Category Archives: Workplace Culture

Monday Morning Moment – the Endearing, Enduring Multipliers in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick and quiet get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.

This time, we went for a week to Dahab, on the far side of the Sinai. r_seaman@hotmail.comPhoto Credit: Egypttailormade.net

Dave was finishing his time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.

We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intensity of being responsible for so many young people.

Driving the long road to Dahab, through the calming desert of the Sinai, kids in the backseat, Dave got a phone call.

Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.

When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.

Thus, the goose bumps.

Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.

Liz Wiseman has written the most incredible book on leadership – Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter . Her book describes this mentor of my husband as if she knew him personally. Wiseman is the president of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

Blog - Liz Wiseman

Photo Credit: LiveIntentionally.org

I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit. Her presentation centered on a more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.

On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:

“The first type [diminishers] drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum [the multipliers] are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman

Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.

[Sidebar – It’s not like diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe if ever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines…especially those who become accidental diminishers – in video at minute 28:35.]

This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.

I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.

Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under our watch in the workplace, we want to offer the best leadership possible. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.

“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.”  – Liz Wiseman

Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thanks also to that unnamed mentor and multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.

Read Wiseman’s book. [If you watch this video, you will want to buy the book…if I haven’t already sold you.] I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.

Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

Photo Credit: Leadership Natives

Leadership Natives – About Multipliers

YouTube Video – Leaders as Multipliers with Liz Wiseman

Multipliers Quotes from GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – How an Accidental Diminisher Becomes a Multiplier – Deb Mills

2013 Global Leadership Summit Session 3a: Liz Wiseman

Brian Dodd – 4 Leadership Lessons From Mt. Rainier and the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Business List – another example of a Multiplier

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

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What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – When Your Work Culture’s In Trouble – with Matt Monge

Photo Credit: Career Addict

Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.

Below you will find Monge’s piece 7 Signs Your Culture Is In Trouble. Click on the link to go further into depth on what these mean.

  • Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
  • Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and  development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
  • Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
  • Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
  • Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
  • Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
  • Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.

Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.

Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James

Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community

I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.

My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

YouTube Video – Matt Monge: Speaker, Writer, Leadership & Culture Expert, Depression Fighter

What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team – Ron Carucci

Turnover Trouble: How a Great Company Culture Can Help You retain Your Best Employees – Emma Sturgis

Monday Morning Moment – Kindness Over Cleverness – Work Culture Where Employee Satisfaction Impacts Marketing – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Solitude, a Culture Wall, Like a Mother – Serena Williams, Our Children, and Food With a Friend

Check this week as done. For us around here, it’s been a week of great highs punctuated by distinct lows. How amazing that we can pray through and lean in to God and each other for the lows…and celebrate the highs, in quiet and in company. Life is good and real.

1) Solitude – Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude is something that comes easy.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught YouZat Rana

According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.

The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana

[My husband who often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally.]

Rana talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”

“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana

Everything I Have Learned in 500 Words – Zat Rana

2) A Culture Wall – Benjamin Hardy is a writer, organizational psychologist dude. I am reading his book Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discovering the Keys to Success. This week he posted about having a culture wall, and it totally engaged this visual learner. Designed by Gaping Void, this is an art-as-inspiration tool for the workplace.Photo Credit: Benjamin Hardy, Medium; Gaping Void

Looking at Benjamin Hardy’s culture wall got me thinking of the truths that keep me going at work and at home. Coming up with those sayings or mantras, as a team, or family, would be an excellent exercise…and then making the art happen would flow naturally out of that. It doesn’t have to be 20 pictures, like Hardy’s. Even one is a good start.

[Sidebar – Guitarist, YouTuber Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, in his videos, often features a “nerd shrine” with striking wall art. I wonder what a culture wall would look like in his studio.]

