Category Archives: Adam Grant

Monday Morning Moment – Workplace Wisdom – From the Shallows Back Out Into the Rapids – 5 Resources

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The river of work is often a fast current – the movers and shakers are in the rushing waters. If you find yourself in the shallows how did that happen? Illness (yours or someone in your family), underemployment, qualifications issue, somehow just not the “flavor of the month”? Any or all of these situations could have prompted a detour out of the faster waters of your work.

Some of us thrive in the shallows. I want to learn how, now that I’m semi-retired. Still, the rapids call me  back…for many reasons.

If you, like me, are in the shallows and you are bewildered rather than refreshed by them, think why that might be.

The rushing waters are where the action is. They’re here and gone, but they carry along whatever is happening in the river.

Occasionally something interesting and important will pop out for you from the current – and you tackle it with excitement – and when you finish it, then it’s gone. Taken back up by the river as if it never visited the shallows, as if you never touched it.

The shallows are a lovely place to visit…especially when you’re exhausted from the rapids. Especially when you need a new vantage point…a new view of your work. The shallows provide that. Being long in the shallows is a strange experience…if you’re used to the rapids.

How does one push back out into the current?

OK…enough metaphor. Here are 5 super useful resources to help us push back into the running river of work…if that’s where we want to be. Choose which fits the most right now, and dig into the article:

1) Achieving Stadium Status – Why not have a colossal goal, right? Leadership consultant Skip Prichard posted a piece recently on How to Achieve Stadium Status. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He gives a hardy review of John Brubaker‘s book Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time. From the book, Prichard covers such topics as how to use affirmations, dealing with critics, rising above the noise, leaving our comfort zones, avoiding comparing, and not repeating others’ mistakes. Until you can read the book, catch Prichard’s article to get started toward the main stage.

Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time – John Brubaker

2) Bouncing Forward After a Big Fail – One of my favorite writers on leadership and the workplace is  Adam Grant . He takes a very different view of failure at work in his article When You Get Fired Or Fail Big, This Is How You Bounce Forward. Photo Credit: Pexels

Quoting Grant here:

“Most of the time, when someone fails, it’s not because there’s a bad apple spoiling the barrel. It’s because the barrel is a bad relationship.

In other words: It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us.

That doesn’t mean shirking responsibility or failing to hold others accountable. It means realizing that in many of our struggles, the biggest problem lies not in individuals but in relationships.

It helps to remember that in most failures, relationships are a major factor. We just have to make sure we don’t pull the wool over our own eyes.” – Adam Grant

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

3) Addressing Team Alignment – Leadership trainer Jesse Lyn Stoner looked at how team alignment influences team performance. In her piece, Team Alignment is for the Birds, she had this to say:

 

Team alignment is often “leader dependent. Followers depend on the leader to make decisions on direction and tell them what to do.

Team members [in this scenario]. . .

. . . should not act independently.

. . . have little need to communicate with each other.

. . . are following the leader, with no idea where they are going.

We need teams composed of individuals who are able to make quick decisions on how to respond to what comes their way, who are able to use their good judgment to solve problems, who coordinate their efforts with each other, and who come up with fresh new ideas.

A compelling vision (that includes common purpose and shared values) is a more powerful way of unifying your team than trying to align them through structure, policies and procedures.

When a team is organized around a unifying vision, the vision becomes the glue that holds your team together.” – Jesse Lyn Stoner

6 Benchmarks of High Performance Teams – Jesse Lyn Stoner

4) Excellence in Execution – Strategy thinker Robin Speculand writes on what it takes to effectively implement change. In his blog (guest post on Skip Prichard’s website), Speculand talks about the role of the leader in driving strategy forward. To effectively execute change, leaders must demonstrate their own commitment to the strategy. How visible they are to the rest of the company’s employees attests to how valuable the execution of that change is to them personally. Speculand talks about how to carve out time and energy from a busy schedule in order to be fully available to those most impacted by the strategy change. Photo Credit: All Hands

Intriguing ideas, especially for any of you in the shallows. To be a person who executes well is a valuable employee. Don’t lose sight of that.

