without a tie?

Rules

Your Norm Checklist

To help you and your colleagues identify norms, here are five very specific categories:

1. Explicit Norms are written or spoken openly.

2.  Personal Norms: Standards we hold regarding our own actions.

3. Injunctive Norms: Behaviors perceived as being approved of by other people.

4. Subjective Norms: Expectations that "valued others" hold as to how we will behave.

 5. Implicit Norms: Not stated openly; however, you'll find out quickly when you break one!

Norms can be conveyed  by non-verbal behavior such as silence or 'dirty looks' in response to an unspoken norm having been broken. They may also be passed along through stories, rituals and role-model behavior. In Japan, new employees are assigned a mentor who, over time, passes along the company's norms by sharing stories about people, situations, and the outcomes. No employee manual needed here; simply the storytelling of a more experienced employee.

What to Do

  • Identify the rules you put on other people  as a condition for being in your group. Are these productive or convenient?

 

  • What rules have the group put on you? Are they productive or convenient? Are there any which are particularly bothersome and unproductive?


What would happen if you made the implicit explicit? 

 

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Do You Think Systemically?


SystemicI'm sure that using the word "systemically" in the title won't thrill the search engines. But I do think it's the truth, so I'm going with it.

Does your organization know the difference between "systems" and "thinking systemically?"

So: I'm invited to a meeting because of my systemic approach to organization and talent development. The leader does the intro and closes it with, "Here's Steve to tell us what system to use to get the most out of our people."

Between my seat and the front of the room (and the desire to barf), I realize that the many conversations with this guy were rife with misunderstanding. So I've got to own part of it. But this is a well-educated man who I just assumed knew the difference between "a system" and "thinking systemically." I was wrong. Now I'm figuring others may be in the same boat as well and not know it.

So let's try this with some help from Dictionary.com:

Systemnoun

1. an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unitary whole: a mountain system; a railroad system.

Systemic-adjective

1. of or pertaining to a system.

2.    Physiology, Pathology.
a.     pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole.
b.     pertaining to or affecting a particular body system.

Here is a way to help people at work think about the organization:

First: There are (hopefully) systems in place to make things happen.

Second: When thinking about talent (or changes), think systemically by connecting all of the systems and looking at how they impact and relate to each other. 

As you think about your own organization or perhaps that of a client, where do you see decisions being made in ways that tend to overlook the systemic--or connected--nature of all organisms?


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What Are Your Cognitive Biases?

I put a link to this yesterday and started receiving emails with thoughts and comments. So, here's the real deal. Kudos to The Royal Society of Account Planning.

Cognitive Biases - A Visual Study Guide by the Royal Society of Account Planning

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Changes: Diagnostic Leadership

Leading Change: When People Don't Know What They Don't Know

Western culture likes to wave the "total participation" flag when it comes to business decisions and implementation. I've spent time in this series discussing the importance of involvement and erring on the side of inclusion. The assumption, though, is that people have some degree of willingness and ability to do what needs to be done to make the desired change.

But what happens if people are unwilling, unable, or both?

General George S. Patton who, while never accused of being warm, fuzzy, and participative, was successful by anyone's standards when it came to quickly making changes in the worst of circumstances. And the attrition rate in Patton's armies was the lowest despite the greatest level of exposure.

The key was this: The average soldier may not have known what to do in an overwhelming situation and even if he did, the consequences might create a sense of hesitation due to uncertainty or fear. Patton did know what to do and how to do it. And he knew how to explain the benefits and consequences of action vs. inaction (if needed).

Quickly assessing willingness and ability--then leading a myriad of changes and changes-within-changes accordingly--can be seen in a study of his actions.

What happens when you do a quick assessment of your "change" and realize: "I'm not seeing a groundswell of support or the ability to get there even if there were support!"

What To Do

In the absence of either or both of those factors, effective leaders become directive: They tell people what to do, show them how to do it, bring them along the learning curve, and don't back off until the level of performance required can be achieved without close leadership. To do anything less would be to treat people badly. Think about it: If you have to do something but don't understand why or how, aren't you looking for someone to step in and offer the necessary context, structure, and teaching?

This also assumes that the necessary level of willingness and ability can be reached. If it can't, some people will have to opt out or be asked to leave based on one or both factors. Why?

1. Performance can't be achieved

2. People who are unwilling are toxic to the effort. If they are allowed to stay they will be the ones who set the standard. And the standard will be one of "status quo" or "lowest common denominator", not "let's accomplish all that we can."

3. People who are unable--even with training and education--need to find a new place where they can excel. It's not a matter of what they have contributed in the past. It's what they will be able to achieve for themselves and an employer in the future. There is every reason to help people in this category with the transition as well as sincerely celebrating their contributions.

The Diagnostic Leader

Really effective leaders are also really effective diagnosticians. They understand what they specifically want to improve and then diagnose the willingness and abilities of those who are critical to success. As a result, they operate with the right mix of direction and participation and know when to shift back and forth.

I've said this before but it's worth repeating: Prognosis without diagnosis is malpractice.

Don't tell a perfectly conscious patient where it hurts.

And don't ask an unconscious patient to participate as an active partner in the treatment.

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How Do You Measure Workplace Happiness?

I was checking the statistics here to discover the search engine queries that bring people to All Things Workplace. I figured that the keywords were going to be mostly about leadership or management.

I was wrong.

Smilekittenlarge_2

"Job Satisfaction"..."Happiness at Work"..."Where Can I Find the Best Job?"..."Strengths and Weaknesses"..."How Can I Find A Job Where the Boss Listens to Me?"...those were the themes. Career issues--sometimes disguised as communications--turned out to be the number one driver.

Make no mistake. People are searching for how to feel good at work. We want to do well...and we want to feel good in the process.

Think about two variables

There's a relationship between how much you love your job and how well you perform. That's not a mystery. But there is a dynamic you need to know about in order to manage yourself and others:

1. Some people have to feel good about their job and their workplace before they can get busy and perform at their max.

2. Others have to have to first achieve super results in order to feel good about their jobs.

It's a "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" phenomenon. I picked up on this some years ago during a stretch where I was diagnosing "performance issues" for a client.

My conclusion: Managers hadn't caught onto the validity of the two approaches to performance. Naturally, the "feel good first" people were perceived as weenie-like non-performers. However, they actually had a huge commitment to doing well. They just needed something else to help them be able to get there.

What was it? They wanted the managers to understand who they were and what made them tick. That went along way to having the "right feeling" about the job.

The second category of people wanted a scorecard. They weren't about to "feel" good until they checked off their tasks and accomplishments.

Target yourself and your people

1. Which approach most naturally fits you? Figure out what that means to the way you work and the way your work is managed. Then talk with your manager about your desire to excel and how you might use this natural preference to make that happen.

2. Managers: The next time you're in a meeting (or one-on-one), have an informal conversation about the two approaches. Let people talk about what comes first for them. You'll learn a lot about how to manage each person; and they'll get more of what they need in order to hit the top of the job satisfaction/high performance curve.

Do you come onto the work scene each day with one of these in the front of your mind? How does that play out for your job satisfaction and performance?

__________________________________

This post first ran in June, 2008. The issue of Workplace Happiness is still thriving across the entire range of social media and professional publications, so I thought a little "re-visit" might be worthwhile.

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Future Leaders: Do You Have These Three?

BrownDogTalkingtoBlackDog331x222 We say we want a mentor, a coach, a trusted advisor.

We want to grow and become more effective.

We ask for help. For "feedback."

This is what you need to make it a success:

The patience to listen, the humility to hear, and the courage to act.

Do you have all three?

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
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Mobile: 856.275.4002

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