These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 BooksBenjamin Hardy

3) Like a Mother – Serena Williams – American tennis champion Serena Williams made it to the Wimbledon final this year. She didn’t win but she played #LikeaMother.  The expression “like a mother” brings all sorts of images to mind…and makes for marketing genius… Two examples are a Lysol commercial and one by Gatorade, the latter featuring Serena Williams.

Here’s to Serena Williams…including a couple of interviews where she and husband investor Alexis Ohanian describe how they met.

4) Our Children – Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green could have been a buddy of mine in college. In those days of the Vietnam War, we were those conflicted ones who wrote our high school sweethearts away in the military and we vocally protested at the same time. The Roe v. Wade decision was very new and felt very progressive to all of us, in those days…the “make love, not war” crowd. I was young and being pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t even on my radar…until after that court case divided us into mostly two camps. Mathewes-Green has written the most definitive piece on abortion and the legacy we are leaving our children in the article When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.

She writes:

“Whatever your opinion is on abortion, I ask you to read this article. Fresh eyes. Mathewes-Green was around when that court decision was made. She was also feminist, as were so many of us in those days. She is still very pro-women…pro-human.

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.

Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.””

and

“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Photo Credit: CASA

Her article frames this Friday Fave.  Why “our children” as the heading? When I read Mathewes-Green’s article, she reminded me that our children or our children’s children may judge these decades very differently than our culture has – these decades of thousands of babies not delivered alive. Definitely, if those not delivered alive could speak…those silenced by their own mothers (out of desperation with no one offering to help them in life-giving ways)…if they could speak, we might see things differently today. Thankful for women, like Frederica Mathewes-Green, who provide a call to reconsider and a platform for the voices of all our children.

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense Frederica Mathewes-Green

Video – 50 Mums – 50 Kids – 1 Extra Chromosome

Tending your Garden – Colleen Searcy

5) Food With a Friend – Don’t you love surprise visits with a friend, now living states away? When I got Nikki’s text to meet up for a lunch this week, it was like a healing balm on my heart. She suggested a restaurant new to me: Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.

How have I missed this yummy place? All the food memories of our years in the Arab world mixed together in a big bowl. Pretty much my experience that day.

Add a long conversation between friends (including one other who joined our happy table)…and it was like Heaven here in Richmond, Virginia. Any such happy occasions come to mind for you this week? Hope so.

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That’s the week. Please comment below on any of these faves of mine or introduce your own… Have a restorative weekend… whatever that means for you and those you love.

Bonuses

Here’s Exactly What to Do If a Tick Bites You – Kate Sheridan

What To Do When You Think Your Life Sucks

I Love Jesus But I Want to Die: What You Need to Know About Suicide – Sarah

The Space Between – Marilyn Gardner

Paris, the evening of the World Cup FinalPhoto Credit: Nikaley Chandler

Tour de France – The Climbers and Rapid Descenders – the stages through the Alps happened this week – so incredibly exciting watching these riders – their toughness and endurance:Photo Credit: Cyclist

Happily Ever After – 100 Wedding Songs for Your Ceremony and Reception – Music Notes

Photo Credit: Jimmy Lee Thompson, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Workplace Culture – Do Things that Don’t Scale

Photo Credit: Medium, Ian Tang

Scalability refers to a company’s ability to increase its production profitably. – Merriam Webster

This is a new concept for me. Isn’t that like growth or profit? It’s like waking up out of a deep sleep and terminology in the workplace has changed. Is scalability the same as reproducibility?

What if profit comes out of something beyond scalability? Or at least is it possible to be successful without changing who you are as a business? These questions pop up for me when I hear the word scalable.

[Hang on, you faithful readers…not a usual topic for me, but what I learned was highly satisfying…hopefully for you, too.]

Sometimes learning about a new concept is enhanced by reinforcing what it is NOT.

Following you will find quotes from three business leaders who talk about the positive nature of things that don’t scale or reverse scale.

Shawn Askinosie is a lawyer turned chocolatier. Then he wrote a book about the journey. Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul. In a recent blog, Askinosie wrote exquisitely about scale and reverse scale. See what you think?