A Leader’s Role in Achieving Excellence in Execution – Robin Speculand

Excellence in Execution: How to Implement Your Strategy – Robin Speculand

Robin Speculand Presentations – Slideshares

5) Becoming More Likable – Work is not a popularity contest. However, likable people are just a whole lot more fun to work with than folks who insist on being controlling or contrarian. Marcel Schwantes lays out 6 qualities of folks we would all like on our teams…

  • Be curious and ask interesting questions.
  • Describe other people in the positive.
  • Make an immediate good first impression with your face.
  • Listen. Really listen.
  • Choose every opportunity to experience joy.
  • Don’t pass judgment.Photo Credit: Flickr

6 Qualities of Extremely Likable People, According to Science – Marcel Schwantes

Bonus: a Critical People Skill with Kate Nasser

A Critical People Skills Moment to Handle With Ease – Kate Nasser

When others ask you to change a behavior that rubs them the wrong way, what is your response? They will remember how you reply to this critical people skills moment.

Do you …

  1. Give a list of reasons why you do it?
  2. Ask them to explain why it bothers them?
  3. Suggest that they are being demanding, irrational, unprofessional, or childish for asking?
  4. Take offense and avoid these people whenever possible?
  5. Stop doing it?

Check out Kate Nasser‘s lightning fast read on looking seriously at the 5th response above. We want our preferences…we want things done our way. We want “me” to win, not “we” to win. Something to think about.

Let’s push out into the fast water of our workplace…we’ve had enough time in the shallows.

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Monday Morning Moment – People You Love Working With – and Becoming One of Them

blog-likable-guys-at-work-askmenPhoto Credit: AskMen

It’s Monday morning and whatever you’re facing today, these folks help to bring down your stress and lighten your load…just by being in your path. You can name them easily. They are the ones who make you laugh and see a different side to your situation. They are the ones who give you second thoughts when considering a job change. They are the ones who add value to you, not just as a colleague but as a real in-the-skin human being. These are the folks who can turn the course of your day with just a few minutes conversation…or even a wave from across the parking lot. It’s just that simple.blog-likeable-cowoers-muffy-bennettPhoto Credit: Mashable

For you guys in a dark place…and not one person comes to mind…maybe, it’s good to think back…to people in your past who helped set you on a positive course in your career…think of those people. If you are in a hole in your workplace right now, and many of us have been there at some point in our professional lives, could you rally and become one of these people who light up the place?

blog-likeable-coworkers

Photo Credit: Friendship.about

Here’s the challenge for today. I read an article by content strategist Scott Tousley recently which got me thinking about this.  Is it possible to become “a rising tide that lifts all boats”? If you’ve read this far, you probably are already that kind of person. However, if somehow you struggle with keeping fellow employees in your view while dealing with large-scale problem-solving, you might want to consider a personal assessment and do-over. It’s never too late.

Scott Tousley – who has the longest eyelashes and most infectious smile – also gets to live and work in San Diego, California. Besides all that, he writes really insightful articles about the workplace. His article, The 9 Habits of Insanely Likable and Charismatic People, is so good, I’m not going to write my own commentary on this topic, because you HAVE to go read his article. It lists the 9 habits (included below) with real-life anecdotes, brilliant support data, and links to read more. So don’t miss it – lightning-fast read for us visual learners.