We write about reverse scale extensively in the book. What is it? It’s a practice of recognizing the value of not scaling…. We’re conditioned by our business culture to believe that unless the idea is big and capable of rapid scale then it has little value. Can we take a step back and reconsider this dogma? Could we assess value even if our idea helps only one person or if it only transforms us? True sustainability lies within the answers to these questions. If more of us answered the call to action on the supposedly “small” ideas then imagine the kind of social problems the world could address.

We tend to think “more” and “bigger” will always be better, that somehow they will allow us to finally breathe easier when we arrive. The problem is that it’s often an illusion because we never really arrive at the place that’s just out of reach. Scale demands that every single person in the chain focus on what’s next and on finding someone to do the thing that’s now ‘below’ them in order to move themselves up. Anything less than that and you will lose the race for scale, because someone else is more focused than you.

Reverse scale could also be called human scale. It is in the smallness of one on one relationships that we find meaning because we’re not insulated from the pain and sorrows of these connections. We tend to lose this when we’re so focused on scale and growth. – Shawn Askinosie

This guy, as you can tell, has no interest in blowing out the roof on profits. He wants to deliver a quality product with the help of a small company of people who he wants genuine relationships with…and he wants margin to focus on his definition of what really matters in life. Cool, huh?

Investor and thought leader Paul Graham is also one who advises entrepreneurs to Do Things That Don’t Scale. The infographic below was inspired by his article. His ideas are almost revolutionary in today’s high-pressure workplaces, yet his thinking is also that of some of the greats, including Steve Jobs , co-founder of Apple, Inc.

Photo Credit: Funders and Founders, Idealog

Paul Graham elaborates (read his whole piece; the following speaks to a couple of components):

The question is ask about an early stage startup is not “is this company taking over the world?” but “how big could this company get if the founders did the right things?” And the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.

You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy…Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.

A lot of startup founders are trained as engineers, and customer service is not part of the training of engineers. You are supposed to build things that are robust and elegant, not be slavishly attentive to individual users like some kind of salesperson.

Delighting customers scales better than you expected.

Recruit users manually and give them an overwhelmingly good experience. The unscalable things you have to do to get started…change the company permanently for the better. If you have to be aggressive about user acquisition when you’re small, you’ll probably still be aggressive when you’re big….and most importantly, if you have to work hard to delight users when you only have a handful of them, you’ll keep doing it when you have a lot.

I am enthralled by the thinking of these men. They have started me thinking about the whole idea of scaling…and also doing the things that don’t scale but still have tremendous value.

Check out the two further articles below which also support the strong foundation, in any size business, of a work culture where people matter first and then the product/service rolls out of that.

Do Things That Don’t ScaleIan Tang

Four Ways to Put Culture First as Your Company Scales – Fond Blog

Infographic: Do Things That Don’t Scale In Startups – Idealog

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter in the Hallways – Workplace Humor

Photo Credit: Arkadin, Sophie Huss

Michael Kerr makes a living with Humor at Work. His video  “It’s Monday Morning!…I can’t wait to go to work.” is the stuff of wonder. Wasn’t there a time you couldn’t wait to get to work? If never, or especially not today, then you could start with lightening your workday baggage with lightening your heart.

Photo Credit: Awesome at Your Job Podcast

Kerr talks about using three mental tools – 3 R’s – to shake-up your perspective in a happy way:

  1. Reframe – Stress is one person’s take on a stressor. Where the voices in our heads take us isn’t necessarily how the situation will play out in reality. So wisdom is to “practice playing with the voices in our heads”. Reeling in our negative reactions to stress isn’t about stuffing them but about turning them into healthy (and potentially) humorous responses. My husband and I have a couple of mantras – lines from an old Western movie titled Silverado – that we use to lighten a situation:
    “It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.                                                                   “That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover.                                                                                                                     YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge
  2. Reward – Kerr prescribes attaching a reward to something that is stressful. Say if there is a specific type of meeting or a particular colleague that stresses you out. Put a reward in place that you can go to after those meetings/encounters. It doesn’t have to be chocolate. It can be a walk around the building – inside to say hi to encouraging people or outside to just enjoy nature. If you find yourself demoralized by a situation, what can you do to both laugh at yourself and give others the opportunity to do the same? We can take ourselves and our stresses entirely too seriously. Our enjoyment of work and our work itself can both be debilitated if we can’t figure out how to “pull up”. Rewards. What sounds like it would work for you? For your team?
  3. RelaxStress does terrible things to us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Laughter does just the opposite. Sometimes, our focus on spreadsheets, email, and weighty decision-making leaves little room for laughter in our work lives. Who’s responsible for that? We can blame our boss, or the CEO, or whomever. However, we can also just learn to relax – creating space – putting distance between us and what causes our stress. Kerr talks about a Humor First Aid Kit. This could include funny books, workplace humor photo signs to use for selfies etc., props to wear or place on your or your coworkers’ desks, bobbleheads …chocolate. What would you recommend?Photo Credit: AppAdvice

The Power of Workplace Humor – Podcast with Michael Kerr – Awesome at Your Job

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Photo Credit: Sam Glenn, Facebook

We have all had the occasional forced fun day foisted upon us by C-suite execs – leaders who have diagnosed that way too many employees are silently and loudly giving all indication that morale is low. They are trying so give some grace here. Don’t punish yourself by refusing the free lunch or tshirt. Just come up with your own ideas of what helps you and your team get the joy back.

“It’s Monday morning!! I can’t wait to get to work.” Do it for yourself and for those you care about at work.

Utilizing Humor in the Workplace – Michael Kerr

The Work-Laugh Balance: Why Humor Is Key to Workplace HappinessSophie Huss

YouTube Video – Humor at Work – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

Photo Credit: Andrew Tarvin, TEDx Talk, YouTube

YouTube Video – The Skill of Humor – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

YouTube Video – Communications – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Workfront and Tripp and Tyler Present: “Email in Real Life” – includes Outtakes

The Four Keys to a Successful Workplace Culture That Drives Business Results Michael Kerr

 

Monday Morning Moment – Trust Me – Sharing Economy, Idling Capacities, and Trust with Rachel Botsman

Photo Credit: YouTube, Rachel Botsman

Trust me. If you ever have the opportunity to hear thought leader Rachel Botsman speak, don’t miss it. Don’t miss her.

Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart – Rachel Botsman [Botsman’s latest book]

I discovered Rachel Botsman just a few weeks ago and, of course, wrote a bit about her work.

The concept of “shared economy” and “idling capacities” isn’t new. However, when I heard her use those terms in a TED Talk, my heart about leapt out of my chest. This resonates so with my idea of work and workplace, in terms of valuing people and resources as well as maximizing outcomes.

Rachel Botsman defines these terms as:

Sharing economy – “an economic system that unlocks the value of underused assets through platforms that match ‘needs’ with ‘haves’ in ways that create greater efficiency and access”. – Rachel Botsman

Idling capacity – “untapped social economic and environmental value of underused assets – tend[ing] to fall into three categories: physical stuff, labor assets (time, skills, human potential), and capital assets (crowd-funding, crowd equity, peer-to-peer lending platforms)” – Rachel Botsman

She talks about this broken system of supply-and-demand. “How can we extract more value from existing assets?”

These ideas are captured in a short video of her speaking here.

I see idling capacities and underused assets in all areas of my life… maybe it’s because I struggle with my own idling or being “idled”. That is not for this conversation. What matters more is how to get folks “in the game”, so to speak, who have so much to bring to the table. Yet, for whatever reasons, are idling. At their work station. In meetings without voice. Working at an idling pace when they have capacity for so much more.

Are you aware of such a situation? Share it in Comments below.