Tousley’s 9 habits of insanely likable & charismatic people: 

1. They are empathetic

2. They are humble

3. They are vulnerable

4. They have a sense of humor

5. They are present

6. They are genuinely interested in EVERYONE

7. They avoid social narcissism

8. They are generous and altruistic

9. They reciprocate praise (and take blame)

Being likable and charismatic isn’t about being popular or climbing the career ladder as much as it’s about making a huge chunk of our lives just more enjoyable… We have choices here.

blog-likable-coworkers-the-question-academyblog-likeable-coworkers-amanda-gorePhoto Credit: The Question Academy; LinkedIn

If you had trouble calling to mind people you really like at work, then you’ve probably fallen down but you can get up! Don’t let that snarky, seemingly self-important coworker or boss mess with your head and steal your joy. Refocus to those in your workspace who you can’t help but be encouraged around them. Don’t miss them in that cloud of bother over the less likable ones around you. So what if they don’t seem to care about you or others at work. You be one who cares…and it can make a big difference. Take Scott Tousley’s excellent counsel in noting and affirming those likable ones around you…and set your course to return to being one yourself.

The 9 Habits of Insanely Likable and Charismatic People – Scott Tousley

4 Simple Questions That Will Instantly Make You More Likable at Work – Sara McCord

Being More Likable at Work – Cherie Burbach

10 Traits of Likeable People – Evan West

13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People – Travis Bradberry

How to Develop Your Charisma and Become More Likable – WATCH the Olivia Fox Cabane Video – Patrick Allan

How To Be More Likeable at Work – 10 Things To Do Today – G. L. Hoffman

YouTube Video – Amanda Gore – Stress Busters and Mood Management and Turning on the Joy Switch

Monday Morning Moment – Ultra-Productive People & What They Do Differently – 2 Infographics

blog-productivity-silicon-valley-reportPhoto Credit: Silicon Valley Report

We all have exactly the same amount of time. At least in a day. Some of us have less time than others in our lives, probably, which makes using that valuable time wisely all the more important. However, that’s the false perception of time. The idea that, because we’re young, we have all the time in the world…so chill. Enjoy. Right? Just because we’re young, how we use our time will set habits that build a foundation for our life and work. Young or old, learning how to be consummately productive is a very good plan. When we do the work of learning to be “ultra productive” part of what we gain out of that is…more time. Definitely worth the work.

I’ve written on productivity other times (in particular, about “Chris Bailey’s life of productivity”). Using time and brain power wisely is important to me because I am well aware of how easy it is to squander both. When I discovered the two infographics below, they affirmed some of the changes I’ve already made in my life and other habits worthy of establishing.

Kevin Kruse in a Forbes article gives us results of his survey of 200 ultra-productive people. He asked each their secret of productivity.  The infographic below lists out the 15 ideas gleaned from his study.blog-productive-people-do-things-differently-15-time-secretsPhoto Credit: Online Learning Tips

Anything surprise you? I was surprised at getting rid of to-do lists by scheduling everything. The “say no to everything” idea can be agonizing to execute and also infuriating when you’re on the receiving end.  Every idea in the list of 15 is doable and easy to develop as a habit. Worth a try, right?

Another infographic (from Dylan Roach and Jacquelyn Smith in Business Insider) highlights the morning habits of successful people. This also resonated with what I have discovered in the lives of influential and productive friends and colleagues. blog-productive-people-do-things-differently-16-things-at-start-of-each-day-update-or-diePhoto Credit: Business Insider

I appreciate the ideas of this infographic…especially the ones on helping others and being grateful. Soft habits maybe? Not really. When the ideas above get hard-wired in us through habit formation and intentionality, our productivity ramps up and our definition of success may widen to a more shared experience in our life and work.

5 Friday Faves – Workplace Friendship, a Book on Opposites, All Things Pumpkin, Story-telling, and a Chamber Choir

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! We’re expecting a rainy weekend here. With Fall weather upon us, the pull to be outdoors is even more heightened. If the rain keeps you in, here are five favorites to enjoy.

  1. Workplace Friendships – Adam Grant writes for New York Times about how friendship culture has changed in the workplace. I have life-long friendships which originated at work. Same passions, same seasons of life. Read his piece here. What is your experience?Blog - Friends at work - Friday FavesPhoto Credit: NYTimes.com

2. Book of Opposites – Jennifer Kahnweiler has written a fascinating book on Introversion-Extroversion. The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. My  husband is a  introvert  and I am an extrovert. We have been married over 30 years and have worked together many of those years. We have learned a lot of Kahnweiler’s wisdom on our own…and after many years of struggle. This book is very helpful and empowering for any partnership between introverts and extroverts.