A sharing economy breaks down organizational silos, even departmental and team silos, and creates an environment where assets (people, products, places) are maximized. It can be a messy fuzzy-boundaried process. If organizational leaders are willing to give some latitude to the process and the people “idling”, a much healthier and more efficient workplace could be birthed.

Botsman introduces how technology has spurred the evolution of the sharing economy.

Photo Credit: Rachel Botsman

In considering how to have a more expansive mindset related to applying available resources to a problem, we have to be willing to do some difficult things. There are those who will have to give up some control. In a sharing economy, there’s no such only one “smartest person in the room”. Trusting other people on our teams with chunks of decision-making along with the work both conserves and optimizes.

We have to be willing to think outside that proverbial box and ask questions like “what more can we do with….” or “who else can we include….” or “what is it we don’t want to leave out”.

I love those kinds of questions!

Maddening for some, I know. I get it…

For today, I just wanted to introduce this subject…still very much a preschooler in this arena. However, I see it as so influential positively in today’s workplace. So fundamental, too.

Build in idling for reflection, rest, and recalibration…but don’t leave assets in that state for very long. It devalues people and delays product development.

Even when we have the technology to streamline processes and move projects to completion, we have to understand how technology affects trust. Botsman has a quick summation here:

Again, this is just the start of learning in this area for me…Will stop for now. Any thoughts on what you have read or watched?

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Currency of the New Economy Is Trust – Rachel Botsman

YouTube Video – TED Talk – We’ve Stopped Trusting Institutions and Started Trusting Strangers – Rachel Botsman

Thinking – Rachel Botsman

Slideshares – Rachel Botsman

Rise of the Shared Workplace in the Sharing Economy and How the Sharing Economy Is Influencing the Workplace

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How to Trust People We Don’t Like – WorkLife with Adam Grant

Monday Morning Moment – Sizing Up Your Future Employer

Graduation. Moving from student to employee. It’s an exciting time, riveted with possibility and weighty decision-making.

[Yep…our kids, one by one entering their next season of life.]

As parents, we hope, first off, that our children secure jobs in their field, in this competitive and changing workforce. Given that, it would be lovely for them to be in a company or organization where they can thrive and grow.

Work-life writer Simon Sinek and organizational psychologist Adam Grant have addressed this issue – this issue of looking for employers who genuinely care about their employees and invest in them. Photo Credit: Aspen Ideas Festival

It’s definitely something to consider as our graduates are applying for jobs. This pursuit of an employee-friendly employer should continue throughout our professional lives. At the end of our careers, who we are as people and what we were able to accomplish in work will be strongly impacted by our employers. Think about it.

I came across a piece written by Kaitlyn Wang last year. She summarized a talk Sinek and Grant gave at the 2017 OZY Fest.

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant on the Best Ways to Size Up a Potential Employer

In their talk, Wang writes, these two workplace thought leaders talked about the out-dated leadership value of customer always trumping employee. If in bottom line thinking, employees are under-valued and under-utilized, eventually the product, service, and customer will also suffer. To me, that is just common sense…and, to hear Sinek and Grant, that workplace scenario is changing.

For the new graduate (and any one of us looking for that future employer), two ideas are offered as telling of company values and leadership philosophy:

  • Ask the interviewer if they LOVE their company. Not like but love. See what their response reveals.
  • Ask the interviewer to tell a story about something “that would only happen at that company”.

How would you adapt these two ideas?

Even before the job interview, we can learn clues on the culture through the messaging on the company’s website and social media. What matters to those in charge? What is clear or not so much about employee engagement?

Something to consider…

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant on the Best Ways to Size Up a Potential Employer – Kaitlyn Wang

Millennials, Motivation, and the Changing World of Work – Video – Aspen Ideas Festival

50 Smartest Companies – 2017

The Happiest Companies to Work For in 2018

Top 10 Companies for Worker Satisfaction – Lily Martis

100 Best Companies to Work For

Monday Morning Moment – Doing What It Takes for Positive Impact

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When we institute change, any change, there is a ripple effect. We have impact on those absorbing the change. Making and executing a decision can be quite satisfying, but impact is a whole other thing. No matter how necessary, innovative or even brilliant we think the change is, the outcome and impact may be less than we had hoped. Part of the change must take into consideration those most affected by it…Input in anticipation of change is key to positive impact.

We don’t want to use a new invention until we understand it. That doesn’t mean we need to understand how it functions. However, we need to grasp what it can do and what it can give us. Rachel Botsman

What happens when a new business process is introduced as a done deal? What happens when your job is to translate it to your team in such a way that there is buy-in, ownership and adoption? Hopefully, you are thrilled with the possibilities it presents. But…what if you’re not. What if you are moved t to wonder how it will alter your work team’s relationships and responsibilities…?

The “what if” questions lead middle managers or team leaders to “if only” assessments. If only our team could have spoken into this…a much better outcome and more positive impact could follow… without the disruption and chaos you know will come… unnecessarily.

We must be careful, as decision-makers to avoid the default of being task and development oriented to the point that we lose sight of the people impacted. It’s not just “get ‘er done”; it’s also “get ’em won”.

Leadership has its rewards in delivering on bottom line and fulfilling the expectations of shareholders. Where we struggle sometimes is moving too quickly in identifying a problem and developing a solution. Occasionally even publishing our solution cold to our department heads or work teams. They do not always meet our hard work and great solutions with enthusiasm…not because our teammates are ungrateful or clueless. No, in fact, they may have had their finger on the very pulse of those same  problems, working out solutions together but not to the point of finished product. We, as leaders, can swoop in like the cavalry, communicating that we alone can “fix the problem”. No need for input here, right? Wrong…sadly wrong.

Before putting in motion a sweeping new initiative, we can hope for maximum impact. Maximum positive impact.

How? If we are willing to do the extra work of gleaning from teams, we can build trust and an openness to adopt change. It’s a win-win.

The Three Steps of Building Trust In New Ideas and BusinessesRachel Botsman

Kathy Caprino, a career coach and leadership developer, wrote an excellent piece on having genuinely positive impact.

9 core behaviors of people who positively impact the world:

  1. They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose.
  2. They commit to continually bettering themselves.
  3. They engage with people in open, mutually-beneficial ways.
  4. They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be.
  5. They embrace critique.
  6. They spread what they know. [No gatekeepers or bottlenecks here.]
  7. They uplift others as they ascend.
  8. They view the journey as the goal.
  9. They use their power and influence well.Kathy Caprino

[Caprino goes into much more depth in her article. Don’t miss it.]

Just a word on disruption. It, of course, can be a good thing. The thing for us all to remember about disruption, especially in the workplace, is that it is never recreational, especially to those whose positions or purposes are being disrupted. As Rachel Botsman demonstrates in the image below…when change is initiated, we may see one of at least three reactions. When we build trust and demonstrate valuing of those most affected by the change, positive impact can be that sought-after outcome of our endeavors.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It’s worth the work – and we are better leaders for doing it.

Thoughts?

When Disruption in the Workplace Turns to Dysfunction – Annemaria Duran

The Four Fundamentals of Successful Teams

YouTube Video – Time to Brave Up – Kathy Caprino – TEDx Talk

Monday Morning Moment – Avoiding the Warm Body Mentality in Recruiting and Retention of Volunteers and Quality Employees

Photo Credit: Flickr

[We’re not talking about the 2013 zombie apocalypse romantic comedy Warm Bodies, although I do like this graphic. Read on.]

Yesterday, I participated in a large community event. There must have been 50 or more volunteers making it happen over the course of the day. My volunteering was just across two hours. It was an event that included a large gathering, food for all, and lawn games for all ages afterwards. We observed and experienced the beauty of a “living organism” – a well-planned, well-executed event. Except for three paid staff, all the responsibilities were carried on the capable shoulders of volunteers.