Blog - Friday Faves - Genius of Opposites

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Skip Pritchard wrote a great review here.Genius-card-front-1Photo Credit: SkipPritchard.com

3) All Things Pumpkin – O.K. I’m not wild about Pumpkin Spice Latte, but as soon as September comes, I’m in love again with all things pumpkin. My favorites are pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. When we lived overseas, pumpkin was solely treated as a vegetable. It is amazing in 7-vegetable couscous. What is your favorite pumpkin recipe? Please share in comments.2015 September Flowers & Fall Pumpkin Spice Blog 014Photo Credit: Weather.com

Fall Pumpkins by Carol Davis2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (147)Photo Credit: Pumpkins by Carol Davis

4. Story-Telling – Chase Neinken wrote a piece for NewsCred.com on what is critical to story-telling – Conflict, Authenticity, and the Audience. Read 3 Crucial Principles Of Storytelling You Can Learn From Kevin Spacey + House Of Cards, and watch Kevin Spacey talk about story-telling.

5) A Chamber Choir – Azusa Pacific University Chamber Singers were recently on tour in Italy. On Facebook, I came across a video of them singing “Give Me Jesus” by Larry Fleming at the prison where the Apostle Paul was kept. Wow!Blog - Friday Faves - APU Chamber_Singers

Photo Credit: apu.edu

That video hasn’t made it to YouTube yet, but here they are singing at a concert in Italy.

Do you have a favorite group? Please share. Enjoy your weekend…and your pumpkin of choice.

Givers, Takers, or Matchers in the Workplace – Which One Are You? – with Adam Grant

Blog - Givers, Takers, Matchers - Adam GrantPhoto Credit: Chuck Scoggins.com

A smart and gifted friend of mine is going through a taxing time on her new job. Long hours, piling up responsibilities, with no end in sight. She lamented that maybe the problem is that she’s a people-pleaser. That expression seems to communicate a character weakness, and I don’t see that operating so much with this friend of mine. What seems more her dilemma is that she’s what Adam Grant calls a “giver”…which is a good thing. The dilemma for my friend and her workplace is to establish a culture where she, and other givers, can thrive.

Adam Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has also written this great book – Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. I heard him speak at the Global Leadership Summit and bought his book. His take on the three tops of people who make up our work culture was both fascinating and practical.Blog - Give and Take by Adam Grant - cminds.netPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Grant sees us all as either givers, takers, or matchers. “It’s very hard to judge our own style. What values you live each day is in the eye of the beholder.” We may not necessarily see ourselves in these categories, but our colleagues will. Ask them, if you have the courage. Then you might consider taking what you learn and thinking through how you might use that information to become a more effective employee and valued colleague.

Takers are those who often manage to do the least amount of work yet gaining the most notice. They manage to get “the lion’s share of credit for collective achievements”, notes Grant. The Takers are the shirkers in the workplace. They are not at their desks because they are off schmoozing (oops, I meant networking, right?) in another department. They somehow get their jobs done partly by leaning on the strong work ethic of the Givers.

Givers are the people who simply enjoy helping others – “no strings attached”. They get to work early and stay late, if necessary. Their core values resonate in the quantity and quality of their work.

Matchers are most of us, really, doing our part in the workplace. Matchers can be counted on to keep things “fair” at work. “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me” is their mantra. They believe in “an eye for an eye” and “just worlds”.  They are the “fairness” or “Karma” police in the workplace.

Grant readily admits that we may operate out of all three styles from time to time, but we each have a dominant style at work.

How do givers, takers, and matchers fare in the workplace? Which of these sinks to the bottom in terms of performance and impact?