An isolated event is one thing but it can speak to the core values of an organization’s overall care of its people. Is it just about filling a slot or making the organization look good, or is it moving everyone toward a mutually shared vision? Is it just the securing of warm bodies to feed the machine? Or is it a called, capable, and committed community of folks working together for a greater good? [See Matt Orth’s piece below].

How volunteers (and employees) are recruited and retained matters.

What made yesterday’s one-time event so successful and well-executed? This is what I observed:

  • A mix of event-only volunteers and longer-term volunteer leaders on point for the various activities. This made for a win-win all around. Plenty of willing helpers and lead people to guide toward success.
  • Clear organization and preparation allowing the volunteers to easily do what they signed on to do.
  • High enthusiasm – shared ownership and vision related to the event.
  • Multiple teams allowing for most of the volunteers to have a fixed service window of time.
  • Obvious valuing (by staff and leads) of the volunteers’ participation.

Writer, speaker Matt Orth wrote a piece on warm body mentality   (already mentioned above) which bears a read. Orth tells a humorous story of how he fell into being a Vacation Bible School director due to the stealth of a volunteer recruiter. He defines warm body mentality(WBM) as the process whereby “a church decides what needs to happen program-wise in their church life and then they just find the Warm Bodies to make it happen”. This could relate to any organization or company. It is task or program orientation vs. person-orientation.

Orth proposes a system of volunteer recruitment that avoids a warm body mentality:

  1. How long the commitment is for and when will they have an opportunity to step down or renew the commitment. Or if/how they can downgrade or upgrade responsibilities.
  2. What kind of accountability they will have, who they are responsible to report to, and what the evaluation process will be.
  3. What the time commitments are, including not just the start/end times of services/events, but what time they will be expected to be there both before and after the service/event.
  4. All the rest of the duties spelled out whatever they may be (teaching, running sound, getting food ready, etc.) including any intangible expectations.
  5. Give them a gracious way to say “NO.” You’re looking for volunteers who want to be there.

He recognizes the importance of having volunteers demonstrating a sense of calling, commitment, and capability. However, all of these are negotiable depending on the person… Training, casting vision, and appropriate resource equipping can move folks who currently don’t see themselves in a volunteer role toward volunteering…and not just as warm bodies.

To recruit and retain the kind of volunteers (or employees) we want depends more on us in recruiting roles…than it does on them. Showing genuine care for the individual makes such a difference in both execution of programming AND the long-term development and engagement of that person.

Give volunteers a voice and they will help you shepherd them…, and, in the end, you will a community of deeply committed people who care about the vision as much as the leaders do.

Yesterday, in the midst of all the buzz of volunteering, one of the leads announced that this was the last event for one couple to serve because they were moving out-of-state. I didn’t know them very well, but what I did know was that they always stepped up to help in whatever capacity they could. Here on their last day with this organization, they chose to spend it serving…again.

If I’d had more time yesterday, I would have loved to know more of how one comes to be like that. Some of us are natural servers, and all these seem to require is opportunity and just a bit of regard or recognition.

The rest of us may need a bit more to be successful beyond a one-time commitment. Sunday’s event for me was illuminating. How do we take what happened Sunday and grow it into something that yields thriving, committed volunteers and sustainable programming over the long-haul?

Thoughts?

Conquering the Warm Body Mentality – Matt Orth

Overcoming the ‘Hire a Warm Body’ Mentality – Gina Trimarco – Love her quote: “Think of recruiting as marketing.”

How Volunteer Recruitment Works – Warm Body and Targeted Recruitment – Robert Lamb

Warm Bodies, Cold, Hard Facts – Volunteer PlainTalk – Meridian Swift

Volunteer Quality vs. Volunteer Quantity – Amy Fenton

Recruiting Warm Bodies – Ron Edmondson