Givers are the worst performers (but keep reading). “The ones who get the least work done are the ones who help the others and never get their own jobs done”, reports Grant.  “I love helping others” is not the one on top of the heap of performers. “The lowest revenue accrues to the most generous salespeople.”

It’s sad news that givers sink to the bottom. If you want to boost your organization, have more givers….unfortunately the givers do it at their own expense – unless the organization builds a culture that helps the givers to thrive.

Who rises to the top?

If givers are the worst performers, who are the best performers? You think it’s takers? Takers rise quickly, and fall quickly. They often fall at the hands of the Matchers who can use gossip (or, said another way, workplace channels of influence) to call out the abuse of the Takers. Beware, Takers, of the Matchers in the shadows. Also, other Takers can also take down those more abusive, or less-well-liked Takers.

Are the Matchers the best performers? Not usually. The best results belong to the Givers. Wait! How can they also be the best performers? It’s a both/and situation.

Grant encourages: “Helping others can sink your career but it can also accelerate your careers. Hang in there.”

It takes a while for Givers to learn and build connections, but when they do, it’s a win-win for the organization.

How can we build cultures to help Givers be successful?

3 Things We Can Do:

  1. Keep the wrong people off the bus. – Get the right people on the bus. If possible, keep Takers off the bus. “One Taker on the team and paranoia starts to spread.” Put one Giver on the team, and you don’t necessarily have an explosion of generosity. It’s not bringing in the Givers; it’s weeding out the Takers. Matchers follow the norm. Matchers will follow the example of the Givers.
  2. Redefine Giving.   Wisdom is to know who is who in the workplace. Or at least not be thrown off by behaviors vs. motives. Then we can shape our work culture to empower Givers, influence Matchers, and avoid enabling Takers. In an interview with Adam Grant, Thinkers50 spelled this process out very well. For instance, consider Agreeableness vs. Disagreeableness – in Takers, Givers, and Matchers. We usually think Takers are disagreeable, but not necessarily so. Givers aren’t always agreeable either. Just because someone is nice to you (an agreeable Taker) doesn’t mean they care about you (Givers, in general, really care). Adam Grant also talks about the importance of kindness in the workplace. This is a strength of Givers, but it can also push them to over-work and exhaustion. Grant prescribes “5-minute favors (a microloan of your time, skills, or connections). Volunteering – 100 hours a year – is the sweet spot. Greater than 100 hours a year is too much. 2 hours a week.”
  3. Encourage Help-Seekers – A work culture of Help-Seekers will take silos down. “People step up when others say ‘I’m stuck; I need some help’. If no one asks for help, you have a lot of frustrated Givers in your organization.” Grant recommends an exercise called the Reciprocity Ring – Gathering teams together and having each person state a request of something they want or need and then everyone else in the room tries to use their expertise and networks to make it happen. “People are often unbelievably generous if you ask for help. Givers step up. The Takers become more generous. All the offers of help are visible. Takers don’t want to get outed. The Matchers realize that matching is useful, but it’s an inefficient way to run an organization. If you have given help to others without getting back, then you can increase your productivity because you don’t have to just ask those you’ve helped.”

Givers ask the question “How can I be the rising tide that lifts all boats?” We can move our organizations in this direction of maximum impact and satisfaction, by nurturing a Giver culture.  Instead of workplace paranoia, imagine a culture distinguished by a “Pro-noia” – the “delusion” that other people are plotting your wellbeing.  May it not be a delusion but a daily reality.

Give and Take – An Interview with Adam Grant by Thinkers50

Give and Take – A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant

Outward Focused Lives // Givers, Takers, Matchers

Give and Take – An introduction

YouTube Video – Adam Grant, Professor – Givers, Takers, and Matchers

YouTube Video – Adam Grant’s Give and Take Talk at Google

Global Leadership Summit 2015

The Reciprocity Ring

Live Blog: 2015 Leadership Summit – 30 Leadership Quotes from Adam Grant – Brian Dodd on Leadership

The Global Leadership Summit Session Three – Adam Grant – Notes by Chuck Scoggins